Ratto: Giants 'Don't Do Anything Easy'


Ratto: Giants 'Don't Do Anything Easy'


SAN FRANCISCO -- But first, this word from Counting Your Unhatched Chickens Theatre.

The Giants, who arose Thursday one step away from a World Series, will arise again Friday and then again Saturday, still one step away from a World Series. And, it should be added, one step closer to a potential flameout of galling proportions.

But then, youve already done those mental gymnastics, havent you?

Thursdays 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in Match Point No. 1 was a clinical, almost bloodless performance by the cornered defending champions. Indeed, the longer the game went, the more the ballpark vibe dissipated as the customers were reminded why the Phillies are considered, well, the Phillies.

And why magic, magic, magic isnt going to spackle and paint this particular wall.

As you know, we dont do anything easy, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said in that mono-baritone he uses when the mood demands it. We were under no illusion thinking this would be easy. We just made a couple of mistakes.

Well, yes. First baseman Aubrey Huff playing a sharp grounder from Shane Victorino into a sharp grounder into center field stood out, as it accelerated the Phils game-winning third inning rally. So did Cody Ross commandment-violating running error, being thrown out at third base to end the fourth.

This wasnt the Giants game to lose, but the Phillies game to win, and the Phillies did that very thing.

Roy Halladay muscled his way through six painful innings (he pulled a groin in the second inning) and dropped a bunt in front of the plate right before Victorinos smash put the Phillies in business. Placido Polanco lined a two-run single to left, and Jayson Werth aired out a ninth-inning homer to make sure no delusions of grandeur would be permitted.

In short, the Phillies reminded the giddy locals that the king must be killed before there is a new king, and the Phillies dont die easy.

Youll want to remember that Saturday, and maybe even Sunday, before you start calling the caterer.

I feel like Ive got to tell, someone will say it anyway, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said, burnishing the Halladay legend. Second inning, he had a mild groin pull, his right groin. And he pitched like -- of course, he stayed in there.

Manuel said Halladay incurred the injury trying to hump up on Posey in the second inning, which didnt happen, because Posey didnt bat in the second, or even the third. Halladay, in fact, said, he hurt it facing Ross in the second.

Its always satisfying to win something like that, and youd rather not have to overcome anything, Halladay said when asked how it felt to perform as he did with an injury. Youd rather just win the game. Thats the great feeling about what it meant.

In short, the Giants did next to nothing with this apparent gift, because Halladay is nobodys farm implement, and nobodys porcelain knick-knack. They got only five baserunners on after Ross double (which is coming up shortly on your screen), and they all rest comfortably in this evenings box score, unharmed by the onus of the run column.

The Giants, who keep surrounding a big offensive game without ever achieving it, got their top-two hitters, Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez, on base six times, in succession in the first and fifth innings. That was the first time that had occurred, but the Giants scored only once because second baseman Chase Utley handled a Buster Posey grounder like an iced-over hamster.

Then came the back-to-back doubles by Pat Burrell and Ross that became the Giants last gasp.

I think he felt he had it easy, Bochy said, trying to explain away the obvious mistake, and Werth made a terrific throw, right on the money. But its the last thing you want to do is make the third out there. He knows it.

Indeed, the Ross-istic magic ebbed Thursday. The RBI double was helpful, as those things typically are, but the running gaffe and the three other strikeouts sucked a little air out of the legend of The Other Beard. He missed a cutter and a changeup from the gimpy Halladay, and a nasty slider from Ryan Madson.

And it all ... just ... faded away. The big, shiny sense of anticipation that vibrated the building slowly but surely dissipated as the reality sank in that this was one of those nights that belonged to the other guy. The better guy. The disappointing favorite that wouldnt die on cue because champions dont do that.

Now the circus moves back to Philadelphia, and with it a whole new set of anxieties for both sides. The Giants are ordinary again, and the Phillies are sending Roy Oswalt out on two days rest. This is not uncharted territory, but it makes figuring out Game 6 a fools errand.

So return with us in two days time, fools. This little dog-and-pony show has more stops, not to mention starts, before it comes to rest and you can start plotting out your November shopping.
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.