Ratto Takes Us To Task 

Columnist Ray Ratto of the Chron and ESPN takes a broad swipe at owners and fans -- and Giants' fans in particular:

"...you were warned, and you didn't care. Especially you Giant fans. Drug rumors have surrounded Bonds since 1998, and 16,000,000 of you walked into the new ballpark in five years just to watch him be him. You knew, and mostly you were fine with it, because you kept coming."

Ratto's column is worth reading for the larger arc of it -- a reminder that after they finish beating their chests about cheaters and betrayal and anti-heroes, the sportswriters need to dig into what the owners knew, how much, and when. The hypocrisy and head-in-the-sand approach of Bud & Co. needs to be flushed out into the light, unflinchingly.

But to say that baseball fans should have stopped coming to the park once Bonds was under suspicion is silly. (Ray, I've suspected for years that you have a drinking problem and you recycle your jokes, yet I still read your columns.)

Sure, a lot of casual fans come for the marquee superstar, be it Barry or Sammy or Giambi or Clemens. These fans leave after the superstar's final at-bat, or when he pitches his final inning, no matter what the score.

But plenty of baseball fans come for the game, the history, their favorite team, or perhaps just the ambience of a full ballpark on a warm weekend afternoon.

When Gaylord Perry was twirling greaseballs on his way to the Hall of Fame, it was an open secret -- even an acknowledged joke -- that he was a cheater, but no one chastised the fans for coming out to see him pitch. No one took the fans to task for supporting the Giants, even though their star pitcher (and perhaps a few more) had K-Y jelly behind the ears.

Ratto's criticism might be more valid if we knew for sure that the Giants' organization was complicit in Greg Anderson's little side gig. We sure can harbor suspicions (and I do). But I'm not about to trade in my season tickets and take a moral stand based upon suspicions.

Nor do I base my ticket purchases on one player. Barry is not the Giants. If he came out and confessed that he's been doping for years but refused to retire, I'd still go to the games. I would sit on my hands when he came to bat; I would have nothing to say to the people in my section who heckled him; I might even feel a little queasy when he did well. But I would still root for the Giants, for Noah Lowry, Yorvit Torrealba, Dustan Mohr, yeah, even Russ Davis, whoever's wearing the french vanilla with black and orange trim. And of course, I'd root for a good ballgame.

Here's a question that Jefferson and I were batting around in the Malo comments the other day: if your favorite team that you've loved since childhood is caught aiding and abetting a drug peddler -- even welcoming him into the players' clubhouse -- would you still root for the team? Would the Giants' organization forever be tainted? If this worst-case scenario resulted in the Giants' front office being gutted -- even the team being sold -- would the taint carry over? Or would you give the new ownership team your renewed faith and allegiance?


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