Senseless

August 22

It’s happened again.

Two men are shot outside a sporting event. This time in the parking lot after Saturday night’s 49ers-Raiders preseason game at Candlestick Park. There were also fights in the stands during the game, and another man was beaten in a stadium bathroom in an incident apparently unrelated to the shootings.

Was the violence actually related to the sporting event, a mixture of testosterone and alcohol, or was Candlestick simply the convenient venue for some out-of-control characters? There’s a theory that the violence might be gang-related but police have yet to establish a motive.

One of the victims was reportedly wearing an “F— the Niners” t-shirt, and police detained a person who was reportedly wearing Raiders gear. The search for suspects continues.

When Bryan Stow was beaten, I said on the air that I hoped the incident would at least make fans think twice before resorting to violence. I wanted to give people that much credit but in this day and age, I knew better. In such incidents, people aren’t thinking at all.

Often, they are people whose circumstances give them a completely distorted perspective of life. Not just rabid sports fans, but thugs who feel the need to take out their aggressions on others. Then, throw in a few 32-ounce cups of beer and …

Sadly in our society, stupidity and malice know no bounds, so why would sporting events be immune? However, if you believe games should at least provide a brief haven where people can have fun, we’re apparently going to need to further increase security before and after such events.

It’s debatable whether more security would have deterred Saturday’s sad human display, and one of the shooting victims might have been saved because he was able to drive to a security guard. However, it’s clear that more must be done by local teams, the league, and local law enforcement.

The league, and both teams, have issued statements expressing extreme dismay at what happened Saturday. Fans who resort to violence are not representative of the overall fan base, their teams, or the support.

However, the 49ers and Raiders — and the entire NFL — need to know this: families that aren’t already priced out of pro football games will stay away unless they know it’s safe. Or at the very least, safer.

Does the NFL care about families, or is it solely interested in corporate sponsors and advertisers who cater to young men who gamble and/or play fantasy football ? The NFL has been seeing more empty seats at games in the last couple of seasons, and in a bad economy that trend will continue. To me, it would be stupid not to make games more family-friendly.

***

A few days ago I blogged that despite all their misfortune, the Giants had a chance to come home just a game and a half behind the Diamondbacks in the National League West. After Sunday’s huge 6-4, 11-inning win in Houston, that’s exactly what happened for the Giants. Or, what’s left of them.

The good news: the schedule is getting easier for the Giants. The bad news: they’re adding a player per day to the disabled list. Sunday’s addition might be the most damaging: Brian Wilson.

He goes on the DL with a strained elbow, but manager Bruce Bochy and trainer Dave Groeschner seem to think it won’t be a season-ending injury and he should be ready for the September stretch run. Of course, any time the words “pitcher,” “elbow,” and “disabled list” are in the same sentence it can be very scary.

The Giants haven’t needed Wilson much lately, and that isn’t good news. They had to scrape and claw to win one game this weekend from the worst team in baseball, and you couldn’t tell which team was in contention the last few days in Houston.

Bochy says he’ll use a bullpen by committee, which includes the rookie right-hander with the funky delivery, Steve Edlefsen. He was called up from Fresno and got four big outs on Sunday. Ramon Ramirez closed out Sunday’s game without incident.

The Giants return home after three weeks of the most brutal baseball they’ve had in a while: brutal both on and off the field. Yet there they are, much like the “cockroaches” General Manager Brian Sabean characterized during Showtime’s “The Franchise.” And he meant that in a good way.

It’s questionable whether the Giants can continue to overcome the injuries and stay in contention. After a 3-7 homestand and 4-6 road trip they’ve given little evidence they would be able to do so. But right now, they’re within breathing distance of the Snakes, and they have six games left with Arizona.

Maybe it’s just payback for last year. Just about everything broke the Giants’ way in 2010, and their fortunes have seemingly done a 180 in ’11. G’s fans hope and pray that the DL virus doesn’t spread to the starting pitching, because that’s their last remaining ace in the hole.

The lame and halt outnumber the healthy. Pablo Sandoval won Sunday’s game with one good foot and one good shoulder. Carlos Beltran may or may not return this week, and the longer he stays out the more disastrous the trade (which I supported) becomes.

The bullpen is hanging on by a thread, although without Wilson and Sergio Romo it pitched 9 1/3 scoreless innings Sunday, granted against a young Houston lineup. The Giants have a giant sinkhole where the #5 spot in the rotation used to be, and the veterans who are healthy are terrible.

Bochy has been a magician to keep the Giants in contention, although he appears to have aged this year more than FDR did during his four terms in office. Some of his veterans have also aged — their career clocks are spinning rapidly toward the end. Some are already at the end.

You’ll know what the Giants really think of some of these players when they clear out dead wood in the offseason. Due to injuries, the Giants must give playing time to some people who shouldn’t be in the major leagues any more. Others would not be starting on most clubs.

Either because they’re no longer physically-able, because they have a terrible plate approach or both, they fail to do the most minimal things to help their team. That’s especially true at the plate with a runner at third and less than two out. It’s contagious now; young and old, Giants hitters can’t keep the line moving or advance a runner when needed.

Before Sandoval stepped to the plate Sunday, I told my wife that the only way the Giants were going to win was if somebody hit a home run. I said Sandoval is one guy who could do so, although he’s reverted to Panda Gone Wild lately.

True to form, he expanded his strike zone in his final at-bat, flailing wildly at a couple of pitches, but crushed a pitch over the plate for a two-run shot to left-center. Sandoval, who is emerging as a leader amid all of the calamity, gave the Giants a reason to celebrate the flight home.

Earlier, Belt did a very unkind thing to a Henry Sosa pitch, with a jaw-dropping three-run shot to right field, the Giants’ third three-run shot since June. SINCE JUNE.

Home runs. The Giants used them to help win the NL West last year. They lack the ability to hit as many this year, but I know one thing that can help.

If Bochy is reading this blog ( and I’m sure he does ), or if he listens Monday night on Sportsphone 680, he will hear this message: stop leaning on the veterans. Play Brandon Belt every day. Repeat: Play. Brandon. Belt. Every. Damn. Day.

It’s an argument I’ve been making for weeks now ( and I’m far from the only one ), and it’s an argument that should’ve been settled on Sunday, when he had four hits. The Baby Giraffe has shown he possesses as much thunder in his bat as The Panda.

Bochy ostensibly plays the veterans because he wants to keep the clubhouse happy. You know what keeps everyone happy, especially pitchers ? Runs. Putting Belt in the lineup will give you more runs. Maybe not a great deal more, but enough.

He can hit right-handers and left-handers. He qualifies as a selective hitter on this roster. He can run a little bit and can play more than one position.

Play him every day. Repeat: Every. Damn. Day. The more he plays, the more you’ll like it, Boch. Hell, you can even say it was your idea.

Apparently there is something about Belt that Bochy has disliked up to this point. Maybe Belt ran over his dog. I’m not sure what it is, but almost every Giant on the roster had to suffer an injury, ( or Dengue Fever or Dropsy) before Belt could play.

Bochy was apparently comforted by the Devil He Knew. Cody Ross wildly flailing away as his average dropped into the .230s, Aubrey Huff rolling over for the 288th time this year and grounding out to the right side, Aaron Rowand missing a slider low-and-away by a foot, and of course, Miguel (GIDP) Tejada.

Bochy may be aging rapidly this year, but I know he hasn’t gotten any dumber. I know he has very specific reasons to rely on veterans, especially those who have helped the Giants, but the times they are a- changin’. Belt should not see the bench the rest of the season.

And when September rolls around, make use of youthful or younger energy, i.e.: Darren Ford, Brett Pill, Emannuel Burriss, Hector Sanchez, and Edlefsen, among others.

No time to worry about hurt feelings. The kids are alright, Boch. And with an old and injury-plagued lineup, they just might save your season.

***

Chris Drury recently retired after a 12-year NHL career, but he first became nationally known as the kid who led Trumbull, Connecticut to the 1989 Little League World Series title.

As someone who played and coached Little League, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the LLWS. I think it’s a great tournament, a great way to develop character, and a great opportunity for young people to expand their horizons through baseball. I just don’t think it should be televised.

The Little League World Series used to be cute. It used to be fun. Now it’s just kind of creepy and odd.

Granted, there’s not a kid in America who wouldn’t want to be on television right now in Williamsport, Pa. It’s just about the largest stage available for a young person, outside of being in a motion picture or TV.

At least they pay young actors. These kids get a trip to Pennsylvania but that’s about it. Meanwhile, ESPN gets to fill hours of programming and make money off sponsors.

You know it’s working for the sports network. In fact, they’ve expanded and enhanced their coverage over the years, now showing regional semi-final games.

The players’ emotions, both good and bad, are exploited. Just as bad, we’re starting to see kids trying to act like big-leaguers when the camera is on; for example, posing for home runs. We’re also seeing way too much of their parents, who along with other adults place way too much pressure on these kids.

Jelisa Castrodale of NBCSports.com aptly called it, “equal parts ‘Baseball Tonight’ and ‘Toddlers and Tiaras.’ In a word, eww.

I understand that the championship game of the LLWS has been televised for more than 50 years. That’s just one game. It is now two weeks of programming.

Enough. Let kids be kids. Keep them out of the abnormal hothouse that is illuminated by TV lights and cameras. This society already makes them grow up too fast.

It’s OK to dream. But delusions of grandeur are something else. To me, it’s just very unhealthy.

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2 Responses to “Senseless”

  1. Mike Cole Says:

    Ray when they eliminate alcohol from such events it will be more apparent who the problem people are.
    The Giants need only to look in the mirror at themselves. They need to win games and not worry what others are doing. It’s not torture its realism

  2. Jim from Napa Says:

    Ray you are so right; you see so much anger on facebook or on comments that it’s scary to think of these people drunk. I’ve never seen such an angry and violent society.

    I was asked to reply to what I thought about the NL West by a friend on his facebook and I said I felt it was the worst division in baseball and I got 2 threats and several f bombs.

    We don’t go to games anymore and I also dont’ accept anyone on my facebook that I dont know.

    We may be the most violent first world culture in history. Alcohol plus out of control violent tempers = hurt people.

    So sad,

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