Ray Ratto

Ratto: Don't expect changes in A's situation


Ratto: Don't expect changes in A's situation

June 21, 2011

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Not ever having been too geeked up by the Lew-Wolff-to-the-Dodgers conspiracy theories, we find the new news from Divorce McCourt fascinating, though slightly baffling.With Bud Seligs energies about to be turned full-force onto what will be a parade of nuisance lawsuits from McCourt now that his plan to have Fox pay for his divorce has been foiled, the As go even further onto a back burner. In fact, the As are now behind the stove entirely.It is a view the franchise should be used to, but one of its own making. The San Jose gambit seems essentially undone, not because of inaction from Major League Baseball but from the California side, and slowly but surely it is dawning on people that the ownerships next step is in fact an exit strategy.It doesnt have to happen right away, not while the revenue-sharing pixie waves her fortune-dispensing wand each year. But unless Wolff and John Fisher have a change of heart about Oakland, or would rather have a team in an old park than none at all, theyre pretty well boxed.
San Jose cant save them. MLB cant save them. They dont seem amenable to the Screw it well do it ourselves plan, and whatever back-channeling Wolff could do with Selig to whip territorial rights votes his way has either failed or not been done at all.Now that the Dodgers are the game, the As are just not an issue. And with labor discord scheduled just up the road, the problem of Oakland will remain, well behind the stove.In other words, the status is way quo, and is going to stay quo for the foreseeable future. Unless, the conspiracy freaks and tinfoil-hatters are correct in their supposition that Wolffs road out of town is Highway 5, to the 110.That may be true in the end; one always guesses as to just how close Selig and Wolff actually are, and whether Wolff wants a piece of the Dodgers in their current distressed state.But for the moment, McCourt seems ready to blizzard MLB with court dates protecting his prerogatives as well as he can given that he may have take his lawyering out in trade. That hardly seems like the barrel of monkey owning the Dodgers used to be. Wolff may, in fact, want to wait until the shrapnel clears if L.A. is in fact his goal.That leaves the As where they have always been -- in the Eat At Joes Coliseum, without discernible options for relocation, no chance for contraction, and unless they can find the next Walter Haas, always available for strangulation.Indeed, what the As need most isnt a ballpark at all, but a sense of greater purpose that starts in the big leather chair and works its way down. They need an owner who wants to make his stand in Oakland, whether it be on the present site, Victory Court, or in the Piedmont hills. They need an owner who wants to engage the Giants despite the disadvantages inherent in their position. The franchise needs an owner who frankly is willing to forgo the unicorn of San Jose and get people believing that this team has its own intrinsic value.Maybe that requires a building. Maybe not. But in an ever-shifting landscape -- anyone want to take bets that the Raiders will still be in Oakland in a decade, or that the Warriors wont flee for SouthOMarket? -- what we believe as immutable truth with the As rarely is. All things are cyclical, including the Giants hegemony, and all it takes to change the equation again is someone who knows not the grass isnt greener, but that there is no other patch of grass. No other city to move to, no new stadium awaiting them down the 880, nothing but the right here.And other than the fact that its damned difficult to find such a person or persons, that has always been the fact.In sum, the As dont have a Portland plan, or a Sacramento plan, or a Memphis plan, or a San Antonio plan. The San Jose plan is withering if not completely dead. And contraction isnt an option because whatever it takes to buy out the As, it will take six times that when the other owners who want an easy way out of their situations petition MLB for the same deal the As got.This is what they have, and this is who they are. And as long as Frankie Empty Pockets can make trouble in L.A., and as long as a new CBA remains undone, that will not change in the slightest.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.