Ray Ratto

City of Oakland grasping at stadium straws

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City of Oakland grasping at stadium straws

So Oakland has decided to abandon its mostly chimerical Victory Court ballpark plan and concentrate on revamping the Coliseum instead, you say?Well, heres a lesson for you kids out there. If you never intended to do something in the first place, and then waited a few years after everyone figured it out, how far past the phrase empty gesture have you gone?The answer of course depends on whether you believe in their strategy, which is, If San Jose fails, John Fisher will sell, and maybe new owners will buy what were selling.Or in their backup strategy, which is We lose the As, but maybe we can save the other two teams.

Oaklands real stumbling block on the stadium front is money and it always has been. The city teeters on the edge of destitution, unable to meet its more pressing obligations, and prioritizing scarce city resources should put private sports franchise on the furthest burner there is. Thats just basic civic logic.But playing at being a player isnt the same as being a player, and everyone knows it. Which leaves Oakland playing the card a three of clubs in a world where only face cards pay.Maybe this strategy works. Maybe it doesnt. But it is a rash, panicked, yet still half-hearted approach to keeping a team it has never given much indication it wanted to hold in the first place.Indeed, the entire Oakland argument has been the same one since the dying Walter Haas directed that the team be sold to Steve Schott as a part of his estate planning But were Oakland.Thats an argument that hasnt resonated for years now. Even the Raiders are unmoved by it; they remain even-money to join St. Louis as the second team in Los Angeles when that city finally gets its stadium firmed up. And the Warriors are already beginning the earnest flirtation with San Francisco.But Oakland has made its political and psychic choice already. It changed the stadium to re-accommodate the Raiders while ignoring the tenant it already had, and without the Warriors, the arena is as useful as the Astrohall, which was the arena next to the Astrodome and is now equally empty.Thats not the reason Fisher and Lew Wolff want out of Oakland, to be sure. They bought the As as a real estate-and-revenge deal for land and to put a finger in the eye of the Giants, who once claimed Fishers father Don as a partner.The second motivation is now gone, but the first remains, and Oaklands inability to assemble a will, a plan, its share of the financing burden or a compelling argument to Fisher and Wolff to do it themselves was in evidence well before this last act.The problem with the Coliseum plan remains as it always has been Wolffs ballpark plan requires an external retail component that the Coliseum cannot (or at least has yet to) create.So we can only assume that Oaklands sudden arousal on behalf of the existing site is to hold the Raiders and Warriors alone, and the As only if San Jose somehow collapses, or if Fisher loses the will to care. If either of those things occur and at this point the only thing keeping the project from beginning seems to be the As and Giants agreeing on a bribery figure that satisfies both sides and Bud Seligs ability to whip owners votes Oakland could try to help engineer a sale, or stand smugly as the only alternative.But in the actual three-dimensional world, Oakland is actually playing for what it still thinks it can hold the other two tenants.Or lowest of all, playing for some face-saving gesture in failure that nobody will buy. Cities shouldnt be in stadium ventures anyway, because the money the city invests is never realized, but pretending to be a player when youre not is just as bad.

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

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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

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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.