Big O Tires

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

O.J. Simpson is free. The system as it is defined by those who run it in the case of the Nevada Parole Board, worked.

But the issue that lingers is whether we can free ourselves of him. That system is far more amorphous, arbitrarty and essentially unfair. And in its own revolting way, it works too.

The O.J. market has always been bullish. The old cliché that people can’t get enough no matter how much you shovel at them is more true for him than for any other sports figure of the last 50 years. More than Tiger Woods. More than LeBron James. More than Michael Jordan. More than all of them.

And now his parole hearing, televised and streamed by every outlet except Home & Garden Television, proved it again. He will never not be O.J.

But he is also 70. He is also planning to go to Florida and be with his family, based on what he told the parole board Thursday. He has assiduously avoided the media in his nine years in Lovelock, and if his family is providing the support it pledges, it will do its utmost to keep him from our prying eyes as he enters his dotage.

There is nothing we have that can do him any good. We have eaten all the forms of O.J. there are, culminating in the Emmy-award winning documentary on him, and finally, his release from prison. If he is wise as well as smart, here’s nothing left of his life but re-airs.

So the question becomes not so much whether he can leave fame alone, or whether fame can leave him alone. Our national appetite is poor on the topic of leaving people be, let alone deciding enough is enough. The fame we make for people gorges, purges and gorges again, in a hideous cycle that demeans all involved.

In sum, O.J. Simpson can, if he is paying attention to the value of normalcy, end his addiction to fame. I have far more serious doubts about fame and its addiction to him.

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.

Again.

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?”