Ray Ratto

Perfect storm leads Pujols to Moreno's Angels


Perfect storm leads Pujols to Moreno's Angels

It may be fashionable to say that Albert Pujols just punched a hole in the As dreams for divisional domination in 2012, but that would be absurd. Luis Pujols, Milt Pujols or Thelma Pujols would have affected the As in exactly the same way.But the Pujols deal, 250 million worth of Arte Morenos feel-good spending spree, doesnt really matter much to the As. Or for that matter, to the Giants either. He is something that some owners do when the moons align, and in this case, Morenos solar system just queued up in alphabetical order.For one, there is a new collective bargaining agreement in baseball, which means that nobody minds big spenders at a time when the owners would typically be crying poverty to make the players look like the greedy moneygrubbers.For two, the Angels just fell into pots of new television money, making Morenos ears twitch for a new toy.
And for three, Frank McCourt is trying to see how much deeper into the earths crust he can screw the Dodgers before he is paid off for using his team as a money-laundering operation.In sum, Moreno had it all labor peace, fresh meat, and an inert team up the road. And a first baseman to die for. Storm, meet perfect.But the Angels were already better than the As, and were going to stay that way. Even by signing pitcher C.J. Wilson, which the Angels also did, they had already distanced themselves from the Oaklands.So Pujols is just slapping another coat of finish on an already freshly-painted house. The As are too concerned with pretending that a new ballpark in San Jose is their Albert Pujols, which makes sense only if you go to ballgames to enjoy larger concourses and bigger bathrooms.Or if you work in construction.In fact, the Pujols deal works against the As and Giants in another way by reminding us all that the hometown discount has never, does not now, and will never exist. When you reach for the top shelf, youre going to pay more, and without that knowledge youre going to leave the top shelf alone.In trying to keep Pujols, St. Louis banked heavily on the psychic benefits of being St. Louis. A great ball town, a friendly fan base, a hitters park, two World Series . . . whats not to like?The 40 million the Cardinals were short, thats whats not to like.Point is, for fans, this should serve as a reminder that your favorite team isnt the players favorite team, because theres always another favorite team a check-writing pen away. When coming after a player, to quote the famous old baseball scout Corrado Soprano, teams must be prepared to come heavy, or not at all.And that doesnt mean, But we have a nice ballpark, or But you like your teammates, or But the fans love you. Baseball clubs are cashing in like never before, between the cash cow that is MLB.com and all the other shmata that the sport sells as a function of its existence, which means they can either spend it, or they can pocket it.The As are pocketing it, either because they plan to spend it on their new ballpark or because they like the feel of freshly-minted cash thrust deep into their trouser pockets. Ad the Giants have to Pujols Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.Thus, youre as good as your ability to fling money about says you are, and some teams are better positioned to do it than others by virtue of market size, or local conditions (like the Dodgers becoming the Phoenix Coyotes), or an owner who just feels the itch.Arte Moreno got the itch, and scratched like a dog on methamphetamines. John Fisher has successfully fought the itch since the day he bought the As. And Charles Johnson, the Giants new largest stockholder, hasnt been on the job long enough for us to know the level of his skins sensitivity.And that has a lot more to do with why Albert Pujols doesnt affect the As or Giants than anything else.

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


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?”