Ray Ratto

Ratto: Temperatures run warm and fuzzy for A's, Ellis

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Ratto: Temperatures run warm and fuzzy for A's, Ellis

Feb. 24, 2011RATTO ARCHIVEA'S PAGE A'S VIDEORay RattoCSNBayArea.com

For teams that have been off the grid for the last several years the way the As have, expectations tend to be frothy-headed cobra venom. Looks like a nice cold beer, ends up laying you out.But there Mark Ellis is anyway, the longest-running Elephant, noticing not only that this is the warmest, fuzziest spring he can remember in years but that all the things that tend to beat the As down can now be used as shoulder chips. Like the relentless anonymity. Like the minimal crowds. Like the general unfashionableness of As-hood. This is honestly the most excited Ive seen things around here in years, the veteran second baseman said before Thursdays intrasquad game won by, well, the As of course. You always come to spring hoping for good things, but I dont even remember things humming like this in 06. Ellis enters his 10th year as an Oak-towner, if you count the year he missed after tearing his labrum in a spring training collision with Bobby Crosby. He has known good times and bad ones, the years when Oakland was a destination and when it was a place to avoid. But now, with a pitching rotation of considerable note and new bats in place of no bats, the As are one of those stealthyfashionable next-big-thing picks that occasionally hit but far more often miss. And hell take it for what it is. I remember when it was Mark, Barry and Tim, we were a pretty promising team but they were the ones who got the notice, Ellis said, referring to those halcyon days of MulderZitoHudson. This feels different to me, with getting DJ (David DeJesus) and (Hideki) Matsui and all our pitching. Its like weve got something going here, and people are ready for it all to hit. Now we sort of look at the things that used to keep people away and say, Fine. It doesnt matter. Nobody pays attention to us? Nobody comes to see us? Fine. The stuff that people used to whine about, now we can use it as motivation, like Youll find out about us. He says it with not with a grimace but with a knowing smile, as though he sees something the rest of us can only guess at. The As have had pitching before but no bench or bullpen. Theyve had hitters with no bench or enough pitching. And they always manage to find the disabled list in droves. They may do so again; health is as predictable as an agitated chicken, and until they prove they can stay healthy, the logical person must assume the As will not be. But Ellis believes that health is the only thing keeping them from being a real deal. And he got that sense in the most counterintuitive way. I got a good feeling about us when the Rangers got to the World Series, he said. I thought when we played them that we were as good as they were. I know Cliff Lee is a hell of a pitcher, but we hung with them the whole year. The As, in fact, were 9-10, and the run differential of 76-88 wasnt so overwhelming that Ellis is wrong to believe that the As could be the 2011 Rangers. Or the 2011 Giants, for that matter. And yet almosts and if-onlys more often end up in what-the-hell-happeneds and how-did-it-all-go-wrongs. Teams win when they win, and for all the metrics that accurately measure what did happen, guessing in advance when it will is more a matter of art. Spring training is the time when fanciful thoughts make the most sense, but players like Ellis arent so prone to romantic imaginings. Theyve seen too much, they recognize all the ways things can go south. So it is that when he stands in front of his locker and laughs as easily as he does about the season ahead, he gives off the aura of someone who knows something but hasnt quite figured out how to express it, let alone prove it. I think the only way I can explain it is that you get a feeling when you see everyone walking around like they know they belong, like they know they have an important place on a roster. Last year, guys like (Trevor) Cahill, (Gio) Gonzalez, (Brett) Anderson looked like they could, but they didnt really carry themselves like they knew it. Now they do. They know it, and we know it. Now we have to go do it. And thats still the hardest part of all. Which is why expectations really are cobra venom. If the moment hits when everything comes together, as it did in Arlington in San Francisco, its perfect. But if it turns out to be a false positive . . . well, you know. Mark Ellis knows the difference. At least he thinks he does. This year will prove how much he knows, and how much he still has to learn.Follow Ray on Twitter @RattoCSN

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?”