Ray Ratto

Derek Norris better be very good

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Derek Norris better be very good

Well, its official now. Derek Norris better be very very good.

As it is now clear that the Athletics are not making some back-door blockbuster trade for a catcher, or trying to coax the 2003 Jorge Posada out of retirement, they have just handed their immediate future in this still-improbable season to a 23-year-old with 403 games of catching experience.

And maybe Norris is worth this level of faith. After all, baseball teaches that heaven comes in a number of sizes.

But the trade of Kurt Suzuki and cash to Washington for a High-A catcher named David Freitas on Friday is essentially a counter-intuitive move by Billy Beane that affects a young pitching staff that enjoyed the experience of being caught by the veteran.

And yes, Suzuki has been a veteran in offensive decline for some time now, so its not like Beane traded Yadier Molina for a pitch-back net. This is not a pure salary dump, in other words even though shedding 8 million and change over the last two months of this year and all of next has always had a way of warming Beanes innards.

In fact, what it really is, is Beane doing what Beane occasionally does -- falling hard in love with a new player and falling hard out of love with an old one.

Suzuki was one of Beanes favorites for a long time. He was a professional catcher at a time professional catchers are hard to find. He became a pitching staffs best friend, especially in Oakland where he was doing the major equivalent of teaching at a military base elementary school -- educating the young and transient.

And he had one of those staffs now, only this staff still leads the major leagues in most of your more important metrics. That staff is the largest part of the reason why the As are nine games over .500, with the fifth-best record in baseball, and 24 games over what they were projected to be in March, which would have been the worst record in baseball.

In other words, Kurt Suzuki had value to the most important component of the baseball team, and the fact that manager Bob Melvin swore by him even through Fridays post-trade presser indicates fairly clearly how he felt as well.

But Beane wants Derek Norris there instead, and Suzukis .218.286.250 didnt really put up much of a countervailing argument.

So Derek Norris is now in charge of that pitching staff, at a time when Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone are three starts short of exceeding their greatest workload ever, and the rest of the staff is scheduled to turn over to veterans Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson fairly soon.

It is, in short, a hell of a challenge, and an odd time to take it on. But that is Beane at his Beaniest -- he is, and we put this politely, aggressively non risk-averse.

The risk here is clear -- the pitching doesnt take to Norris, or Norris doesnt take to the pitching, or most likely, they begin but do not complete the process of finding that happy simpatico in the middle. A term, we hasten to add, Beane doesnt believe in that much anyway.

Or maybe Norris does get in stride with the staff but spends so much time worrying about that that his offense deteriorates. Or maybe it all converges in a joyous merging of precocity and ferocity -- I mean, maybe Beane is right here, after all. Hes had what by any assessment is a pretty good year of general management, even if like the rest of the universe he couldnt have foreseen much of it.

No, this isnt about whether trading Suzuki was right or wrong, because we have no way of knowing at this moment whether it is. It is Beanes process that fascinates here. He sees in Derek Norris the future. He sees in Kurt Suzuki the past, even if he still has some present in him.

And Billy Beane has always craned his neck to try to look over the horizon. It hasnt always worked, but hes trying to do it again here.

In short, Derek Norris better be very very good. Like we said.

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

You don’t think you needed this game to go this way, but you did, and you do.

The Golden State Warriors spat out a 17-point lead and lost, 92-88, in Boston Thursday night, in a game that was taut if not particularly elegant, and in a game that elevated the Celtics to a place that makes them the new heir apparent to the heir apparent.

The Celtics have been a difficult out for the Warriors during the Brad Stevens Era, losing six of nine but only being blown out twice, and Thursday was not one of those nights. The box score will tell you the shooting and rebounding problems, but the Warriors had that lead and didn’t hold it. Or, to be accurate, the Celtics had that deficit and refused to let it destroy them.

Which is exactly the kind of team you, the fully licensed Warrior fan, want to watch play your team in the NBA Finals. You want to see them genuinely challenged, forced to win outside their comfort zone, induced to show their greatness in the highest of high leverage situations.

At least we think that’s what you want. Maybe you prefer blowouts so you can drink and go to the bathroom without care or fear. After all, the Warriors have taught the area the true meaning of front-running by being in front so often.

But the Celtics play a level of defense typically reserved for the San Antonio Spurs, and yes, the Warriors. They have a spiky exoskeleton that the acquisition of Kyrie Irving has actually enhanced, and Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum give them a gifted precocity that fits well with veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Morris, and Boston’s overall youth (they are fifth youngest, while Golden State is third-oldest) ought to make them a more difficult conundrum than Cleveland or any other team in either conference.

They are not yet the superior team; that remains to be proven, and betting against the Warriors requires a level of irrational bravery left only for the truly self-destructive.

But they are, as we sit this evening, the team the Warriors will have to work hardest to finish, because on a night when they had the chance to do so, they didn’t. In other words, the fight for a third ring still goes through Oakland, but it looks more and more like a one-stop through Boston.

And as much as you may hate thinking about it, you’ll almost certainly remember, and savor, a Celtics-Warriors final more than another round of Cavs-on-the-half-shell.

Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor

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AP

Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor

Programming note: Warriors-Celtics coverage starts today at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming live right here 

Draymond Green spoke to a group of students at Harvard Thursday on the subject of leadership, and if you find that incongruous, shame on you.
 
I mean, who else would you want as a college professor?
 
Green has led, and been led. He has learned, and he has taught. He has certainly lectured, as any teammate, official and media member will testify. He’d be a hell of a teacher, and the subject almost doesn’t matter.
 
For one, homework would be different, as in I’d bet there would be no written work. I don’t see Prof. Day-Day poring over essays about the Industrial Revolution, M-theory or pre-Raphaelite art. Not even the history of Basketball-Reference.com.

For two, having tenured faculty audit his classes may find his choice of rhetoric a little strident, as in “What the ---- were you thinking, dude?” is not typically approved instructional methodology.
 
And three, nobody would get a grade. Green would mark every exam with a “35,” as in his draft position, and besides, the exams would be students arguing with each other over whether that was a foul or a no-call, and who pulled the better face when the call was made. He’d give either an approving nod or give the loser a second technical foul and kick him or her out of class.
 
But it would be a hell of a class. Not at Harvard, of course, because Green probably would want to teach a school that could better use his brand of wisdom, and Harvard kids already have a healthy lead off third base. He’d want his students to make Harvard students cry, you can just tell.
 
But wouldn’t he look perfectly Draymond in a cap and gown on graduation day, pulling a bottle out of his sleeve to make the valedictory speeches less painful. “Damn, dude,” you could hear him yell. “Peaking?”