Ray Ratto

Ratto: Naming Giants All-Stars tough task for Bochy

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Ratto: Naming Giants All-Stars tough task for Bochy

June 17, 2011

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Bruce Bochy wants the Bobby Cox Exception because, well, the Bobby Cox Exception has always been there.

The problem is, the Bobby Cox Exception has been largely muscled out of the All-Star Game selection process. Thus, Bochys flag-waving for Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo as All-Star-worthy pitchers is going to run into significant Ohhh, really? from the other people in the room.

Starting with the fact that there are other people in the room.

In the good old days, the manager picked the full All-Star roster with a little bit of help. Then the fans were allowed to pick the starters. Then the rosters were expanded. Now its a hugely convoluted mess with 34 players, but an Internet exception, and there are so many people in the room with Bochy who have their own ideas and urgencies that neither Lopez nor Romo is a lock to be anything other than cases of Guys, I did my best.

But lets do this systematically, and go through the 16 National League teams to decide how many open spots on his pitching staff Bochy actually has:

POSITION PLAYERSVOTE LEADERS

Brian McCann, Atlanta; Albert Pujols, St. Louis; Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati; Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado; Placido Polanco, Philadelphia; Ryan Braun, Milwaukee; Lance Berkman, St. Louis; Matt Holliday, St. Louis.

POSITION PLAYERSSTATISTICAL NO-BRAINERS

Joey Votto, Cincinnati; Prince Fielder, Milwaukee; Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee; Chipper Jones, Atlanta; Jose Reyes, New York Mets; Starlin Castro, Chicago; Miguel Montero, Arizona; Yadier Molina, St. Louis; Matt Kemp, Los Angeles; Hunter Pence, Houston; Jay Bruce, Cincinnati.

Thats 19 position players, and were probably shorting Stephen Drew (Arizona), Kelly Johnson (Arizona), Gaby Sanchez (Florida) and if you have to have a Giant, Cody Ross.

That means 15 pitchers, which is last years number and included three set-up relievers Arthur Rhodes, Evan Meek and Hong-Chih Kuo. So now lets take the starting pitchers.

STARTERSTHE MORTAL LOCKS

Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay, Philadelphia; Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles; Anibal Sanchez, Florida; Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta; Tim Lincecum, San Francisco.

RELIEVERS THE NEAR-MORTAL LOCKS

Brian Wilson, San Francisco; Heath Bell, San Diego; Francisco Cordero, Cincinnati; Jonny Venters, Atlanta; Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta; Tyler Clippard, Washington; J.J. Putz, Arizona; Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh; Drew Storen, Washington.

Thats 15 already, leaving zero spots open for Paul Maholm, Pittsburgh; John Axford, Milwaukee; Kyle Lohse, St. Louis; Jhoulys Chacin, Colorado; Shaun Marcum, Milwaukee; Tommy Hanson, Atlanta; and the Giant candidates Lopez, Romo, Ryan Vogelsong, Ramon Ramirez and Matt Cain.

Anibal Sanchez has to go, unless Bochy wants four first basemen and would make Gaby Sanchez his Florida choice. Either Maholm or Hanrahan have to go to represent Pittsburgh, and either Storen or Clippard will be the Washington rep.

Now comes the next hard part taking a setup man instead of a very qualified closer. Putz and Kimbrel get the congratulations letter in that case, and now there are 15.

But lets say Bochy wants to get hard-nosed, as he is wont to do, and wants to ramrod another one of his pitchers onto the 15. Which one would he pick over the others?

Herein lies the hardest part of all picking one of the kids over the others. Is Vogelsong having a better year than Romo? Are Lopez splits (great vs. lefthanded hitters, bad against righthanders) still good enough to bump Ramirez?

Frankly, Bochy needs some timely injuries to players other than his own to avoid having to make that painful I-like-you-more-than-you call. Barring that, he might be better off not taking any of them and blaming the other guys in the room for doing the right thing viz. Kimbrel, Putz or Cordero.

In short, he can talk about being conscienceless toward his biases, but the math suggests that he wont be able to use the Cox Exception. The last time he managed an All-Star team, he took only three Padres Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman (obvious) and Andy Ashby, who had gone 17-9 the year before and was 7-4 with a low-threes ERA the first half of 1999.

That was a modest enough haul back in the day, when the rosters were a paltry 32. Now, at 34, Bochy thinks he has tons of room. He doesnt. What he has, is time. Time for this to settle a bit more. Time for players to get hurt (yeah, like he doesnt have experience with that). Time for decisions to make themselves.

And if worse comes to worst, time to throw up his hands and say, Fine. If you want Ryan Madson so damned badly, you manage the freakin team. And dont think he wont do it, in that deep, drawn-out baritone that people confuse at their peril for dull-wittedness or indecision. He is none of those things. He is also not omnipotent the way All-Star managers used to be.

You know. Like Bobby Cox.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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.