Ray Ratto

Ratto: Unproductive trial day mars Giants' image


Ratto: Unproductive trial day mars Giants' image

March 29, 2011

Editor's note: Follow all the developments at the trial with Ray Ratto's Twitter feed(@RattoCSN) from the courtroom. We'll have comprehensive analysis on SportsNet Central tonight.
Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

If Monday was a bad day for Barry Bonds, and it was, Tuesday was probably as bad in its own way for his employers the San Francisco Giants and Major League Baseball.On Monday, Bonds was essentially humiliated on several fronts by his former mistress, Kimberly Bell, although her testimony didnt do a lot to put Bonds any closer to being convicted on any of the five counts against him in U.S. Federal Court.Tuesday, the prosecution veered back closer to the case they want to make that other players who knew Bonds former trainer, Greg Anderson, were knowingly supplied with some combination of the cream, the clear, human growth hormone and injectable testosterone.Knowingly, as in Anderson knew what it was, and the players in question, Jason and Jeremy Giambi and Marvin Benard, knew what it was too.The obvious inference the prosecution wanted to leave the jury was that if they knew they were taking performance enhancing drugs, it is unreasonable to assume that Bonds didnt know, which is the crux of the defenses case. Whether they managed it at all remains to be seen, and the prosecution still has four other players it can call, including Bobby Estalella, which the prosecution claims is the direct link to Bonds knowledge.But since Tuesday was about setting a foundation for the circumstantial tower of evidence they want to submit, the defense spent little time trying to rebut either Giambi, and hadnt finished with Benard when Judge Susan Illston called time.The Giants, though, were taken over the gravel earlier in the day by former trainer Stan Conte, who said that his concerns about Anderson and Bonds other trainer, Harvey Shields, were ignored by general manager Brain Sabean and manager Dusty Baker. Conte testified that he disapproved of Anderson in particular, saying he looked like he came from a neighborhood gym, but said that when he objected to Sabean, Sabean said nothing.Conte inferred from that that the Giants would not back him up on his desire to have Anderson and Shields banned, and slowly but surely his relationship with Bonds deteriorated from there.Conte has made this claim before, but it still must have stung the team even in this, the afterglow of the World Series. It is equally safe to assume that Major League Baseball, whose job through most of the steroid era has been to limit its duration to about 45 minutes on some Thursday in 2004, did not enjoy the reminders of the pharmacological wild west days.Defense attorney Allen Ruby tried to position Conte as a conflicted club employee whom Bonds distrusted because he through the clubs medical department was reporting his medical issues to the team and media. Conte, though, fought off the inferences and left relatively unscathed. Rubys greater questions about the odd marriage between medicine and commerce will have to be tackled another time, in another forum.The morning was taken up with two pillars in the chain of custody issue the defense would like to raise in its case. The perfectly named Dr. Barry Sample of Quest Laboratories discussed the techniques by which Bonds samples were taken and analyzed, and Dale Kennedy, the poor fellow who actually had to collect those samples in a setting and procedure that can most charitably described as semi-degrading. Their testimony was for the most part bland, but it will be revisited during the defense case.There remain, though, more players to call, including Randy Velarde, Armando Rios, Benito Santiago and Bobby Estalella, who is supposed to link Bonds to the knowledge of PEDs that is the true crux of the case. The defense seemed content to let the prosecution have a day of rope-a-dope victories, using limited cross-examinations and a futile fight to limit the use of Bells diaries as evidence. That wont last forever, though, and one can expect Estalellas cross to be particularly contentious.Indeed, Tuesdays session will probably neither long noted nor remembered. It had none of Bells salacious or ethical effervescence, nor did it lead to the aha! moment this trial still needs. But it was necessary housekeeping in a trial that will be won or lost on the small details.What'syour take? Email Rayand let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag. Follow Ray on Twitter @RattoCSN.

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.