Ray Ratto

Ratto: Raiders invoke self-inflicted collapse

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Ratto: Raiders invoke self-inflicted collapse

Nov. 28, 2010RATTO ARCHIVERAIDERS PAGE RAIDERS VIDEORay RattoCSNBayArea.com

We know one thing for sure about the Raiders' latest disaster and their traditional descent into disinterest that such performances produce.Nobody will be blaming God.That was Stevie Johnson's reaction to the drop that cost the Buffalo Bills victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, and apparently God can only ruin one NFL team at a time.
Bills' Stevie Johnson Blames God
The Raiders did it the old-fashioned way. Self-infliction.In losing so demonstrably (33-17, though it should have been much worse) to the depleted Miami Dolphins, the Raiders collapsed. They found a new go-to guy in Jacoby Ford but lost everything else - both quarterbacks, the tight end, the functional offensive line, the running game, the defense as a whole and the secondary in particular, and quite likely Coach Tom Cable in due time as well.They allowed the Dolphins to have the ball for 41:38, the second-longest time of possession imbalance of the season. They allowed the pitiable Miami offense to gain 471 yards, by far a season high to go with their season high in points.But that's not the thing that has killed this season.There's Cable, who couldn't remember how many times he has tried to remember who his starting quarterback was supposed to be, committing publicly to Jason Campbell before the Pittsburgh game "because he's earned it," going back to Bruce Gradkowski before this game, and now has lost Gradkowski to a re-injured shoulder and has to go back to a Campbell who has lost the coach's trust and who seems hesitant to give the coach his own."I didn't understand the whole thing," Campbell said. "He explained to me that when Bruce is healthy, fully healthy, he goes back in as the starter. My thing was in the Pittsburgh game, I was like, well he was healthy.""It's not easy. It's not an easy thing to be going through, by no means. You're a competitor, you like to compete . . . but by no means are you understanding or anything. It's kind of tough because you're caught right in between something and you don't know what's going on. It's not something where I really know what's going on. I can't worry about it."You lose the quarterback, you lose, period. You lose the quarterback the owner traded for and is paying a princely sum, you lose something more.And then there were the effort issues, which typically crop up this time of year for the Raiders when they finally see the forest instead of the trees."It's a simple question," safety Mike Mitchell said. "Is everyone on our team going to decide that we're &@ around, and are we going to play? But that's what this game was. It wasn't coaching. It wasn't scheme. It wasn't anything. It was us. If you're not 100 percent committed, you can't play. You can't be with it. That's what it is. That's what I gotta say about it. We need everybody on the same page doing it. Every play. That's what it is." Or defensive tackle Tommy Kelly."I don't see what the problem is," he said. "I mean, we're going for the playoffs, the division. It's just hard to swallow. I mean, the thing is, we had a good week of practice. That's the frustrating thing. Everybody had a good week of practice. We knew what they were running. We just didn't execute worth &@."Or the injured cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who noticed the flagging attention spans as well."I didn't sense it in the beginning," he said. "We started off pretty fast with the kick return (Ford broke a 101-yard score from the opening kick to begin and end the Raider highlight package) and I thought the guys were fired up. I think that point might have come in the second half, I didn't see it in the beginning."But it came, and a number of players noticed, including defensive tackle Richard Seymour, who said, "It was horrendous. We've seen better days, but the beauty in it all is we'll make up our minds we want to go out and play. We can still control our own destiny, but playing like that, we don't control nothing."
This was, in short, one of those pearl-handled disasters the Raiders put up in November when they're not sure whether to push ahead or lay back and wait for January. This time, they were within screeching distance of the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs, playing one of the few seemingly easy games they had left, and they were comprehensively inert.And it makes you wonder if these are yet one more version of the end of days the Raiders have specialized in since 2003. The anger is still fresh, but the symptomology is clear because we've seen it so many times before. Important game, beatable opponent, no effort, no execution, no performance whatsoever.Indeed, it trumps even Cable's inability to convince Al Davis that Gradkowski is the best man for the quarterbacking job, or keeping Campbell's head in a happy space. Yes, the quarterback situation is an irredeemable mess, but it isn't the only reason the Raiders turned back into the Raiders in eight hard days.They went to Pittsburgh tied for first place, and they came out of the Miami game gasping for air and doubting their will to play hard, let alone actually win.Eight days, it took. Eight. And unless this team has a storehouse of will Raider teams don't typically possess, we can mark this as the day they surrendered their eighth consecutive season, and then waited for the NFL player lockout to end so they could start another new era with another new coach.And God won't have anything to do with it.What's on your mind? Email Ray and let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag.

One thing is certain about the Baseball Hall of Fame's new class

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One thing is certain about the Baseball Hall of Fame's new class

The Baseball Hall of Fame, A Division Of Tedious Bitching Just To Hear Ourselves Bitch LLC, will announce its new class of inductees Wednesday, and we already know one thing.

People will be unhappy and make damned sure you know about it.

This is the new nature of all halls of fame -- the winners are a two-day story, but the losers go on forever, and so does the voters-are-morons sidebar. Frankly, I wonder why they don’t put a plaque up in Cooperstown for that -- you know, just to give the tourists something to hate in what was originally designed to be a joyful place.

We live in a whiny society, where anyone with a different opinion than your own cannot merely be debated with or ignored, but must be savagely mocked as either learning impaired, willfully stupid or aggressively evil. Thus, the new era of “Death To Whoever Doesn’t Agree With Me” is probably unavoidable.

But that’s why the myth that the Hall of Fame should be a temple of honor rather than a museum of the full history of the game should have died long ago. Everyone’s version of what should be honored is different, and the standard reaction to other people’s dissent from that opinion has gone from “I disagree” to “How about I burn your house down?”

People being unhappy that their favorite guy didn’t get the requisite 75 percent of the votes from an amorphous group of strangers who do not act in concert -- that part I get. It’s not up to me to decipher why one’s personal obsessions lean toward getting someone a plaque, and if we cannot invest time and energy in our pet causes, what are we as a species?

Don’t answer that.

But ever since the Giants put on a full court media press for most of 1998 to get Orlando Cepeda into the Hall through its veterans committee, the idea of campaigns for any particular idol which were once considered offensive and counterproductive became a requirement, and then a marketing tool. In the Internet age, that role has been usurped by people making single-minded and mostly well-intentioned cases for their own favorites, out of simple honest devotion. Nothing wrong with that.

If it stopped there, this would be an advancement in the process. But because nothing is as sure in the Internet age as the unintended consequence of anonymous invective, I have made it my work as a Hall of Fame voter to ignore any and all such lobbying and lobbyists. No matter how well-intentioned and polite their reasoned discourse may be, it becomes someone else’s demand for obedience and hive-mind orthodoxy --– and in the alternative, voter shaming and expulsion.

Moreover, the era of both benign candidate advocacy and anonymous invective serve as more reminders that the Hall of Fame and its mechanisms are political, just as Joe Morgan’s letter urging that players suspected of steroid use never be allowed induction is a political act, and the changes in voting eligibility reducing the voting pool are a political act. Expanding the voting franchise is always more sensible than restricting it, but shrinking it is a statement that fewer people know about baseball than think they do, which is a weird way of saying “Fewer people are entitled to care about this thing we care so much about.”

This is a longwinded way of saying I turned in my vote more than a month ago. It’s the best I can do based on the hours of research I’ve done, and that will have to be good enough. If I wanted your opinion on it, I’d have called you by now to obtain it, so just assume that I don’t. The ballot will be released when the other BBWAA votes are released, and if you need to know ahead of time who I voted for, you have a sick obsession, plus you can probably figure out the bulk of it by going to Ryan Thibodaux’s Twitter site (@NotMrTibbs) and look at my prior ballots.

But if it helps, I’ll tell you this much. I think  Arnold Rothstein should be in the Hall of Fame, and until that injustice is righted, I will feel as though the Hall is incomplete and flawed, and I’m damned unhappy about it.

See? I got in the spirit of the thing.

The four Super Bowl storylines everybody will be talking about

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The four Super Bowl storylines everybody will be talking about

The Monday after the conference championships is devoted to replaying the games we already saw, but Tuesday is devoted to the assembling of the narratives that we will weary of no later than Friday.

And while football purists and gamblers, two demographics on the opposite ends of the Moebius strip of degeneracy, will cheerily break the game down to its molecular level, the rest of us will resort to a few tired carthorses to get us to the start of our individual Super Bowl parties.

Starting with THE INEVITABILITY OF THE PATRIOTS

This will be an argument with no resolution, as those who see history as preordination will see New England as invulnerable, pointing to their record, Philadelphia’s record, and the comfort of the mortal lock. But if it helps you maintain suspense, the Patriots have never won, or even played in, a Super Bowl with a margin as high as a touchdown – the margins have been 3, 3, 3, 4, 4 and 6 in overtime. In short, Bill Belichick’s brain, while always impressive, has never been an overwhelming presence against John Fox, Andy Reid, Tom Coughlin, Pete Carroll or Dan Quinn.

In other words, luck matters, and luck is good.

Next is THE LEGACY

This is ridiculous because the Patriots are in painting-the-gold-bar-gold territory. People long ago made up their minds on Belichick, Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and the rest of the shifting cast of characters – they are either brilliant exemplars, or nefarious cheaters, or both. That’s the great thing about the Patriots – they can be heroes, villains and metaphors for 21st Century America, depending on what you decide. But their place as football figures has long ago been decided, this game will change none of that, and the only thing left is what to carve on the statues.

Third is AMERICA HATES THE PATRIOTS AND WANTS THE EAGLES TO WIN

There are lots of Americas out there, as we are learning every day, and more people probably are rooting for the Eagles just to see something different. That’s not the way to bet, I grant you, but the best way to handle these next two weeks if you do not wear either New England or Philadelphia jerseys is to say nothing. These are two fan bases with reputations, if you know what we mean, and even if you come across gentle souls with a rooting interest, play the percentages. Even the nice ones can turn at any moment.

And finally, JIMMY GAROPPOLO. This discussion only matters of Bob Kraft cops to telling Belichick he ordered him to be moved. Which he won't, damn his eyes. And if Brady looks good next Sunday, they'll take credit for a brilliant move that saved the franchise because history always works best in the rear-view mirror.