Ray Ratto

Ratto: Giants' Wilson Blows It, Wears It


Ratto: Giants' Wilson Blows It, Wears It


SANFRANCISCO -- Brian Wilson gritted his teeth, stared off into space for a moment, exhaled the way you do right before the dentist starts looking for canals to root, and then did what big-time closers are supposed to do at times like these.Own the blown.I mean, if were going to cheap rhymes here that fit well on the even the scrawniest T-shirt, why not this?Wilson, the games best closer this year by acclamation, was asked to get two saves in one game by going through the eighth and ninth innings of Game 2 of the National League Division Series against Atlanta with a 4-1 lead . . . and he didnt.In fact, he didnt in a big way, allowing the Braves to tie a game they looked like they were light years from reaching. Indeed, the Braves turned Wilsons first brush with marathoning into a 5-4 11-inning victory because of Rick Ankiels nuclear test into McCovey Cove.The only good thing for Wilson, really, is that he isnt Atlanta closer Billy Wagner, who damaged his oblique muscle in the 10th inning on a throw to first on Andres Torres sacrifice bunt, and looks doubtful for at least the rest of the series.That, though, is small consolation for the Giants guy, who was handed a difficult situation in the eighth and was ensnared in the collateral damage of Sergio Romos scuffy start.I wasnt thinking about the six-out save, he said after enduring a throwing error from Pablo Sandoval and then surrendering a screaming two-run one-out double to Alex Gonzalez. My job was to concentrate on getting the first three, and worry about the next inning when it comes up. It didnt happen, and I take full credit.It wasnt so much what he said, though, as much as it was that he said it. Closers are supposed to face the music when things go bad, and this was damned bad. Romo gave up two quick singles to Derrek Lee and Brian McCann, putting manager Bruce Bochy in that neat little crawlspace between rock and hard place, and he decided to take the road less traveled, which also happened to be the safest route.Game was on the line there, Bochy said. They had some good pinch hitters there, and once you got a couple of guys on, we got a day off tomorrow. Wilson hasnt pitched in awhile, and weve got five outs, but at that point we want to stop them.The five outs to which Bochy referred take into account Brooks Conrads sacrifice bunt, which Gonzalez made moot two pitches later by bullying a 97-mph fastball into the left-center field gap.I saw he was struggling with the heater, and its my best pitch, Wilson said. He just got a piece of it.Well, a hunk, more like. And Ankiel got even more of one in the 11th, crushing a 2-2 Ramon Ramirez fastball into the drink 10 years and four days after he blew up against the Braves in the NL Division Series and then twice in the NLCS against the Mets to essentially end his pitching career. He became a cautionary tale, then a baseball nomad, and ultimately a Brave when he and winning pitcher Kyle Farnsworth were traded to Atlanta at the deadline from Kansas City.Of course it ended that way. The entire game was played that way, with all the odd feints and bizarre twists that Game 1 did not. Freddy Sanchez and Buster Posey got MRIs, and Wagner will be examined when he returns to Atlanta. Atlanta manager Bobby Cox got run in the second inning, though he managed to manage the entire game from a post not far from where he would normally be. Both benches were emptied except for the backup catchers, and the best pitcher of the night was someone most folks have never heard of but should know very well, Craig Kimbrel.And now the series has been thrown into the kind of delicious chaos the Giants knew all too well. They were on the verge of closing the series for all intent and purpose, and they may still. But they will do it, or not, as they do everything face-first and at high speed.And the series is now the most interesting one by far, because anything is not only possible, but most of what is possible has already been seen.And Brain Wilsons six-out save that wasnt was only the start.

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.