Ray Ratto

History 101 with Jerry Jones' fight against Roger Goodell and the NFL

jerry-jones-ap.jpg
AP

History 101 with Jerry Jones' fight against Roger Goodell and the NFL

Hey kids, guess what time it is!
 
Yes, it’s time once again for History You Don’t Care About, so quick, grab your parents and flee until this potential menace of learning blows over.
 
Dallas Cowboys oligarch Jerry Jones is threatening his fellow National Football League owners with the high-priced lawyer to the stars and scars David Boies, all over his ongoing jihad with commissioner Roger Goodell. The reason du jour, by all accounts, is Ezekiel Elliott, and whether Goodell told Jones he would not suspend the running back.
 
The real reason, of course, is so that Jones can run the league to his own specifications without bureaucratic interference. Billionaire’s prerogative, I think it’s called, and its coat of arms is a gigantic gray-haired man holding a scepter of Bitcoins and stock certificates while wearing a crown and an ermine cape while sitting on a throne of skulls and tattered wallets.
 
This reminds us that Jones’ entry into the league was highlighted by the way he cozied up to and tried to emulate the last NFL owner to fight a commissioner and league single-handed, Al Davis. Davis won the right to relocate his team (Raiders II) in court, but his war against Pete Rozelle ended short of this level on enmity only because Rozelle resigned before Davis could finish the job.
 
That was in the fun-filled ‘80s, when the richest teams were worth about one-fifth what the Cowboys are worth today, so you see Goodell’s main line of defense – as well as Jones’ leading avenue of attack.
 
The closest any other sport has come to mutiny was when five baseball owners (known collectively as The Great Lakes Gang, in that they came from Milwaukee, Chicago, Minnesota and Los Angeles) gathered a majority of their brethren to force Fay Vincent’s resignation in 1992. That wasn’t singlehanded treachery, though, but the will of the majority in the face of overwhelming logic – another valuable lesson in the limits of democracy.

But Jones’ action is also against the other owners trying to flaunt his petulant will, which brings to mind one other great battle in owner-on-owner crime, when in 1917 four of the National Hockey Association’s five team owners met to expel the fifth team, the Toronto Blueshirts, if it didn’t separate itself from its owner, Eddie Livingstone. When the team refused, the league disbanded and a week later reformed as a four-team league without Livingstone or his employees.
 
We mention that not because this is the 100th anniversary of that brilliant parliamentary maneuver – burn the village down around the guy you don’t like and build a new village up the street – but because the idea of Jerry Jones as the owner of a National Football League with one team is, well, hilarious in any era.
 
Then again, that would mean rooting for the other 31, and there are simply some frontiers we cannot in good conscience travel.
 
History lesson over. You can come out now.

Odds are relatively strong that Belt actually doesn’t have the longest at-bat ever

Odds are relatively strong that Belt actually doesn’t have the longest at-bat ever

Brandon Belt’s 21-pitch at-bat in Sunday’s Giants’ 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels is the stuff of nerdley legend. It must also have made Rob Manfred pull off his own head in exasperation.

Baseball games are quicker this year because of the new speed diktats, all of them part of the Manfredian compulsion that pace is the thing that is keeping baseball from becoming the cool kids’ sport.

But here is Belt, laying down a 12-minute batting opus that droned on so long that Belt admitted later that he hates that sort of thing when he is in the field. He, too, understands where Manfred’s bread is buttered.

But it was also described as “the longest at-bat ever” by people who should know better but clearly don’t. It might have been the longest at-bat ever, but people have only been counting this for 20 years, and there have been long at-bats before. The odds are that there have been longer at-bats in baseball history, and that Belt’s extended soliloquy doesn’t rank first, but maybe 12th, or 29th, or 214th. According to BaseballReference.com, there have been 14,689,043 at-bats, so the odds are relatively strong that Belt actually doesn’t have the record at all.

So what we have here, then, is a fascinating oddity but not necessarily an epochal one. Frankly, if Belt really cared about the record, he would have fouled off seven or eight more pitches and made a better claim for having a record that nobody actually can make.

But every day is a new set of at-bats, and while Belt can never truly have a totally true record, he could make Rob Manfred turn purple with rage. That’s better than any record right there.

The meaning of Sean Manaea's no-hitter

The meaning of Sean Manaea's no-hitter

Sean Manaea has a memory that will last him forever. The Oakland Athletics have a touchstone they can use to trump whatever other misfortunes befall them.

That is the beauty of a no-hitter, which Manaea threw at the Boston Red Sox Saturday night in a 3-0 victory before a healthy crowd of 25,746. It means a lot for one day, then its magnificence fades, and the season plays out as it must.

In the meantime, it is an exemplary moment for a middle-of-the-road team trying to find its core. It doesn’t lead to anything else, it doesn’t change the course of a season, it is simply one moment in time for a player who has just had his one shining moment, and a team trying to figure out what will resonate with its fan base.

And Manaea’s performance will remind the customer base that anything can happen on any given day over the course of a six-month season, and that when in doubt, going to the ballpark to take in a game is not all that bad an idea.

And that, for anyone outside the circle of Manaea and his immediate family, friends and teammates, is the lesson. No-hitters are a singular and individual moment, and Manaea has one. That never fades...for him.

For the A’s, though, it can mean whatever they want it to mean. Maybe they learn more confidence in Manaea. Maybe he becomes the go-to guy they thought Kendall Graveman would be. Maybe subduing the best hitting team in the American League provides a level of confidence that the A’s need to be thought of as more than just a modest also-ran.

Maybe all these things happen. Maybe none of them do. But this is immutable:

9 0 0 0 2 10 108-75 1.23

That is Manaea’s box score line, and whatever other explanations result from this performance, the line still speaks for itself.

Put another way, a game with free admission doesn’t hold a candle to a no-hitter. Sean Manaea is now an official badass on a team that can use all it can get, and you need to take that at face value because face value is the only thing in which no-hitters pay. It’s a moment that can be much more, or just what it is, but what it is is more than sufficient.