Ray Ratto

NBA -- where posing happens


NBA -- where posing happens

So the six percent keeping the NBA owners and players from getting back to making that jack remains intact, and pessimism abounds.

So how is that any different than the way the NFL lockout was covered?

The answer is, it isnt. It never was. The owners played hardball, the players agents are ready for hardball, and Billy Hunter, the head of the union, stands in the middle, knowing he cant do anything but watch.

We knew all along this was not going to be an easy dance, and the fact that it hasnt been one should surprise nobody. David Stern may be taking the lead, but it the hardballers agenda for the moment, and Stern goes where the power leads him. When crisis point hits, the moderates will come in and sweep up all the undecided votes and Stern will then become a moderate.

After all, you dont get to be the commissioner by straying too far from the position of the most owners.

The problem is, Stern is about to lose control of the other half of the table, because Hunter said that decertifying the union is suddenly an appealing option. Since decertifying the union suddenly makes this the agents game and not his, he cant be thrilled, but he also cant be dull-witted. He knew this could be the end game if negotiations hit the wall, which they did on Tuesday.

But it doesnt have to be the wall. Thats the other thing we learned from the NFL lockout. Drop-dead dates arent; the move the false narratives each side puts out, because the whole idea on both sides is to paint a dire picture and blame the other guys for making it so.

So todays no good in the NBA. Posing will commence shortly, and then another meeting will be called, and people will get optimistic again, and then be let down several more times until the moderates finally weary of the whole stupid game and say, I want to make money again.

And money will be made. It may cost some games at the front end; it may cost a lot of games, and the panic from the basketball media will be as frantic as that from the football media this summer.

But nobody turns away money forever; even those who want to will be worn down by those who dont. Hardliners are usually the extremists, and governance is done from the center, especially in times of plenty. And no matter what the owners say, these are times of plenty in the NBA.

Plenty, of course, being a relative term. Today, theres plenty of posing. Tomorrow, itll be something else.

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


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


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.