Ratto: Giants' blueprint has no precedent


Ratto: Giants' blueprint has no precedent

June 28, 2011


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What with the Giants scoring three days worth of runs in three innings Tuesday afternoon, this seems an odd time to bring it up.So what the hell? Lets do it anyway.When day dawned Tuesday, the Giants were the worst offensive team in baseball in the only category that truly matters runs scored. This would seem to eliminate them from postseason play just because the inability to produce runs ought to render your team Octoberifically useless.In fact, though, there are two models for success the Giants can cling to in this, their year of living Amish-ly. They are the 1985 Kansas City Royals and the 1973 New York Mets.

Going back to 1960, before the first expansion, only 15 teams have reached the World Series while having run support below the league average. Thats in 51 years and 102 league competitions. Most of those were near the league average, so the margin of error would seem to take care of them.But the 85 Royals, who beat St. Louis in seven games, ranked 13th in runs scored (of 14 teams), and the 73 Mets, who ranked 11th of 12, were bad by any measure, and as such become the templates for whatever dreams you might have about a repeat in the Thing on King.The Mets also hold the worst record of any team to make the postseason 82-79 so it can truly be said they achieved what they did by dealing directly with Satan. Indeed, they had no hitting, ranking last or next to last in every sensible metric, from batting average to OPS-plus, but their pitching was surprisingly uninspiring as well.The rotation started well enough, with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack, and fourth starter George Stone went 12-3 with a 2.80 ERA. The bullpen, though, was even more problematic, with closer Tug McGraw being set up by the magnificent group of Ray Sadecki, Harry Parker, Phil Hennigan and Buzz Capra.In short, we can say that the 73 Mets essentially cheated all logic, which would be a harsh analysis when applied to the Giants.So lets consider instead the 85 Royals, who averaged 4.24 runs per game (almost .85 runs more per game than the Giants), were above average only in steals and almost never walked. They did play in a spacious ballpark, but were still average in extra base hits and only slightly below in home runs. So it can be said the Royals were better offensively than the Giants, even after you factor in the designated hitter.But the Giants, who arent even the best pitching team in the NL this year (Philadelphia and Atlanta have better numbers), had a similar starting staff and less inspiring bullpen.Bret Saberhagen went 20-6 in his second year in the big leagues, which is dominantreminiscent of Tim Lincecum, and the rest of the rotation was equally comparable. Charlie Leibrandt would be the Matt Cain, Danny Jackson the Madison Bumgarner and Buddy Black the Jonathan Sanchez, which all due respect to Black. After all that, Mark Gubicza outranks either Barry Zito or Ryan Vogelsong reputation-wise, making the starters roughly even.Dan Quisenberry is surely Brian Wilsons equivalent, if not his superior, but the setup men Joe Beckwith, Mike Jones, Steve Farr and the redoubtable Mike LaCoss dont compare with San Franciscos. Some of that is due to the fact that bullpens are constructed more completely than they used to be, but only Farr, who pitched in just 16 games, had presentable numbers. That may explain the 27 complete games (slightly above league average for 1985), two less than the Giants have had since 2006.Comparing statistics in this way is a fairly dodgy way to go, because the baseball of 26 years ago is, well, the baseball of 26 years ago. But as there is no recent parallel for the Giants excelling this way, one has to go well back to find teams that might.So until we get furtherbetter evidence, lets say the Giants have the rotation of the 85 Royals, the hitters of the 73 Mets, and the bullpen of neither. If that helps. Which it probably doesnt.

The neck-breaking rise and fall of daily fantasy sports


The neck-breaking rise and fall of daily fantasy sports

The apparent cratering of the Draft Kings/Fan Duel phenomenon is largely a tale of greed gone wild, with coatings of arrogance and bullying through advertising, not to mention naked avarice, raw cupidity and what the Greeks used to call “pleonexia,” which is Greek for greed, avarice and cupidity.

It is a tale of what happens when you try to game a system that’s bigger than your own without cutting the people who run the bigger system in on the goods. It’s alleged wise guys finding out that it’s easier to skirt the law when you make the law. And it’s very definitely guys who got out over their skis trying to dominate a market that was doing fine on its own.

And hey, what’s better than smart guys getting theirs?

But there is actually a greater lesson in this for all of us, and it is this: Fantasy sports leagues are best left as small, interactive tribes whose competitors see each other, talk with each other, exchange money with each other and socialize (re: drink beer) with each other. The phenomenon began as an entirely holistic and communal idea in the 1960s in Oakland surrounding the still-larval American Football League, and grew on the ground level in other sports, in bars, rec rooms, bars, office break rooms, bars, vacations, bars, taverns, and ultimately, bars.

It was a way for friends to gather and ignore the bigger issues of living (like, say, families, which are far too time consuming, expensive and always end up with the parents battling desperately for a tie in a game once it becomes clear that they cannot win).

It was not meant to be mass-produced, let alone dominated by the guy with the best algorithms. That’s not sports, that’s math, and when was the last time you said, “Honey, I’m going out. Some math teachers are getting together to raise a little hell, and I don’t want to miss it”?

So never mind the “The DraftDuelers and FanKings tried to pull a fast one” angle, even though they did. Ignore the “They got too big and too grabby too fast” narrative, even though they did that, too.

What happened here was a perverse monetization of something that didn’t actually need improving or enlarging, because it was perfectly good the way it was. And perverse monetization is the path to perdition, I think we can all agree.

The fantasy industry also made a fatal error by trying to say for legal reasons that it wasn’t gambling, which it clearly was – except in one very granular way that nobody ever addresses.

Gambling, as in finding a bookie who will let you bet on games in any manner of exotic fashions, is meant to be a solitary pursuit left best for quiet brooders. If you have Seattle plus the 1½ when everyone else is bitching about the evils of a 6-6 overtime tie, you quietly accept your incredible good fortune and start to handicap Broncos-Texans, which you probably lost.

Fantasy sports, on the other hand, are meant to be shared, but only with those in your particular fantasy league as opposed to all other people, who do not give a steaming chalky damn about your made-up aggregation of athletes and actively hate you for breaching their worlds with your relentless yammering about your alternate-universe imaginings.

Put another way, people who tell you about their fantasy teams are people who need to be taken into the desert and abandoned. And people who commit these crimes should be allowed to avoid hypothermia, dehydration and coyote dinner only by making regular offerings of alcohol and foodstuffs to those whose peace and quiet they have thoughtlessly breached.

And the industrialization of fantasy sports was the last frontier of that obnoxio-hateful social development. It used commercial television to beat us all to death with something only a few of us cared about, and it reminded us that our culture loathes two things above all others – people trying to pull a fast one, and people telling us repeatedly about things we’re not remotely interested in hearing.

In other words, even if you were planning to be saddened by the collapse of the first wave of industrialized fantasy sports, don’t. They were people trying to cut themselves in on action that wasn’t theirs, and make a national phenomenon out of a social development best confined to a single room with six-to-20 people, all of whom had the good sense to bring wine and snacks.

I mean, seriously. Why would you want to screw with that setup?

Very bad 49ers stay tumbling in truly lost 2016 season

Very bad 49ers stay tumbling in truly lost 2016 season

You can almost hear the sound whistling between the 49ers’ teeth at this point, beneath the droned platitudes and vague responses to what is a fully lost season:

“Look, what do you want from us? This is who we are.”

You can almost hear it, that is. They wouldn’t dare express such rampant defeatism – I mean, if they didn’t after Sunday’s 34-17 muzzling at the hands, arms, torsos and feet of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s unlikely you would hear it at any point.

But they must surely know by now that this is a season already in the rear-view mirror. There are no secret plans, or stashed players, or untried ideas left to unearth, sign or try. The coming bye week will not clear their heads and give them new inspiration, save that of having a week off from the steady beatings. They are 1-6 on merit, and proved it again yesterday before another dispirited two-thirds-of-a-sellout crowd which is coming to realize that their hope is a mile wide and an inch deep.

[MAIOCCO: Kelly: No changes to 49ers defensive staff after loss]

Sunday, for example, Colin Kaepernick was their best running back, Shaun Draughn was their best receiver, the downed kickoff was their best special teams play, and their best strategic decision – well, they lost the coin flip so they didn’t even get a chance to defer the opening kickoff.

And their defense? It only allowed whatever Tampa Bay wanted, and only on demand. Jacquizz Rodgers became the sixth running back to gain 100 yards against them (and the first to do it in one half), which is noteworthy only because they allowed five all last year in a bad season, and nine in the four seasons before that, four of those by Marshawn Lynch.

And quarterback Jameis Winston threw the ball to wide-open receivers and into coverage with the same sense of well-placed bravado. Though his numbers didn’t exactly aurora the borealis (21-of-30, 269, 3/1, 117.2), he never emitted a sense that he couldn’t do whatever he wanted – save get the officials to give him a better spot when he snapped and cost his team a potential touchdown with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for headless-chickening.

In other words, this was not materially different than the Buffalo game, or the Seattle game, or the Carolina game. The only game that has been different is the opener against Los Angeles, when everything worked and made sense and life was happy and Jed York hummed “I Am 16 Going On 17” all through the suite all night long.

That game was 50,000 years ago. These are who the 49ers are now, and who they are going to be for awhile to come.

They speak of consistency, and yet they are the very model of it – leading the league in punts, and ranking second in three-and-outs, 27th in first downs and 31st in plays per drive. They don’t stay on the field, in other words, and when on defense, they allow 118 more yards per game than their offense gets them.

And they swear with unanimity that they are together as a team, and work hard each week to achieve the acme of their talents and learning. So this, if that is so, must be at or near the top of their game – which, as head coach for now and the future Chip Kelly (stop thinking this is just a coaching problem, please) put it, “We’re not doing what it takes to be successful right now.”

That was in response to a question about whether the 49ers were going backwards. He ducked the issue by saying, “I don’t think forwards or backwards,” which is probably a lie, but we can help anyway.

They have gone dramatically backwards since Game 1, and essentially stagnated since Game 2. It’s how they have gotten to where they are right now, and how they have become who they are right now.

It may be that stranger things have happened in the NFL than a team starting 1-6 and rallying to win eight, nine or 10 in a row, but on this team, based all the available evidence, this team won’t be that strange. They have revealed themselves for what they actually are, which is not good enough to change what they actually are.

And if that is too tough a sentence for you to swallow, well, go out and write some of your own. You can tell any tale you want, but this is the tale of the 2016 San Francisco 49ers, a team awash in unpleasant self-realization and the knowledge that there is nothing to be done but to go out each week and do it again.

Except next week, of course. Bye may be a favorite, but Bye must be played, just like all the others.