Ratto: Sharks' margin of error roughly zero

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Ratto: Sharks' margin of error roughly zero

June 14, 2011

RATTO ARCHIVESHARKS PAGE SHARKS VIDEO

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CSNBayArea.com

The question often comes up . . . well, actually, the question almost never comes up, but work with us here . . . What do the Sharks have to do to get to the next level?Ignoring the fact that the next level is a criminally stupid clich valid only if youre on the third floor of a department store looking for the escalator, the Sharks next-level problem is now more profoundly difficult than it was two weeks ago.Two weeks ago, they werent deep enough or quick enough to deal with the Vancouver Canucks. Now, theyre not deep enough or physical enough to deal with the Boston Bruins, either.
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This is the maddening beauty of the Stanley Cup playoffs, one of its most profound yet most subtle gifts -- everything you knew to be true on May 15 is wrong on May 31, and wrong again on June 16, which is the final day of the season, barring an eight-overtime final that takes you past midnight.Which brings us back to the Sharks, who have packed in a hard fortnight of golf, hunting, child-dandling and healing all those injuries they accumulated by negotiating their way through Los Angeles and Detroit.They are unchanged, and will be for some time to come. The calendar prevents it, because the NHL draft has not yet been held, and most general managers are still meeting with their scouts to deal with that. Plus, free agency does not actually bloom until July, and thats if the owners dont start making the usual lockout threats.Not only that, San Joses player contract structure realistically prevents massive changes, no matter how disappointed you might be about specific players. The Sharks are pretty much what you thought they were two months ago, and they are going to stay that way. Even the most dramatic draft choice score doesnt change a team right away.I guess this is a long-winded way of saying, Mario Lemieux isnt walking through that door as the 27th pick, and if he was, hed be 46, and if youre going after a 46-year-old, you may as well just sign Chris Chelios and be done with it.For the second consecutive year, the Sharks lost in the playoffs to a demonstrably superior team, and if they played the Canucks in another 10 series, they would lose eight of them, maybe even nine. But it can also be said that they would have the same problem with this Boston team. They would have great difficulty scoring on Tim Thomas, and they would be relentlessly pounded physically after having been relentlessly pounded physically for the last month.So the first question to be asked of Doug Wilson, and you may rest assured by Doug Wilson, is not What the hell do I do with Dany Heatley? but Who are we and what do we need to be?Well, faster, bigger and deeper. Thats simple. But with minimal cap space, as always, as contracts that restrict the blockbuster trades you so fervently fantasize about, those three things will not be mastered. One, maybe, but not the other two.But if there is something else to be said, it is this: Neither the Canucks nor Bruins were very efficient in their trip through the postseason. Vancouver and Boston both played 18 games for the right to play seven more. The record is 26, by the 1987 Philadelphia Flyers, who lost to Edmonton. This was hard work for both survivors, and if you think otherwise, ask Nathan Horton and Mason Raymond.San Jose has to be more efficient, but that isnt the only way for it to survive next years playoff tower. Its structural in that Todd McLellan cant keep telling us about passengers and coasting and players who need to give more. That has to become the immutable law that no player dare violate, and that means that Joe Thornton -- who will be the first Shark to have his number retired based on last year alone -- will have to become even more strident in word and deed than even last year.The one thing to be said about the Bruins, win or lose Wednesday, is that they had no passengers. The one thing to be said about the Canucks is that they handled the most schizophrenic postseason ever, and I mean ever. The lessons to be learned from this postseason are not easily applied, and the Sharks still need time to sort them out.But this rises above all others -- their margin of error is roughly zero. They are still not the best team in the National Hockey League, they dont have the most talent, and they still have holes that are exploited by teams that see them over and over. They are good, and not good enough at the same time.For the first time in years, they have to know it in their souls and bones, and act accordingly. Every day. Starting in July. Theyre still off until June ends.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

A's stripped of little-engine-that-could classification at a bad time

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AP

A's stripped of little-engine-that-could classification at a bad time

As rumored over the past two months, Major League Baseball just lowered the Oakland Athletics’ revenue by $34 million, and now all the other developments of the past few weeks have finally become a call to arms by an organization that has always been strident pacifists when it comes to money.

In other words, The Little Engine That Occasionally Could has now been stripped of its little-engine classification, and the conditions that allowed them to play the cute little underdog are gone. No more waiting for more clement economic circumstances, or a more favorable political climate, or for the ever-nebulous “future” which the A’s always dangled before its dwindling fan base.

That was the news of Wednesday. Thursday, reports from ESPN’s Jim Trotter indicated that San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos is going to swallow his pride to exercise his option to join Stan Kroenke in Los Angeles, thus reducing Mark Davis’ viable options to Las Vegas and the tender mercies of the NFL, or Oakland and the tender mercies of whoever decides to tackle the problem of a new football-atorium.

In other words, push and shove are now jockeying for position in what is expected to be a crash.

First, the A’s.

With the news that Major League Baseball is going to hack the team’s revenue sharing check by 25, 50, 75 and then 100 percent over the next four years, the margin of error for new front man Dave Kaval to get a stadium built has been reduced to those four years. He is following the dictates of his boss, the persistently hologrammatic John Fisher, who essentially shoved Lew Wolff out the door for preaching San Jose and then caution.

The A’s don’t want to share anything with the Raiders, which rules out a Coliseum site. They have investigated Howard Terminal, which is not without its issues. And there is a new darkhorse site, the land around Laney College which, in a tart bit of irony, is the site of the Raiders’ first Oakland home, Frank Youell Field.

The city and county are in the early stages of a deal to sell the Coliseum land to a group faced by Ronnie Lott and the money-moving Fortress group, and get out of the landlord business entirely. It has pledged somewhere between $190 and $200 million in infrastructure improvements, though in the case of two stadia, the question of whether that amount is split remains to be politicized.

But the real point here is that the Gordian knot that is Oakland’s weird hold on its franchises remains tightly raveled. The Fortress announcement was supposed to be a point of clarity, but the revenue sharing news and now the Chargers-to-L.A. rumors have returned chaos to its usual position at the tip of the food chain.

And chaos makes for hasty decisions, and hasty decisions are often regretted. But hey, what’s life without rich people awash in regrets?

The new developments ratchet up the pressure on the City of Oakland and Alameda County to decide what support – if any – to provide a new A’s stadium, and coincidentally what support – if any – can be provided to the Raiders if they are forced to stay in Oakland by the NFL.

It even ratchets up the pressure on the NFL owners to decide among themselves whether their actual end-game goal – to have the Raiders controlled by someone other than Mark Davis – is better served by allowing him to move his team to Las Vegas or denying him his escape route.

But now for the first time there are time constraints – a few months for Mark Davis, a few years for John Fisher and Dave Kaval. The principles of subsidized Moneyball are now conjoined with the principles of Darwinism, and as the A’s have had innovate-or-die thrust upon them, the Raiders have approached the day of reckoning they’ve been desperately kicking down the road since Al Davis’ death. Plus, the political structures of Oakland and Alameda County will catch the holiest of hells either way, and probably across the board.

But as Paul Weller once wrote, “That’s entertainment.” Find shelter, children. The acrid smell of roasting money is in the wind.

Defying common sense makes another official look inhuman

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AP

Defying common sense makes another official look inhuman

Officials are a pet cause of mine, since they are uniquely hired and set up for daily failure as a condition of having the job at all. They are given a supervisory role against a group of mesomorphs running, jumping, colliding and athletick-ing all over the place, only so that they can interpret a rulebook written in Cambodian script in such a way that he or she angers everyone involved, and is supported by none of the people who gave him the rulebook to defend.

But sometimes, despite all this, officials need to be left alone to apply common sense in direct defiance of the dictates of the bloated swine who made the rulebook a tool of the socially ignorant.

And no, I am not talking about Doc Rivers snapping like a stretched bobblehead the other night after Ken Mauer tossed him from the Los Angeles Clippers-Brooklyn Nets game for being geographically inappropriate with fellow official Lauren Holtkamp (he crossed the midcourt line, and curb your dirty minds). Screw him. He had it coming.

No, this is about Frank Schneider, who refereed the otherwise unremarkable Paris Saint Germain-Angers match in Ligue 1, the top division of French soccer, and felt compelled to yellow-card PSG goalscorer Edinson Cavani for doing this.

For you link-averse weenies, Cavani scored a goal and then took off his shirt to reveal an undershirt that read “ACE FUERZA” in support of the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense, the team involved in the plane wreck that killed 77 of 81 passengers, including all but a few of the team’s players and staff en route to the championship match of the Copa Sudamericana in Colombia against Atletico Nacional.

It was a thoughtful gesture, one we want our athletes to produce to show that they are not just mercenaries with expensively shod feet. It was a credit to Cavani, who is Uruguayan and who knew none of the players involved. He did it to be a human being.

And Schneider knew that. But the rules say he had to give Cavani a yellow card for removing his shirt as an act of celebration or in this case, sympathy, and if Schneider had ignored it, his supervisors would have punished him knowing full well that ignoring it was exactly the correct and decent thing to do.

This right here is one more reason why people hate officials, even more than they used to. They are not allowed to apply their own common sense to a situation that demands it, and if honoring fellow athletes who died in an accident doesn’t demand the common sense of saying, “Heartwarming thought there, Scooter. You’re a good lad. Run and frolic with the other woodland creatures, unconcerned with any notion of punitive action.”

Maybe Schneider walked up to him as he presented the card and said, “Listen, this is crap. You know it and I know it, and I will back your play in the game report, but I have to do this. Please find it in your heart to forgive my bureaucratic obligations.”

That’s not the zenith of understanding as we would wish it, but it would be a way to try and shield Cavani from the withered arm of the law.

Or maybe Schneider said, “I give this card to you in my role as a strident and iron-willed defender of mindless regulations. I spurn you as I would spurn a rabid wolf.”

I don’t know. All I know is, Schneider ends up looking stupid for carding Cavani for supporting his soccer-playing brethren, and officials across the globe cry out as one, “You put him in a ridiculous position, you suit-wearing filth. Where is your compassion? Where is your dignity? Why can’t we line up in an orderly fashion and kick you squarely in the groin 30 to 70 times?”

And a decent human instinct is stamped out as though it were caught stealing office supplies.

You can extend this lesson as far as you wish, including the No Fun League’s old-white-guys fetishistic ban on post-touchdown self-expression, but right here is where that sort of mockable nonsense starts. People died, some of them soccer players. A fellow soccer player honored them on the field of play without disrupting the game itself. He was sanctioned. This is idiocy.

But Doc Rivers getting flipped in Brooklyn? Sorry. There’s only so far we can go with this, and in this case, well, to quote the old philosopher, “Nice tantrum, Glenn.”