Ratto: Giants' World Series Defies All -- Logic and Opponents

212011.jpg

Ratto: Giants' World Series Defies All -- Logic and Opponents

Nov. 1, 2010RATTO ARCHIVEGIANTS PAGE GIANTS VIDEOBOX SCORERay Ratto
CSNBayArea.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The winners get to say whatever they want without time limit or rebuttal, so when Giants outfielder Aaron Rowand, who coincidentally hit the first pitch of the 2010 season from Houstons Roy Oswalt to shortstop Tommy Manzella for an out, said it, it made perfect sense.

Did I see this coming? Absolutely not, he said, holding a beer for refreshment and a champagne bottle for target practice. And thats the beauty of it.

Bingo. Case closed. No further interpretation required.

The Season That Dare Not Speak Its Name finally shouted to the heavens, and the San Francisco Giants are finally, finally, the champions of the baseball-speaking world.
They are so because they had the best pitching, over and over again. They are so because they squeezed every last drop from a roster that never really looked quite ripe to the outside world. They are so because Bruce Bochys cover as an elite manager was finally and irrevocably blown.

And they are so because Edgar Renteria is the gift that kept on giving, even after nobody really wanted to know what gifts he had to bring.

But he brought one last beauty to the final party of the most improbable championship season in decades -- an aggressive swing at a misplaced 2-0 cutter from Cliff Lee with two outs in the seventh inning that got legs and carried just over the Samsung sign in left-center field.

He is a great pitcher, and I knew the cutter was his best pitch, Renteria said as he basked in the glory of his Series MVP award. When he got to 2-0, I thought I might only get one pitch to swing at, so I guessed he would throw the cutter, and I got lucky.

This, of course, after he told center fielder Andres Torres that he was going to do just that. Luck? Maybe. Luck with a side of Damn straight! Absolutely.

Luck, of course, is the residue of a lot of things beyond merely design, and the Giants were designed in such a way that nobody in their right mind would see this as remotely possible even as recently at September 1.

Shows what the world knows.

These guys entered another world on September 1, bullpen coach Mark Gardner said. They were unbelievable. Beyond unbelievable. Right now, youd have to think they could beat whatever Yankees you can think of.

That might be more than most historians can endure.

This Giant team went through the playoffs with what most objective observers would say was an extraordinarily top-heavy team -- all pitching, lots of defense, so-so hitting. They were the first team in 20 years to have neither a 30-homer nor a 90-RBI man. Their four- and five- hitters Monday took turns batting eighth in the postseason.

They didnt make sense in a lot of ways, which is why they made perfect sense at the end.

Tim Lincecum was over-the-top good, allowing three hits and striking out 10 in eight innings. This, following Madison Bumgarners absurdly brilliant start Sunday in Game 4. In fact, Matt Cain, who threw 7 23 innings of four-hit shutout ball in Game 2, finished third.

Now how were the Texas Rangers supposed to cope with that? By going down quietly, thats how. By getting only one man past first base, Nelson Cruz, who homered off Lincecum in the bottom of the seventh. By hitting .190, 86 points lower than their regular season average.

By vanishing at games end, properly vanquished and knowing that if the Series had gone five more games, theyd be down 8-2.

This was the right result, for the right reasons, as absurd as the notion is. Even now.

This is surreal, Cain said. It doesnt feel like it really happened."

Theyll get used to it. Theyll have to. Theyre all getting jewelry that says they did it, and rings dont lie.

And in the end, the clinching game a blur (at 2:32, it was the quickest Series game since 1992), the process of making it all sink in began.

With players running around the bases and hugging wives and girlfriends and each other and equipment manager Mike Murphy -- the last original Giant, a former bat boy at Seals Stadium, wrestling unsuccessfully with tears and trying to decline over and over again to tell anyone how it feels to finally win the big one -- the fans on the floor of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington closed with a familiar chant: Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!

Youd have thought they would finally rise above such parochial concerns, but old habits die hard. Now they all have to learn how to wear the crown, and the adjustment from lifelong afterthoughts to the world of unalloyed bragging will be hell.

A delicious, joyous, relentless, giddy, drunken hell.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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

athletics-coliseum.jpg
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

soccer-guy.jpg
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.”