Ray Ratto

Ratto: Seto, Sharks now linked to 'Shocker at Staples'

212011.jpg

Ratto: Seto, Sharks now linked to 'Shocker at Staples'

April 19, 2011RATTO ARCHIVESHARKS PAGE SHARKS VIDEO
Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

LOS ANGELES-- Devin Setoguchi walked into the Staples Center Tuesday afternoon, looked up and saw an NHL commercial on the Miracle At Manchester, the Kings spectacular playoff comeback in 1982 that saw them erase a 5-0 third period deficit and beat the Edmonton Oilers.Setoguchi, who was unaware that the game ever existed, given that he was still five years away from conception, said, Oh, thats cool, and didnt give another thought to it.Now he is linked to it inextricably.

Yeah, thats pretty cool, he reiterated. Id never heard of it before. It was his cool, in fact, in collecting a nifty pass from Patrick Marleau and one-timing a blast past Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick 3:09 into overtime, that got the Sharks their finest playoff win ever. Down 4-love, they won, 6-5, to take a 2-1 lead in this series, and if we didnt know better, wed say they turned the series in their favor for good.We do know better because after one period and 44 seconds, the series had turned in the Kings favor for good. Shows what we know. Shows what we should be aware of in Game 4.We used our mulligan tonight, head coach Todd McLellan said more than once. This wont happen again.Whether this ends up being known as the Shocker at Staples, or the Fiasco on Figueroa, it is safe to say it wont happen again, not for a long time. The Sharks claim they came out more energetically than they did in the Game 2 disaster that saw them lose 4-0, but fell behind even faster this time. Two goals in 13 seconds inside the first 2:39, by Willie Mitchell and Kyle Clifford, then another body blow at 18:22 from Michal Handzus put them in terrible arrears.But for reasons only they can fully explain, to the extent they can explain this at all, they did not yell at each other. They did not panic. They did not mope.It was weird, I know, but everything was positive in the room, winger Ryane Clowe said. We played better than we did in Game 2, and we knew we were down 3-0, but we just felt better about our game. We just stuck with it.And so they did, promptly allowing a bad fourth goal to Brad Richardson 44 seconds into the second period, forcing McLellan do the only thing left in his hand exchange Antti Niemi for Antero Niittymaki in goal.But that didnt do it, either. A goal from Marleau on a glorious slap pass from Dan Boyle . . . a power play goal from Clowe 3:45 later . . . a smart drive from Logan Couture from Ian White at 13:22 . . . they were back in it at 4-3.And back out of it when Ryan Smyth scored 15 seconds later. Surely, the Kings had saved themselves in time.And surely, wed already been wrong about this game twice. So it was Clowe again, from Boyle at 18:35, and then Pavelski from White 54 seconds after that, tying the game and stupefying not only the Staples crowd but anyone who watched anywhere where watching could be done.I dont even know where to begin, Boyle said afterward. Were down and out, were done, but we somehow get back into it. I made two good plays the whole night, and they both ended up being goals. It was just a night when some guys stepped up and played great.Todd didnt say anything to us. He left it up to the players, and we just talked about not giving up, not quitting, just getting the first goal.McLellan disputed that.Oh, we talked, he said. They didnt need me to yell and scream at them. That would have been the worst thing to do. We just talked about passion, and doing the things we know we need to do and try to get back into this game.And so, improbably enough, they did, by changing goalies, and by rolling their top three lines almost exclusively after the first period. They couldnt do that very long in the overtime, because we were starting to run out of gas, McLellan said, but they got away with both Niittymaki and nine forwards long enough, thanks to Setoguchi and an inner peace that was outer angst only three days earlier.This may not have been the biggest playoff win in team history -- beating Detroit in 1994, and then last year, stand up as their most historically significant triumphs. But this was, for sheer unadulterated madness, the one that people may remember even longer than the 94 one. The Sharks were dead. Then they stopped being dead. Then they killed the Kings.For a day, anyway. As McLellan said, theyve used their mulligan. It only gets harder, and maybe even weirder, after this.

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

baker-dusty-head-down.jpg
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

arena-bruce-sad.jpg
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.