A place for me to talk about San Francisco Bay Area sports.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Giving Thanks on Bay Area Sports, 2015 Holiday Period

Wow, just haven't been able to keep up with an annual pace.  But the Warriors setting a record start to an NBA season by winning their first 16 games got me feeling thankful.  Here are some thoughts, from a long time Bay Area sports fan, random, and probably missing some points, but here goes nothing.  Again, not an expert, mainly a long-time fan, letting off some steam.

World Champion Warriors 

Wow!  Never thought I would ever say that again!  Not that long ago I was joking that GSW stands for gun shot wound, which is what the Cohan ownership was doing the club.

It was very exciting to follow the Warriors setting an NBA record by winning their first 16 games, even more exciting to see them finally win the NBA Championship in the 2014-2015 season, first time in 40 years.   Thank you to Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, the new owners, Bob Meyers, the GM (with no experience other than being an agent, so from the other side of the aisle) and Jerry West, special advisor and the Logo himself, who I think has probably had a greater hand in this than most think, he's been a mentor to Meyers, I presume, plus a great eye for talent, you can hear it anytime he is interviewed, and especially to Steve Kerr and the team (of course!).   And a thanks to Mark Jackson for helping to set the team up for Kerr to take to greater heights.

Of course, the players we're especially thankful for.  Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were the lead guys, but Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes helped a lot, as their improvement in the season helped a lot, plus veteran presence of Andrew Bogut, and the leadership of David Lee (by giving up his starting spot without rancor when he returned off the DL, when the team had a special thing going) and Andre Igoudala (by giving up his starting spot and becoming the 6th man, at the start of the season, to allow Barnes to start).

I probably should have written on this when they won, but it didn't feel right since I was not that deeply into the team lately, and I missed a lot.  But as one of the fans who watched (really, listened, because back then the NBA was not worthy of prime-time TV real estate and I often had to watch the playoffs after midnight) them miraculously win with Rick Barry and a bunch of nobodies (and I felt so bad because Nate Thurmond was just traded away and missed this; luckily, he's a part of the Warriors broadcasting team, so I think he gets a ring this time), I was excited enough to follow vicariously as they won and kept on winning, setting a franchise record for wins, beating out the 1975-76 team's 59 wins (as the 74-75 championship team raised their game, but unfortunately was unable to repeat) with 67 wins.

I was pretty amazed at all the naysaying about the Warriors during the playoffs given that they won 67 games.  I get that it was a huge jump from the 51 games they won in the previous season, but there are only 5 teams in NBA history with more wins:  95-96 Bulls with 72, 96-97 Bulls with 69, 71-72 Lakers with 69 (and they are ahead of the Warriors in terms of consecutive wins in a season with 33, accounting for nearly half their wins that season;  apparently the Warriors will be facing LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day for tying the record, which is historically nice, just like beating the Lakers to go 16-0 was historically nice too), 66-67 76ers with 68 and 72-73 Celtics with 68.  Only 5 teams with more wins!  This really reminded me of the 74-75 Championship team, only instead of Barry and the Warriors, it's Curry and the Warriors today, though I would think that eventually Thompson and Green will be considered pretty good players as well.   Clearly, though, with the Warriors today, the sum is greater than the total of the individual parts.

So I wasn't surprised by how well the Warriors are doing this season, though clearly I didn't think 16-0 well, as there were a lot of naysaying about their chances nationally.  Even in the Finals last season, they were viewed as the underdog against the LeBron Cavaliers, especially after how close the Cavs were to winning the title even after losing key players in Kylie Irving and Kevin Love.   While I understand why regular fans would think that, after seeing how the Warriors won during the season, then turned things around in the Cavs series by starting Igoudala, I have no doubt that Kerr and gang would have figured out how to win the series even if both of those players were available and not injured.

Just noticed the progression of championships for the Warriors, roughly 10 years between first and second, 20 years between second and third, and 40 years between third and fourth.  Luckily, I think that this group should have at least one more, if not multiple more, in the future.  They should join the great teams in history with a dynastic run, as most of their core players are young and still getting better - for example Curry this season already - and their success should draw key additional players (like it did with Igoudala) who want that ring.  I expect them to retain Barnes at whatever deal is offered.

World Champion Giants

I also missed noting the Giants winning their third Championship in five seasons in 2014.   Bumgarner was the headliner in this one, rampaging through the playoffs with a 1.03 ERA in 7 starts.  But people forgot that he can't do it all in the games he didn't pitch in, and he was the only starter to lose in the NLDS against the Nats.  It was nice seeing Hudson appreciating the championship that he had been desiring, and he earned this by pitching well up until the World Series.  It was also nice seeing Ishikawa playing a key role in getting the Giants to the championship, as he should have been the NLCS MVP, not Bumgarner, and probably would have been, had the vote been done after the game (and his game winning homer).

I thought that they could finally repeat in 2015, but injuries cost them the chance to repeat.  But the idea that they could repeat is supported by the Giants 34-17 record when Pence was in the lineup, that would have been more than enough to get into the playoffs and perhaps repeat.  Even with the injuries, they were still competing for a playoff spot until the end of August, and within spitting distance entering into the series against the Dodgers at the end of the season, going 12-8 into that series.

Everyone is clamoring for a bolt from the sky for the 2016 Giants to be competitive, demanding an ace or else.  While I would love to get a co-ace to go with Bumgarner, I think the Giants can win the division if they can at least sign back Leake, who I think is good enough to co-ace with Bumgarner.  His overall stats don't scream it, but his career 3.48 ERA on the road, 3.59 ERA in his last three seasons, and 3.30 ERA on the road in the last three seasons does.    Any of that, plus Peavy (3.58 ERA in 2015) and Heston (he had a 3.51 ERA with two starts to go in 2015) would give us four good starters plus Cain, who is a wildcard.

And, as I've shown with my analysis on obsessivegiantscompulsive,  the Giants were able to keep the opponents down from 2009 to 2012 having four good starters and a composite 5th starter.   As well, for all the complaints about the starting pitching, the 2015 team was 11th in ERA in the MLB with 3.95, which is around what they did in 2014, 16th with 3.74 ERA, and in 2012, 6th with 3.73 ERA.   And in 2014, the Giants starting pitching was 0.08 better than the average, whereas in the 2015 the Giants starting pitching was 0.15 better than average, so the 2015 starting pitching was better relative to the league in 2014.   Yes, the 2015 pitching staff was roughly the same as the championship teams of 2012 and 2014, not that far away in rank relative to the league and ERA.

On top of that, the lineup is loaded:  Posey, Belt, Panik, Duffy, Crawford, Pagan, and Pence, plus whoever they put in LF.  They averaged 4.30 runs scored per game and the average in the NL was 4.11.  That would get us from 81 wins to 84 wins, and that's without Pence (pitching also got us to 84 wins too, each adding 3 wins).  When Pence was in the lineup, the team averaged 5.18 runs scored per game (which means that the team only averaged 3.90 runs scored in games that he did not start).  If these are the extremes, the middle area would still be around 4.5-4.6 runs scored per game.  That would contribute roughly 4 more wins.

So while I would not mind getting Leake and another good pitcher, as I do love gilding the lily on occasion, but, for me, getting just Leake and Aoki back, if that is the minimal that gets done this off-season (plus perhaps Lincecum too), would not be the end of the world for me either.  We have a great young lineup, with Williamson and Arroyo probably ready to join the team sometime during the season (both had great AFL), and a good enough pitching staff, which will be that much better because young pitchers like Strickland and Osich will pitch the whole season with us, Heston should be better prepared to pitch a whole season and not peter out by August, plus Blackburn, Black, Law, and Okert should be ready to join the team, as well, during the season (not that they necessarily will join and contribute, just that all these young guys should be ready to join), I'm very optimistic about the 2016 season, as long as there is not injuries up and down the lineup and rotation, like what happened in 2015.

The Not Champions

Being an inherently positive person, I don't have a lot to say about the 49ers, Raiders, or Sharks (or the Earthquakes either).  But here goes.

I can't believe that the 49ers fired Harbaugh.  Not that he's the best coach around, or perfect, but the process that went about afterward, ending up hiring Tomsula showed me that this was just the owner asserting his authority.  And that's like a canary in the mine shaft for me regarding franchises, I'm joining all those who don't think much of Jed's handling of the team.  I was turned around when he hired Harbaugh, particularly with the linkage to Walsh through him, but I think he just shot himself in the foot firing Harbaugh in the manner that he did.

Too bad, given the new stadium, though I must say that it was great getting the opportunity to have my picture taken with all five Super Bowl trophies was pretty exciting, so I applaud them for doing that, in a tour leading up to the Super Bowl that they are hosting next year.

I've never been a Raiders fan, but growing up in the East Bay, can't help but read and hear about them.  Reminds me of Connie Mack and how the A's went from regular playoff teams to long-time losers.  I recently read about Al's son, and he seems to be a really nice normal guy, considering who his father was, but he's playing hardball again with Oakland, and I expected the team to leave once more, never to return, because I don't see how that could happen again.  I see fans in TV interviews saying that if they leave this time, they are done.

With the NFL thinking of charging any team hundreds of millions of dollars if that team moves to LA, I'm now more hopeful (not that I really hope, but hopefully you get what I mean) that they will work things out in Oakland, particularly since they look like they will lose the Warriors to SF in a few years, plus, as much as the A's are "their" team, clearly the Raiders have been the favored son, getting the Coliseum configured to accommodate the Raiders, with the A's trampled in their efforts to please the Raiders.

Never understood the rules of the game of hockey, other than you need to hit the puck into the goal, but been a Sharks fan since the beginning.  I thought for sure McClellan would bring a Stanley Cup to us, especially with the astute drafting that the team has done in the last decade, but it was always close but no cigar.  Hopefully the new coach (haven't learned his name yet...) can deliver, though I was shocked to see that Marleau was on the trading block.   Hopefully they can deliver one day, though at least they look closer to it than the 49ers or Raiders at the moment.

Oh, just realized that I left out the A's.  Beane really shot himself in the foot this time, he got into a fight with Donaldson (I think one writer called it a "feud") and had to trade him away.  Yes, he traded away the guy who became the MVP the very next season.  He got nice players in return but they will never measure up to what Donaldson did this last season.  He also traded away Addison Russell in order to try to win that season and he's going to be a long-term keeper for the Cubs.  I don't really care for the A's, really don't care for their fans, but it looks like they will be around still in Oakland because they can't move down to SJ.

So the Warriors brought home the trophy that I thought a few years back that either the 49ers or Sharks would do, but that was exciting nonetheless, perhaps more so, not only given the 40 years but also the levels of ineptitude we fans have been subjected to during the Cohan.  And I think the Giants and Warriors could win again in 2016, while I think it would take miracles for any of the other teams to get that trophy.  I thought a golden era was going to be upon the Bay Area in recent years, covering all the majors pro sports, baseball, football, hockey, maybe basketball, as Jackson was getting us into the playoffs, but I guess I'll just have to be satisfied with multiple trophies from the Giants and Warriors, a "sacrifice" I'm willing to make.  :^D

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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Catching up on Bay Area Sports: 2013

I don't post that regularly, because while I'm a big baseball fan and know it enough to analyze, I'm not that knowledgeable about the other sports in the Bay Area.  Still, I'm a sports fan.  But people didn't like me bringing non-baseball into obsessivegiantscompulsive, so I created this blog to place my thoughts.  This is not meant to be thought provoking, but rather, as a fan of Bay Area sports, just a way to put my thoughts out there, since my last catch up post.  It is ending up to be an annual thing.

Giants Win Second World Championship in Three Seasons

Of course, this was the big news of the past year, the Giants winning the 2012 World Championship.  They did it in historic fashion again, whereas they won for the first time in 2010 with a ragtag band of misfits, in 2012, they won by coming back from almost dead twice, being one loss away from elimination in the NLDS and NLCS, and coming back and beating the Reds and Cards, then sweeping the Tigers, who was favored to beat the Giants.

I suppose the victories were symbolic and hark back to history.  The Giants have no history of playoff battles with the Reds, but given that they were the first NL team to have two world championships in 3 or less seasons since the Reds won in 1975 and 1976 (which was courtesy of the Giants giving away George Foster to them for a utility infielder, so that's another link), there was that symmetry.  In addition, Dusty Baker was the Reds manager, so there was that link as well.

The Cards, of course, we have a long and sordid history with.  From one-flap down, to getting beat by the Cards when we were one victory away from the World Series for the first time in forever, to beating them in 2002 to finally get into the World Series again, to Krukow getting injured in a classic rhubarb  long ago in a scrum with the Cards, to Ozzie Smith smashing in Will Clark's face, the Giants have had it in for the Cards for a long time.  So it was nice to put them away in the NLCS, especially when they had us on the ropes and especially after Holliday bulldozed over Scutaro at 2B.  And there was a link in the Reds series too, as their GM was the Cards former long-time GM.

The Giants have no history with the Tigers, so there was no symbolism there, so this was the start of one with them.  They have got to be hungry over that drubbing.

I'm excited that the Giants have a great head start at becoming the Team of the 2010 Decade.  And they look good to win at least one more before things are done.  This second championship moves them ahead of the Warriors in the Bay Area, as they have just the one.  The Niners lead with 5 championships while here, the A's have four, the Raiders have three (though technically only two in Oakland, one was in LA), and now the Giants have two.

49ers Finally Lose a Super Bowl

The Amazing 49ers, under amazing Coach Harbaugh - Who got it better than us? Nobody! - has been a revelation.  I was excited that he was named coach, if only because he was helping the Cards win a lot of football games, but mostly because he was the only logical link to the Bill Walsh era who could coach us with energy, and not as a re-run, as a number of former 49er coaches could have been named coach here.

He has won a lot faster and more than I had thought when he was named, but in hindsight, this made a lot of sense.  As much as the team has been a loser, they had a lot of good core pieces built up over the years. many through the draft, like Gore, Willis, Davis, but also through free agency as well.  And especially that great defense, hone well by two good defensive minded coaches, Nolan and Singletary.  They just needed an offense to back up that defense.

For as much as fans remember the Walsh era for the great offenses, with Montana, Rice, Young, I still credit the defense equally for all the championships they won, as it was when our great defensive backfield was getting all those interceptions and running back turnovers for touchdowns that got me excited about the 49ers chances of getting to the playoffs in 1981 (Dwight Hicks and his Hot Licks), and it was that great defensive stop against the Bengals that enabled Montana to weave his magic at the end, without that stop, he would have been historic only for getting us close, not for winning it all for us, finally, after all those frustrating losses to the Cowboys in the Nolan years.

Thus I was hoping for a good effort in this Super Bowl, but worrisome that because of Justin Smith's injury, the defense will not be up to the task.  His injury has greatly affected the defense, and we were not 100% in the Super Bowl.

And I realized that the Niners were just that bad enough to lose, looking back afterward.  Those turnovers, that run back for a touchdown, take any of them out of the equation, and the Niners would be celebrating their 6th Super Bowl victory, instead of congratulating Kap for his great comeback that just fell 5 yards short.  Had he completed the comeback, the 22 point deficit would have been the biggest overcome ever, and the best in Super Bowl history was 10 points.

About the Kapernick-Smith controversial decision by Coach Harbaugh, I didn't know what would happen (I know, easy to say in hindsight, but these were my thoughts), but I put my faith in Harbaugh.  I loved that he was willing to make a very controversial move like this in the middle of the season, good leaders make those tough decisions no matter the circumstances, and whether it worked or not, it endeared him to me even further.  Of course, it working for the most part really helped.  :^)

I find it ironic that most probably 99.999999% of the fans who were supporting Smith in this controversy, wanting him to get back his job, probably 18 months earlier were going ballistic that Harbaugh even wanted to not even keep Smith, but start him.  They valued him as much as a dried banana peel lying on the floor, but now they want him back?  I had been and was excited about how Kap would work out, even prior to this.  Of course, I didn't think it would happen so soon, it took a few seasons before Montana took over, after all.  I was envisioning Steve Young II, except that he had even more speed.  I was not disappointed.

That said, I thank Alex Smith in many ways.  I thank him for staying here and helping with the transition.  I admit that he benefited from working with Harbaugh, but nobody except for the toughest people would stay where the fans literally hated him, no matter how tempting it is to work with an offensive innovator like Harbaugh.  I thank him for playing very well for us for the time he did as a starter.  He had a great QB rating during his time as starter, he took the opportunity and, while he didn't literally run with it, he was very good at it and ran with it.  Lastly, I thank him for being the gentleman he has been during his entire 49er career, and particularly after he was demoted.  He could have been a cancer and wasn't.

That said, I hope the Niners get a good draft pick(s) in trade for him when that time comes and not release him as his agent has publicly asked for.  He is now very valuable because of what he was able to do for Harbaugh, and we should get full value for that.  Good QB's are hard to find,

So the 49er story does not turn out to be like Walsh or the Giants, there is no Cinderella championship for them.  And that story was actually told last season, when they came up short in the NFC Championship game.  And that story was repeated in the Super Bowl this year.  Their story appears to be more like many teams:  come up short, rise up conquer that to the next level.  That, of course, means they need to win the Super Bowl 48 next year.

I was thinking, however, how cool would be be if the Niners won Super Bowl 49?  If they win next year, though, then they would need to win two Super Bowls in a row, which is extremely hard, not sure how many times that has happened in history.  If I had to chose one, of course, I prefer 48.  :^)

Warriors Returns in Competitiveness and to San Francisco

The Warriors has had an eventful time since my last post.  Ended up with a losing season again, last season, but the season ended with momentum that carried through into this season's great play, plus another great draft pick, and Bogut hasn't even been part of the equation.  If he ever plays regularly for the Warriors, they could be a big factor in the playoffs, probably not the Champs, but they could knock off a lot of tough teams in the playoffs.

Still, in any case, great play by the team.  Curry has been much more healthier - though that ankle is still bothering him - and been the leader on the floor we hoped he would be, scoring 21.1 points per game with 6.5 assists and 1.6 steals.  David Lee has been who I expected, 19.4 points scoring, 11.1 rebound.  I have never understood why people viewed his contract as an bad one.  He also had 4.0 assists per game to boot. Klay Thompson has continued to blossom in the starting role, 16.7 points, 4.0 rebound, 2.5 assists, 0.9 steals.  And rookie Harrison Barnes has been good, 9.2 points, 4.4 rebound, 1.5 assists, 0.7 steals, while playing 25.7 minutes per game.  If he were playing starter's minutes, that's 13.8 points, 6.6 rebound, 2.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals, pretty good.

That's the bigger news, relevancy, because they haven't been in the playoffs or really competitive period for much of the last generation or two of fans.  But also big news is the Warriors return to San Francisco, with a new arena being built on the Piers (though not in a joint venture with the Giants across from AT&T, as some had thought).  Of course, the City of Oakland is not happy, as the A's has been plotting to leave for Fremont then San Jose, and the Raiders have never set anchor here either, the Warriors appeared to be the one most likely to stay, and here they are, the first to go.  Still, Oakland needs to remember that they stole the Warriors from SF in the first place, and at least they are staying in the Bay Area, we forget but they were originally from Philadelphia.

Insert Puck into Mouth

What is the NHL thinking?  Another strike not that long ago from the last one?  Do they recall at all what that did to baseball, and baseball was once the national pastime, not a sport exported from Canada?  Of course, it doesn't help that the architect of many of those baseball strikes is now leading the NHL Players Association, Fehr.  I guess he's hoping to drive another sport to the brink of extinction.

Still, the sport is back, and the Sharks have been good so far, before the recent two game losing streak.  And that's good because they disappointed again last season, coming up short again.  And not only that, but the LA Kings won with our prior former GM and long ago coach who we thought would lead us there long ago.  That makes it doubly bad.  Hopefully the Sharks can finally go all the way this season.

College Sports:  Stanford Suc..ceeds, Wins Rose Bowl

As a Cal alumni, it sticks in my craw to say this, but I must congratulate the Stanford Cardinals on their Rose Bowl victory.  Meanwhile, Cal fired their football coach and hired a new one.  Roll on You Beeears!!!

Cal basketball has continued to do well, but not great, under Coach Montgomery (I still find that weird, since he was Stanford's long time coach).  I know that Cal's rugby team has been doing well too, and recently drubbed the Cardinals by some huge score, like 167-0, or something like that.  I'm not really that big into college sports.

The Giants drafted Martin Agosta (me gusto Agosta!) out of local St. Mary's, and he looks like a good prospect, and perhaps will be part of the second generation rotation of this Giants dynasty Team of the 2010 Decade.

Oakland A's Had a Good Season

I must also congratulate the A's for their good season.  They had an amazing finish to win their division and get into the playoffs.  It was worth it to see the Angels come up short, after buying all their big money free agents, that must have hurt (though not as much as it hurt for them to win the 2002 World Series over the Giants).

I must note here that I have no love lost with the A's.  Or really, A's fans, who rarely hesitated to still shove a figurative shiv into my ribs whenever the topic of World Championships came up.  One advertises on Zito's page and talks about how "real" fans would prefer championships over high attendance and a nice park.  Another, while I was in line to view the Giants FIRST trophy, and enjoying that experience, yakked out loud to his Giants fan friend's son about how the A's had three of them at their park (which showed how big a fan he was, even I know that the A's had won four of them).  I couldn't help but notice that the tattered A's jacket he wore look like it came from the 70's.  The A's for years have placed a billboard ad on their side of the Bay Bridge pointing out the Giants lack of championships.  So I'm enjoying this period, this Giants Team of the 2010's Decade.

So some may view this as sour grapes, but Billy Beane has still not learned completely and the team is not properly built to compete.  While he has a great strikeout bullpen, the pitching rotation is full of low K/9 pitchers, which is what he built up previously in his last good run in the playoffs.  That is what the BP's study found, you need high strikeout pitchers in your staff.  And the A's were third from the bottom in the majors in K/9 on a team basis.  Of course, that's no guarantee either, but he's making it harder on himself, based on the latest research.  To boot, he traded away the high strikeout prospect to the Nats to get other pieces, he's been trading all around and constantly, and frankly, he has enough shortstops now to field one at each infield position, so I'm not sure what he's trying to do.

But they had to do all these moves to build upon 2012.  They were two games over Pythagorean last season - that would have left them out of the playoffs - and thus were lucky in that way.  They were also 7 games above .500 in one-run decisions, which is generally lucky for any manager not named Bochy, who has consistently been among the leaders in games above .500 in one-run games during his career.  Melvin has had some good years with the D-backs, but also some bad ones.  Still, he has 3 very good seasons out of 7, so he is close to what Bochy did in his career, which is a very good season in half of his seasons as manager, not so bad in the others.  But until he proves himself, one has to expect regression in that.  If you take away 7 wins, that would have put them behind the Angels.

But what is the use of making the team competitive enough to make the playoffs, but not competitive enough to win it all?

On top of that, the A's apparently is giving up on moving to San Jose, at least within Wolff's lifetime, as they just signed a 5 year extension of their lease with the Oakland Coliseum.  Wolff will be into his early 80's when that lease is over, and even if they can get the Giants to sell the rights, it will still take a number of years to built the stadium, and that's on top of all the environmental and traffic impact studies that will need to be done, public hearings from people who don't want the ballpark in their neighborhood, and so one.  Not that he can't live that long or longer, but the odds do not favor that, I would think.  Luckily for him, he's been prepping his son to take over things, at least that is what it seems like to me, so sonny boy can carry on should dad not make it.

Raiders Are Rank

The biggest news was that Al Davis passed away.  A true innovator in the game in his youth, the equivalent of Charlie O. Finley in thinking differently in Oakland, for their respective sports, unfortunately he fell into a caricature of himself in his latter years and the team has rarely been a presence, in a positive way, for many years.  His son appears to be carrying on his policies from the past, so I can't imagine a happy ending here:  at some point, the Raiders are going to raid another city's coffers for a nice new stadium, and Oakland will be left with only the A's, and only because they refuse to move anywhere else but the South Bay, else they could be in Portland or Las Vegas right now.

With a new coach and GM, much like the Niners a couple of years ago, they had no miracle, mainly because, unlike Harbaugh, who had a number of good players in hand, particularly on defense, giving him a great foundation that he could build on, that just needed a good offense to go with it, the Raiders have been screwing things up for years now, and the new guys are building upon scorched ground.   Their situation is closer to what Bill Walsh inherited when he took over the 49ers.  And thus it will take them a number of years to straighten things out and hopefully they can turn it around.  We will have to wait and see if the new owner decides to move the team, however, before that hope comes to fruition.


Looks like it could be another good year for Bay Area sports.  The Giants and A's should be competitive again, and most likely make the playoffs.  49ers too, Raiders not so much.  The Warriors look like they should make the playoffs this season, and maybe get home advantage if they can get Bogut back.  The Sharks are sharp again, but will they finally win the Stanley Cup after so many years of near misses?  Stanford looks like they could come back to defend their Rose Bowl and Axe.  Cal is licking their wounds and hoping to get better.  That's football, and I think both are OK to good in basketball too, maybe Montgomery can finally do it with the Bears.

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Monday, June 04, 2012

OT: Great Article About a Great Person, Who Happens to be an NBA Player

Not about Bay Area athletes, but Paul Newberry of the Associated Press recently wrote a nice article about Jack Twyman, former NBA player and the great thing he did for a teammate, Maurice Strokes, who was the Michael Jordan of his times until a disabling injury he suffered.  Here is a link to the article (this is the one published by SI; I originally read it in the San Jose Mercury, but unfortunately their articles are put behind a wall eventually so I searched for and found).

Very heart warming story about a tragic situation.  There are few people in life who would do such an act for their co-worker.  Jack clearly was a very special person.  Surprised that it hasn't been made into a movie already, like Brian's Song.  Just wanted to share this story with others, as it is very moving.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My thoughts on Lacob, the Warrior's New(-ish) Owner

I see a lot of gripes about Lacob on the web.  I don't see why Warriors fans are so down on him.

Lacob was not way off targeting the playoffs for this season: last season, with basically the same group of players, the team was roughly .500 when Lee was healthy and playing, it was just that the team sucked while he was out with that infected elbow bite and then once he was back and trying to get back into game playing shape. It was a push goal, but not a massively big one.

Obviously Curry's ankle injuries put a big crimp into that scenario. If you think that Lacob is to blame for Curry's recurrent injury, then you can blame the season on him.

Not that I'm sold on Lacob. I just don't expect a miracle out of him. Nor is it prudent to expect one just because of nearly 30 years of ineptitude that, by the way, has nothing to do with Lacob himself. I'm willing to give him a few years to make the changes, there is no way to change an NBA team (or any sports franchise for that matter) on a dime and suddenly it is a contender, that is not realistic.

So far, I like the changes. Sure, trading for Bogut is risky. But it was a calculated risk based on having Klay Thompson, who might not be Monte, but with enough development, who knows, maybe he could be better. Now we just need to hope that Bogut is not injury prone - he says that his injuries are not recurrent injury situations, more fluke injuries - and that gives us a big piece of the competitive puzzle if he is ready. And if not, at least they tried to do something to get bigger.

Better than not taking the risk on, say, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and other young risky picks that the Warriors passed on by taking a more conservative "sure" pick.

People are also forgetting that the Warriors were able to also get another first round pick out of the trade, and while people are apparently disappointed that the team is losing, I'm happy because it increases the odds of the team holding onto its draft pick for this season. If it were me, I would have sunk the season early on, especially once Curry had a re-occurence in his ankle injury, in order to regain that draft pick. As it is, they are close enough now, barring massive bad luck with the ping pong balls again.

I also like his move to get an ex-agent, Myers, to be his GM in training. You can't just jettison Riley immediately. Then you have nobody who can at least handle salary negotiations and trades for you, and you will have to hire some retread somewhere who will want a lot of money to be the lame duck GM until Myers is ready. Riley is competent enough and presumably training Myers on the parts in the art of being a GM.

I also like him getting Jerry West on his team of advisors. He might be old, but he's still a good talent evaluator, and he has a lot of connections in the NBA, that will help grease deals once Myers is in charge. He is presumably giving Myers lessons on how to be a great GM, as well.  He is also a calculated risk taker.  Teams don't get good in the NBA by being conservative, you have to reach for the brass ring because at least you are trying to be in the game that way. Being conservative is the hallmark of the Cohan era, and we all saw what that got us.

Also, the lockout and shortened season didn't help Lacob either.

I'm going to give Lacob time.

He's a smart guy who was in venture capital, which tells me that he knows how to size up a business, figure out (with help of subject matter experts) what the competitive advantages are, then executing making that happen. He was involved with the ownership of the Boston Celtics as they re-built themselves into a championship-worthy team again, and got both close-up experience as well as making connections in the league that he can go to when he need advice or another viewpoint.

Sure, the Biedrins amnesty mistake hurts and was compounded by the loss of Jeremy Lin in the pursuit of that Clippers center (though to be fair, nobody really cared that we lost Lin when that happened and had the Warriors held onto Lin, he probably wouldn't have gotten a chance to show off what he could do now, after re-making himself physically in the off-season).

If you want a team that never makes mistakes, well, you are in the wrong business (or really, shouldn't follow any sports at all). At least they were trying (and I was with everyone on that, I didn't like losing the amnesty slot plus I didn't like losing Lin either, not because I thought he was that good, just because he was a local kid, as well as an Asian-American kid) to get better and took some risks doing that. I applaude that effort, if not the results (because it seemed pretty obvious to me, and I'm not a big basketball fan, that the Clippers were going to resign the guy).

Lacob is the right owner for the Warriors right now. First, most of all, he's not Cohan. He made his money himself, using his smarts to achieve wealth most of us can only dream about. Second, he's willing to take calculated risks to get the team improved. Sure, they don't all all work, but I like the management team he is assembling and that is the more important step to me, right now, than getting lucky in assembling the basketball team. Third, he has key experience and background in basketball, as well as connections, unlike Cohan, who had money/business from his father and no real business success experience that I'm aware of, a cable company is a monopoly situation, you just need to milk it (which, come to think of it, is an apt description of his period as Warrior's owner).

I had actually wanted Larry Ellison to win the bidding for the team and was disappointed initially with Lacob winning. But I think his experience with the Celtics is what started me on the path to liking him, and his moves so far, while not perfect, has the team in the right direction.  I am happy with Lacob as the owner, and look forward to seeing what he can do with the team in the next few years. 

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Lin-vy: Happy and Yet Sad

First off, I must note that I never saw this coming.  So please don't think that I'm saying that.

But as a long-time Warrior's fan, I can't help but think that GSW, despite new ownership, contiues to stand for self-inflicted gun-shot wound.  The jinx, seemingly, continues.

From the first ever NBA lottery where the Warriors would have previously been handed Patrick Ewing (though they made off pretty well with Chris Mullins) to all the high picks who went awry for one reason or another to the Chris Webber trade and the disastrous after-effects when he forced a trade, to the owner who caused that to happen by picking up his option to buy the team when the former owners were negotiating to sign Webber to a long-term contract and then let lapse because of that sale, then continued to mishandle the team for a long time afterward, it seems like the team has been paying negative karma to make up for their wonderful underdog Championship of 1975.

I thought that things might be different with the new owners, when I celebrated the fact that Cohan was selling, then when Lacob bought the team.

Not that I think that he has not been making good moves so far in trying to turn the team around.  I basically like most of the moves done so far.

But as a life-long San Francisco Bay Area homie (born and raised and still living here) and Chinese-American, I was happy that Lacob pushed to sign up Jeremy Lin when he went undrafted.  Not that I expected a lot to happen from it - I'm no basketball expert and I've never seen Lin play - but there are not a lot of Chinese-Americans in sports, so it is nice and a small sense of pride to see one in the pro scene, even if on the bench.  And I was aware of Lin's star power while he was in high school, I saw his name a lot as I normally devour the sports page regularly, then occassionally followed him when he was in Harvard, as the Mercury is good at following local kids playing elsewhere.

So it has been very gratifying to see Lin do so well now and getting a lot of attention.

But, as all sports fans are wont to do, all I can wonder is "what if"?  The talk before the season was that we could have gotten a big player who we needed in the middle by trading Curry.  And I was for keeping him, so it is not that I disagreed with going with Curry as the key cornerstone of the Warriors future, even above Monte.

Warrior's Jinx

But it just seem like the Warriors are jinxed in some way, where they could have traded Curry and gotten the big guy they wanted and then Lin could have took over and dazzled everyone, while doing the pick and roll with the big guy.

The question I have to ask, though, is multiple.  Why didn't the Warriors see this?   All the interviews I have seen quotes people who now sees the magic Lin weaves on the court.  I understand part of that is justification after the fact:  I'm sure there are a lot of point guards who showed their magic to someone but just never could do it on the big stage.  

Still, Mark Jackson, whose hire I supported as well, was a former point guard, shouldn't he have noticed something different on the practice court, or on tape, or at least checked out Lin (and maybe he did) before the Warriors just dumped him in HOPES of landing a big player free agent, whiffing when the Clippers matched the contract. 

I guess that is also what makes it worse, they lost him trying to get that big man, but as Yoda noted, there is no try, only do or do not.  And the Warriors do not, once again.

They at least tried to get him back, but first the Rockets claimed him then the Knicks.  And it is not like the Knicks knew what they had either, as the coach went to almost anybody else before he decided, you know, what the heck, let's play Lin and see what happens, it couldn't be any worse. 

And it turned out to be anything but.  Far from it.

The Knicks are the very happy recipient of huge basketball luck once again, only this time not from lottery luck, as when they ended up with Patrick Ewing instead of the Warriors, but still, as a Warriors fan, that still hurts some and then to have this happen.  Just more salt in the faded and scabbed over wound, made fresh again.

So as a Warriors fan, I'm crestfallen, once again that the team missed out again (not quite the same, but like when we lost Gilbert Arenas).

But as a Bay Area inhabitant and Chinese American bamboo/banana/twinkie, I am ecstatic that Lin is doing so well, and hope he can continue showing what he can do.  This ABC (American Born Chinese) will root, wistfully though (and I have to think he's similarly wistful), him on to continued good playing and hope that he can make a name for himself in the NBA.

The Dream of a Warriors Fan

My only hope now is that he pulls a Webber and goes free agent (sorry, don't know NBA rules, but I do know that he's only signed to a year contract, much like Arenas, hence the idea) and the Warriors sign him as a returning local hero, then they can trade Curry for the big guy they need. 

Well, one can dream at least.  I really don't see how he can't not sign with the Knicks long-term at season's end if he's still playing like this.  Not that I don't believe that he can't do it, but more that his performances in his first few starts are so great that his name is one of a few, and the others are good to great players, so given how he was passed over so much, you have to wonder if this is all a fairy tale and the shiny carriage will turn into a pumpkin. 

Then again, this is the NBA we are talking about.  It is not like these players are not that good, for goodness sake, he outplayed Kobe!  Sure, one game he can surprise someone, maybe two, but by the third game, and given all the press he was given, you have to be more prepared for recently uncovered Jeremy Lin, one would think.

But who knows, maybe it just took some time.  He wasn't Superman in his 5th straight win, and in that game the other night, he grinded it out.

However, he still had a lot of points (20) as well as assists (8).  So it was not like he was shut down, but he was merely good, instead of great.  But that would still be good enough to carve out a good career as a star in the NBA, plus he should be set for life when the corporations in China sign him to a contract to represent their company. 

But I'm sure he doesn't have dollar signs in his eyes.  I'm pretty sure that he's just enjoying every second of his opportunity to show off what he can do, the business side will take care of itself when that time comes. 

Hopefully he can keep this going.  Again, I'm no expert, just a fan, and I envy the Knicks.  I certainly will be rooting him on, albeit with a certain sadness that apparently only Warriors fans can feel in the NBA.  

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Male Chauvinists Rear Their Ugly Masculine Heads With Wie

(NOTE: I wrote this 5 years ago, to this day. It has been sitting in my draft since, just found it again recently. I decided to post it anyway, it may be old, and Wie may not have done much since, but I still think this bias would still be there if any other young woman decided to do this today and my points are still valid.)

Why all the controversy over Michelle Wie? Why not let the young, soon to be Stanford scholar, lady play? Are big boys' big egos getting bent out of shape? I think so, and its not just the golfers, but the writers too, who I find they like to slant their article against her.

Similar to Tiger

Tiger Woods had a similar problem starting out despite doing things during his teens that no one else had done before. The pros were openly dismissive of him and his skills but when he had done something no golfer in the long history of the U.S. Amateurs other than Jack Nicklaus, that should have told them that Tiger was special, so stand back and let him prove it. Or not, as the case may be.

Of course, Michelle Wie hasn't quite racked up the hardware that Tiger did when he won all those amateurs. And that's always mentioned when dismissing her attempts to make the cut in a PGA event. But lets examine her feats from a different perspective than the common sportswriter.

At age 14, she nearly made the cut at the Sony Open. At 14! First, forget that she is female, but how many boys that age can play well enough to make the cut? Ironically, Todd Fujikawa, a 16 year old also from Hawaii just made the cut where Michelle didn't, so the press has to denigrate Wie, but he's the youngest player in 50 years to make a cut on the PGA Tour. And Wie nearly did that when she was 14 years old. That tells me how special and unique her performances was previously.

Not that I knew this fact before, but I've followed golf since the Golden Bear, Tom Weiskoft, and Lee Trevino era, and I know that its a pretty rare event for anybody, male or female. So why not celebrate that feat and marvel at the fact that a 14 year old nearly made the cut?

Culture of Sports

I suppose part of it is the culture of sports: people who don't cut it, who don't "win" in some way, is not worthy of mention or praise. Thus the Buffalo Bills don't get credit for making the Super Bowl for four straight seasons, which no team had ever done, for example, or Greg Norman or Colin Montgomerie in golf, or even Phil Mickelson before he started winning Grand Slam events.

But golf is all about losing, except when there is a Tiger or Nicholas or Palmer or Byron Nelson or Sam Sneed or Ben Hogan. There's only one winner in each event and a whole bunch of losers and yet they can recognize that there is still some very good or even great players who just don't win but play well overall. And good players can make a lot of money even though they don't win any events.

Here's how I see it. Golf is a very hard sport to play. For me, I could play the short game (pee wee golf helped me :^) well enough but I just couldn't tee off if my life depended on it. So I admire those who can launch them like Tiger and Wie.

The sport is mainly dominated by mid-20's to mid-30's players, with the very best playing into their 40's. Very few (probably handful) teens can get on the field and be competitive enough to make the cut, thus far. Heck, even guys just out of college have a tough time of it and up to their 30's. So teens who are that good are few and far in-between, and thus it makes news when they do well and headlines should they ever win. But making the cut, while an accomplishment, does not seem to rate much more than a mention buried in the lead story, like Fujikawa.

But think about what you were doing when you were 14. Could you have come close to making the cut at a PGA event? Isn't it a huge accomplishment to do that when you are so young? And she was just a few strokes off from making it. I'm not even a few strokes away from breaking 3 digits, let alone making the cut at a PGA event.

Add in that she's female and that's an additional factor of difficulty. Historically, females don't have the strength to drive the ball as far as men - hence why there are the ladies' tee which is closer to the pin than the men's tee. And that makes her near making the cut such an accomplishment to me.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Catching up on Bay Area Sports, Part 2

I thought I would catch up again after reading my last post, and still being sick (been about two weeks now).  Plus the Niners are going well.

Warriors Still OK by Me

I still like the new ownership.  Putting in the ex-agent as the assistant GM, to learn the business as the heir apparent, was a move that I really liked.  So was recruiting Jerry West to their board of advisors/directors, I especially liked that one, that one was a long time coming, I thought, but Cohan didn't have the balls to do it back when we had a chance to get him (before Memphis did).

Putting in Mark Jackson as the coach, not so much, but at this point, I'm willing to try anything.  I would have been OK with Rick Barry put in there, but that probably would have brought more backlash to the new ownership.

So far the team is flailing again on the courts.  Doesn't help that Steph Curry is reinjuring his ankle over and over again.  Especially don't help that they just spent $7M on Kwame Brown and he's already out for the season, but he was actually a good acquisition, good defensive presence in the middle, about 6 points, 6 rebounds per game averages.

I don't have a good feeling about the team right now, mainly because the Curry issues.  The Warriors last season was actually OK:  they were around .500 if you subtract out the losing skein when Lee was bit by another player then lost all those games due to a deep infection, then lost all those games while he tried to return to game playing shape.  I assume the owners knew this, but fired Smart in spite of that, thinking that would give the new coach a "free" year this season to look good even while the team was basically like last season.

Best laid plans, first with Monte missing due to his Nana's passing, then Curry's recurring injury problems, then Brown's season ending injury.  Well, Jackson got, what, a five year contract, so I don't see him getting fired for at least two seasons.

I'm still hopeful about Jackson.  A point guard as good as he was during his career is like a coach on the court.  He's also a minister, so he knows how to give inspirational speeches and how to motivate the audience to his view.  I thought he had a gimme season to look like he's providing progress (when it was more of the same), but he's in the frying pan now, so I guess we'll see how he handles the heat sooner than later.   I still think he'll be OK, and maybe after all these seasons, OK is good enough, but with other Bay Area franchises doing well and years of Cohan mis-management, as a Warrior's fan, I was hoping for more, I was hoping to Believe.  But it looks like more years of hoping and wishing.

49ers Re-Birth, Indeed

When I wrote that title in my last post, I did not think that we would see the championship teams to be reborn, I just thought that they were headed in a great direction, and like Walsh, would need a year or two to get the team up to his speed, particularly with the lockout.  But just like the start of the good 49ers teams with Montana and Lott, I bought into the new Niners early in this season.  Both were very similar, to my mind, just 30 years apart.

My belief in the 1981 49ers kicked in with the Washington game when the defense scored two touchdowns, one on a fumble return, the other on an interception.  I had been a fan from the Nolan days of getting into the playoffs only to be stopped by the Cowboys, then suffered through the horrible mid-70's teams, with the nadir of losing all those picks for the Juice, who by then was pretty squeezed out.

I wasn't a football expert, and I'm still not, but what I realized with the 1981 team is that no matter how good your offense may be, in football, you really need a good defense to be a big winner in the league.  And Walsh's defensive additions that season, starting with Lott, was a big difference maker, that much was clear to me.

It clicked to me that a good defense brings a number of good benefits to the team.  First of all, most games will be close enough that the offense is never that far out of it, keeping the pressure down to score big.  Things can get very bad once you are down 21-0, but if you are only one TD away, you still have a lot of hope and less negativism.  Second, a good defense keeps the ball closer to the goal, meaning that the offense didn't have to be that great to score.  Less chains to move, makes it much more likely to at least score a field goal or three or more per game.  Third, and perhaps most important, a good defense gets a lot of turnovers.  Turnovers cut short long scoring drives of the other team, frustrating them, plus sometimes puts your team very close to the goal, easing the difficulty of scoring, and in any case, it means that the other team don't score and gives your team another chance.

I also saw that teams with great offenses, like Air Coryell, might run up scores, but could never seal the deal.

Both the 1981 and 2011 teams exhibit the great defensive abilities that winning teams need.

The 2011 team, however, while also benefiting from a rookie Wunderkind linebacker in Aldon Smith, already had a great defensive core built up over the past few seasons.  Though Smith helped greatly, as did the signing of Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner, it was not like they didn't have some help this season, as they did lose a number of defensive starters over the off-season.

The offense, meanwhile, had a great player in Frank Gore, and while many didn't think much of Alex Smith, I thought he showed some skill at the position when he had a QB mentor in Norv Turner and that he had stagnated due to the constant changes in offensive philosophies plus lack of talent in the offensive side.  I was very hopeful with Harbaugh taking over, particularly given his Walsh influence.

One underrated Walsh talent was his ability to maximize the talents of his players.  He would not make players do what they couldn't, he focused more on maximizing on their strengths.  One great example of that was him letting Steve Young run, which was a great talent of his, instead of making him into another Joe Montana.

I think Harbaugh showed this talent with his handling of Alex Smith this season, he didn't give Smith a lot to do early on, other than focusing on not making mistakes that turn over the ball, while maximizing use of Frank Gore to move the chains and get a score.  Then as Gore wore down, plus this was probably the plan since Smith had an abbreviated pre-season to learn the whole playbook, Smith did more and more, as he learned more and more, until he busted out in the game this weekend and led the team to victory (which he did many times this season in the fourth quarter, BTW), TWICE coming back to score the TD the Niners needed to take the lead, until taking it for good with little time left.

Now the team is perfectly lined up to make the Super Bowl again, a thought that hasn't passed through Niners' fans minds in what seems like forever.  Not that the NY Giants are not a formidable opponent, but I think it is a huge difference getting to face the Giants in SF versus having to play Green Bay at Lambeau Field.  I like the Niners chances of making the Super Bowl.

And wouldn't it be great if Harbaugh's brother leads the Ravens to the Super Bowl too?  Then it would be brother vs. brother and their parents will have to be neutral again (they faced each other this season and he lost to his brother as the Ravens won that matchup), though I expect them to show up for the game and cheer for each team.

Cal Baseball Re-birth

Well, not quite a re-birth, but a reprieve, now that I think of it.  Wealthy alumni and former players led the fundraising drive and established a fund to keep the team around indefinitely.  Which was probably the plan by the Athletic Director in the first place, but until this happened, the AD had to put the team on the chopping block and scare everyone to move.

2012 Giants

As we all know, the Giants did not defend their title, heck, they didn't even make the playoffs.  But unlike most other Giants fans, I give the Giants a break, most teams do not recover from losing their best position player, which they experienced by losing Buster Posey, and not only that, but it is a huge drop from Posey to Whiteside/Stewart offensively, making the loss that much greater.  Had they lost a player at a more offensively minded position, like the corners, they probably could have replaced that production much easier and at lesser asking price from other teams, but most teams do not recover from losing a great hitting catcher.

So I give the 2011 Giants credit (mostly to Bochy for his management) for staying close to playoff action most of the season (and returning to it with a great run in September).  It look an Arizona team that played above its head for the season (6 games over Pythagorean) to keep the Giants out of the playoffs.

I like the 2012 Giants, I like the Giants makeup for the next half decade, assuming Giants ownership don't screw it up.   Dumping Neukom did not make me happy, but if he was expecting a big paycheck for his work (reportedly $10M!), well, I would rather have Baer in charge.  But they better not screw up signing Lincecum and Cain to 4-6 year extensions this off-season.  Those are my main goals for this off-season.

With the current offense, the Giants should win 90-95 games due to our great pitching and fielding.  That should be good enough to make the playoffs and then we will be set up to make hay in the playoffs again, with four great starters in Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, and Vogelsong.

Go Giants!

Sharks Still Impressing Me, But This is Taking Too Long

The Sharks again impressed me with their off-season moves to add good young players to the mix, while older players leave/move on.  But win the Stanley Cup already, they have been like the Giants of the 60's, always coming close but never good enough that particular season to beat out the team of that season.

Still, I stand behind Doug Wilson and his handling, plus the coach, McClellan, so I will try to patiently wait for them to put it all together.  Finally...

Raiders:  Still Meh!

The best move was a non-move:  the passing of Al Davis.  He was a football great, but he didn't learn from Bill Walsh's example and step out a year or two before his decline, he stayed to the bitter end.  They were still being run like it was in the 60's and 70's but that model doesn't really work anymore, heck, the Niners model of the 80's and 90's don't work today either.  And the constant changes in coaching personnel, plus the players' understanding that Al had all the authority, not the coaches, made coaching the team that much harder, undermining their authority, making the players more in command than the coaches, really.

But I don't know about their new GM that they just hired from Green Bay.  His background sounds great, I especially like that he comes highly recommended by Ron Wolf, but I was not terribly impressed with him at his first press conference.  He clearly lacked skill in speaking to the press.  He was very hesitant, I found it hard to understand him, and he flubbed his first chance in handling hot potatoes, with regard to the firing of Hue Jackson.  He hemmed and hawed, unsure of his wording, until he finally said that it basically came down to him wanting to move on, wanting his own man in there.  Well, he could have said that first thing and it would have been over, why did it take him that long to spit that out, unless, that is, he was just making it up, that Mark Davis had decided that and had the new GM own that decision.  Perhaps, like father, like son?

In any case, that can be fixed with training and tutoring, so to me the biggest news out of that press conference was that the Raiders are still looking to move, LA, anywhere, so the changing of the guard didn't change the owner's sentiment towards staying in Oakland, where they are loved by many, they still would rather seek the filthy lucre that are available elsewhere.   I don't see how Oakland can keep them around long-term, they have larger municipal problems that they need to take care of first.

A's:  Still Double Meh!

One year after getting touted as the second coming of the 2010 Giants, that era is already over as Billy Beane dismantled the team, trading off two good starting pitchers and their closer, basically because of poor choices he had made previously, including signing Eric Chavez while letting go of Giambi and Tejada for basically nothing, trading Andre Ethier, trading Tim Hudson away for nothing, trading Carlos Gonzalez, trading for Matt Holliday and ending with nothing, signing Ben Sheets for $10M, and not taking a real go at rebuilding the team by losing big time, he has been waffling between competing and rebuilding, unsuccessfully and ruinously for the team. Teams consistently in the middle end up being mediocre (see the Giants in the 70's and 80's).

They cry about being poor, but then are pocketing roughly $20M each season for the past 6 seasons, which would have bought a lot of competitiveness had they decided to use that money.

I now suspect that the delay by Selig to make a decision had nothing to do with the blue ribbon committee created to study this situation but more with Wolff wanting more time to drain money from the A's in order to fund the move to San Jose.  As a Giants fan, I'm hoping a large portion of that $120M ends up going to the Giants as reparation for moving into their territory in the South Bay.

The A's moving to the Bay Area really cost the Giants big time, and they had never paid for that intrusion into the region.  Them paying the Giants something along the lines of what the Nationals paid the Orioles would be great (I'm hoping that these payments help the Giants fund signing extensions with Lincecum and Cain).

Here are some of the inaccuracies supporters of the A's moving to San Jose have been spouting:

  • A's gave the territory to the Giants long ago, so the Giants really should just give it back:  the Giants should have owned this territory without any doubts once they moved to SF.  The A's paid nothing to move into their territory.  Them paying to move to San Jose would right a historical wrong.
  • A's are moving further away from the Giants, opening up a closer territory for them to draw fans from:  this is the same city where fans still pined for the LA Raiders and still traveled to games down in LA, so I think this is overhyped as a benefit.  I think that mainly the only fans the Giants would get are the same fans they have had for years now, those fans wearing the split Giants/A's caps, those fans were probably Giants fans when the A's moved in, and they kept their allegiance to both teams.  And maybe the south bay fans will do the same and wear those caps.  But I don't see many A's fans changing to Giants fans just because they move to San Jose, they would just go to less games (which, by the way, they have already done in recent years, while they are still in Oakland).   In any case, this all just obscures the fact that the Giants have the rights to the South Bay, and the A's need to pay for that.
  • The A's are poor ...:  they are crying poor but have been pulling in over $20M in EBITDA for the past 6 seasons (roughly average), which is roughly 30% higher than the average $62M their payroll has been the past few years.   That would have bought a lot more competitiveness the past few years.  Heck, they could have afforded to sign CC or Cliff Lee to a contract at that level of money (though they probably would not have signed with them; the point is that they had enough money to do that).  
  • ... and need to move to a better city:  That's debatable.  If they were spending that extra $20M, they would have been roughly 15th (potential tie with 3 other teams), in the middle somewhere, in total payroll (roughly $82-84M).   Even if they spent a little more than $10M of that, they still would be in the middle third of payrolls in the majors. They just chose not to be in the middle, so they ended up near the bottom in payroll.  Plus, I don't see how tarping the top level in order to have less seats available to sell is a good way of marketing the team.  Plus, sure, moving to SJ is better financially for the team, but they are well off enough financially where they are now, they are just choosing not to do better.  
  • Wolff never wanted to stay in Oakland:  There is probably some truth to this one.  He grew up in the South Bay and has been a part of other schemes to move a major league team to San Jose.  But the fact is that the prior owner did want to stay in Oakland, and as this Mark Purdy column showed (sorry but the Merc's links often expire), the City of Oakland, time after time, showed the A's no love, no concern for losing them as a team.   Why would Wolff waste his valuable time trying to convince Oakland to ante up, when the prior owner wasted a lot of time and money trying to do the same and got nowhere?  At that point of ownership change, it was up to Oakland to make the first moves to keep the A's.  And they whiffed on that one.  Sure, the Giants owners wooed the public to get AT&T Park built, but that was with backing from the political powers that be.  In fact, the Giants were sold to move to Tampa Bay and SF politicos rallied the rich folks and got a new ownership together for the express purpose of keeping the Giants in SF.  The goal of that group was always to keep the Giants in SF.  Oakland could have done likewise, as Schott must clearly have been frustrated dealing with trying to do something in Oakland and was ready to sell, much like Lurie was.  As noted, the powers that be in Oakland were more concerned about getting the Raiders (spending $190M on bonds which they are still paying $20M per year on; and by the way, the Raiders are already looking to leave) and keeping the Warriors (authorizing $100M in bonds to renovate Oracle Arena) than about keeping the A's.  And when the A's went to Oakland for help, instead of putting out $100M in bonds to help the A's build something, the A's owners were told to propose something.  The Oakland politicos basically told the A's owners to take a walk, they couldn't even be bothered to rally financial support for owners who wanted to keep the A's in Oakland, it was clear from the beginning to me that Wolff was eventually going to bring the A's to San Jose if nothing was done to persuade him otherwise.  Nothing was done to try to keep the A's.  Poole also noted that there is a southern portion of the parking lot that Wolff conveniently ignores, but if that lot was that good, why doesn't the City of Oakland publicly announce how they would use that southern property to build something for the A's?  If it were that good, that is.  There must be something wrong with it if even the City cannot muster up any economic enthusiasm over that site.
  • Wolff could have stayed in Alameda County:  Another complaint is that if he really wanted to stay in Alameda County, he would have considered building near Dublin, where there is freeway access to two major interstates (Monte Poole column, covered southern parking lot noted above).  Really?  Dublin?  I've lived around the Bay Area (SF, East Bay, San Jose) and frankly, cities to the East of those hills are like they are in another state, another land.  Also, have they ever travelled there on 238?  It is a horror getting into and out of there on weekends, adding a park in Dublin would not improve that, and the state has made numerous improvements to that route over the past and it has stayed bad no matter what they did.  And expansion would be nigh impossible or very expensive, as it would require adding lanes where there is no land to add lanes, making the cost to fix up very high.  And I doubt that Dublin and the region have the monetary and political muscles to help get a stadium built there.  Fremont, a much larger city with more businesses, couldn't, even with Cisco backing the stadium project.  

Of course, it doesn't help that the City Of Oakland counts them third on their priority list, after the Raiders (getting them back ruined a good baseball venue, and they are still looking at LA) and the Warriors (improved their venue and still they want to move back to SF).  If Oakland does not watch out, they can go from three major league teams to none within 2-3 years.

With Selig moving on the Oakland to San Jose issue now on the burner, per all the great reporting by Mark Purdy on the situation, there will probably be a resolution before the start of the 2012 season.  It is just a matter of negotiating the terms of relinquishing the Giants South Bay rights.

And by the way, what happens to the East Bay rights then? Do the A's keep it?  Most probably, because giving it to the Giants would reduce the money they get, which I don't see the Giants wanting to do.  So the Giants might get more fans there in the East Bay, but the A's will be the ones with stores there in that territory, supporting the A's fanbase there, as it would be their territory.

What also could happen is that the Giants and A's might agree to split Santa Clara County, giving the A's San Jose and most of the east cities, while the Giants keep rights to the peninsula part of the county, down to maybe Mountain View/Cupertino/Los Altos.  That would also reduce the payment, but perhaps such a symbolic territory ownership might be valuable in the minds of the Giants ownership.

I also wonder what happens to the San Jose Giants as well.   They have a long history here, and they will be pushed out, much like the Phoenix Giants were pushed out when the D-backs moved into Arizona.  They could move to Oakland and be the Oakland Giants but that would just seem weird.  Not sure what historic name that can be used by a minor league team in Oakland, but there must have been one.  I suppose they could also move to Hayward, they have a university there in the hills and presumably a baseball field that the baby Giants could use.   Chabot has a field, but that would probably require a lot of renovation to make it usable (I first got to hit regularly on a hitting machine there, learned so much about hitting via that summer class, so I'll always have fond memories of Chabot).

Maybe they can follow up on that Dublin idea and add the Giants A-ball team somewhere in the region (Livermore?).  That might build up interest in baseball in that region and get more fans going to the A's in San Jose or Giants in SF.

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