Ray Ratto

Hollywood, take notice of the 2012 A's

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Hollywood, take notice of the 2012 A's

So it turns out that Billy Beane isnt past his sell-by date at all. He just peaked too early, cinematically speaking.

You see, this is the As movie that should have been made, not the one that was released last year. This is the team made of the sparest parts, with the least reason to think grand thoughts, yet thinking them all the time anyway because . . . well, because why the hell not?.

Take Saturday. The As let down a crowd of 28,142 by not beating the New York Yankees with a walk-off hit, as they had the night before. Instead, they got a homer in the eighth inning from Brandon Inge, the greatest .200 hitter who ever .200-ed his way through a season.

Then, because that was insufficiently dramatic, they trotted out Sean Doolittle to save the game in the ninth because closer Ryan Cook was on E after three consecutive appearances. And all Doolittle and his raggedy used-to-be-an-infielder-before-his-shoulder-turned-into-an-ankle-ish had to do was face and vanquish Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira, with a side of Andruw Jones.

67.5 million and 1,574 home runs. And Doolittle went single, strikeout, strikeout and steal, strikeout.

RECAP: Pratt's Instant Replay -- A's 2, Yankees 1

You think thats not a movie. You think that doesnt beat the hell out of Jonah Hills slack-jawed face for two hours?

Well, maybe it doesnt. Movies are a personal thing.

But this is a hell of a movie, and for Beane, who has watched those halcyon days of yore fade into questions of whether the finances have passed him by, this may turn out to be the wackiest revenge.

True, Orson Welles may not be the best comparison point here, but he did open his career with Citizen Kane and then never came close to matching it. Beane was the hottest thing in businessmen-watching-baseball for a long time, then the ground dried under his feet.

And now? Sean Doolittle strikes out 135 percent of the Oakland payroll to give the Yankees one more finger in the eye. After Inge, the new and improved Scott Hatteberg, homers to put the As ahead. After Jarrod Parker, a Diamondback a year ago with 73 pitches of major league experience, snuffed the Yankees on five hits.

Yes, this is the movie that should have been made, and would have been if Michael Lewis had only had the wit to foretell the future and wait a decade. And if Brad Pitt could have been convinced that Inge wouldnt be a better role. And if Jon Hamm could have signed on to be a slightly grayer Beane.

Now this isnt your boilerplate Beanes-a-genius column, because this transcends master plans and outthinking the planet in search of value for dollars spent. This is hitting-on-17 stuff, and even if it doesnt last . . . well, the other movie didnt end with the last game, either. And everyone gets credit because, well, to do otherwise would ruin the story.

This is otherworldly, and maybe it wont last because of the cruel gravity of the 162-game season. But this game alone should act as a hell of an example of what kind of film could be made if you just suspend belief and play it over the top.

Way over the top.

Yoenis Cespedes (the player the As would never have been in on in the old days) hit a zillion-foot homer to tie the game. Inge was all but chased out of Detroit (and isnt that a feat in and of itself). Parker. Doolittle. And Cook, and Josh Reddick the manic pastry chef and right fielder, and Brandon McCarthy and his tweeting spouse, and miscellaneous other Brandons, and Tommy Milone, and Chris Carter, and Bartolo Colon, and the stray Australians, and best of all, the hologram of Marlon Brando as Manny Ramirez, the ghost of Flag Day Past.

Of course, it wouldnt work with big stars stealing the screen, because thats not what this team is. It might have to be sold as an ensemble piece, a sort of Animal House casting process where the most famous actor has the fewest lines. Why, theres a place for Peter Dinklage here, I know it.

So yes, this is a movie. A hell of a movie, in fact. Way more cavalier than the first Major League, may more realistic than Eight Men Out, way more fun than Bang The Drum Slowly, and way more of a statement about the capriciousness of life than Bull Durham.

Indeed, this is the logical inheritor of the Moneyball title, except that this isnt Moneyball. Were not quite sure what it is yet, because this team isnt quite sure what it is yet, either. They may not know how theyre doing it, to be honest, but they know it is getting done.

And however it gets pitched to the studio, it works as entertainment. It seriously does.

The four Super Bowl storylines everybody will be talking about

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USATSI

The four Super Bowl storylines everybody will be talking about

The Monday after the conference championships is devoted to replaying the games we already saw, but Tuesday is devoted to the assembling of the narratives that we will weary of no later than Friday.

And while football purists and gamblers, two demographics on the opposite ends of the Moebius strip of degeneracy, will cheerily break the game down to its molecular level, the rest of us will resort to a few tired carthorses to get us to the start of our individual Super Bowl parties.

Starting with THE INEVITABILITY OF THE PATRIOTS

This will be an argument with no resolution, as those who see history as preordination will see New England as invulnerable, pointing to their record, Philadelphia’s record, and the comfort of the mortal lock. But if it helps you maintain suspense, the Patriots have never won, or even played in, a Super Bowl with a margin as high as a touchdown – the margins have been 3, 3, 3, 4, 4 and 6 in overtime. In short, Bill Belichick’s brain, while always impressive, has never been an overwhelming presence against John Fox, Andy Reid, Tom Coughlin, Pete Carroll or Dan Quinn.

In other words, luck matters, and luck is good.

Next is THE LEGACY

This is ridiculous because the Patriots are in painting-the-gold-bar-gold territory. People long ago made up their minds on Belichick, Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and the rest of the shifting cast of characters – they are either brilliant exemplars, or nefarious cheaters, or both. That’s the great thing about the Patriots – they can be heroes, villains and metaphors for 21st Century America, depending on what you decide. But their place as football figures has long ago been decided, this game will change none of that, and the only thing left is what to carve on the statues.

Third is AMERICA HATES THE PATRIOTS AND WANTS THE EAGLES TO WIN

There are lots of Americas out there, as we are learning every day, and more people probably are rooting for the Eagles just to see something different. That’s not the way to bet, I grant you, but the best way to handle these next two weeks if you do not wear either New England or Philadelphia jerseys is to say nothing. These are two fan bases with reputations, if you know what we mean, and even if you come across gentle souls with a rooting interest, play the percentages. Even the nice ones can turn at any moment.

And finally, JIMMY GAROPPOLO. This discussion only matters of Bob Kraft cops to telling Belichick he ordered him to be moved. Which he won't, damn his eyes. And if Brady looks good next Sunday, they'll take credit for a brilliant move that saved the franchise because history always works best in the rear-view mirror.

NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills

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AP

NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills

The voting for the NBA All-Star starters was properly instructive to both Adam Silver and the public at large about exactly what the game is meant to be – which is why I totally get their decision not to televise the All-Star draft.

It’s really a personality test for everyone involved, for good and ill.

I think having a draft nobody can see is idiotic, stealing an idea the NHL used and then discarded years ago and then not employing the reason why they did it to begin with, but if the All-Star Game is really an expression of ego, then the next best thing to having no draft is having one nobody can see.

The All-Star Game really only functions as a coronation of the elite by the elite, a festival of mutual backslapping friend-rewarding that has nothing to do with the playing of the game, or the moving of the T-shirts or jerseys or expensive hotel rooms. This is about stratifying the player pool so that everyone knows who’s who and what’s what.

Everything else is irrelevant, and the draft reinforces that. Kevin Durant not wanting to be a captain is strategic thinking by a future industrialist. Stephen Curry not minding being a captain is the perfect who-cares statement for someone who doesn’t mind playing the game because objecting to it takes too much work. LeBron James being a captain is the perfect political muscle-flexing that fits his personality.

Damian Lillard already assuming that he won’t be named to the team is a statement about his being considered the perpetual one-level-down guard. Russell Westbrook being named and then controlling the ball as he would in a regular season game is a statement about how he views his place as a disruptor. And on and on and on – the All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills.

Does televising the draft help us understand the actual meaning of the event? Maybe, but the NBA would prefer you consider it a festival of the game itself, which it plainly isn’t. Proof, you say? 192-182 in 2017. 196-173 in 2016. 163-158 in 2015. 163-155 in 2014. There hasn’t been a normal-looking score in 15 years, which means it’s not a game at all.

That isn’t the news, though. It’s that the NBA has made this is a three-day event – the day the captains and starters are named, the day the reserves are picked, and the day that teams are chosen. And every bit of it is about the reaction to that. There is no show thereafter, and the players know it. They care about the selections, because that’s how they’re keeping score.

So go team. Whatever the hell that means.