Ray Ratto

Stanford's status remains status quo


Stanford's status remains status quo

Nothing was delivered Saturday at Stanford Stadium at least nothing if you were looking for closure, or even hints about the rest of the college football season.

Then again, it was one game out of 700-some-odd, so you werent entitled to much.

Andrew Luck did not re-win the Heisman Trophy despite going 20-for-30 for 255 yards and four touchdowns. Stanford did not guarantee itself a BCS bowl berth, although the Fiesta Bowl seems almost a surety. Future NFL draft money was not redistributed, except maybe for tight end Coby Fleener. The Tebow Revolution did produce another 79 yards (before sacks) for the Running Quarterbacks Rainy Day fund, but that wasnt the point, either.
RECAP: Stanford beats Notre Dame 28-14, finishes regular season 11-1

It was, put simply, for Stanford to get in its last shot before the bowl games are distributed and Luck gets to say good-bye to the place that nurtured and propelled him and became further enriched by him.

And there, achievement could be measured. Stanford won comfortably, 28-14, Notre Dame was exposed as a talented but painfully slow team, Fleener widened his lead as the best-named good player in college football with two TD receptions, and now all that is left is for the guys in loudly colored blazers to descend bearing invitations to strange and exotic lands.

Like Tempe, Arizona, or San Antonio, Texas.

Luck held his place in the Heisman morass, though Robert Griffin of Baylor, Matt Barkley of USC and Trent Richardson of Alabama had better days. The only teams in the Top 25 to lose were teams playing higher-ranked teams, so there wasnt a lot of movement in the polls.

So what were down to, frankly, is this: Stanford goes to the Fiesta Bowl unless Georgia wins the SEC Championship game against LSU. And Luck remains a man with lots of heartfelt testimonials (He does things no other quarterback does, is head coach David Shaws line) in a highly political election where regional voting is the order of the day. And Barkleys insertion into the argument does not help.

And then comes the legacy designations. Stanford is 23-2 over the past two seasons, one of the top five football schools in the country by virtue of being voted there by computers and humans alike. They are in such good position that there is almost no way for them not to get at least most of their just desserts, and in the richly corrupt and stratified world of college football, a team getting what it has coming without shaming itself is a pretty impressive thing indeed.

Indeed, Stanford carved out time for its seniors to get their piece of the stage, most notably Chris Owusu, the oft-concussed wide receiver who dressed in the teams red-on-black one-off uniforms, was introduced with the rest of his classmates and even lined up for a play as a gesture of respect from Shaw to the guy who has given more of his body and has been hit harder than anyone else on this team.

It was a gesture that the best teams get to make because they have some margin for sentimentality. Stanford built that margin widely enough that even the loss to Oregon two weeks ago couldnt strip it away, and it got even easier when Arkansas got whipped by LSU on Friday.

The value of that is that Stanford will almost certainly move to fifth in the BCS standings Sunday and eventually to fourth, where it can be guaranteed its BCS bowl game. It wont be the title game, which was a long shot, or the Rose Bowl, which died with the loss to Oregon, but it will do nicely as the end of an era of very nice indeed.

It will be known, ultimately, as the Andrew Luck Era, which means that a number of very good players will be relegated to Also Starring roles, but thats how it works in show business. All you can do is hope for the longest run you can manage, and Stanford got that, and then some.

In short, the status remained very quo indeed Saturday. And at Stanford, thats some pretty damned fine quo.

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.