Ray Ratto

If eclipse ends life on Earth, it's bad news for fans of one Bay Area team


If eclipse ends life on Earth, it's bad news for fans of one Bay Area team

If the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe is right and the total eclipse of the sun is actually a harbinger of the end of life on earth . . .

- It’s good news for the Giants, who have been eliminated from the National League West race for less than 24 hours, or that they will not have to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers put their feet up on baseball for the first time in 28 years.

Besides, there won’t be any more years, so time becomes meaningless.

- It’s good news for the 49ers, who won’t have to endure a harsh week of practice from freshly irked head coach Kyle Shanahan, who finally saw exactly why the job came open for him in the first place.

- It’s good news for Raiders’ fans, who won’t see their team move to Las Vegas, and because they won't be soul-crushed if they can't beat the Patriots -- who will also die en masse despite Bill Belichick's entreaties to ignore the noise of seven billion terrorized shrieks.

- It’s bad news for A’s fans, who will never learn in what location their fabulous new franchise-saving stadium will not be built.

- It’s good news for the Warriors, who can say in their death throes that they were the last NBA champions ever, and that the Lakers will never get LeBron James.

- It’s good news for the Lakers because they cannot be found guilty of tampering with Paul George. It’s also good news for Jimmy Kimmel because he can’t lose a draft choice (some faceless F-list actor as a guest) as a result.

- It’s good news for the Kings, because they’ll never have to have the difficult meeting about Zach Randolph.

- It’s good news for the Chargers, because they won’t have to answer any more questions about why only 21,000 people were announced as the crowd for their second practice game, or to confront the very real possibility that they could become the NFL’s Washington Generals.

- It’s good news for the Jets, Mets, Nets and Knicks because the end of the planet is the only just solution for them all.

- It’s good news for Cal because it can stick its middle finger to the sky and say, “Here’s your $400 million debt. Try to collect it while we’re all dying.”

- It’s good news for Kevin Durant because he doesn’t have to slalom through the Internet trolls any more.

- It’s bad news for Roger Goodell, because he sure left a boatload of money on the table as he was hurtled into space like the rest of us.

- It’s bad news for Nick Saban because he will have never seen it coming. On the other hand, it’s good news for the people who cover Alabama football because they’ve endured their last journalism lecture from Prof. Nick on why they do their jobs so poorly.

- It’s bad luck for Jim Harbaugh because he will feel like a complete nitwit as he learns just what “an enthusiasm unknown to mankind” really means – the end of mankind.

- It’s bad news for all the sixth graders in America who are being offered scholarships that they will never be used by college coaches they will never meet. Of course, that would have been true even  if the world doesn’t end.

- It’s bad news for the hackers who have been spoiling Game Of Thrones because this is Game Of Thrones, only the dragon is the sun incinerating us all.

- It’s bad news for Kyrie Irving, because he will have died a Cleveland Cavalier.

- It’s good news for America, for the obvious reason that the planet will expire before our current political class can murder it.

- And finally, it’s good news for dignity, because the Mayweather-McGregor “thing” will never happen, and that alone means that even as we are torn asunder, we will know that the deity loves us all because both McGrogor and Mayweather are being torn asunder too.

Of course, if you’re reading this Tuesday, you’ll know the world didn’t end, and we’re just as screwed as we ever were. Oh well. Try to find your happy place, and drink like there’s no Wednesday.

Why it's better to be an Athletic than a Giant at this All-Star break


Why it's better to be an Athletic than a Giant at this All-Star break

As we have reached the point in our sporting experience at which we often prefer the imaginary world to the real one (see gambling, futures odds, daily fantasy, draft and combine obsessions, just to name an obnoxious few), let’s check in on Major League Baseball at the All-Star break.
But not as it is, but how it would be if wins and losses corresponded to what they should be based on our great, noble and very dead friend Pythagoras.
Now there are many forms of the expected wins theorem because the formulas used to calculate how to metricize run differential are different, but we’ll just pick a few to annoy and amaze you. First, your American League, ranked by how they would be seeded in the postseason:
BOSTON (actual 68-30, 65-33 by baseballreference.com and MLB.com, 106-56 projected by Fangraphs)
HOUSTON                          64-35/70-29/104-58 
CLEVELAND                    52-43/55-40/92-70
NEW YORK YANKEES     62-33/61-34/103-59
SEATTLE                            58-39/48-49/90-72
By this, the Red Sox lead the Astros and Yankees by 4 ½ games but trails in expected wins by 4 ½. Houston leads Seattle by five games but should lead by 21. The Yankees would have the third-best record, and the Indians barely would make it, only because they're in the worst division ever divided.
But Seattle is the funny team because of this:
OAKLAND                          55-42/51-46/87-75
TAMPA BAY                      49-47/50-45/80-82
L.A. ANGELS                    49-48/51-46/81-81
Based on run differential, the Mariners are three games worse than all three, and being swept in Colorado was unhelpful. Thus, what we have here is four sure things and the Mariners trying to hold off the A’s, Rays, and Angels. In short, here is the future of the American League:
July 27-29: Mariners at Angels
July 31-August 2: Rays at Angels
August 10-12: A’s at Angels
August 30-September 2: Mariners at A’s
September 13-16: Mariners at Angels
September 14-16; A’s at Rays
September 18-20: Angels at A’s
September 24-26: A’s at Mariners
September 28-30: A’s at Mariners.
The National League is a much bigger mess, and the Giants are looking up at most of it:
CHICAGO CUBS                   55-38/58-35/94-58
PHILADELPHIA                    53-42/49-46/85-77
L.A. DODGERS                      53-43/57-39/91-71
MILWAUKEE                          55-43/54-44/86-76
ATLANTA                                 52-42/54-40/84-78
ARIZONA                                  53-44/53-44/86-76
COLORADO                             51-45/48-48/83-79
ST. LOUIS                           48-46/48-46/83-79
SAN FRANCISCO                 50-48/46-52/82-80
WASHINGTON                       48-48/51-45/86-76
PITTSBURGH                          48-49/46-51/80-82
By this analysis, the Cubs and Dodgers would win their divisions comfortably, and the Nationals, Phillies, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Braves, Rockies and Cardinals would play about 150 games against each other to fill the other three spots. Now that would be the kind of baffling months-long madness we find great fun.
But the two teams that aren’t in that group, San Francisco and Pittsburgh, won’t share said fun by these numbers. They are .500 teams who are overachieving to get there, and the Pirates already figure to be sellers at the July 31 trade deadline.
The Giants probably won’t be either buyers or sellers, and are in any event positioning themselves for 2019, hoping to figure out what to do about the 46 percent of the payroll taken up by Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Mark Melancon this year, next year and 2020 (hint: contracts will be eaten).
In short, based on enjoyment, value and general optimism, it is better to be an Athletic at this All-Star break than a Giant. Plus, it's still easier to mind one team ahead of you and two potentially behind you than seven ahead of you.
But it’s good to have dreams. Beer, and dreams.

Distance between the U.S. and SoccerWorld is more vast than ever


Distance between the U.S. and SoccerWorld is more vast than ever

The World Cup was over for about eight seconds when the good people at Bovada.com whirled into action and made up a futures book for the 2022 World Cup – mostly because degeneracy never sleeps.
But also because the run-up to the World Cup In Hell, as the Qatar competition will come to be known, is a good way to establish just how hungry American soccer believers are in getting back into the anticipation game. The U.S. national team, as shambolic as it has been in nearly three decades, is listed as a cool 80-1, the 16th-highest rated team on the planet, generously tied with Denmark, mostly because there will be betting action on the USNMT just so people who want to bet the Yanks can manufacture excitement after a year of utterly mockable inertia.
And that’s the key here – this isn’t a measure of the nation’s place in the international game that just captivated us for a month, not at all. The U.S. couldn’t even be 32nd this year and suddenly, with nothing more to bank upon than four more birthdays for Christian Pulisic, they have improved 16 places merely because they are probably more bettable now than they will be for years.
We just established that as a nation we can be thrilled by the World Cup without even a hint of America, but that’s not the lesson that will be learned here. The lesson is that teeny little Croatia could get to the final game, and that this was the World Cup in which the chalk mostly failed. France was considered a lively underdog but hardly the equal of Brazil or Spain or Argentina or Germany, and the final four included an improbably happy and agenda-free England side and Belgium’s latest golden generation.
And individually, the tournament was not dominated by any single player, no matter how much Fox wanted to cram Ronaldo and Messi and Kane down our constricted yaps. The standouts were Mbappe and Modric and Pogba and Kante and Hazard and Griezmann and Perisic and Pickford – all well known to soccer aficionados, but very much against the run of narrative play.
In short, for casual fans it helped to know the players, but mostly the fans came anyway because Americans love to label-shop if their own team isn’t involved, and the World Cup has a great label even despite the continued involvement of FIFA.
But as for the Americans, being 80-1 with only 1,590 days left to get themselves together and put up not only a coherent side but a coherent plan installed by coherent men and women seems, well, low. The distance between the U.S. and SoccerWorld is more vast than ever, and now that casual fans have figured out that the flag is less important than the field, the U.S. will not just be able to toss out a few strips of bunting and call itself America’s team. It will have to earn it with actual play.
This flies in the face of what America does best – throwing the party. The 2026 World Cup will be America at its most competent and organized, and maybe with 3,000 days of prep time it can deliver even better goods than it did in 1994.
But the team itself . . . well, even if you accept the very generous 80-1 line as even minimally valid, it has light years to travel. The U.S. stepped back while the rest of the world stepped forward, and a World Cup as entertainingly unpredictable as this will make it harder, not easier, for the Americans to claim the place it insists for itself by virtue of . . . well, saying it should have a place.
If they’re to be one of the 32 again, they will have to re-learn what it is like to be and act like the outsider. Other than Pulisic, feeling ostracized as not good enough is probably the best tool in their shed.

In the meantime, "go you degenerates!" or as the French say, "allez vous dégénérés!" You can show the country the way by betting the Yanks down to, oh, say 75-1.