Ray Ratto

Palmer deal shows Jackson's in charge


Palmer deal shows Jackson's in charge

So its apparently official -- Hue Jackson is the new face of the Oakland Raiders, and that could mean anything from him being Alexander (Im In Charge Here) Haig to Philip (The Strawberries, Thats Where I Had Them) Queeg.

Well explain those references in a minute. But first, the news: The Raiders under the auspices of Jackson, have traded the 2012 first round pick they expect to get from the Nnamdi Asomugha deal and a conditional No. 1 in 2013 to the Cincinnati Bengals for quarterback Carson Palmer.

This means:

Jackson needed a quarterback for the right now.
Jackson went to the one place nobody thought anyone could go, Cincinnati when Mike Brown is having a hissy-fit.
Jackson went after a quarterback who was once promising but through injury and pique has become a dodgy selection.
Jackson had the power to pay what most people agree is a staggeringly high price.

It may also mean that Al Davis is doing triple Salchows in his grave, though we need more expert testimony from master of mortuary science and the rites of the dead to know for sure.

But what it absolutely means is this: Hue Jackson is now the general manager of the Oakland Raiders, the living modern-day embodiment of the man who hired him. He went from offensive coordinator to head coach to the master of the football operations department in nine months, a rise so meteoric that even Al in the afterlife must find that a bit breathtaking.

Consider this: Palmer is a considerable risk, given that the rust on him makes the rust of Kyle Boller look like a spit-shine. Consider also that a No. 1 pick in a year rich with quarterback talent is a high price, and a second one, albeit conditional, is extraordinary.

But we dont know if thats good or bad, because we dont know what conditions must prevail for the second year to kick in, and whether the Bengals would know what to do with the extra picks.

We also dont know what Al would do if he were still about, because every trade is different, and every position has different value. So lets not play that card, either.

What we know is this. Hue Jackson has grabbed the commanders chair, and maybe with the approval of the Davis family and CEO Amy Trask. It is at least without their strident objection, although if this trade goes south, they may use it later to fire him. Such is the nature of life in business and sport.

In other words, when Jackson says he lives on the edge, he isnt screwing around. He just went all-in on his job, his future job, the Raiders drafts for the next two years, and the future of the franchise all of 10 days after the passing of the only other true boss the organization has ever known.

Even Joseph Stalin cooled his heels for two years before throwing his elbows around.

But there we go, lapsing back into history. And for you kids who think Google is the equivalent of running a marathon, Alexander Haig was the guy who tried to seize control of the government after Ronald Reagan got shot in 1981. And Philip Queeg was the loonball captain in the famous movie The Caine Mutiny.

There are small elements of all these things in Hue Jackson right now. And if hes right, hes a damned genius. And if hes wrong, hes done.

Living on the edge? Please. This is sitting with one leg ion each side of the edge and bouncing up and down without a cup. This is sliding your tongue up and down the edge on a winters morning when the edge is frozen. This throwing in all your chips on a seven-deuce.

You have to like the commitment. You have to love the brazenness. You have to anticipate with eagerness the gargantuan fallout. Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz? On Monday, a big deal. On Tuesday, Little League parent crap. Take that, 247 news cycle.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

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.