Ray Ratto

Ratto: San Jose GreasyUglies do it again


Ratto: San Jose GreasyUglies do it again

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

And so you have it another victory for the San Jose GreasyUglies, and like so many of the others this past month, it was about as pretty and digestible as broken glass.After all, if Dan Boyle can blame his four-cushion game-winning goal that wasnt even a second assist on those greasy forwards, and if head coach Todd McLellan can salute the teams 3-2 win Thursday over the Washington Capitals as ugly as ugly can be, and it was ugly, well, lets put it this way. The San Jose Sharks as a logo and a marketing device are now dead.
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Of course, theyll need some luck finding someone who can animate GreasyUglies, but the T-shirt possibilities are intriguing, especially in this era of squeezing every last dollar until it coughs up five quarters and a bus token.But this is a franchise that can sell a cat to a bird, so they can probably turn out a prototype by the end of next week, when their 13-out-of-16-game road trip finally ends.And it will have to be done that quickly, because as much as the Sharks say they are used to this meatgrinding, backchecking, three-zone-defending style that works so much better than their attempts to be eye candy, they are playing at the thin edge of the wedge.I dont know that theres a comfort zone playing this way, center Joe Pavelski said after earning his way into GreasyUgly fame by barely tipping Boyles game-winning shot with 9:11 left to play. I mean, weve been playing like this on the road and doing well with it, but I dont know that theres ever a real comfort zone doing it this way.
VIDEO: Joe Pavelski video
McLellan, of course, called it making the simple plays, reducing the game to its most basic elements to eliminate the overthinking and search for elegance that left them adrift through the first three months.And he still is waiting for a game that he can sit back and enjoy, but it is becoming clear to him that there will be none of that. The Sharks have not won a three-goal game since before Christmas, and havent had a real walkabout since beating Ottawa 4-0 December 2.Thats how its probably going to be all the way to the last weekend, he said earlier in the afternoon. Its just who we are going to have to be until we get our big guys going.Dany Heatley got credit for the greasy goal Boyle complained about, his second in 12 games, but he was just one of four deflections on the play, meaning that the GreasyUglies actually won by a shot from the point that hit half the players on the ice before it got to the goal.But Joe Thornton picked up an assist on the play as well, and by most accounts the Big Three (Patrick Marleau being the third) were all fairly well devoted to the new Sharks ethos keep the other team down. The idea that the Sharks are spending 22.1 million on what is becoming a checking line is pretty damned funny when you think about it.But its also the price they all pay for fiddling away the first half of the season. Even with Thursdays win, their 11th in 14 games getting them 23 of a possible 28 points, they are still only fifth, a games-played differential below Nashville and a point behind division leader Phoenix. They dare not think of Vancouver or Detroit any longer, as they have lots of team already on their TV tray as it is.
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I stopped looking to see the other scores awhile ago, Boyle said. They change all the time. Its easier just to worry about us.So they do, in a more comprehensive yet less aesthetic way than they ever have before. They are the GreasyUglies, and they are only a logo and two slogans away from being a marketers Christmas bonus.And maybe a playoff team, too.Follow Ray on Twitter @RattoCSN

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.