Ray Ratto

Ratto: Lee's signing is Phils' direct response to Giants


Ratto: Lee's signing is Phils' direct response to Giants


See what the Giants went and done? See how it works? They reinvented the wheel, and now someone went and re-re-invented it.

The Philadelphia Phillies just signed Cliff Lee at the crypto-home-town-discount price of 120 million (well, Ok, Philly was his hometown for a little while), for one reason and one reason only.

To close the Madison Bumgarner Gap.

NEWS: Lee signs with Phils, spurns Yankees

The Phillies got beat in the National League Championship Series by The Battling You-Know-Whos because their hitters got outpitched by a team that didnt really hit all that much. So what does Ruben Amaro go out and do with Dave Montgomerys money?

Fix the problem.

The key here being Dave Montgomerys money. The Phillies are big spenders on baseballs timespacemoney continuum. They dont seem like it because they arent the Red Sox or Yankees, but since 2004 theyve been among the heaviest hitters, and particularly since tying up Ryan Howard.

Now, with Lees five-year, 120M deal, their payroll will nudge, if not actually exceed, 170 million. They have nearly doubled their payroll in four years.

All because they didnt have Madison Bumgarner.

Thats our theory anyway. I mean, theyve already got more hitting than the Giants, and thats even allowing for Jayson Werth going to the Washington Nationals. Thus when they invested in Lee, they were going toe-to-toe with those dysfunctional, misshapen, weirdo, all-arm-and-no-wood, costumed geezers in San Francisco.

Put it this way. Cliff Lee or Tim Lincecum? Except for age, its a wash, and Lee is at the top of his powers right now. Roy Halladay or Matt Cain? Again, Halladay, for the same reason.

Now it gets interesting. Roy Oswalt or Bumgarner? Any fair-minded person would have to say that Oswalts track record gives him the edge, but if you want to put Cole Hamels against Bumgarner instead ... well, the edge is smaller but its still there.

And in the four-slot, you have Oswalt or Hamels against Jonathan Sanchez. Go on, make a case for Sanchez. Weve got all the time in the world.

Yeah, thats what I thought.

We wont go fifth starter against fifth starter, because in a short series, nobody uses the fifth starter except as an innings-eater in a rout, and there, Joe Blanton or Antonio Bastardo is more valuable than Barry Zito. So even if you want to include the five, the Phillies win there, too.

In short, the Phillies have the starters and the batting order covered, and they are willing to let the Giants have the bullpen edge, knowing as we all do that bullpens are particularly volatile year to year, and that last years Jeremy Affeldt becomes this years Javier Lopez only if youre very very lucky. You can buy closers, yes, but finding setup guys who can get you to the closer -- now thats an art form.

All of this happens because the Phillies charmed Cliff Lee despite coming in lower on the money than the Yankees. All because the Yankee fans were mean to Mrs. Lee. All because New York isnt for everybody.

And maybe thats the lesson here. Maybe when you are confronted by a opposing players WAG (wife and girlfriend for you acronym junkies) at the ballpark, you should show extraordinary-without-being-creepy kindness. If you must heckle her significant other, maybe it should be something classy, like, How does a bum like you get a wife like her? or You really overclubbed with your spouse, you mullion! Women love it when you dog their dates, as long as they are spared.

Or maybe not. We hate to generalize.

But the Phillies had an edge with Lee here, and it was familiarity. If down the road there is a Cliff Lee you would like your team to acquire (and this advice goes for the As as well, in case they ever decide to invest in something pricey and in his prime), you should have already shown them your very best behavior.

In the meantime, know that the Phillies just responded to the Giants World Series rings in a huge way, and by check-raising Madison Bumgarner with Cliff Lee. Hey, its the circle of life. Get over it.

And then, get on with it.

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?”