Ray Ratto

Ratto: Who are best, worst owners in California?


Ratto: Who are best, worst owners in California?

June 30, 2011


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We have long taken pride in our ability to match other cities sports owner for sports owner and claim, We Are The Absolute Worst. And for years, we were.No more. Weve been passed, and worse, weve been passed by our friends in Los Angeles, and now we are a distant second, and fading from view.The reason: Frank McCourt. He kills everyone. If there has been an owner who used his sports franchise as a poison pill against hostile takeover by his wife or the home office, we havent met one. There have been tax evaders and philanderers and slumlords and racists and weasels and creeps and criminals and brigands of all kinds but not this.Thus, he is now the leader in any clubhouse, beating even the old leader in the clubhouse, Clippers owner Donald Sterling. How can we, a large mid-market, compete with that kind of depth?The answer is, we cant. Thus, the new world order shifts south, and were just going to have to live with it. From best to worst:1. LAKERS
Jerry Buss body of work remains impressive, as he has parlayed the advantages of being the big dog in a metro area of 10 million and turned it into the biggest dog. He is not mega-wealthy in and of himself, , but he does have power, influence and Kobe Bryant, the latest in a long line of extraordinary playing icons that stretches back to Magic Johnson (for him) and Elgin Baylor and Jerry West (pre-him). Building always filled, and in prime real estate. Hes a lock.2. GIANTS
Its easy to say this coming off a World Series, but they have their own building (more or less; the city still chunks in upkeep every year), its always filled, and people dont seem to mind paying big money for the same old view of Cody Ross beard, and the 12 drinks that make it palatable. How they have managed to extend the honeymoon for a new stadium into 12 years is easy to understand they won, and the baseball has clearly been the draw for all but the first couple of years and the brief fallow period of post-Bonds. They still have problems telling the truth about their history in the post-Lurie era, but owners do tend to spend as lot of time polishing their own trophy cases.3. SHARKS
Full building they havent started bitching about yet,a team that contends, a fan base that goes in happy and goes out relatively content (hey, the season always ends in a loss, so what do you expect?). They lose a tolerable amount of money (or make a non-obnoxious amount of money, depending on which accountancy firm you use), and have done nothing particularly annoying. Yet.4. HOCKEY KINGS
Philip Anschutz has money he hasnt even hired people to count yet, seems to stay out of the way of the hockey operation, and has spare change to own half of MLS. Also, you can never find the guy, so its not the fame that drives him. Points off for no titles, and his interest in a football team waxes and wanes, but he has no extraordinarily public evil impulses.5. DUCKS
Henry Samueli is a billionaire who has supervised one Stanley Cup. He is a philanthropist of some note. He seems like he should be higher on this list, but he also pleaded guilty to U.S. securities regulators in an investigation about backdating stock options. The result: he was suspended by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and being suspended from owning a National Hockey League team is really hard to do.6. USC
Not a pro team? Please. They are a major driver in college football, the majorest driver west of Austin, and the most important cog in Larry Scotts Empire Of The Air. They do fly a bit wide of the NCAA rulebook, but apparently thats all the rage in college athletics now, and athletic director Pat Haden has a long fight with history in front of him. Trendsetters, or brigands? You make the call.7. ANGELS
Arte Moreno came in as a hero, couldnt sustain his hero-dom (its been nine years since that World Series, after all) and has now settled in as an owner who has learned the pitfalls of both wacky spending and backhanded fame. Sort of a split decision here.8. WARRIORS
A huge advance for this historically ridiculous operation, but the absence of stupidity in failure is not the same as the evidence of wisdom in success. We know Joe Lacob likes to do things, but we dont know if those things are good. We also know he likes to tell people about the things he does, and we know how that usually ends.9. 49ERS
Same as the Warriors. Theyve done some mildly sensible things, but not enough of them to make you think a corner has actually been turned. The Yorks are in the process of being paralyzed by their stadium problem in Santa Clara, and they still havent streamlined their football operation with an expert NFL hand, which is just stubbornness, but they havent done anything really absurd lately.10. ATHLETICS
Were probably entering the beginning of the end game for the Fisher-Wolff ownership, because San Jose looks about as dead as dead can be, and the scorched-earth plan in Oakland has been a predictable failure. But our irritations are mild compared to those in . . . well, you know.11. BASKETBALL KINGS
Going broke is never a good plan for an ownership, especially a family ownership. I mean, you cant sell off relatives to make the nut, if you know what I mean. The Maloofs arent evil theyre just, well, poor. Still, poor is its own punishment, and poor and wanting to leave town is an even less admirable business plan.12. RAIDERS
Al Davis has skins on the wall like few entrepreneurs in the history of sports, but hes been pelt-less for nigh on three decades now, and those decades (well, 28 years) have featured only eight playoff appearances, and none in the last eight. Points for being one of the few men to start in the sport before becoming an owner. Points off for the coaches he has hired and for becoming unfashionable in a cruel Internet world.13. CLIPPERS
Donald Sterling could be the worst ever, but it wasnt like he took a great idea and crushed it. It was bad when he got it, and hes kept it there with an iron will and a defiance for even the laws of bouncing objects, with a side of racist and slumlord to spice up the meal. But in a contrived contest in which we want McCourt to finish last, the silver medal is all we can offer.14. DODGERS
Taking a team from a jewel in the crown to a knob on the porta-potty is a remarkable skill in any amount of time, but McCourt did this at warp speed, and did it mostly to keep money from his wife in a divorce so ugly that it ranks somewhere on a list the starts with Hitler v. Stalin in World War II. Cant be worse, because his greed has a particularly vindictive quality to it, and he trashed a valuable American icon without a moments hesitation.In short, the Southland does well near the top of the list, but their worst is also the worst in America, and that counts for plenty. We may be gilding the Sterling lily a bit by not making him dead last, but McCourt is an inspiration to the conscience-free everywhere. And well done to him for actually offending a guy (Bud Selig) whose salary he is actually helping to pay. Beat that with a stick, we dare you.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

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.