Ray Ratto

Ratto: LaRoche finding new home in Oakland


Ratto: LaRoche finding new home in Oakland

March 8, 2011RATTO ARCHIVE
A'S PAGE A'S VIDEORay RattoCSNBayArea.com

As spring training conundra go, backup shortstop ranks right up there with sixth-inning reliever, bullpen catcher, and weekend color analyst.But both the Giants and As are looking for someone to break up the every-day monotony of being the most important infielder, and the As need is even more acute.Enter Andy LaRoche, driving his third home run of the spring well over the left field wall against Tim Stauffer in Oaklands 6-3 win over San Diego.RELATED: Cahill strong for four innings, A's beat Padres
LaRoche signed with As after struggling to find a place in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, and understood immediately that he would be responsible for learning whatever tasks he was put to if he wanted to hold a place on the 25-man roster.RELATED: A's roster
Im just here to do whatever they want me to do, he said. Ive played more third base than anywhere else in the past, but I have to go where the opening is.The opening here is at shortstop, where incumbent Cliff Pennington is coming back from shoulder surgery, and backup Adam Rosales isnt due back from his injury until May. LaRoche, who isnt a shortstop by nature, is about to play one on TV.We obviously have a need for that job, manager Bob Geren said of the backup infielder role, and I want to give everyone a chance to win that job.But LaRoche has the most imposing bat of the candidates, who also include Eric Sogard and Steve Tolleson. Also the greatest urgency, as he has been stuck behind circumstances in his prior stops, never breaking through in L.A. and getting stuck behind Pedro Alvarez in Pittsburgh after being shipped there.I came here because Billy (Beane) had been after me for awhile, he said, and because this looked like a good place for a job. He also said he talked with Daric Barton and Kurt Suzuki for their imprimaturs, though the need probably superseded the selling.That said, LaRoche isnt just going to be a shortstop if he survives the cuts. He does daily work at all four infield positions, because the art of kicking obstacles out of the way starts with getting your foot in the door.Shortstop, though, is probably the way he will be graded here. As Beane said, Im not big on speculating on anything this early in the spring, but I will say the ability to play shortstop will enhance his opportunity.Also hitting 415-foot homers, he might have added.What'syour take? Email Rayand let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag. Follow Ray on Twitter at @RattoCSN.

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.