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10:11PM

One stadium, two problems for A’s, Raiders

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — On Wednesday they were holding a baseball game in a football stadium, the yard lines still chalked on the grass.  

On Sunday they were holding a football game in a ballpark. What else should you call a place with a dirt infield neatly, and nearly, filling the area that spreads out from home plate?

The MLB-NFL Oakland Coliseum is the last of its breed, a multipurpose facility where the Athletics have to chase fly balls across an outfield chunked up by the cleats of 300-pound linemen and the Raiders must survive being tackled on a packed dirt surface that extends from one 20-yard line to the other.

The A’s are almost done for the 2016 season. From the attendance Wednesday, apparently most individuals thought it ended a few months ago.

Only 11,197 were in the place for a game, which admittedly meant little and ended in a somewhat bizarre manner, Oakland pinch runner Arismendy Alcantara caught trying to steal with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Houston won, 6-5.

Yes, Babe Ruth made the final out the same way in the 1926 World Series, the Cardinals beating the Yankees, but Alcantara isn’t exactly the Sultan of Swat. His attempt — A’s manager Bob Melvin thought Alcantara “didn’t get the best jump” — of course has nothing to do with the facilities in Oakland, or lack of same.

You know the narrative. Both the A’s and Raiders are in need and deserving of new stadiums. One team, the A’s, seemingly was headed to San Jose before that plan fell through. The other team, the Raiders, has been guaranteed a $2 billion stadium in Las Vegas.

Apropos of nothing but possibly pertinent to everything, the one East Bay team that doesn’t really need a new arena, the Warriors, is prepared to build one in San Francisco. Money, ask for it by name.

An investment group, which claims it has money, instead has asked to purchase the land where the Coliseum stands along the Nimitz Freeway in Oakland with the intent of keeping the Raiders there and out of the clutches of the casino types.

That the group has ties with Ronnie Lott, the Hall of Fame defensive back who played for the 49ers and the Raiders, may be pertinent. Or it may not.

A month ago, the big cash guy behind the A’s, John Fisher, who with Lew Wolff is listed as co-owner, took an exploratory visit of the Howard Terminal, in the Oakland docks, which would be an absolutely perfect place for an A’s ballpark — something to rival AT&T Park across the Bay.

Just kicking the tires, so to speak. Still, a visible search for a ballpark site, on the water no less — the same as the other MLB team in Northern Calfornia (hint: it is in the midst of a late-season collapse) — and a new move to keep the Raiders from moving are more than acceptable.

You have to start someplace.

It’s an open secret that the NFL commish, Roger Goodell, does not want a team in Las Vegas for various reasons, mostly the perception of a sport that is as popular for action at the sports books as it is on the gridiron might be seen in a different light when one of the franchises is based in Sin City.

Also, bless his heart, Goodell has a special feeling about the Raiders, as much for the venom with which longtime owner Al Davis battled the league as for the historical lunacy and success over the seasons of the team and its fans. Any team that had John Madden and Ken Stabler, made a roundtrip to L.A. and back, and was the first to have a “nation” needs to stay where it is.

Goodell may be a pariah in Foxboro but, in concert with others, saving the Raiders for Oakland would make him beloved at Jack London Square. Crab cioppino, Roger?

But let us not be too optimistic. It takes time, money and intelligence to transform these hopes from fantasy to reality. A new Raiders stadium? A new A’s ballpark?

A skeptic would say they have as much chance as Arismendy Alcantara stealing second with two outs in the bottom of the ninth on Wednesday.

7:57AM

Are these the new Swingin’ A’s?

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — Well, all was quiet on the western front. Also in the East Bay clubhouse. No punches. No concussions. No conversation either. All reminders of the Swingin’ A’s of the 1970s are only coincidental.

Those guys could play baseball. They won three consecutive World Series, ’72-73-74. Those guys also could fight. Each other. There’s nothing wrong with teammates smacking each other around, as long as when the umpire yells “Play ball,” the priorities are reassessed.

As the Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers said two years ago when the ’74 champions had a reunion at the Coliseum, “We had some characters and, we were beating the bleep out of each other. But still we won.”

The ’16 A’s have not for the most part, although Oakland looked more than competent Tuesday night at the Coliseum, defeating the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians, 9-1.

Solid pitching, timely hitting. Which is the way it used to be.

Minus an attempted haymaker or two. Ah, such memories of the glory and gory days.

Game One of the ’74 Series was at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Writers from around the country stood around the cage during batting practice, most skeptical of the Athletics’ reputation.

“I don’t believe all those stories of the fighting,” a journalist told the late Ron Bergman, in those days the only correspondent who covered every A’s game. At almost that very moment, Fingers and fellow pitcher John “Blue Moon” Odom began to brawl in the visitors’ clubhouse.

Ray Fosse was a catcher on the ’73 and ’74 A’s. Now at 69, he works with Glenn Kuiper as the Oakland television commentator. Fosse became famous for being run over by Pete Rose in the 1970 All-Star Game — and for breaking up a fight between Billy North and Reggie Jackson in that ’74 A’s title season.

“I just tried to pull Billy away,” said Fosse, who having incurred a crushed disk in his neck that still hurts, is reluctant to say much more about that battle.

Ballplayers are with each other virtually every day from February until October, on buses and planes, in cramped clubhouses. Nerves fray, tempers explode.

Jeff Kent once took a swing at Barry Bonds in the Giants’ dugout at AT&T. That Danny Valencia of the A’s conked teammate Billy Butler wouldn’t have been particularly noteworthy except that Butler was diagnosed with a concussion, a serious condition.

In fact, while one offers condolences to Butler — who must have taken a beating from Valencia — the incident has for a brief moment made the A’s relevant once again. Consigned to the back pages of the Bay Area’s dailies, they suddenly became front-page news.

They would prefer to do it by being successful, but until then any sort of attention will do.

“It’s not the first time guys have gotten in a fight in the clubhouse,” said Oakland general manager David Forst correctly.

“Unfortunately, when we’re having the kind of season we’re having, it’s a big story. If we were winning, it would be colorful, but we’re not.”

Precisely, and even though the A’s fined both Valencia and Butler, Forst and manager Bob Melvin perhaps were not displeased in their athletes showing some fire, if they didn’t appreciate Butler getting concussed.

Oakland team chemistry has been lacking — “not great” is the way Forst described it — which is hardly unexpected the way the A’s repeatedly ship people from Oakland to Triple A Nashville, and vice versa.

The insecurity has to have an effect on young players. How can there be chemistry when there’s no stability?

Through it all, Melvin, the A’s manager, has remained resolute and pleasant. While it’s true any manager is only as good as his players, the entire business, from lack of talent to losing a player because he was socked by a teammate, must be a downer. 

The rare triumph, such as Tuesday night’s — after loses in eight of the previous nine games — allows Melvin a brief chance to escape the craziness of the past few days, not to mention the season.

“Certainly we had this incident, but when you have losing seasons and you’re not playing well, it’s not going to go as well as when you’re winning,” Melvin conceded when asked about the fight.

“And we’ve had two tough seasons. So in that respect, you don’t expect everything to be warm and fuzzy all the time.”

As men such as Rollie Fingers and Billy North from those 1970s teams readily would confirm.

9:03AM

S.F. Examiner: Amidst global turmoil, sports trudge forward in Europe

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

PARIS — Unable to find Giants or Athletics results in L’Equipe, the historic French sports daily, one goes to the Internet and ESPN and gets not, say, the Red Sox but so help me Qarabag FK, an Azerbaijani soccer team. Yikes.

Not until I open the Examiner website do I discover the Giants have been in a free fall that began in San Diego, of all places, and continued at Fenway Park. The A’s unfortunately have been in a free fall since April.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner

8:53PM

Newsday (N.Y.): Michael Pineda gets first win since April 6

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

OAKLAND, Calif. — Michael Pineda stood taller, literally, extending his body to the maximum, which is considerable for someone who is 6-7. And also figuratively, finally looking like the pitcher he and the Yankees believed he was.

It had been a difficult seven starts for Pineda, who was winless in each of them. But he came to the mound at O.co Coliseum on Sunday after working on standing more erect, which would help him throw sliders to the bottom of the strike zone.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2016 Newsday. All rights reserved.

10:38AM

Newsday (N.Y.): Rob Refsnyder gets big hit, but will he be staying with Yankees?

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

OAKLAND, Calif. — The question was inevitable. So was the answer.

Rob Refsnyder had the big hit Saturday, proving that on this day, at least, he deserved to be on the Yankees. But not unexpectedly, the present seemed less important than the future — the immediate future.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2016 Newsday. All rights reserved.

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