Warriors fans can be faulted for their passion

OAKLAND,  Calif. -- The crowd wasn't a sellout, but it was large.
Maybe too large. And too passionate. The Golden State Warriors arguably
have the best fans in pro basketball.

To their great disadvantage.

We had a brief interlude, a fling, a couple of years ago. The Warriors,
ending their seasons of silence, qualified for the playoffs, even
stunned the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. Hysteria. Elation.

But it's all in the past.

The Warriors are a bad team once again as this NBA season of '08-'09
wobbles toward the end, a bad team whose coach and star seemingly are
forever in conflict. And yet people don't seem to care.

Because they care too much for the Warriors. And so management resists change.

Don Nelson continues to coach, even if at times he seems rather bothered by the whole idea, other than having a seat of power.

Monta Ellis continues to confront Nelson, contradicting virtually everything Nellie puts forth.

And Chris Mullin continues as general manager, even if through
machinations by Nelson and president Robert Rowell, Mully's viewpoints
are of little consequence.

A mess. Except at the box office. Where it counts the most in pro sports.

Wednesday night, the Warriors played the New Jersey Nets at Oracle
Arena. Beat them, too, 116-112. Before 18,203 fans, who showed up to
scream and hoot and holler for a team that came into the game with
exactly twice as many defeats (42) as victories (21).

Fans who won't be deterred by reality. Fans apparently oblivious to the
private little war between the coach with the dictator's philosophy and
the player, Ellis, with the rebel's brazenness.

Fans who refuse to desert a team that will fail to get to the post-season for the 14th time in 15 years.

The Warriors are the little soap opera that isn't good enough for prime
time but nevertheless can't be ignored. A year ago it was Nellie and
Baron Davis at war, and noting what the Baron has done with the
Clippers, the situation up here could be worse.

This time it's Nellie and Monta. Not to mention Nellie and Jamal Crawford.

Ellis was back from his travels, not to be confused with traveling,
having returned from his home in Mississippi, missing the previous
seven games because of (take your pick) stiffness in the ankle he
injured during the summer in that moped accident or because he was
visiting his sick mother. Nelson said it was the former, Monta the

"Monta complained three different times, three different games that he
had soreness in his ankle," Nelson insisted before Ellis went out and
picked up 19 points and six assists against the Nets.

"He missed a few games, then he was supposed to come back to us, and he went to visit his mother and that's the story."

Not according to Ellis, who reiterated an earlier statement, "I told you I went to see my mom."

Nelson also said the Warriors would be ridding themselves of Jamal
Crawford, acquired in a trade from the Knicks for Al Harrington,
because Crawford makes $8 or $9 million, too much for a backup guard.

That was before the game. Before Crawford scored 19 points, 15 in the
fourth quarter. "He did most of his damage when running the point,"
conceded Nelson, who explained Crawford had been with the Warriors some
50 games, as if it was about time Jamal did something. Other than toss
in 50 earlier in the schedule.

Nellie has told others he is happiest at games, moving players in and
out, shouting instructions, that practice is as much work for him as
the athletes, not surprising when you've been coaching for decades.

The question might be whether this indeed is Nelson's team or a team
that Nelson tolerates and attempts to maneuver to his own pleasure. It
has long been accepted Nellie doesn't like using rookies, although now
in this season without hope the Warriors are starting Anthony Randolph
at forward.

Don Nelson can be gruff. Don Nelson can be impatient. He's done this
work a long time -- some might say too long -- and there's not a
mistake he hasn't seen or a reporter's irritating question he hasn't

Asked if the morale on the Warriors, considering the Ellis affair and
the conversation he had with Crawford about the future or lack of same,
is acceptable, Nelson responded immediately.


"It's acceptable when you consider the kind of year we've had," said
the coach. "We've won 21 ballgames (now 22), and we've worked hard to
keep the attitude and the morale good. I can't say it's been perfect
but overall it's been very good -- one of the few things we've done
well this year."

Along with packing the house with the best fans in basketball.

Spring Training Radio Network: Audio from March 7, 2009 appearance

Art joins host George Allen (along with Ferguson Jenkins, Fred Stanley,
Jerry Coleman, and others) to talk about the upcoming baseball season.

Listen here

RealClearSports: The Dreaded New York State of Mind

By Art Spander

Alex Rodriguez underwent hip surgery. After admitting he took steroids.
Oh, you knew all that? Sorry. I forgot. Whatever happens in New York,
unlike Vegas, doesn't stay in New York.

It inundates virtually all of the free world.

We know the lyric, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.
What the New York media make of almost every occurrence east of the
Hudson River is far too much.

At least for the rest of us, meaning the other 49 states and the territory of Puerto Rico.

The theory posited here is tabloids are in a large way responsible for
the creation of a great sports town. New York and environs have three
of those babies. And each offers sports on the back of the paper.

Providing some absolutely captivating headlines -- "HIP WRECK," "DOPE
OPERA" and "HIP-HOPE" were three on A-Rod's torn labrum -- and a
measure of overkill.

The non-tabloid New York daily, yes the Times, briefly was able to step
back from the Rodriguez story with a reflection on Terrell Owens, the
receiver who as at each stop previously, San Francisco and
Philadelphia, outlived his welcome and was waived by the Dallas Cowboys.

Almost immediately, T.O. was signed by the Buffalo Bills -- poor
devils; they'll learn -- but the Times piece was how he should have
been acquired by the New York Jets.

New Yorkers delight in pointing out their degree of sporting
sophistication, but in reality they are no less provincial than the
residents of Denver or Cincinnati. In fact, they are more.

And because three of the TV networks, the primary wire service and four
major papers are located there, the country invariably is set up to
believe if it's not the Yankees who count it's the Mets. It certainly
isn't either the Knicks or the Nets.

Third basemen. A-Rod is one. So is Eric Chavez of the Oakland
Athletics. He's attempting to recover from his own injuries and Monday
unexpectedly was not able to start as a position player for the first
time this spring.

Did anyone notice? Not in New York. It was more of the same. More of A-Rod.

The imbalance is startling. The Phillies won the World Series over the
Rays. Pittsburgh and Arizona played in the Super Bowl. Last year's NBA
finals matched the Celtics and Lakers, and this year's very well could
do the same. In the Stanley Cup finals, the Detroit Red Wings defeated
the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Not a New York team among the group. But New York hype and self-loathing was everywhere we looked.

When Rodriguez, after consultations, decided to have his hip partially
repaired immediately instead of waiting, the New York Daily News,
paraphrasing Derek Jeter, headlined WE WILL SURVIVE. They might, but
will anybody else?

No ill will is wished for A-Rod, an MVP, a star, but the coming days in
the New York press will be devoted almost entirely to his recovery.
Sure, room will be found for the NFL draft, of Giants and Jets variety
that is, but be forewarned. Basically the next five months will be
Rodriguez and more Rodriguez.

Of course it's a conspiracy. Had A-Rod stayed with the Mariners, with
whom he entered the majors, or with the Rangers, we would barely know
of the man. The $252 million contract he signed with Texas did raise
him a bit out of the ordinary, but nothing like being a member of the

You recall that Alex and his agent, the dreaded Scott Boras, explored
the idea of joining the Red Sox. That would have been a hoot.

The pieces never would have fit together the way they do in New York,
the tabloids, the critics, the Yankees' inability to advance to the
World Series or last season even to the playoffs.

New York is in love with itself. As depicted in that historic New
Yorker magazine cover, the people perceive everything beyond Manhattan
and the Bronx as wasteland.

An oft-repeated axiom is that while at other locations everything works
but nothing matters, in New York very little works and everything

With that sense of entitlement, as it were, New Yorkers hurl their
thoughts and preferences at the rest of us, who have spent a lifetime
trying unsuccessfully to avoid them.

At the moment, A-Rod doesn't work, and to the news folk gleefully
observing the situation that matters more than anything else in sports.

It's difficult to determine whether Alex Rodriguez is a bigger story
playing or not playing. We are about to find out. Unfortunately.

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports
history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his
long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has
earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And he has
recently been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of
America for 2009.

- - - - - -

© RealClearSports 2009


A's signing of Nomar and Cabrera prove they're serious

PHOENIX -- The T-shirt was a reminder, and
a tease. "No Splash Hits" were the words on the front, a poke at the
team across the bay, the Giants. "Four World Titles," it said on the
shirt's back, a reference to the great days of the Oakland Athletics.

Days the A's have decided to pursue once more.

The A's are off the treadmill, that depressing process of selecting and
developing young talent only to send the players off to other teams and
then starting the procedure once again.

Now it is to be seen if the A's are off to the races -- well, the race. The pennant race.

Rumors became actuality Friday. A short while before Oakland played the
Seattle Mariners on a pleasant afternoon at Phoenix Muni, management
introduced proof it is serious about chasing a championship instead of
continuing the chase to nowhere.

In a little room above the team's spring offices, assistant general
manager Bob Forst brought in Orlando Cabrera, destined to be starting
at shortstop, and Nomar Garciaparra, the man who's been everywhere from
Boston to Chicago to Los Angeles.

What a change. What a welcome change. The A's have, out of desperation
or because of planning, too frequently surrendered their stars or
potential stars, trading a Dan Haren, a Rich Harden.

The talk always was about the future. But to borrow that line from the late football coach George Allen, the future is now.

It was time to stop worrying about a stadium in Fremont, a nonsensical
idea from the start, created more to market real estate than win
titles, and think about playing ball.

It was time to find out if with the right chemistry and a few breaks, a fifth world title would be a possibility.

So the A's signed Matt Holliday, who carries a .319 lifetime batting
average and a $13.5 million contract, and brought back the
still-capable Jason Giambi, who before the steroid talk and the seasons
with the Yankees, was the 2000 American League MVP with Oakland.

That led to the 35-year-old Garciaparra and 34-year-old Cabrera adding
their ages and experience to a franchise too long acknowledged for
being too young.

"Having Giambi back, having Matt here, and Eric Chavez, who's probably
one of my favorites, that's what drew me here," said Cabrera. He hit
.281 with the White Sox in 2008, .301 with the Dodgers in 2007. He was
in the '04 World Series with the Red Sox. And he shows up every day.

Garciaparra, on the Dodgers the last three years, has a history of
injuries. He missed 90 games in '08 and wondered if his career was
finished. But a winter of rehabilitation, of learning strained calf
muscles were an inborn problem that needed continual attention, made
him believe he could stay on as ballplayer.

"The Phillies wanted me to sign a while ago," said Garciaparra, "but I
didn't think it was fair to commit until I made sure I was right. Here,
I was looking at the good combination of young guys and veterans, at
what Jason (Giambi) had accomplished in the game."

Early on last season, the A's, with their youth, were five or six games
behind the Angels, whose regular-season superiority was evident in
their major league high of 100 wins. But then the Athletics began to
slip, and Harden and Chad Gaudin were traded. The slip evolved into a

Oakland finished 75-86, 24 1/2 games behind the Angels. A's management had conceded. Again.

Just wait, we were told, until the new ballpark in Fremont is finished.
Then the money would pour in and the names could be retained.

It's finished, but not the way A's owner Lew Wolff had in mind.

So the people in the front office decided to sell baseball instead of
selling fans on real estate. Holliday, Giambi, Cabrera, Garciaparra. No
more a "who's he?" lineup.

"We've added talent," assured Forst. "You can talk about young and old,
but we'll always take talent. I think starting with Matt, adding Jason,
bringing in these two, we have added guys we felt could make us better
right away. Plus we have the young players from last year, the Suzukis
(catcher Kurt Suzkuki), plus kids who are coming, (pitchers) Trevor
Cahill and Brett Anderson.

"It wasn't in the conversation, saying, 'Hey, we're going to go for
it.' We always have wanted to put the best team on the field, and I
think the guys we've added will help us achieve that goal."


Well, despite the rhetoric, hey, they're going to go for it. Finally.

Carney Lansford's nightmare: His batters against his son

SCOTTSDALE,  Ariz. -- The relaxed mood
of spring baseball no longer existed. The games players say don't mean
that much suddenly meant too much for Carney Lansford.

His son was pitching against the hitters he coaches.

The requirement for 22-year-old Jared Lansford, the Oakland Athletics
reliever, was to prevent any success by batters of the San Francisco
Giants, whose responsibility is that of 52-year-old Carney Lansford.

Who, as fortune would have it, was a longtime member of the Athletics.

"I could not watch," said Carney.

So, in the bottom of the fifth Thursday at Scottsdale Stadium, Lansford
marched into the Giants clubhouse, hiding from reality as it were.
Intelligently so.

"I've seen him pitch a couple of times before," said Carney of Jared,
"but I couldn't do this one. My hitters against my son. A no-win

For Jared, who got a pre-game hug from his dad, the situation was strange but not quite serious.

"It was different from any other team I faced," said the young pitcher,
now in his fifth season after having been drafted in 2005 out of St.
Francisco High School in Mountain View, Calif.

"I think it was worse for him than for me."

It was. Much worse. Jared would allow a couple of hits in his inning of
a game the A's won, 4-2, and has not allowed a run in three innings of
exhibition play.

"I didn't have my best stuff," Jared conceded, "but I got them to put the ball in play."

Jared appreciated the experience. Up in the stands, so did Debbie
Lansford, mother and wife, and Jared's younger brother, Josh, who will
report to the Cubs' camp in a few days.

"Oh yeah," agreed Debbie, "it was fun. It doesn't matter who they're
playing, I like to watch. It was unusual, but I enjoyed it very much."

Carney did not.

"I wanted him to pitch well, obviously," said Carney. " just couldn't
watch. My heart was pounding too much. And my stomach was in knots."

After the game, the family came together, as close as possible when
Carney and Jared were on one side of the screen behind home plate and
Debbie and Josh on the other. They exchanged smiles and through the
netting handshakes.

"I talked to my dad maybe a minute before the game," said Jared, as
relaxed as Carney was intense, "teasing him a little bit. I asked him
if he gave away my secrets. It was a lot of fun."

Jared's pitching coach is Curt Young, who found the whole thing
fascinating, especially since he now is in charge of Jared's
improvement and in the late 1980s and early 1990s was Carney's teammate
on the A's.

"Just watching it live," said Young, "it was real exciting for me. Just
knowing Carney and playing with him and knowing his son's out there
facing the hitters he's worked with. I'm sure it was a big day for the
two of them."

At least the one of them.

Carney, American League batting champion with the Boston Red Sox in
1981, later asked some of those batters, Rich Aurilia, Juan Uribe and
Steve Holm, what they thought of the pitcher they faced.

Aurilia and Uribe grounded out. Holm and Eugenio Velez singled, Velez'
ball not leaving the infield. Then Andres Torres grounded out. Five
batters, only one ball to the outfield.

"They said he had pretty good movement on his ball," Carney explained.
"Maybe a little too much movement. But he made the pitches when he had

"I saw him pitch a few times in the Fall League, high school and the
minors. But this is a nightmare for me, for him to pitch against our

The nightmare was brief. The Lansfords, all four of them, are staying
in the same condo. "I'm sure we'll talk about it tonight when we all
get there," said Jared.

The Family Lansford never has been far from baseball. Carney signed a
contract in 1975 after graduating from Wilcox High in Santa Clara and
played through 1992. After coaching with the A's and managing the
Angels farm team at Edmonton, he left the game after the 1999 season,
only to return in 2007.

He's been through a great deal, the 1989 Earthquake Series, trades, injuries. But nothing quite like he went through Thursday.

"But now," said Debbie Lansford, "we all go back to the house and have dinner, and life is good for another couple of days."


She understands. It's only a game.