Ratto: Giants Baseball At Its Zenith


Ratto: Giants Baseball At Its Zenith


PHILADELPHIA -- When the comprehensive tale is told of how the San Francisco Giants achieved the World Series nobody thought they had any reason to deserve, it will unravel about midway through Saturdays game. It wont be told well at all, in fact.

And the reason why is because while you can list the events of Saturdays 3-2 Game 6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies so that someone can copy-paste them into a Wikipedia file, you cant type on a puddle of adrenaline. You cant make an elegant phrase out of Bruce Bochys full-on naked managing. You cant explain with charts and graphs how much air can be sucked out of an open-air stadium with one very bitchy knee-high slider from one man with a third-rail fetish.

It cant be done, and yet it must, because only those who were there can truly walk the rest of us through, and they must try lest the story fade into standard-issue video clips and clichd champagne sprays.

It may help, though to understand that the Giants are certifiably mad, as in full-on bughouse crazy. And they are comfortable with that.

Ive never actually seen a game played at this extreme an edge, general manager Brian Sabean said in the middle of a long soliloquy about Brian Wilson, the closer who walked the game as close to oblivion as it could stand.

Just everything. Jonathan (Sanchez) doesnt have it and we havent had that happen in I dont know how long, the thing with (Chase) Utley (on the third-inning benches-clearing debate), Jeremy Affeldt saving our asses, Madison (Bumgarner) and Timmy (Lincecum), the (Juan) Uribe homer, and Wilson. Just everything. Ive never seen a game quite like it. Ive never seen a game come close to it, and weve done this a lot.

Oh yes they have, but Saturday was the masterpiece, the one if the Giants never play another game will be remembered as the game of their era.

We met today, the coaches and the staff, and we just decided we didnt want to come back tomorrow, Bochy said. The pressure would just be too great. So we were going all hands on deck tonight. We told Timmy he would pitch the eighth if we had a lead. We told Madison to be ready just in case. We were going for all of it right here.

And so they did. Bochy told two starting pitchers to be ready to work in relief in case a third starter flamed out, and Sanchez did.

I dont know, I just didnt have it, he said. I warmed up real good, but I got out there and I just didnt have it. And the thing with Utley, Im not trying to hit him (which he did, in the upper back), but when he throws the ball at me like that, Im a professional player too. I didnt like that.

So Bochy made the first of several what can be called nothing less than Billy Martin-level choices. He decided the Phillies would not see a right-handed pitcher until he was good and ready to give them one, so he went to the little-used Affeldt for two innings of spotless relief.

Of course.

Then he went to Bumgarner, the 21-year-old man-child who slipped in and out of trouble twice, loading the bases in the fifth and stranding a leadoff double in the sixth without being harmed.

Of course.

Then he Lopezed the top of the Phillies order for the fourth and final time, because Javier Lopezs work on Utley, Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard must be elevated to a verb.

Of course.

Then Uribe hit a ball that could only be a home run in Citizens Bank Park, a low line drive that barely snuck into the second row of seats in the right field corner and gave the Giants the 3-2 lead. Giant fans dismissed the park as a cheap little walk-in closet of a place, but they will love it forever now because they must.

Of course.

Then Lincecum came in for the eighth, because we told him if we had the lead in the eighth we were going to go to him and have him get us to Willie, Bochy said. Lincecum wasnt sharp, giving up one-out singles to Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez, but he did complete the bridge to Wilson, who threw a 1-1 fastball to Carlos Ruiz who hit it on a line (shades of Willie McCovey, 1962, perhaps) to Aubrey Huff at first base for an inning-ending double play.

Of course.

Then Wilson, well, Wilsoned the ninth, because he is a fully conjugated verb of his own. After dismissing pinch-hitter Ross Gload with two pitches, he spent 14 pitches walking Jimmy Rollins, inducing a ground out from Polanco and walking Utley to bring up the Phillies most powerful source, Howard.

Fastball, up, but Howard swings through it. Fastball up, ball one. Fastball up and in, ball two. Slider away catches Howard looking at strike two. Fastball up, ball three.

Of course.

Fastball up, Howard fouls it off, and then knee-high slider with a middle finger as its tail fin, slightly away and locking up Howard for the entire winter.

My approach was to throw the ball as hard as I could with conviction, Wilson said. I could have spotted it a little better at times, I guess, but Id rather throw my hardest fastball with as much conviction as I have.

And yet, to win the pennant, he went to what players used to call the bastard pitch, a slider tailing away and down that none but the truly great can attack with as much conviction as Wilson delivers.

So it ended. The team with the great starting pitching used half its rotation in relief, the first time anyone can remember that happening in a postseason game. The bullpen that had been largely spotty for players not named Lopez or Wilson, delivered seven scoreless inning for the first time since the 1911 World Series. The player with the bad left wrist helped push a homer that would never have been one except in the one place they happened to be playing.

This was the zenith of Giants baseball in our times, a game in which every player and coach extended himself beyond reasonable capabilities to take a trophy it didnt have the numbers to explain.

But it did have a daylight burglars guts and a car thiefs brass and a con mans belief in the story that everyone would have to believe, no matter how unbelievable it might be.

And now, Wednesday, against the Texas Rangers, another team that has no right to be in the World Series except this: They got there because they were better than everyone else when it was time to be. Thats the only standard that needs to be met.

But when they arrive in San Francisco Monday for their first workout and see the Giants in ski masks and black overcoats, they shouldnt be surprised. You cant explain them. You can only experience them.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal


Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal

In what can be considered your standard bolt out of the blue, California head football coach Sonny Dykes has reportedly been fired.

In what can be considered your standard spur-of-the-Internet-moment-connect-the-dots inspiration, the Internet went immediately to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal rumors.

The logic, of course, is impeccable. Dykes never really snapped the Cal program around, taking a bad program and making it, well, mediocre, and he has spent much of the past two years aggressively seeking out other jobs, so one can assume there was at least some trouble in paradise, even if you want to make the case that Cal football and paradise are somehow connected.

And Kelly just got canned by the 49ers as part of Jed York’s latest I-will-not-be-made-to-look-ridiculous twitch, so he could sign a properly modest contract at Berkeley and still get his full $6 million with the offset from the three years left on his Jed deal.

So it makes perfect sense . . . which is why it should be judged with considerable skepticism.

For one, Kelly can almost surely do better in the college job diaspora. Cal is a big name with modest ambitions due in part to constant budget constraints, and there are better jobs out there even if he sits for a year.

For two, Cal and Kelly are an odd fit, given the persistent tensions between academia and athletica at Berkeley.

For three, the job comes with massive roadblocks, including Stanford, USC, Washington and (potentially) a resuscitation of the Oregon he left behind. Success will not come easy, if it does at all.

For four, Cal just finished four years of gimmick offense and overburdened defense, and Kelly would provide a more successful version of the same.

And for five, this is too easy, too simple, too convenient. Something about this scenario must be wrong somewhere. When people hit the Internet with photoshopped Kelly-in-Cal-costumes within minutes of the Dykes announcement, you know this is too obvious to actually come to fruition.

Why? Because we don’t live that well, that’s why.

The beauty of a triumphant Kelly at Cal glowering down at the charred ruin in Santa Clara seems more appealing than it actually is, because try as they might, Cal fans will never be backing the more popular horse here, and Kelly won’t win that battle unless he takes Cal to the Rose Bowl while the 49ers are still grappling over draft positions.

In that way, reality sucks. The idea that Jed York could be mocked in collegial absentia by his two biggest coaching hires is delicious but almost surely illusory.

But until we get more on why Dykes got canned 43 days after the team’s last game – recruiting, academic issues, legal issues, photocopier problems from him sending his resume out so often – all we have is the Chip Kelly rumor-ette to keep us intrigued.

Okay, to keep us amused.

Okay, to keep us from falling over in a coma. Cal should matter more than it does, but it’s been 13 years since the Holiday Bowl zenith of the Jeff Tedford Era, and 25 since Bruce Snyder took the Ursines to the Citrus Bowl. The evidence since 1990 is of a team with bigger dreams than means that is slightly below .500 (160-164). Sonny Dykes leaving means one more coach who didn’t make an impact unless his departure leads to either reassessment of the program’s standards, internal or external sanctions . . .

. . . or what the hell, Chip Kelly. Let’s face it – in these dismal days for wacked-out rumormongering, this is pretty intoxicating stuff.

Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports


Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports

The Philadelphia/San Francisco/Golden State Warriors have always had a casual attitude about their home court, even by the once-flexible standards of the National Basketball Association.

Thus, it should be only slightly amusing but not actually surprising that Warriors chief arenologist Rick Welts is now waffling a bit (courtesy Comrade Poole) on whether the team will change its name to San Francisco Warriors when it moves across the pond in 2019-20, or retain its current geographic association with Narnia.

I mean Golden State. I often confuse utterly fictional locales – when I can be bothered to give a toss either way.

But the Warriors, whether they play in Oakland, San Francisco, Pier 30, Pier 32, Westeros, Hobbiton, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, Curryvania, the Klingon Empire, the Death Star or Planet Nine, are relocating, and once they break the seal on the earth in 12 days, Welts and his fellow elves will almost surely play the team’s future name as a mildly tedious cliffhanger.

Hey, fun is where you find it.

The matter of the team’s relocation will be a sore subject among lifelong East Bay residents, who have put up with the Warriors for 45 years in various stages of development, including the current “We Almost Never Lose” stage. They regard the Warriors’ transplantation to San Francisco to be an unspeakable crime given the high level of fan allegiance afforded them in Oakland.

And yes, they regard Oakland and San Francisco as very real places, as opposed to Golden State, Freedonia, Vulgaria or the Nexus of All Realities.

It is not yet fully known what San Franciscans think of this development, but that’s the nature of the gamble here. They may embrace the Warriors as the new toy in town and then lose interest, and frankly, neither Welts nor anyone else knows the answer to that.

Either way, their die is cast, and Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are now future former Oakland fixtures. Yes, they are quite fond of the exciting new real estate values and their exciting new unobstructed view of the bay, but it has long been assumed that the move would also entail changing the name back to “San Francisco” for the snob appeal.

Now Welts, who has overseen both arena projects (including the one at Piers 30 and 32 which ended up with the piers beating the Warriors in a rout), tells Comrade Poole that the San Francisco Warriors might not end up as the San Francisco Warriors after all.

“Four years ago, I think the conventional wisdom in our building here in Oakland was that yes, we should attach a city name to the team, then it becomes a more global franchise,” Welts marketing-gobbledy-gooked. “There was a lot of head-scratching four years ago about where the Golden State Warriors even played, in other parts of the world. What’s happened with the team over the course of the ensuing years, until today, has made the Warriors if not the preeminent, at least among the three best-known NBA franchises around the world. And everybody who didn’t know where the Golden State Warriors were four years ago, if you’re a fan today, anywhere in the world, you know where the Golden State Warriors are.”

In Oakland.

Now, the mic drop.

“The team’s success has caused us to really rethink whether or not that’s something we should or want to do,” he added. “I guess it’s fair to say there’s been no final decision made. But if you were a betting man, I think you would probably want to wager that the name might remain the same.”

Of course. Why not stay fictional when specificity might move fewer hoodies?

Then again, this is a team that in its 70 years has played home games in Philadelphia (the Arena, the Civic Center, Lincoln High School and Convention Hall), Hershey and Bethlehem PA, Atlantic City, Trenton, Collingswood and Camden NJ, and Saratoga Springs NY . . .

(a moment’s rest here to catch our breaths)

. . . and then after moving west in 1962, the Cow Palace, San Francisco Civic Auditorium and USF’s Memorial Gym, the Oakland Auditorium, San Jose Civic Auditorium, San Jose Arena, Richmond Auditorium, then Sacramento, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Diego, Eugene, Seattle, Phoenix and Salt Lake City.

In fact, and you can swindle the gullible at your neighborhood tavern with this one, the Warriors’ first game in San Francisco occurred almost three years before the team left Philadelphia. The Warriors played the visitors to the Minneapolis Lakers, who moved to Los Angeles a year later and had already played a regular season game at the Cow Palace earlier in the year, so this game, January 31, 1960, could have been considered a civic scouting trip for both teams as they sought new homes.

In other words, the Warriors are almost surely the most geographically vague team in the history of North American sports. Moreover, they are about to become the first team in sports history to go home for the third time under three different city names – Philadelphia, San Francisco and Krypton, or whatever the hell they want to call themselves this time.