Ray Ratto

Ratto: Playoff atmosphere returns, Giants thrive


Ratto: Playoff atmosphere returns, Giants thrive

Sept. 2, 2011


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On this, the first last day of the Giants 2011, 2010 broke out all over the place.

Since we have decided to cast this as the most important Giants series since last November, the demand for crank-wrapped hyperbole is therefore greater. Plus, how often do these guys score six runs in eight innings?

Not nearly often enough, as we have discussed many times. Therefore, the urgencydesperation of the moment must have contributed at least in some small measure to San Franciscos 6-2 win over their newest arch-enemies, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

RECAP: One down -- Beltran slugs Giants past D'backs

All the elements that have been missing from the second half of the season were suddenly and vividly in evidence. The leadoff man, Cody Ross, on base thrice and then making a diving catch along the left field line in the eighth inning. The three-hole, Carlos Beltran, homering, doubling and singling twice. The brand new five-hole, Pat Burrell, walking twice and striking out but using 22 of Joe Saunders 90 pitches to do so.

And Matt Cain, in one of his most manic-depressive starts as a Giant, both tempted and then punished the Diamondbacks. He alternated between being erratic and bloodless, unsure at first that he wouldnt be shut out once again and then invigorated to see they he got four starts worth of runs in two hours.

And they did all these things in front of their second smallest crowd of the year, an announced ant farm of 40,948, larger only than the first Dodger crowd of the year in Home Date No. 4.

Coming into the park, it just had a different feel to it, Cain said afterward of the general atmosphere. It just had a different energy to it. It really felt almost like a playoff game.

But it had to be. The Giants had been treading oatmeal for a month, and were on the verge of being crushed by the application of the raisins and brown sugar.

The imperatives were clear. Sweep and be very much in play in the final 22 games, be swept and be gone, or split the difference and live on the third rail the rest of the year.

So they decided to replay some of the games that got them from the coroners slab a year ago into the playoffs. The offensive execution, the confidence that bordered on swagger, and the general vibe of a team that wasnt but had been ailing for a good long while and suddenly had a very healthy and hearty day.

Hey, we needed that one in the worst way, manager Bruce Bochy said afterward. We had a lot of things going tonight, and its been awhile since weve had a game go that way. But thats the thing. We just need two or three guys to get going, and we can get five or six runs, and we can get on a roll like we did last year.

Of course, it isnt all that good an idea to declare the patient healed yet. Arizona still has a five-game lead and their two best pitchers, Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson left, going against Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong. But the real issue is not whether Lincecum and Vogelsong can deliver the furniture, but whether the offense will break it trying to get it out of the truck.
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The Giants remain who they are, despite Fridays veritable bacchanal. Putting 15 men on base in a single day is essentially Christmas morning for these galoots, and theyll have do that a lot more often down the stretch to be taken seriously, not only by the Diamondbacks but by anyone else.

But for one night, it has the old-timey feel of the team that used to know how to win almost reflexively, and the crowd that knew it was coming. Whether that is just Pavlov at work or the turning of the calendar or, mirabile dictu, a reprise of the happiest time in San Francisco Giant history, remains very much to be seen.

This evening, though, as a refreshing change from the previous 40 games, at least they were watchable.
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


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.