Ratto: Taking A's temperature after two months


Ratto: Taking A's temperature after two months


OAKLAND -- It is June 1, the season is a third done (well, .345679012345679 over, if math be told), and we can make a clear and unambiguous statement about the Athletics.

They will go as far as Billy Beane will take them at the trade deadline.

And since for the As the trade deadline is too late, we can start anticipating some cross-armed toe-tapping as we wait for the As to repair themselves at the first pit stop.

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Oh, we all enjoyed the Bob Geren-Brian Fuentes psychological thriller for the comedy it provided, but the As will not be defined by that unless the As are a lot more trivial than we think they are.

In fact they are more of what we thought they were than when the season started -- a team loaded with starting pitchers, a bullpen that if healthy can stand with any of them (and since they arent ever healthy, we can give them the incomplete they deserve), without a lot of offense and a nerve-wracking defense.

The defense has been worse than we thought, the hitting has been nearly hopeless, and the starters have been exceptional. Indeed, any hopes and dreams they harbor now are based on the fact that neither Texas nor Los Angeles has made a move yet, either. They stand 2 game out of the division lead, 3 out of the wild card.

And nobody looks at this and sees a breakout coming. Of course, they could all be wrong about this, but that isnt the way to bet.

In fact, it looks far more likely that this season will be defined every bit as much by what Beane does to improve it at the same time that every other serious general manager is looking to improve his team, rather than by him being a seller surrounded by buyers.

In other words, unless the As decide to fall out of the race entirely in the next month, this will not be a Matt Holliday kind of year.

Beane has typically done his bargain hunting in the offseason, being bold when those around him are not. Its been a while since he had to throw elbows to clear himself some space below the rim, but if these are the As we will be presented with on June 15 (after all, the real trade deadline moves closer and closer to July 1 rather than July 31), he is going to have to make the kind of choice he usually asks another GMs to make, namely:

The morning, or the future.

Beane is not normally swayed by public sentiment. In fact, if you got him drunk enough, hed likely tell you he hates public sentiment because he knows lots more than the public does. Which ought to be the case, frankly -- either that, or we all have a piece of his salary and club share coming to us.

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

But this was the team with expectations. This was the team that was going to Giant-size its way into the tournament. Pitching pitching pitching, and a burst of late-season moves to patch up those plumbing and wiring.

Well, were heading toward the patching part of the season, or at least the part where the phone calls start getting plentiful. And somewhere in the next 61 days, sooner rather than later, Beane will have to decide whether this team can be fortified to make a run, will have to wait yet another year, or be stripped for and sold for parts.

There wont be a press release on it. Itll be a mental calculation he shares with owner John Fisher, front man Lew Wolff, aide de camp David Forst and, maybe, Geren as well. And well know it based as much on what he doesnt do as much as what he does.

So while you think this is a managers disconnect story, it isnt, not really. This is about the moment Billy Beane either has his Eureka moment, in which he makes the deal that says he is going for the gold, or his Yreka moment, in which he does nothing at all and decides that 2012 is a more fortuitous time for a playoff run.

And thats if the Mayans dont kick everyone in the hinder first.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

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


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.