Ray Ratto

Ratto's AP Top 25 Poll (124)

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Ratto's AP Top 25 Poll (124)

Editor's Note: Ray Ratto's AP Top 25 ballot was submitted prior to the announcement of the bowl game matchups.
Every week, Senior Insider Ray Ratto votes in the Associated Press College Football Poll. Here is this week's stab at perfection.

RANK TEAM LAST WEEK THIS WEEK COMMENT 1 LSU BEAT GEORGIA, 42-10 BCS CHAMPIONSHIP Any questions left? 2 OKLAHOMA STATE BEAT OKLAHOMA, 44-10 The Deserves a title shot 3 ALABAMA Resting Other Will get the title shot 4 OREGON BEAT UCLA, 49-31 Bowl The Rose Bowl awaits 5 STANFORD Resting Games The Fiesta Bowl awaits 6 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA Resting Are This one's for none of the Tostitos 7 ARKANSAS Resting Still As you can tell, we're just filling time here 8 BOISE STATE BEAT NEW MEXICO STATE, 45-0 To A placekicker away . . . A placekicker away . . . 9 SOUTH CAROLINA Resting Be Look, let's make a deal here 10 WISCONSIN BEAT MICHIGAN STATE, 42-39 Decided We'll update this when we see the bowl invites, okay? 11 KANSAS STATE BEAT IOWA STATE, 30-23 So Have a nice Sunday. 12 HOUSTON Lost to Southern Mississippi, 49-28 Please Sincerely, the Comcast Family 13 OKLAHOMA Lost to Oklahoma State, 44-10 Be 14 TEXAS CHRISTIAN BEAT NEVADA LAS VEGAS, 56-9 Patient 15 BAYLOR BEAT TEXAS, 48-24 While 16 CLEMSON BEAT VIRGINIA TECH, 38-10 The 17 MICHIGAN STATE Lost to Wisconsin, 42-39 Serious 18 VIRGINIA TECH Lost to Clemson, 38-10 Bribing 19 MICHIGAN Resting And 20 SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI BEAT HOUSTON, 49-28 Horse 21 GEORGIA Lost to LSU, 42-10 Trading 22 NEBRASKA Resting Begins 23 WEST VIRGINIA BEAT SOUTH FLORIDA, 30-27 In 24 NORTHERN ILLINOIS BEAT OHIO, 23-20 Earnest 25 ARKANSAS STATE BEAT TROY, 45-10 Thank you.

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.