Ray Ratto

Ratto: Giants Baseball At Its Zenith


Ratto: Giants Baseball At Its Zenith


PHILADELPHIA -- When the comprehensive tale is told of how the San Francisco Giants achieved the World Series nobody thought they had any reason to deserve, it will unravel about midway through Saturdays game. It wont be told well at all, in fact.

And the reason why is because while you can list the events of Saturdays 3-2 Game 6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies so that someone can copy-paste them into a Wikipedia file, you cant type on a puddle of adrenaline. You cant make an elegant phrase out of Bruce Bochys full-on naked managing. You cant explain with charts and graphs how much air can be sucked out of an open-air stadium with one very bitchy knee-high slider from one man with a third-rail fetish.

It cant be done, and yet it must, because only those who were there can truly walk the rest of us through, and they must try lest the story fade into standard-issue video clips and clichd champagne sprays.

It may help, though to understand that the Giants are certifiably mad, as in full-on bughouse crazy. And they are comfortable with that.

Ive never actually seen a game played at this extreme an edge, general manager Brian Sabean said in the middle of a long soliloquy about Brian Wilson, the closer who walked the game as close to oblivion as it could stand.

Just everything. Jonathan (Sanchez) doesnt have it and we havent had that happen in I dont know how long, the thing with (Chase) Utley (on the third-inning benches-clearing debate), Jeremy Affeldt saving our asses, Madison (Bumgarner) and Timmy (Lincecum), the (Juan) Uribe homer, and Wilson. Just everything. Ive never seen a game quite like it. Ive never seen a game come close to it, and weve done this a lot.

Oh yes they have, but Saturday was the masterpiece, the one if the Giants never play another game will be remembered as the game of their era.

We met today, the coaches and the staff, and we just decided we didnt want to come back tomorrow, Bochy said. The pressure would just be too great. So we were going all hands on deck tonight. We told Timmy he would pitch the eighth if we had a lead. We told Madison to be ready just in case. We were going for all of it right here.

And so they did. Bochy told two starting pitchers to be ready to work in relief in case a third starter flamed out, and Sanchez did.

I dont know, I just didnt have it, he said. I warmed up real good, but I got out there and I just didnt have it. And the thing with Utley, Im not trying to hit him (which he did, in the upper back), but when he throws the ball at me like that, Im a professional player too. I didnt like that.

So Bochy made the first of several what can be called nothing less than Billy Martin-level choices. He decided the Phillies would not see a right-handed pitcher until he was good and ready to give them one, so he went to the little-used Affeldt for two innings of spotless relief.

Of course.

Then he went to Bumgarner, the 21-year-old man-child who slipped in and out of trouble twice, loading the bases in the fifth and stranding a leadoff double in the sixth without being harmed.

Of course.

Then he Lopezed the top of the Phillies order for the fourth and final time, because Javier Lopezs work on Utley, Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard must be elevated to a verb.

Of course.

Then Uribe hit a ball that could only be a home run in Citizens Bank Park, a low line drive that barely snuck into the second row of seats in the right field corner and gave the Giants the 3-2 lead. Giant fans dismissed the park as a cheap little walk-in closet of a place, but they will love it forever now because they must.

Of course.

Then Lincecum came in for the eighth, because we told him if we had the lead in the eighth we were going to go to him and have him get us to Willie, Bochy said. Lincecum wasnt sharp, giving up one-out singles to Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez, but he did complete the bridge to Wilson, who threw a 1-1 fastball to Carlos Ruiz who hit it on a line (shades of Willie McCovey, 1962, perhaps) to Aubrey Huff at first base for an inning-ending double play.

Of course.

Then Wilson, well, Wilsoned the ninth, because he is a fully conjugated verb of his own. After dismissing pinch-hitter Ross Gload with two pitches, he spent 14 pitches walking Jimmy Rollins, inducing a ground out from Polanco and walking Utley to bring up the Phillies most powerful source, Howard.

Fastball, up, but Howard swings through it. Fastball up, ball one. Fastball up and in, ball two. Slider away catches Howard looking at strike two. Fastball up, ball three.

Of course.

Fastball up, Howard fouls it off, and then knee-high slider with a middle finger as its tail fin, slightly away and locking up Howard for the entire winter.

My approach was to throw the ball as hard as I could with conviction, Wilson said. I could have spotted it a little better at times, I guess, but Id rather throw my hardest fastball with as much conviction as I have.

And yet, to win the pennant, he went to what players used to call the bastard pitch, a slider tailing away and down that none but the truly great can attack with as much conviction as Wilson delivers.

So it ended. The team with the great starting pitching used half its rotation in relief, the first time anyone can remember that happening in a postseason game. The bullpen that had been largely spotty for players not named Lopez or Wilson, delivered seven scoreless inning for the first time since the 1911 World Series. The player with the bad left wrist helped push a homer that would never have been one except in the one place they happened to be playing.

This was the zenith of Giants baseball in our times, a game in which every player and coach extended himself beyond reasonable capabilities to take a trophy it didnt have the numbers to explain.

But it did have a daylight burglars guts and a car thiefs brass and a con mans belief in the story that everyone would have to believe, no matter how unbelievable it might be.

And now, Wednesday, against the Texas Rangers, another team that has no right to be in the World Series except this: They got there because they were better than everyone else when it was time to be. Thats the only standard that needs to be met.

But when they arrive in San Francisco Monday for their first workout and see the Giants in ski masks and black overcoats, they shouldnt be surprised. You cant explain them. You can only experience them.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

You don’t think you needed this game to go this way, but you did, and you do.

The Golden State Warriors spat out a 17-point lead and lost, 92-88, in Boston Thursday night, in a game that was taut if not particularly elegant, and in a game that elevated the Celtics to a place that makes them the new heir apparent to the heir apparent.

The Celtics have been a difficult out for the Warriors during the Brad Stevens Era, losing six of nine but only being blown out twice, and Thursday was not one of those nights. The box score will tell you the shooting and rebounding problems, but the Warriors had that lead and didn’t hold it. Or, to be accurate, the Celtics had that deficit and refused to let it destroy them.

Which is exactly the kind of team you, the fully licensed Warrior fan, want to watch play your team in the NBA Finals. You want to see them genuinely challenged, forced to win outside their comfort zone, induced to show their greatness in the highest of high leverage situations.

At least we think that’s what you want. Maybe you prefer blowouts so you can drink and go to the bathroom without care or fear. After all, the Warriors have taught the area the true meaning of front-running by being in front so often.

But the Celtics play a level of defense typically reserved for the San Antonio Spurs, and yes, the Warriors. They have a spiky exoskeleton that the acquisition of Kyrie Irving has actually enhanced, and Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum give them a gifted precocity that fits well with veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Morris, and Boston’s overall youth (they are fifth youngest, while Golden State is third-oldest) ought to make them a more difficult conundrum than Cleveland or any other team in either conference.

They are not yet the superior team; that remains to be proven, and betting against the Warriors requires a level of irrational bravery left only for the truly self-destructive.

But they are, as we sit this evening, the team the Warriors will have to work hardest to finish, because on a night when they had the chance to do so, they didn’t. In other words, the fight for a third ring still goes through Oakland, but it looks more and more like a one-stop through Boston.

And as much as you may hate thinking about it, you’ll almost certainly remember, and savor, a Celtics-Warriors final more than another round of Cavs-on-the-half-shell.

Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor


Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor

Programming note: Warriors-Celtics coverage starts today at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming live right here 

Draymond Green spoke to a group of students at Harvard Thursday on the subject of leadership, and if you find that incongruous, shame on you.
I mean, who else would you want as a college professor?
Green has led, and been led. He has learned, and he has taught. He has certainly lectured, as any teammate, official and media member will testify. He’d be a hell of a teacher, and the subject almost doesn’t matter.
For one, homework would be different, as in I’d bet there would be no written work. I don’t see Prof. Day-Day poring over essays about the Industrial Revolution, M-theory or pre-Raphaelite art. Not even the history of Basketball-Reference.com.

For two, having tenured faculty audit his classes may find his choice of rhetoric a little strident, as in “What the ---- were you thinking, dude?” is not typically approved instructional methodology.
And three, nobody would get a grade. Green would mark every exam with a “35,” as in his draft position, and besides, the exams would be students arguing with each other over whether that was a foul or a no-call, and who pulled the better face when the call was made. He’d give either an approving nod or give the loser a second technical foul and kick him or her out of class.
But it would be a hell of a class. Not at Harvard, of course, because Green probably would want to teach a school that could better use his brand of wisdom, and Harvard kids already have a healthy lead off third base. He’d want his students to make Harvard students cry, you can just tell.
But wouldn’t he look perfectly Draymond in a cap and gown on graduation day, pulling a bottle out of his sleeve to make the valedictory speeches less painful. “Damn, dude,” you could hear him yell. “Peaking?”