Ray Ratto

Ratto: Giants' focus shifts from Reyes to Beltran

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Ratto: Giants' focus shifts from Reyes to Beltran

July 8, 2011

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This will end up being Al Michaels fault, ultimately. His, and Bob Costas too. They're not the usual bartenders here, and the locals are very resistant to changes in the routine. They like their drinks watered down just so.

But there is always an up-side for Giants fans, and Fridays 5-2 loss to New York brings this: The fantasizing about trading Jonathan Sanchez and money for Jose Reyes is over, and that for Carlos Beltran is now in full flower.

RECAP: Wilson takes loss; Giants implode in ninth

Thats how these things work. The Giants lost because their bullpen pulled one of its infrequent charlies, Beltran was an integral part of why, and now, like Yankees or Red Sox fans, the audience turns its covetous eyes to one of the perpetrators.

Sort of like solving the murder in Clue, then trying to hire Colonel Mustard to run the police force.

The problem of the moment for you micromanagers is the whereabouts of Brian Wilson, who was called in to start the ninth in a tie game (made sense) after New York manager Terry Collins sent out pinch-hitter Scott Hairston to bat for pitcher Pedro Beato (also made sense). Hairston ground out a full count before jacking a slider up and hittable into the left field seats.

It was Wilsons fifth consecutive non-orderly outing, which relievers are occasionally wont to do when they are, well, relieving, but on a team like this, panic is never too far away from euphoria, and with Arizona only a game back in the NL West and four games behind wild carder Atlanta, why not panic about the closer?

RELATED: MLB standings

But once youve gotten that out of your systems, lets get back to Beltran, whose leadoff double in the fourth, two-out single in the fifth and RBI single in the ninth provided much of the powder in the Mets attack. The big moments, Hairstons homer and an earlier one from Angel Pagan, will be more memorable, but nobody wants to trade for either of them.

No, Beltran is the new prix du jour, even though he neither catches, plays second or short. He is the most highly sought-after Met, especially now that Reyes is off the board, but he carries a high tag (8 million) that is going higher (prospects, too).

The Giants might be able to handle the money in fact, they can handle the money. The question is how much future they want to mortgage to go along with the money, and when the big spenders start to descend, will they want to be part of a bidding war?

Put another way, wouldnt Sandy Alderson much rather send Beltran to Boston if the Red Sox can pump their deal so as to (a) get Beltran out of the National League and (b) hose the Yankees while hes at it?

That doesnt change the central fact that Beltran is now the 26th most popular player in San Francisco, with a bullet. Since this is not normally the way Giant fans behave which is to say, like Yankee, Red Sox, Phillie, Laker, Patriot, Red Wing or Flyer fans, who want what they want when they want it and cant understand when they dont get it this will take some adjustment.

But that adjustment is being made. As the days go forth, the Giants need for a cleanup hitter will far outstrip their catching and infield needs because, as we saw yet again Friday night, they are a bad situational hitting team with an apparently incurable on-base percentage issue. Beltran will give them more strength in the one place where they at least have sufficient bodies, and as the days go on and the Giants keep scoring those twos and fews, he will become the source of the fan bases monomania.

In the meantime, the base will need to blame someone for this unusual bullpen meltdown (36 pitches, four hits plus an error by Andres Torres, three runs). And that will be those two practiced interlopers, the crack vaudeville team of Costas and Michaels. Their crime: not being Kuiper and Krukow, of course.

Thats a one-day story, though, Beltrans has 23 more days to run, including the All-Star break. It may not have a satisfying ending for the locals, but it will kill a few weeks in a season that seems like it may last forever.

The four Super Bowl storylines everybody will be talking about

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USATSI

The four Super Bowl storylines everybody will be talking about

The Monday after the conference championships is devoted to replaying the games we already saw, but Tuesday is devoted to the assembling of the narratives that we will weary of no later than Friday.

And while football purists and gamblers, two demographics on the opposite ends of the Moebius strip of degeneracy, will cheerily break the game down to its molecular level, the rest of us will resort to a few tired carthorses to get us to the start of our individual Super Bowl parties.

Starting with THE INEVITABILITY OF THE PATRIOTS

This will be an argument with no resolution, as those who see history as preordination will see New England as invulnerable, pointing to their record, Philadelphia’s record, and the comfort of the mortal lock. But if it helps you maintain suspense, the Patriots have never won, or even played in, a Super Bowl with a margin as high as a touchdown – the margins have been 3, 3, 3, 4, 4 and 6 in overtime. In short, Bill Belichick’s brain, while always impressive, has never been an overwhelming presence against John Fox, Andy Reid, Tom Coughlin, Pete Carroll or Dan Quinn.

In other words, luck matters, and luck is good.

Next is THE LEGACY

This is ridiculous because the Patriots are in painting-the-gold-bar-gold territory. People long ago made up their minds on Belichick, Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and the rest of the shifting cast of characters – they are either brilliant exemplars, or nefarious cheaters, or both. That’s the great thing about the Patriots – they can be heroes, villains and metaphors for 21st Century America, depending on what you decide. But their place as football figures has long ago been decided, this game will change none of that, and the only thing left is what to carve on the statues.

Third is AMERICA HATES THE PATRIOTS AND WANTS THE EAGLES TO WIN

There are lots of Americas out there, as we are learning every day, and more people probably are rooting for the Eagles just to see something different. That’s not the way to bet, I grant you, but the best way to handle these next two weeks if you do not wear either New England or Philadelphia jerseys is to say nothing. These are two fan bases with reputations, if you know what we mean, and even if you come across gentle souls with a rooting interest, play the percentages. Even the nice ones can turn at any moment.

And finally, JIMMY GAROPPOLO. This discussion only matters of Bob Kraft cops to telling Belichick he ordered him to be moved. Which he won't, damn his eyes. And if Brady looks good next Sunday, they'll take credit for a brilliant move that saved the franchise because history always works best in the rear-view mirror.

NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills

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AP

NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills

The voting for the NBA All-Star starters was properly instructive to both Adam Silver and the public at large about exactly what the game is meant to be – which is why I totally get their decision not to televise the All-Star draft.

It’s really a personality test for everyone involved, for good and ill.

I think having a draft nobody can see is idiotic, stealing an idea the NHL used and then discarded years ago and then not employing the reason why they did it to begin with, but if the All-Star Game is really an expression of ego, then the next best thing to having no draft is having one nobody can see.

The All-Star Game really only functions as a coronation of the elite by the elite, a festival of mutual backslapping friend-rewarding that has nothing to do with the playing of the game, or the moving of the T-shirts or jerseys or expensive hotel rooms. This is about stratifying the player pool so that everyone knows who’s who and what’s what.

Everything else is irrelevant, and the draft reinforces that. Kevin Durant not wanting to be a captain is strategic thinking by a future industrialist. Stephen Curry not minding being a captain is the perfect who-cares statement for someone who doesn’t mind playing the game because objecting to it takes too much work. LeBron James being a captain is the perfect political muscle-flexing that fits his personality.

Damian Lillard already assuming that he won’t be named to the team is a statement about his being considered the perpetual one-level-down guard. Russell Westbrook being named and then controlling the ball as he would in a regular season game is a statement about how he views his place as a disruptor. And on and on and on – the All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills.

Does televising the draft help us understand the actual meaning of the event? Maybe, but the NBA would prefer you consider it a festival of the game itself, which it plainly isn’t. Proof, you say? 192-182 in 2017. 196-173 in 2016. 163-158 in 2015. 163-155 in 2014. There hasn’t been a normal-looking score in 15 years, which means it’s not a game at all.

That isn’t the news, though. It’s that the NBA has made this is a three-day event – the day the captains and starters are named, the day the reserves are picked, and the day that teams are chosen. And every bit of it is about the reaction to that. There is no show thereafter, and the players know it. They care about the selections, because that’s how they’re keeping score.

So go team. Whatever the hell that means.