Ray Ratto

Ratto: Pitching Duel in Game 1 Hardly a Sure Thing


Ratto: Pitching Duel in Game 1 Hardly a Sure Thing

Ray Ratto

JimmyRollins has always said he was an As fan growing up. He lived inAlameda, you can spit from Alameda to the Coliseum, and the rest isbasic math.On the other hand, he did finally get a chance to see the Giantsballpark as a citizen this past season and decided that Its the bestballpark Ive ever been in, after this one.Very politically wise by the plucky veteran shortstop. Dont diss thehome folks digs, especially when the home folks can flay the hide offyou with their pointed sandpapery tongues.Rollins, the Philadelphia Phillies shortstop whose season has beendefined more by his absences than his presence (hes had two calfinjuries this year and is now nursing a bad quad), is an important partof the defending NL champions lineup, and being gone as long as he wasdid clearly depress the mostly vaunted Phillies lineup.But with Game 1 of the NL Championship Series less than a day away, hisP.R.-motivated love affair with his own ballpark reminds us that thereare factors mitigating against the much-craved Lincecum-Halladaymatchup.And Factor One is the ballpark. Citizens Bank, a romantic name if everthere was one, is the latest in a long line of hitter-friendlyballyards in this town, going back to the absurdly cockeyed Baker Bowlin the 30s and 40s, then Connie Mack Stadium, then the Vet. They haveall treated hitters kindly, and so does the Bank.
The dimensions are friendly enough (average down the lines, short inthe alleys, no great fly ball graveyard like the one in San Francisco),the hitters muscle up well enough, the humidity helps, and mostintriguingly Friday, the late autumn wind was up and standing the flagsin center field to full attention.More wind is expected for Saturdays first game, and if that forecastproves true, any fly ball threatens the pitching matchup of the ages.Yes, for all the hype about Timmy and Roy, both could be undone by the vine-draped conditions.They could also be undone by the pressure of the moment, or by thevagaries of the game, but the point here is that when so many peoplesee dueling perfect games, one should be very careful to rule out thepossibility of an 11-9 game.All right, a 7-4 game. The Giants arent going to get nine runs in anygame in this series, let alone lose one. The pitching is that deep onboth sides.Deep, but not infallible. And while this theory hangs on the singlepiling of Everybody cant be right, thats not a bad way to go attimes. And at 7 p.m. EDT last night, with the flags blowing towardright field, the long line of Phillies left-handed hitters loomedlarger and larger and larger still.In short, there are plenty ways to crush a hype machine, even one asforegone-conclusion-ish as this one. No park in baseball is better ableto turn pitchers into base-backer-uppers. No team is more capable onany given night of turning 3-2 into 10-2.And in fairness, the Giants can do this as well. It just isnt nearlyas likely because theyre not as left-handed, and theyre not asPhillie-ish.Instead, they are banking heavily on their mutant Giant-hood toneutralize not only the conventional wisdom, but the unconventionalanti-wisdom as well. In a five-game series, that works more often, butanything is technically possible.Even the classic pitching matchup that everyone has already assumed is a mortal lock.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.