Big O Tires

Giants' deficit to Dodgers is the worst of worst-case scenarios

Giants' deficit to Dodgers is the worst of worst-case scenarios

There is an excellent chance that late Tuesday night, the San Francisco Giants will find themselves a full 30 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.

On July 18. With 68 games and 75 days, or more than 40 percent, of the baseball season left to play. Thirty games behind. The magic number will be 38, and the Giants’ chances of catching the Dodgers can be reduced to absolute zero on August 27.

It would dovetail with their grudging admission Monday night that they are no longer selling out baseball games routinely, as their announced crowd of tickets sold totaled 39,538, or 2,377 below listed capacity. True, they have entertained far more empty seats than that, but the “tickets sold/resold” dodge has covered a lot of underpopulated nights on L’anse du McCovey.

In other words, this is just one more number to remind you of what you already know, to go along with the run-differential disaster (-108, on a pace for -184) and the magic number, and the games-behind barrel-roll.

But the “minus-30” is interesting, not because it is unusual at season’s end but unusual so early in the season that it projects to finishing 50 games back at season’s end. This, then, is a new measurement of their futility, braided as it is with the equally galling truth that the Los Angeles Dodgers are the team burying them so comprehensively in the table. After all, stinking the joint out only works if someone else is tearing it up, and the Dodgers are eating the entire National League field.

This is, then, the worst of worst-case scenarios, the mathematical culminations of the Giants franchise’s worst season in 115 years. And “30 games back” is one of those mythical standards that just explains the obvious in one more way.

And “30 games back in the middle of July” stands out even if your favorite team is used to finishing that far behind. Say, like Phillies fans or Braves fans or Twins fans or A’s fans. Since the original expansion in 1961, 13 teams have been this far back this quickly, with the record being the 1998 Tampa Bays who hit 30 on June 10 en route to finishing 51 games behind the Yankees.

The Giants are on a pace to do that this year, but it would require the Dodgers winning at least 110, and besides, the reality is bad enough that we needn’t do the “on a pace to” dance.

The Giants have only finished 30 games back 10 times in their 135 years of existence. Only the New York Yankees (five) have been so distant from the sun fewer times. And to be more contemporary about it, the Giants have only finished 30 out two other times as a San Francisco entity.

In short, this is rare ground for this franchise, and the “official” end of the sellout streak means that the citizens are not only on to them but perfectly willing to walk rather than endure the difficult days in good cheer and constant presence.

This could be the team, then, that wins the title of “Worst San Francisco Giants Team Ever,” beating the 1985 juggernaut that led to the hiring of Al Rosen and Roger Craig and the beginning of the renaissance that eventually got them to Third Street (for the new park) and then to Market Street (for the three parades).

This could indeed be the team that wins the title of “Worst Giants Team Ever, Ever.” That would be the 1902 team, which gimped in at 48-88, 53½ games behind Pittsburgh, and scored fewer than three runs a game.

But why bother with the olden days at all? These Giants and their fans have finally perceived that they themselves are the abyss into which they have fallen. Management has seen the end of the road, and what it intends to do about it will become the central theme for this season and the two, minimum, to come.

That’s what happens when you’re flirting with being  30 games out on July 18, when the team you’ve lost those 30 games to is your archest of rivals, and when even unsold tickets aren’t interested in giving themselves to the cause.

Billy Beane and the A's are a baseball problem, not a marketing problem

Billy Beane and the A's are a baseball problem, not a marketing problem

When Sonny Gray is traded by the Oakland Athletics (15 days and counting, for you calendar whores), the longest-serving Elephants will be, as you well know, shortstop Marcus Semien and catcher Josh Phegley, the two enduring pieces of the 2014 Jeff Samardzija dump job.

In other words, Semien and Phegley are not long for the Oakland Job Fair, and that would leave the longest serving Athletic as . . .

Sean Manaea, the next ace of this staff of Ikea pieces. He’s been an Athletic for a season and a half, which means that he may not see the first of the year.

You see, the A’s are now being run as though they are a vegetable bin, with a shelf life of “I saw this broccoli a week ago. Get rid of it.”

This is an advancement from their usual veteran cleanouts, because with the trade of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington Sunday, the A’s have nearly achieved what we thought their true goal has been – to trade every player until they have for no players at all and just turn the Coliseum into a ghost ship.

And no, it doesn’t matter what the division of labor actually is -- whether this is being inspired by Billy Beane and executed by David Forst, or done a different way. The A’s have always been the most adept team in baseball at self-immolation, and now they can see the finish line – the first team to take the theory of scorched earth and modify it to become scorched scorch.

It isn’t so much that they have taken a nascent juggernaut and blown it up as some weird roster-o-phobic indulgence. The A’s are 42-50, or slightly better than most people thought they’d be at this point, and lots better than the Giants, as though that has ever been a consideration – though it should be.

But the A’s are working on their own clock, which is to have a real post-Pinocchio baseball team in time for the new stadium, which needs to be done by the time Major League Baseball removes their revenue sharing sippy cup. And with that in mind, they have decided to clear out the store for new inventory.


Hence, Wm. Lamar Beane explaining what people have been shrieking at him for years:

“Really what’s been missing the last 20 years is keeping these players,” Beane told a mediatronic throng before Sunday’s 7-3 win over Cleveland. “We need to change that narrative by creating a good team and ultimately committing to keep them around so that when people buy a ticket, they know that the team is going to be around for a few years.”

He then followed with an acknowledgement that the new sheriff in town is architecture, and reinventing the flat tire is no longer permissible.

“It sort of fits into everything in the direction we’re going,” Beane said of the deal. “First of all, we have to take a look at where we are — we’re in last place. And the direction we’re heading is, we’re going younger. We need to be disciplined with it, particularly with what we’re trying to do in the community as far as a stadium. There’s only one way to open a stadium successfully, and that’s with a good, young team. We’ve never really committed to a full rebuild. ... I will say this, and I’ve had a lot of conversations with ownership: There is a real commitment to finding a stadium. That’s not just lip service at this point. You’ve seen it.”

The real problem, of course, is that they have torn down the house because they’ve had to tear down the house. It isn’t so much that fans can’t stay connected to players as it is that the A’s braintrust has delivered players who are deemed non-useful so quickly.

It suggests, after all is said and done, that their lack of patience is the result of their missed guesses, and their missed guesses are the result of their lack of patience.

It may simply be that Beane, and Forst as his first adjutant/successor, are not as good as they should be at creating teams worth keeping, and excellent at starting over.

This is chickeny-eggery debate at its least satisfying, but the A’s are not a marketing problem. They are a baseball problem. Their rebuilds should not be so frequent, and they should not be skilled at them. The market-size argument is simply not good enough any more, and it really wasn’t that compelling to begin with.

And definitely not good enough for Beane at long last.

“Absolutely, no doubt about it,” he said. “The important end of the sentence is rebuilding and keeping them. This is my 20th year on the job. There are only so many cycles that I can go through before I get as exasperated as everybody else.”

The obvious rejoinder after all these years is, “What kept you, Skippy?”

Quietest time in sports yields a pair of idiotic fascinations


Quietest time in sports yields a pair of idiotic fascinations

Some time not that very long ago, someone in sports management who will almost certainly spend all of eternity bobbing for razor-studded apples in a pool of lava saw an opportunity in the phrase, “The quietest time in sports.” And decided to fill it with filth.
It is believed to begin right after the end of the NBA Finals, although that artificial start date has been extended through free agency now that the NBA’s principal entertainment vehicle is the burning of money. It used to be right after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, though now it has been extended backward. And it ends roughly at the beginning of NFL and/or college training camps, depending on where you live and which of those two beasts you profess your God to be.
But let’s get back to the management succubus who has set us on the path that has led inexcusably to the current point. The idea that baseball no longer holds the interest or attention spans of the young, cool and inadequately trained in the value of money is now accepted as fact, and as any marketing nitwit will tell you, nature abhors a vacuum.
So here’s what we’ve got. Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor in what is very simply a lazy-stereotype-laden comedy tour that isn’t funny let alone even mildly convincing. They have both been on the stage too long, with a month still to go before the final shame-off August 26, where they simply enter the arena, stand with their backs to each other at the ring rope and spend 45 minutes trying to target-spit into the eyes of the high-rollers. Why the promoters didn’t just muzzle Mayweather and McGregor and use actual professionals like Key and Peele and Aisling Bea and Ed Byrne to work the crowds for a million per is simply a lack of imagination at work.
Here’s what else we have. Our idiotic fascination for Lonzo Ball’s two best Summer League games being achieved wearing shoes other than those promoted by his father/huckster as though his skills and intelligence are all in his feet.
What this actually is, of course, is people using Lonzo’s momentary and mostly microscopic achievement to call LaVar a tedious swine without ever using his name or his product catalog because he, like McGregor and Mayweather, beats down crowds and calls it entertainment, and people have signed on in a weird backdoor way – by finding reasons to like the son as a weapon against the father.
Thus, Lonzo Ball gets to learn how to be a professional athlete of note while carrying the load of his father’s impression upon the nation as well as the loads of those who believe that sins of the father must revert to the son. Popularity’s dominant property is its corrosion, and Ball will have to have very fast feet and well-constructed shoes indeed to dance away from the rising tide of a bored fan base with an ax to grind.
It isn’t as instantly gratifying a train wreck as Mayweather-McGregor, but it is a triumph of the new marketing strategy of wholesale idiocy that diminishes the watcher as well as the watched.
Neither of these events are in and of themselves interesting. Mayweather-McGregor is simply a kangaroo boxing a bear because circus entertainment no longer has circuses as venues, and Ball’s summer bears almost no relationship to the true test of his career – how to be the best player on a terrible team and then make the adjustment to being the third best player on a rebuilding team.
Ball has a longer shelf life because of that single useful component, but it is made less rather than more interesting by the presence of his father, who is now indelibly part of the tale at a time when most parents leave their children to find their fortunes by the virtues of their skills and wits.
McGregor-Mayweather has the sole benefit of being cringeworthy both before, during and after the event, a month-long smear of degradation that reduces all involved, including those who buy the fight, into penitents, into rolling apologies. It is an event in which nobody gets out with any shred of dignity, with the single revolting example of the grisly accountant-beasts who will take the Internal Revenue’s cut immediately after the fight.
And if that isn’t Satan winning, then you don’t know how to score a game in which Satan plays on all the teams at once and sees to it that the game is scheduled in the middle of July because some client of his told him it was the best time of year for personal and professional disgrace with a scoreboard on the end of it.