Ray Ratto

Pitching-loaded Giants make a deal


Pitching-loaded Giants make a deal

Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera is probably more than Jonathan Sanchez is worth. But in time, it may turn out that it was more than Melky Cabrera was worth.For the moment, though, the Giants, who are essentially shut out of the mega-bat everyone demands of them, got another intermediate bat the theory being, one supposes, that if you pile decent run producers high enough, you can pretend they are a couple of huge run producers.Cabrera will reveal his nature soon enough as in, well see whether hes a lineup upgrade or not soon enough.For the moment, though, Sanchez is the item at hand, the classic million dollar arm that couldnt turn it into a millions of dollars arm. He didnt attack the strike zone often enough, or he tried to attack it too hard, but he didnt attack it consistently. And an unreliable pitcher is the same as a bad pitcher when it comes to constructing a starting rotation.To try and make sense of his work is difficult; some would suggest that he thought too much, others, that he thought too little. That is beyond our purview, and frankly, beyond anyones.But the Giants could make this deal not because Melky Cabrera was such a find, but because the Giants are still pitching-loaded. It is an indication that they were not going to divert any more resources into the unknown of Jonathan Sanchez, and his 4.8M salary for 2010, which presumably would at least stay steady in Kansas City, was going to balloon eventually in San Francisco.Cabrera, on the other hand, made 3.1M in 2010 in Atlanta, and had to scramble to make 1.5M from the Royals this last year. He is rebuilding a career that at one point looked like a rocket at liftoff but leveled off. He hit 18 homers and drove in 87 runs a year ago in Kansas City, but those numbers are not necessarily reflective of what will happen in The Cooler er, the Giants ballpark.But it is an acknowledgement that the Giants not only value hitting as a requirement, but that they could no longer grapple with the conundrum of Jonathan Sanchez. He may find Kansas City the perfect place to find the strike zone he lost, because there are different horses for different courses.For the moment, though, this isnt about what the Giants gained, but what they shipped away an unharnessed arm in a place that does nothing but harness arms. Melky Cabrera is an interesting addition, but Jonathan Sanchez is a fascinating tale, both now and in the future.

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.