Mark Davis/Carol Davis/Reggie McKenzie/Dennis Allen; Jim Harbaugh/Trent Balke/Anquan Boldin/Colin Kaepernick; Joe Lacob
THERE WAS a lot of noise surrounding the Raiders last week but very little actually happening. I suppose we should be accustomed to that.
First, Mark Davis told a Chronicle writer that the Raiders need a new stadium in Oakland and then former executive Amy Trask said in a radio interview that Mark was being stupid and that he should call up the 49ers immediately and make a deal to move in with them.
Neither of those is going to happen. Oakland certainly isnít going to pay for a new stadium, while still paying for the updates on the current one, and Mark isnít going to cross his mother to move to Santa Clara.
The situation is a complicated one. Though writers keep interviewing him, Mark isnít making any decisions on his own. He said at the press conference where Reggie McKenzie was announced as the general manager that he does not know football and that he would not interfere with those decisions. He relies heavily on what he hears from, among others, Ron Wolf and John Madden, which is smart.
Meanwhile, his mother, in her 80s, still has her say in matters that are important to her. Most of those involve her late husband. I believe the firing of PR director Zak Gilbert last year was what Carol wanted. When Sports Illustrated wanted to do a story on the Raiders, Gilbert granted access, which is what PR directors are supposed to do but hadnít been done with the Raiders since I was covering them in the late Ď60s. The ensuing story was critical of Al Ė it would have been impossible to do a reasonable story without that Ė so Gilbert got fired.
Significantly, Gilbert was sent home but it was six weeks before he was officially fired. If this really had been Markís decision alone, he could have made it immediately. My educated guess is that he was trying to talk his mother out of it but failed. Gilbert, not incidentally, got another job quickly because he has a good reputation around the league.
I believe Carol Davis is also behind her sonís desire to stay in Oakland. Those of you who have been to games know that, before every game, there is a symbolic lighting of the torch ceremony, as a former player (usually) ascends the stairs in the southwestern section of the stadium.
There is nothing like that in any other NFL stadium, for a good reason, and it certainly wouldnít be permitted in the 49ers stadium in Santa Clara. So, the Raiders stadium issue is stuck on neutral until Carol Davis dies Ė or the team is sold, which is unlikely.
Beyond the fact that the city and county canít afford a new stadium is the fact that a football stadium is a very bad investment for a community. Counting exhibitions, there are only 10 games played there and football fans tailgate before and after games. They do not patronize restaurants in the area.
Conversely, baseball parks can be a very good investment for cities, if theyíre located where businesses are. Oakland mayor Jean Quan has a grandiose plan for the area, which she terms Coliseum City, which could work if businesses came there. But like all of the mayorís plans, this has so far been nothing more than rhetoric.
I think it would be much better to build a new baseball park in the area around Jack London Square, where many apartments and restaurants are already. Prominent Oakland businessmen have said theyíd finance a new park in that area, if Oakland owner Lew Wolff would face the reality that he isnít going to be able to move the franchise to San Jose.
Forget the urban legend that Walter Haas gave territorial rights to Bob Lurie in the early Ď90s, a fable that showed up yet again in The Chronicle on Sunday. The Giants rights to the territory stem from the deal made just before the National League voted in late 1992 to let the Giants stay in San Francisco: The Giants had to get a new park built within 10 years and they would then have exclusive rights down the peninsula into San Jose. Thatís why MLB commissioner Bud Selig has never brought this issue to a vote.
So, both the Raiders and Aís remain in a facility built in 1968 and, despite the upgrade in the Ď90s when the Raiders returned, is an outmoded facility for both teams. But when you have owners unwilling to accept reality, youíre stuck.
Meanwhile, this is a make-or-break year for both McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen, who has acknowledged that. Itís been unfair to judge either man because Al Davis left such a mess behind, the Daily Double of underperforming players who were seriously overpaid. McKenzie had to clean out the roster and get under the salary cap, which he has done. Allen had to make do with mostly inferior players.
Now, McKenzie has the team well under the cap, so he has the flexibility to get the players the Raiders need. Allen should finally have a true NFL roster, so the pressure will be on him to produce.
I wrote that, when McKenzie took over, it would take two years for him to clean up the mess before we saw progress in the third year. Weíre here now, so I think it will be very interesting to see what the Raiders do.
JIM HARBAUGH continues to make news, with an interview with Michael Rosenberg when he denied that he and Trent Baalke canít work together. (I addressed this and the crazy idea that players are turning against Harbaugh in my Tuesday Examiner column.)
And, BTW, itís time to retire that story line that Harbaugh only lasts three years in a job before he has to move on. Look at his coaching career: He started at the University of San Diego, moved to Stanford, then to the 49ers. The first two moves were to better jobs. Where could he go from the 49ers that would be better?
Yes, he can be a hard-ass, but never forget that the view youíre getting of Harbaugh comes from the media, with which he seldom cooperates. I think it would be in his best interests to be more media friendly, but thatís his business.
When he signed a new contract with the Niners, receiver Anquan Boldin also said a column in Sundayís Chronicle claiming that players were unhappy with Harbaugh was off base. The column in question cited anonymous sources. Iíve used information from sources who didnít want to be identified, with Bill Walsh being the most obvious, but when Iíve done that, Iíve always been confident my information was accurate. That no longer seems to be a requirement for writers today. Itís all about having the story first, not being accurate.
As Gary Radnich noted on KNBR, I also showed up in the locker room if I had criticized anybody, so players who were unhappy with me had direct access.
THE RAISING of the salary cap by $3 million made it possible for the Niners to re-sign Boldin; it would have been very difficult to sign Boldin and keep the rest of the team together.
Now, the question is whether they can sign Colin Kaepernick to a contract extension. In another of those stories Iím not sure I believe, Kaepernick is asking for $18 million a year. If he is, thatís outrageous, and still another reason to wait and see.
As you undoubtedly know, Iím not convinced Kaepernick is the long term answer for the Niners. Yes, heís still relatively young but heís a year older than Russell Wilson, a year further in his pro career and has more physical ability. But Wilson has shown poise under pressure, an ability to adapt to change and a willingness to move the ball around to different receivers. Those are exactly the areas where Kaepernick has come up short. He can make some unbelievable plays at times but the 49ers significant problems in the red zone are chiefly his fault, and he often comes up short against quality defenses in the fourth quarter. Until he shows improvement in those areas, the Niners should hold off on a new contract.
THE WARRIORS continue their frustrating ways, looking great one night, terrible the next. Owner Joe Lacob has taken a very personal interest in this team, orchestrating the trade for Andrew Bogut and the drafting of Klay Thompson Ė both excellent moves Ė in the first year that he and Peter Gruber owned the team, but I think heís going to be disappointed in the results this year. The Warriors should make the playoffs but it will be one-and-out. They donít measure up against the top NBA teams.
I think Lacob is also going to be frustrated in his attempt to build a huge real estate project on the waterfront, disguised as a new arena, because the issue will be voted down by the people. A petition to put this issue on the ballot got more than double the required signatures in less than 72 hours.
The Board of Supervisors, having given a blank check to Lacob and Gruber on this project, is now trying to shoot down the opposing ballot proposition. It would be better if they did their jobs properly, not just rubber stamping anything developers want.
Meanwhile, another story surfaced Monday saying that the Giants and Warriors might agree on an arena in the back part of the Giants main parking lot. I doubt that very much. The Giants have another plan for that area and Lacob seems to want a monument to himself on the waterfront. An arena in the back of the Giants parking lot hardly fills the bill.
From a fans standpoint, the current Oracle Arena is as close to perfect a location as you could find for a Bay Area basketball team, and the team sells out every game. The arena is accessible by freeway or BART from San Francisco, Oakland and Contra Costa County. Thereís no BART for San Jose fans but thereís easy freeway access.
San Francisco fans were excited about the Warriors coming back to the city they left more than 40 years ago but they wouldnít be so excited as they saw the massive traffic jams along the Embarcadero. Lacob and Gruber have plans for 220 nightly events, only 41 of them Warriors games. Iíve driven in that area many times, as late as 8 p.m. going to TV appearances and the traffic varies from heavy to stopped. I donít even want to think about what it would be like for those 220 events.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL in the area is exciting only if you like the womenís variety, which Iím guessing few of you do. Stanford is cruising to another conference title. Cal is down from last year but still playing well.
The men? Not so much.
Before the start of the season, those covering college basketball rated the Pac-12 highly, but at this point, it seems to be Arizona, the No. 1 team in the country, maybe UCLA and a big bunching of mediocre teams in the middle.
Cal and Stanford are two of those teams. Either one or both could finish in the top four in the conference, drawing a bye on the first day of the conference tournament. But the play of both teams has been so erratic, itís difficult to predict what will happen. If either team gets into the NCAA tournament, it will be as a low seed, probably meaning an early departure.
Meanwhile, Rex Walters won the award for WCC Coach of the Year with the USF Dons, which I was glad to see. I was impressed with Walters when I first interviewed him, shortly after he got the job, nearly six years ago.
USF basketball has had some serious ups-and-downs over the years. Pete Newellís 1949 team won the NIT, when it was the more important of the two major tournaments, and Phil Woolpert won back-to-back NCAA titles in the mid-Ď50s, with Bill Russell the key player.
But, in December, 1981, the program hit bottom when star guard Quentin Dailey was accused of raping a coed. The next year, USF President, Fr. John LoSchiavo, suspended the program indefinitely. Many in the local media, most notably, USF alum Ralph Barbieri, condemned the move but I supported it unequivocally. (Looking this up on Wikipedia, I learned that Iím quoted.) Iím not a Catholic but I felt that the type of behavior going on was particularly reprehensible for a religious school.
Fr. LoSchiavo reinstated the program in 1985 but he raised the admission standards for athletes significantly, which has made it much more difficult die coaches to recruit top athletes, which makes Waltersí honor that much more significant.
ONE OF the interesting angles to the upcoming baseball season is that both the Aís and Giants are in the same position, in divisions where other teams are spending much more money on big stars.
The Aís have been here before. The Angels have been special spendthrifts, signing Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to big long-term contracts. They should have spent some of that money on their pitching staffs. Without that, and with both Pujols and Hamilton suffering injuries, theyíve been also-rans.
The Texas Rangers have also spent big bucks but the Aís have been able to edge them out in the AL West for two years running.
The Giants got in the same position when the Dodgers were purchased by a group that has now pushed the payroll to the top, ahead of even the Yankees.
But the Dodgers have some questions, too. Matt Kemp canít seem to stay healthy. Yasiel Puig is immensely talented but very immature, and pitchers caught up to him in the second half of last season.
So, weíll have to wait and see. Thatís the beauty of sports.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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