Ray Ratto

Award validates Melvin's exemplary work


Award validates Melvin's exemplary work

Bob Melvin remembers the last time he was a Manager of the Year. He got fired less than 200 games later.And while one wouldnt think this MOY will treat him as badly as the last one did, well, you never really know, do you?But for the moment, Melvins role in reversing the Athletics has been acknowledged by more than the people who watched him every day, and that, children, is how awards are won.RELATED: Melvin named 2012 AL Manager of the Year
Sure, most of the time award-winners regard honorifics given by those who know them best to be of the most value; in this way, the stream of Twitter hyperpraise from Melvins players warms his entire circulatory system, heart to extremities.The fact remains, however, that Melvin wouldnt be getting all this new social media love if not for the old media that saw Melvins gifts from afar and could still see in them a triumphant work.The Manager of the Year award is restricted to those who have overachieved with a team beset by low expectations. Toward that end, Melvin was a perfect candidate. A probable 94-loss team that ended as 94-win team is exactly the sort of thing that makes trophy engravers drool.But so did Buck Showalter of Baltimore, who was taking a team with an equally subterranean reputation and nearly managed the same feat.But nearly is the difference here. Showalter didnt win the AL East. Melvin did win the AL West. And enough of the 28 voters waited until the season actually ended to make up their minds. Moreover, while Showalters support came largely from the right side of the nation and Melvin the left, Melvin also got seven of the 10 votes from the Midwestern voters, and they had no reason other than unalloyed judgment to go the way they did.Well, that, and the fact that there were only the two candidates.The voting tells us this. Nobody else got a first- or second-place vote, which is something of a rarity. Every season seems to have a mystery choice, or a mystery voter, and sometimes it has a lot to do with a voter who covers the mystery choice.But there was no division of loyalties for Melvin. There was no vote-splitting. It was him or Showalter, and in the end, his teams deeds down the stretch made it him.And that happened only because voters outside Melvins natural constituency saw the wisdom in his election. Thats an even better sign than your friends being happy for you the idea that people who dont see you every day still acknowledge that you have the honor coming.I mean, theres loyalty, and then theres objectivity. And while loyalty is an admirable trait, it isnt always actually, well, honest. Rooting for your guy is easy. Acknowledging someone elses guy is just better, because it means more.And when you get both, well, its Christmas, or whatever passes for Christmas in your home. In Bob Melvins, its the gift of knowing you were subjectively liked an admired by the people who work for you, and seen as an exemplar in your profession by those who dont.

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


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


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.