Ratto: Sanchez could be making room for Zito


Ratto: Sanchez could be making room for Zito

June 24, 2011


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Bad news from the Thing On King for those of you who are sick of the Whatever will we do with Barry Zito? snivel-fest: Jonathan Sanchez is making the choice easy.

In fact, the decision might already be made. Sanchez has no more starts before Zitos resurrection from the minor league crypt Tuesday, and if the lavlishly-rewarded left-hander has rediscovered his stroke, Bruce Bochy will be asked now about a brand new fascinating choice, to wit:

Can you use Zito in a four-man rotation?

It is a testament to how strangely over-covered the Giants often are that Zito, who is still a fifth starter candidate no matter what he makes or how we fetishize his return, has become Topic A on a postseason contender. Indeed, the discussion after the Giants manipulated a 4-3 win over AL Central leader Cleveland Friday night was mostly about . . . well, yes. That.

The reason? Sanchez, who was all over the place including the neighbors yard again. He lasted only 4 23 innings, with two hits, six walks and a hit-by of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo that broke the Indians best outfielders thumb and caused the promotion of former Athletic Travis Buck from AAA.

It was the second time in succession that he couldnt clear the fifth inning, and fourth time in five starts that he walked at least five hitters. This was not a Bumgarner-ian start, but it was anticipated by seemingly everyone in the ballpark, including (based on the always handy barometer of body language) Sanchez himself.

Giants Insider gallery: Torres bails out Sanchez

You can see its affected his confidence, Bochy said. When asked to clarify if Sanchez demeanor on the mound, coming off the mound or in the dugout is the tip-off, Bochy added, Its all of the above. I can see its affecting him, hes lost a little of, I hate to use the word swagger, but he just doesnt have that confident feeling.

Indeed, he opened up the door to Sanchez demotion from the rotation wider than he has for any other pitcher at any other time, saying, Ill have to get with Dave Righetti (the pitching coach) when Im done with (the press conference), and then talk with Johnny tomorrow.

Thats Johnny, not Sanchy. Thats a demotion right there.

In short, Sanchez has become, for lack of a better phrase, the new Zito the pitcher who makes fans cringe at the very mention of his next start. And Zito has become a sort of fan favorite, in the same way that backup quarterbacks do; the less you see, the more you romanticize.

And right now, Zito is Denton True Young His Own Bad Self, while Sanchez has become . . . well, name a pitcher who gave you the heebie-jeebies when you were a kid, and add 20 percent.

Four days ago, Zito was mentioned as a potential replacement for Madison Bumgarner, who had a record-warpingly rancid outing against Minnesota. Bruce Bochy dismissed that as folly, because it was probably a one-off. Sanchez has now been an ongoing root canal for nearly a month now, and Bochy is going to seriously consider exchanging worrisome lefthanders because the one sees all the time worries him more than the one he hasnt seen in 70 days.

RELATED: Zito to start Game 2 vs. Chicago on Tuesday

Human nature. The tire fire you can smell is always worse than the chemical fire you watch on TV.

Now were not saying that Zito is doomed to fail when he returns in Tuesdays nightcap against Chicago. We cant say it, for like everyone else, we have no idea whether he has fixed what ailed him.

But he has been rendered annoying in absentia by all those who (a) loathed his starts when he was making them and then (b) started longing for them when he stopped.

And Sanchez, with all his allegedly electric stuff and hangdog looks at the end of every inning he pitches, good or bad, is now taking Zitos upper berth in the We Dont Like You Limited because he has been around and pitching.

Face it, fans are visual learners. They remember what they see more than what they are told.

So Zito is back, and contrary to the situation a month ago, there not only is room for him, there is elbow room for him. Nobody could have foreseen that even two weeks ago, let alone a month, and at that Bochy still isnt giving up the word. He has to . . . all together, boys and girls, in the key of C-flat . . . talk it over with Brian.

And the fact that Righetti and Sanchez will also be part of the discussion tree suggests that The Zito Problem has finally solved itself, as you knew it would. Not with a pronouncement from on high, but a baseball development that answered the questions Bochy had to duck.

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.

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.