Ray Ratto

Ratto: Giants' Wilson and his beard return to mound, spotlight


Ratto: Giants' Wilson and his beard return to mound, spotlight

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

SCOTTSDALE --Brian Wilson looked up toward the ceiling as he formulated the answers to his first postgame presser of 2011. There is nothing necessarily indicative there, unless inspiration comes to him fluorescently.But after an impressive debut, in which he was greeted by a sustained ovation coming in from the bullpen to begin the fifth inning of the Giants 6-1 win over Seattle, he spoke on such varied topics as the nature of competition, commitment to the work ethic, and building a clubhouse in his home after retirement so that he can recreate the experience of the day-to-day ballplayers life for the rest of his days.RECAP: Lincecum Ks seven Mariners in Giants' 6-1 win
Ive entertained thoughts of it, he said, working as much wry as he could manage. I may have to go up to Murph (clubhouse manager Mike Murphy) and say, Murph, Im gonna need you to be my clubbie.Wilson began spring training with a back problem that put him behind, then a Friday night visit with Charlie Sheen that dragged him into the Internet Cuisinart for a few spins. By the time he finally got into his first game, he had already made plenty of news without actually making any news.RATTO: Giants' Wilson now playing by show biz rules
But after a 10-pitch inning, which resulted in punchouts of Dustin Ackley and Adam Kennedy, a modest first-pitch grounder to first from Milton Bradley, the worrisome and cartoony parts of his spring had metamorphosed into business.Even his beard, which has now moved past Gen. John Bell Hood and is easing toward Karl Marx for width, Ulysses S. Grant for chin hang and a rhododendron for organization, is probably going to fade in significance as he returns to the job that made him famous in the first place.Indeed, he looked strong enough to go a second inning, which would have violated most reliever protocols, let alone those for first-time appearances.I asked Bruce and Gardy (bullpen coach Mark Gardner) if I could go five today, he said, leaking sardonicism. They respectfully declined.Wilsons gift for channeling the late comedian Mitch Hedberg aside, his outing served not so much as a reminder of last season, but of the relief that comes from one fewer drama point for the days ahead. Spring training is a time for manufactured story lines, and with most defending champions, the overarching theme is how to be just like the year just passed, and finding potential reasons why that wont be so. Time marches on, after all, and the point has been reached when 2010 ends and 2011 begins.Wilson, though, chooses to see links between the then and the now, because for those with trophies, nothing satisfies quite like continuity.We had a very good spring last year, and then we won the World Series, he said. Some people like to say how spring isnt really indicative of anything, but we have a good team.And the dying embers of the memories of 2010 sustained him Sunday when he entered the game to an ovation that wasnt quite thundering but was well past pronounced.I felt honored to be in a Giants uniform, to hear that in a spring training game. In years past, Id take the mound, and its Lets go Brian, he said, offering a tea partygolf clap for emphasis of its lack of emphasis. And thats my mom.I doubt (the ovation) was 100 percent directed toward me. I was just part of the unit that won it all.Well, that probably explains his actual role in the title, but diminishes his role as a character and advertising hook, on a team that is frankly overrun with them. Then again, no organization has found more ways to monetize the icons of a championship. In New York, they get books written about fringe players on title teams. In San Francisco, they corner the market on T-shirts and slogans.Which is why Wilson actually entering a game and looking like the same pitcher who ended last season was a refreshing reminder of his core purpose. He gives excellent pressers, and his is still the silver medal of athletes beards, behind the one just sacrificed for charity by Pittsburgh Steeler defensive end Brett Keisel.But mostly, he throws an overpowering fastball, a nasty cutter and what the players still lovingly call a bastard slider. He does not seem to lose sight of that essential fact, so that whatever his future may hold, he still seems to grasp that he is a pitcher first and foremost. He just plays the other characters for showbiz purposes.

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Matt Joyce said the word, he did the apology, he’ll do the time, and then we’ll see if he’ll get the forgiveness he asks.
Joyce’s two-game suspension by Major League Baseball for using a gay slur at a fan during Friday’s Athletics-Angels game in Anaheim is well within industry norms (though it might have been more tactically impressive if the club itself had issued the suspension), and his apology did not deflect blame or contain the always-insincere caveat “if I offended anyone.” He did offend people and he knew it, so he didn’t couch it in the phraseology of “I don’t think what I said was improper, but I’ll do the perp walk just to get this over with.”
He even offered to do work with PFLAG, the support group that supports the LGBTQ community, thereby putting his time (which is more meaningful than money) where his mouth was.
In other words, he seems to have taken his transgression properly to heart, which is all you can really hope for, and now we’ll see if he is granted the absolution he seeks.
You see, we’re a funny old country in that we talk forgiveness all the time but grant it only sparingly, and only after a full mental vetting of important things like “Do we like this guy?” and “Is he playing for my favorite team?” and “Do I feel like letting him up at all?”
In other words, forgiveness is very conditional indeed.
Joyce said what he said, but his apology seemed to be given freely and unreservedly rather than crafted to meet a minimal standard of corporate knee-taking/arse-covering. If he follows through on his offer to do face-to-face work with PFLAG or an associated group and absorbs the lesson of not using other people as a weapon for his own frustration, then he ought to be acknowledged for doing so. That’s what forgiveness is.
But if the principle you adhere to is “once guilty, forever doomed,” then you’ve succeeded at giving in to the mode of the day, which is jumping to a conclusion and never jumping back because it’s just easier and more convenient to do so.
It’s up to him. But it’s also up to you.

Promotion and relegation would be a great idea in all sports


Promotion and relegation would be a great idea in all sports

There is no inherent reason why you should care about Miami FC or Kingston Stockade FC, two lower level professional soccer leagues in the lower right quadrant of the nation.

But when they joined together to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the international governing body for any sport not run by Americans for Americans, to demand that all American teams submit to the concept of promotion and relegation, from MLS to, presumably, your kid’s under-8 team, they became interesting.

And the best part about soccer, except for Neymar being worth twice as much as all other humans in the history of the sport, is promotion and relegation.

In fact, it would be a great idea in all sports – although the idea of the Giants and A’s in the Pacific Coast League might scare the bejeezus out of Larry Baer and John Fisher.

Now we are not optimistic that the CAS will see this Kingston and Miami’s way. Americans like their sports top-heavy, where only a few megaclubs get most of the money and attention while the rest sort of muddle along, safe but unremarkable. And to be frank, promotion and relegation is most a fun media construct for making fun of bad teams – say, like the A’s and Giants.

But we can agree, I think, that having Jed York pay Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch to keep his football team out of the Canadian Football League, or better still, the Mountain West Conference, would add to healthy dose of spice to what promises otherwise to be a pretty humdrum year.

And promotion/relegation would certainly reduce all that troublesome tanking in the NBA people endlessly whinge about.

So here’s to Kingston Stockade and Miami FC. Your cause is just. Persevere. After all, in this rancid period for American sporting culture, someone's got to stand for the quixotic yet indisputably correct thing.

And when it fails, and it probably will, just know you sleep with the angels -- if that’s what passes for fun at your house.