Summer of Wierdness Starts Early

Ray Ratto —

Glad to have you back from the hockey death march. I personally don”t think hockey should exist in places where you can”t find ice outdoors, but that’s just me. And even though your writing could do nothing but enliven the seemingly moribund sport, I found myself passing on your columns.

But I”m delighted that you”re back to more worthy subjects, such as “,the gathering storm of manic bloviation on the many facets of Bonds,

Priceless.

So welcome back, Ratto.

8 thoughts on “Summer of Wierdness Starts Early

  1. It’s too bad that Bonds is such a surly ass to begin with, and it’s too bad that he got caught with the words “BALCO” tattooed to his forehead (which grew by something like 3/4 of a hat size in his thirties, along with his feet which grew two and a half shoe sizes at the same time..) yet he continues to insist it says “FLAXSEED”, and it’s too bad that he decided not to report his card show income to the Feds, and it’s too bad that he likes to use his children at press conferences when he doesn’t want to answer tough questions — all of this still comes down to baseball fans trying to justify their love of the long-ball with looking the other way while some ball players did whatever they could to give it to us (as well as give them incredible paydays).

    What Schilling says is based on well known investigative reports, except it’s not true that Bonds has admitted to these things (Bonds wouldn’t admit to talking to you while he did it…), and if you listen to the tape it’s obvious that the Boston radio dudes woke him up to get him to answer the question: “Are we going to have to hold our noses and watch Bonds pass Aaron this year?” First of all he’s Curt, who will say anything, and it’s first thing in the morning, so he’s got no chance.

    Ortiz is a hitter, and hitters appreciate other hitters because they REALLY know just how hard it is to do what they do. Clearly Ortiz appreciates Bonds’s tremendous skill and believes that is what we are celebrating if Bonds passes Aaron’s career HR record. But every single ballplayer can hit the ball if they make to the majors for something other than their pitching skills. Therefore the issue isn’t using steroids to help you hit. It’s to help you hit harder. Before BALCO, Bonds was a great hitter, but not a great home run hitter. After BALCO, Bonds is a great hitter and a great home run hitter.

    And it’s not like the Giants had NO IDEA that by signing Bonds to the 2007 season they wouldn’t be at the center of this weirdness…of course they did. I’m sure they even figured that they would be able to profit from it, which is great. And once it became clear that Bond’s can still hit the horsehide out of the park, people are chiming in on the probability that we will have to face this weirdness straight on. But it’s a bit disingenuous for Ratto to be surprised by this, or to fault ballplayers for commenting honestly on the matter. I know he’s paid to have an opinion, but ballplayers are allowed to have opinions too, even if they have to give them right after being woken up by two whacky FM deejays.

    However, I agree with ESPN’s Dan Patrick: Bud Seilig HAS to be there for the record tying/breaking homer. This is his baby — he was there when steroids became a prominent part of the game, and he’s going to have to be there for the consequences. Aaron has no obligation to celebrate someone breaking his record, regardless of what he thinks of the player who does it, or whether he thinks that player cheated to do it. But Seilig represents baseball, and this will be a baseball event. Meanwhile, SF, calm down and enjoy the fact that you’re getting attention for baseball — it’s been a while.

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  2. Geez.

    I shared Ratto’s column for his outrageous writing and commentary on the press that I missed while he was covering the Sharks playoffs.

    Here’s his response to my email:
    don’t fret. my wife hasn’t read anything i’ve written in years no matter what the subject

    Of course the Giants, their fans (me) and Ratto expected to be at the center of all this weirdness, just not the first week of May.

    I guess you’re part of the gathering storm…

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  3. Curt weighs in on rectorsite (excerpts via his blog 38pitches.com)

    Everyone has days and events in life they’d love to push the rewind button on, yesterday was one of those days. Regardless of my opinions, thoughts and beliefs on anything Barry Bonds it was absolutely irresponsible and wrong to say what I did. I don’t think it’s within anyone’s right to say the things I said yesterday and affect other peoples lives in that way.

    I’d love to tell you I was ambushed, misquoted, misinterpreted, something other than what it was, but I wasn’t. The question I was asked and the answer I gave yesterday affected a lot more people than just he and I. His wife, his children, his friends and his family were all affected by that, as were mine and my teammates.

    As someone who’s made it very clear I have major issues with members of the media that take little or no pride in their work it’s the height of hypocrisy for me to say what I did, in any forum.

    I am far from perfect and make more than my share of mistakes, which is something I have no problem with because that’s part of being human. However when my mistakes adversely affect other peoples lives, that’s a big deal. It was a callous, wreckless and irresponsible thing to say, and for that I apologize to Barry, Barry’s family, Barry’s friends and the Giants organization, my teammates and the Red Sox organization as well as anyone else that may have been offended by the comments I made.

    Elsewhere in baseball, a snippet from Scott Ostler’s column in today’s Chronicle:

    Roger Clemens stamped himself as baseball’s ultimate team player with his new Yankees contract.

    Actually, he re-stamped himself, because his new contract is like the one he had last season with the Astros.

    The Rocket’s deal is that he can come and go as he pleases, as long as he shows up once every five days to pitch.

    Instead of schlepping himself around to hotels and ballparks between starts, fattening up on clubhouse food and wearing himself out by interacting with his teammates, Clemens can head home to Texas, or to Tahiti, to chill and recharge.

    Heat wave in Chicago? Skip Chicago.

    After his R&R, Clemens can saunter back to the clubhouse and ask one of his teammates, “Dude, how’d we do the last few days?”

    Clemens said he wasn’t aware he had that clause in his new contract, but said it’s good to have “in case my family needs me.”

    Like, to open jars?

    Clemens announced his return to baseball Sunday, then on Monday, with the Yankees desperate to get him into pinstripes, he kicked off his “spring training” by playing in a golf tournament.

    The Clemens arrangement seems to undermine the lovely illusion that baseball teams are actual “teams,” made up of actual “teammates” who interact to develop a winning “chemistry.”

    The Yankees’ players say they’re OK with the setup, but how do you feel if you’re Mike Mussina, showing up for work every day while Clemens is kicking it back home?

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  4. I believe that I am a representative of some people who are neither super-fans nor stat monsters, but who are disgusted by Bonds’s assault on Aaron’s home run record. Ungrateful greedy egoists like Bonds, McGuire, Canseco, Sosa, Palmiero, and all the other yet-unnamed cheats have robbed players like Jim Rice of recognition of their great accomplishments in the game of baseball.

    If Ratto defines “bloviation” as the expression of one’s disgust at this injustice, then, Yes, I admit to being a micro-cell of the gathering storm that the Giants, their fans, and their reporters will have to weather in the next few months. One may laugh at it, but it is a sincere and deep feeling I have (and can’t hide), though I admit that Bonds and his record quest are only the symbol — the Giant expanding “figurehead” if you will — of a much bigger issue to which I am reacting.

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  5. Regarding Schilling, I believe he is apologizing for his statement that “[Bonds] admitted” to the various allegations that have been leveled at him (adultery, ‘roiding, and tax evasion) which is not true. What’s great about Schill’s apology is that he didn’t include the amazingly frequent preface to modern apologies: “If anyone was offended by my [actions]…” which actually means that the speaker is NOT apologizing, just reading a statement his publicist handed him.

    I agree that Clemens is pushing the boundaries, but blame the teams (including the Red Sox!) who offered him this clause — any of us would take exceptional benefits in our work contracts. It’s ironic that these days it’s the Yankees who exhibit a trait that the Red Sox are historically famous for: 29 players, 29 cabs.

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  6. Disingenuous is definitely the correct word by Farmer E in describing Ratto’s surprise at Bonds-controversy stories popping up as he closes to within single digits of Aaron’s record. The “weirdness,” of course, is not that everyone is about to chime in, it’s the uneasy feeling that the SF media (who have all read “Game of Shadows”) must reconcile with Barry fans (who haven’t). For them it must certainly be a fine line to report on what’s going on and simultaneously not harsh on their audience’s mellow.

    Bonds’s crocodile tears and aw-shucks interview style seem to play well to the queasy local media (many of whom appear to have fully accepted his softballs-only questioning policy in order to have the privilege to be able to spoon-feed him to the fans). I’m just glad I’m not in a position where I have to maintain a state of active denial in order to root for my town’s biggest star. (It’s tough enough coming to grips with photos of Tom Brady strolling in Manhattan wearing a Yanks cap.) Ryan had a nice, if fatalistic take last week in which he broke baseball history into the Booze & Broads Era, the Greenies Era, and the Pharmaceuticals Era in order to anoint Ruth, Aaron, and Bonds as the greatest sluggers of their respective times (give me the Booze & Broads Era every time…). He also gives some props to Jim Ed, which Farmer E will appreciate. His main point, tho, is to wonder aloud what will really happen if, for example, Bonds comes clean, along with all the rest of the cream-and-clear crowd. Asterisks? Hall-of-Fame ramifications (Popeye McGwire already provides a test case for this and Palmeiro’s not far behind)? Calculation of how much extra salary they gained by juicing and returning it to their respective clubs? It’s a sad time indeed.

    And then there’s this from Shaughnessy (and you know I’m serious when I’m quoting Shaughnessy): “Labor leader Donald Fehr, the man most responsible for baseball’s inflated steroid-era numbers, told the Associated Press that 10 or 15 years from now, ‘This kind of debate or discussion probably won’t seem very significant.’ Fehr said folks would probably be wondering, ‘Why did we spend all this time on steroids and Anna Nicole Smith?’ Wow.”

    Schilling is a blowhard’s blowhard and, as Farmer E points out, the Boston media all know and appreciate this. His blog was originally touted as his way of cutting out the media middleman and also a way for him to promote his charity causes (which, of course, are the most righteous ones possible). I’ve never browsed it but it seems pretty clear that it’s become simply one more way for Curt to hear the sound of his own voice. He’s also the chairman of the How-to-Play-the-Game-Right-According-to-Curt Committee and never misses an opportunity to call someone out when a rule is violated. To his credit, tho, he’s always accountable for what he says and does (unlike a certain SF slugger who is baseball’s closest approximation to George Bush Jr. in that regard) and he’s not above apologizing when it’s called for, as has already been noted above.

    For me personally, home run records have become about as meaningful as Sadaharu Oh’s world record of 868 home runs as a professional ballplayer. Focusing solely on the records leaves out too many guys named Williams (who gave away 5 prime seasons to fly war planes) or Mays or Gehrig or Musial or Clemente or Campanella or a hundred other players worth celebrating. The fact is that for a combination of reasons — all of them centered around “giving the fans what they want” — most of your pitching records are unattainable to today’s hurlers and most of your hitting records (especially slugging records) are extremely vulnerable. While it’s sad that the game has become mired in its current morass, one bright spot for me is to finally put the obsession with records to bed and think more about the players themselves and the way they played. For example, in football I can’t tell you which running back has the all-time yards record (Emmitt Smith?) or the one-year record (Dickerson?) but I can tell you that if I happened to plop down on the couch with a beer after a long day and flipped on the tube and stumbled on a one-hour-special about a great running back, I’d want it to be either Earl Campbell (barreling through linebackers, helmet flying one direction, a white shoe in the other, his shredded jersey streaming behind him like a tattered flag) or Barry Sanders (pirouetting like a fireplug in a tutu, defying gravity while never leaving the ground). Don’t care what the stats say — they’d just be part of the voiceover as the video rolls one heart-pumping run after another.

    Would I relish a special about Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Giambi, Sheffield? Are you nuts? Don Fehr’s got it all wrong. Thirty years after the fact, clips of Aaron’s 715th dinger sailing into the bullpen at ugly Fulton County Stadium still raise a goosebump or two. It was a turning point in sports and society. Unfortunately I’m afraid that images of Barry’s 756th may have the same kind of legs but for all the wrong reasons.

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  7. Brian,
    Thanks for the link to the Bob Ryan column and your thoughtful commentary.
    As for me, I have tickets to the next three Giants games vs. the Astros. This happenstance came as a result of buying two “six-pak packages” and the fortuitous gift of “Dianna seats.” (You’ve heard about those, Row F behind the Giants dugout.)
    I’ll get to see the young phenom Tim Lincecum pitch (tomorrow) and Barry step to the plate probably 12 times. Controversy or the ultimate record won’t be on my mind, it’s just a marvel to watch the man in the batter’s box, and the feeling in the stands is electric. I hope he pops a couple, but he’s been in a slump. In any case, I look forward to it.

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