Ratto: Bruce Bochy's Managerial Masterpiece


Ratto: Bruce Bochy's Managerial Masterpiece

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

ARLINGTON, Tx. -- BruceBochy walks well, shambles, more like the way he always has, but he hasthis perceptible smile on his face that he cant hide. He is playing with thecasinos money like he could feel the weighted dice in his hand and could seethe face-down king clear as day. Bon temps roulette,baby. Bon temps roulet.He is, 15 years after the fact, being hailed as a Baseball Mastermind (patentpending, MLB Productions), and he kind of likes the feeling of it, especiallyafter all those years of being dismissed as just another manager-dullard whoknows less than the Internet math wizard or the sportswriter whos seen it alla hundred times or Al From Foster City, youre on and turn down your damnedradio.People who once mocked him see him now and think hes really quite smart, andtrust us, that feeling sure beats waking up with lower back pain, showeringwhen the water heater goes out or finding out you ran out of coffee yesterday.But heres a shocking fact, one that will catch America by complete surprise. Bochyalready was what you now think he is, and a long time ago at that. What youreseeing now is luck, combined with roster depth, combined with planning, combinedwith expertise, combined with results.Which, as true baseball people know, is the real measure of a mans success whether hes good enough and prepared enough to know when hes pulling aces andfaces instead of twos and fews.Bochys work in this postseason has been exemplary, winning universal raves.And what the hell, why not? He does something, it works. He doesnt dosomething, that works too. Youre going to get snooty when you draw seven-deuceand the flop is seven-seven-deuce? No, youre going to show no expression, evenwhen you get that fourth seven on the turn.See, managing isnt about controlling every aspect of a game because thatcannot be done. Its about being in position to have the right guy at the righttime and let fate handle the rest.Bruce Bochy didnt contrive to create the Brooks Conrad Moment, or the VladimirGuerrero Moment. He didnt know that Aaron Rowand would throw a strike to homeplate from center field at just the right moment, or that Edgar Renteria can hithome runs with one bicep tied behind his back. He surely didnt will Cody Ross.But he did have the tools to make such things available, and the wherewithal toapply them in such a way that good things could happen as a result.Put it another way. Having Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum and Javier Lopez andBrian Wilson and six other really useful pitchers to get from one to the othersure beats a mallet to the stomach, but someone has to be there to employ them.And since Bochy has hit every note this postseason, he now reaps the benefitsof his good fortune and preparation, to make up for the years where he hadcruddy fortune and good preparation.We mention this because Ron Washington has been cross-nailed for his handlingof the Texas bullpen in Game 2 because he failed to know ahead of time thatDerek Holland would bowl a 13 in Game 2, and didnt give Ian Kinslers ballthat extra telekinetic nudge it needed to go from double to homer. He failed toexpect when he made out the lineup card that Guerrero could drive in two runsin Game 1 and still end up a minus-two for the night. He failed to understandthat Cliff Lee could deteriorate into Kevin Millwood on the biggest stage.Did Washington manage well? No, because his opinions were not validated by thesubsequent events. He took educated guesses that failed spectacularly. If thatmakes him a bad manager, then you go with that and be happy in your world.Games, though, are won and lost by the execution by the players (we were goingto say of the players, but the Players Association remains adamantly opposedto allowing the club to actually kill underperforming players).Bochy could have been an idiot for not teaching Lincecum not to run a trappedrunner back to the bag he came from, or he could have doltishly failed to warnFreddy Sanchez not to break from second on a popup like hed heard about the freelunch special at the French Laundry.But Bochy had already built up key mastermind points by then, because he hasdeftly used a very good and deep bullpen and gotten big starts out of everypitcher save Jonathan Sanchez in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series. He wascleared to land by a fan base that had such little use for him only monthsearlier.He has also had the great benefit of winning five one-run games, which alwaysmakes a manager look better than the average mailroom yutz.The point here, then, is simply to tell you that these three weeks are BruceBochys reward for all the months and years when he was condemned for having abig head, talking slowly and with a drawl and walking like the bolts that keephis feet on were coming loose.Oh, and for all those years of NOT having lots of useful players who rose up inbig situations on his behalf. Dont forget that one, either.So yeah, these are good times for Bruce Bochy, and hes more than earned thatsmile he cant seem to keep off his face. He knows it because he put in allthose years when he as just as smart and just as prepared but had a lot less towork with and therefore had to spend his days trying to put a pair of Tiffanyearrings on a late-model pig and call it Blake Lively so as not to burn theplayers.And ultimately, he knows that if he and the Giants pull this off, hes onscholarship for two years minimum. Wed say longer, but Charlie Manuelsgetting cuffed around in Philadelphiafor allowing Chase Utley and Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins not to save hisbacon like they did in 2008.This is Bruce Bochys time, the wheel keeps landing on 15 (his number), andgood on him for lasting long enough and being good enough to finally let LadyLuck plant one full and firm right on his lips.Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun


A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.