I dont think Jerry Brown is going to go see Moneyball, and I have no knowledge that he has an opinion either way on Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill or Philip Seymour Hoffman.Unless perhaps as potential political donors.But I can infer with some safety that if he did go, it wouldnt be for the baseball back story. He made it pretty evident when he was the mayor of Oakland that the Athletics didnt move his needle much.Okay, thats not fair. They didnt move his needle at all.He saw no value in considering creative alternatives for the As ballpark issue while the mayor of Oakland. The town was destitute, as it is now, with school closures as the latest body blow to a city that has taken about all it can. And as mayor he didnt commit much effort to figuring out how to make such a plan work.And now, as governor of California, he has signed two bills that will help hasten the reality of an NFL stadium in L.A. Whod have guessed?His logic in Oakland? Boiled to its truthful essence, he saw no political will or benefit for it, and he is far less careful at selecting the windmills at which he will tilt than he was 30 years ago.But now that he has regained the governors chair after routing the free-range boss Meg Whitman, he has found the wisdom in stadium construction for a football team in Los Angeles.Somewhere, Billy Beane is aiming both middle fingers at him with considerable malice.Or maybe not. Maybe the As were so hell-bent on the myth of San Jose that a working plan for Oakland spearheaded by Brown would have offended Johnny (The Spectre) Fisher and his real estate agent, Lew Wolff.But when you hear helpful phrases from the governor like Its time for big thinking and big projects that put Californians back to work, and it is imperative for the state to cut the red tape that could delay projects like this for years, you cant help wonder why that logic didnt work in Oakland.The difference is, it doesnt have to. For Jerry Brown, at an age where legacy shopping is important, its about timing and location. The timing is he isnt going to be a player in politics much longer, and the location is Los Angeles instead of Oakland. There are benefits to him in helping a stadium grow in Los Angeles that there clearly were not in Oakland.This does not make Brown unique. Any politician in his place would probably arrive at the same conclusion for the same reason even the really loony ones.Still, The Billy Beane Story would be much different if he couldnt use the Coliseum as an excuse for not pursuing free agents and resigning free agents-to-be. Hes already dropped that one on Josh Willinghams agent, and frankly, if thats the new battle plan, then he may as well just head for the hammock.Should Brown have been more aggressive about an Oakland stadium? An open question. The A s seemed reluctant, the city seemed broke. But creative men like Jerry Brown are required for tasks like that, and Brown didnt expend any energy, charm or brain cells in seeking that solution. He simply didnt regard it as important.But now, despite showing no particular interest in football, he has hastened the process by which Los Angeles gets its football stadium thereby offering the deliciously perverse scenario in which the Raiders decide to move to L.A. and become a tenant in a Jerry Brown-endorsed stadium.So no, we dont expect the governor to race right out and see Brad Pitt play a fictionalized version of Billy Beane in a fictionalized movie of a kind of fictionalized season. Hes not a baseball guy.And as he must surely be aware, Billy Beane isnt a Jerry Brown guy, either.
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.
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.