Ratto: Giants Baseball At Its Zenith


Ratto: Giants Baseball At Its Zenith


PHILADELPHIA -- When the comprehensive tale is told of how the San Francisco Giants achieved the World Series nobody thought they had any reason to deserve, it will unravel about midway through Saturdays game. It wont be told well at all, in fact.

And the reason why is because while you can list the events of Saturdays 3-2 Game 6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies so that someone can copy-paste them into a Wikipedia file, you cant type on a puddle of adrenaline. You cant make an elegant phrase out of Bruce Bochys full-on naked managing. You cant explain with charts and graphs how much air can be sucked out of an open-air stadium with one very bitchy knee-high slider from one man with a third-rail fetish.

It cant be done, and yet it must, because only those who were there can truly walk the rest of us through, and they must try lest the story fade into standard-issue video clips and clichd champagne sprays.

It may help, though to understand that the Giants are certifiably mad, as in full-on bughouse crazy. And they are comfortable with that.

Ive never actually seen a game played at this extreme an edge, general manager Brian Sabean said in the middle of a long soliloquy about Brian Wilson, the closer who walked the game as close to oblivion as it could stand.

Just everything. Jonathan (Sanchez) doesnt have it and we havent had that happen in I dont know how long, the thing with (Chase) Utley (on the third-inning benches-clearing debate), Jeremy Affeldt saving our asses, Madison (Bumgarner) and Timmy (Lincecum), the (Juan) Uribe homer, and Wilson. Just everything. Ive never seen a game quite like it. Ive never seen a game come close to it, and weve done this a lot.

Oh yes they have, but Saturday was the masterpiece, the one if the Giants never play another game will be remembered as the game of their era.

We met today, the coaches and the staff, and we just decided we didnt want to come back tomorrow, Bochy said. The pressure would just be too great. So we were going all hands on deck tonight. We told Timmy he would pitch the eighth if we had a lead. We told Madison to be ready just in case. We were going for all of it right here.

And so they did. Bochy told two starting pitchers to be ready to work in relief in case a third starter flamed out, and Sanchez did.

I dont know, I just didnt have it, he said. I warmed up real good, but I got out there and I just didnt have it. And the thing with Utley, Im not trying to hit him (which he did, in the upper back), but when he throws the ball at me like that, Im a professional player too. I didnt like that.

So Bochy made the first of several what can be called nothing less than Billy Martin-level choices. He decided the Phillies would not see a right-handed pitcher until he was good and ready to give them one, so he went to the little-used Affeldt for two innings of spotless relief.

Of course.

Then he went to Bumgarner, the 21-year-old man-child who slipped in and out of trouble twice, loading the bases in the fifth and stranding a leadoff double in the sixth without being harmed.

Of course.

Then he Lopezed the top of the Phillies order for the fourth and final time, because Javier Lopezs work on Utley, Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard must be elevated to a verb.

Of course.

Then Uribe hit a ball that could only be a home run in Citizens Bank Park, a low line drive that barely snuck into the second row of seats in the right field corner and gave the Giants the 3-2 lead. Giant fans dismissed the park as a cheap little walk-in closet of a place, but they will love it forever now because they must.

Of course.

Then Lincecum came in for the eighth, because we told him if we had the lead in the eighth we were going to go to him and have him get us to Willie, Bochy said. Lincecum wasnt sharp, giving up one-out singles to Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez, but he did complete the bridge to Wilson, who threw a 1-1 fastball to Carlos Ruiz who hit it on a line (shades of Willie McCovey, 1962, perhaps) to Aubrey Huff at first base for an inning-ending double play.

Of course.

Then Wilson, well, Wilsoned the ninth, because he is a fully conjugated verb of his own. After dismissing pinch-hitter Ross Gload with two pitches, he spent 14 pitches walking Jimmy Rollins, inducing a ground out from Polanco and walking Utley to bring up the Phillies most powerful source, Howard.

Fastball, up, but Howard swings through it. Fastball up, ball one. Fastball up and in, ball two. Slider away catches Howard looking at strike two. Fastball up, ball three.

Of course.

Fastball up, Howard fouls it off, and then knee-high slider with a middle finger as its tail fin, slightly away and locking up Howard for the entire winter.

My approach was to throw the ball as hard as I could with conviction, Wilson said. I could have spotted it a little better at times, I guess, but Id rather throw my hardest fastball with as much conviction as I have.

And yet, to win the pennant, he went to what players used to call the bastard pitch, a slider tailing away and down that none but the truly great can attack with as much conviction as Wilson delivers.

So it ended. The team with the great starting pitching used half its rotation in relief, the first time anyone can remember that happening in a postseason game. The bullpen that had been largely spotty for players not named Lopez or Wilson, delivered seven scoreless inning for the first time since the 1911 World Series. The player with the bad left wrist helped push a homer that would never have been one except in the one place they happened to be playing.

This was the zenith of Giants baseball in our times, a game in which every player and coach extended himself beyond reasonable capabilities to take a trophy it didnt have the numbers to explain.

But it did have a daylight burglars guts and a car thiefs brass and a con mans belief in the story that everyone would have to believe, no matter how unbelievable it might be.

And now, Wednesday, against the Texas Rangers, another team that has no right to be in the World Series except this: They got there because they were better than everyone else when it was time to be. Thats the only standard that needs to be met.

But when they arrive in San Francisco Monday for their first workout and see the Giants in ski masks and black overcoats, they shouldnt be surprised. You cant explain them. You can only experience them.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention


Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

Frank Deford’s death over the weekend did not mark the end of longform sportswriting as we knew it; he had long ago become part of the electronic commentariat that has reduced longform’s place in the public’s attention span.

But there is still longform writing and storytelling to be found in many places, and it is still worthwhile. It has more production value, as the TV folks like to blather, and the words have to fight for their place between the cracks left by the pictures and the mutated graphics, but longform lives, and it should, lest we all agree as one people to further desiccate that attention span like a grapefruit left in the sun.

Deford’s death, though, reminds of when longform was the zenith of the storytelling art. It could, and still can, give you access and depth and breadth that a TV crew simply could not, and cannot. Even extended TV features are by their very nature so contrived by all the equipment that nothing is natural, nothing is a surprise, and the act of writing is almost an afterthought.

Deford knew this. He more than merely dabbled in TV himself, playing the wizened old raconteur who was as much character in his pieces as storyteller. He was also a star and a starmaker with The National, a daily sports network in newspaper form that was long on talent and ideas but short on delivery and distribution. It lasted 17 months, until mid-1991, but it led to grander attempts decades later, and could if you squint your eyes hard enough be the natural parent of Grantland and The Ringer and Vice and SB Nation and dozens of others – all bigger ideas, positioned in the post-typing world. Some lasted, more didn’t, but capitalism is like that – making fuel to keep the fires burning and the engines churning.

Deford could have thrived in such a world, to be sure. He was not, in the hideous phrase, “a man of his time.” Indeed, he was a crossover figure years ago in ways that other longform writers attempt to resist even now. They want to be Deford at the height of his powers at a time when the instruments for their gift are either dying or veering away from anything that hits the 600-word mark.

But his passing did not kill the art of clever writing and incisive storytelling. There are far too many people who can do that still, even if the market for their gifts is neither as pronounced nor as eager for the product as it once was. It did remind us not only that he was a giant, but that there are still giants among us should we deign to take the time to seek them.

Thus, Deford’s death marked his passing but not the thing that made him worthy of our attention. Storytelling, longform and otherwise, remains the heart of why this is still worthwhile to a culture, and when the generation his work spawned starts to die off, I suspect we’ll still be saying the same thing then. Notebooks are smartphones, photographs are streams, but the human eye and ear and hand still remain pre-eminent.

That is, until the robots take over, at which point reading won’t be worth it.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.