Ray Ratto

Ratto: Giants Kiss Third Rail, Live to Tell the Tale


Ratto: Giants Kiss Third Rail, Live to Tell the Tale


SAN FRANCISCO -- Well, now theyre just showing off.

The San Francisco Giants, who like to see how close they can get to the third rail before dancing away, decided Wednesday night to put their tongues right on it.

And of course, they survived. In fact, they won Game 4 of the National League Championship Series because of their devotion to a man too injured to start the game ... because the third baseman who couldnt be trusted to get the big hit did ... because the catcher who had been struggling at the plate broke out enough for two normally-hyped players ... because the center fielder who costs too much made a throw worth every bit of his salary ... because the bullpen that looked like it couldnt actually did.

And now, with a 6-5 win so rich that it causes cholesterol levels to ring carnival bells putting them one game away from the World Series nobody in their right mind saw for this team, they now can say theyre just screwing with the legend now.

Oh, they dont say they are, because that's tempting fate too much. But Juan Uribe alone -- I mean, thats so over the top, it hardly seems believable.

He hurt his wrist sliding in Game 1. He didnt play in Game 2. He played ineffectively in Game 3. And he didnt play in Game 4 until, well, until the game had to be won.

And on a night when Aaron Rowand, Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Buster Posey, Cody Ross, Buster Posey, Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey stood out as heroes, it was the guy who couldnt play -- until he could -- that made the two plays that brought down the house.

The first, a very long throw from the hole to snatch a single from pinch-hitter Ross Gload, was epic enough. The second, the sacrifice fly off Game 2Game 6 starter Roy Oswalt (Roy Oswalt!) so deep that it scored Huff with the game-winner, basically put the story on tilt.

He came in and took BP, and he said that he could go, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, shrugging with that what-do-you-think-he-said look he likes to wear. He said he was available, and when we checked on him late in the game, he was good to go.

Oh yes he was.

I knew I could play (infield), Uribe said. I knew I could do that. But when I swing, it hurts a little bit. But I went out and tried to help the team.

He swung through a fastball from Oswalt, who had come on to start the ninth after essentially telling Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel he wanted to go. He then looked at a fastball down, had a fastball hit the knob of his bat and shoot toward the Philadelphia dugout, took another fastball out of the zone, and then got a knee-high changeup that he lifted to Ben Francisco in left.

A perfect throw might have had Huff, but Rowand had already used up all the perfect throws on this night to cut down Carlos Ruiz at the plate in the fifth. This wasnt perfect, and Uribe became the latest in a long series of Giants heroes in a postseason that makes sense only when you abandon sense.

The only regular player who hasnt done anything substantive to help win a game is backup catch Eli Whiteside. The only pitcher, Guillermo Mota. The rest of the time, the Giants have behaved like a wrestling tag team with unlimited partners. Or maybe a Mini Cooper that doubles as a clown car, emitting players and performances you are sure the car cannot hold.

Bochys maneuverings seem to work with uncanny regularity, and there seems no end to the wizardry his players emit when placed in the high tension moments.

And dont forget that all but a few players -- Huff, Posey, Pat Burrell -- have had their turn in the abuse-o-wheel that is Giants fandom. They talk about the torture of following this team, but they dont actually like it until its done, which is too late to claim credit.

Its the moments when the adrenaline rises into the mouth and tastes like burnt almonds, when the fan knows, absolutely knows, that the bad thing is going to happen, when Uribes hand is going to fly out of his glove and land in someones drink.

Thats when the torture is really torture, and when Uribe came up, surely outmatched by one of the games best pitchers, the stadium knew.

But it hoped, and when Uribe chased Francisco back and Huff was golden, thats when everyones bingo card was filled. The Giants have won six of eight games in the postseason with a full complement of heroes, a different one each night.

So yeah, it is showing off, even more brazenly than Huffs choice of aprs-jeu delicates. The Giants have depth they didnt know they had, and now they are beating up yet another team with it.

And Thursday, they can clinch the World Series berth. No doubt with Mota pitching six innings of spotless relief and Whiteside hitting three homers.

Well, OK. Thats probably over the top. But not by as much as you would have thought.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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


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.


Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?


Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?

Earlier we discussed how the Golden State Warriors have seemingly moved beyond hating on NBA officials (three technical fouls in 18 days is a stunning reversal of their formerly disputatious form), but we may have forgotten one new reason why they have found a more Buddhist approach to the cutthroat world of American competitive sport.

They lack someone new to hate.

Their much-chewed-upon rivalry with the Los Angeles Clippers actually lasted two years, and now the Clippers are busy trying to prevent military incursions into their locker room from the Houston Rockets. Their even more famous archrivalry with the Cleveland Cavaliers seems to be imploding – with the total connivance of the Cavs themselves – before our eyes. Even cutting off their hot water made them laugh when two years ago not letting the Warriors' wives get to the game on time torqued them mightily.

And since we know that you locals desperately need a bête noire for your heroes (even though their biggest foe is actually their own attention spans), let us consider the new candidates.


The Rockets have been among the Warriors’ most persistent contender/pretenders, having faced them in both the first round of the 2017 postseason and the conference finals in 2015. Both ended in 4-1 Warrior wins as part of a greater piece – Golden State is 19-4 against the Rockets in the Warriors’ bad-ass era, 10-2 at home and 9-2 on the road, and has finished an aggregate 59.5 games ahead of the Rockets in the past three and a half years.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include James Harden and Chris Paul, while Rockets fans loathe Draymond Green and Kevin Durant and work their way down from there.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 32,353): 19. The Rockets need to win a playoff series before even matching the Clippers, who as we all know came and went in a moment.


The previous platinum standard in Western Conference basketball, the Spurs have never really gone away, though they have aged. Their pedigree is not in dispute, and Steve Kerr has essentially become the next generation of Gregg Popovich. It is hard to create a rivalry out of such shamelessly mutual admiration.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include . . . uhh, maybe Kawhi Leonard for winning two Defensive Player Of The Year Awards instead of Draymond Green, though that’s not much to go on, frankly. Spurs fans hate Zaza Pachulia for stepping beneath Leonard and ending last year’s series before it started.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 23): 1. If they didn’t have to play against each other, I suspect these two teams would date.


The Thunder’s 3-1 collapse in 2016 is all but ignored now because the Warriors did the same thing one series later, but lifting Kevin Durant was quite the consolation prize for Golden State, and the definitive finger in the eye for the Thunder, who turned their team over completely to Russell Westbrook, for good and ill. Even with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are still trying to relocate their stride.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include Westbrook and Anthony for defining the I-need-the-ball-in-my-hands-to-function generation, and owner Clay Bennett for Seattle SuperSonics nostalgics. Thunder frans hate Durant, followed by Durant, Durant, Kim Jong-un, Durant, leprosy, Draymond Green’s foot, and Durant.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 440): 220. Westbrook is a human lightning rod, Anthony is the antithesis of what Warriors now regard basketball (they’d have loved him a quarter-century ago), and Stephen Adams for getting his goolies in the way of Green’s foot. Plus, some savvy Warrior fans can blame OKC for extending their heroes to seven games, thus making the final against Cleveland that much more difficult. This could work, at least in the short term.


Damian Lillard is a much-beloved local. Plus, the Blazers have never interfered in the Warriors’ universe save their 1-8 postseason record. There are no truly hateable players on either side, though Stephen Curry threw his first mouthpiece in Portland, and Green is a perennial.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 1): 0.


The new pretender to throne, with the Eastern Conference’s version of Kerr in Brad Stevens. Even better since taking advantage of Kyrie Irving’s weariness with LeBron James, and until proven otherwise the team the Warriors should most concern themselves with.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include Irving, who made the only shot in the last five minutes of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, while Celtics fans hate Durant for not signing with them.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 67.7): 26, though this will rise if the two teams meet in the Finals. The last time they did, Bill Russell owned basketball.


Still too remote to adequately quantify, though Toronto, Miami and Milwaukee are clearly difficult matches for the Warriors. If you put them together, Kyle Lowry, Demar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Hassan Whiteside with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe coming off the bench, coached by either Eric Spoelstra or Jason Kidd, would make a fun team for the Warriors to play against. Probably not functional, but fun.

And finally:


Some decade the two teams’ geographical proximity will matter, but for now, they remain essentially two full professional leagues away from each other. We just mentioned them so Kings fans wouldn’t feel any more slighted than they already do.