Ray Ratto

Ratto: A's display rare marketing savvy with twin bill


Ratto: A's display rare marketing savvy with twin bill

July 15, 2011


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First, youre not on the 405, so whatever stinks about your weekend is nothing.Second, you get lots of extra baseball tomorrow as part of the first forward-thinking idea the As have had since Jose Canseco.Of course, they did this by looking backwards, but this is good backwards. The good-old-fashioned two-games-for-the-price-of-one doubleheader, as opposed to the sit-down-now-get-out-now-come-back-in-with-your-wallets-open doubleheader, or the we-got-rained-out-but-you-still-have-to-get-in-get-out-and-get-in-again doubleheader.

We dont often credit the As with marketing savvy, since much of their marketing seems to hinge on the unstated proposition, We dont really want to be here but since we are . . . variety. And frankly, the only way this actually works is if the As beat the Angels twice -- Trevor Cahill over Jered Weaver, and Rich Harden over Ervin Santana.You see the problem here, right? The Angels look pretty good, twice.RELATED: MLB standings
But lets view this from the viewpoint of the meek inheriting the earth because, well, what the hell? Why not one time for the soft underbelly of the American League? Why not one big day for the folks who really need one?The majority of doubleheaders end up in a mildly satisfying split -- which is to say a mildly unsatisfying split. Everybody gets something, and the As are only 12, or 13 games behind Texas, and 15 or 16 games behind New York. Theyre still safe in 12th place, and the rest of the season is still an extraordinary slog just to seek relevance, especially when pitchers like Brett Anderson get a 12-month surgical hall pass.RELATED: A's Anderson has elbow surgery, season over
Doesnt seem like a lot when you think about it, really.But a sweep -- a sweep sends the audience home with songs in their hearts, twinkles in their eyes, and unconfined joy in every car, be it BART or Prius. A sweep brings hope. A sweep causes illusions to construct themselves in the imaginations of those who are sick to death of reality in all its ugly forms.It is, in short, an all-or-nothing strategy built specifically for those who are short-stacked -- an all-in for the audience. Cheap adrenalin on a Saturday afternoon. You just hope the concessions stands dont run short of frothy cold Mothers Little Helper.Doubleheaders fell out of fashion because baseball stopped wanting to give dates away to its customers. Every date was considered gold, and a new chance to optimize and monetize.But the As are trying somehow to shrink the product, whether it be by tarping the upper deck, keeping payroll and expenses under the kind of controls one typically finds in a central Asian village, and now, letting dates get away from them.This is another of those ideas, but it may still be fun for the customers, and that is more important than wondering if the management is maximizing a buck. Frankly, what the As do to make money is of less interest to us than knowing the crowd got what it thought was its moneys worth.So heres to Saturday, to the good old-timey doubleheader. Maybe Bob Melvin can get tossed from one of the games. Maybe Cahill can buzz someone and get something started. How about a walkoff in the second game? Hey, if its for the audience, give the audience full value.Lord knows they could use it.

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.