Ray Ratto

Ratto: Sharks in need of the real Dan Boyle


Ratto: Sharks in need of the real Dan Boyle

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

The Sharks got what they wanted the first round in their rear view mirrors. But now, with Detroit in their windshield and looking very Detroit-y, they have to deal with what they need.And what they need, frankly, is Dan Boyle at his best again.Boyle, San Joses top defenseman, just finished what he candidly called a pretty poor series against L.A., and few people have tried to argue him off that position. As much time as he spends on the ice (an average of 27 minutes per game in the first round) both straight-up and special teams, he will be noticed. It is unavoidable.And he was. And he knows it. Which is why he more than anyone wants to reset the odometer for the Red Wings.I dont think you can look at the past. I dont, he said when asked about previous meetings with the Red Wings, most notably the second-round series victory. I think even after every series, you stop looking the numbers and you start all over again.But the same is true of individuals as well as teams. The Sharks won three of four games against the Wings this year, plus the four of five during the playoffs last year, but those Wings were not whole, or rested, or spoiling for a do-over with the team that took them out last year.RATTO: Red Wings vs. Sharks -- what you need to know
They are different in some ways, head coach Todd McLellan said. I think theyre still a puck possession team, but they are willing to dump the puck in more than they used to. The goalie (Jimmy Howard) is different than he used to be, and theyre getting a lot more out of the Darren Helms and Justin Abdelkaders (fourth liners). Theyre healthier, theyve been off, and theres the revenge factor. If we fall into the trap of thinking this is like last year, we will surely regret it.Boyle, for one, knows that much. He was neither the steady backliner nor the linchpin for the power play against Los Angeles, often getting to the twin traps of carrying the puck too much and running about to do things that are either above or below his pay grade. He is not a stay-at-home defenseman, but home is important.All this is why the Sharks uneven series with over the Kings might also have served as a healthy last call, and not just for Boyle. San Jose had extraordinary highs (the first period of Game 6 was about as well as they can play) and stupefying lows (most of Game 2 and the first 10 minutes of Games 1 through 5). They did just enough to beat a battered seven-seed, which is no way to get deep into the party. Most of the big numbers Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau had what they would regard as substandard series.But they have taken their turns in the barrel over the years. This is Boyles turn, because so much is demanded of him, and his presence and absence is so noticeable. If in fact the Sharks can turn it on and off (and typically, when they start believing that, they have a hard time finding on in the dark), they should give serious thought to turning it on and keeping it on, for the Wings are not a forgiving lot.They dont commit a lot of stupid penalties, but they do have a healthy gift for agitation. They are good in the circle and on both the power play and penalty kill, and having Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Nicklas Lidstrom beats a groin strain every time.This is San Joses moment to show what they are, against quite likely the toughest opponent left in the postseason (you have our permission to argue for Washington if you must). All the shovels have to be in the ground, and the ones entrusted with the back hoes, like Boyle just to name one, must dig the most of all.

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.