Ray Ratto

Impasse broken -- labor talks see light

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Impasse broken -- labor talks see light

And so the circle of life continues on spinning round and round in the same place, and getting most of us nowhere.

The NBA is only the latest example of this, with a German opera of a negotiating session that ended after midnight and left both sides within sight of each other at the midpoint they were destined to arrive at anyway.

And they did it in the time-honored way hardline for a time, then moderate late.

You see, the details here dont matter all that much, because by the time this CBA is about the expire, the owners will scream it was a bad system that cannot endure. Thus, it will continue the streak of deals the owners hate as soon as they have figured out the last way to get around their own deal, and demand that the players agree to a new one that makes the owners even less responsible for their behavior.

And the cycle will begin again. The owners who dont really like basketball that much anyway, and really hate owning businesses in which the workers must be paid, will shriek that enough is enough, and theyd rather shut the game down than go in this vein any longer.

We, of course, will panic, because we do care about the game, dont know many of the owners, but know that if theyre like the guys we work for, theyll do it.

(Except of course the people I work for. They are human exemplars down to the last human).

And the hardliners will carry the day for awhile, convincing the union that this time they mean business. The union, who knows the game too well from having seen it so many times before, then has to make sure their players dont get scared and bolt from the hall.

Then the ugly negotiations start, with the hardliners at the table doing the talking and demeaning the union and players as much as they can get away with. And they know how much they can get away with when the union says, Fine, shut the doors. We hate you more than we like the job now, anyway. Go kill yourselves.

And at that point, the commissioner, who only earns his money at times like this, sees the hardliners have hit the wall and can only do damage now, comes in, rallies the moderates and says, Its our turn. The pre-Industrial Revolution nutjobs have done as much as they can do.

At that point, a miracle happens, as it did Wednesday night. The two sides know its time to stop screwing around and get a deal done.

Nobody ever knows when this point is reached, though the usual tipoff is like this one -- when you hear Derek Fisher call someone from management a liar. When the most rational guy in the room has had a bellyful of condescension, contempt and disgust from the other sides most demeaning members, the flares go off and everyone says, Well, were at that point. Give it three days, call for sandwiches and sodas and order notebooks and Number-2 pencils.

The notebooks and pencils are for doodling, by the way. Fifteen hours doing anything is tedious slogging.

So here we are again. Close to a deal, so close that it cant be undone unless one of the hardliners breaks out of his pen, bolts into the room and starts screaming about the benefits of serfdom, being chained to a table and making tennis shoes for four cents a day and how it builds more character than the union will ever know.

Right now, in short, weve passed the cat-herding stage and are down to the actual useful speaking. A deal will be reached soon, and then we can all go back to what we know best.

Waiting to see if the Warriors get to 32 wins before they get to 51 losses.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Miami is the most relentlessly mistreated baseball town in baseball

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AP

Miami is the most relentlessly mistreated baseball town in baseball

There is a place no commissioner dares go in the modern world, and that is to pick a fight with an owner’s financial prerogatives.

But Rob Manfred is faced with that very problem now – all because Bruce Sherman has been allowed to gut the Miami Marlins for what by one count is the fifth time in the franchise’s 25-year history.

Clearly the time has come for him to address with his 30 employers the conundrum of the age, namely this:

What is more important to the business, a large market systematically robbed and disregarded, or a billionaire?

Usually, this would be an easy choice – the billionaire. It is how Jeffrey Loria passed muster by waving money in the face of Montreal Expos owner Claude Brochu, then swapped the team out for the one in Florida so that John Henry could get out from under the Marlins and buy into the Boston Red Sox. The money always wins.

But Miami is now all but mined out as a baseball city – never strong in the best of times, which were few enough, but particularly degraded in the last decade and change, first by Loria and now by Sherman. The trades of Dee Gordon, Giancarlo Stanton and, in all likelihood, Marcell Ozuna, all for payroll relief, is a story as familiar as it is craven – the baseball team as ATM.

The argument that the Marlins are just starting over to fix an untenable situation doesn’t fly, of course, because Sherman’s undercapitalized position as owner is something the other 29 owners knew when they raced his approval through the process to be rid of Loria. The idea of MLB taking over the team, as it essentially did when Loria sold them the Expos, was never considered, certainly not at the $1.2 billion price tag.

In other words, they got rid of a problem by assuming the same problem, and the cost is the viability of baseball in southern Florida. Given the minimal relocation options, and the clear bad-faith lawsuit that would await them if they left Miami with a stadium the city paid for, relocation is unlikely, thus leaving the Marlins crippled forever.

Surely the owners must know that this is a strategy that only benefits Sherman when he sells, probably sooner rather than later, and maybe that’s what the owners all want to see – a franchise that can’t fail no matter how comprehensively it fails.

Whatever Manfred may feel about it personally, his job description requires that he bite his tongue. It is not his job to undo what his employers have done -- that's how Fay Vincent got run off.

But, and the owners should have to recognize the danger of their short-term view, this is now the NFL has reached its current crisis – by telling the customers that the entire endeavor is only about the care and feeding of the owners. That doesn’t endure over the long haul.

Or maybe it does. Maybe capitalism has reached its logical extreme in sports, celebrating not the games and its players but saluting one more festival of arbitrage. Maybe all the games should be shown on CNBC, Fox Business and Bloomberg TV rather than the current networks.

In the meantime, Miami maintains its status as the most relentlessly mistreated baseball town in baseball, and given how close we are to Oakland, that’s saying something.

 

Ed Lee's favorite team was The City itself

Ed Lee's favorite team was The City itself

Ed Lee was an activist for San Francisco his entire life, before and while he was its mayor. He fought aggressively for the city both conceptually and in practice from the time he entered public life as a defender of immigrants rights in the 1980s until he was elected mayor in 2011.

Thus, his passing of a heart attack early Tuesday morning left a hole in the city and its view of itself that will not be easy to fill. This includes his city-centric sports view, which was always “What’s good for the city is good by me.”

Like most mayors, he was there for the grand times, like the last two Giants World Series parades and the two Warriors arena ribbon cuttings. He was an unabashed facilitator for the Warrior projects in particular, even though the Pier 30/32 project had to be relocated to the south when public opposition to the project overwhelmed his ability to move opinions.

He also was the mayor on duty when the 49ers left for Santa Clara in 2014, though that move was already well in the works before he took office, which is why it is typically misleading to credit or blame a mayor for an owner’s whims.

Lee, though, was an unambiguously pro-business mayor, and insofar as sports franchises are actually businesses with games attached, he was all-in on the Giants and, later, the Warriors. Both teams sent statements of condolence, acknowledging that he was more than willing to be at their sides when his political or persuasive skills were required.

His replacement for the moment, acting mayor London Breed, will likely not have as visible a presence on the sporting landscape, as the Warriors arena project is already well underway and the Giants are safely ensconced at Third and King.

Lee’s measure as mayor, though, was not his sporting profile, as it has been for other mayors across the country. His favorite team was The City itself, and he fought for it passionately until his death. In that way, he was as important to his constituency as Buster Posey or Stephen Curry is to theirs, so in the end he seems less like an interloper on the sporting landscape and more a passionate advocate for the city in which they played, or will play in the future.