Ratto: Personality paramount for Bay Area baseball

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Ratto: Personality paramount for Bay Area baseball

March 5, 2011RATTO ARCHIVEGIANTS PAGE GIANTSVIDEO
A'S PAGE A'S VIDEORay RattoCSNBayArea.com

It was an unusually festive afternoon at Municipal Stadium, and we didnt even need a good bench-emptying brawl between the As and Giants to get it.Two fans had certified Hideki Matsui as the new face of the Athleticals by making T-shirts and a 30-foot sign that read MATSUILAND in old English script, which of course caused the movable feast of Japanese reporters and photographers to pose him in front of the sign.Manager Bob Geren waxed eloquent (yeah, yeah, I know) on how the As went from being the worst base-running team in creation to one of the best. A sun and a gentle wind conspired to make a downright pleasant day, and the smoke from the grills worked the kind of magic one normally finds from a roulette table at Gamblers Anonymous.But we still could have used the brawl anyway. It would given a little dusting of salt to the As 6-0 win over the error-saturated Giants before a sellout crowd of 8,330 sun-baked and temporarily indolent.
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All the comparisons between the 2010 Giants and 2011 Elephants have been made over and over again, to the point where they form a thin unappetizing gruel. Theyre not that similar unless you can squint and make Javier Lopez look like David DeJesus and Pat Burrell like Josh Willingham.But these are two teams that have never really engaged as much as lived on separate dorm floors. Even now, their closest connection will be the moment when Bow Tie Billy Neukom and Suitcase Lew Wolff olive oil wrestle over the San Jose territorial rightsmiscellaneous bribes debate.The two franchises have never really argued over the same space in any other context, save the 1989 World Series, and even then the earthquake made owning the area less valuable than it might otherwise have been. Put another way, the As did not plant their flag in the Marina even after the firemen left.The worm has turned in the ensuing 22 years, and now the Giants are walking the walk, and the As are finally just now re-latching on to an identity that isnt a Michael Lewis footnote or a reminded of the highly muscled 80s and early 90s.And that identity is apparently being supplied by a guy who has been on campus for only 81 days and willingly speaks almost no English.It is painfully, aggressively, immutably clear that the Bay Area has not only been a palace for front-runners and label-shoppers but for quirkybigger-than-life personalities. The two tams have gone through spurts with them, and without them, and frankly, with is way better.Not just for media purposes, either. The Giants not only won, they won by flogging the misfits label like it was a rented mule pulling a wagon through a mud bog. The clubhouse is thick with quirk, some of it even genuine and spontaneous. Even Bruce Bochy, who has historically worked every bit as hard as Geren at tarping his personality, has finally caved in and become something of a charmer.The As? Well, theres Dallas Braden, and the solid and essentially honest Mark Ellis and Kurt Suzuki. The rest is about young pitching, a school bus full of relievers, some new hitters to make the old ones better, Geren waxing euphoric about the base runners, when theyre not getting thrown out on steal attempts as Andy LaRoche did Saturday.And the apparent icon that is Matsui.Often, characters are built through winning. It may turn out that Daric Barton is only 20 homers away from turning into Sammy The Bull Gravano at the Congressional hearings on the Mafia, or that Brett Anderson is secretly Louis C.K. with a slider. Not sure that Oakland is yet ready for free-range lingerie a la Aubrey Huff, but wins buy leeway, and always have.On the other hand, personality is not so prized on a third-pace team. Carlos Silva had lots of personality the other day for the Cubs, and ended up having to apologize when his personality tried to get into a fight with Aramis Ramirez personality.
RELATED: Cubs' Silva takes blame for scuffle
In short, the As have to do with grassroots ideas like winning, as they did Saturday, and Matsuiland, although the old english thing seems a bit disingenuous, graphically speaking. At least when he posed for those pictures in front of the sign, he looked . . . well, bemused.And hardly the sort of guy who would make a cartoon character out of an article of womens underwear. Yet.

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

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AP

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

Frank Deford’s death over the weekend did not mark the end of longform sportswriting as we knew it; he had long ago become part of the electronic commentariat that has reduced longform’s place in the public’s attention span.

But there is still longform writing and storytelling to be found in many places, and it is still worthwhile. It has more production value, as the TV folks like to blather, and the words have to fight for their place between the cracks left by the pictures and the mutated graphics, but longform lives, and it should, lest we all agree as one people to further desiccate that attention span like a grapefruit left in the sun.

Deford’s death, though, reminds of when longform was the zenith of the storytelling art. It could, and still can, give you access and depth and breadth that a TV crew simply could not, and cannot. Even extended TV features are by their very nature so contrived by all the equipment that nothing is natural, nothing is a surprise, and the act of writing is almost an afterthought.

Deford knew this. He more than merely dabbled in TV himself, playing the wizened old raconteur who was as much character in his pieces as storyteller. He was also a star and a starmaker with The National, a daily sports network in newspaper form that was long on talent and ideas but short on delivery and distribution. It lasted 17 months, until mid-1991, but it led to grander attempts decades later, and could if you squint your eyes hard enough be the natural parent of Grantland and The Ringer and Vice and SB Nation and dozens of others – all bigger ideas, positioned in the post-typing world. Some lasted, more didn’t, but capitalism is like that – making fuel to keep the fires burning and the engines churning.

Deford could have thrived in such a world, to be sure. He was not, in the hideous phrase, “a man of his time.” Indeed, he was a crossover figure years ago in ways that other longform writers attempt to resist even now. They want to be Deford at the height of his powers at a time when the instruments for their gift are either dying or veering away from anything that hits the 600-word mark.

But his passing did not kill the art of clever writing and incisive storytelling. There are far too many people who can do that still, even if the market for their gifts is neither as pronounced nor as eager for the product as it once was. It did remind us not only that he was a giant, but that there are still giants among us should we deign to take the time to seek them.

Thus, Deford’s death marked his passing but not the thing that made him worthy of our attention. Storytelling, longform and otherwise, remains the heart of why this is still worthwhile to a culture, and when the generation his work spawned starts to die off, I suspect we’ll still be saying the same thing then. Notebooks are smartphones, photographs are streams, but the human eye and ear and hand still remain pre-eminent.

That is, until the robots take over, at which point reading won’t be worth it.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.