Ratto: Giants' focus shifts from Reyes to Beltran


Ratto: Giants' focus shifts from Reyes to Beltran

July 8, 2011


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This will end up being Al Michaels fault, ultimately. His, and Bob Costas too. They're not the usual bartenders here, and the locals are very resistant to changes in the routine. They like their drinks watered down just so.

But there is always an up-side for Giants fans, and Fridays 5-2 loss to New York brings this: The fantasizing about trading Jonathan Sanchez and money for Jose Reyes is over, and that for Carlos Beltran is now in full flower.

RECAP: Wilson takes loss; Giants implode in ninth

Thats how these things work. The Giants lost because their bullpen pulled one of its infrequent charlies, Beltran was an integral part of why, and now, like Yankees or Red Sox fans, the audience turns its covetous eyes to one of the perpetrators.

Sort of like solving the murder in Clue, then trying to hire Colonel Mustard to run the police force.

The problem of the moment for you micromanagers is the whereabouts of Brian Wilson, who was called in to start the ninth in a tie game (made sense) after New York manager Terry Collins sent out pinch-hitter Scott Hairston to bat for pitcher Pedro Beato (also made sense). Hairston ground out a full count before jacking a slider up and hittable into the left field seats.

It was Wilsons fifth consecutive non-orderly outing, which relievers are occasionally wont to do when they are, well, relieving, but on a team like this, panic is never too far away from euphoria, and with Arizona only a game back in the NL West and four games behind wild carder Atlanta, why not panic about the closer?

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But once youve gotten that out of your systems, lets get back to Beltran, whose leadoff double in the fourth, two-out single in the fifth and RBI single in the ninth provided much of the powder in the Mets attack. The big moments, Hairstons homer and an earlier one from Angel Pagan, will be more memorable, but nobody wants to trade for either of them.

No, Beltran is the new prix du jour, even though he neither catches, plays second or short. He is the most highly sought-after Met, especially now that Reyes is off the board, but he carries a high tag (8 million) that is going higher (prospects, too).

The Giants might be able to handle the money in fact, they can handle the money. The question is how much future they want to mortgage to go along with the money, and when the big spenders start to descend, will they want to be part of a bidding war?

Put another way, wouldnt Sandy Alderson much rather send Beltran to Boston if the Red Sox can pump their deal so as to (a) get Beltran out of the National League and (b) hose the Yankees while hes at it?

That doesnt change the central fact that Beltran is now the 26th most popular player in San Francisco, with a bullet. Since this is not normally the way Giant fans behave which is to say, like Yankee, Red Sox, Phillie, Laker, Patriot, Red Wing or Flyer fans, who want what they want when they want it and cant understand when they dont get it this will take some adjustment.

But that adjustment is being made. As the days go forth, the Giants need for a cleanup hitter will far outstrip their catching and infield needs because, as we saw yet again Friday night, they are a bad situational hitting team with an apparently incurable on-base percentage issue. Beltran will give them more strength in the one place where they at least have sufficient bodies, and as the days go on and the Giants keep scoring those twos and fews, he will become the source of the fan bases monomania.

In the meantime, the base will need to blame someone for this unusual bullpen meltdown (36 pitches, four hits plus an error by Andres Torres, three runs). And that will be those two practiced interlopers, the crack vaudeville team of Costas and Michaels. Their crime: not being Kuiper and Krukow, of course.

Thats a one-day story, though, Beltrans has 23 more days to run, including the All-Star break. It may not have a satisfying ending for the locals, but it will kill a few weeks in a season that seems like it may last forever.

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

O.J. Simpson is free. The system as it is defined by those who run it in the case of the Nevada Parole Board, worked.

But the issue that lingers is whether we can free ourselves of him. That system is far more amorphous, arbitrarty and essentially unfair. And in its own revolting way, it works too.

The O.J. market has always been bullish. The old cliché that people can’t get enough no matter how much you shovel at them is more true for him than for any other sports figure of the last 50 years. More than Tiger Woods. More than LeBron James. More than Michael Jordan. More than all of them.

And now his parole hearing, televised and streamed by every outlet except Home & Garden Television, proved it again. He will never not be O.J.

But he is also 70. He is also planning to go to Florida and be with his family, based on what he told the parole board Thursday. He has assiduously avoided the media in his nine years in Lovelock, and if his family is providing the support it pledges, it will do its utmost to keep him from our prying eyes as he enters his dotage.

There is nothing we have that can do him any good. We have eaten all the forms of O.J. there are, culminating in the Emmy-award winning documentary on him, and finally, his release from prison. If he is wise as well as smart, here’s nothing left of his life but re-airs.

So the question becomes not so much whether he can leave fame alone, or whether fame can leave him alone. Our national appetite is poor on the topic of leaving people be, let alone deciding enough is enough. The fame we make for people gorges, purges and gorges again, in a hideous cycle that demeans all involved.

In sum, O.J. Simpson can, if he is paying attention to the value of normalcy, end his addiction to fame. I have far more serious doubts about fame and its addiction to him.

Quietest time in sports yields a pair of idiotic fascinations


Quietest time in sports yields a pair of idiotic fascinations

Some time not that very long ago, someone in sports management who will almost certainly spend all of eternity bobbing for razor-studded apples in a pool of lava saw an opportunity in the phrase, “The quietest time in sports.” And decided to fill it with filth.
It is believed to begin right after the end of the NBA Finals, although that artificial start date has been extended through free agency now that the NBA’s principal entertainment vehicle is the burning of money. It used to be right after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, though now it has been extended backward. And it ends roughly at the beginning of NFL and/or college training camps, depending on where you live and which of those two beasts you profess your God to be.
But let’s get back to the management succubus who has set us on the path that has led inexcusably to the current point. The idea that baseball no longer holds the interest or attention spans of the young, cool and inadequately trained in the value of money is now accepted as fact, and as any marketing nitwit will tell you, nature abhors a vacuum.
So here’s what we’ve got. Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor in what is very simply a lazy-stereotype-laden comedy tour that isn’t funny let alone even mildly convincing. They have both been on the stage too long, with a month still to go before the final shame-off August 26, where they simply enter the arena, stand with their backs to each other at the ring rope and spend 45 minutes trying to target-spit into the eyes of the high-rollers. Why the promoters didn’t just muzzle Mayweather and McGregor and use actual professionals like Key and Peele and Aisling Bea and Ed Byrne to work the crowds for a million per is simply a lack of imagination at work.
Here’s what else we have. Our idiotic fascination for Lonzo Ball’s two best Summer League games being achieved wearing shoes other than those promoted by his father/huckster as though his skills and intelligence are all in his feet.
What this actually is, of course, is people using Lonzo’s momentary and mostly microscopic achievement to call LaVar a tedious swine without ever using his name or his product catalog because he, like McGregor and Mayweather, beats down crowds and calls it entertainment, and people have signed on in a weird backdoor way – by finding reasons to like the son as a weapon against the father.
Thus, Lonzo Ball gets to learn how to be a professional athlete of note while carrying the load of his father’s impression upon the nation as well as the loads of those who believe that sins of the father must revert to the son. Popularity’s dominant property is its corrosion, and Ball will have to have very fast feet and well-constructed shoes indeed to dance away from the rising tide of a bored fan base with an ax to grind.
It isn’t as instantly gratifying a train wreck as Mayweather-McGregor, but it is a triumph of the new marketing strategy of wholesale idiocy that diminishes the watcher as well as the watched.
Neither of these events are in and of themselves interesting. Mayweather-McGregor is simply a kangaroo boxing a bear because circus entertainment no longer has circuses as venues, and Ball’s summer bears almost no relationship to the true test of his career – how to be the best player on a terrible team and then make the adjustment to being the third best player on a rebuilding team.
Ball has a longer shelf life because of that single useful component, but it is made less rather than more interesting by the presence of his father, who is now indelibly part of the tale at a time when most parents leave their children to find their fortunes by the virtues of their skills and wits.
McGregor-Mayweather has the sole benefit of being cringeworthy both before, during and after the event, a month-long smear of degradation that reduces all involved, including those who buy the fight, into penitents, into rolling apologies. It is an event in which nobody gets out with any shred of dignity, with the single revolting example of the grisly accountant-beasts who will take the Internal Revenue’s cut immediately after the fight.
And if that isn’t Satan winning, then you don’t know how to score a game in which Satan plays on all the teams at once and sees to it that the game is scheduled in the middle of July because some client of his told him it was the best time of year for personal and professional disgrace with a scoreboard on the end of it.