Ray Ratto

Ratto: Link between Cubs' Marmol deal, Beane's bullpen


Ratto: Link between Cubs' Marmol deal, Beane's bullpen

Feb. 14, 2011RATTO ARCHIVE MLB PAGECSNCHICAGO: Cubs, Marmol agree to three-year dealRay Ratto

Somewhere, there is a tortured link between Billy Beane deciding to make a pitching staff with nine relief pitchers and closer Carlos Marmol just getting a three-year, 20 million contract from the Chicago Cubs.

Three-year deals for relievers have been mocked (but still offered) as violent non-prudent for years now, except maybe for your Mariano Rivera, who got a four-year deal earlier in his career and just finished a three-year re-up. The job is too volatile, the ups and downs are too Rorschach-ky -- just a bad business decision by any standard.

But Beane, who is very much a new wisdom-becomes-conventional guy and has decided that relievers are the new undervalued commodity, just finished stocking the As with bullpen creatures like they were canned goods and we just went to Alert Status I-See-Rockets-On-The-Horizon!

RELATED: Carlos Marmol stats splits game logs

Now whether Marmols deal, which seems borderline nuts based on what we know about relievers not named Rivera, was the Cubs way of acknowledging that relievers are baseballs new flavor-of-the-month is an open question.

Beane, though, chunked down a little over 17 million (out of an estimated payroll of 66 million, or 26 percent) to give himself the kind of preposterousimpressive bullpen depth that the As havent had since Dennis Eckersley roamed the earth. And the one thing we know about Beane, other than his misplaced sense of the critical importance of the Sex Pistols, is that when he sees what he perceives as a market imbalance, he tends to become over-exuberant.

Or in this case, more like uncharacteristically exuberant.

All that said, the As still enter the new year with the usual lack of fanfare, especially when compared to that of the defending blah-blah-blah-de-blah-blahs across the bridge, but they already seem to be putting their stamp on the market.

That is, unless you believe the Cubs so value Marmol that he will be one of the special ones that will be brilliant for years and years and years . Like Rivera, and . . . well, when you throw in that third years, you sort of run out of other folks. The better plan now seems to be making a Costco bullpen like Beane did, buying in bulk for the just-in-case.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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.