Ray Ratto

Ratto: Beane could be agent of change for Cubs


Ratto: Beane could be agent of change for Cubs

Aug. 25, 2011


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According to our good friend and accuracy purveyor Comrade Susan Slusser, As general manager Billy Beane is suddenly a live name as the next general manager of the Chicago Cubs.We will now pause while you all do your death-wish jokes.There. Anyway, Slusser tells us that speculation grows that Beane, who could get caught in the switches if the As ownership wearies of waiting for the hole for a stadium to appear in San Jose, could be ready for a change.
The worst possible change in all of baseball, if truth be told.The Cubs have an infrastructure of fetishized failure, and by that we mean that whenever theres a hint of triumph in the air, someone in town is sure to bring up The Goat Of Doom. Or Bartman The Merciless. Or The Black Cat Of 69. Or some other folkloric reminder that the Cubs have gone 103 years without a World Series.And in truth, Billy Beanes powers do not extend that far.It would be fascinating to see Beane working with twice the budget hes had in Oakland, and an ownership whose long-term planning exceeds waiting for the revenue-sharing check to arrive.Expectations have died in Oakland, and the team needs a new faade. Not necessarily a new face; Beane could come out tomorrow and say, Were sick and tired of being irrelevant, and were going to be that change, but the hologrammatic John Fisher and minority partner Lew Wolff would know who would take the blame when people start connecting the dots.So no, the As have become a dead end of their own choosing by colonizing a land without any tents or provisions. They have chosen inertia over action, and in this area, with this level of competition, that is a death wish.That would be the prime motivation for Beane to consider the Cubs. His family situation has changed; his daughter is schooling in Ohio, and his twins are not yet system-educable. He has freedom of movement he hasnt had before.But the Cubs are a load, and have strewn the bones of hardier men behind them on their remorseless climb to and settlement at the lower half of the mean. It is a job more daunting than any of the others that will come open soon say, like the Dodgers because the culture is not acquiescent of failure, as some are, but oddly proud about it, like an ugly statue in the town square that people have come to love because its just so damned old.Plus, Beane would be viewed as an agent of change, and change is strangely distrusted in CubWorld. The ivy has been there since Phil Wrigley and Bill Veeck put it there 80-some-odd years ago. The scoreboard hasnt changed in forever. The park is a monument to itself. If Billy Beane wants to go to Chicago and rouse the rabble, he will find the rabble doesnt rouse for much except maybe when it comes time to turn on the rouser.Beane could call Dusty Baker for more information on that if he wishes.But nothing is impossible or unthinkable, and as we see every day, the improbable is normal and the impossible is always an hour away. Beane could be the new face of the Chicago Cubs for the right amount of money and autonomy. He could be ready for a move; staying in Oakland with this ownership strategy hasnt exactly elevated his profile.He must know, though, that running the Cubs is a stunt mans job. He has to be ready to be blown up, set ablaze, tossed from a roof and shot several times coming out of a speakeasy (they like period pieces in that town). And be ready to keep doing it until they simply tire of you and demand a new stunt man.Its a great lousy job. Or a terrible great one. Either way, Billy Beane might be ready for a change. Even this one.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

MLS respects timing more than dominance, so Quakes have a counterpuncher's chance


MLS respects timing more than dominance, so Quakes have a counterpuncher's chance

The San Jose Earthquakes cheated the reaper Sunday, which is news in and of itself. I mean, they’re a playoff team so rarely that getting to a 35th game is quite the achievement, and they should not begin the arduous process of sobering up until Tuesday morning.

I mean, their playoff game with Vancouver is Wednesday night, so slapping themselves back into form is probably a priority.

They got an improbable stoppage time goal from Marco Urena Sunday against Minnesota to sneak through the back door into the final Western Conference playoff spot Sunday, their first appearance in the postseason in five years. It was as electrifying a moment as Avaya Stadium has seen since it opened, and one of the best goals in franchise history if only for its importance.

That said, the Quakes also enter the postseason with a losing record (13-14-7) and the worst goal difference (minus-21) for any playoff team in league history. They are the most cinder-based of the league’s Cinderella stories, and are dismissed with prejudice by most observers as being as one-and-done as one-and-done can be without being none-and-done.

This is a league, though, that has respected timing more than dominance. In 2016, the Montreal Impact finished last in the East and got to the conference final; in 2012, Houston (which was a relocated Quakes team) just snuck in to the postseason and reached the final; in 2005 and 2009, the worst (Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake) ended up first.

In other words, the Quakes’ pedigree, modest though it is, still allows it a counterpuncher’s chance. Its attack, which is third-worst in the league, playoffs or no, is matched by its defense, which is fourth-worst in the league. Their years as a de facto vehicle for Chris Wondolowski are coming to a close, sooner rather than later. They are in no way an elegant team. They are working on their second coach of the year (Chris Leitch).

But therein lies their mutating charm. Their postseason pedigree stinks, but there is a no compelling reason why they cannot cheat a result or two. After all, the lower scoring a sport is, the greater chance for an upset, and the Quakes’ history screams that no franchise could use one more.

So they head for Vancouver, a raucous crowd and a difficult side, carrying with them only their humble resume and the indomitable cheek demanded of the upstart. I mean, anybody in their right mind would much prefer the Whitecaps’ chances, but you gotta be who you gotta be.

Plus, the Quakes are getting a 35th game, which is more than they had a right to expect, all things considered.

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.