Ray Ratto

Ratto: Sharks not concerned with playoff matchup on rare off day


Ratto: Sharks not concerned with playoff matchup on rare off day

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

Since nobodys sure quite yet what the NHL means by odd games, here are your Sharks playoff scenarios as you rise this Sunday:Chicago plays Detroit, and Dallas plays Minnesota. If Chicago loses straight up, the Sharks play Los Angeles. If Chicago wins straight up or in overtime, the Sharks play Phoenix. If Chicago loses in overtime or in a shootout, the Sharks play Chicago. And if Chicago wins in a shootout, the Sharks play Nashville.And if Chicago loses straight up and Dallas wins, Chicago isnt in the playoffs at all.We tell you this because you care. We tell you this because our own choice is coming, and it might surprise you. And because an informal poll of Sharks indicates that theyre not going to bother to watch the Blackhawks and Red Wings anyway. Its an off-day, and they dont need to know anything other than nothing.Im gonna watch the Masters, Dany Heatley said. Ive got Rory (McElroy), and hes got some good history (plus a four-stroke lead).Im going to spend time with my wife and kid, Joe Thornton said, Were not going to have many days off after this.In other words, hes going to watch the Masters?Yeah, he laughed.The players understand that they are best served narrowing their focus not to the scenarios but what happens when the road narrows. We have to beat em all anyway to get where we want to go, Thornton said.Hey, they all have different strengths we have to be concerned with, McLellan said. Chicago has the Cup. Theyve been there. Phoenix is a very good system team, very disciplined. L.A. has size and speed. Nashville has a good core, and the goalie (Pekka Rinne).And his own team?I think we can go with anyone strength for strength.Well then, that settles that. Except . . .Except for the one really fun notion, that the Blackhawks beat Detroit in regulation (the Wings might be the most vulnerable team of all given their injuries, and in any event are locked into third with no chance to move). In that case, the Sharks and Coyotes would be the first team in NHL history with an opportunity to play each other nine consecutive times.Think of it. Think of how sick you get of people you like after nine straight days. Now think of how sick youd get of people you dont like for, say, 19 or 20 days, with days off to think about them. You think you wouldnt want to snap now and then?It doesnt really matter, Thornton lied. You get to the point that once youre in, it doesnt matter who you play.But nine times in a row potentially?Its not that different than seven.Well, yes, thats true. But nine just sounds like more of a slog with someone yapping in your ear the whole time. Nine sounds like the kind of thing that would cause Colin Campbells phone in the NHL dean of students office to melt:Colie, it seems that Doug Murray and Paul Bissonette just took their fight into one of the suites at the arena, and . . . oh, Murray just clocked Bissonette with a tray of tri-tip sandwiches and a wine bottle. You may want to get on this.Nine sounds like the hardest thing in the world to do, in a spot where the teams that have the easiest row to hoe in the early rounds is the one with the best chance to go deep.On the other hand, the hockey would be such a glorious grind that it would make most of the other series melt by comparison. With the one exception being Bruins-Canadiens, of course, where the bad blood is perpetual, freshly renewed by the Zdeno Chara-Max Pacioretty incident and not merely a scheduling contrivance.But scheduling contrivances are all we get on the West Coast, and besides, this could be the last time these two teams ever meet in their present guises. The Coyotes may still be shipped off to Winnipeg if the proposed sale of the team cannot clear the barbed-wire legal obstacles (well cover those another day).Anyway, go Blackhawks. If youre a Sharks fan, you can get to them any old time. Same for the Kings or Preds. But Phoenix for three consecutive weeks . . . that may never happen again.

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.