Ray Ratto

Ratto: 49ers, Raiders look for off-the-field progress


Ratto: 49ers, Raiders look for off-the-field progress

Aug. 26, 2011

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There will be two prime preening opportunities for our local pro football teams this weekend, and neither the 49ers nor Raiders will be able to say it was on-field progress.It will be whether beefed-up security can combine with two opponents that the local fan bases give very thought to create, well, nothing.
Nothing, as in, no fights, no gun shots, no muggings, no brawls, none of the malignant jocularities of a week ago that made San Francisco, Oakland and their franchises national laughing stocks.VIDEO: Candlestick Park violence report
That is, we presume, the real goal of the weekend, as opposed to seeing whether Terrelle Pryor can take the Swords Through The Heads to greater glory, or Colin Kaepernick can move from No. 2 on the 49ers depth chart at quarterback to No. 2 on the 49ers depth chart at quarterback.There will be thousands of people in the two buildings and millions of eyes on their behavior, and this is their first chance to make a first impression since they so badly mangled their last impression.And because the 49ers are playing the Houston Texans, the most faceless formless franchise in the National Football League, and the Raiders are playing the New Orleans Saints, who are better but have little to do with the Raiders, this ought to be easy.Will there be greater more careful security at both La Candeliere and This Space For Rent Coliseum? Yes. Will it be downright oppressive? Maybe. Will there be better behavior than last time? Absolutely, unless someone is planning two massive car heists.And everyone will declare that victory has been won in the battle with hooliganism, because thats how this stuff plays. Thats how it always plays.But it will be something of a sham, because the real test of the new securities will come when the regular season starts, and the opponents will be the Cardinals and Chiefs rather than the Texans and Saints. It will come when the teams think theyve gotten security down and the next big surprise happens. It will come when they have to react to a problem they didnt expect, and one will occur because thats the nature of the beast.And thats when we will know how well these grand new ideas take hold, and just how much safer the stadiums and the events therein actually are. Well know when its Go Time, not Show Time. And this weekend is, well, Show Time.Put another way, this should be an easy weekend for both security teams unless theres a far bigger problem than any of us truly realized about East Bay-West Bay issues that has nothing to do with either of our soon-to-be 6-10 teams.

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.