Dusty Baker won't be remembered the way he should be remembered

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AP

Dusty Baker won't be remembered the way he should be remembered

Firing a manager is easy, and there are lots of ways to do it.

Dusty Baker, for example. He worked this year on the last year of a contract, which usually means there won’t be another one, and he relied on his players to deliver the goods.

Which, as we remember from our reading, they didn’t do. Again.

But Baker was marked for the chop unless those players did deliver, and when they didn’t, general manager Mike Rizzo did the expedient thing.

He fired one person rather than several. And changed exactly nothing.

Baker’s managerial career is probably over now, as most teams don’t look at 68-year-olds to fix their teams. He will never manage a  World Series champion, something he ached for, and he was always be caricatured in part as the guy who didn’t speak metric, and who believed in players as men whenever in doubt.

And the Nats didn’t betray him, either. They were always not as good in the big moments because someone else was, and they became part of Washington’s new fetish – Why Can’t We Win One? It’s as if having a cringeworthy President isn’t good enough for them.

So the time came, and he will be replaced by someone who will either win and get credit for work that was largely his, or he won’t win and the town can continue to wallow in its tedious We’re-The-New-Cubs pity. It is the circle of life.

At least it is for groups of people. For individuals, the circle of life is actually nothing more than a straight line that ends abruptly. For Dusty Baker, as it did for Tony La Russa in Phoenix two days earlier, that day came today. He deserves to be remembered as a very good manager who won a lot more than he lost, made more friends than enemies, and was honest from Day One until the end.

Which, as we also know, doesn’t matter a whole lot on days like this.

 

Evidence suggests Marshawn Lynch is not bad for the Raiders

Evidence suggests Marshawn Lynch is not bad for the Raiders

God love Marshawn Lynch, for all he is, and all he isn’t.

All he is, is an Oakland icon. Not a Raider icon, or a Cal icon, or a Seahawks icon. An Oakland icon, because he did the most Oaklandish things Thursday night, and became a national debate point on Friday – while seemingly giving nary a toss about either.

He ran onto the field from the sideline to intervene in a potential fight in the Chiefs-Raiders piefight at the Coliseum. He grabbed an official and got ejected. He left the locker room, presumably to go home while the game was still going on, only to turn up in the stands to watch the end, go back to the locker room to celebrate with his teammates, and then BART home with Kansas City’s Marcus Peters, one of Lynch’s truest homies, who instigated the near to-do by hitting Oakland quarterback Derek Carr late.

Any of these things would have made Football America turn purple. All of them became a period piece, and the next debating bone upon which Football America will chew.

Namely, whether Lynch is a problem for the team that sought him out. They look to Jack Del Rio to teach the man some decorum esprit de corps, or fly in the face of owner Mark Davis and show him the door.

Likely, neither will happen. Del Rio may grind his teeth about Lynch, and he occasionally does, but there is no evidence other than the bleating of the drool-based punditocracy, that Lynch impedes progress. He has been singled out as a reason the Raider offense hasn’t functioned very well this year, and their late burst Thursday night will fuel that correlation-causation fire.

But the offense has sputtered on its own, and in varied ways. It has been conservative, predictable and even timid, and that is not Lynch’s doing. Playmaker (or playbreaker) Amari Cooper was targeted 18 times in the first two games, 21 times in weeks 3 through 6, and 19 times Thursday night, as the Raiders tried to decide whether he was sufficiently trustworthy.

Frankly, the oh-the-hell-with-it ethos that made them such a tough out last year had disappeared, and that isn’t a Lynch construct either.

But Thursday night, they reverted to their 2016 ways. Del Rio, Carr and offensive coordinator Todd Downing decided they had no choice but to take Cooper as he is, and made him the focus in 25 percent of their plays and more than a third of their passes.

But that’s the football stuff. The debate turns are going to be about Lynch, and whether he is bad for the proper working order of the Raiders. The evidence suggests that he isn’t, and that he isn’t really what will define this team anyway.

What will define it, it seems increasingly clear, is how willing it is to do what feels good rather than what is metrically approved. The Raiders cast themselves last year as a 53-man attitude, and showed Thursday night that the attitude plan still works, hand in glove with precision and work habits and all the other ethics that induce people to play a madman’s game.

How much you choose to credit (or blame) Marshawn Lynch for that attitude is up to you. But if it helps, he won’t be listening. Unless maybe you bump into him on BART.

Mark your calendars right now for Raiders-Chiefs 2.0 in December

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USATSI

Mark your calendars right now for Raiders-Chiefs 2.0 in December

In case you were asking, and you shouldn’t have been because this game deserves to be savored a bit longer, it’s December 10.
 
That’s when the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders play each other again, in case Thursday night wasn’t good enough for you.

You philistines.

And while there are some folks who won’t be happy (those who like the Chiefs or bet the Chiefs), there won’t be a more magnificently bizarre game this NFL season – because these two teams are exactly that.
 
Bizarre.
 
The Chiefs, who two weeks ago were the best team in football as voted on by the instant punditocracy, made enough mistakes in the last two minutes of Thursday’s 31-30 defeat to lose 47-10.
 
And the Raiders did the same, capped off by Marshawn Lynch’s gloriously Oaklandish reaction to fellow citizen Marcus Peters’ late hit on Derek Carr – namely, “I got your rules and your respect for officials right here!”
 
But in the end – the glorious, bizarre, untimed end – the Raiders saved themselves from pre-Halloween doom, the Chiefs reverted to the team you can never fully trust, and the rest of the NFL can only shake its collective neckless head in wonderment at the power of the old American Football League.
 
Because that, ultimately, is what this was – a game out of time. This was a throwback game, all the way back to the mid- to late-60s, when the Raiders and Chiefs hated each other not out of historical duty but out of genuine solar-generated animosity. When they both played as though their cars were being looted in the parking lot, and when 750-yard combined passing nights were actually not that unusual. They were hell-bent then, and Thursday showed that they still have that bent in their DNA even now.
 
This was that era, played out in a way that old Raider and Chiefs fans can tell their grandchildren, “Now you’re sitting there scratching your head and all, but I’m telling you that used to happen all the time. You think Marcus Peters was bad? Google Ben Davidson on Len Dawson, little Tad.”
 
And it ended the only way it could for the good of the rivalry – with Oakland winning, and in the most staggeringly improbable way.
 
Not because the Raiders are more noble human beings or a superior life form from a time long ago, but because that December 10 game needs to mean something. The Raiders needed to win Thursday because losing meant their playoff hopes would be deservedly dead, and their remaining nine games would be reduced to competitive afterthoughts, and the year would be reduced to wondering why what should have been never came close to happening.
 
And the Chiefs needed to lose because running away with a division this difficult just seems wrong. There is nothing that says Kansas City isn’t better than Denver, or Oakland or the Fightin’ StubHubs, but it shouldn’t be this easy. The Patriots may have eaten the AFC East and spit the bones into a dumpster long ago, but the AFC West clung harder to its AFL roots than the East ever did.
 
And Thursday was the evidence required to show that, at least for the Chiefs and Raiders, the old days can be recreated with a keen eye for the most malevolent details and the most bizarre turns of fortune.
 
Call it nostalgia on crank – seemingly the only thing we have left that can bond the generations in these otherwise mean-spirited days.