Ray Ratto

Ratto: Zito quietly allays cynics with spring gem


Ratto: Zito quietly allays cynics with spring gem

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

Were not sure what Barry Zito is thinking when he says, I just want to keep things nice and quiet just the way to keep it nice and smooth out there.Life isnt meant to be smooth for B.W. Zito. At least not his baseball life. Every start has been a referendum on The Contract, and every story has been a direct reflection on his character.So it was hardly disturbing when he was asked after going five scoreless innings Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox if one can make anything out of the fact that he has allowed one earned run in the eight innings he has pitched since the Chronicle column claiming the brass was running out of patience with him.

No, no, he said before shifting the subject back to keeping things quiet. It was clear he wanted to handle that as much as he wanted to gargle coal dust.But as the first Giant to throw five innings as the high point of their 4-2 win over the Sox, Zito has at least quelled discussion of his impending expensive doom even if it was only empty speculation that would have shattered the old record for eaten money by 41.5 million.
RELATED: Zito tops Peavy, Giants beat White Sox 4-3
Especially since he cruised through 16 Sox with only a walk and one hit without his trusty sidekick, Curve J. Ball. In fact, the only useful one he had all day was one he lost that nearly nudged Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski in the melon.Useful, that is, if he was trying to curry favor with the eternally skeptical in-house crowd.If Im going to make a statement, he said with a smile playing at the edges of his mouth, the curve ball is the one to do it with.His other pitches worked fine, though, and he fell behind only Carlos Quentin, the walk, en route to an outing that could be called . . . well, quiet seems correct enough.He just kept the ball down better, he pounded the strike zone with everything, he did exactly what the game plan called for, manager Bruce Bochy said. He did everything weve asked.Zito now has four outings left to get himself to 100 pitches, at which point he will be ready for the regular season. In other words, he enhanced his chance of keeping the job he was never in any true danger of losing. It wont ever be quiet for him, but for the foreseeable future, it will be safe.What'syour take? Email Rayand let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag. Follow Ray on Twitter @RattoCSN.

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.