Ray Ratto

Ray's Top 25: Stanford continues to climb


Ray's Top 25: Stanford continues to climb

Every week, our Senior Decider votes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, which of course makes all other opinions both superfluous and valueless.

RATTO: Stanford win creates a beautiful mess

1 NOTRE DAME Ahh, for the days when Brian Kelly was considered insufficiently Irish. Up next, at USC 2 OHIO STATE The stealth champion, if Notre Dame goes down. Up next, Michigan. Winner gets tattoos 3 ALABAMA They were dead. Now they're not. Nothing means anything anymore. Up next, crummy old Auburn 4 OREGON Jackson Rice is their punter, and you know that now. Up next, at Oregon State 5 KANSAS STATE Half a hundred to Baylor? Half a hundred to Baylor. Up next, Texas in two weeks 6 STANFORD David Shaw is Jim Harbaugh with a slightly softer edge. Up next, at UCLA 7 GEORGIA Taught Georgia Southern a lesson for only 475K. Up next, Georgia Tech 8 FLORIDA STATE Maybe just spirited Maryland to the B1G. Up next, Florida 9 CLEMSON Either North Carolina State is better than we thought, or this was a bad win. Up next, South Carolina 10 OREGON STATE May have sent Jeff Tedford into retirement. Up next, Oregon 11 LOUISIANA STATE Scared to death by Ole Miss is no way to go through life, son. Up next, at Arkansas 12 FLORIDA They've pretty much hit the wall, it seems. Up next, at Florida State 13 TEXAS A&M Johhny Football's two losses were to . . . LSU and Florida at home. Up next, fellow freshman Missouri 14 LOUISVILLE Did nothing. Up next, Connecticut 15 SOUTH CAROLINA Wofford? Wofford. Yeah, Wofford. Up next, Clemson 16 NORTHERN ILLINOIS Toledo is good, but yesterday's news. Up next, at Eastern Michigan, then Kent State 17 KENT STATE Bowling Green is good too, but same thing. Up next, Ohio 18 OKLAHOMA Needing a late score to beat West Virginia is not going to make the cover of the media guide. Up next, Oklahoma State 19 UCLA Jim Mora just squeezed Lane Kiffin's head. David Shaw's won't be nearly so easy. Up next, Stanford 20 TEXAS Excellent bye. Up next, TCU 21 RUTGERS Draws the team that nearly killed Notre Dame. Well, one of the teams who nearly killed Notre Dame. Up next, at Pittsburgh 22 NEBRASKA Yes, the team that got crushed by UCLA a hundred years ago. Up next, at Iowa 23 UTAH STATE Just a hair better than Louisiana Tech, as it turns out. Which was good enough. Up next, Idaho 24 OKLAHOMA STATE Three quality losses. God, I hate that sentence. Up next, at Oklahoma 25 MICHIGAN This could be a brief stay because . . . Up next, at Ohio State

MLS respects timing more than dominance, so Quakes have a counterpuncher's chance


MLS respects timing more than dominance, so Quakes have a counterpuncher's chance

The San Jose Earthquakes cheated the reaper Sunday, which is news in and of itself. I mean, they’re a playoff team so rarely that getting to a 35th game is quite the achievement, and they should not begin the arduous process of sobering up until Tuesday morning.

I mean, their playoff game with Vancouver is Wednesday night, so slapping themselves back into form is probably a priority.

They got an improbable stoppage time goal from Marco Urena Sunday against Minnesota to sneak through the back door into the final Western Conference playoff spot Sunday, their first appearance in the postseason in five years. It was as electrifying a moment as Avaya Stadium has seen since it opened, and one of the best goals in franchise history if only for its importance.

That said, the Quakes also enter the postseason with a losing record (13-14-7) and the worst goal difference (minus-21) for any playoff team in league history. They are the most cinder-based of the league’s Cinderella stories, and are dismissed with prejudice by most observers as being as one-and-done as one-and-done can be without being none-and-done.

This is a league, though, that has respected timing more than dominance. In 2016, the Montreal Impact finished last in the East and got to the conference final; in 2012, Houston (which was a relocated Quakes team) just snuck in to the postseason and reached the final; in 2005 and 2009, the worst (Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake) ended up first.

In other words, the Quakes’ pedigree, modest though it is, still allows it a counterpuncher’s chance. Its attack, which is third-worst in the league, playoffs or no, is matched by its defense, which is fourth-worst in the league. Their years as a de facto vehicle for Chris Wondolowski are coming to a close, sooner rather than later. They are in no way an elegant team. They are working on their second coach of the year (Chris Leitch).

But therein lies their mutating charm. Their postseason pedigree stinks, but there is a no compelling reason why they cannot cheat a result or two. After all, the lower scoring a sport is, the greater chance for an upset, and the Quakes’ history screams that no franchise could use one more.

So they head for Vancouver, a raucous crowd and a difficult side, carrying with them only their humble resume and the indomitable cheek demanded of the upstart. I mean, anybody in their right mind would much prefer the Whitecaps’ chances, but you gotta be who you gotta be.

Plus, the Quakes are getting a 35th game, which is more than they had a right to expect, all things considered.

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.