The A’s? “Team Irrelevant”? Grabbing supposedly the best Cuban baseball playing defector available, Yoenis Cespedes, for $36 million? Then signing Manny Ramirez? The A’s?
Welcome to the New World of Moneyball. No longer when a journalist asks GM Billy Beane whether we’ll recognize any members of the A’s will he be able to respond, if tongue in cheek, “Do you ever?”
What now with all those covered seats in the third deck at the Coliseum, “Tarp-Land”? Borrow the name “Mannywood”? Not original — thanks, Dodgers fans — but quite acceptable.
The buzz is back. Talking baseball. Talking dropped fly balls and off his bat balls dropping over the fence. Dreadlocks? How about dreadful, which is what A’s attendance has been.
Maybe five years ago, disturbed by the way A’s management kept trading away the best players, someone (blush!) complained to Beane, “There’s no buzz here.” Billy, who invariably gets in the last word, answered, “You call it buzz. I call it noise.”
Whatever it’s called, it’s necessary for sports in the 21st century. Sports in every century. People are no less famous for how they’re perceived than how they perform.
It’s Jeremy Lin’s wonderful tale. It’s the din surrounding Jim Harbaugh. And Tim Lincecum. And Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. It’s, “Did you see that?”
It’s what ESPN puts on the screen and Sports Illustrated puts on the cover and newspapers put on the front pages.
“Hey, we got something cooking here,” A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki said when Oakland announced it was acquiring Manny, drug suspension and all.
Hey, what they got, besides talent, is one player everybody knows and in Cespedes, if the reports are accurate, another player everybody will know.
What they’ve got is a reason for people to go to the ballpark, and no less importantly, to go to the papers and Internet. Who knows whether Manny still can be Manny, but the A’s organization must be commended for the willingness to find out. Our curiosity’s running wild, as Chuck Berry sings.
The game isn’t just on the field, it’s in the hearts and minds of all involved. You didn’t dare miss a Barry Bonds at-bat, no matter how much you despised him. Or idolized him.
Throughout Southern California, even as far west as Santa Monica, the Anaheim-We-Wish-We-Were-in-Los-Angeles Angels have posted dozens of billboards showing the back of Albert Pujols’ jersey as he swings, “PUJOLS” and “5” very visible alongside “BIG A.”
Subtle. Smashing. You have a star, you take advantage of the situation, right, Brad Pitt?
A’s owner Lew Wolff, who seemingly cares only about moving the club to San Jose, proved differently.
“It wouldn’t bother me to have him on the team,” Wolff said last week when asked about the possibility of getting Ramirez. “In fact, just the opposite. It would be fun.”
That’s what sport is supposed to be: fun. That’s what going to AT&T for a Giants game is. The A’s play in a stadium that is too large and also shared with the Raiders, yet that doesn’t mean their games can’t be enjoyable.
Manny is a personality. Cespedes is a possibility. Two weeks ago, the A’s were merely the A’s. Now they are an attraction. Delightful.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.