Ratto: A's must change to either contend or entertain

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Ratto: A's must change to either contend or entertain

May 30, 2011A'S PAGE A'SVIDEO

Ray RattoCSNCalifornia.com

OAKLAND -- Its never entirely fair to take one game and make sweeping generalizations about a baseball team not when there are 161 others that could mislead a body.And yes, the As are no more a failure after being suffocated by Bartolo Colon Monday than they were pennant contenders after sweeping the Orioles over the weekend. Their strengths were displayed against Baltimore, their crushing weakness against New York.RECAP: Yankees get to Cahill early, A's lose 5-0
But frankly, and we speak here only as people who crave entertainment, the As need another internal problem to get our attention.

Oh, the Brian Fuentes-Bob Geren-Huston Street dance mix was diverting enough, but as you knew he would, Billy Beane raced to quell the disturbance before it became, well, a disturbance.That is because Beane is a well known pooper of parties, no scatology intended. He hates when players speak up, and especially hates it when they speak up for a manager he likes (as opposed to, say, Ken Macha).GUTIERREZ: A's Insider notes -- Colon's fountain of stem cell youth
And Daric Barton, the stealth two-hitter who snapped at an abusive fan Sunday afternoon, might do so again. I mean, a fella can hope, right?Still, as it can now be reasonably inferred that the As will rank among the worst in baseball at generating offense through power, thoroughly mediocre at generating it through speed, and unlikely at generating it through misdirection or trickery, the As need such diversions for the masses to keep us from forgetting them in the summer to come.(Youll notice here that we are not going to go into an attendance rant. Thats a tired old chestnut that has been hashed out a hundred times in eight dozen different ways, and is unworthy either of these fingers or your eyes).Still, when the big payoff for the Elephants attempts at audience-wrangling center around Well, the rest of the division is lousy, too, there is no big payoff at all.Someone, you see, will come out of this division with 90 wins. Someone has to. Well, someones surely going to. Only 15 American League teams since 1969, the first year of playoffs, have reached the postseason with fewer than 90, and thats out of 56 possible spots (we excluded the two strike years), and twice, in 1987 (Twins, Yankees) and 1998 (Indians, Rangers), have two sub-90s made it in the same season.In short, unless this is a much worse year than we believe, the As are going to have to defy some extraordinary odds to find themselves playing that elusive 163rd game.As of today, they will have to pick up the pace to score 600 runs. Only one AL team, the 1972 Tigers, got to the postseason scoring fewer, with 558 in 156 games, pro-rated to 579. The As current pace is 580.In short, they are very much a National League team ... a National League team from the mid-60s. The 1968 Pirates, in fact, who finished 80-82, 40-41 both home and away and averaged less than a homer every two days.And that means they are bland without the hope of being a dynamic team in any other way save manager sniping.Now maybe were overselling the Rangers or Angels here (you cant oversell the Mariners as much as they are overselling themselves now), but we doubt it. Its hard to advance with as few wins as the As are projecting, so theyd better have something else to go with, and no, holding their breaths until they get a new stadium wont do it ... unless theres a hypoxia promotion scheduled for later this year.So we think lashing out at someone looks like the way to go. Media members dont raise the hackles, so itll have to be fans, the manager, the general manager, the owners, players on players, an umpire. You know, something a little closer to the action. I mean, we did have fun with the Geren-Fuentes thing, we really did. Sure it sort of sucked for Geren and Fuentes, but you cant have an omelet without throwing eggs against your breakfast partners face.Or maybe they can figure out a way to work the Buster Posey Kennedyesque-tragedy angle the Giants fan base has flogged so well this last week. I dont know how theyd do it, but a mere broken leg clearly wont be enough.Otherwise, theyll remain as they are a study in earnest inertia. Pitching well, hitting barely at all, fielding well below the norm and watching others have all the fun in September. And thats if there are NFL and NBA lockouts.This, kids, is no way to go through the summer. No way at all.

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

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AP

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.
 

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.