Ray Ratto

Sabean-Bochy deal predictable, key


Sabean-Bochy deal predictable, key

In a move that will make both supporters and critics alike sing with joy, Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy received their belated contract extensions Tuesday.

Supporters, because it means that the architects of the current Giants baseball operation will be around for the next two years, with a club option for 2014.

And critics because, well, what else do they know but complaining that Sabean doesnt do things their way, or even explain it in a way they find tolerable.

And lets face it -- the second-best thing to enjoying your teams management is enjoying ripping your teams management.

The actual fact isnt really news. Ownership front man Larry Baer had said all along the deals would get done, and we can only assume that the announcement was made today because nothing stupid or criminal happened in college sports today.

At least not yet. College sports is on a roll.

But the extensions for Sabean and Bochy will be particularly useful both ways, because it shows that the ownership upheavals of the last three years at least havent unduly disrupted the baseball operation -- except, say, in the matter of how much money is committed year in and year out to the ball side.

And therein is always the biggest question with the Giants -- whether they want to play with the big boys, or be the best mid-range guys they can be.

Now we can eliminate the biggest of the big, for they are never going to spend with the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs or Phillies. In fact, the Cubs under their new ownership may never spend like the Cubs ever again.

But budgets are created not be general managers but by owners, which means that Charles Johnson, who has the most actual cash in the game after the ouster of Bill Neukom and some divestitures by the Burns sisters, has the final say on how much the Giants can spend, and Baer will doubtless be the one to bring that message to Sabean and Bochy.

It is clear that the Giants arent in the play for any big free agents, so the big splash Sabeans critics demand of him is a pipe dream and well leave it to you to determine what kind of tobacco-based product is in the pipe.

No, Sabeans first duty will be to figure out how to keep the pitching staff paid and played, which we know. And the reaction to the fact that he will making that Job 1 for at least two more seasons will be the fun part.

Sabean has been the claymore mine for all things Giant for nearly two decades now, taking shrapnel for previous ownerships while figuring out how much credit to avoid. Hes hit and missed on his share, but what may be more maddening to his critics is not that he takes all the bullets, but that he doesnt even try to amuse them by talking in modern baseball buzzwords. He kicks tires and does due diligence, and doesnt do give-and-take with the audience.

As for Bochy, he deliberately talks in the painfully slow drawl that makes the ignorant think he isnt bright, when in fact he is not only a sharp baseball mind but can size people up in about a half-hour and knows what they will do in specific situations before they do.

Like all managers, he cannot predict outcomes of strategic moves ahead of time, but anyone who thinks he isnt a mastermind in the care and feeding of a pitching staff, from ace to mop-up inning-eater, is frankly a moron.

Either way, theyve earned their extensions, because theyd earned them a year earlier. But everyone gets what they want. Those who like the status quo get more quo, and those who like slagging them get to slag them some more.

And if that isnt the holiday season, Im not sure what is.
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.