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

Follow @RattoCSNRay Ratto
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.
RELATED: NHL playoff index
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.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

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AP

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.