Given the circumstances, it's hard to be as anonymous as Art Howe is right now, so we have to conclude he wants it that way. He's managing a team that has won 20 games in a row, and he's giving off the impression he's as stupefied as the rest of us. You look at him sitting over there with the bemused half-grin on his face and you see a guy who's tending the fire instead of stoking it.
It's not that easy, though. Howe's teams consistently improve in the second halves of seasons, and this year is just the latest example -- an exaggerated, bloated, distended example, but an example nonetheless.
While general manager Billy Beane gets a justifiable amount of credit for constructing the A's on a budget of cheap twine and reconditioned duct tape, Howe is mostly ignored. Again, given his public persona, you figure he must like it that way.
However, in a surprise bigger than a 20-game win streak, this week Howe gave off the first sign that he's noticed this lack of attention and wouldn't mind if it changed. He told Bay Area reporters that he has noticed the line of worshippers outside the Temple of Beane, and he's fine with that. Mostly.
Because he also made a point to compare his situation with the situation in Anaheim. Down there, he says, all they're talking about is what a great job Mike Scioscia is doing. They don't even seem to know the identity of the Angels' general manager.
Howe's got to be doing something right, but he's doing most of it quietly and outside the prying eyes of the media. Besides, the idea of a great leader being a guy with a 36 pulse and a steady 80-over-50 reading on the blood pressure gauge doesn't inspire thoughts of a Patton remake.
It works in Oakland, though. Not just game after game, but year after year.
This Week's List
The globalists are winning, and I think I hear the fwit fwit fwit of the black helicopters now: First a record number of international players were drafted in the first round of the NBA draft, and now Team USA goes from 58-0 to 58-2 in a span of 24 hours.
It's noble and all, but "taking one for the team" doesn't play well at the arbitration hearing: The Diamondbacks' Eddie Oropesa on Monday -- 1 2/3 innings, 9 hits, 10 runs (all earned), three walks, one strikeout.
Our Constitution at its finest: As we now know, nothing's more public than a man named Hootie out to defend his privacy.
Five secrets to success in NFL fantasy football, brought to you by someone who believes there's nothing better than linking your self-worth to a pile of meaningless statistics: 1) unlike wide receivers, running backs with fancy first names (Marshall, Emmitt, Jerome, Garrison) always perform better than their more pedestrian brethren; 2) name a great offensive player named Bob -- can't be done; 3) impress your friends by picking up an unheralded short-yardage running back late in the seventh round; 4) the Warren Sapp-as-offensive-force idea seems to have died, but pick him anyway, just to seem smart; 5) choose Rickey Watters, so you can always call competitors and sing "Rickey Don't Lose That Number" every Monday morning following a game in which he scores a touchdown.
Funny because I was just thinking how nicely some iris adornments would go with my Bengals Breathe-Right strip, Bengals fingernails and Bengals braces, not to mention all the tattoos: Contact lens manufacturer Coopervision is marketing NFL Crazy Lenses -- yes, lenses imprinted with your favorite team's logo.
Just a guess, but the drug-testing standards don't exactly have the feel of a gangplank: Do you think the union would have agreed to it so readily had it actually threatened to expose marquee players?
One of the sports world's enduring mysteries: Why is the NFL's parity system so appealing to so many people?
The way it looks from here: The NFL system penalizes excellence by prohibiting successful teams from keeping top players for any length of time.
And, as a supposed fix, here's what baseball did: Approved an agreement that provides no incentive for small-market jus' folks like David Glass in Kansas City to spend more money to make their teams better.
Just for the heck of it (special active major-leaguer edition): Salomon Torres and Felix Jose.
Hey, no biggie, guys -- we're always willing to forgive an honest mistake: British sporting goods manufacturer Umbro is taking some heat for naming one of its shoes "Zyklon," which -- coincidence of all coincidences -- is the name of the poison gas the Nazis used in concentration camps.
And speaking of coincidences: It kind of reminds me of the time we considered naming our son "Idi Amin Keown" and then realized the coincidence -- oh, how embarrassing that was.
Next on Dateline -- "White-Collar Carjacking: America's Newest Menace": Jalen Rose was driving his Bentley (est. worth: $350,000) in tony Brentwood, Ca., when a guy in a Cadillac Escalade pulled up, demanded the car and then fired eight shots.
Or maybe it's more like "Auto Envy: Why You and Your Loved Ones Might Be At Risk": Or, of course, there might be more to the story than a multi-million dollar basketball player tooling around this neighborhood with his "personal chef" and suddenly finding bullet holes in his windshield.
That's one thing about having your own personal chef: You're pretty much guaranteed to have 24-hour room service.
The Bay Area, once again MVP Central: Bonds in the N.L., Tejada in the A.L.
And finally, a shout out to all the ladies out there: Hootie's got some cool threads and everything, but do you really want to be a member at Augusta?
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