Ray Ratto

Ratto: The mystery of Marleau resurfaces for Sharks


Ratto: The mystery of Marleau resurfaces for Sharks


It is the day after a Sharks loss in which too many players failed to meet the standards they hold for themselves, which means only one thing.Patrick Marleau.By now, it is the Sharks most enduring clich Wheres Patty? The teams longest serving servant , its best sniper, its most bewildering talent because he is its most intermittent talent, Marleau is back in the crosshairs again after another invisible turn against the Detroit Red Wings Friday night. Thirty-one shifts, 20:41 ice time, two shots, neither of them dangerous, and a minus-one.RATTO: Sharks can't capitalize on comeback
Two nights earlier, it was 35 shifts, 24:43, five shots in an overtime win. In Game 2, it was 31, 21:37, and four shots. Game 1, 32, 26:51 and one.VIDEO: Sharks practice interviews
No points at all, and a minus-one for the series, in 129 shifts and 93:52. For someone of Marleaus extraordinary sniping skills, this is not product at all.

Then again, since we do this dance every year, we have to admit to a fair level of boredom with the topic. Yes, he should be more visible, and more mathematically prominent. No, he shouldnt be the first person you think of when Todd McLellan complains of having not enough players.But thats what it is, and thats what it always will be. Marleau is Switzerland, his impact on a game seemingly unaffected by the events around him. He is not a barometer for the teams results, because they are 3-1 in this series without him, and he was outstanding last year in the 4-0 sweep by the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference final.And perhaps it is that we misunderstand his gift, that it isnt turned on and off the way some players are. You always see Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. You always see Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Marleau is more ethereal, the oft-whispered rumor that doesnt always come to pass.And it frustrates his employer, and it bewilders his fan base, and it renders him too often the afterthought, which is far too low a bar for a player of his abilities. He ought to be noticed on every shift, he ought to change games for good or bad, he ought to be, for lack of a better phrase, PATRICK FREAKIN MARLEAU.RECAP: Red Wings win Game 4 late, stay alive vs. Sharks
And he isnt. In fact, it is hard to determine exactly what he actually is, because he vanishes from view for such long stretches.He is not lazy; you could see that. He is not wasted energy, because you could see that, too. He is not a diva, or a wallflower either. He is almost like an earthquake one second, your dishes are in the cupboard, the next, your tree is the street, and you never saw or heard it coming, or knew why it happened.Maybe he is just the sort of player you should pretend doesnt play for you. Maybe you should think of him as the big prize in a raffle that you never expect you can win.Marleau is not the reason San Jose lost Friday night. He could have changed the game, but he, well, didnt. Nor is he the reason the Sharks won Games 1, 2 and 3. He defies all known templates because there is no pattern to what he does or how it affects the world around him.It isnt that he doesnt score enough goals, either. His aggregate numbers are always good to very good. In short, he gets his, even in the postseason. So maybe the expectations are wrong. Maybe he isnt the guy you have to stop. Maybe the other team isnt sure how to deal with him either.Maybe the problem here ultimately is that we dont get him, and he doesnt get us. We see a goal machine that doesnt always start when the key is turned, and he sees a guy who does plenty and is the convenient scapegoat. We cant (or inadequately) explain our expectations to him, and he cant (or wont) explain his to us. So he remains what he has always been both scapegoat and victim, acquired target and missing person. San Jose stands on the edge of its second conference in succession and third in seven years, and still we wonder where Patrick Marleau was for all of it, while knowing he was there all the time.Camouflaged from view, while rustling the bushes.

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.