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.

Sharks slowly sneaking onto the list of off-brand teams that could make a deep run


Sharks slowly sneaking onto the list of off-brand teams that could make a deep run

We put a lot of stock in “being under the radar,” as though the defining metric for anything is whether or not we pay attention to them.

This, of course, is insane, but it is a tribute to our ability to define all things based on the narcissism that comes with believing the galactic central point. It’s a lot like “he or she is the best player I ever saw,” as though you’re the one who defines such things.

That said, I give you the San Jose Sharks, who are slowly sneaking onto the list of off-brand teams that could make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Not deep enough to get them a parade or even a reprise of their 2016 Finals run, in all likelihood, but deeper than you thought when Joe Thornton crumpled two months ago.

It wasn’t just their 2-1 overtime win against Vegas, the NHL’s version of America’s Sweethearts, though that didn’t hurt. It wasn’t just their secondary metrics, which put them smack dab in the middle of the league, if not slightly below. And it isn’t as though they are radically different with Evander Kane, their trade deadline rental-with-an-option-to-buy.

No, San Jose has readjusted on the fly to deal with its changed circumstances, at least enough to establish one noteworthy advantage over its competitors.

They own their division more completely than any other team (20-4-3, and given the NHL’s playoff format they wouldn’t have to play outside their division until the Western Conference Final. And since their first two opponents will be Pacific Division opponents, the Sharks have a way to establish their mode of play that they would not have were they playing a team from the Central.

They match up best against Los Angeles, against which they are currently matched, with a convincing 3-1 record; against Anaheim, the other first-round alternative, they are also 3-1, though two of the wins and the loss occurred in a shootout.

Then if they get around that hurdle, they would draw Vegas, which is essentially The Team The Entire Hockey World Is Rooting For. Vegas has won two of the three matches with one to go, but each team has won an overtime game.

In other words, the Sharks’ first two opponents would likely be some combination of teams they have beaten seven times in eight regulation games, and are 3-2 in coin-flip games.

You’d take those odds, a hell of a lot sooner than a first-rounder against Nashville, Winnipeg or Minnesota, and maybe even Colorado. It is therefore helpful that the Sharks play each of them once before the regular season ends, to provide a bit more input for our pending miscalculations.

Series are not macro, after all, and matchups against individual teams matter more than records against whole divisions. Moreover, the Stanley Cup Playoffs do not necessarily go to the team with the best record but to the healthiest team with the goaltender playing the best. In that way, they more routinely represent your 2018 NCAA bracket than your NBA Playoff bracket, where the chalk prevails an inordinate amount of time.

Point is, the Sharks haven’t really inspired the outside world much – that under-the-radar thing again – but they represent the solid counterpuncher who ought to at the bare minimum punish the team that beats them sufficiently to make that team’s passage through the subsequent rounds considerably more difficult. That is more than anyone thought they would do once Thornton went down, but less than the level of notoriety of about eight other teams. They are not invisible, but they are hard to find.

But maybe if they hired a nonagenarian member of the clergy to hang around and offer scouting reports to Peter DeBoer, they could become media darlings, for what that may be worth. And let’s face it, you mock Sister Jean at your peril.

Vivek Ranadive didn't stick to sports, has his defining moment as Kings owner

Vivek Ranadive didn't stick to sports, has his defining moment as Kings owner

Vivek Ranadive has been looking for that moment that defines him as a sports owner since the day he bought the Sacramento Kings, and for the longest time he hung his hat on two hooks:

One, helping convince David Stern to lay in the tracks that were leading the team to Seattle, and two, getting a new arena built.

But those enriched him. What he did Thursday night ennobled him.

In the wake of the police shooting of Stephon Clark while he sat in his grandfather’s backyard and Sacramento’s ensuing outrage, Ranadive was presented with a difficult situation. A protest had led to the doors of the Golden 1 Center, essentially blocking the entrances for that night’s Kings-Atlanta Hawks game, and rather than insist that the police clear the entrances so an essentially meaningless game could be played without inconvenience, Ranadive decided to err on the side of the community rather than his own perquisites.

The protesters stayed, the game was played (albeit before maybe 1,500 people rather than the usual 17,583), and after consulting with his players and other employees in search of the proper tone, he spoke eloquently and acted firmly and sensitively about the Clark's family’s pain, and the town’s pain.

This became his moment to show what he stood for, and what he stood against.

This is not typically a place to find owner praise – they act in their own self-interest to such an extraordinary degree that no caricature of them as money-eating oligarchs is accurate enough. Nor is this the place to call Vivek Ranadive a hero in a tragic time – not when the issues are so much broader and the wound done to a family and the city in which they live is still so fresh. In a practical sense, what he did was relatively insignificant.

But he gave a calming voice to a volatile situation, and more than that, he was confronted by a choice between his business and that of the town in which he does it, and unambiguously chose the second option.

In that moment, he wasn’t a sports owner, he was a concerned citizen. In that moment, he could have chosen to take care of himself and instead chose the people around him. He wasn’t “the guy who owns the goofy basketball team,” he was a Sacramentan.

And in that moment, the city needed him to be the second one more than the first. It needed to vent its rage a lot more than it needed Hawks-Kings.

Again, this is a small thing, and the people who live in Sacramento and are confronting this full-on are much better equipped to explain how Ranadive’s choice fits in the city’s greater psychic landscape.

But as a member of the entertainment world’s ruling class, Ranadive chose not to act that way. He didn’t stick to sports, and in a metaphorical way, he took his knee. That is his defining moment as an owner.

And to the extent that that sort of thing matters, he chose his moment well.