Ray Ratto

Ratto: Inside our voter's Top 25 ballot


Ratto: Inside our voter's Top 25 ballot

Sept. 6, 2011


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Each week, the Associated Press college football ballot shrinks a few teams, and now is down to maybe six that really matter. But we soldier on, because we are faithful and devoted and because it kills a Sunday morning that might otherwise be spent interacting with the family.

Our man's poll, the first of many this season:

Last week
This week
1. LSU
Beat Oregon, 40-27
Northwestern State
Best win of the week deserves top ranking
2. Boise State
Beat Georgia, 35-21
Only of nine road teams to win all week
3. Alabama
Beat Kent State, 48-7
@ Penn State
Much will be revealed at State College
4. Oklahoma
Beat Tulsa, 61-34
Looked sharp v. C-USA power
5. Florida State
Beat Louisiana-Monroe, 34-0
Charleston Southern
6. Texas A&M
Beat SMU, 46-14
Idle is a popular opponent this week
7. Stanford
Beat San Jose State, 57-3
@ Duke
Duke lost to Richmond last week. Use your judgment
8. Virginia Tech
Beat Appalachian State, 66-14
@ East Carolina
Potential upset special here
9. South Carolina
Beat East Carolina, 56-37
@ Georgia
It just gets harder and harder
10. Wisconsin
Beat UNLV, 51-17
Oregon State
Beavers looked bad against Sac State
11. Mississippi State
Beat Memphis, 59-14
@ Auburn
Could be end of the national champs
12. Baylor
Beat TCU, 50-48
Enjoy the afterglow
13. South Florida
Beat Notre Dame, 23-20
Ball State
Theyll be ranked by the philistines soon, too
14. Nebraska
Beat Chattanooga, 40-7
Fresno State
Cal softened the Dogs up
15. West Virginia
Beat Marshall, 34-13
Norfolk State
LSU in three weeks
16. Michigan State
Beat Youngstown State, 28-6
Florida Atlantic
Not worthy of your attention yet
17. Ohio State
Beat Akron, 42-0
The annual MAC Tour continues
18. Oklahoma State
Beat La.-Lafayette, 61-34
Thursday Night Trap Game
19. Arkansas
Beat Missouri State, 51-7
New Mexico
It might actually be an easier game
20. Florida
Beat Florida Atlantic, 41-3
The extra 10 letters hurts this match
21. BYU
Beat Mississippi, 14-13
@ Texas
They could be co-independents next year
22. Maryland
Beat Miami, 32-24
The uniforms are fine; shut up
23. Penn State
Beat Indiana State, 41-7
Well find out
24. Texas
Beat Rice, 34-9
Like we just said, Attention Span Boy
25. Northwestern
Beat Boston College, 24-17
Eastern Illinois
Big deal last week; not so much now

What's on your mind? Email Ray and let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag.

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.