Ray Ratto

Ratto: Beane getting first taste of big-market A's camp

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Ratto: Beane getting first taste of big-market A's camp

Feb. 21, 2011RATTO ARCHIVEA'S PAGE A'S VIDEORay RattoCSNBayArea.com

PHOENIX, Ariz -- Far away from Hank Steinbrenners cry that baseballs lesser team should eat cake, Billy Beane was inundated by media and fans at Papago Park.It is the closest Beane has been to being part of a large revenue team in his 14 years on the job in Oakland, and while much of the media and some of the fans were there to see Hideki Matsuis first workout as an Elephant, there was still more than hes seen here in years.It is pretty crowded for a change, he said as he squinted in a game but underpowered sun. Like to see that.Then again, its the first time the As have seen expectations in the flesh in some years -- even the 2006 team that reached the ALCS operated largely on in-season stealth rather than spring training fanfare. If nothing else, the As in Beanes time have been built on the element of surprise.That comes, of course, with being built on the element of cheap, which has also been a staple in these parts in the post-Haasian era. The As go through their seasons, subsisting on low-hanging foliage and the kindnesses of revenue sharing, which of course is right in George 2.0s wheelhouse."We've got to do a little something about that, and I know Bud wants to correct it in some way," Steinbrenner said from the Yankees spring training home in Tampa. Obviously, we're very much allies with the Red Sox and the Mets, the Dodgers, the Cubs, whoever in that area.Then he dropped the gauntlet, which is Renaissance Fair for started the process of picking a fight.At some point, if you don't want to worry about teams in minor markets, don't put teams in minor markets, or don't leave teams in minor markets if they're truly minor, he said. Socialism, communism, whatever you want to call it, is never the answer.Even though its been the answer in baseball for 10 years and football for 50, is how he meant to say.Beane hadnt heard that message in the morning, and would have deferred if he had. Thats why John Fisher and Lew Wolff gets paid the big money -- to see to it that Wolff answers and all questions about the Steinbrenners.Meanwhile, though, back in the new wasp hive of activity that is As camp, Beane watched the expectations for his 15th team taking wing, and tried to pretend that he didnt pay attention to expectations.I wouldnt put a number on it, he said, but I think if we stay healthy, we ought to be in the conversation all of September. Im not one of those people who think Texas has fallen off -- they lost Cliff Lee, sure, butAdrian Beltre was a great get for them, and theyve got some very good young pitchers like (Michael) Kirtman and Derek Holland, and I dont think Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson are going away.But I think if we stay healthy, we ought to be contenders.That, by necessity, means there ought to be actual pressure on manager Bob Geren to help make the As a player viz. Beanes vision. He has one .500 season in four years as a manager, and the only person to go longer without a winning record in the last 35 years is Lloyd McClendon, who had the excuse of managing the Pittsburgh Pirates.Beane, though, defends him as he has throughout.You could say that if we hadnt lost 40 percent of our payroll to injury a year ago, Beane said, excuse-ifying at a spectacular pace. But we havent given him enough tools for him to have expectations in his four years, either.But there are tools now, at least enough to make the As look like a six-month team if nothing else. The bullpen is stocked with arms and characters, although Grant Balfour has so far resisted the impulse to see what Charlie Sheen thinks of the Australian brewing industry. There are more hitters than last year, though with the notable exception of Matsui they still dont have a bomber.Truth is, though, the As would still be a surprise. There are some folks trying to make them the fashionable darkhorse pick in the AL West, which Beane rejected with a bemused smile. But darkhorses dont run very well for very long, and even the Giants, who darkhorsed their way right into the postseason and the perfect format with a team with four good starters, are the exception that proves the rule.People want to compare us, naturally, but I think this is the year where youll see that we really are truly two very separate and distinct entities, Beane said. Yeah, we have starting pitching if it stays healthy, and I think weve made our bullpen much better, but we and they are really two very different animals.He then went into a brief soliloquy about the As, the Giants and the difference in their media coverage and ballpark prospects, but we glazed over that point.Besides, ballpark or no, the As have a bigger problem on the horizon than where the lockers are.Its Hank Steinbrenner and his move to thin out the herd. Nothing may come of it, but the NFL owners battles are leaking into baseball consciousness, and that may mean that the As could become an endangered species before they realize the grass-roots support they seem to attracting this week.

One thing is certain about the Baseball Hall of Fame's new class

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One thing is certain about the Baseball Hall of Fame's new class

The Baseball Hall of Fame, A Division Of Tedious Bitching Just To Hear Ourselves Bitch LLC, will announce its new class of inductees Wednesday, and we already know one thing.

People will be unhappy and make damned sure you know about it.

This is the new nature of all halls of fame -- the winners are a two-day story, but the losers go on forever, and so does the voters-are-morons sidebar. Frankly, I wonder why they don’t put a plaque up in Cooperstown for that -- you know, just to give the tourists something to hate in what was originally designed to be a joyful place.

We live in a whiny society, where anyone with a different opinion than your own cannot merely be debated with or ignored, but must be savagely mocked as either learning impaired, willfully stupid or aggressively evil. Thus, the new era of “Death To Whoever Doesn’t Agree With Me” is probably unavoidable.

But that’s why the myth that the Hall of Fame should be a temple of honor rather than a museum of the full history of the game should have died long ago. Everyone’s version of what should be honored is different, and the standard reaction to other people’s dissent from that opinion has gone from “I disagree” to “How about I burn your house down?”

People being unhappy that their favorite guy didn’t get the requisite 75 percent of the votes from an amorphous group of strangers who do not act in concert -- that part I get. It’s not up to me to decipher why one’s personal obsessions lean toward getting someone a plaque, and if we cannot invest time and energy in our pet causes, what are we as a species?

Don’t answer that.

But ever since the Giants put on a full court media press for most of 1998 to get Orlando Cepeda into the Hall through its veterans committee, the idea of campaigns for any particular idol which were once considered offensive and counterproductive became a requirement, and then a marketing tool. In the Internet age, that role has been usurped by people making single-minded and mostly well-intentioned cases for their own favorites, out of simple honest devotion. Nothing wrong with that.

If it stopped there, this would be an advancement in the process. But because nothing is as sure in the Internet age as the unintended consequence of anonymous invective, I have made it my work as a Hall of Fame voter to ignore any and all such lobbying and lobbyists. No matter how well-intentioned and polite their reasoned discourse may be, it becomes someone else’s demand for obedience and hive-mind orthodoxy --– and in the alternative, voter shaming and expulsion.

Moreover, the era of both benign candidate advocacy and anonymous invective serve as more reminders that the Hall of Fame and its mechanisms are political, just as Joe Morgan’s letter urging that players suspected of steroid use never be allowed induction is a political act, and the changes in voting eligibility reducing the voting pool are a political act. Expanding the voting franchise is always more sensible than restricting it, but shrinking it is a statement that fewer people know about baseball than think they do, which is a weird way of saying “Fewer people are entitled to care about this thing we care so much about.”

This is a longwinded way of saying I turned in my vote more than a month ago. It’s the best I can do based on the hours of research I’ve done, and that will have to be good enough. If I wanted your opinion on it, I’d have called you by now to obtain it, so just assume that I don’t. The ballot will be released when the other BBWAA votes are released, and if you need to know ahead of time who I voted for, you have a sick obsession, plus you can probably figure out the bulk of it by going to Ryan Thibodaux’s Twitter site (@NotMrTibbs) and look at my prior ballots.

But if it helps, I’ll tell you this much. I think  Arnold Rothstein should be in the Hall of Fame, and until that injustice is righted, I will feel as though the Hall is incomplete and flawed, and I’m damned unhappy about it.

See? I got in the spirit of the thing.

The four Super Bowl storylines everybody will be talking about

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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.