Big O Tires

Five events that could derail the Raiders' move to Las Vegas

Five events that could derail the Raiders' move to Las Vegas

Finally, we are at the end game for the Oakland Raiders – a billionaires’ vote. Game to 24.

The Raiders filed the paperwork to move to Las Vegas Thursday, which was utterly no surprise to anyone. The City of Oakland pretended to be hurt but hopeful, which was no surprise. The NFL sat stolid and grumpy, which is its standard pose when it comes to the Raiders specifically and California in general.

In other words, the kabuki is done, and now we wait to see the sausage getting made. Or at the very least, watching it ground.

All the reporting and conjecture of the past few weeks is that Mark Davis has convinced the three-quarters majority that he has done more than enough to quell any concerns about Vegas’ smaller market or its stadium financing. The problem with that is, a lot of the same people thought that Davis and Dean Spanos would have been sharing the Los Angeles market by now, having been approved to move as a tandem last January.

That was 373 days ago, and as you all know, a lot has happened since then. The Rams moved from St. Louis instead, had a season so repellent that Los Angeles went from the league’s crown jewel to a serious problem area. The Chargers lost a stadium vote in San Diego by a lot more than Spanos hoped, and he went to L.A. to double the size of the hot mess. The Raiders turned a defeat into a new deal that first did include Las Vegas kingpin Sheldon Adelson and now may not include him. They even got $750 million in state money to help build their idealized new stadium, which is currently listed at $1.9 billion but may in fact end up costing significantly less.

Now there is only the matter of votes.

Jerry Jones (Dallas) has claimed to be in favor, and he was a chief whip in the Rams-to-L.A. deal. Bob McNair (Houston) is happy Davis isn’t again casting a phony eye towards San Antonio. Bob Kraft (New England) has been pro-Vegas through most of the hunt. Clarke Hunt (Kansas City) worried about competitive balance when the Raiders and Chargers were angling toward L.A. but seems less concerned now. And Jed York will have access to the Bay Area’s disposable income to himself.

The only apparent opponents could be Spanos and Stan Kroenke (Los Angeles), though Kroenke is pleased that the Raiders won’t be his co-tenants, Mike Bidwill (Arizona, for geographical reasons), John Mara (New York Giants) because of old-line gambling and market size jitters and maybe Paul Allen (Seattle) for . . . well, because he helped derail the Raiders a year ago and might have liked the way it felt.

But the NFL has been in Vegas for some time examining the territory, ever since it became clear that Oakland wasn’t going to play traditional civic ball (giving the local owner and the league everything it wants and then having the rest stolen from it). Mayor Libby Schaaf opted to agree with the Fortress group to handle the land and stadium issues, which sat very poorly with the NFL and made the option of keeping Davis in Oakland against his will even less palatable.

So what could derail the plan now? In descending order of likelihood:

* There could be eight of the remaining 31 owners (not counting Davis) who band together to vote en bloc against him, since he is not connected enough to fight back.

* There could be demands made of Davis in exchange for those votes that Davis finds too onerous (think divestiture, either at once or over time).

* Adelson could play nasty again, although now that most people believe that Davis can do the deal without him, that is less worrisome a scenario.

* The economy could crater (hey, laugh at your peril).

* The state could decide to renege on its contribution for fiscal reasons (politics are funny that way).

In short, today’s announcement was a sheer formality that makes the Las Vegas Raiders seem like a fait accompli, but the votes people think are in place are not actually in place until they’ve been cast.

And nobody knows that better than Mark Davis. He still has the muddy year-old prints from his “colleagues’” boots imprinted on his right buttock from the Carson vote.

Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

The Baseball Hall of Fame becomes yesterday’s news Friday, as it always does. Three months of buildup, one day to announce the names, one day to castigate the voters for their willfully negligent slights, and then nine months of hibernation.

So much for the concept of “joining the immortals.”

But at least Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez never have to go through this annual pageant of nonsense again.

Barry Bonds does, though, and so does Roger Clemens, and to a lesser extent, so does Curt Schilling. They are the new litmus strips for the Hall, and they will more than replace Raines (voter ignorance division) and Bagwell (presumption of guilt with evidence division) for self-involved debate.

And in that adjusted role from doomed outsiders to serious candidates, Bonds and Clemens – and to a lesser extent again, Schilling – have become invaluable to the Hall, and their eventual election and induction will reduce the Hall’s ability to inflame passions outside the seamhead community.

On a day when Bagwell and Raines finally cleared the 75 percent threshold and Bonds and Clemens moved from 45 percent to 53.8 and 54.1 percent, respectively, the Hall of Fame Debating And Chowder Society saw the end times for its power as a multi-month debate-churner.

The blatherers are dead, long live the blatherers.

An entire mini-industry of Hall watchers has been spawned, in part by the now-feted Ryan Thibodaux and his exit polling but also by the debates about what the Hall should be and who should get to decide it. It has made days like Wednesday event viewing when it hadn’t been for years. For that, the Hall owes Bonds and Clemens a debt that the powers inside Major League Baseball wishes it didn’t have to pay. But the day they are inducted is the day that PEDs die as a debating point. The answer will have been provided, and there will be no more need for discussion.

Worse yet, the BBWAA’S new voter transparency rules may unfortunately impact our pal Thibodaux, whose seminal work in this understudied area of social science undermined ballot secrecy. In short, if everyone has to fess up, the desperate need to know early returns may dry up.

Oh, there will always be the day of post mortem-ization, as those who didn’t clear the threshold are subject to a few rounds of the popular parlor game, “Who Got Snubbed, And The Tedious And Half-Informed Reasons Why.”

For instance, the big debating point from today’s results will not be about Raines and Guerrero getting in, but what happened to the Bonds and Clemens votes. People have already postulated that a lot of the jump in their respective votes can be directly linked to Bud Selig’s election from the Veterans Committee. Voters who had previously ridden the Hall-as-temple argument suddenly lost their raison d’etre and realized that the PED problem was an industry matter rather than a greedy players’ matter.

In short, they saw Selig getting in as tacit approval that the PED issue was no longer a moral one in baseball but a cynical one, a way to blame labor for management’s culpability. That is an irony whose existence Selig will almost surely deny, but it’s there anyway, and it represents one more non-glacial change in a system that has been nearly immovable for most of its existence.

The next change, of course, may be removing the vote from the BBWAA and turning it over to a more malleable panel of “experts” who may not skew as young and values-neutral as the BBWAA of the future seems to be heading. That course may be hastened if/when Bonds and Clemens are elected, because halls of fame in their more traditional role have been more about rewarding friends and punishing enemies, and a large and shifting electorate makes that harder to accomplish.

The argument against such a course, though, is that the current system of three months of fevered public debate about the same old stuff works for the Hall’s sense of its importance. I mean, MLB Network and its fetish for shrill argument only has so much reach.

By Friday, though, all of this will revert to its typically inert state. Bonds, Clemens (ATALE Schilling), PEDs, morality, practicality, secrecy, old voter/young voter – all of it will fade back into insignificance.

And in a year or two or maybe three, Bonds and Clemens will wipe it all out by being included in the one club that we once knew would never tolerate their presence, and the Hall Of Fame’s Golden Age Of Shrieking Argument will end.

In a weird and largely unpleasant way, it will be missed.

Hall of Fame voters' biggest issue: Do they work for the job or the sport?

Hall of Fame voters' biggest issue: Do they work for the job or the sport?

With Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, and maybe even Trevor Hoffman about to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, we have re-entered the hellish debates about who should vote, and why they should vote, and whether needles are good or bad and whether both are trumped by cashing the checks those needles made possible and why being transparent about their votes is good and why being transparent about their votes is actually bad.
 
In other words, the Hall of Fame isn’t actually about players any more. It’s about the voters.
 
The Danes call this “rampant narcissism.”
 
We have danced around this central fact for years now, hiding behind debates about performance enhancing drugs and the profiting thereof, voting limits and their degree of strangling artificiality, and the new writers vs. the old veterans, and who should be vilified, justifiably or otherwise, by whom.
 
Yay hatred by proxy!
 
But the process arguments ultimately aren’t the central point here. The argument is really about something more basic.
 
Are voter/journalists supposed to help enhance the mythology of the sport, or dispassionately tell its story? Who are they working for when they vote?

To that end, every vote tells a story well beyond the names checked off or the blank ballots submitted. One man, Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs, to you), has been invaluable in delving into the voting minutiae from the growing number of voters who release their opinions early. But, and he’ll admit this if you strike him often enough, that’s still a process discussion, and the core of the debate is found elsewhere.
 
Baseball writers are like football writers and basketball writers and hockey writers and curling writers and blah-blah-blah-de-blah-blah, in that they are prone to love the sports they cover beyond their journalistic mandate. That’s probably true of most journalists in most fields, but baseball has the Hall of Fame outlet to allow this internal debate to play itself out before our faces.
 
So the question becomes whether their votes are the representation of dispassionate analysis, or a defense of the mythos of the sport and the concept of the Hall itself. Boiled down to its essence, who are the voters defending here, the sanctity of the myth, or the ugliness of the reality?
 
The answer, as it usually is, is, “Depends on who you talk to.”
 
Hall of Fame debates usually lump all voters into one amorphous blob, a level of lazy and stupid thinking that should in a more perfect world be punishable by death. Okay, we kid. Life on a Louisiana prison farm, with parole after 25 years.
 
In fact, voters cover a fairly wide swath of opinion, and for whatever perceived shortcomings they might have, there are enough of them (about 450) to be a fairly accurate measure of the diaspora of baseball opinion across social, cultural, sporting and chronological lines.
 
But the argument about whether an individual voter feels more responsible to the job he or she is paid to do or to the game he or she covers as part of that job remains largely unconsidered, or at the very least masked by other considerations.
 
This manifests itself all the way down to the hot-pocket word “cheating.” Baseball is about cheating, and about honor. It’s about racism, and trying to overcome it. It’s about greed, and selflessness. It’s a sport, and it’s a business. It’s America, in all its glorious and hideous manifestations. To employ “cheating” as a word is in itself dishonest, and given that everyone got rich off the PED era and kept all the money they made makes PED use a de facto workplace condition approved by management and labor.
 
That may be unsavory, and it certainly is illegal without a proper doctor’s prescription, but because by their inaction the owners decided not to punish it (and in fact chose to reward it with contracts and extensions for users even after testing was instituted), it isn’t “cheating.”
 
And even if that argument doesn’t heat your rec room, it isn’t the role of the writer to punish it. It is the role of the writer to reveal it by journalism means, but that’s where the journalist’s role ends. The people who ran baseball took the journalism, acknowledged it, and did nothing until it ramped up detection and did little other than blame the union for a failing that both sides share equally.
 
So in the end, Raines’ votes or Barry Bonds’ votes or Curt Schilling’s votes or Edgar Martinez’ votes are fun to debate, but they aren’t the issue. It’s whether the voters think when they sit down and confront their ballot every year who exactly they’re working for – the job, or the sport.
 
And yes, I vote. Voted for the maximum 10. You’ll find out tomorrow the contents of my ballot. Then you can make that a process story, too.