Ray Ratto

Ratto: Stanford's Luck Gives a Lesson in Physics


Ratto: Stanford's Luck Gives a Lesson in Physics


Thiswas Andrew Luck on the face-the-music moment he inflicted on Cal's SeanCattouse in Saturday's 48-14 Big Game victory by Stanford:"I didn't really get a good look at him before we came together. I just hit him and let physics take over."Okay then. It was the immutable laws of physics that explainedStanford's most lopsided victory over Cal in a non-rugby-rules BigGame. The really good team faces the okay team and uses basic physicalproperties over and over again to administer an inspirational beatdown.And if one play explained it for the unseasoned, it was Luck'scollision with Cattouse midway through his 58-yard sprint from his ownpocket into Cal's heart. The almost sure Heisman Trip invitee brokefrom his pocket on a third-and-five from his own 21 hoping to extendthe drive, saw green, then saw a flash of blue out of the corner of hisleft eye at the Cal 45 and moved Cattouse involuntarily with hisforearm - his forearm, for God's sake.And yeah, "moved" can be said with emphasis. Cattouse, one of theGolden Bears' best defenders, came hard from the left side and wasdriven five yards up the left hashmark.At the moment, the game ended. There were throws and runs and blocksand pass defenses and all the other things that TV colormen like tospew about, but with 4:52 left in the first quarter, the moment Luckdelivered the blow to Cattouse, Cal's chances of upsetting thesixth-ranked Cardinal evaporated into nothing."He's gotta be a 4.5 guy," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said of Luck,lapsing into NFL combine-speak for any scouts in the audience, "andhe's big and strong and he's got real good speed. It was fun to watchhim run. I just like to see him play."Cal coach Jeff Tedford wasn't nearly so excited, though. He expectedmore of his team than a game like this, but he does know a thoroughbredwhen it canters on his team's face."No, I'm not surprised by that," he said, the disappointment tighteninghis jaw with every word that he forced out of it. "He outweighsCattouse. When I saw him at the luncheon (Monday) I saw up close howbig and strong he is. He's a powerful guy. That's why I keep sayinghe's the best quarterback in the country in my opinion."Tedford, of course, saw more than just the one run. He saw three earlyturnovers and nine penalties that enhanced Stanford drives anddestroyed one of Cal's. He saw his team owned at home, an unusualenough event under any circumstances, and owned by Stanford, aparticularly galling thing especially given the way Harbaugh ripped theCal players for their pregame noisemaking."The Cal players talked a lot of trash before the game during thewarmups," he said, referring to the events that led to both teamsapproaching each other around the coin toss and resulted in a Calpenalty and the ejection of Stanford sophomore Jamal-Rashad Patterson,who took a swing at Cal's C.J. Moncrease in response to an apparentprovocation."We told our team to keep its poise, maintain its discipline, but Idon't like that kind of football where you try and talk and intimidate.It's not real. You play with your feet and your legs and your hands.Just play football. Shut up and play football."Safety Richard Sherman, though, said the talking was not unilateral. "They talked, and we talked, and you just got a conflict of interests."He said this while shirtless and shoeless, having been partly denudedby Stanford fans who were celebrating an enormous win that was dampenedonly by the come from behind victories by Ohio State and LSU, keepingtheir postseason plans in stasis. They are 10-1, the first time they'veever won 10 games without benefit of a bowl win, and watching Luckbrazenly throw into double coverage and come out a winner every time isenough to almost make any bowl committee forget the fact that Stanfordis a notoriously poor travel school.Losses by LSU and Ohio State would have made it harder to keep Stanfordfrom a BCS bowl, probably the Rose. As it is, the Cardinal still needshelp to get what Harbaugh is loath to say it deserves, although hetried."We'll see, we'll see," he said, when asked what postseason reward the Cardinal deserved. "Definitely something good."Now there's a headline: "Harbaugh Approves Of Good Things For HisTeam." Right up there with "U.S. Explorers Discover Farmland In Kansas."Whatever happens tomorrow, though, comes tomorrow. Today, the Big Gamegot its wings yanked off its back. Stanford crushed Cal in a game thatlasted barely 10 minutes before Andrew Luck used his left arm to put anexclamation point on what his right arm did all day.You know. Physics.
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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.