Ray Ratto

Ratto: Giants' Wilson now playing by show biz rules

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Ratto: Giants' Wilson now playing by show biz rules

Feb. 22, 2011RATTO ARCHIVEGIANTS PAGE GIANTS VIDEO
Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

There are two dates to keep in mind for Brian Wilson this year -- May 10, and September 5.If on May 10 he has 20 appearances, all will be well. If on May 5 he has five blown saves, his offseason will officially be declared a team-crushing distraction.Conversely, if on September 5 he has 20 appearances, his offseason will officially be declared a distraction, and if he has five blown saves on September 5, all will be well.Thats how this works, and how it has always worked. A players ability to pursue outside projects without complaint runs in direct proportion to his or her future performance, and while Wilson understands this truth conceptually ... well, lets just say you can understand the backlash but it still leaves welts all the same.We as a society of brazen puritans have always had a curious relationship with fame. Were all for it until you have it, but once you get it, you will be punished for having achieved it. The only indemnification against this phenomenon is to never fail at your first job, which in Wilsons case is throwing a baseball at a sufficiently high rate of speed and sense of direction that it cannot be used against him in the ninth inning.In short, he used to fail because he couldnt throw strikes. Now hell fail because he flew to Charlie Sheens house.RELATED: Giants Insider notebook -- Wilson's back drama
Make sense? No. Then again, it doesnt have to. Its just what is. Wilson is by his own choice a creature of show business, and as such will now play by show business rules, the first of which is, Youre as good as your last hit.This is particularly dangerous because his chosen profession, closer, is one of the most volatile in sports. There is only one Mariano Rivera per era, plus the odd Trevor Hoffman or Joe Nathan. Everyone else is fighting either to stay healthy or not have the bad years be terrible ones.Wilson was exemplary last year, as has been discussed ad nauseam in these parts. The year before, he was pretty good but occasionally unsettling. The year before that, he was a Maalox bottle with shoes.Thus, the arrow is pointing north, the best time as it turns out to broaden ones horizons and also the worst time to win approval from fans and media. Every time he kicks a game, he will be blamed not because he couldnt find the strike zone but because he did that photo shoot for Canadian Lumberjack Quarterly. He wont have gotten squeezed on that bases loaded walk by C.B. Bucknor, but by George Lopez.And there is nothing for Wilson to do about it except never ever ever have a bad outing ever again. Or to develop a skin so thick that he doesnt let the outside world bother him. Or, most likely and maybe most efficaciously for his own peace of mind, to keep his exasperations hidden from view and understand that in difficult times, regular folks cant resist ascribing arcane reasons to normal occurrences.Last year, Wilson had five certifiably bad outings in 80 regular and postseason appearances, an average of less than one per month. If he does that again, Charlie Sheen wont be a factor. If he has 10, there will be grumbling. Any more than 12, and his second career will be blamed for his struggles in the first. Its mathematics, and its mob sociology, and theres no disputing those two sciences.Presumably he knows that. Hopefully for the Giants, hell be able to understand how the world works for athletes with off-field hobbiesambitions. All he has to be is slightly better than he was a year ago, and hes home free. Otherwise, well, it isnt like he wont have been warned ... day, after day, after day, after tedious, repetitive, soul-crushingly monotonous day.After all, what else are the fans and media for?

Dusty Baker's postseason agonies and his Hall of Fame candidacy

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USATI

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

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AP

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.