Ray Ratto

Impasse broken -- labor talks see light

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Impasse broken -- labor talks see light

And so the circle of life continues on spinning round and round in the same place, and getting most of us nowhere.

The NBA is only the latest example of this, with a German opera of a negotiating session that ended after midnight and left both sides within sight of each other at the midpoint they were destined to arrive at anyway.

And they did it in the time-honored way hardline for a time, then moderate late.

You see, the details here dont matter all that much, because by the time this CBA is about the expire, the owners will scream it was a bad system that cannot endure. Thus, it will continue the streak of deals the owners hate as soon as they have figured out the last way to get around their own deal, and demand that the players agree to a new one that makes the owners even less responsible for their behavior.

And the cycle will begin again. The owners who dont really like basketball that much anyway, and really hate owning businesses in which the workers must be paid, will shriek that enough is enough, and theyd rather shut the game down than go in this vein any longer.

We, of course, will panic, because we do care about the game, dont know many of the owners, but know that if theyre like the guys we work for, theyll do it.

(Except of course the people I work for. They are human exemplars down to the last human).

And the hardliners will carry the day for awhile, convincing the union that this time they mean business. The union, who knows the game too well from having seen it so many times before, then has to make sure their players dont get scared and bolt from the hall.

Then the ugly negotiations start, with the hardliners at the table doing the talking and demeaning the union and players as much as they can get away with. And they know how much they can get away with when the union says, Fine, shut the doors. We hate you more than we like the job now, anyway. Go kill yourselves.

And at that point, the commissioner, who only earns his money at times like this, sees the hardliners have hit the wall and can only do damage now, comes in, rallies the moderates and says, Its our turn. The pre-Industrial Revolution nutjobs have done as much as they can do.

At that point, a miracle happens, as it did Wednesday night. The two sides know its time to stop screwing around and get a deal done.

Nobody ever knows when this point is reached, though the usual tipoff is like this one -- when you hear Derek Fisher call someone from management a liar. When the most rational guy in the room has had a bellyful of condescension, contempt and disgust from the other sides most demeaning members, the flares go off and everyone says, Well, were at that point. Give it three days, call for sandwiches and sodas and order notebooks and Number-2 pencils.

The notebooks and pencils are for doodling, by the way. Fifteen hours doing anything is tedious slogging.

So here we are again. Close to a deal, so close that it cant be undone unless one of the hardliners breaks out of his pen, bolts into the room and starts screaming about the benefits of serfdom, being chained to a table and making tennis shoes for four cents a day and how it builds more character than the union will ever know.

Right now, in short, weve passed the cat-herding stage and are down to the actual useful speaking. A deal will be reached soon, and then we can all go back to what we know best.

Waiting to see if the Warriors get to 32 wins before they get to 51 losses.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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.