Ray Ratto

The 49ers are hogging all of the attention

576110.jpg

The 49ers are hogging all of the attention

Give the other teams in the Bay Area this much. With the 49ers running away with every ram of attention we have to give this week, theyre still in there swinging from their keisters for a piece of your notice.

Theyre failing, but what are you going to do? This is how it works, how its always worked, and how it will always work. Were contemptible frontrunners. We play the hot hand.

The Giants went deep, signing Pablo Sandoval for three years to cover his arbitration years, and are either getting a huge bargain (if he has the 2009 or 2011 years) or making a horrific mistake (if he has the 2010 year). They also signed Nate Schierholtz for some amount of money (I told you we only have so much heed to pay), and swapped gross national product figures with T. Leroy Lincecum in arbitration.

RELATED: Evans optimistic Giants, Lincecum can avoid arbitration

The Giants filed at 17 million, an absurdly high figure for a pitcher. Lincecum filed at 21.5 million, which is downright Jeter-ific. And the midpoint of those numbers, the one they are likely to settle at, is Barry Zitos salary for 2012, give or take a catered party for El Cerrito.

This is the sort of thing that would have fans turning great shades of purply-angry in normal circumstances, but in the current climate, where Alex Smiths hands are growing in size audibly by the minute, an exchange of money figures dont move the needle much.

The As signed outfielder Seth Smith, which other than giving hitting coach Chili Davis another potential home run hitter to shape, didnt move the needle much at all. This, though, is how the As roll moving the small pieces of furniture while waiting for someone to put a new roof on for free. Maybe if Brad Pitt announced the next signing . . . but then, the movie didnt win any Golden Globes, so hes probably moved on to his next project Mayhem With A Shiny Gold Hat: The Justin Smith Story.

REWIND: A's acquire Seth Smith from Rockies for Moscoso, Outman

The Raiders fired coach Hue Jackson after one last flurry of image repair that he continues to this day. Apparently the new version is that equipment man Bob Romanski traded for Carson Palmer. And since everyone is convinced that the job is Green Bay assistant Winston Moss to have, even a coaching search hasnt shaken anyones glassy-eyed stares. Maybe Brad Pitt. Maybe Bill Belichick. Maybe Amy Trask. Or lets get really insane and suggest that it could be Greg Papa. A mere football coach wont really do here.

The Warriors are particularly desperate. They have resuscitated David Lee from his place of honor at the NBAs kiddie table, and their tour of the dregs of the Eastern Conference is working out better than most road trips they take. On the other hand, theyre still 5-8 and 11th in the West, which is where they always are, so theyre going to have to try a hell of a lot harder than this. Maybe playing naked in New Jersey might do the trick.

And the Sharks well, they paid a referee to job them out of a game-winning overtime goal last night against Calgary before winning in a shootout, but since its not April, that one falls on deaf ears and blind eyes. In fact, were not sure that playing naked Thursday against Ottawa would help at all.

RECAP: Sharks outlast Flames in shootout 2-1

Cal is having a great recruiting year in football, but is losing a coach a day to the University of Washington, thus creating the philosophical conundrum, If you got lots of great players to attend your school but you have no coaches to make them better, was it a good recruiting year?

In basketball, both Cal and Stanford continue to battle fiercely for what looks like the only NCAA Tournament invitation or maybe you havent seen the Pac-12 this year. The national smart guys (well, Yahoos Pat Forde, anyway) have even invented a pejorative for whats happened to the conference Howlandization.

And Tara Van Derveer is winning her 83rd consecutive conference title, raising a bar so high that she would have to consume live animals while throwing cleavers into the student section to get people to divert their attention from whatever version of mighty men with humble hearts Jim Harbaugh is tossing about today.

So thats it. For the time being, theres nothing to stop the 49ers from being the 49ers the way they were in the 80s and 90s except the New York Giants.

Dusty Baker's postseason agonies and his Hall of Fame candidacy

baker-dusty-head-down.jpg
USATI

Dusty Baker's postseason agonies and his Hall of Fame candidacy

Dusty Baker’s face tells a lot of different stories, but there is only one it tells in October.

Disappointment. Deflating, soul-crushing, hopeless disappointment.

With Thursday night’s National League Division Series defeat to the Chicago Cubs, the Washington Nationals have reinforced their place in the panoply of the capital’s legacy of failure.

But Baker’s agonies extend far further. His 3,500 games rank him 15th all-time, and only one manager above him, Gene Mauch, is not in the Hall of Fame. His 105 postseason games ranks seventh all-time, and his nine postseason appearances ranks sixth.

But his postseason record of 44-61 and no World Series titles curse him. He has been on the mailed backhand of eight series losses in 11 tries (plus a play-in game loss in 2013), and been marked by the media-ocracy as an old-school players’ manager who doesn’t wrap himself in the comforting embrace of statistical analysis.

He is now Marv Levy and Don Nelson – the good manager who can’t win the big one.

Only Levy and Nelson are in their respective halls of fame, and Baker probably won’t be. Having no World Series titles (his bullpen dying in 2002 being as close as he ever got) dooms him as it has doomed Mauch, although Mauch made his reputation as a brilliant tactician with bad teams.

But even if you take Baker’s worst metric – the postseason record – he still ranks in the 90th percentile of the 699 managers in the game’s history, though even then there’s the caveat of the 200 some-odd interim managers who you may choose not to count.

This is not to claim he should be in the Hall of Fame. This is to claim he should be discussed, if only to determine if reputations in the postseason are the only way managers are allowed to be evaluated. Because if that’s the case, Dusty Baker’s world-weary October face makes that conversation a very short one.

 

U.S. Soccer: Patriotism-fueled frontrunning born of inexcusable arrogance

arena-bruce-sad.jpg
AP

U.S. Soccer: Patriotism-fueled frontrunning born of inexcusable arrogance

So Bruce Arena resigned as the U.S. National soccer team coach Friday. Big damned deal.

Oh, it is to him. He probably liked the job, and might have wanted to keep getting paid.

But whether he’s there or isn’t doesn’t matter. In fact, whether the people who hired him are there or not doesn’t matter either. U.S. Soccer is the definition of sporadic interest and patriotism-fueled frontrunning, of imbedded self-interest and general indolence, all born of inexcusable arrogance.

Bruce Arena didn’t bring that to the job, nor does he remove it by leaving. He’s just another head on a spike, like Jurgen Klinsmann was before him, and Bob Bradley before him.

But that would also be true if the head of U.S. Soccer, Sunil Gulati, quit or was fired too. Even the people bleating that the U.S. shamed itself by losing to Trinidad and Tobago display the same kind of blinkered ignorance and arrogance that dogs this sport in America.

Being in CONCACAF is a gift from the heavens, and the U.S. has decided as a national collective to replace that with actual achievement. Beating Germany in friendly is proof of long-term worth. The fact is, we don’t know how to evaluate America’s place in the soccer world except as an audience, let alone how much massive structural change is required to change that.

And change must be massive, and can’t be evaluated by the next cheap win or the next galling loss, or television ratings. America is good at watching soccer, good enough to catch on the actual chasm between its national team and development structure.

But that’s where it ends, because knowing what’s bad because you just watched it, or what is actually good (like, say, a UEFA or CONMEBOL qualifier) is light years from knowing how to fix a system built on the flawed concepts of work rate without creativity and money as a solution to crippling organizational problems.

So Bruce Arena does the decent thing given the circumstances, falling on a sword that should actually be a kebab skewer. But it makes no difference. The American soccer structure needs to get what it needs before it can get what it wants, and there are no more shortcuts to take in a short-attention-span world.