Al Davis's Mistakes, Lew Wolff's Tirade, Monta Ellis
by Glenn Dickey
Sep 24, 2008

AL DAVIS never learns from his mistakes, which is why he makes so many of them.

In February, 2005, Davis traded for wide receiver Randy Moss, hoping he’d bring back the deep passing game that Davis has always loved. In the first column I wrote for this website, February 25, 2005 (you can find it in “Archive” if you’re interested), I wrote that Moss was not the answer because of his personality.

It really wasn’t that difficult to figure out. Moss had worn out his welcome in Minnesota; the Vikings were very happy to trade him for underachieving linebacker Napoleon Harris.

When you bring in a talented but temperamental player, it only works if you have a solid veteran nucleus of leaders. The Raiders didn’t have that then, and they don’t have it now.

The result was predictable. Moss had two unproductive years with the Raiders. Traded to New England, which does have that kind of veteran leadership, he set a record for touchdown receptions in a season. That is reportedly one of the reasons Davis has been unhappy with Lane Kiffin, but Moss would never have done that with the Raiders.

In the last offseason, Davis took the $150 million he had gotten from three new limited partners and spent a large part of it on free agents wide receiverJavon Walker and safety Gibril Wilson. He also negotiated a big contract with corner back DeAngelo Hall after trading for him and gave one of his own players, Tommy Kelly, the biggest contract in history for a defensive lineman.

All of these moves have looked like mistakes. Walker tried to quit in training camp before Davis talked him into staying, but he’s been injured and ineffective. Wilson has missed tackles and made a flagrant penalty right in front of an official in the loss to Buffalo. Hall has been burned time after time, and he made two consecutive personal fouls in the blowout by Denver in the home opener. Kelly has not gotten close to being in good physical condition, so he isn't’making plays, either.

The sad fact is that Davis no longer knows how to put together a good team, and he won’t accept help from anybody who doesn’t agree with him.

As Nancy Gay reported today in the Chronicle, his “inner circle” now consists of John Herrera, Mike Taylor and Jeff Birren, the team attorney. Of the three, Birren is the only one who gives him good advice – and it’s strictly on legal matters.

I’ve known Herrera since I was a beat writer on the Raiders and he was a ballboy in camp. I like him personally, but he’s never pretended to have a lot of football knowledge. Taylor is the alleged public relations director, whose job has always been to bawl out the writers and broadcasters who have offended Davis, a list which grows daily. If he has any great knowledge of football, he’s managed to conceal it.

When the Raiders have been successful, there was always somebody who would challenge Davis. In the early years, it was Ron Wolf. In the last successful period, it was Jon Gruden.

Now, Davis is surrounded only by yes men. Is this any way to run an organization? The question answers itself.

Meanwhile, in the league office in New York, NFL executives are probably laughing so hard their sides hurt as Davis continues to make a bigger and bigger fool of himself.

When will it all end? I wrote last week in the Examiner that the new investors undoubtedly have an agreement that they’ll be able to buy at least a controlling interest in the Raiders and put in their own management team.

Let’s hope it’s soon.

THE A’S have done everything possible to alienate their Oakland fans but managing partner Lew Wolff apparently thought they hadn’t gone far enough, so he chose the occasion of a talk to the Boosters club last week to say that, if they couldn’t realize their fantasy of a new park in Fremont, they might have to move the team out of California.

That’s an empty threat. There are no cities that would be more hospitable to the A’s, beyond the original couple of honeymoon years, than Oakland has been. Remember when teams, including the Giants, eyed Tampa/St. Petersburg longingly? Yeah, that’s really worked out well.

If the A’s have a marketing plan at all, there’s no evidence of it. They’ve closed off the upper deck, with its low-priced seats but great views, supposedly to increase their season ticket base, which it hasn’t. They raised prices this year and then conducted a year-long audition of minor league players. Their radio broadcasts have featured frequent commercials about getting tickets for Cisco Field early. Yeah. You can put those in your safe deposit box, right alongside your Lehman Bros. stock certificates.

They badly need a network of radio stations that can actually be heard further than 10 miles from the station. I’ve suggested KRTB, a 50,000-watt station in San Francisco, and I know from talking to executives at the station that they’d love to have the A’s. When I was riding in the elevator last week with Ken Pries, head of the A’s broadcasting division, I asked him how negotiations were going with KRTB. “Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers,” he said. I asked him, “Including what I write?”

Wolff’s outburst at the Boosters meeting was no doubt a part of his frustration. He undoubtedly told Don Fisher, who put up most of the money for the purchase of the club, that he could put together a stadium/real estate plan that would make a big profit for both of them. He thought he could do it in San Jose until his friend, baseball commissioner Bud Selig, told him he couldn’t get past the provision in the Giants contract with MLB that another club couldn’t be established in Santa Clara County. The ballpark plan would have worked in San Jose, but it won’t fly in Fremont.

Even with their low attendance, the A’s are making money because of their low payroll. If Wolff and Fisher sell the club, they’ll make a profit because the value of all baseball franchises has risen since they bought into the club. I wish they’d sell to somebody who’s interested in baseball, not real estate.

WARRIORS WOES: The injury to Warriors guard Monta Ellis, which almost certainly came when he was doing something risky, has led people to wonder how athletes who are making so much money can put it in danger that way.

The answer is simple: They’re young men, and young men often do stupid things. Giving them a lot of money doesn’t make them smarter. It just gives them an opportunity to be stupid in public.


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