Ray Ratto

Ratto: Giant lesson in Super Bowl chaos


Ratto: Giant lesson in Super Bowl chaos

Feb. 7, 2011


Ray Ratto

There is a lesson in the steaming disaster that was the Super Bowl for the San Francisco Giants, if they are prepared to absorb and act upon it.Which, we would bet heavily, they are not. The moneys too good the other way.
The Super Bowl was a spectacular failure on all but football grounds. The ice that crushed the Metroplex, the people hurt when the stadium burped up part of the icy roof, the turbulent undercurrent of the labormanagement spit-fest, the tickets-that-werent-for-the-seats-that-never-existed, Christina Aguilera (who we thought was already retired) shrieking in some unknown code, the Black-Eyed Peas and their interpretation of an airport runway at night, and in all, the rigors of greed unchained and unashamed made this one of the worst Super Bowls ever. Except for Aaron Rodgers, and Mike McCarthy, and Ted Thompson, and the state of Wisconsin, that is. They had a hell of a time.
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So what does this have to with the Giants? Im glad I asked. As you may have noticed from FanFest, the Giants are hotter than theyve been since the day they got here. They turned away almost as many people as they admitted for the annual slap-and-tickle, and that may be an accurate gauge of the demand right now.
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But heres the thing. The Super Bowl crushed its own mordant avarice. Charging hundreds for a party pass that allowed you to get close without seeing the game, setting up temporary seating areas that people who paid full retail couldnt use, and putting up a show of purest malignant excess all of it the karma that comes of squeezing the money lemon until the seeds explode in your eye.
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And theres the lesson. There is money the Giants dont want, and that money is too much. Finding new ways to choke a guys wallet ought to be beneath them. Charging for everything you can charge for is not only unseemly but antithetical to what Bow Tie Billy Neukom says he believes. And this requires an ongoing examination of how they deal with the marks . . . er, the customers. In short, where the Super Bowl asked the question How much can we charge for even stuff that has no value? and got the response, Heres a record-breaking ice storm, the Giants have to ask the question, What can we afford not to charge for? Its kind of a zen question, in fact, because the Giants need money to feed their pet Lincecums and Cains and Poseys. But they have also flogged the brand to a fine gray paste, to the point where they are either nudging the line of excess or treading merrily over it, depending on your position relative to your checkbook. The Giants have two choices here striking while the iron is hot, or gently nudging for a prolonged and triumphant future. Every kid who couldnt get into FanFest had a lousy experience, and it doesnt matter to him whether the team or the fire laws kept him out. There will be other moments where the customers dont get serviced, either, and thats where the creativity comes in. When someone gets shut out of an event, they should get something free in exchange. A T-shirt, a stuffed Machine, a suite for the Pirates series, something. And charging for everything is what they do in the Mob. The team orientation at this, their finest moment, should be, What can we not charge for? because those moments linger a lot longer than the Visa bill. Fans sign up for a lifetime when given something they didnt expect. This is the law. Conversely, fans walk away when their favorite team has its hand in the fans pockets at every turn, and they dont come back. The Giants are as close as theyve ever been to owning the market, but the more they try to own, the worse it will get. If fans are born through the influence of their parents, their parents get hooked on their kids being handed something for nothing, even if that something is as small as an autograph or just a smile. Which is why not charging for everything under the sun is the way to go here. The Super Bowl is the example of what happens when your appetite for other peoples money outstrips your ability to dance for it. And the task for the Giants is to find ways to put the price gun away. Can they do it? We suspect not. The instinct to double-down when youre hot is almost Pavlovian with most enterprises. To go the other way takes more discipline, but it also makes better sense in the long run. Even barflies know this -- buy the first round of drinks, and it wont be your turn again for quite some time. And thats what the Giants can take from Super Bowl Week. Well, that and keeping Christina Aguilera from showing up to yodel Battle Hymn of The Republic.

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.