Ray Ratto

Ratto: Keep Surkamp away from other starters


Ratto: Keep Surkamp away from other starters

Aug. 27, 2011


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Well, I guess we know what happens now. Duane Kuiper finds some exotic animal doing something silly or menacing to compare Eric Surkamp to, say, like a three-beaked eye-pecking hawk, and before you know it, hes getting topiaries mailed to him by crazed Chia-fans and the Giants are rushing three-beaked eye-pecking hawk paraphernalia into production.

Hey, what would you rather have Ted Robinson at the 49ers games pitching the stuffed red-tufted Three-And-Out?

No, Surkamps harrowing but successful six-inning debut as a Giant pitcher, in which he gave up one run, six hits, several hard outs and made the backstop cry with his second pitch as a major leaguer makes him an immediate folk hero at Third y King, and immediate folk heroes get animals and hats.

And lousy run support.

The Giants gave him one, in the first, and finished with two, the other coming in the 10th, in a 2-1 win over the Houston Astros. The unlikely combination of Mark DeRosa (single, stolen base) and Jeff Keppinger (single) kept the Giants within one good weekend of catching the Arizona Diamondbacks, who beat San Diego, 3-1.

RECAP: Keppinger delivers in 10th, Giants beat Astros

We will now pause a moment while we let you imagine what three runs would feel like.

There. All tingly and envious?

Now wed like nothing better than to bore you with another heart-rending tale of a Giant pitcher forced to live off starvation rations I mean, we could change a few names on old stories and turn them in as new but even we dont have the nerve to cheat the boss that much.

Not all the time, anyway.

But this is how pitchers outings go here the Giants get good starts, no hits, and the lack of fun never ends.

The key to Surkamps further development, though, lies not in the marketing department prodding Kuiper into a quasi-impromptu zoological reference (He looks like a Senegalese vampire bat out there) and then spinning it into one-size-fits-all hats, but in keeping him away from the other starters when they gather for their secret meetings.

You know, the ones where they mutter to each other about how none of them have seen a three-run lead since Easter.

And you know they happen. The rotation has been good at biting its tongue when the topic is raised by some enterprising some snoop with a tape recorder and 22 inches or three minutes to fill, but to themselves, in the privacy of their metaphorical treehouse, they bitch a blue streak about the Wiffle Ball league theyre in.

They have to. Theyre not stupid. Theyre good teammates and all for not bringing it up to their fellows, but the straight ones and fat zeros they have been subsisting on all summer long have made them lean, mean and hungry.

And at some point, maybe soon, maybe late, maybe next spring, one of them is going to snap. And when one goes, theyll all go. Not because they mean to be hurtful or because they are inherently CYA types; were that so, theyd have done it well before now.

But it could happen because the stress of silence will finally give way to a torrent of profane recriminations and If I wanted to pitch in 1916, I would have asked my great-great-grandparents to have me instead.

As day dawns, the Giants have three of the seven pitchers with the lowest run support in the game (BumgarnerCainLincecum), and Ryan Vogelsong is 84th of 101 among qualified starters. And with Surkamps performance, even though he doesnt obviously qualify, he would be tied for 246th.

But he did what needed to be done against the games worst team. He kept the Astros in the ballpark, didnt let his occasional high fastball become a real problem, or let the four doubles he allowed turn into a bloodletting. He challenged enough of his nervousness into a strong debut, and a place in Giant folklore.

That means a nickname, and well guess that Kuiper will go marsupial for a change here, and gifts that turn into a fan fetish that turn into gift shop shmata, all within days.

And Eric Surkamp will be a full-blooded Giant. Almost. Hell be full-blooded when the other pitchers let him into their meetings and talk about the latest zero-to-minus-one loss one of them endured. He hasnt known that pain yet.

But he will. They all do, eventually.

One thing is certain about the Baseball Hall of Fame's new class


One thing is certain about the Baseball Hall of Fame's new class

The Baseball Hall of Fame, A Division Of Tedious Bitching Just To Hear Ourselves Bitch LLC, will announce its new class of inductees Wednesday, and we already know one thing.

People will be unhappy and make damned sure you know about it.

This is the new nature of all halls of fame -- the winners are a two-day story, but the losers go on forever, and so does the voters-are-morons sidebar. Frankly, I wonder why they don’t put a plaque up in Cooperstown for that -- you know, just to give the tourists something to hate in what was originally designed to be a joyful place.

We live in a whiny society, where anyone with a different opinion than your own cannot merely be debated with or ignored, but must be savagely mocked as either learning impaired, willfully stupid or aggressively evil. Thus, the new era of “Death To Whoever Doesn’t Agree With Me” is probably unavoidable.

But that’s why the myth that the Hall of Fame should be a temple of honor rather than a museum of the full history of the game should have died long ago. Everyone’s version of what should be honored is different, and the standard reaction to other people’s dissent from that opinion has gone from “I disagree” to “How about I burn your house down?”

People being unhappy that their favorite guy didn’t get the requisite 75 percent of the votes from an amorphous group of strangers who do not act in concert -- that part I get. It’s not up to me to decipher why one’s personal obsessions lean toward getting someone a plaque, and if we cannot invest time and energy in our pet causes, what are we as a species?

Don’t answer that.

But ever since the Giants put on a full court media press for most of 1998 to get Orlando Cepeda into the Hall through its veterans committee, the idea of campaigns for any particular idol which were once considered offensive and counterproductive became a requirement, and then a marketing tool. In the Internet age, that role has been usurped by people making single-minded and mostly well-intentioned cases for their own favorites, out of simple honest devotion. Nothing wrong with that.

If it stopped there, this would be an advancement in the process. But because nothing is as sure in the Internet age as the unintended consequence of anonymous invective, I have made it my work as a Hall of Fame voter to ignore any and all such lobbying and lobbyists. No matter how well-intentioned and polite their reasoned discourse may be, it becomes someone else’s demand for obedience and hive-mind orthodoxy --– and in the alternative, voter shaming and expulsion.

Moreover, the era of both benign candidate advocacy and anonymous invective serve as more reminders that the Hall of Fame and its mechanisms are political, just as Joe Morgan’s letter urging that players suspected of steroid use never be allowed induction is a political act, and the changes in voting eligibility reducing the voting pool are a political act. Expanding the voting franchise is always more sensible than restricting it, but shrinking it is a statement that fewer people know about baseball than think they do, which is a weird way of saying “Fewer people are entitled to care about this thing we care so much about.”

This is a longwinded way of saying I turned in my vote more than a month ago. It’s the best I can do based on the hours of research I’ve done, and that will have to be good enough. If I wanted your opinion on it, I’d have called you by now to obtain it, so just assume that I don’t. The ballot will be released when the other BBWAA votes are released, and if you need to know ahead of time who I voted for, you have a sick obsession, plus you can probably figure out the bulk of it by going to Ryan Thibodaux’s Twitter site (@NotMrTibbs) and look at my prior ballots.

But if it helps, I’ll tell you this much. I think  Arnold Rothstein should be in the Hall of Fame, and until that injustice is righted, I will feel as though the Hall is incomplete and flawed, and I’m damned unhappy about it.

See? I got in the spirit of the thing.

The four Super Bowl storylines everybody will be talking about


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.


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.


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.


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.