Ray Ratto

Forever in search of an Oakland ballpark, the A's always have Japan

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USATSI

Forever in search of an Oakland ballpark, the A's always have Japan

If this helps the Athletics/Howard Terminal/BART/city government standoff in any way, there’s this:
 
The A’s open the 2019 season in Japan, according to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle
 
How this helps is anyone’s guess, but given the litany of ways that a new privately financed baseball stadium cannot get built in the Nickel-Dime area code, it must surely be a comfort to know that outside the continental United States, the A’s are golden.
 
Indeed, Oakland ‘s role as the leading exporter of professional sports contests to foreign lands (their series with the Seattle Mariners next year will be the 21st, 22nd and 23rd games played off-continent by Oakland’s three teams) simply grows. Indeed, once the Raiders go to Las Vegas and the Warriors to That Other Place, the A’s will be the only thing that can be exported, and once they get their new ballpa . . .
 
. . . oops, sorry. Didn’t mean to bring up cruel fictions again.
 
The A’s aren’t even part of this latest dustup except in receipt of a letter in which BART general manager Grace Crunican said that a station near a Howard Terminal site isn’t going to happen. This is more a grenade rolled under the chair of the Right Hon. Libby (Don’t Mess With Me) Schaaf, who has been flogging the Howard Terminal plan with the aggression one typically finds in an Aaron Judge at-bat.
 
And in honesty, an elected official who can flip off the National Football League and not feel the electorate’s wrath is not to be underestimated.
 
That said, the Crunican letter is one reminder that Oakland is as skilled as ever at finding ways to halt stadium plans before they even get started. More stadiums in more sites have been killed pre-shovel in Oakland than anywhere else in the U.S.
 
There will be horse trading and arm-twisting (not to mention arm trading and horse twisting, if it comes to that) between the current “no” and the series of “nos” to follow, but this does mean that the pot dispensaries need to step up now and speak as one about their own reason why a ballpark cannot happen in Oakland – maybe they can site a lack of arable land to cultivate the smoke for the woke.
 
And in the meantime, they’ll always have Japan – Oakland’s sister from another mother when it comes to hosting games our towns cannot.

Don't be surprised if 2018 breaks record for total batters hit by pitch

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usati

Don't be surprised if 2018 breaks record for total batters hit by pitch

If you want to have some lucrative fun this summer, see if you can find a casino that takes this prop bet: Total batters hit by pitch, one season.

And the reason? The new mound visit limitations, at least in part, and at least if Houston pitcher Lance McCullers has anything to say about it.

McCullers was trapped watching a televised analysis of the new quarter-measures set out jointly between labor and management to speed up play, at least incrementally, and did what all the cool kids do – he reacted on Twitter.

“Everyone wants to blame pace of play on mound visits or time in between pitches...” he typed after the talking heads referenced Game 7 of the World Series, which saw a parade of catcher visits to combat an apparent epidemic of sign-stealing. “Well MAYBE address the real issue at hand instead of trying to cover it up and (forcibly) insert rules that may affect the integrity of the game and alter the fairness of the game.

“You think I want to break rhythm and tempo during a game to talk about signs behind my glove? No, It’s a necessary reaction to an issue we, as pitchers and catchers, are facing. I guess enforcing the integrity by hitting batters is better than an extra 4 minutes to discuss signs.”

For “integrity,” autocorrect to “sign-stealing,” including the electronic methods, which apparently is now the scourge of the sport rather than a time-honored method of skullduggery. And the time-honored method for combatting that has been a fastball in the thigh . . . or ribs . . . or wherever the ball happens to go.

We make no claims re: the morality of this – only that it has always been used as the deterrent to brigandry of the strategic kind, and that it is likely to be the response of pitchers in the face of this new impingement on their right of between-pitches privacy.

And McCullers is not exactly alone, let alone radical, in his thinking. Never mind that the rule won’t be uniformly enforced (they never are), let alone that they will combat the problem the rule was installed to address. Pitchers and catchers and managers will work around the rules to achieve their own desired result, and if that includes one in on the wrists from time to time, then it will include one in on the wrists from time to time . . .

. . . with the predictable reaction of the hitters, which will actually lengthen game times and make the entire rule an absurdity with bruises and mound-chargings.

Baseball has never been played at a slower pace (average time 3:08, and all teams averaging at least three hours for the first time ever), and more batters have been hit than ever, though much of that is accountable to the latest expansion in 1998 and the increase in games. Still, the average of 0.38 per game was the sixth highest since 1900, and when you add the decrease in control, the increase in velocity and now the reaction to sign-stealers, I think with any real application you could see the first 2,000-HBP season, with an increase in man-games lost to injury and money spent on inactive players.

Then you’ll find out just how quickly the powers that be return to the drawing board to shorten game times more sensibly and comprehensively. Probably within 3:08, I’d wager.

For next year's All-Star game, NBA should focus on what really matters

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USATSI

For next year's All-Star game, NBA should focus on what really matters

The National Basketball Association got only one real lift from All-Star Weekend, and that is that LeBron James got to summarily dismiss Laura Ingraham.
 
Other than that, the big announcement after a largely uninspiring weekend was that Commissioner Adam Silver is going to televise more of the only thing the All-Star Game is actually good for – the assembling of the teams.
 
I suppose that isn’t exactly the bounce the league was hoping for from its first experiment in a format the National Hockey League abandoned as dated and the National Football League couldn’t make people care about their Pro Bowl, but the league’s bounce is the league’s problem.
 
So are the introductions, which one supposes will be sped up next year in Charlotte so as not to allow folks to remember why the game was in Charlotte two years after it was supposed to be in Charlotte.
 
But the only real production values the league ought to care about are the identities of the players on the two teams, if only because of our obsession with what we erroneously call “snubs.” If the idea is to see players irked by not being named, or elated by being named, then that is where the league’s focus ought to be.
 
That point was made fairly clear when Chris Haynes of ESPN was given the identities of the last two players drafted on this year’s teams – Boston’s Al Horford and San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge. That was supposed to be a closely guarded secret apparently at the behest of Stephen Curry (who had a tough weekend himself), and yet it tumbled out like so many others – because it was one of the few curiosities about this event.
 
So if the idea is that the selection of the teams is the only real value other than the weekend price-gouging, then Silver’s job is to finish the job that begins by televising the draft – specifically, to televise the selections of the backups from which the draft emanates.
 
I mean, why do the players have to show their work while the coaches do not? Why is secrecy allowed for the suits but not for the sweats? What sort of anti-egalitarian message is being sent here? Fight the power! Rage against the machine!
 
And then when that’s done, the league should cozy up to Las Vegas again to undo some of the damage caused by its ridiculous “integrity fee” fiasco. After all, one of the undertold stories of the weekend was the way the betting line for the total plummeted once the smart guys figured out the two teams would not try to break 200, and everyone loves a betting coup. Thus, keeping up to date on betting trends, one of Silver’s ongoing initiatives, would seem to be an imperative in the years to come.
 
Well, that, and coaxing some fringe political yammerhead to insult one of the players for no decipherable reason. That one never fails to stick the landing.