Ratto: Something amiss in dismissal of Geren


Ratto: Something amiss in dismissal of Geren

Ray Ratto

As someone who has typically found the conventional wisdom a poor guide for behavior, Billy Beanes explanation for replacing Bob Geren as manager seems odd.

Seems, that is. With the Oaklands, nothing is ever that linear.

Beanes notion that the Athletics collective focus had become Gerens job situation may be true, but the general manager has always been resistant to the demands of convention. Sailing into the prevailing blowhards is how he became the principal subject of a book, and now a movie.

So why would be break with convention and fire a friend and colleague now rather than stand as he has, defending Geren by saying that injuries and a thin roster have hampered his abilities?

And no, the nine-game losing streak is too easy a solution, and public pressure regarding the teams parlous state is no solution at all. Theyve been in more dire straits with less hope and Geren has been safe as houses. He has been criticized by players, media and the customers alike for both tactical and personality shortcomings, and his position has been set in bedrock.

RATTO: Axing Geren a start to fixing woeful A's

Now either Beane has suddenly become a man of whim, which contravenes everything we know about his work mode, or he got pressure to make a change not from below (us) but above (Lew Wolff andor John Fisher).

We wont know because none of the principals would say, but it seems more likely that the teams principal owners, who were just compared to slumlords by Monte Poole of the Bay Area News Group less than a week ago, might have decided that something needed to be done.

And when something needs to be done in this context, a manager is usually packing boxes.

We neednt recite the litany of Gerens shortcomings, because many can be summed up by the fact that he exuded lack of dynamism, either within or without the safety of the ballpark. Players found him undercommunicative, armchair managers found him occasionally baffling, and media found him a tough conversationalist.

Lets eliminate the third one first, because a managers last duty is to entertain the notebooks -- right after make sure the waffle-maker is plugged in. Not important if everything else is in place.

The second one, his tactics, could be second-guessed, because all managers who dont have headlight-sized rings on their fingers get that. Bruce Bochy was a bad manager in many amateur eyes until he became a genius.

The first is troublesome, because after keeping the bullpen straightened out and the lineup cards functional, a managers ability to place his players in the best place to succeed and keeping them believing the managers essential wisdom is the most important thing. Beane may not believe this as much as he should, given his long-held aversion to chemistry, but it was, is, and will always be true. The players believe it to be so, which makes it true enough to be a force worth heeding.

Taken as a unit though, Geren had become the a priori example of the teams general unwatchability. That extended both north and south of Gerens office, to the point where the team had become an inert mass dominated by five-hit days and pitchers on the disabled list.

Oh, and abuse for the owners, both for their perceived lack of stewardship toward the team and for their real estate fixations.

Now many things have changed in sports since they became organized, but one thing has remained a constant throughout, and that is that people do not buy teams so they can be made to look and feel ridiculous. They buy them because they either love the sport, think they can cash in on the sport, can become local heroes for buying into the sport, or just scratching a need for personal fame through the sport.

Being mocked, or worse, being called slumlords, is not part of the plan.

GUTIERREZ: Geren never really had a chance with A's

Thus, we have a postulation for Gerens dismissal beyond his record, his personality, his player issues, or his teams seeming inertia. It might very well be that Wolff called in his 15 percent (or Fisher his 75, though that seems less likely) and said a change had to happen.

Hearing Beanes conference call, one could detect rare irritation in his voice and short, clipped answers in his responses. He may have found the questioning impertinent, or the task painful, or maybe he thought Geren deserved to finish the year. He has never whacked a manager in midseason before; the last Oakland manager to be dismissed after March and before October was Jackie Moore, when Beane was 24 and a Minnesota Twin outfielder.

He has now, and this was the one he was closest to, which would be stressful under the most benign circumstances. If the move was forced upon him not because of circumstances but because of the chain of command, he would be all the more agitated.

Again, we likely will never know because there is no advantage in any of the three men saying thats how Gerens firing occurred. What is more, the absence of proof is not the same as proof of the opposite.

But this version makes more sense than pressure from the media or the fan base or even the record at the time of dismissal. None of those three forces have ever worked on him before, and frankly, it doesnt seem plausible that they did this time.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun


A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.