Ray Ratto

Ratto: Sharks put up stinker for the ages in Game 2


Ratto: Sharks put up stinker for the ages in Game 2

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

When Dan Boyle, who is the Sharks designated scold at times like this, cant muster up sufficient bile to excoriate himself and his teammates for an effort like Saturdays somethings clearly gone off the rails.He is the Sharks disgust-o-meter, and yet the best he could emit after the teams 4-0 face-washing at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings was a tepid, We werent very good at all. We were terrible.Well, they were, of course. To have the Kings down two of their best centermen, keep a full complement of defensemen for all 60 minutes and turn what should have been on paper a 5-1 win into a 4-0 defeat that takes a level of non-competition and non-commitment that one normally finds in your run-of-the-mill Islander, Oiler or Panther.

It was a missed opportunity, no question, he said. We had a chance to go up 2-0, they were missing two of their better guys (the injured Anze Kopitar and the suspended Jarret Stoll), but we came out and we didnt do many things well out there at all.Oh, it was worse than that. They also contributed three ill-advised first period penalties so that they could expose their low-level penalty kill to more national ridicule. They let the Los Angeles defensemen own the evening, from the nonpareil Drew Doughty and his two-goal, two-assist night to Jack Johnson and his one-and-one, to Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell essentially eating the lunches of first-liners Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi, among others.This was a 4-0 defeat on the merits. The Kings dominated down low at both ends of the ice, and even thrived with Trevor Lewis replacing Stoll and centering the Kings most effective line, with Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams. The defense dominated so well that the forwards could own their cycling space without fear of contradiction from the home team. Goalie Jonathan Quick had 34 saves, but wasnt spectacular by any means. He was just very good the entire night. The rebounds he allowed were whisked away by his diligent defenders, and the saves he did make were not goal-robbing ones.This was, in short, exactly the game from Los Angeles that the Sharks should have given, and for some perverse reason, didnt. Were a better team, a more competitive team than we showed tonight, head coach Todd McLellan grumped. If we dont come out tomorrow and have a sense of shame and anger lingering over us . . . Id be very disappointed.Clearly, he wants the team to loathe itself for an evening, but whether they do or not is always an open question. After all, it takes an entire roster to make a game this lopsided, and the Sharks gave their anti-all to do so.Statistics dont often tell the tale in hockey, and the faceoff numbers (Sharks, 42-28) are a particularly egregious lie. But the giveaways, 19-6 for the Sharks, at home, where the giveaway stats tend to be generous toward the team who works there every day, is exceptionally scandalous a measure of how few puck battles they won along the wall and in front of the net, how many passes they were pressured into spoiling, and how much space they ceded to the more aggressive Kings.And theres one more thing, and it is a familiar mantra in these parts. The Kings best players, Doughty and Johnson, were so not only in reputation but in deed, while the Sharks best players were at best invisible.Thats the important part of it, Kings coach Terry Murray said. When you need something big to happen like we did tonight, your key guys have to step up, and ours did. They held nothing back. Doughty and Johnson, the way we cycled the puck with Smyth and his line, they were all exceptional.That is the standard impression when your team has four and the other has nought, and in truth, 4-0 may have been only a modest impression of the difference between the two teams Saturday.The two teams now have two days to become complacent, morose, angry or more determined. The Kings got to show Saturday that no matter how many centers they have, they still have all the defensemen any good team could ever need, and the Sharks got to show that they still are capable of stinking out the joint every now and then.The good thing is, we know how to come back, McLellan said. We lost to Chicago, 6-2, we got beaten pretty good by Anaheim, and we came back and followed those games with good performances.So now, all they have to do is show they still have that gift. Or, in the alternative, can appeal that Stoll suspension to see if they can get it carried over to Game 3, since it clearly didnt help them in Game 2.

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.