Ray Ratto

Ratto: Giants fans misguided in Belt hand-wringing


Ratto: Giants fans misguided in Belt hand-wringing

Aug. 5, 2011


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The Giants are 0-1 without the ethereal presence of Brandon Kyle Belt, and have been outscored 3-0. In short, the Giants once again dont know what theyre doing, hate the youth of America, and need to fire several people with offices.Fine. You go with that. Three more misconceptions to go with all the others. Caused, we might add, by all the Belterrific hype the Giants inflicted upon us all last season and through this spring.Karma, she is a cruel old bat.Heres your simple, inescapable truth about B.K. Belt, in three parts. (A) He has not yet provided the compelling difference in performancecomfort level between him and Aubrey Huff that would get him regular playing time.
(B) He has multiple options left, which makes him an obvious choice to return to the minors for further seasonage, while Mark DeRosa had to be either released or recalled.(C) The Giants are in a pennant race, and therefore do not have to see what the kids are doing the same way the Pirates and Royals do.And that is why he went down. If you think its more complicated or nefarious than that, you like to sport a jaunty tinfoil hat.The Giants used to have a harsher view toward young players because they didnt have any of value. They didnt invest the kind of money that creates young future major leaguers, and their organizational philosophy was to build around Barry Bonds with veterans, not rejuvenate from below him. Thats why they spent the latter of half of the past decade as a steaming mediocrity.The franchise is different now, and there are young people who are getting time, and looks. Their patience with Nate Schierholtz has been extraordinary. Buster Posey hit the ground at a dead sprint. The pitching staff and the closer are home grown. Brandon Crawford is on the cusp.In short, they dont hate Brandon Belt.But they need bats now, and Belt hasnt convinced them in understandably few at-bats that he is ready to become the everyday player they still expect him to be.Plus, Huff makes 11 million. How much dead salary do you want on your bench? How many ways do you want to tempt veterans to become disgruntled? How much chemistry can you afford to throw away?The Giants dont have those answers, and neither do you. They are seeking the path of most runs and least resistance, and hoping Belt is ready isnt good enough yet.Is Bruce Bochy a guy who leans toward veterans? Yes. Most managers are. The ones who arent are with bad teams, with general managers who are trying to rebuild those bad teams. Besides, you were shrieking for Carlos Beltran a week ago when you could have been pining for Gary Brown, so you feel the same way too. In short, the Giants are a bad hitting team and theyll stay that way until some of the players who got hot last year get hot again. And that may be not at all; theres certainly little evidence to suggest otherwise. But until you can convince Bochy that Belt is an absolute, drop-dead, cant-miss-starting-today guy, and until you can then convince Brian Sabean that Aubrey Huff is done and worth angering in a clubhouse that feeds off its own joy and needs that as a weapon to overcome that steady diet of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 games, youre going to have live with the Giants as they are.And with B.K. Belt taking extra swings in 165-degree heat. Because, well, because thats the way it is.

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.