Ratto: Keep Surkamp away from other starters


Ratto: Keep Surkamp away from other starters

Aug. 27, 2011


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Well, I guess we know what happens now. Duane Kuiper finds some exotic animal doing something silly or menacing to compare Eric Surkamp to, say, like a three-beaked eye-pecking hawk, and before you know it, hes getting topiaries mailed to him by crazed Chia-fans and the Giants are rushing three-beaked eye-pecking hawk paraphernalia into production.

Hey, what would you rather have Ted Robinson at the 49ers games pitching the stuffed red-tufted Three-And-Out?

No, Surkamps harrowing but successful six-inning debut as a Giant pitcher, in which he gave up one run, six hits, several hard outs and made the backstop cry with his second pitch as a major leaguer makes him an immediate folk hero at Third y King, and immediate folk heroes get animals and hats.

And lousy run support.

The Giants gave him one, in the first, and finished with two, the other coming in the 10th, in a 2-1 win over the Houston Astros. The unlikely combination of Mark DeRosa (single, stolen base) and Jeff Keppinger (single) kept the Giants within one good weekend of catching the Arizona Diamondbacks, who beat San Diego, 3-1.

RECAP: Keppinger delivers in 10th, Giants beat Astros

We will now pause a moment while we let you imagine what three runs would feel like.

There. All tingly and envious?

Now wed like nothing better than to bore you with another heart-rending tale of a Giant pitcher forced to live off starvation rations I mean, we could change a few names on old stories and turn them in as new but even we dont have the nerve to cheat the boss that much.

Not all the time, anyway.

But this is how pitchers outings go here the Giants get good starts, no hits, and the lack of fun never ends.

The key to Surkamps further development, though, lies not in the marketing department prodding Kuiper into a quasi-impromptu zoological reference (He looks like a Senegalese vampire bat out there) and then spinning it into one-size-fits-all hats, but in keeping him away from the other starters when they gather for their secret meetings.

You know, the ones where they mutter to each other about how none of them have seen a three-run lead since Easter.

And you know they happen. The rotation has been good at biting its tongue when the topic is raised by some enterprising some snoop with a tape recorder and 22 inches or three minutes to fill, but to themselves, in the privacy of their metaphorical treehouse, they bitch a blue streak about the Wiffle Ball league theyre in.

They have to. Theyre not stupid. Theyre good teammates and all for not bringing it up to their fellows, but the straight ones and fat zeros they have been subsisting on all summer long have made them lean, mean and hungry.

And at some point, maybe soon, maybe late, maybe next spring, one of them is going to snap. And when one goes, theyll all go. Not because they mean to be hurtful or because they are inherently CYA types; were that so, theyd have done it well before now.

But it could happen because the stress of silence will finally give way to a torrent of profane recriminations and If I wanted to pitch in 1916, I would have asked my great-great-grandparents to have me instead.

As day dawns, the Giants have three of the seven pitchers with the lowest run support in the game (BumgarnerCainLincecum), and Ryan Vogelsong is 84th of 101 among qualified starters. And with Surkamps performance, even though he doesnt obviously qualify, he would be tied for 246th.

But he did what needed to be done against the games worst team. He kept the Astros in the ballpark, didnt let his occasional high fastball become a real problem, or let the four doubles he allowed turn into a bloodletting. He challenged enough of his nervousness into a strong debut, and a place in Giant folklore.

That means a nickname, and well guess that Kuiper will go marsupial for a change here, and gifts that turn into a fan fetish that turn into gift shop shmata, all within days.

And Eric Surkamp will be a full-blooded Giant. Almost. Hell be full-blooded when the other pitchers let him into their meetings and talk about the latest zero-to-minus-one loss one of them endured. He hasnt known that pain yet.

But he will. They all do, eventually.

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


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


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.”