Ray Ratto

Ratto: Something amiss in dismissal of Geren

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Ratto: Something amiss in dismissal of Geren

June 9, 2011RATTO ARCHIVEA'S PAGE A'S VIDEOFollow @RattoCSN
Ray Ratto
CSNBayArea.com

As someone who has typically found the conventional wisdom a poor guide for behavior, Billy Beanes explanation for replacing Bob Geren as manager seems odd.

Seems, that is. With the Oaklands, nothing is ever that linear.

Beanes notion that the Athletics collective focus had become Gerens job situation may be true, but the general manager has always been resistant to the demands of convention. Sailing into the prevailing blowhards is how he became the principal subject of a book, and now a movie.

So why would be break with convention and fire a friend and colleague now rather than stand as he has, defending Geren by saying that injuries and a thin roster have hampered his abilities?

And no, the nine-game losing streak is too easy a solution, and public pressure regarding the teams parlous state is no solution at all. Theyve been in more dire straits with less hope and Geren has been safe as houses. He has been criticized by players, media and the customers alike for both tactical and personality shortcomings, and his position has been set in bedrock.

RATTO: Axing Geren a start to fixing woeful A's

Now either Beane has suddenly become a man of whim, which contravenes everything we know about his work mode, or he got pressure to make a change not from below (us) but above (Lew Wolff andor John Fisher).

We wont know because none of the principals would say, but it seems more likely that the teams principal owners, who were just compared to slumlords by Monte Poole of the Bay Area News Group less than a week ago, might have decided that something needed to be done.

And when something needs to be done in this context, a manager is usually packing boxes.

We neednt recite the litany of Gerens shortcomings, because many can be summed up by the fact that he exuded lack of dynamism, either within or without the safety of the ballpark. Players found him undercommunicative, armchair managers found him occasionally baffling, and media found him a tough conversationalist.

Lets eliminate the third one first, because a managers last duty is to entertain the notebooks -- right after make sure the waffle-maker is plugged in. Not important if everything else is in place.

The second one, his tactics, could be second-guessed, because all managers who dont have headlight-sized rings on their fingers get that. Bruce Bochy was a bad manager in many amateur eyes until he became a genius.

The first is troublesome, because after keeping the bullpen straightened out and the lineup cards functional, a managers ability to place his players in the best place to succeed and keeping them believing the managers essential wisdom is the most important thing. Beane may not believe this as much as he should, given his long-held aversion to chemistry, but it was, is, and will always be true. The players believe it to be so, which makes it true enough to be a force worth heeding.

Taken as a unit though, Geren had become the a priori example of the teams general unwatchability. That extended both north and south of Gerens office, to the point where the team had become an inert mass dominated by five-hit days and pitchers on the disabled list.

Oh, and abuse for the owners, both for their perceived lack of stewardship toward the team and for their real estate fixations.

Now many things have changed in sports since they became organized, but one thing has remained a constant throughout, and that is that people do not buy teams so they can be made to look and feel ridiculous. They buy them because they either love the sport, think they can cash in on the sport, can become local heroes for buying into the sport, or just scratching a need for personal fame through the sport.

Being mocked, or worse, being called slumlords, is not part of the plan.

GUTIERREZ: Geren never really had a chance with A's

Thus, we have a postulation for Gerens dismissal beyond his record, his personality, his player issues, or his teams seeming inertia. It might very well be that Wolff called in his 15 percent (or Fisher his 75, though that seems less likely) and said a change had to happen.

Hearing Beanes conference call, one could detect rare irritation in his voice and short, clipped answers in his responses. He may have found the questioning impertinent, or the task painful, or maybe he thought Geren deserved to finish the year. He has never whacked a manager in midseason before; the last Oakland manager to be dismissed after March and before October was Jackie Moore, when Beane was 24 and a Minnesota Twin outfielder.

He has now, and this was the one he was closest to, which would be stressful under the most benign circumstances. If the move was forced upon him not because of circumstances but because of the chain of command, he would be all the more agitated.

Again, we likely will never know because there is no advantage in any of the three men saying thats how Gerens firing occurred. What is more, the absence of proof is not the same as proof of the opposite.

But this version makes more sense than pressure from the media or the fan base or even the record at the time of dismissal. None of those three forces have ever worked on him before, and frankly, it doesnt seem plausible that they did this time.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

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

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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

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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.