Ray Ratto

Ratto: Three keys for Sharks-Canucks Game 3


Ratto: Three keys for Sharks-Canucks Game 3

May 20, 2011


Ray Ratto

With the Stanley Cup Western Conference Final perhaps only a weekend away from being over, here are some things you havent thought of -- mostly because nobody in their right mind would.

Two of San Joses most important players, Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe, have struggled so far in this series, on the forecheck, in neutral ice and offensively. And because they have struggled, their linemates have struggled as well.

Todd McLellan:
We felt going in, especially after the first two series, the way we played down the stretch, that the Pavelski-(Torrey)Mitchell-(Kyle) Wellwood line had really contributed to our success, helped us get to this point, and were factors. They haven't played that way the first two games.

But with that being said, the (Logan) Couture line hasn't either. We have two lines that we have to find a way to get going. Jumbo (Joe Thornton), Patty (Marleau), Seto (Devin Setoguchi) for the most part, their line has been competitive, involved in the game. They're playing against the other team's checkers.

We've got a group of six forwards there that have to find a way. Logan's game has been good, too. We have a group of six forwards that has to find a way to leave its mark on the game.

Wait, didnt McLellan just say nice things about Setoguchi? Yeah. Wait.

If you look at what Devin does well, Devin puts himself in a position to shoot the puck. That's the first thing that he does. He ended up with zero shots on goal last night and a minus-three. The second thing that he does well is he skates, he's quick, he hunts pucks, he stays in battles. When he's doing that, he's very effective. He didn't do much of that last night as well. So he can be better.

Defenseman Jason Demers, who has missed the first two games with an unannounced upper body injury, is going to miss tonights game as well. He didnt skate Thursday, and barring a miracle cure that allows him to skate this morning, he is doubtful for Sunday afternoons fourth game as well.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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.