Ray Ratto

Ratto: Keep Surkamp away from other starters

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Ratto: Keep Surkamp away from other starters

Aug. 27, 2011

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Well, I guess we know what happens now. Duane Kuiper finds some exotic animal doing something silly or menacing to compare Eric Surkamp to, say, like a three-beaked eye-pecking hawk, and before you know it, hes getting topiaries mailed to him by crazed Chia-fans and the Giants are rushing three-beaked eye-pecking hawk paraphernalia into production.

Hey, what would you rather have Ted Robinson at the 49ers games pitching the stuffed red-tufted Three-And-Out?

No, Surkamps harrowing but successful six-inning debut as a Giant pitcher, in which he gave up one run, six hits, several hard outs and made the backstop cry with his second pitch as a major leaguer makes him an immediate folk hero at Third y King, and immediate folk heroes get animals and hats.

And lousy run support.

The Giants gave him one, in the first, and finished with two, the other coming in the 10th, in a 2-1 win over the Houston Astros. The unlikely combination of Mark DeRosa (single, stolen base) and Jeff Keppinger (single) kept the Giants within one good weekend of catching the Arizona Diamondbacks, who beat San Diego, 3-1.

RECAP: Keppinger delivers in 10th, Giants beat Astros

We will now pause a moment while we let you imagine what three runs would feel like.

There. All tingly and envious?

Now wed like nothing better than to bore you with another heart-rending tale of a Giant pitcher forced to live off starvation rations I mean, we could change a few names on old stories and turn them in as new but even we dont have the nerve to cheat the boss that much.

Not all the time, anyway.

But this is how pitchers outings go here the Giants get good starts, no hits, and the lack of fun never ends.

The key to Surkamps further development, though, lies not in the marketing department prodding Kuiper into a quasi-impromptu zoological reference (He looks like a Senegalese vampire bat out there) and then spinning it into one-size-fits-all hats, but in keeping him away from the other starters when they gather for their secret meetings.

You know, the ones where they mutter to each other about how none of them have seen a three-run lead since Easter.

And you know they happen. The rotation has been good at biting its tongue when the topic is raised by some enterprising some snoop with a tape recorder and 22 inches or three minutes to fill, but to themselves, in the privacy of their metaphorical treehouse, they bitch a blue streak about the Wiffle Ball league theyre in.

They have to. Theyre not stupid. Theyre good teammates and all for not bringing it up to their fellows, but the straight ones and fat zeros they have been subsisting on all summer long have made them lean, mean and hungry.

And at some point, maybe soon, maybe late, maybe next spring, one of them is going to snap. And when one goes, theyll all go. Not because they mean to be hurtful or because they are inherently CYA types; were that so, theyd have done it well before now.

But it could happen because the stress of silence will finally give way to a torrent of profane recriminations and If I wanted to pitch in 1916, I would have asked my great-great-grandparents to have me instead.

As day dawns, the Giants have three of the seven pitchers with the lowest run support in the game (BumgarnerCainLincecum), and Ryan Vogelsong is 84th of 101 among qualified starters. And with Surkamps performance, even though he doesnt obviously qualify, he would be tied for 246th.

But he did what needed to be done against the games worst team. He kept the Astros in the ballpark, didnt let his occasional high fastball become a real problem, or let the four doubles he allowed turn into a bloodletting. He challenged enough of his nervousness into a strong debut, and a place in Giant folklore.

That means a nickname, and well guess that Kuiper will go marsupial for a change here, and gifts that turn into a fan fetish that turn into gift shop shmata, all within days.

And Eric Surkamp will be a full-blooded Giant. Almost. Hell be full-blooded when the other pitchers let him into their meetings and talk about the latest zero-to-minus-one loss one of them endured. He hasnt known that pain yet.

But he will. They all do, eventually.

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

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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.