Ray Ratto

Ratto: Posey injury a can of worms for baseball


Ratto: Posey injury a can of worms for baseball


Buster Posey's offended fibula is changing baseball as we know it, and here's the proof: An interview with ESPN in which A's GM Billy Beane has told catcher Kurt Suzuki not to block home plate.

This is a direct response to Posey's season-ending injury, as well as an acknowledgement that Suzuki is that important to the A's. The numbers that relate to Suzuki's value above that of your average catcher are there to be found.

"I said to him, 'I don't want you planting yourself in front of the plate waiting to get creamed. You're an athletic catcher -- be athletic,'" Beane told Suzuki as related to ESPN's Buster Olney. "I don't subscribe to the theory you should be a crash-test dummy. I don't want to lose you for six months."

That said, we have now entered a brave and weird new world, one in which valuable players are having their risks reduced while your average catcher (say, just for purposes of argument, Landon Powell) probably isn't getting the same directive.

And while that may sit well in FantasyWorld, we suspect it might not go down so well in actual clubhouses, where those who have the risk-averse clause and those who do not will find themselves at considerable odds.

Put another way, if Suzuki can beg off hazardous duties that Powell cannot, you have a problem, and a potentially serious one.

We are not raising the flag for Landon Powell here, necessarily, nor are we dismissing Suzuki's right not to have his brains clattered needlessly -- as opposed to necessarily having his brains clattered. That's a philosophical argument for another time.

But Beane is creating separate clubhouses, and a huge number of negotiating headaches, all at the same time.

When does an outfielder dive for a ball, or go to the wall to catch one? When should a first or third baseman range over by the dugout for a foul pop? When should a pitcher try to knock down a comebacker? And double plays? Please.

We are not accusing Beane of having all these things in mind when he was looking after Suzuki's brain pan. But there is always the law of unintended consequences, and this is where the don't-block-the-plate concept leads to players who should risk their well-being and players who should not. It actually codifies less-than-full-effort, and frankly becomes a glorious, spectacular mess for everyone involved.

Will this change Beane's mind? Please. He may be flexible with concepts, but once he likes one, he stands almost immutably firm on it. He still likes the managers-don't-matter-much concept, even though the evidence not only cuts both ways but actually suggests fairly strongly that he is more wrong than right.

But let a thousand flowers bloom, and let ideas run rampant. Although I can't wait for Yadier Molina to demand the no-contact catching clause in his next deal.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

MLS respects timing more than dominance, so Quakes have a counterpuncher's chance


MLS respects timing more than dominance, so Quakes have a counterpuncher's chance

The San Jose Earthquakes cheated the reaper Sunday, which is news in and of itself. I mean, they’re a playoff team so rarely that getting to a 35th game is quite the achievement, and they should not begin the arduous process of sobering up until Tuesday morning.

I mean, their playoff game with Vancouver is Wednesday night, so slapping themselves back into form is probably a priority.

They got an improbable stoppage time goal from Marco Urena Sunday against Minnesota to sneak through the back door into the final Western Conference playoff spot Sunday, their first appearance in the postseason in five years. It was as electrifying a moment as Avaya Stadium has seen since it opened, and one of the best goals in franchise history if only for its importance.

That said, the Quakes also enter the postseason with a losing record (13-14-7) and the worst goal difference (minus-21) for any playoff team in league history. They are the most cinder-based of the league’s Cinderella stories, and are dismissed with prejudice by most observers as being as one-and-done as one-and-done can be without being none-and-done.

This is a league, though, that has respected timing more than dominance. In 2016, the Montreal Impact finished last in the East and got to the conference final; in 2012, Houston (which was a relocated Quakes team) just snuck in to the postseason and reached the final; in 2005 and 2009, the worst (Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake) ended up first.

In other words, the Quakes’ pedigree, modest though it is, still allows it a counterpuncher’s chance. Its attack, which is third-worst in the league, playoffs or no, is matched by its defense, which is fourth-worst in the league. Their years as a de facto vehicle for Chris Wondolowski are coming to a close, sooner rather than later. They are in no way an elegant team. They are working on their second coach of the year (Chris Leitch).

But therein lies their mutating charm. Their postseason pedigree stinks, but there is a no compelling reason why they cannot cheat a result or two. After all, the lower scoring a sport is, the greater chance for an upset, and the Quakes’ history screams that no franchise could use one more.

So they head for Vancouver, a raucous crowd and a difficult side, carrying with them only their humble resume and the indomitable cheek demanded of the upstart. I mean, anybody in their right mind would much prefer the Whitecaps’ chances, but you gotta be who you gotta be.

Plus, the Quakes are getting a 35th game, which is more than they had a right to expect, all things considered.

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.