Ray Ratto

Ratto: 49ers scored ... now the tough work begins


Ratto: 49ers scored ... now the tough work begins


We slagged him like a disobedient puppy, and we made fun of his age and experience level and the way he goes about what he is trying to accomplishment, but fairs fair. Jed York got his guy, and apparently at his price.

Now all he has to be is right.

Jim Harbaugh is now, for good and ill, the new face of the 49ers, replacing Sourdough Sam, who replaced Mike Singletary, who replaced Mike Nolan, who replaced John York, who replaced Steve Mariucci. Five years, 5M per, and all he has to do is build a quarterback out of whole cloth and a legitimate Super Bowl contender out of clay and landfill.

In short, the job he has now makes his reconstruction of Stanford look like a Malibu Barbie Dream House made of Popsicle sticks.

But we can start grading Harbaugh and his Respect the game, respect the process and Whats YOUR deal? sloganeering another day. This is Jeds triumph, if it in fact is that, and credit must be paid.

Not as much as you think, of course. If this was the unfettered triumph it will be portrayed as being, Harbaugh would never have had his army of agents hawk his wares across the nation. Hed have said, Sounds good, Jed. Im on board right away.

That didnt happen, though, and one can only assume that hed done all he could do at Stanford, wanted to give the NFL a try, which is why he rejected Michigan, and turned down the Dolphins over control issues, since he was offered significantly more to wear teal and orange and fish-motif caps.

Some might say that was reason enough to turn down the Dolphins, but thats another story.

You wont get the straight story as to why he chose San Francisco after the bizarre process the nation endured watching him make up his mind. Hell portray this as his dream job, the Bay Area as his Nirvana, and his enthusiasm about leading the 49ers to multiple Super Bowls from their new stadium in Santa Clara. He can be programmed, and he can spin a plate.

So ignore all that, and simply acknowledge that he got a gig he considers better, for more money than he was making. Really, other than the dramatic drop-off at quarterback from his old job, he stepped up in the world of men running into other men at high rates of speed, and now he can prove his wizardry at the highest level there is.

If, in fact, he can prove it. The 49ers are not as close to glory as their fans want to believe, it took Bill Walsh three years to hit the jackpot, and he has a live quarterback even before Joe Montana. In short, Harbaughs going to need all five of those years to make this thing work the way Stanford did after four.

But for the moment, this is Jed Yorks triumph. Target sighted, target acquired. Even after misleading folks on his general manager plans (Trent Baalke rather than experience, dont forget), he was as good as his fantasies on this one, and those of us who enjoyed teeing off on him for apparently blundering through the process need to acknowledge that while he did blunder through it, the process came back to him and he closed the deal when it needed to be closed.

In summation, Jed is off the hook, just as Harbaugh is on it. But the hook will never be that far away, not in this market, not with this team. This was a good day for Jed York, and we will see how many more will follow.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.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.