Giants/Tampa Bay; A's Mystery Move; Raiders Chances; Football Terminology, Officiating; Warriors Future
by Glenn Dickey
Nov 10, 2010

THE ECONOMIC problems of the Tampa Bay Rays, coupled with the first World Series championship for the Giants in San Francisco, are a reminder how the National League dodged a bullet in late 1992.

Now, everything is rosy for the Giants and the Rays, though they probably should have been in the World Series, are going to unload star players to cut costs because their attendance has been near the bottom even when they’ve won.

This scenarios is the opposite of what might have been predicted in 1992.

As I’m sure you remember, Giants owner Bob Lurie had signed a contract with a group in Tampa to move the Giants to St. Petersburg for the 1993 season.

At the time, major league baseball was excited about the possibilities of the Tampa Bay area. The Chicago White Sox had threatened to move there earlier, although I think that was mostly to blackmail Chicago and the state of Illinois into building a new park for them, which happened.

Meanwhile, Lurie had grown tired of the struggle to maintain attendance at Candlestick. In a 72-90 season, attendance had dropped to about 1,560,000 – about 900,000 less than the A’s across the bay in Oakland.

So, he sold the Giants. But San Francisco had a silent ally in National League president Bill White, who had a brief history with the Giants. He had been part of their glut of quality first basemen, getting just 29 at-bats in San Francisco in 1958 before he was traded for pitcher Sam Jones in 1959. He became an All-Star first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals.

But, I’m sure his brief Gians connection was a very minor element in White’s thinking. For the prestige of the league, he was not ready to give up the prestigious and glamorous city of San Francisco for St. Petersburg, best known as a retirement haven.

Meanwhile, a San Francisco group was put together by Walter Shorenstein. Because I was talking to Shorenstein, San Francisco mayor Frank Jordan, agent Leigh Steinberg and Larry Baer, now the president of the Giants, I was writing that the Giants could be saved for San Francisco – while others were writing as if the Giants move were a fait accompli.

I was assigned to cover the National League meetings in St. Louis where the move would be discussed, and it was obvious that White was stalling, to give the San Francisco group a chance to get everything lined up.

That meeting ended with no decision made, but soon after that, the San Francisco group officially bought the Giants from Lurie, who retained a minor percentage. Shorenstein stepped back and Peter Magowan became the head of the group and the managing general partner of the Giants. Before the deal was even concluded, Magowan signed Barry Bonds, after getting the needed permission from Lurie.

The league told the new ownership they needed a new park. The group agreed, and MLB agreed to give the new ownership exclusive rights to major league baseball in the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara.

Since building a park privately, the Giants have been a huge success in attendance, going over three million in eight of the 11 years in the park, including this season. And now, they’ve capped it with a World Series title.

Meanwhile, Lew Wolff, as managing general partner of the A’s, has been trying to move the team to San Jose. There has been a relentless din lately from that city, with seemingly a new story every week. The one that most amused me: a report that the Giants rights in Santa Clara would expire within 10 years of their new park opening. If that were true, of course, Wolff would have everything ready to go now.

A San Jose columnist who puts his emotions before logic, has said on KNBR and in his column that the owners would meet after the World Series, take away the Giants rights in Santa Clara County and award reparation rights to the Giants. But the Giants have steadfastly refused to consider accepting a buyout. The Silicon Valley people were instrumental in building AT&T Park and they’re still a solid part of the fan base. Losing them would cut into their attendance dramatically.

As for that postseason meeting in which the owners would set aside the Giants territorial rights, Wolff whined in an interview with the “Athletics Nation” that the committee baseball commissioner Bud Selig had appointed had been meeting for three years but he had no idea when they were going to report or what.

So much for the “scoop” about the owners actions.

So, put aside the very real threat of a Giants lawsuit if the owners tried this and consider that it would take a ¾ vote of owners in both leagues to change this provision. Why would National League owners vote to weaken one of their franchises – and decrease the amount of money they take away from games in San Francisco – to benefit the owner of an American League club?

Selig never brings an issue to the table until he has overwhelming support for it. Now you know why he’s never put this one out there. And why he never will, no matter how much they scream in San Jose..

MEANWHILE, CAN somebody please tell me what the hell the A’s are doing? It certainly doesn’t make sense to me.

After being super frugal during the Wolff/John Fisher years, they’ve committed to a $15 million bid just to have the right to negotiate with Japanese righthander Hisashi Iwakuma.

Iwakuma is a good pitcher, but the A’s strength has been their young (and, mostly, cheap) pitching staff. The reasoning is that they could trade one of their young pitchers to get a power hitter from another club. Vin Mazzano has been the obvious choice, but he’s not going to bring a topnotch player in return. Trading Gio Gonzalez would be a big mistake, I think, because he doesn’t have great value now but has the potential of a big upside. And Trevor Cahill or Brett Anderson? Are you kidding me?

The A’s should follow the lead of the Giants, who resisted the calls to trade one of their good young pitchers for a bat.

The A’s thinking is that they can’t get topnotch free agents to come to Oakland but that’s because the players see what we all see: Under Wolff/Fisher, the emphasis has been on driving attendance down to try to make it seem that they can’t succeed in Oakland. The driving attendance part has certainly worked; attendance was 2.2 million the year before Wolff/Fisher bought the team. It’s been just over 1.4 million the last two years.

Until they really start trying to win – which means getting a real manager instead of an empty suit in the dugout – no, top players won’t come here. Why should they?

So, it’s up to the A’s to start trying to build a winning team again, and that won’t be done by bidding extravagantly for a Japanese pitcher who would be No. 3 behind Cahill and Anderson.

DUH RAIDERS: Reader Phil Lichtenstein points out that the Raiders face an important obstacle in their quest for a division title: the schedule.

Kansas City plays only two plus .500 teams the rest of the way, Tennessee and Oakland. Those games are the last two of the season and they’re both in Kansas City.

After their bye week, the Raiders travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers. They also have to play the Chargers in San Diego, and the Chargers will be sky high after losing that improbable game in Oakland. And, the last two games are Indianpolis at home and the Chiefs in Kansas City.

I’ve been impressed by the way the Raiders have come together as a team, but if the season comes down to that final game in Kansas City, I don’t like the chances of the Silver and Black.

FOOTBALL TERMINOLOGY: It drives me crazy when announcers for NFL games talk about players putting a “hat” on a player. Those are helmets, not hats. Of course, they’ve picked that up from coaches and are trying to show they’re hip, just as with the constant use of “football” as in “this football team”. Otherwise, we might think we were watching racquet ball, I suppose. Also, “seams in the zone,” which simply means open areas in English. But English seems to be a foreign language to these clowns.

Of course, we have to remember that they’re TV announcers and fitting the norm. My wife and I watch the Channel 2 news and have noticed that Bill Martin can no longer say “a storm is coming in.” It’s always “a big event” or “not a big event.”

NFL OFFICIATING: Didn’t you love the officiating in the Raiders-Chiefs game? Never saw so many phantom pass interference calls. Not to mention that they lost two downs in one KC sequence near the Raiders goal. Did anybody check the officials room at halftime? Maybe they thought Proposition 19 had passed.

FOOTBALL HITS: At a time when the NFL is cracking down on overly rough plays, like helmet-to-helmit hits (or is that known as “putting a hat on him”), the colleges are much more lenient. The hit in the Oregon State game that put Cal quarterback on the sidelines for the rest of his collegiate career would have merited an expulsion and stiff fine in an NFL game, but it wasn’t even a penalty in this game. I would never have thought it would be more dangerous to play college football than pro.

CAL SCHEDULE: I’m hoping Cal’s win on the road against Washington State will finally end this ridiculous story line with writers wondering why the Bears could be so good at home and so bad on the road.

It’s the schedule, stupid.

This year, before last weekend, the Bears had played Nevada Reno, Arizona, USC and Oregon State on the road. They barely lost to Arizona, a team I think has been vastly overrated and is probably going to fall dramatically in the rankings now that they’re in the tough part of their schedule. Otherwise, does anybody think they would have beaten any of the other three teams if they’d played them at Memorial Stadium? The scores might have been somewhat closer, but the results would have been the same.

Conversely, they’ve played UC Davis, Colorado, UCLA and Arizona State at home. Arizona State is the only one of the four that is a reasonably good team, and that was probably the best game the Bears have played this season. The other three would have been easy wins for the Bears if they’d been played on the moon.

The Cal home streak will be broken this week in what will probably be a hide-your-eyes game against Oregon. The Ducks have been obliterating everybody, averaging more than 50 points a game, and I see no reason why they won’t do that to the Bears, too. And, I don’t have high hopes for the Big Game at Berkeley.

WARRIORS: For the first time in nearly two decades, it seems the Warriors are building a foundation for repeated success, even if it doesn’t totally work this year.

I’ve been impressed by the work of Larry Riley as the Warriors general manager. I didn’t expect that when he took over because I thought he would just be doing the bidding of his friend, Don Nelson, for whom he had worked as an assistant coach.

It hasn’t worked that way at all. Riley has made his own decisions and he said pointedly in a pre-draft session with writers this spring that he was building a team for the future, not just this year – a clear indication that Nelson would be gone as soon as contractural details could be worked out.

Riley drafted Stephan Curry to be the cornerstone of the franchise. He turned the roster over almost completely in the offseason, with an emphasis on defense and rebounding.

The result is a team much different than the ones Nelson liked to put out there, a team which can control the boards and shut down the other team in crunch time. And, not coincidentally, win on the road.

Keith Smart, who served an apprenticeship for several years, has stepped into the head coaching job with confidence that he belongs. The players like and respect him, and he’ll get in their faces when he needs to.

I’m not predicting anything for this season because the Warriors are in the tougher conference, but I think their fans will be rewarded for their loyalty by a team that will give them a great effort every night. It’s a long time since we’ve seen that.

RADIO: I’ll be on with Ken Dito at 9:25 a.m. Thursday on KTRB, 860 a.m.

NEXT WEEK: I’ll probably post my column late Tuesday because I’ll be going to the Guardsmen’s Big Game luncheon on Wednesday.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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