Ray Ratto

Kings' divorce from Sacramento is inevitable

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Kings' divorce from Sacramento is inevitable

The news that the Dancing Maloofs seem finally to have found a relocation partner in Virginia Beach, VA, came neither as surprise nor outrage back in Sacramento. It seems that the town that housed the Kings has come to grips with the fact that the team wasn't really a member of the family after all, but just an upstairs tenant.This is a mature realization most fans never grasp -- the notion that your favorite team really isn't yours at all, but just something you get to have for awhile.It is also the fatigue talking. The Maloof family, having blown up most of its outside fortune, tried to squeeze more juice from the lemon of the basketball team and the town in which it resided than there was juice to have, and the town finally gave up rather than in. It has decided to redefine the term "big league city," and the money it saved by not giving in to the Maloofs' need for a tow line will determine what kind of city Sacramento is in the future.RELATED: Report -- Virginia Beach-Kings arena details worked out
That, though, is the future. The here and now is that the Kings are performing a slow-motion funeral in a city that gave it renewed life after the wilderness years in Kansas City and Omaha, and the most-moved team in the history of North American professional sports (don't forget Rochester and Cincinnati, after all) will be moved again this time potentially to a state that has had only one other pro franchise ever, the late and largely unnoted Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association.Which, hilariously enough, began as the Oakland Oaks. Northern California -- Gateway To The Chesapeake. But we digress from today's civics lesson. As Sacramento learns to divorce itself slowly from the basketball team that helped define it, Virginia Beach has just gotten a gift from the sky sort of. It had no great professional sports aspirations, but it had a population, and then it had plans for an arena (which might be built in part by Comcast Spectacor's Global Spectrum, its venue management division, it must be noted), and then it had a team.This is all contingent, apparently, on the state of Virginia throwing 150 million to help finish the project, and as we know, that kind of money tends to make fiscal conservatives sit up, take notice and make noises. In short, this isn't actually close to being done, because state-sponsored welfare for sports teams is less popular than it used to be.But the marriage between Sacramento and the Kings is now pretty much one in name only. Those who care about the Kings have watched their personal needles move from the purple of loving the team to the red of hating the Maloofs more. They know that even if Virginia Beach doesn't happen, Seattle is heating up in the bullpen ready to make its play. And they know the Maloofs are down to the strings in their pockets, and would happily sell the team to Nova Scotia interests to get out of their ever-worsening financial jam.There are lessons here for everyone, of course. There always are. No matter what the event, there is some ethereal pinched schoolmarm standing off in the fog holding an iPad and standing in front of a whiteboard with some hellish lecture to deliver. That's one of the sucky things about moments like this -- someone is always there to tell you what it means, when you already know what it means.In Sacramento, though, it means the end. The end of a nearly 30-year relationship that started so well, became contentious and even ugly, and is now just worn out.Virginia Beach may happen, or it may collapse under the weight of local politics and legal bribery. Deals aren't deals until everyone has been dealt with.But the failure of this deal would only mean a new one down the road, and more of the scab-picking that has already wrecked Sacramento's links to the Kings. The city seems done with the entire process, and even those who still believe in some deus ex machina to save the team must know that it is just one more band-aid. They have learned that their team really isn't theirs after all, and there is no repairing that feeling once it is lost.

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.