One can often jump the gun on such matters, what with the NBA being eight days into its new season and as such subject to the law of small numbers, but life is good.Life is good because the Los Angeles Lakers are 1-4. And because the Boston Celtics are 2-2. But it is also good because the New York Yankees are in A-Rodical disarray, and the Boston Red Sox were galactically dysfunctional, and the Dallas Cowboys stink to high heaven and the architect of that odor reasserted his unwillingness to fire himself. In fact, if it werent for Notre Dame, this could be a very happy holiday season indeed.Now this is the part where ignoramii shout out, Aha! Youre a hater! Hater, of course, being code for, My world is small, my interests tiny, my curiosity sub-atomic, so anyone who doesnt agree with me is a hater.But those people would be, and this comes as no surprise, wrong. I dont hate their teams. I hate the boredom of the same old stories told the same old way. I am not an agent for change (too much work is involved), but I like a new narrative now and then.And I also dont like those who support those teams who regain their smug, who still believe in the divine right of kings and their elevated place in those kingdoms. Who act like the universe is right when the old familiar names are ascendant.For those people, I can muster up the energy to be a hater.The argument is always posed as the tired old, The game is better when its marquee teams are winning. And its modern corollary, The TV ratings are always better when the marquee teams are winning, and we should all approve of that.Well, four things. One, no it isnt. And shut up. If your imaginations are that stunted, if your curiosity about new things is that limited, you should cease emitting noises from your blowhole for the good of the nation.Two, if you like your team, what do you care what the ratings are? You like your team, and you shouldnt need numbers to show your support is true. In fact, you come off better when you dont have numbers because you are displaying the courage of your convictions.Two, a good tale is a good tale, and Notre Dames work this year is laudatory on its own merits, and would be so if it were Vanderbilt, Western Michigan or San Jose State. You can root for the logo if you want. I prefer the deeds, and Notre Dames season would be praiseworthy if it were Brand X A&T. Conversely, the stalling of the Yankees, the falling of Lakers, the tire fire of the Red Sox and the continued mediocrity of the Cowboys is good in and of itself, because watching a team struggle is just as interesting as watching one flourish. Especially if that team is used to acting as though it should never struggle at all. And thats because of third thing, which is . . . . . . New Faces Are Good. The resurgent Bill Snyder at Kansas State, the resurrection of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the rampant Houston Texans, the budding potential dynasty-ette of the San Francisco Giants . . . these are all signs that sports is still a meritocracy rather than the relentless oppression of the status quo, and tyranny of the big name.Plus, some of the new teams are actually old powers gussied up for the new year. The Chicago Bears, for example. And Alabama is still Alabama, for you old school junkies who cant stand the idea of new anything. And if youre still a junkie for big names in big cities, even if those names are mostly name only, there are the New York Knicks. In other words, there is nothing wrong when some of the mighty have fallen, and there is good when once having fallen, they cant get back up for awhile.Plus plus, this could be nothing but a giant moot point in a month if the Lakers and Celtics figure out how to not be old any more. Or if the Knicks suddenly realize what old really feels like.Plus plus plus, the Yankees are always one act of money-burning (Josh Hamilton?) away from being back in business.The Cowboys? Well, it may be that they simply cant be helped. Not while the owner has the general managers back, and not while a vote of confidence can be delivered in front of the shaving mirror.And who doesnt think that vision isnt a hoot and a half?In short, change is good, the mighty should fall every once in a while, nobody should get to win all the time, the monarchy should be dead (no matter what monarchy youre talking about), sloth is its own punishment, let a thousand flowers bloom, and the beer remains cold no matter what. And if you cant vote for that last one, youre just hopeless.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.
In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.
Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.
"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."
Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance.
Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings.
"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."
The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday.
"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."
Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up.
"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."
The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.
"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.
SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it.
Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.
Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues …
--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts.
--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single.
--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot.
--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth.
--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first.
--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.