Ray Ratto

Ratto: Culpepper interest says a lot to 49ers fans


Ratto: Culpepper interest says a lot to 49ers fans

Aug. 15, 2011RATTO ARCHIVE
CSNBayArea.com Raise your hand, paw, claw or taloned wing if your idea of the next quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers was ever Daunte Culpepper.Go on. We can wait. You have until eternity.Yet there he is, an invitee of Jim Harbaugh at Mondays practice. Evidently the head coachchief mastermindsaver of quarterbacks souls suddenly decided that he didnt have enough alternatives to Alex Smith, and that he didnt need a whole lot of evidence to make that call.Sounds, frankly, like someone who learns by running into walls at top speed and then picks himself up so that he can hurry and look for the next wall. Comrade Maiocco, who knows more of the ways of 49erWorld than most, said it was obvious the 49ers would bring in some sort of veteran presence. Then again, one would ask, if it wasnt obvious well before this, and that maybe General Jimmy was a bit too reactive for a first-year man.Culpepper, you see, has been the free couch on the front of the lawn for a long time now. He hasnt played a down since 2009 since his contribution to the 2009 Lions, who went 2-14 and called it glory after going 0-16 the year before. His career, once loaded with promise, has collapsed, in part because of him, in part because of circumstances as is the case with most NFL career arcs. You almost never go when youre ready.Smith and Colin Kaepernick, on the other hand, had just had their hats blocked good and proper by the New Orleans Saints Friday night, combining to go 11 of 26 for 117 yards and six sacks. The Saints are a good team that create lots of offensive blocking mismatches, and figured to do just that to the doe-eyed Smith and unfamiliar Kaepernick, and so they did.RELATED: 49ers bullied by Saints 24-3 in exhibition debut
But the more burdensome question for Harbaugh is why the veteran presence thing was such an insoluble problem for so long. He hasnt named an opening-game starter, which is prudent, and he may still believe to the depths of his soul in Smith (though we have always felt that was a position of convenience rather than conviction).But at a position that is so clearly unsettled, why was the veteran presence not more of a priority a lot sooner in the process? And never mind that, is the offensive line so unsettled that it becomes a saloon door the first time it is tested? Looks like Candlestick-sur-la-Mer is going to become the place where blitz packages go for a holiday.Few people expected a fix of this franchise quickly, and anyone who did is plainly nuts. Eight years of ossification, reluctance to outsource, bad ideas and worse ideas on top of those are hard to scrape away with a pretty new figurehead at the front of the ship. The safe, sane and sensible assumption is that the 49ers are not yet ready to be a player in the National Football Conference yet, and you can believe all you want, but you who do believe have also believed every one of the last eight years. You believed in Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary, in the power of history and the power of new faces (say, like Jed Yorks). You believed through thin and thinner, and you believe because you are hard-wired to do so.And youre entitled to do that. You pay your fees, in ticket prices or by allegiance despite distance. You dont have to be there to be a fan, and the notion that you do is one of the great whopping lies of modern marketing.But none of that gets us any closer to Daunte Culpeppers Monday workout. If he doesnt do much, well, not much ventured and nothing gained. Hes not exactly an even-money bet here.But if he does, if hes suddenly part of the evolving quarterback plan, then Jim Harbaugh has some more explaining to do. And the more a coach has to explain, the less effective his explanations become. That was part of Singletarys downfall, and while he was entertaining, he flamed out pretty quickly by coaching standards (he ended up tied with Frank Kush and Bull Behman for games coached at 40, and we neednt push that analogy any further).So if Harbaugh is planning to serve his full 80, not including January work, hell have to get up to full speed even faster than he already was traveling. And Daunte Culpepper may be a small thing, but it says so much more in this town.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.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.