Ratto: Pitching Duel in Game 1 Hardly a Sure Thing

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Ratto: Pitching Duel in Game 1 Hardly a Sure Thing

Oct. 15, 2010RATTOARCHIVE
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Ray Ratto
CSNBayArea.com

JimmyRollins has always said he was an As fan growing up. He lived inAlameda, you can spit from Alameda to the Coliseum, and the rest isbasic math.On the other hand, he did finally get a chance to see the Giantsballpark as a citizen this past season and decided that Its the bestballpark Ive ever been in, after this one.Very politically wise by the plucky veteran shortstop. Dont diss thehome folks digs, especially when the home folks can flay the hide offyou with their pointed sandpapery tongues.Rollins, the Philadelphia Phillies shortstop whose season has beendefined more by his absences than his presence (hes had two calfinjuries this year and is now nursing a bad quad), is an important partof the defending NL champions lineup, and being gone as long as he wasdid clearly depress the mostly vaunted Phillies lineup.But with Game 1 of the NL Championship Series less than a day away, hisP.R.-motivated love affair with his own ballpark reminds us that thereare factors mitigating against the much-craved Lincecum-Halladaymatchup.And Factor One is the ballpark. Citizens Bank, a romantic name if everthere was one, is the latest in a long line of hitter-friendlyballyards in this town, going back to the absurdly cockeyed Baker Bowlin the 30s and 40s, then Connie Mack Stadium, then the Vet. They haveall treated hitters kindly, and so does the Bank.
The dimensions are friendly enough (average down the lines, short inthe alleys, no great fly ball graveyard like the one in San Francisco),the hitters muscle up well enough, the humidity helps, and mostintriguingly Friday, the late autumn wind was up and standing the flagsin center field to full attention.More wind is expected for Saturdays first game, and if that forecastproves true, any fly ball threatens the pitching matchup of the ages.Yes, for all the hype about Timmy and Roy, both could be undone by the vine-draped conditions.They could also be undone by the pressure of the moment, or by thevagaries of the game, but the point here is that when so many peoplesee dueling perfect games, one should be very careful to rule out thepossibility of an 11-9 game.All right, a 7-4 game. The Giants arent going to get nine runs in anygame in this series, let alone lose one. The pitching is that deep onboth sides.Deep, but not infallible. And while this theory hangs on the singlepiling of Everybody cant be right, thats not a bad way to go attimes. And at 7 p.m. EDT last night, with the flags blowing towardright field, the long line of Phillies left-handed hitters loomedlarger and larger and larger still.In short, there are plenty ways to crush a hype machine, even one asforegone-conclusion-ish as this one. No park in baseball is better ableto turn pitchers into base-backer-uppers. No team is more capable onany given night of turning 3-2 into 10-2.And in fairness, the Giants can do this as well. It just isnt nearlyas likely because theyre not as left-handed, and theyre not asPhillie-ish.Instead, they are banking heavily on their mutant Giant-hood toneutralize not only the conventional wisdom, but the unconventionalanti-wisdom as well. In a five-game series, that works more often, butanything is technically possible.Even the classic pitching matchup that everyone has already assumed is a mortal lock.Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

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.