Ray Ratto

Ratto: Sharks get started at re-establishing control


Ratto: Sharks get started at re-establishing control

April 18, 2011RATTO ARCHIVE
CSNCalifornia.comLOS ANGELES -- The level to which the Sharks are damned by their playoff history remains high, and one wonders momentarily why more coaches dont try to use that history as a way to jab them between games.I mean, Joe Sacco of Colorado did it last year, and it certainly worked. Until they played, and the Avalanche was disappeared.Terry Murray of Los Angeles is smarter than that, though, because he knows the game actually works. He took the Philadelphia Flyers to a Stanley Cup final in 1997, got swept by Detroit when the Red Wings were the best team in the world, and got fired.
And wasnt surprised. Thats just the way the business works, he said with a rueful smile. You dont like it, but nobody likes it. Nobodys ever liked it.Thus, when you know just how capricious the business can be, especially in the postseason, you dont tend to rub other coaches or franchises noses in it. Because your nose has been there too.Murray has been a coach for 14 years, has won far more often than he has lost, but the Kings are his third team. Things happen in the playoffs even after all the preparation and roster constructions and coaching stratagems. Players play, pucks go where they go, and matchups matter more than standings position or tactical wisdom.Thats why Murray hasnt made a thing of why the Sharks have never won a Cup, or even a conference title, or gotten to the conference final more than twice. Oh, he could. But what would be the point? What goes around comes around, and typically with a vengeance.The Sharks are a maddening lot on their own, without outside input. If other teams look at how their best players Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, Dan Boyle, Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe flit in and out of significance, and how they can go so quickly from efficient to inert.RATTO: Sharks put up stinker for the ages in Game 2 shutout
It is, in short, not their talent level (they have plenty, though with the usual gaps all teams have) or planning (they are consistently prepared) or effort (they try too hard more often than too little) any of the things that another coach could use to gig them, but their extraordinary inconsistency from game to game.The Sharks know how they are viewed without anyone saying it. Theyve been at the game too long not to know how to walk it. Theyre not as elite as they think they are. Theyre good, but confused on the notion of what it takes to be great.And all this coming out because of one game in which they completely lost their way, and their minds.We had one player last night who had well over a two-minute shift because he wanted to show his teammates that he was determined, Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Sunday. "But that's not going to help us win.McLellan is reaching that point in his stay where his players pretty much know what hes going to say and how hes going to say it. They must either do it or not, and pay the consequences that come.McLellan is one of seven coaches in these playoffs still working on their first job. The others are Bruce Boudreau of Washington, Dan Bylsma of Pittsburgh, Guy Boucher of Tampa Bay, Lindy Ruff of Buffalo, Randy Carlyle of Anaheim and Barry Trotz of Nashville. Only Boucher and Bylsma have fewer games on their resumes. But they all know everything they ought to about the playoffs, and none of them have the time or inclination to grind on about someones elses resumes.NEWS: NHL headlines
McLellan will not be fired if the Sharks do not rise to the consistency in the face of constantly changing conditions that seems so often to escape them. His position is not the issue here. The issue is whether, having been shown how easy it is to lose the plan, whether they can reassemble it quickly and re-establish control of this series before it establishes control of them.And maybe this will be one more example of how the Sharks greatest enemy has not been the coach, or the talent, or the planning, or the effort, but the comfort. Of thinking the job is done before it is. Of thinking there is a way to prove their value before it can be proven.In short, were just getting started.

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.