Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Beginning of the End for Oakland

Last Tuesday, the Golden State Warriors revealed their plans to ditch the Oracle Arena, which has been their home since 1972, except for one year when they played in San Jose, while the Oracle was remodeled. The Warriors are planning on moving back to San Francisco in 2017 and opening a brand new water front arena, down the street a bit from AT&T Park, the home of baseball's San Francisco Giants. This was met with mixed reviews, as to be expected.

The NBA, greater San Francisco Bay Area, and most of the general public welcomed this news with open arms, partly because it's been expected ever since Joe Lacob and Peter Guber took over the franchise.

The East Bay and native Oakland residents didn't take so kindly to being told that one of the most electric atmospheres was leaving for San Francisco. This entry is to tell the fans of Oakland teams that 1) they'll all be gone soon, and 2) it's actually a good thing.

Let's start with bullet point number one: They'll all be gone soon.

The Warriors announcing their plans to depart is just the first step in making this a reality. It's been known for years that the Oakland Coliseum (now called the Coliseum) and the Oracle Arena need upgrades. The Oakland Raiders of the NFL, and the Oakland A's of Major Leage Baseball, have both talked about leaving. The Warriors are just the first team to put their plans in stone and set a final farewell to the East Bay.

For a long time the NFL has wanted a team in Los Angeles, and the Raiders haven't been able to draw crowds in Oakland for almost three years, consistently blacking out the team's home games. Add in the fact that the Raiders already left for the City of Angels once, and it looks to be them or the recently purchased Jacksonville Jaguars that get to make the move. If the Jaguars end up in LA, the San Francisco 49ers are building a stadium in Santa Clara that they boast can house two home teams. Any guess as to who the other home team would be? That's right. The Oakland Raiders.

The A's have been very vocal about wanting to move to San Jose to continue their franchise. They have insisted that they can't gain any revenue at the Coliseum and that the city of Oakland has been very difficult to work with in these trying times. Once you are able to get over multi-billionaires complaining about not having enough money, the A's run into the problem that the San Francisco Giants own territorial rights to San Jose, due to their Single-A Giants team being stationed there. Major League Baseball and the commissioner's office are looking into this, and I'd expect that eventually the Giants will give in and the A's will depart for the South Bay.

If I had to guess, I'd say that by the year 2020, the Oakland Coliseum and Oracle Arena will just be relics of the professional sports teams that used to reside in Oakland, as they slowly collect dust, or are used purely for musical events. The A's will be in San Jose, the Raiders in LA, and the Warriors in San Francisco.

To all of you East Bay people, none of this is bad (with the exception possibly of the Raiders).

For those that don't know, visiting teams in all three sports currently practice and stay in San Francisco. No team stays in Oakland, all of them opting to travel over the Bay Bridge instead. Anyone that follows these teams knows how hard it is for them to attract free agents. Moving to any of the three cities mentioned already drastically improves the chances of any of the team's signing free agents. Also, more people will come to the games overall.

The Warriors may actually take a hit in ticket sales if they don't improve their first or second year in SF, but the Raiders and A's can't get people in the seats now. Moving somewhere that lacks a professional team in that sport, automatically improves the ability to sign better talent, as plain and simple, more butts in the seats means more cash in hand for the ownership group.

While the A's and Raiders would be moving farther away, the Warriors will be exactly 13 miles away from Oracle Arena (pretty much a stone's throw in sports geographical terms). The Raiders leaving would be heartbreaking to the true Raider fans in the Bay but would ultimately improve the NFL by putting a team in LA.

And the A's moving to San Jose would increase their fan base, and possibly allow the A's to up their payroll to contend with the Giants and make it an actual rivalry again.

So while Oakland stands a good chance of losing all of it's franchises in the next couple years, they all stand to gain individually.

Make no mistake about it: Professional sports in Oakland are dead, and that's not a bad thing.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Giants' Off-Season Moves: Part 2 and Random Observations

Okay, I know it's been a long time since I've updated this. I'm just super busy...or lazy, or too involved watching/talking about sports to write about them. I apparently suck at updating this. Anyway, now that we have that out of the way, let's continue on my breakdown of the Giants' off-season moves.

We left off last time with the Giants down -2 in my book. Then my buddy Peter questioned why I didn't have the Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera trade listed, which took place in November. The reason I didn't list it? For some unknown reason, the Giants don't have it listed on their site. This may be my favorite trade the Giants have made since I've (probably unhealthily) followed the franchise.

Anyone that knows me, knows I clamored for the Giants to get rid of Sanchez for years. I didn't think he was great in 2009, and loudly said they should have asked who was interested in him on November 2, 2010. For those of you wondering why such a specific date? That's the day after the Giants won the World Series, and the first official day of the off-season, which is when teams are allowed to make deals. Sanchez was a great left handed starter at points, and a guaranteed loss for the Giants at others. After they won the World Series, most of the credit (rightfully so) went to the pitching staff comprised of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Jonathan Sanchez. In my opinion, Sanchez doesn't belong in the same conversation with those three. He's an average starting pitcher that threw a no-hitter which led to a huge increase in his trade value the Giants could have used to bring a much needed big bat to San Francisco. They decided to hang on to him for one more year, and he let them down. Jonathan Sanchez was unreliable in 2011, and the Giants in the off-season decided to trade him to the Kansas City Royals for Melky Cabrera. He has a solid arm in right field and actually hits the ball enough to be threatening to opposing pitchers. He was one of the Royals' star players and the fact the Giants were able to flip Sanchez straight up for him is a steal in my eyes. This is a +4 move, which brings the total to +2. Now we can get into this year's moves.

January 2012
Jan. 18: Giants sign Brian Burress, Wilmon Rodriguez, and Gregor Blanco.
Burress and Blanco have already made appearances on the Giants this season, which Blanco making the club out of Spring Training, and Burress coming up with the amount of injuries that the bullpen has seen. Blanco is a great fourth outfielder for any club, and should be starting for the Giants next to Pagan and Cabrera right now, which he is. +1 for Gregor Blanco. Wilmon Rodriguez has never pitched at the big league level so we can't evaluate him. Brian Burress I don't understand the signing of. He's a left handed pitcher that hasn't seen success in the major leagues as his numbers show (18-25 record with a career 5.75 ERA and a WHIP of 1.62). I'd say  -1 for this signing which breaks the Giants even on the day, leaving them at still a +2.

Jan. 25: Giants sign Todd Linden
Yes, the same Todd Linden that the Giants had years ago, that had one good season and then everyone kept hoping the magic would return, which it never did. Not much point in harping on this though, since he was released and is now in the New York Yankees' system. Nothing really to grade here.

February 2012
Feb. 8: Giants sign Guillermo Mota, Ryan Theriot, and Clay Hensley. As you already know from the previous article, Mota resigned with the Giants. He was a huge key in the bullpen for them and no one could have predicted he'd violate the drug policy of MLB and get suspended for 100 games, so that can't be held against the Giants. +1 for Mota. Ryan Theriot is another player on the level of Mike Fontenot and Jeff Keppinger, except Keppinger made more contact, and Fontenot had more (although not by much) power. To make matters worse, Ryan Theriot is currently injured. -1 for that signing. Clay Hensley is a huge addition to the Giants' bullpen, especially with the injuries they've suffered this season. Bruce Bochy has relied on Hensley in tough spots. While his record of 1-3 and a WHIP of 1.37 aren't great, his ERA is respectable at 2.35 this season, and he should continue to be a solid option for the Giants. +1 for this signing .

Feb. 15: Giants sign Ramon Ortiz
Ortiz hasn't pitched in the majors for the Giants but his big league totals feature an ERA of 4.93 (not great) and a WHIP of 1.42 (also not great). He's also been playing since 1996, which means he's been around the game awhile. Something Giants fans will hate? He was on the 2002 Anaheim Angels when they beat the Giants in the World Series. -1 for this signing.

Feb. 16: Giants sign Travis Blackley
Blackley pitched for the Giants this season. It did not go well. So poorly in fact, that the Giants waived him, just to see him come back and face his former team as a member of the Oakland A's. Here is his line for the year. (6.14 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 7.1 innings pitched, 6 runs allowed, 5 of them earned.) It's not great. This is an odd scoring because I would -1 for the Giants signing him, but +1 them for releasing him, so it still breaks even, meaning heading into March, the Giants are still at a +2.

March 2012
March 30: Giants release Mike Fontenot
Wait, what? A team that's known for being injury prone released a utility player? To make room for Ryan Theriot? Who has less power than Fontenot? Only a San Francisco Giants fan would look at this move and say, "Yep, that's my Giants." -1 for the move.

And that's pretty much it for the Giants' off-season moves. That leaves them with a +1 advantage. I liked the moves for the most part. I feel they could have done more to sign a big bat, and should have at least entertained the idea of keeping Keppinger. In the grand scheme, I feel that the Giants improved themselves minimally, but hey, any improvement is welcome. There you have it. Now, some random thoughts about current sporting events.

Giants' Season So Far
At least they're starting to hit the ball now, but with an infield comprising of Joaquin Arias, Brandon Crawford, Charlie Culberson, and Emmanuel Burriss...can the Giants really expect any offense? Also, the errors have to stop. Lincecum isn't himself this year, and while the other pitchers are pitching well, the pitching isn't as great this year to make up for the lack of offense, and defense at this point. If the Giants plan on attempting to play in October this year, they should seriously look to trading Brandon Belt for a proven hitter. They'll need one in crunch time. Pablo Sandoval coming back should help, but he and Buster Posey can't be responsible for all of the offense. Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan are starting to look like themselves, but they'll need days off and the Giants need Nate Schierholtz to prove he can hit again. After a great year last year, he appears to have regressed to his 2009/10 self that swings at everything (except fastballs right down the middle with the game on the line). IF the Giants can start hitting and playing better defense, the rest of the pitching staff should be able to pick up Lincecum and keep the Giants' in games. If the Dodgers start to falter off their best in the world status, look for the Giants to come creeping up behind them, provided San Francisco can play major league caliber baseball.

Cole Hamels, I Respect You
For those of you that don't know, Cole Hamels was suspended earlier this month for hitting Nationals' phenom, Bryce Harper. When asked if it was intentional Hamels told the reporters it definitely was and the kid needed to have a proper welcome to the big leagues. He should have been suspended, but I love the fact that Hamels came out and said what was on everyone's mind. Harper may be a solid player, but he's been in the league for thirty seconds and acts like he runs it. If he doesn't learn to shut up and just play the game soon, he may face a very Lebron James-type lifestyle, where everyone will actively root against him, and no one will expect anything different when he does play well. Speaking of basketball...

Thunder will win series with Lakers 4-1
This is pretty much just in here to piss off my roommate and anyone else that roots for the Lakers. I called a long time ago this would be the outcome, with the Thunder losing Friday night's game at STAPLES. The Thunder dominated LA in Game 1, then had the Lakers hand over games to them in Games 2 and 4. The only win came, like I said, on Friday night, and even that the Thunder could have won.

What were organizers thinking?
The LA Kings, LA Clippers, and LA Lakers all had home playoff games this weekend. The problem with that? They all play at the STAPLES Center, which meant tons of floor changes, and icy underlayment for the basketball games. That resulted in players slipping all over the place in the basketball games but STAPLES Center employees refused to blame it on the ice. Basketball players don't slip as often as they did in games hosted in LA this weekend. Can we please, please get to a point where every team has their own arena so we don't see playoff situations like this again? It's annoying and frankly, a little pathetic.

Well, that's where we'll leave off. Hope you enjoyed the entry, and again, sorry on taking so long to update. I'll try not to let it happen again.