Ray Ratto

Ratto: NBA owners get their way ... not yours


Ratto: NBA owners get their way ... not yours

Sept. 13, 2011


Follow @RattoCSNRay Ratto

The last time a sports league wanted to go from a soft salary cap to a hard one, that league stopped operating for a year.That was the National Hockey League in 2004-5, and while the owners got their hard cap, they also learned the other parts of the equation.1. There are ways to evade the hard cap.2. The struggles in their other occupations did not abate because of it.3. They still dont trust each other.4. They hate the current system just as much, which is why their negotiations next year will be just as protracted and ugly as the NBAs currently are.5. The sporting world is running out of billionaires.
Ostensibly, the owners intransigence, as shown yet again by their refusal to move off their original proposal in negotiations with the players union, is designed to even the playing field between the haves and the know-nots, but we know better.This is just about beating the players, and if there was a hard cap, the owners would want something else even more draconian. The minimum wage. The end of free agency. No more medical. Players provide their own equipment. Whatever.This right here is how the owners compete, and they want to be thought of as competitors just as much as the players do. They want to beat the players because theyre the only ones available to go after, and we know this for one reason.In fact, its the first reason. Namely, you cant legislate against smart, or stupid. Or for that matter, honor and treachery.Whatever the system, teams with the eye for brigandry will get around it. Thats what the NHL saw in the days, months and years since they gave away a season for a deal that most of the owners now hate as much as the previous one.This is about the fact that some owners have advantages that they want to press, and other dont have those advantages or dont know how to press them. And since they know inherently that none of them can truly be trusted in an atmosphere where trust is for saps, they can only go after the other available target.The employees.Which is why Tuesdays development should have shocked no living being. The NBA lockout has barely begun by labor standards, and we are still in the early stages of ugly. The moderates are outnumbered, and the cost of closed doors hasnt really begun to sink in.Eventually the center reassembles itself and cobbles together a new deal, though it wont be for awhile maybe even that year the NHL threw away. But the owners will be no better off in the end, because they cant help themselves. They will try to game the system they fought for, their fellow owners will not trust them or vice versa, and we will be back again in a few years doing the same dance. Because as long as this is about punishing the players for being the entertainment, the owners will miss the central point, which is this:They still like the players more than they like each other.Ray Ratto is a columnist at CSNBayArea.com.

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.