Ratto: Giants Kiss Third Rail, Live to Tell the Tale


Ratto: Giants Kiss Third Rail, Live to Tell the Tale


SAN FRANCISCO -- Well, now theyre just showing off.

The San Francisco Giants, who like to see how close they can get to the third rail before dancing away, decided Wednesday night to put their tongues right on it.

And of course, they survived. In fact, they won Game 4 of the National League Championship Series because of their devotion to a man too injured to start the game ... because the third baseman who couldnt be trusted to get the big hit did ... because the catcher who had been struggling at the plate broke out enough for two normally-hyped players ... because the center fielder who costs too much made a throw worth every bit of his salary ... because the bullpen that looked like it couldnt actually did.

And now, with a 6-5 win so rich that it causes cholesterol levels to ring carnival bells putting them one game away from the World Series nobody in their right mind saw for this team, they now can say theyre just screwing with the legend now.

Oh, they dont say they are, because that's tempting fate too much. But Juan Uribe alone -- I mean, thats so over the top, it hardly seems believable.

He hurt his wrist sliding in Game 1. He didnt play in Game 2. He played ineffectively in Game 3. And he didnt play in Game 4 until, well, until the game had to be won.

And on a night when Aaron Rowand, Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Buster Posey, Cody Ross, Buster Posey, Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey stood out as heroes, it was the guy who couldnt play -- until he could -- that made the two plays that brought down the house.

The first, a very long throw from the hole to snatch a single from pinch-hitter Ross Gload, was epic enough. The second, the sacrifice fly off Game 2Game 6 starter Roy Oswalt (Roy Oswalt!) so deep that it scored Huff with the game-winner, basically put the story on tilt.

He came in and took BP, and he said that he could go, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, shrugging with that what-do-you-think-he-said look he likes to wear. He said he was available, and when we checked on him late in the game, he was good to go.

Oh yes he was.

I knew I could play (infield), Uribe said. I knew I could do that. But when I swing, it hurts a little bit. But I went out and tried to help the team.

He swung through a fastball from Oswalt, who had come on to start the ninth after essentially telling Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel he wanted to go. He then looked at a fastball down, had a fastball hit the knob of his bat and shoot toward the Philadelphia dugout, took another fastball out of the zone, and then got a knee-high changeup that he lifted to Ben Francisco in left.

A perfect throw might have had Huff, but Rowand had already used up all the perfect throws on this night to cut down Carlos Ruiz at the plate in the fifth. This wasnt perfect, and Uribe became the latest in a long series of Giants heroes in a postseason that makes sense only when you abandon sense.

The only regular player who hasnt done anything substantive to help win a game is backup catch Eli Whiteside. The only pitcher, Guillermo Mota. The rest of the time, the Giants have behaved like a wrestling tag team with unlimited partners. Or maybe a Mini Cooper that doubles as a clown car, emitting players and performances you are sure the car cannot hold.

Bochys maneuverings seem to work with uncanny regularity, and there seems no end to the wizardry his players emit when placed in the high tension moments.

And dont forget that all but a few players -- Huff, Posey, Pat Burrell -- have had their turn in the abuse-o-wheel that is Giants fandom. They talk about the torture of following this team, but they dont actually like it until its done, which is too late to claim credit.

Its the moments when the adrenaline rises into the mouth and tastes like burnt almonds, when the fan knows, absolutely knows, that the bad thing is going to happen, when Uribes hand is going to fly out of his glove and land in someones drink.

Thats when the torture is really torture, and when Uribe came up, surely outmatched by one of the games best pitchers, the stadium knew.

But it hoped, and when Uribe chased Francisco back and Huff was golden, thats when everyones bingo card was filled. The Giants have won six of eight games in the postseason with a full complement of heroes, a different one each night.

So yeah, it is showing off, even more brazenly than Huffs choice of aprs-jeu delicates. The Giants have depth they didnt know they had, and now they are beating up yet another team with it.

And Thursday, they can clinch the World Series berth. No doubt with Mota pitching six innings of spotless relief and Whiteside hitting three homers.

Well, OK. Thats probably over the top. But not by as much as you would have thought.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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.