Ray Ratto

Ratto: Playoffs for 49ers, Raiders? No chance

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Ratto: Playoffs for 49ers, Raiders? No chance

Sept. 6, 2011

RATTO ARCHIVE
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This isnt going to end up with the punch line being Andrew Luck. It just isnt, so dont get your hopes up. Or down, as the case might be.

Neither the 49ers nor Raiders have either the gumption, the brass, the contempt for their audiences, the resources or the good fortune required to throw enough games to win the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

And thats assuming they would even try. I mean, Andrew Luck might be the new Peyton Manning, or Dan Marino, or . . . oh, fill in your favorite, you know where were heading here . . . but to get there, you have to be so bad, or hope the team that does get his rights is so stupid, that it can be done without going fingers-up to an entire season.

In short, too many games, too many ways to screw it up with success without quite having enough ways to make success mean something. To wit:

WEEK ONE

SEATTLE at 49ERS
RAIDERS at DENVER (Monday Night)

Tarvaris Jackson comes to a place hes never won, a fact which many 49ers have in common with him. Seahawks arent very good on the road, or in general. WIN.

Based on the preseason, Denver looks like a good pull here, though undoing the rash Josh McDaniels Era will take some time. LOSE

(49ers 1-0, Raiders 0-1)
WEEK TWO

RAIDERS at BUFFALO
DALLAS at 49ERS

Buffalo is really under-good, but at home . . . oh, they could play in Chan Gailey living room and not get this one. WIN.

If Dallas is to be taken seriously, it has to win here. Has to, I tell you. Of course, thats Dallas problem. LOSE

(Raiders 1-1, 49ers 1-1)

WEEK THREE

49ERS at CINCINNATI
NEW YORK JETS at RAIDERS

The Bengals may actually be worse than Buffalo, but home field does help some. Probably not enough, though. WIN

Rex Ryan cannot let his team give up a single winnable game, even if it is three time zones away. Talent imbalance matters. LOSE.

(49ers 2-1, Raiders 1-2)

WEEK FOUR

49ERS at PHILADELPHIA
NEW ENGLAND at RAIDERS

An excellent chance for two hunch routs. Not upset routs. Straight routs. If you need to know why, you dont watch enough football to have gotten this far into the story. LOSE AND LOSE

(49ers 2-2; Raiders 1-3)
WEEK FIVE

TAMPA BAY at 49ERS
RAIDERS at HOUSTON

Weve seen Houston already, and have every reason to believe in the Texans full wingspan and plumage. LOSE

Tampa, on the other hand, doesnt inspire quite as much this far west, especially looking ahead to New Orleans. WIN

(49ers 3-2, Raiders 1-4)

WEEK SIX

49ERS at DETROIT
CLEVELAND at RAIDERS

Hard to see Team Harbaugh nailing this down, as Lions are better and at home. LOSE

Browns are supposed to be better, but well believe that when it is rammed into our red-rimmed eyes. WIN

(49ers 3-3, Raiders 2-4)

WEEK SEVEN

KANSAS CITY at OAKLAND

This looks like a game in which the Raiders can eliminate themselves from the Luck-Fest. Chiefs are better, but not better enough. WIN

49ers have a bye, a week they struggled with under Mike Singletary a year ago.

(49ers 3-3, Raiders 3-4)

WEEK EIGHT

CLEVELAND at 49ERS

Dont have a great reason why just a hunch. Fans will start demanding Scott Tolzein, though, and that should be enough of a hint. LOSE

Raiders load up on Denver packages during bye week.

(Raiders 3-4, 49ers 3-4)
WEEK NINE

49ERS at WASHINGTON
DENVER at RAIDERS

This one hinges on just how bad you think the Redskins are. As for 49ers, youre already getting a sense of that. LOSE

Raiders are back at sea level. First chance to see how well Hue Jackson absorbs and reacts. WIN

(Raiders 4-4, 49ers 3-5)

WEEK TEN

RAIDERS at SAN DIEGO (Thursday)
NEW YORK GIANTS at 49ERS

Not a big believer in Raiders on the road after a short week against the divisions best team. LOSE

Not a big believer in 49ers at home against a superior team at any time. LOSE

(Raiders 4-5, 49ers 3-6)

WEEK ELEVEN

RAIDERS at MINNESOTA
ARIZONA at 49ERS

Minnesota is one of those wild card teams who could be really good or really bad, but Vikings will be motivated to get to Los Angeles first. LOSE

Arizona isnt; mostly bad. WIN

(Raiders 4-6, 49ers 4-6)
WEEK TWELVE

49ERS at BALTIMORE (Thursday)
CHICAGO at RAIDERS

The superior team theory, twice. We like chalk here. LOSE, WITH TRYPTOPHAN; LOSE.

(Raiders 4-7, 49ers 4-7)
WEEK THIRTEEN

RAIDERS at MIAMI
SAINT LOUIS at 49ERS

Dolphins are very definitely in Luck sweepstakes (sorry, Andy), and will prove it here. WIN

Rams are best team in the division. A chicken with a piano is the best musician in a coop full of them. WIN

(Raiders 5-7, 49ers 5-7)

WEEK FOURTEEN

RAIDERS at GREEN BAY
49ERS at ARIZONA

Green Bay is really good. LOSE.

Arizona isnt, but this is the NFC West, so that is a redundancy. LOSE

(Raiders 5-8, 49ers 5-8)

WEEK FIFTEEN

DETROIT at RAIDERS
PITTSBURGH at 49ERS (Monday)

Lions on the road arent as good, and the playoffs have already eluded both teams. LOSE

Steelers have much to play for, but 49ers are still in rancid division race. Steelers will stop running game, and thatll be that. LOSE

(Raiders 5-9, 49ers 5-9)

WEEK SIXTEEN

RAIDERS at KANSAS CITY
49ERS at SEATTLE

This is the 200-yard Darren McFadden game weve all been waiting for. Merry Christmas. WIN.

And this will be the only road win by an NFC West team against another NFC West team. Happy Non-Sectarian Festival. WIN

(Raiders 6-9, 49ers 6-9)

WEEK SEVENTEEN

49ERS at SAINT LOUIS
SAN DIEGO at OAKLAND

Rams clinch division with this one, a proud 8-8 team with no discernible strengths past Sam Bradford. Ringing out the old. LOSE

Chargers long ago clinched division, but always get a kick out of putting a whipping on their Californii brethren. Ringing in the new. LOSE

(Raiders 6-10, 49ers 6-10)

Dusty Baker's postseason agonies and his Hall of Fame candidacy

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USATI

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

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AP

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.