Ray Ratto

Ratto: Washington a Study In Honesty, Intellect and Hardball


Ratto: Washington a Study In Honesty, Intellect and Hardball


SAN FRANCISCO -- When Ron Washington was asked about the semi-precious Giants late-and-postseason slogan, Torture, he smiled. Hes been around too long to view baseball as anything more complicated than can be explained by his own slogan.

Thats The Way Baseball Go.

That just means there are things in baseball you cant control, the Texas Rangers manager said Tuesday. Maybe I should have said that and maybe the slogan Thats the way baseball go wouldnt have been out there.

He says this without any regret, either for the grammar or for the lack of a more pithy slogan. Then again, Washington is the most profound example of a guy who makes steak and lobster out of oatmeal and raisins, simply by being the most Washingtonian he can be.

Washington has learned in his four years in the job how to not only roll with punches, but to absorb them and come out better for them.

He challenged the established pecking order in Texas, made mistakes and emerged a smarter manager. He came close to being fired at least once, in 2009, but survived because his general manager, Jon Daniels, stood up for him. He admitted to drug use this spring and won over owner Nolan Ryan by acknowledging guilt and seizing responsibility.

He even came out better for not getting the Oakland managing job he should have gotten in 2006. He is here, after all, an honest manager who may stray from the book at times in the dugout but not from his core belief that a man is measured by how he stands when he stands alone.

When he told us about (the positive cocaine test in spring training), it was pretty emotional for everyone, third baseman Michael Young said. But he stood up and accepted responsibility, and some of the players . . . well, most of the players stood up and said they wanted him to lead us. We wanted Wash to be our manager.

And so he kept his job, enhanced his reputation within the Ranger clubhouse as an honest man and loyal fellow traveler, and is now in his first World Series, a manager who uses his gut but never forgets to use his head.

I think hes proven, bench coach Jackie Moore said, that if you cant play for Ron Washington, it isnt his problem. Its your problem.

Washington came to Dallas after 11 years in Oakland coaching under Art Howe and Ken Macha, knowing that he would never get the job himself because, among other things, he would say no to general manager Billy Beane when the facts suited it.

But having come to Texas, he faced a long-held culture of playing for the three-run homer, which wasnt his culture. He wanted a team with more facets, and bumped heads with the prevailing ethos often, sometimes impulsively. He crossed shields with Hank Blalock and Mark Teixeira, and had a dugout confrontation with Gerald Laird.

But he learned the art of delivering the messages more palatably, he showed loyalty to his players, and eventually he got to the point where they stood for him when he needed them most.

He is a different manager than Bruce Bochy in that he seems at time to operate on hunches, and is not as deft with a bullpen. Then again, Bochy has managed almost four times as long, and as coach Tim Flannery said, Boch is a card-counter. He counts cards. In short, he plans days and events months ahead for a situation that may arise later.

In all other ways, their managing styles reflect what the contents of their dugouts allow. Bochy isnt against offense, he just doesnt have a lot. Washington doesnt dislike his bullpen, he just has to be careful about how he uses it.

And neither will freak out on the big stage, because theyve done the big stage. Bochy has been here before as a manager and a player, and the lights have never been brighter than they were when Washington had to admit to a demon he didnt even know he had.

In short, this isnt torture at all. This is the payoff for one life -- two, really -- for whom there is no more apt explanation than thats the way baseball go.

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?”