Ray Ratto

Why this MLB offseason is so big for both A's and Giants

Why this MLB offseason is so big for both A's and Giants

So the baseball season is something that happens to other people now, is it?
 
I mean, it doesn’t have to be that way, of course. Playoff baseball is the best, as long as one team doesn’t score a lot early and bore the game into submission. You know, like the New York Yankees did to Oakland Wednesday night.
 
But now that the offseason has been forced upon you, it is time to examine both local teams in tandem because, as we are about to learn, the massive gaps in interest between the Giants and A’s are closing, and are going to continue to close. This has at least a small chance to finally be more than just a split-cap rivalry.
 
Given that, this is a massive offseason for both teams, for vaguely related reasons. Allow us a moment here:
 
THE FRONT OFFICE/THE OWNER
 
In Oakland, John Fisher has to get off the contractual dime with Billy Beane, David Forst and Bob Melvin, a seeming no-brainer given the results (the A’s have outperformed the Giants by 36 games since the All-Star break of 2016, which is the demarcation line for the freefall of the Giants and therefore the one we intend to use) but a question mark because Fisher has overseen change in all the non-baseball areas of the franchise as the annual revenue sharing gift from Major League Baseball is now half of what it has been, and will vanish in two years.

And we're not even asking him to say and do something public like submit to a press conference. We know better than that.

In San Francisco, Larry Baer, who is not a baseball guy and never can be, has to make an important baseball hire and have his name slapped all over the result. Being a face of the franchise in good times is easy work, but in lean ones can be its own path to doom. Baer has to decide whether the baseball side needs a complete cleanout or an incremental one, pick the right person to oversee that, and let said person run with his backing. The history of struggling franchises is of owners/presidents deciding they are experts in things they are not expert in is almost uniformly disastrous (see Jerry Jones for further evidence). Baer either makes a brilliant hire and leaves said hire to do what must be done, or he is doomed to repeat that history.
 
THE PARK
 
In Oakland, the time for unfocused blathering and stammering is long past over, and Fisher has to pick a site for the park he has always believed would be the franchise’s lifeline to independent profitability. The latest signs point toward Howard Terminal, especially with the new legal fast-tracking done in Sacramento, but a remodeled Coliseum was fast-tracked, and Peralta was fast-tracked, and San Jose was fast-tracked, and Fremont before that. The argument about where to put the park has gone on for far too long, to the point where most folks have simply lost interest. It is time for Fisher to actually put on a yellow hardhat, pose for a silly photo with a bunch of vacant-looking city big shots and look like there is an actual plan upon which action will be taken.
 
In addition, their average crowd rose only by 1,200 this past year, though it was nearly 3,800 better from first half to second. They need to find ways to connect with even more people in the town in which they claim to be rooted. Maybe they sign Marshawn Lynch to work out of the bullpen.
 
In San Francisco, official attendance figures have dropped by 2,700-plus since the last World Series honeymoon in 2015, and nobody expects that figure to do anything but decelerate further. The illusion of ticket scarcity is a tough one to lose, and even after you acknowledge that official crowd counts are routinely inflated and otherwise not indicative of actual filled seats, the Giants are now a ridiculously easy and inexpensive ticket to get and after two monstrously bland/bad years, that is only going to increase.
 
THE PITCHERS MOUND
 
In Oakland, the A’s need at least one starting pitcher from the outside world and full-time health from injured alums like Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs and prospectissimos Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk. They’ll also need to thin out a bit of their bullpen herd, though picking the right time to do that depends on how quickly they can repopulate the rotation. Bullpenning is charming and all, but it is not yet as effective as starters who last past the first trip to the restroom.
 
In San Francisco, where the ballpark demands pitching to be the greatest asset and most crying need, the need is hyperacute. Dereck Rodriguez might be the real deal, but the second most noteworthy issue is whether to retain Madison Bumgarner or go in full-on housecleaning mode and use him as asset attraction. The Giants lack pitching across the board, which nearly matches their absence of hitters, but everyone agrees that task will take multiple seasons. The rebuild they denied they needed is now well into Defcon 1.
 
THE REST OF THE ROSTER
 
In Oakland, Beane has to announce loudly and aggressively, “These are our guys. It’s safe to buy their jerseys. Honest. This time I really mean it. We’ll sign guys before we need to, just to show you how tied to this team we really are. Josh Donaldson is the old way of doing business.”
 
And then he has to hope people believe him this time.
 
In San Francisco, Executive X has to announce loudly and aggressively, “Other than Buster Posey, who is on scholarship, we are SO open for business. If you can’t make us an offer, we’ll make one to you. Plus, free delivery. You’ll barely recognize us in two years. Hell, I barely recognize us now.”
 
And then he or she has to hope not to be overruled by the nostalgia wing of the franchise.
 
THE PUBLIC
 
In Oakland, the A’s have worn their defensive posture as The Team Nobody Looks At for longer than is considered appealing. It is time to say in a clear, loud voice, “If you want baseball, you come to us. It's not even a choice any more. No more whining about the park, or the city, or anything else. We’re where the cool kids are going to hang out next year.”

You know. Swag it up a bit.

In San Francisco, the Giants have worn their smug posture as The Happiest Place With Bases On Earth for far longer than is considered appealing. It is time to say, “The World Series years are beloved but gone, mined clean, played out, and we’re not going to reference those days again until we fix these days.”
 
In the meantime, the divisional series begin tonight. That is, for those of you who are done pouting that your seasons ended too early.

Why 2019 will be the Year of Real Estate for Bay Area sports teams

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AP

Why 2019 will be the Year of Real Estate for Bay Area sports teams

There are lots of ways 2019 can go, sporty-wise, and this won’t be one of those insipid end-of-year columns predicting anyone’s future, or making resolutions for them, or even pretending its actually 2020 and looking back at 2019. The present is difficult enough for all of us, as you might have guessed by reading and listening to us all these years.
 
No, here you will get something you actually know will be true. Oh, it’ll still be insipid, but you can’t have everything, at least not at these prices. So here goes next to nothing.
 
In 2019, the major story in these parts will be real estate. Stadium real estate.
 
Oh, there will be games, to be sure – 700 pro events, give or take the odd postseason game, hundreds of college events not including the annual Alabama-Clemson game, and all the weird offseason dramas about who’s signing with whom and who isn’t going to like it and how many millions will be burned to make this whole pageant work.
 
But it’s still stadium stuff that will be of the most impact, and unless that sort of thing starts your engine, this could be a pretty dry year. Nothing sucks quite like stadium suck. The story seems to last forever, it often has no resolution, and when it does, it means prices are going up or availability is going down. But let’s do the walkthrough.
 
1.        The Oakland Raiders are playing somewhere in 2019, but nobody knows where yet, which is so very Raiders. Only they can institutionalize homelessness because only they work by the seat of their pants this often while pretending to a team whose “greatness is in its future.” 
2.        The Golden State Warriors are moving west and going to tell us all about it every day to the point that we may forget that there’s a basketball team attached to the new place. There’s no telling how much longer their dynasty will last, but it will happen against a backdrop of seat licenses and tickets for games that you can’t see.
3.        The San Francisco Giants are celebrating the 20th year at their park by seeing the Warriors move next door and start poaching event customers, while trying to decide if it needs the Raiders to chew up the field of their 75-win baseball team.
4.        The Oakland Athletics are going to keep futzing around the Howard Terminal site until they actually commit to ordering a shovel, which is when we can finally take them at face value on this matter.
5.        The San Francisco 49ers have to figure out how to hide all the empty seats that have framed their work product for the last five years because while their stadium may be a cash cow, cows are not particularly telegenic.
 
It’s not all stadiums everywhere, though. Our local colleges don’t have the building itch, the Sacramento Kings don’t factor into this because they’ve already done the arena thing and are finally crafting a team worthy of the building, and the San Jose Sharks, maybe uniquely, don’t want a new building even though theirs is more than 25 years old.
 
Yes, don’t want a new building. Owner Hasso Plattner, the German billionaire who bought the team because he likes hockey even though he still lives mostly in Germany, negotiated a new lease three years ago that runs through 2025 and pays $0 in rent in exchange for somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million in upgrades to keep SAP Center. That doesn’t mean they won’t want something new in the future on someone else’s dime, just that they have been silent on building matters since 2015 and remain so now.
 
But the Raiders in and of themselves are such a roaringly hot mess geographically that they may be the first team in the post-merger era (1970) to have nobody want them at all, and that’s a story in and of itself. The latest development is that two members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and a Supervisor-elect came out last week opposing the Giants potentially undercutting Oakland by picking up their team for a quick four-month slap-and-tickle.
 
This might drag Levi’s Stadium back into the whither-the-Raiders debate, even though neither landlord (Jed York) nor tenant (Mark Davis) seem to want anything to do with each other. And it keeps Oakland as the favorite to house the team for its true farewell season . . . that is unless the stadium in Las Vegas gets stalled for some unforeseen (or very foreseen, as these things go) reason.
 
The A’s remain in the Coliseum for the next few years, but have to advance beyond the artist’s rendering stage for the Howard Terminal version of their new park, which as we know isn’t a stage at all but merely watercolor sketches. What they do from this point on is the hard part, and there are skeptics who believe they might chuck it all in anyway, beg to relocate out of the area and throw themselves on the sandpapery mercies of Commissioner Rob Manfred, who remembers that the A’s voted against him when he was running for commissioner after Bud Selig’s retirement. Either way, that’s a year-long talker, too.
 
As for the Warriors, they will now move to the waterfront palace Joe Lacob cares about more than basketball, and if you think that won’t bring added pressure to the already exhaustive matter of keeping the dynasty fueled and stocked, you haven’t seen the way Lacob can agonize over a second-quarter turnover against the Suns.
 
Most of this will not be true in 2020. The Warriors will be fully embedded in the city, the Raiders will be moving-vanned to Nevada and the A’s will either be staring at a hole in the ground or have to explain why they’re not. By 2020 the 49ers will have to show tangible signs that they can get this football thing right and maybe put more of their seats to use, and the Giants will be a year into their rebuild and the simultaneous fight with the Warriors for non-baseball events.
 
Some of those problems will be resolved in 202 for good or ill, and we can move on to the games and the players and the coaching and the drama and the rumors and the gambling and all the other things that make us care as much as we do about spectator sport. Hell, we might even get a firing or two just to break up the monotony.
 
But for the most part, 2019 is about where we watch just as much as what we watch. Were I you, I’d drink. This could get . . . well, insipid. 

What Raiders, 49ers had in common proves Bay Area can endure football

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USATSI

What Raiders, 49ers had in common proves Bay Area can endure football

Well, this much good happened on the last day of the 2018 football season, Bay Area Editions: The Oakland Raiders managed to finish their work in record time.
 
Their work, mind you, was to lose to the Kansas City Chiefs, which they did by turning the ball over the first four times they got it en route to a 35-3 mauling. The record time was two hours and thirty-seven minutes, which is ungodly fast for a game so formatted to get in all the possible advertisements that anything under three hours is an oddity, and anything under 2:40 is a game from 1967.
 
And if you want to be a pedant about it, it was the fastest game in nine years, the last being a tedio-spectacular between Jacksonville and New England won by the Patriots, 35-7, in 2009.
 
Now given that the 49ers played nearly an hour longer to lose to the Los Angeles Rams, 48-32, AND scored the last two touchdowns to make a rout look like a wacky circus, I guess that means that San Francisco was the superior team this year. Well, that and the fact that their most convincing win in five years had come against had come against the Raiders.
 
But there was plenty of very little for each team in 2018 as they extended their streak of non-winning combined records to 16 years, and there was something to be said for the fact that they were also 28th and 32nd against the point spread in 2018. In short, two public teams offended the public both in real life and BettingWorld.
 
But now that we all are clear on what happened, what happens next? I mean, other than the 49ers either picking second or trading down, and the Raiders picking fourth or trading in either direction?
 
Well, the Raiders need a place to play that is more developed than Bushrod Park, and the 49ers need to make Levi’s Stadium seem less like a furniture store on a rainy Saturday. The 49ers need to break in their new-old quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, and the Raiders need to decide if they can or want to move forward with the increasingly beleaguered Derek Carr.
 
After that, they both need to demonstrate that the Bay Area can still endure professional football. I mean, the Raiders are beating feet out of town soon enough, but the 49ers have spent their margin for error with John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, and the 21st Century hasn’t been very useful for the Bay Area.
 
These were two once-mighty franchises rendered low, lower and below the horizon, and 2018 was the lowest in years. Both teams had injuries, personnel shortages and general malaise. They both won four games, and there is no way to make that seem like anything other than the eyesores they were.
 
And while we are no longer naïve enough to believe that the Raiders are going to be anything other than inertia embodied in 2019 as Gruden continues the teardown that preps the team for Las Vegas, the 49ers need to have the season in 2019 that 2018 was advertised to be rather than what 20-17 ended up being. Shanahan is 3-19 in months other than December (and the team 7-38 since Jim Harbaugh was shown the front gate), which is Hue Jacksonian no matter what excuse you apply, and those fans who still will have a team in two years are wearying of being spoilers before Halloween.
 
We’d like to tell you that things are going to get better for both teams in 2019, but we thought that in 2018, 2017 and 2016, too. Selling hope to dispirited customers is how big-box scores went bankrupt, so it’s probably psychologically safer to sit back and wait for this alleged improvement to happen. Hey, it worked for the Warriors.

[RELATED: What we learned in 49ers season-ending loss to Rams]
 
But credit where its due. The Raiders knew what the audience wanted Sunday, and gave it to them -- a quick hello-and-goodbye and an early flight home to fearfully contemplate Jon Gruden’s second offseason. Their offseason might not be fun, but at least it started sooner.