Ray Ratto

Circle of athletic life closes on Tedford's tenure


Circle of athletic life closes on Tedford's tenure

Jeff Tedfords epitaph at Cal is one that will look a lot better in a few years:

He was a good guy, he did a lot for the program, and he was the reason the facilities are now more quality and less quaint. He was a true servant of the University.

But because it is an epitaph, it ends badly. Sort of this way:

He broke out too fast, got peoples hopes all ginned up, and then hit the wall in Year Eight. And well, its hard world out there.

Tedford took the black spot Sunday morning, less than a day after his team closed out its miserable 2012 season with a mega-miserable 62-14 loss at Oregon State. The program that had given the world Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch and any number of other quality professionals was now passed by and looking up at every Pacific 12 Conference school save Colorado and Washington State.

And it was as inevitable as it was sad, because thats how it works when pragmatism trumps sentimentality, and gratitude for services rendered can no longer be justified.

Tedford was stoic through it all, avoiding credit while making sure that his contract reflected the level of his deeds. Indeed, the contract might have shielded him from taking the pipe a year earlier. As it was, he ended with the longest tenure in Cal history, 82-57 with eight bowl appearances. His career stands on its own.

But college football moves faster and faster, and the building he helped juice has its own demands. Seats must be filled, suites must be bought, and cash generated. Cal built the place on the come, assuming the sellouts Tedford once routinely generated would continue.

The problem, though, was that the sellouts stopped when (a) the games were moved to San Francisco for construction reasons and (b) the results of the last two years chased people away. And Cals years of frantic deficit spending and a growing disenchantment of Cals quarterback-less offense made Tedfords unpleasant meeting with Sandy Barbour Sunday a fait accompli.

What does she do now? Well, the obvious names leap up -- Mike MacIntyre at San Jose State, Sonny Dykes of Louisiana Tech, Gary Anderson at Utah State, Chris Peterson at Boise State, and the usual raft of assistants and eager beavers looking for the breakout job Tedford once received.

And in truth, the job is less daunting than the one Tedford took on, but not by much. Stanford is a national elbow-thrower. UCLA is back after the wilderness of Rick Neuheisel. USC is, well, will be USC again, once it has paid its price for dropping trou at the NCAA. Washington is moving again, and Oregon is the center of the conference solar system.

Thus, Cal has much to do in an increasingly competitive world, while carrying a debt load that would make Albania cry. Barbour cant be wrong here without being the next one to go. She needs Ben Braun-for-Mike Montgomery 2.0, and nothing less will do.

Tedford built the program Cal should be, and then it came undone. Its the circle of athletic life. Now comes the fun part -- seeing if the man who replaces Tedford can replicate Tedford.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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.