Ray Ratto

With Del Rio gone, Mark Davis' legacy in Oakland on the line

With Del Rio gone, Mark Davis' legacy in Oakland on the line

Mark Davis went all-in with local names in 2017 on the theory that everything else with the Oakland Raiders was in place for a glorious if limited run. And with a third of that run now officially over, Davis’ patience has been replaced by an open wound.

Hence, Jack Del Rio has been fired as head coach as reward for an imploded season that ended with a dismal 30-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

But Del Rio's dismissal for doing half as well in his third year as his second doesn’t mean that Davis isn’t going to stay local. If, as has been rumored all of Sunday, he is chasing Jon Gruden to recreate the almost glories of the past, he is still going with a familiar figure whom fans will build into a savior, until such time as he proves not to be.

Whether Del Rio deserved to be sacked after a dreadful 6-10 season that undercut both the team’s reputation and that of most of its players is irrelevant. Heads roll when the blade is available, and his was the largest head at a time when someone (or some folks) needed to be canned. The team spent the entire year seemingly baffled and underinspired as well as injured, and the first two were far less forgivable based on the 12-4 record of a season ago. Even those who thought the team would regress didn’t see a free-fall of this magnitude, and the only unhappy observers now are those who wonder if general manager Reggie McKenzie might not be next to fall.

And that is likely to occur if Gruden returns, because Gruden isn’t returning to football to have a boss. If this is not another of his classic goose chases, he will come to Oakland demanding power and equity as though he were Vince Lombardi coming to Washington 50 years ago, and McKenzie isn’t likely to want to become Gruden’s phone.

In other words, with two years left in the history of the Oakland Raiders, they are starting again, perhaps with Gruden as their Grover Cleveland, the only president to have the job two separate times.

Indeed, a team once fabled for its stability has had only one coach last as long as four seasons since it returned north, and that was Gruden. The subsequent wins commingled with wars with Al Davis, and the result was Gruden being traded to Tampa Bay so that he could jam his index finger in Davis’ eye in Super Bowl The 37th. And whether the coach is Gruden or not, he will be the fifth under Mark Davis and the 13th in 23 years in Oakland 2.0.

The message is clear: Mark Davis is in a hurry to build something enduring that he can take to his new overlords in Nevada, and his impatience has led him to do what his father once did, and then undid. He is working a treadmill here that unless the next coach works the miracle Del Rio (and frankly even Gruden) could not, he will be remembered in Oakland as the guy who couldn’t be better than his father even after his father lost control of the game around him.

It’s a legacy that will haunt him until the day he sells controlling interest in the team – richer, possibly wiser but certainly no more admired for fixing the one thing he was just starting to call his own.

So if the next coach isn’t Jon Gruden, Davis had better have a good reason why not, and a better name than Gruden’s to offer instead. The early betting will not be kind on this proposition.

Raiders' exit feels much more imminent after reported broadcaster swap


Raiders' exit feels much more imminent after reported broadcaster swap

If Mark Davis really has decided to end Greg Papa’s tenure as the radio voice of the Oakland Raiders, then one of the last links between Oakland and the Raiders now is broken.
Rumors have spun for the better part of a month that Davis was looking to plant another flag in Las Vegas soil, and within the past few days, veteran network broadcaster Brent Musburger’s name has been linked to the job. Musburger is the main voice at gambling radio station VSiN and lives in Las Vegas, and as such is as recognizable a voice for the town as there is. The news of Musberger's hire by the Raiders was reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal late Tuesday.
The news picked up speed earlier Tuesday, first when tweeted out by “FakeRudyMartzke,” a largely credible voice on broadcasting gossip, and then picked up by AwfulAnnouncing.com and The Athletic. 
This would just be another inside-broadcasting story, though, if not for the fact that Papa, who's also a host for NBC Sports Bay Area, represents the second incarnation of the Oakland Raiders as Bill King represented the first, and breaking with that two years before the team’s actual departure from the Bay is another stark reminder of that departure.
The Raiders have not yet faced a real fan backlash over the decision to leave for Las Vegas, in large part because the process has gone so slowly and involved so many other cities. People have not only had a chance to face the fact that their team is leaving again, but the departure is not yet imminent.
Imminent arrives soon enough, though, and with it all the substantive and peripheral changes that will make the Raiders Nevada’s team. That Davis’ decision involves one of his father Al’s most trusted confidants also makes this another break with the old days, thus reinforcing Mark’s control of how the Raiders present themselves to the outside world.
The details on why Musburger has signed on for 2018 rather than 2020, when the Raiders are scheduled to relocate, still are to be ferreted out, but a team’s broadcaster, especially one with Papa’s tenure (21 years), is among the most enduring links between that team and its fan base, and change is jarring, especially as a harbinger of even bigger changes.
It is a change, though, that Davis is willing to undertake pre-emptively, either out of eagerness to begin the Las Vegas portion of his ownership or some professional/personal dissatisfaction with Papa. It breaks one of the last enduring bonds of this quarter-century of Oakland Raiders football, and with the minimal likelihood that there will ever be a third, this decision borders on the epochal.
In other words, Mark Davis now is making the Raiders' departure that much more real, and he's apparently ready to begin facing the belated reaction of a city scorned.

A's have obvious path at MLB trade deadline

A's have obvious path at MLB trade deadline

Trade deadlines often are exercises in fan tyranny, which is an odd thing to say about a group of people who hurl money and affection at their favorite teams with only a minimal possibility of return.
But fans do show what they think of their teams more aggressively around trade time, because they believe to their souls that teams show their devotion through player acquisition.
Be a buyer like the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are feverishly working to score shortstop Manny Machado from Baltimore, and the world loves you. Be a seller like the Orioles, and you die alone. Just check the attendance figures if you doubt that.
And do nothing? Well, if you’re not even going to try...
Which brings us to the Oakland Athletics, who might actually be best off being counter-intuitive doing exactly that much of nothing between now and the July 31 deadline-ette.
The reason? They might be good enough as is.
To believe this, one must first accept the idea that Houston, Boston and the New York Yankees are simply better teams that the A’s are not yet in position to overtake, either in the regular season or October.
One must then assume that Cleveland isn’t worth worrying about, which is the safest assumption of all because the Indians will not cross Oakland’s path, except in the unlikely event that both Oakland and Cleveland gather in the ALCS.
And finally, one must believe that the injury-savaged Seattle Mariners (without Felix Hernandez and James Paxton, their two best starting pitchers) are about to revert aggressively toward the mean.
And that would seem to be the obvious path to October for the A’s.
Sure, they could move Jed Lowrie for a starting pitcher, but does Jake Odorizzi make the A’s a World Series contender? Does J.A. Happ? And why do you weaken one of the game’s best offensive infields to do only that.
And they could get a nice haul of prospects by moving closer Blake Treinen, but does a team contend with Lou Trivino as its closer? Maybe, but it’s not a risk most teams would be willing to embrace.
Not only that, but Billy Beane has sworn on a stack of Fangraphs printouts that he is tired of being a seller and wants a team good enough to encourage roster stability. This is that roster – as long as you believe that it can’t be turned into the Red Sox overnight, which it can’t.
So this would be the best thing to hope for if you are an A’s fan. Unless you think Beane and David Forst can do a prospects-for-Jacob deGrom deal from the incredibly distressed New York Mets, standing with this roster is wise approach, flaws and all. As we said, this is counter-intuitive and very non-Beaneian, but a small yet recognizable bandwagon is gathering around them and it might just be perfect to emerge into the nation’s view as it is – the one American League team that isn’t too much a bully or, conversely, backing into the postseason like Cleveland.
This is not a permanent state, mind you. Once they break out, the A’s will be judged by their free agency and trade deadline work like everyone else. But for this one year, this one set of circumstances, the A’s might be better off being the A’s.
But if Machado comes open at the last minute... if he’s willing to play second... and bat seventh... oh, God, we’re getting sucked into the deadline vortex, aren’t we?