Ray Ratto

Ratto: Advice to 49ers -- act fast or lose


Ratto: Advice to 49ers -- act fast or lose

Jan. 6, 2011RATTO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEORay RattoCSNBayArea.com

On a day when Jim Harbaugh both was and was not the nextcoach of the Miami Dolphins (ahh, the beauty of sources who arentclose enough or forthright enough to be reliable), the 49ers endedlooking like, well, rubes.And once that is the perception, the realities that follow tend tobring shellshock, and leave the inexperienced abuse-magnet turtled andmoaning in the corner of the room.Jed York, this is starting to look more and more like your fate.How do we know this? Because between telegraphing his ardor forHarbaugh, sending in an offer that is by all accounts much lower thanthe high bid to date, and undermining his general manager search byadvertising one thing while settling for something else altogether, hereinforced the notion that he is still overmatched and has nobody athis disposal to shorten the odds.
Nothing has been decided yet, mind you, and the 49ersarent out of it until theyre out of it. Miami Dolphins owner SteveRoss left his eight million calling cards (give or take) and headedback to Florida, where it is now being reported that the Dolphins aregoing to retain Tony Sparano. Stanford threw more money at Harbaughthan the 49er deal is worth, and Denver has not yet been heard from butis expected to begin its sales pitch shortly.RELATED: Reports say Harbaugh not going to Miami
But Harbaugh, a natural-born binge gambler when it comes to betting onhis career, must surely suspect that the wooing portion of the romanceis coming to an end.There is a point, not very far from this, where he will price himselfout of the market just by being too overtly mercenary. He is trying todo the trigonometry of powercontrolsuccess, and he has to come up withthe answer that satisfy him soon, or risk being perceived even by billionairedivas as a mega-diva, unworthy of the effort.But with so many irons still heating (Denver? Stanford? Miami, after asham Rooney Rule interview?), it is hard to project where Harbaughsfuture lay.
MAIOCCO: 49ers focus on Harbaugh, then what?
Ultimately, Harbaugh will land when he lands, and thatll be the end ofthat. But this much is known: barring an extraordinary rally by men whohave mostly looked overwhelmed throughout the process, the 49ers havebeen exposed yet again as pikers, led by a man who still wants to becredited rather than one who wants to succeed.This hire required greater skill than York exhibited. Harbaugh is, forgood or ill, the flavor of the week, and his value needed to be sussedout quickly by someone who understood the nature of the competition.The Dolphins would come with money, glitz and a measure of control. TheBroncos would come with money, John Elway and slightly more control.Stanford didnt seem to be a player, then decided with Andrew Luck onboard to dive in, coming with Luck, continuity and the Stanford cocoon.Next to all this, the 49ers had . . . what? A 29-year-old owner whowants to be a combination of his uncle and George Halas, a power vacuumbelow him (Trent Baalke, for good or ill, was hired to be an adjunct tothe coach), and no quarterback at all.Oh, and geography, which means nothing to the modern hyperamibitious coach.In other words, the 49ers needed to win the Harbaugh sweepstakes with aquick and overwhelming strike, and instead advertised how badly theywanted him without proving it to him. Now there are others in play,with more money, more tugs on his emotions, and more Andrew Luck.This is why you hire the general manager whos been around and knowsthe league terrain. This is why you let him run the football operationwithout interference. This is why you move aside and let the expertsexpertify.But no, Jed wanted this to be his big score. Putting his reputation inthe middle of the table next to the insufficient pile of chips, he endsup looking weaker. Even if he does get Harbaugh, it wont be perceivedquite the same way. Jed got played because he wanted too much to be aplayer, and he got played because he didnt bring enough jack withwhich to play.
RATTO: 49ers boss Jed York ... the big kidder
Lesson learned? We doubt it. Hey, there may not even be a lesson to belearned if Harbaugh gets a dramatically better offer from San Franciscoand decides that the 49ers were his bliss after all.But this wont look like Jed York knew what he was doing, no matter how it breaks down. And that was his real plan all along.What's on your mind? Email Ray and let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag.

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.