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9:27AM

A’s not going anyplace — except maybe in the standings

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — “Rooted in Oakland.” That’s the A’s slogan, their implied promise. “We ain’t going anywhere, people,” they’re telling us. Unlike the Raiders. Unlike the Warriors.

Except, with good fortune, going up the American League standings.

It’s different on this side of the bay. No ballpark by the water. No Frank Sinatra recording of “Strangers in the Night” in the top of the seventh. Hey, when the announced attendance is only 11,383, nobody’s a stranger.

The A’s dropped one on Tuesday night to the Angels, 7-3. Three walk-off wins in a row and then a loss. Anyone in baseball gladly would accept that statistic.

Especially the Giants. They’re awful, and becoming more awful. They can’t win any, never mind three in a row.

The A’s? The Royals? The Blue Jays? No, the San Francisco Giants have the worst record in the majors. They lost opening day, and there went the season.

About the time the A’s were coming out for batting practice Tuesday, just after 4 p.m., the Giants, having played only two innings against the Mets in New York, were behind, 5-0, the score posted on the right field board even though nobody but players and workers were inside the Coliseum.

Somebody not in uniform was heard to comment, “Unbelievable.”

As if anything in baseball really is.

The Yankees and Cubs play 18 innings in one of those absurd ESPN Sunday night games that ended at 1:05 a.m. in Chicago, the Yankees then flying to Cincinnati, arriving at 5 a.m. and playing that night. The A’s win consecutive games in the final inning by a home run.

Yonder Alonso hit a couple home runs Tuesday night for Oakland. Maybe he’s on his way to becoming a star. Maybe he’s on his way to another team. With the A’s, one never knows.

The often-repeated theory held here is that with cars, wine or ballplayers one gets what he or she pays for. Sometimes you get a kid before he’s eligible for the big contract or vino the critics haven’t reviewed, but that’s not the norm.

So if the A’s, with their 2017 payroll of some $75 million — it’s still higher than those of the Rays, Padres and Brewers — are doing as well or as poorly as might be imagined, the Giants and their $170 million payroll are a disaster. Well, they’d be a disaster no matter how much money they earned.

Nostalgia is big at the Coliseum, as it should be. There’s Rickey Henderson Field, a wise public relations idea — and in the pre-game home clubhouse, there’s Rickey his ownself, chattering, laughing, lending as much credibility and direction as possible.

The wall of the walkway through which the athletes pass on their way to the clubhouse is lined with photos of everyone who played for the A’s, even if as brief as a season, elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Dennis Eckersley, Reggie Jackson and, of course, Henderson.

Past and present mingle beneath the framework of a stadium that management hopes to replace with a new ballpark. On the waterfront, perhaps. Or on the very site of the Coliseum. But definitely in Oakland.

The questions of when and where have persisted virtually from the time the A’s arrived in 1968. That was 10 years after the Giants, who — and isn’t this ironic, now having become established at AT&T Park? — moved to a ballpark accurately described as the worst in America, Candlestick Park.

The A’s were going to Denver. The A’s were going to Las Vegas. The A’s were going to San Jose. But they’re still in Oakland and seemingly will be for a long while.

Wonderful.

 

9:14AM

Warriors play like champs that they are — and now comes hostility

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — This is the way a champion plays, aggressively, intensely, knowing it’s the better team but acting like it’s the underdog — a silly description of the Warriors — sweeping the court, crashing the boards and never giving the opponent a chance.

Sure, the NBA Western Conference semis shift up to Salt Lake City, and the Jazz will be home. But what does that matter? They’re down 2-0 to the Warriors. They haven’t been ahead in either game. Not for a second.

In the opener on Tuesday, the Warriors were up 9-0 before we blinked or the Jazz recovered. And in Game 2 on Thursday, again at Oracle Arena, the Warriors were up 12-3. Punched quickly if not unsuspectingly, Utah had its bursts, but so did the Warriors, who won 115-104.

Six in a row so far for the Dubs, a sweep of Portland and now two against the Jazz. Pressure. On defense, although Utah shot 45 percent. On offense, Draymond Green showing he can score as well as block and rebound, getting 23 points, along with Kevin Durant’s 25 and Steph Curry’s 23.

“Whether it’s Salt Lake or here,” affirmed Quin Snyder, the frustrated Jazz coach, “we’ve got to be better at the start of games. If you’re not, they’re going to capitalize the other way."

Meaning building a lead that so far has proved insurmountable.

Meaning that any moment they get the opportunity, the Warriors will race to the rim or hit a three-pointer.

The Jazz hold the ball, move it, as much to try to keep the other team from making baskets as to make its own. The Warriors are demons, sprinting, soaring. A contrast in styles. Thus far, the Warriors' method has been the one that works.

Everybody knows that Green, the guy from Michigan State, the guy who crashes into people like a fullback and floats above them like a ballerina, is the heart of the Warriors. In the absence of ailing head coach Steve Kerr and in the presence of acting coach Mike Brown, Green is the leader, the fire, sometimes the fighter — as the technical fouls will attest.

When Green went down in the fourth quarter, hobbling off with what seemed like a knee injury — oh, my goodness — who knew what might happen? But he returned to the bench and the game. Phew.

“Yeah,” said Brown, “any time any of our guys goes down it’s a concern. A guy like Draymond does so much for us at both ends of the floor, and he seldom goes down. So when he did, you think that initially it had to be serious. But I went over and asked him if he was OK, and he said yes.”

So the Warriors were OK.

“He was big,” said Brown of Draymond, who had four steals, a blocked shot, and seven rebounds — and was 5-of-8 on three-pointers. “Draymond is at the top of the floor quite a bit. Their game plan is to have whoever’s guarding Draymond to sit in the lane. So he’s getting wide-open threes. And hopefully he’ll keep shooting the ball the way he’s been shooting it throughout the playoffs.”

Curry was 5-of-8 on his three-point attempts, and while Durant was 0-for-4 he did make 13 of 15 free throws, the one Warrior who goes inside for rebounds (11) and points.

Green said his knee locked up after a collision. “I’d had it before,” he said. “It wasn’t like a huge sigh of relief because I kind of knew what it was from the jump.” He also said the Warriors “kind of lost our focus” at times, if not their drive.

Asked what he expected from the crowd at Salt Lake City, Green gave the proper response. The man has been around.

“I expect it to be hostile,” said Green, who can be pretty hostile himself at times — most times. ”It always is. They cheer pretty loud for their team, obviously. With a few things that went on this past week, it will probably be a bit hostile. But that’s fine.”

As, two games in, are the Warriors.

 

9:25AM

S.F. Examiner: Defense wins championships — and the Warriors look like champions

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

OAKLAND — Steve Kerr wasn’t in the building. His back pain, the headaches, the nausea, wouldn’t allow him to be at Oracle. But his game plan was here Tuesday night, the relentless defense he and his staff continually preach and the gold-shirted crowd screams for the Warriors to play.

“Defense. Defense.” It’s what the fans chant. Defense, defense: It was what the Warriors played. The Dubs got the ball in the basket often enough, but when the other team, in this case the Utah Jazz, has a final total in double figures, the Warriors winning the opener of the Western Conference semis, 106-94, the reason was defense.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner

10:42AM

S.F. Examiner: New 49ers GM spends first draft dealing picks, fortifying defense

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

SANTA CLARA — This is how you start, how the 49ers start, by choosing, talented, intelligent players, by selecting men you’ve judged to be one of the best — and your opinion is shared by others, even the television analysts who could find fault with Miss Universe.

Hey, she’s slow getting off the line.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner

8:59AM

Bochy on consecutive 2-1 games: ‘That’s who we are’

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — That’s who they are. Bruce Bochy said it about the Giants. He didn’t mean losing to the Dodgers, as they did, 2-1, Tuesday night. He meant pitching well and fielding well and having chances to win, unlike those three games at the end of last week against the Rockies in Denver.

The Giants, built on pitching, desperate for hitting, lacked both in those games, losing them 12-3 and 8-0, respectively. That can happen at Coors Field, said Bochy.

But it didn’t happen for the Giants, just against them, against a staff that is supposedly among the best in baseball but last in the National League with an earned run average above 5. After two beautifully pitched games at AT&T Park against L.A., a 2-1 win followed by a 2-1 defeat, their ERA is still is up there at 4.39.

You allow only three runs total in two games, win or loss, and you can’t be displeased. Bochy wasn’t. The way Matt Cain pitched Monday, then Ty Blach — the spot starter, filling in for Madison Bumgarner — pitched Tuesday, had Bochy believing once again.

Had he been on the mound, and not on the disabled list — you do know about that dirt bike accident, of course — Bumgarner couldn’t have pitched much better or had much less offensive support than Blach. Then again, the guy starting and starring for the Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw, is a Cy Young Award winner.

“All we ask,” said Bochy, “is our starters give us a chance to win.” Blach, a lefty like Bumgarner — and Kershaw — certainly did that. He also doubled to lead off the third, then after a couple of strikeouts scored the game’s first run on Buster Posey’s single. That the Dodgers, quality team that they are, responded with two runs in the top of the fourth, showed why L.A. is the favorite in National League West.

In this agonizing season of injuries and inconsistency —  on Tuesday night, Brandon Crawford strained his right groin rounding first base after a single in the eighth — the Giants are trying to stay close and relevant. And, reminded Bochy, play their style of baseball, keeping in the game, as they did against the Dodgers, as they didn’t do against the Rockies.

They brought up the kid everyone thinks will be the star of the future, the next Buster Posey, infielder Christian Arroyo — only a few days after the front office said he would stay in the minors for a while. On Tuesday, Arroyo, 21, got his first major league hit, off the brilliant Kershaw, no less. His family was in the stands.

An omen for the Giants? Could be. As the injury to Crawford could be. Posey was out with a possible concussion. Cain pulled a hamstring. Bumgarner tumbling on his pitching arm and destined to miss two months. So much pain, and very little gain.

Crawford was to travel Wednesday to southern California to attend family services for his sister-in-law, who died last week. He would be on bereavement leave for three days. Bochy hoped Crawford would get an MRI before departing, but Crawford didn’t think it would be possible given time constraints.

“I’ve never had anything like this before,” said Crawford about the injury, “so I can’t tell you how bad it is.”

The other day, after losing four in a row, one to Kansas City and then the three to Colorado, the question was how bad the Giants might be. In the clubhouse Sunday, Bochy, invariably upbeat, sighed, “We’re not very good.” Then, maybe realizing how that sounded in just the third week of the season, added, “Right now.”

The two games at home against the Dodgers proved an antidote, a reassurance. “Ty did a real nice job,” he said of Blach. “He had his pitches going. It was a hard-fought, well-pitched game by both guys.

“This is our type of game. Two to one, close games, that’s who we are.”