Ray Ratto

Urban: With Barr, Giants in good shape for MLB draft


Urban: With Barr, Giants in good shape for MLB draft

June 6, 2011

The amount of information now available on amateur baseball players in the United States has done wonders for the MLB draft, which as recently as 10 years ago was no more compelling to casual fans than any given episode of "Dog Whisperer" is to a cat lover.The MLB Network and the league's website have played major roles in increasing interest and visibility, too.But still. Be honest. Baseball's draft is a dud. All the information, bells, whistles, lights and talking heads in the world can't change the fact that, unlike in the NFL and NBA drafts, most of the players being drafted won't be wearing your favorite team's uniform for a couple of years at minimum, probably quite a bit longer.Giants fans have been somewhat spoiled of late when it comes to top picks. Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey -- San Francisco's first-round picks in 2006, 2007 and 2008, respectively -- made it to the bigs quick-like, and last fall they each played a massive role in the city's historic first World Series title.
Yet Lincecum, Bumgarner and Posey were early first-rounders, the result of some less-than-compelling Giants teams in previous years. And while the two most recent No. 1 picks, Zack Wheeler and Gary Brown, appear to have very bright futures, they're still honing their games at Single-A and don't figure to make an impact in San Francisco for a couple of years.This year the Giants have the No. 29 pick in the first round, and if you correctly predict the player with whom they end up out of that slot, head to Reno with a roll of quarters immediately. MLB.com's latest mock draft has them tabbing Brian Goodwin, a "toolsy" outfielder out of Miami-Dade College, and if you know a great deal about young Mr. Goodwin, good for you. Most people know far more about Cesar Millan and his canine magic.So here's how you might want to approach this year's MLB draft, which kicks off today at 4 p.m. PT with coverage of the first round and "sandwich picks," which is draftnik-ese for what you get for losing a free agent: Trust John Barr.Barr is the Giants' draft guru, and he's done a hell of a job in recent years.Think the Giants need to stock up on young arms in preparation for the inevitability of the current rotation's breakup? Think they should focus on snagging as many power hitters as possible? Think a catcher has to be high on the list of wants?Barr might very well feel the same way, but none of that is going to dictate what he does today and tomorrow.Even when the team has an early first-round pick, Barr doesn't act based strictly on need. He goes the best-player-available route, and that's to say the sensible route. The players available in the draft are, for the most part, far too young and far too removed from the ridiculous skill levels present in the high minors and majors for the draft to be anything more than a series of gambles informed by as much information-gathering as possible.It's not all that sexy, but then again, neither is the MLB draft. On the sexy scale, it's Estelle Getty to the NFL's Alyson Michalka.But you know what? That might be a good thing. When you have very little clue as to who you'd like to see your favorite team snag, there's very little room for disappointment.

If eclipse ends life on Earth, it's bad news for fans of one Bay Area team


If eclipse ends life on Earth, it's bad news for fans of one Bay Area team

If the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe is right and the total eclipse of the sun is actually a harbinger of the end of life on earth . . .

- It’s good news for the Giants, who have been eliminated from the National League West race for less than 24 hours, or that they will not have to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers put their feet up on baseball for the first time in 28 years.

Besides, there won’t be any more years, so time becomes meaningless.

- It’s good news for the 49ers, who won’t have to endure a harsh week of practice from freshly irked head coach Kyle Shanahan, who finally saw exactly why the job came open for him in the first place.

- It’s good news for Raiders’ fans, who won’t see their team move to Las Vegas, and because they won't be soul-crushed if they can't beat the Patriots -- who will also die en masse despite Bill Belichick's entreaties to ignore the noise of seven billion terrorized shrieks.

- It’s bad news for A’s fans, who will never learn in what location their fabulous new franchise-saving stadium will not be built.

- It’s good news for the Warriors, who can say in their death throes that they were the last NBA champions ever, and that the Lakers will never get LeBron James.

- It’s good news for the Lakers because they cannot be found guilty of tampering with Paul George. It’s also good news for Jimmy Kimmel because he can’t lose a draft choice (some faceless F-list actor as a guest) as a result.

- It’s good news for the Kings, because they’ll never have to have the difficult meeting about Zach Randolph.

- It’s good news for the Chargers, because they won’t have to answer any more questions about why only 21,000 people were announced as the crowd for their second practice game, or to confront the very real possibility that they could become the NFL’s Washington Generals.

- It’s good news for the Jets, Mets, Nets and Knicks because the end of the planet is the only just solution for them all.

- It’s good news for Cal because it can stick its middle finger to the sky and say, “Here’s your $400 million debt. Try to collect it while we’re all dying.”

- It’s good news for Kevin Durant because he doesn’t have to slalom through the Internet trolls any more.

- It’s bad news for Roger Goodell, because he sure left a boatload of money on the table as he was hurtled into space like the rest of us.

- It’s bad news for Nick Saban because he will have never seen it coming. On the other hand, it’s good news for the people who cover Alabama football because they’ve endured their last journalism lecture from Prof. Nick on why they do their jobs so poorly.

- It’s bad luck for Jim Harbaugh because he will feel like a complete nitwit as he learns just what “an enthusiasm unknown to mankind” really means – the end of mankind.

- It’s bad news for all the sixth graders in America who are being offered scholarships that they will never be used by college coaches they will never meet. Of course, that would have been true even  if the world doesn’t end.

- It’s bad news for the hackers who have been spoiling Game Of Thrones because this is Game Of Thrones, only the dragon is the sun incinerating us all.

- It’s bad news for Kyrie Irving, because he will have died a Cleveland Cavalier.

- It’s good news for America, for the obvious reason that the planet will expire before our current political class can murder it.

- And finally, it’s good news for dignity, because the Mayweather-McGregor “thing” will never happen, and that alone means that even as we are torn asunder, we will know that the deity loves us all because both McGrogor and Mayweather are being torn asunder too.

Of course, if you’re reading this Tuesday, you’ll know the world didn’t end, and we’re just as screwed as we ever were. Oh well. Try to find your happy place, and drink like there’s no Wednesday.

Relationship between Goodell & NFL owners like Game of Thrones, only...


Relationship between Goodell & NFL owners like Game of Thrones, only...

The National Football League’s 32 bosses ruined all our fun speculation about Roger Goodell’s future by extending his future.

By extending his contract to 2025 – and, maybe more importantly, keeping his salary private so that we can’t use it as a club with which to continually brain him – the owners sent the message that, whatever the state of his petty feuds with allegedly powerful owners like Jerry Jones and Bob Kraft, they are unwilling to overturn the car to spite the roadway.

And he in turn takes great care to keep his supply lines covered, by keeping the majority of owners happy and well-insulated with barrels of cash. It’s Game Of Thrones, only less visually violent and more tactically prudent.

We mention this because as the Oakland Raiders slowly but surely transition to the Formerly Oakland Raiders, we remind you that Goodell’s two jobs are to provide the owners with what they want while making sure they provide him with what he wants. The commissioner doesn’t work for you, and he showed that when Mark Davis went looking for votes to leave, Goodell was giving him hints about what to do and not to do because, while the league might not have thought the Raiders were the ideal candidate to pry open access to the worlds of gambling and international high-rollers, they were the best available candidate.

And while you may want to be angry at him for not minding the needs of the Bay Area, he doesn’t work for you – never has, never will. He has his bosses, and you’re not them. It’s why, for all the criticism he takes – and maybe because he’s the one who takes it rather than his 32 bosses – he keeps his real constituency content, if not necessarily happy.

Now if you want to harm him, you can autocorrect “Goodell” for the names of the 32 owners. It’s clunky, and it unfocuses whatever your anger at the moment might be, but it would expose the real powers for whatever irks you at the time.

We’re not confident you’ll do that, too. Goodell makes a grand target – overpaid, slavishly devoted to oligarchs, willing to bend or deny reality to kick the liability can down the road – and that, too, is worth the money to them.