Ray Ratto

It's still early, but 2017 World Series could be one of the greatest ever


It's still early, but 2017 World Series could be one of the greatest ever

The World Series opened with a game that was remarkable in its exquisite brevity, and then followed that up with a game that could have gone on forever.

In other words, Game 3 has almost too much to live up to. But we’re willing to give it a try.

The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers have given us two wildly divergent yet equally riveting performances so far. Game 2 alone, with its festival of late-game and extra-inning homers could have made this a memorable series, and eradicated the complete lack of impact of the 2005 Series.

Oh, and Vin Scully.

Of course, the Law of Anti-Momentum can come into play here, and Game 3 could be a drab and featureless mess. That is, after all, part of baseball as well.

But Games 1 and 2 have been useful in defining the dichotomy of the time of game debate. A game that lasts an instant (or 2:28) can have the same entertainment value as a game that lasts an eon (or 4:19) because the tyranny of numbers under which the game often resides is not absolute. Context matters more in baseball than any other sport, and great World Series are made contextually.

The very best World Series are ones that last beyond the excitement of the moment – the Giants’ third World Series victory in 2014 is remarkable mostly for Madison Bumgarner, which while singularly fascinating does not make it a great Series except for Giants fans.

But the 1991 World Series, which it is agreed was a monumental triumph from start to finish, was a series of great games (five decided by one run and three, including Game 7, that went extra innings) and great players doing great things.

It was also a Series in which the home team won every game, and this postseason has reveled in happy fans as backdrop – the home team is 24-9 so far, an unusually high number for this sport.

And it’s still early. This could still be that 2005 World Series, which by now is vexing you because you can’t remember it at all. It was Astros-White Sox, it was a sweep, and it was a matchup between a team that had never been in the Series and one that hadn’t made one in 57 years, and it came and went and left no trace at all.

That could still happen here, like we said, but the early evidence makes that unlikely. This could be one of the great World Series ever, from diversity of outcomes to spectacular moments that transcend even time.

I mean, it's already kicked the hell out of time of game.

Miami is the most relentlessly mistreated baseball town in baseball


Miami is the most relentlessly mistreated baseball town in baseball

There is a place no commissioner dares go in the modern world, and that is to pick a fight with an owner’s financial prerogatives.

But Rob Manfred is faced with that very problem now – all because Bruce Sherman has been allowed to gut the Miami Marlins for what by one count is the fifth time in the franchise’s 25-year history.

Clearly the time has come for him to address with his 30 employers the conundrum of the age, namely this:

What is more important to the business, a large market systematically robbed and disregarded, or a billionaire?

Usually, this would be an easy choice – the billionaire. It is how Jeffrey Loria passed muster by waving money in the face of Montreal Expos owner Claude Brochu, then swapped the team out for the one in Florida so that John Henry could get out from under the Marlins and buy into the Boston Red Sox. The money always wins.

But Miami is now all but mined out as a baseball city – never strong in the best of times, which were few enough, but particularly degraded in the last decade and change, first by Loria and now by Sherman. The trades of Dee Gordon, Giancarlo Stanton and, in all likelihood, Marcell Ozuna, all for payroll relief, is a story as familiar as it is craven – the baseball team as ATM.

The argument that the Marlins are just starting over to fix an untenable situation doesn’t fly, of course, because Sherman’s undercapitalized position as owner is something the other 29 owners knew when they raced his approval through the process to be rid of Loria. The idea of MLB taking over the team, as it essentially did when Loria sold them the Expos, was never considered, certainly not at the $1.2 billion price tag.

In other words, they got rid of a problem by assuming the same problem, and the cost is the viability of baseball in southern Florida. Given the minimal relocation options, and the clear bad-faith lawsuit that would await them if they left Miami with a stadium the city paid for, relocation is unlikely, thus leaving the Marlins crippled forever.

Surely the owners must know that this is a strategy that only benefits Sherman when he sells, probably sooner rather than later, and maybe that’s what the owners all want to see – a franchise that can’t fail no matter how comprehensively it fails.

Whatever Manfred may feel about it personally, his job description requires that he bite his tongue. It is not his job to undo what his employers have done -- that's how Fay Vincent got run off.

But, and the owners should have to recognize the danger of their short-term view, this is now the NFL has reached its current crisis – by telling the customers that the entire endeavor is only about the care and feeding of the owners. That doesn’t endure over the long haul.

Or maybe it does. Maybe capitalism has reached its logical extreme in sports, celebrating not the games and its players but saluting one more festival of arbitrage. Maybe all the games should be shown on CNBC, Fox Business and Bloomberg TV rather than the current networks.

In the meantime, Miami maintains its status as the most relentlessly mistreated baseball town in baseball, and given how close we are to Oakland, that’s saying something.


Ed Lee's favorite team was The City itself

Ed Lee's favorite team was The City itself

Ed Lee was an activist for San Francisco his entire life, before and while he was its mayor. He fought aggressively for the city both conceptually and in practice from the time he entered public life as a defender of immigrants rights in the 1980s until he was elected mayor in 2011.

Thus, his passing of a heart attack early Tuesday morning left a hole in the city and its view of itself that will not be easy to fill. This includes his city-centric sports view, which was always “What’s good for the city is good by me.”

Like most mayors, he was there for the grand times, like the last two Giants World Series parades and the two Warriors arena ribbon cuttings. He was an unabashed facilitator for the Warrior projects in particular, even though the Pier 30/32 project had to be relocated to the south when public opposition to the project overwhelmed his ability to move opinions.

He also was the mayor on duty when the 49ers left for Santa Clara in 2014, though that move was already well in the works before he took office, which is why it is typically misleading to credit or blame a mayor for an owner’s whims.

Lee, though, was an unambiguously pro-business mayor, and insofar as sports franchises are actually businesses with games attached, he was all-in on the Giants and, later, the Warriors. Both teams sent statements of condolence, acknowledging that he was more than willing to be at their sides when his political or persuasive skills were required.

His replacement for the moment, acting mayor London Breed, will likely not have as visible a presence on the sporting landscape, as the Warriors arena project is already well underway and the Giants are safely ensconced at Third and King.

Lee’s measure as mayor, though, was not his sporting profile, as it has been for other mayors across the country. His favorite team was The City itself, and he fought for it passionately until his death. In that way, he was as important to his constituency as Buster Posey or Stephen Curry is to theirs, so in the end he seems less like an interloper on the sporting landscape and more a passionate advocate for the city in which they played, or will play in the future.