Ray Ratto

Hard lessons of Shayne Skov

540035.jpg

Hard lessons of Shayne Skov

Somewhere, Andrew Luck may be thinking about Shayne Skov and considering one of those there but for the grace of God matters.

We know, on the other hand, that Skov is mostly cursing his own buzzards luck.

Skov, the heart, soul and spleen of the Stanford defense, blew his knee out Saturday during the early stages of the Cardinals win over Arizona in Tucson, and it didnt take more than one replay to see that the injury was going to be a bad one.

As a result, Skov loses a year of what would have been largely enjoyable football with his mates, because one of the things that is a universal in sports is that when youre a member of the team but you cant play because of injury, you become a member with an asterisk. It doesnt matter whether your teammates treat you every bit as well as they did when you were a contributor -- you feel it anyway. Teams are concentric circles, and the injured are a part of the second circle. It is simply the nature of the animal.
NEWS: Stanford loses Skov for season

And it is the exact scenario that must have played in Lucks head when he was wrestling, albeit briefly, with the idea of skipping this season to become Cam Newton instead of Cam Newton.

This isnt about Luck, or Skov, though. It is about the first major gamble in a young persons life -- when to do what you love for free means risking the possibility of being able to do it for money later, It is a crass but very real consideration that not even paying college athletes would truly ameliorate.

Football is the worst of the team sports for this because it has the highest injury rate, the percentage of players who can consider a future in the game is relatively small, and the decision-makers can and do move off a player far faster than they moved onto them in the first place.

The more highly-regarded the player, the greater the fall. Skov was one of those players, a very likely draft pick and perhaps a high one. His size and speed made him an intriguing candidate at both linebacker and safety, and his play both last year and this warranted that consideration.

More directly, his value to the Stanford defense and the men with whom he served and led is palpable, as they will discover in the weeks to come.

Now all that is, as they say, under review, and even if Luck is not your standard athletic narcissist (and we make no judgment either way, lacking the ability to peer into his soul), he surely considered Skov as more than a teammate and friend. He must have at least thought momentarily of Skov as a potential cautionary tale, to be considered, processed and then walled out of his mind, because of the superstition that says, If you think about getting hurt, you will get hurt.

Football is a hard business even for the elite, which is why there is such a mad scramble for cash right now, and why the players are well within their rights to ask for a chunk thereof.

But the mercenary aspects for Shayne Skov were about future earnings, the kind of earnings the NCAA believes in most because they are the kind of earnings the colleges arent on the hook for. He lost a year, and maybe he can get it back by playing at Stanford next season; the choice is his.

That choice, though, has serious business ramifications now, and Skov has to weigh his love of the game against a whole new set of calculations -- adult stuff, no question.

Andrew Luck is quietly doing the same math in his head, because he is not oblivious to his surroundings, or the business he has chosen. That is, if he doesnt mind being attached to a quotation from Hyman Roth in The Godfather.

And even if he does, the facts remain the same. Its all trying to put a dollar sign on the muscle, pure and simple.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

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.