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.

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.

Raiders, 49ers can return to their normal madness after Fried Festivus 51

Raiders, 49ers can return to their normal madness after Fried Festivus 51

The Super Bowl is today, which means the best day of the year is fast approaching.

Namely, the day after the Super Bowl.

At that point, we as a nation can complete the inventory of gastric damage we did to ourselves on what shall be known to future generations as Fried Festivus.

At that point, the people who bombard us daily with news of the game – the least important part of the week-long trade show, as we have come to learn it – will all be on planes and too tired to re-explain what we already saw 37 times on game day.

At that point, nobody will care that Terrell Owens was apparently one of the first of the 15 Hall of Fame finalists to be rejected for induction because of crimes against the NFL state. The Hall of Fame is one of the sneaky ways in which the NFL never lets us escape its obnoxiously shouty profile, and the fact that Owens is right about the flawed process doesn’t change the fact that he’ll be just fine with the process when it allows him passage.

At that point, we’ll know whether Tom Brady is to be deemed a god, or merely maintain his demigod status. At least we’ll hear more about it, because it is easily the most tiresome debate in the football diaspora, engaged in by idiots with no better idea about how to kill time. A note: If you think Tom Brady is a greater quarterback because his team won a fifth ring, or a lesser one because he didn’t, your head is now officially empty enough to be reclassified a dance hall, and you are of no more value to normal society than a papier-mache goose.

And at that point, we can return to the two things we in these parts care to know – where the Raiders are going, and how the 49ers are going to present their new football brain trust.

We needn’t explain the Raiders again to you, first because you’ve heard it all if you’re paying any attention at all. Mark Davis has been trying to cobble deals at a frantic pace in hopes that one will stick, and his 31 fellow owners still have to decide how much longer they want to endure him, while faced with the painful fact that the East Bay is getting out of the exploitative license-to-be-stolen-from stadium business. They also get to know as they go to the meeting in Houston that will ostensibly decide Davis’ fate that they have ruined California as a market by their excessive greed-laced stupidity and deserve every lousy market the state can give them.

Which brings us to the 49ers, and the latest round of Judge Them By Their Press Conferences.

If there is anything worse than this team’s on-field profile, which is why Jed York hired Kyle Shanahan, it is the way it explains itself to the outside world, which is why Jed York hired John Lynch. Both Shanahan and Lynch will be paraded before a braying mobs, probably Tuesday, and York will be there as well for the cheesy photo array and a few unconvincing words of praise about each of them (as a note, Paraag Marathe will be present but only in hologrammatic form).

They will then promise – well, something or other – and Lynch will be hailed as the face of the glorious future because the man he replaced, Trent Baalke, had the public persona of a meth-tweaked hyena. Hard to find, and not worth it when you did.

Then we’ll all remember that the job Shanalynch (or Lynchahan, depending on what part of Ireland you’re from) are being asked to do is a three-year reclamation at the very least, and that the only useful question either can be asked is “Can you fix this before Jed gets embarrassed and angry and cans you both?”

And on Wednesday, there’s the start of pre-draft prep (in order words, The Eighty-Day Slave Market), and the hamster wheel to hell gears up again toward Super Bowl LII.

Only next year, the chances of relocation hysteria and a front office upheaval are that much less, and we haven’t sufficient distractions to make the year go faster.

But enjoy Fried Festivus. We can always look forward to that, even if we change the name back in December to the more traditional "Christmas."