Ray Ratto

Ratto: NBA owners get their way ... not yours

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Ratto: NBA owners get their way ... not yours

Sept. 13, 2011

RATTO ARCHIVERAIDERS PAGE RAIDERS VIDEO

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CSNBayArea.com

The last time a sports league wanted to go from a soft salary cap to a hard one, that league stopped operating for a year.That was the National Hockey League in 2004-5, and while the owners got their hard cap, they also learned the other parts of the equation.1. There are ways to evade the hard cap.2. The struggles in their other occupations did not abate because of it.3. They still dont trust each other.4. They hate the current system just as much, which is why their negotiations next year will be just as protracted and ugly as the NBAs currently are.5. The sporting world is running out of billionaires.
Ostensibly, the owners intransigence, as shown yet again by their refusal to move off their original proposal in negotiations with the players union, is designed to even the playing field between the haves and the know-nots, but we know better.This is just about beating the players, and if there was a hard cap, the owners would want something else even more draconian. The minimum wage. The end of free agency. No more medical. Players provide their own equipment. Whatever.This right here is how the owners compete, and they want to be thought of as competitors just as much as the players do. They want to beat the players because theyre the only ones available to go after, and we know this for one reason.In fact, its the first reason. Namely, you cant legislate against smart, or stupid. Or for that matter, honor and treachery.Whatever the system, teams with the eye for brigandry will get around it. Thats what the NHL saw in the days, months and years since they gave away a season for a deal that most of the owners now hate as much as the previous one.This is about the fact that some owners have advantages that they want to press, and other dont have those advantages or dont know how to press them. And since they know inherently that none of them can truly be trusted in an atmosphere where trust is for saps, they can only go after the other available target.The employees.Which is why Tuesdays development should have shocked no living being. The NBA lockout has barely begun by labor standards, and we are still in the early stages of ugly. The moderates are outnumbered, and the cost of closed doors hasnt really begun to sink in.Eventually the center reassembles itself and cobbles together a new deal, though it wont be for awhile maybe even that year the NHL threw away. But the owners will be no better off in the end, because they cant help themselves. They will try to game the system they fought for, their fellow owners will not trust them or vice versa, and we will be back again in a few years doing the same dance. Because as long as this is about punishing the players for being the entertainment, the owners will miss the central point, which is this:They still like the players more than they like each other.Ray Ratto is a columnist at CSNBayArea.com.

A's focus on what's in front of them in shellacking of Rangers

A's focus on what's in front of them in shellacking of Rangers

OAKLAND -- Playoff fever raged through the A's clubhouse Monday night. You could tell by the fact that two of the three televisions after Oakland’s no-degree-of-difficulty 9-0 win over the Texas Rangers were tuned into...
 
Cardinals-Dodgers.
 
Of course Cardinals-Dodgers. Why wouldn't it be Cardinals-Dodgers? After all, showing Astros-Mariners would show to the prying eyes of the outside world that the time has come for them to start paying attention to that sort of thing, and since it’s still August, obsessing about the standings is still someone else’s job.
 
Like general manager David Forst, who was in managerBob Melvin’s office watching Seattle beat Houston, 7-4, on Robinson Cano’s eighth-inning three-run homer. It mattered to him that the A’s had pulled back into a tie with Houston for the AL West lead, at least enough to watch Edwin Diaz crush the Astros in the ninth, as is his wont.
 
But the rest of the boys handled it as just another night on the line. They bombarded the antediluvian Bartolo Colon and two Texas relievers for four homers and four doubles. Mike Fiers stole the notes from Trevor Cahill’s brilliant start Saturday and almost exactly matched it (Fiers had one more strikeout and threw five more strikes overall, but otherwise his pitching line was exactly Cahill’s).
 
Why, it’s as if Sunday’s 9-4 loss to Houston never happened at all.
 
Indeed, the only real angst of the evening occurred in the second, when Fiers gave up a leadoff double to Nomar Mazara and then hit Jurickson Profar five pitches later. Melvin winced; he needed Fiers to give his weary bullpen a night, and his plan looked to be in shards.
 
“I didn’t want to take him out,” the manager said. “I needed some innings tonight, and he looked like he didn’t have command of anything. But he and Luke (catcher Jonathan Lucroy) talked, and Luke told him that he was a little off line and not coming straight through, and all of a sudden he was like a new guy.”
 
Indeed. Profar was the last batter Fiers allowed to reach base; he retired batters six through 23 without incident, and by then the A’s had rained down Ramon Laureano and Khris Davis and Stephen Piscotty, and the game went from a potentially grisly one to a boat race.
 
The kind, truth be told, the A’s have come to master against the American League’s legion of bad teams.
 
Against the AL’s eight teams with losing records (they haven’t yet played Minnesota) and the two National League teams (San Francisco and San Diego), the A’s are 50-20. Of course, October doesn’t allow teams with losing records to participate, but as the clubhouse televisions tell us, it isn’t October yet. It isn’t even September yet. You can only win the games put in front of you, and the A’s have won 60 percent of all their games. That’ll play anywhere.
 
It will even play in Oakland, where the crowd of 9,341 embodied their first four-digit attendance since before the good times started to roll in mid-June. The task of turning word-of-mouth into walk-up crowds remains a daunting one for the organization’s designated tub-thumpers, but they’re the ones who kept saying how bad the ballpark and the city were, and they are still paying for those years of hubris-driven sins.
 
But on the field, where the real bills get paid, the A’s relocated the hammer they’ve been putting down on whatever team comes into town, and the ancillary perks will come when they come.
 
Probably about the time the uniformed gents start asking for the Astros to be put on the television.

 

Trevor Cahill's career day moves A's into tie with Astros atop AL West

Trevor Cahill's career day moves A's into tie with Astros atop AL West

OAKLAND -- It is generally agreed that Trevor Cahill has been a very useful piece of an often suspect Oakland A's rotation. I mean, Sean Manaea is not starting every second day, and Edwin Jackson has only so much trickeration to go around for the benefit of his 13th team.
 
Saturday, though, was Cahill's masterwork by any metric analysis, and it came at one of the dandiest times in this decade of Elephant baseball. An equal share of first place in the AL West was there to be had, a big crowd was in the building, the day was warm, the beer was cold and the bat rack had been charged with vibranium.
 
The result: Cahill’s best start ever, with a palindromic pitching line of 7 1 0 0 1 7 and (dork alert) a game score of 85, his highest ever and one of the 150 best, give or take, in franchise history. Oh, and the A’s beat Houston, 7-1, to move into a flat-footed tie for first place in the AL West with only too many games left to play.
 
“I think it’s so early in the year for that,” Cahill said afterward said of dealing with the rarefied air of mid-August baseball. “It’s not even September yet. I mean, it’s a divisional rival and all, so it’s not like I wouldn’t think about it, but...”
 
But Cahill isn’t going to get giddy on command. He knows he pitched well, very well, but rather than trip down memory lane for the 2010 start against Pittsburgh when he threw 7 2/3 innings of two-hit, 10- strikeout ball, or the late 2009 start against Texas in which he matched Saturday’s pitching line save for a second hit, he fretted about his mid-game changeup (“but I got some outs and the defense backed me up and we got some hits”).
 
Yes. Some hits – 11 of them, including eight doubles, only one of which (Stephen Piscotty’s one-out drive in the fourth) did not lead to a run in Oakland’s binge-and-purge attack. Indeed, this game had breezy shutout written all over it until the ninth inning, and only because backup left fielder Tony Kemp explained to a 90-mph fastball from Yusmeiro Petit what happens to most 90-mph fastballs these days.
 
But in hindsight, the key moment in the game was back in the second when Houston’s Yuli Gurriel hit a grounder that shortstop Marcus Semien couldn’t come to terms with. There was no reason for the moment to resonate at the time, but it was Houston’s only baserunner off Cahill until the seventh, and the only hit he allowed all day.

Had Semien made the play (which in fairness was not an easy bit of business), Cahill would have walked off the mound in the seventh with 100 pitches and a hammer over manager Bob Melvin’s head. Instead of an easy call to pull Cahill, Melvin would have had to wrestle with removing a pitcher on the cusp of a no-hitter, as he did April 21 with Sean Manaea.
 
“Oh, Cahill’s pretty easygoing, and I don’t think it would have been a problem,” Melvin said, lying only about 40 percent. “But yeah, that would have been interesting.”
 
Not just interesting though, but a much more tortuous decision given that Manaea was only at 84 pitches through seven innings back in April while Cahill’s 100 marked only the 14th time all season an Oakland starter has thrown that many pitches.
 
In other words, Melvin had a potential conundrum removed for him, with 32,000-some-odd angry customers on one shoulder and a glowering Billy Beane on the other.

So even when they don’t get outs these days, it still works fine for everyone.

As for the bigger picture, the A’s won their second straight against Houston, and their sixth in seven games, 13th in 16, 19th in 25, and 43th in 53, plus their 20th of 24 at home. They have wiped all 12 games they had spotted the Astros this year, 14 from Seattle, 10 from the Yankees, and even a half-game from the Boston Red Sox, who seem to have actually won more games than they have played this season.
 
And for the even bigger picture, they did all this in front of the sixth-biggest crowd of the year, and the first that didn’t feature the Giants, free admission or fireworks. This winning-80-percent-of-your-games thing may actually be catching on, even if they audience got screwed out of a Cahill no-hitter, a record-setting ninth double, or a chance to take the division lead outright.
 
But hey, that’s tomorrow’s plan. And if you don’t get all of that and then some, be sure to complain to club busybody-in-chief Dave Kaval. He’s the customer service jockey around here, and now that the standard for daily joy has been set, he had damned well better be prepared to meet it, or explain the failure.