Ratto: 'Pat the Bat' Swinging Toothpick for Giants


Ratto: 'Pat the Bat' Swinging Toothpick for Giants


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Pat Burrell walked toward the horde-let of reporters and asked with an I-know-how-this-is-going-to-go smirk, You guys looking for me?

An existential question if ever there was one. Burrell has been the one persistently absent Giant in this postseason, and he capped it off in magnificently grotesque style in Game 3 of the World Series.

Four strikeouts, the most in a World Series game by a Giant since Josh Devore in 1911, a battle to the death with a first-inning line drive single by Michael Young, and in all, a frustrated neo-spectators view of Texas 4-2 victory over San Francisco -- the kind of dream a baseball player has right before he decides to stop drinking gin so close to bedtime.

He owned the evening for whomever wanted to see him do so, saying You gotta be accountable for what you do. But its what he hasnt done that has been the most jaw-dropping.

Make contact.

He is 0-for-9 with a walk and eight strikeouts in the Series. He was 2-for-10 with four strikeouts, two walks and a home run in the NL Division Series. He was 4-for-19 with four walks and seven strikeouts in the NL Championship Series.

In all, he is 6-for-38 (.157.289 on-base percentage.609 OPS) with 19 strikeouts and seven walks. He is a .315 hitter when he actually puts the ball in play, but he only puts it in play 42 percent of the time.

My night wasnt good, my night wasnt good, he said, stating the tortuously obvious. "Its obviously frustrating. You prepare yourself for the World Series, but you dont plan it to go this way.

In fact, you dont plan for it to go half as bad as it has gone for Burrell. Nobody noticed this much when the Giants were rolling, but they did know that Burrell wasnt doing much. Now that he has tunneled through the bottom of the minimal standard, it is now Bruce Bochys Job 1.

In fact, that job is probably already done. Bochy makes up a lot of his mind about any necessary changes before he even arrives in the interview room to deny hes made up his mind.

But he has. Bochy does not wait for the staff to come and say, You know, I think our guy isnt working out quite the way we were hoping.

His timing is off probably a little bit, Bochy said, protecting the exposed left fielder as much as he dared. Sure you hope he comes out of it, and it was a tough night for him. But he can handle it.

But hes a little bit off with his timing.

When Bochy makes a point twice, hes making sure it escapes nobodys notice. In short, Burrell will sit as Andres Torres sat after his golden sombrero in Game 2 of the NLCS. Torres sat out the next two games and returned in Game 5 to go 2-for-3 with a walk and a run, and then go 3-for-5 in Game 6.

Whether some time off will be a curative for Burrell, though, is a more open question. The Giants dont have another leadoff hitter. They have another left fielder, though, in Cody Ross, who hit his fifth home run of the postseason to break up Colby Lewis shutout, and they have a replacement for Ross in right in Nate Schierholtz.

And even Burrell admits these struggles are worse than the ones he had in the 2008 postseason, when he was 10-for-44 with 13 strikeouts. That year, he at least kicked in three homers and drove in eight runs. This year, he has been thoroughly inert, and though he wants to remain in the lineup in hopes of some sort of epiphany, he knows that wont be an easy sell.

Id be disappointed, of course, he said when asked if he thought he might not play Sunday in Game 4. I want to play. This is a terribly important time. So Ill show up ready to play tomorrow, and well see.

Yeah, well see, but I think we know what we, and Texas starter Tommy Hunter, will see. Ross fifth, Juan Uribe sixth, Edgar Renteria seventh, Aaron Rowand eighth and Schierholtz ninth.

Indeed, Burrells few services Saturday were to snare a slicing liner in the left field corner from Vladimir Guerrero, and provide media cover for losing starter Jonathan Sanchez, who couldnt finish the fifth after giving homers to left-handed hitters Mitch Moreland and Josh Hamilton.

But Sunday is a new game, and a narrower margin. He is striking out more than twice in every five at-bats this postseason, and the Giants already have minimal margin for error offensively. They had their monthly breakout in Game 1 and faked like they pounded the Ranger bullpen in Game 2.

But the squeeze gets tighter now. They need Game 4, on the assumption that Cliff Lee will be a different Cliff Lee in Game 5, and they need Matt Cain to be the decider in Game 6, because Sanchez looks iffy as the choice in Game 7. Bochy doesnt like leaving things like championships to the last moment, so change is coming hard and fast to the middle of the order and the left side of the outfield. Pat Burrell is almost surely, for the moment anyway, in time out.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun


A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.