Pac-12; USC Arrogance, Warriors Moves, Billy Beane/Bob Geren; Barry Bonds
THE FALLOUT continues from the Pac-10’s addition of Utah and Colorado for the 2012 football season.
Nothing has been confirmed but there’s a ring of truth to the rumor that Utah and Colorado were promised that they’d be in a division with the L.A. schools and Arizona schools. That might make sense for them but it breaks up some longstanding rivalries.
In one case, it breaks up a rivalry within one university system, Cal-UCLA. That is more than a football rivalry. It is also the All-U weekend, when students and alums from all the schools in the university system come to Berkeley or Westwood for a weekend of celebrations around the game itself.
So, that’s going to be abandoned for a Utah-UCLA matchup or Colorado-USC? Those might be interesting as a one-time intersectional matchup, but they aren’t going to resonate with many outside the range of the schools involved. Gaining those games and losing traditional west coast rivalries is not a good tradeoff.
Economically, it could be a problem for Cal, too. Cal is undergoing a massive rebuilding and retrofitting of Memorial Stadium, along with the building of an athletic center on the west lawn of the stadium area. Part of that is supposed to be financed by the sale of PSLs. That’s already unpopular with loyal fans who won’t be able to afford them, and there may be more resistance if the wealthier alums realize they won’t see USC and UCLA on a regular basis.
Frankly, it’s not much of a bargain for Utah and Colorado, either, because they’ll have long trips for all their road games within this division.
But, otherwise, the new 12-team conference wouldn’t make any sense without a divisional split, either. The round-robin system would be too cumbersome with that many teams because there would be room for only one non-conference game.
Perhaps the new divisional split would allow the southern schools to continue playing the Bay Area schools and perhaps Oregon and Washington and not allowing the results to count in the divisional standings. That would be silly, but at least, the rivalries would be kept intact.
What a mess.
This expanded conference only made sense as a 16-team conference with two divisions, the old Pac-8 schools in one, with the Texas and Oklahoma schools, Colorado and the Arizona schools in the other.
But there’s a question Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott should have asked himself: What does Texas have to gain from leaving the Big 12? It was obvious to everybody but this numb-nuts that the answer was nothing.
As I’ve written before, Scott should be given a one-way ticket back to Florida.
USC ON PROBATION: There are many who share the blame for USC’s punishment by the NCAA, but none more than athletic director Mike Garrett, who was told of the problems in both football and basketball but did nothing.
Garrett’s response? On the day of the ruling, Garrett met with a group of boosters in San Francisco and said, “As I read the decision by the NCAA, I read between the lines , and there was nothing but a lot of envy. They wish they all were Trojans.”
WORLD CUP: When the U.S. team suffered from a bad call that cost them a chance for a win, those in the international body refused to give any information about the call, even who had supposedly committed the foul which nullified an American goal.
No surprise. International organizations, from FIFA to the International Olympic Committee, all act as a law unto themselves. They all consist primarily of older men who are more concerned with their creature comforts – luxurious hotel rooms, topflight restaurants – that was the needs of teams and athletes.
FIFA is also deadset against using television cameras for instant replay. Again, no surprise. That would represent change, which is a curse word to those in the organization.
When a sport operates within the borders of a country and under the supervision of officials from that country, there is a good chance that the sport will change with the times. We’ve seen that in football and basketball and even, to a lesser extent, in baseball.
But when it’s governed by an international body, nothing ever changes.
A’S WOES: In my overly optimistic evaluation of the A’s in the Examiner a couple of weeks ago, I left out one important fact: They have no manager.
Oh, they have a person with that title. His name is Bob Geren. But Geren has long been an example of the Peter Principle; he reached his level of competence at Triple-A. I thought he’d be a good choice for the A’s when he was promoted, but after observing him at first hand, I started writing two years ago that he should be replaced. And, the longer he’s around, the more he reinforces my belief that he can’t do the job.
Geren is an example of Billy Beane’s biggest weakness: He likes to, in effect, manage by proxy. His best manager was Ken Macha but he didn’t get along with Macha, who was independent. Everybody knows Geren is still where he is only because he and Beane are friends.
Geren’s handling of the pitching staff – the most important part of a manager’s job – has always been a problem. So has his belief that Jack Cust can actually play the outfield. When you’re trying to build around pitching, you have to give your pitchers the best possible defense, which isn’t possible with Cust out there.
Inter-league play has further exposed Geren. In a game against the Cubs at Wrigley last week, he brought in closer Andrew Bailey in the eighth inning but forgot to use the double-switch. Bailey was the leadoff hitter in the next inning, so Geren had to pinch-hit for him.
Geren’s post-game explanations were ridiculous. He claimed he was trying to limit Bailey, not pitching him more than one inning, so he could stay fresh. But if that were the plan, why bringing him in for the eighth inning?
Obviously, he had just forgotten he could make a double switch to have a hitter in Bailey’s spot. Is there anybody out there who thinks Bailey wouldn’t have stayed in if Geren had made the change?
In one of my e-mail exchanges with a reader who likes to talk about the “strategy” in National League games, I pointed out that a sixth-grader could make the decisions a National League manager has to make. Too bad Geren didn’t have a sixth-grader by his side in the dugout.
Until Beane gets over his managing-by-proxy style and not only fires Geren but brings in somebody who will make independent decisions, the A’s will continue to languish.
BARRY BONDS: The government’s appeal in its perjury case against Bonds was denied last week to the surprise of, well, practically nobody.
The government never had a case against Bonds. They were hoping to get testimony for their case from Greg Anderson, Bonds’ long-time friend and trainer, but Anderson didn’t oblige. They threw him in jail, but he still wouldn’t talk.
Finally, they tried to introduce testimony from a third party who claimed Anderson had told him something incriminating. That’s called hearsay and anybody who can spell the word knows it’s not allowed. The trial judge threw it out. The government attorneys appealed it, which one defense attorney said was the judicial version of the “Hail Mary.”
The bigger question is, why was this case ever brought?
The theory is that, if you convict a big fish, the little fish won’t try it. To believe that, you have to think that tripping up Martha Stewart on a fairly innocuous violation has stopped insider trading. Oh, yeah, definitely.
One thing that does happen in these cases is that government lawyers who are otherwise unknown are suddenly the subject of TV and newspaper interviews because they’re trying a big case.
The cynic in me says that this was the primary motive in this case. Bonds wasn’t accused of cheating anyone. He wasn’t even accused of taking performance enhancing drugs, just lying about it.
He was a baseball player, for heaven’s sakes. A very good one to be sure but he wasn’t any kind of criminal. Even if the government lawyers had won their case, it would have made no difference to anybody outside the court room.
I’d like to think that the government attorneys will apologize to the taxpayers for wasting so much of their money. But, I won’t hold my breath.
JUST ASKING: Does it seem to you that Houston is in the NL West? With this week’s series, the Giants will have played nine of their first 71 games against the Astros. Unfortunately for the Giants, they return to major league competition on Friday and won’t see the Astros for the rest of the year.
WARRIORS ORGANIZATION: When Larry Riley was made general manager of the Warriors last year, the assumption was that Don Nelson had engineered Chris Mullin’s departure and wanted Riley in his place because Riley, then an assistant coach, would do Nelson’s bidding.
I doubted that because Nelson and Mllin, who had played for him earlier, had always been close. And, Mullin had tried to give Nelson the players he needed. I saw the change as more of a power move by club president Robert Rowell. In private, Mullin had probably made it obvious that he knew Rowell was in place only because he was close to team owner Chris Cohan, not because of any special competence he had shown.
At a meeting last week with a few media types, including me, Riley only reinforced my previous belief. He noted that Nelson had had less input into the draft this year – in fact, Nelson had returned from Maui only a couple of days earlier – because this would be a draft for the future of the team, not just the next season. Though Nelson keeps hanging on, it seems unlikely that the new owner of the team will want him to stay after this season.
Riley has no guarantees, either, but he seems to be enjoying himself now. He said the impending sale hasn’t changed the way he operates. He has the limitation he’s always had – he can’t make a deal that would take the club into the luxury tax level – but otherwise, it’s the same.
The only change the Warriors have made is in the team logo, which now features the Bay Bridge, an acknowledgement that fans come from both sides of the bridge.
The new owner is not likely to make any sweeping changes immediately, though I would hope Rowell will soon be gone. Despite talk that the Warriors would move to a new arena built for them in San Francisco, they have years left on their lease in Oakland in an arena which was recently remodeled. Attendance has been high, though the team has had little playing success. San Francisco is a more glamorous city but when Dan Finnane spent a year studying the area before he and Jim Fitzgerald bought the team, he concluded that it was too difficult politically to get things done to even think of building an arena there.
DHB SHINES: Much has been made of the fact that second-year receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey has looked good in the Raiders spring workouts but I’d urge caution: There’s no hitting in these workouts.
A big part of DHB’s problems last year came because he was leery of contact. I remember vividly one game in which the Raiders were trying to come back in the fourth quarter but he let a ball go through his hands at about the 10-yard line because he was checking the defender who would hit him. The ball was intercepted and the Raiders’ comeback attempt was over.
Darren McFadden is another player who looked much better in practice, when he wasn’t hit, than he’s looked in games. He is not a guy who should be running between the tackles. If the Raiders are ever going to get a big contribution from McFadden, they have to figure a way to get him out in the open field, either on pitch outs wide or on passes.
As far as Heyward-Bey is concerned, remember that last year was not an aberration but a continuation of his pattern in college ball, where he had a reputation for dropping passes. If he’s now reliable….well, I’ll believe it when I see him do it in games.
TOO MUCH FOOTBALL: College football has often taken a cue from the pros but in one respect, the pros have followed the college example with their spring workouts. Between mini-camp and Organized Team Activities (OTAs), the pros now have 20 days of spring practice, just like colleges.
And, it’s too much.
When I first started covering pro football in 1967, there were no offseason workouts. Players worked their way into shape in summer camp, then played six exhibitions and 14 league games.
In one respect, there’s been a big improvement for players, medical treatment which enables players to recover more quickly from injuries. Injuries that used to sideline players for a season – or even end their careers – are now treated more efficiently, and players often return during the season.
The flip side is that they’re getting injured more frequently because there’s just too much football. The combined workouts in spring and summer exceed the old training camp workouts. Technically, they’re playing the same 20 games total, but the starters play very little in the exhibitions and most of the time in the league games, so they’re seeing more action. And, NFL commissioner Roger Goodall is pushing for a schedule of two exhibitions and 18 league games, which will be even more strain on the starters.
It’s too much. The NFL needs to cut down, even eliminate, these spring workouts and forget extending the season. Not just for the players. The added strain of extra practices and extra games also means a diminished product on the field. Enough, already!
NEXT WEEK: I have an eye appointment on Wedndsday morning, during which my eyes will be dilated. If I can, I’ll try to get my website column out Tuesday afternoon. If I can’t, it will be late Wednesday afternoon before I’ll be able to post it or e-mail it, if you’re on that list.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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