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.

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention


Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

Frank Deford’s death over the weekend did not mark the end of longform sportswriting as we knew it; he had long ago become part of the electronic commentariat that has reduced longform’s place in the public’s attention span.

But there is still longform writing and storytelling to be found in many places, and it is still worthwhile. It has more production value, as the TV folks like to blather, and the words have to fight for their place between the cracks left by the pictures and the mutated graphics, but longform lives, and it should, lest we all agree as one people to further desiccate that attention span like a grapefruit left in the sun.

Deford’s death, though, reminds of when longform was the zenith of the storytelling art. It could, and still can, give you access and depth and breadth that a TV crew simply could not, and cannot. Even extended TV features are by their very nature so contrived by all the equipment that nothing is natural, nothing is a surprise, and the act of writing is almost an afterthought.

Deford knew this. He more than merely dabbled in TV himself, playing the wizened old raconteur who was as much character in his pieces as storyteller. He was also a star and a starmaker with The National, a daily sports network in newspaper form that was long on talent and ideas but short on delivery and distribution. It lasted 17 months, until mid-1991, but it led to grander attempts decades later, and could if you squint your eyes hard enough be the natural parent of Grantland and The Ringer and Vice and SB Nation and dozens of others – all bigger ideas, positioned in the post-typing world. Some lasted, more didn’t, but capitalism is like that – making fuel to keep the fires burning and the engines churning.

Deford could have thrived in such a world, to be sure. He was not, in the hideous phrase, “a man of his time.” Indeed, he was a crossover figure years ago in ways that other longform writers attempt to resist even now. They want to be Deford at the height of his powers at a time when the instruments for their gift are either dying or veering away from anything that hits the 600-word mark.

But his passing did not kill the art of clever writing and incisive storytelling. There are far too many people who can do that still, even if the market for their gifts is neither as pronounced nor as eager for the product as it once was. It did remind us not only that he was a giant, but that there are still giants among us should we deign to take the time to seek them.

Thus, Deford’s death marked his passing but not the thing that made him worthy of our attention. Storytelling, longform and otherwise, remains the heart of why this is still worthwhile to a culture, and when the generation his work spawned starts to die off, I suspect we’ll still be saying the same thing then. Notebooks are smartphones, photographs are streams, but the human eye and ear and hand still remain pre-eminent.

That is, until the robots take over, at which point reading won’t be worth it.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.