Tedford QBs; Patrick Ewing/Chris Mullin; Miguel Tejada/Hideki Matsui; Buster Posey; Tim Lincecum/Brett Anderson
CAL FOOTBALL: Jeff Tedford almost jumped out of his skin when a writer asked him at Monday’s news conference if he thought he might go to a two-quarterback system this fall, with one quarterback in the first half, another in the second.
When he said no, the writer persisted, “You’ve done it before.”
Not really. In common with almost every other coach, Tedford likes to stick with one quarterback. There have been times when he’s changed quarterbacks because the starter was ineffective, but that was never the plan. He stuck with Joe Ayoob and Nate Longshore when writers and fans wanted a change.
The one time he made a fairly quick change was when he brought in Aaron Rodgers to replace Reggie Robertson in the fourth game of the 2004 season. Hard to quarrel with that decision.
So, barring injury, Zach Maynard will probably be the starter for the 2011 season. I have no personal input here because the Bears’ nomadic spring practice schedule defeated me. I thought of going to the controlled scrimmage on their final day but it was at Contra Costa College and the thought of driving up I-80 discouraged me. I went to the A’s game instead and was lulled to sleep.
There is more chaos ahead on the Cal schedule. The new Pac-12 conference has created a need for unusual scheduling. The addition of The Little Sisters of the Poor, a.k.a Presbyterian College, came because of that. So did the Fresno State game at Candlestick; that is being sold as a separate ticket, apart from the season tickets. Of course, Candlestick is the place they should have scheduled all their home games this season. It has its shortcomings, which all of us have documented, but it is a football stadium with 70,000 seats and ample parking – and there are no schedule conflicts with baseball.
WARRIORS AND THE LOTTERY: C’mon, now, you didn’t really think the Warriors were going to move up several positions in the lottery, did you? The lottery has been the symbol of the Warriors problems since they lost the first pick they “deserved” on the basis of their record in 1985 and had to draft No. 7. I still remember the stunned look on Al Attles’ face at the time. He had good reason to look that way. The New York Knicks were able to draft Patrick Ewing, a dominant big man. The Warriors settled for Chris Mullin, who had a very good career with them but was nowhere near the dominating player Ewing was.
The Warriors history would probably be much brighter if they’d been able to draft Ewing. As it is, they’ve been searching unsuccessfully for that dominant big man ever since – hello there, Joe Barry Carroll! – and they won’t get him drafting 11th this year.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The lottery isn’t fair but it’s essential to the reputation of the NBA. Before it was put in, there were serious allegations that bad teams were tanking in the last part of the season to have a higher drafting position. As I remember, Houston papers were even printing standings upside down to show draft position for the home town team.
Basketball is in much more danger of that kind of scandal than other sports because it is frightfully easy to fix a game. We’ve all seen star players have off nights shooting. The extreme for me was seeing Larry Bird go 0-for-10 in a game against the Warriors, one of them a wide open 10-footer. I’m quite certain Bird wasn’t trying to throw that game, but if a great player can have that kind of night, how can you tell when lesser players are deliberately missing shots?
Even now, the worst teams have the best shot at drafting high because they have the most chances in the lottery. This year, the teams with the five worst records all had picks in the top seven; Cleveland also had the top pick after a trade with the No. 8 Clippers. Even so, there’s no guarantee in the lottery. The NBA had no choice but to do this.
THE SWINGIN’ A’S: For one rainy night, the A’s anemic offense exploded for 15 hits and 14 runs on Tuesday night. I doubt that it means they’ll suddenly become a dominant offensive team but they do have a stronger lineup than they’ve shown before that breakout.
Hideki Matsui did not share in the fun, and he remains a big question mark. He’s had his moments but not nearly enough of them. Lately, he’s been sitting against lefthanded pitchers. The Giants will only start one lefthander, Jonathan Sanchez, in the Bay Bridge Series at AT&T Park this weekend, so Matsui may play two games in the outfield.
Matsui certainly isn’t the hitter who earned the “Godzilla” label, but I’m not quite ready to shovel dirt on him. I think the A’s should wait until the All-Star break to assess him. If he isn’t hitting any better than he is right now, they should release him and spread the DH role among their extra players, mostly outfielders.
BRIAN’S CURSE: Last year, the most productive Giants seemed to be the lowest-paid ones:Andres Torres, Aubrey Huff, Juan Uribe, Pat Burrell.. Meanwhile, the highest-paid Giants, Barry Zito, Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria, were anchors, though Renteria somewhat redeemed himself in the postseason.
This year, Zito helped the Giants by going on the disabled list. He was replaced by Ryan Vogelsong, who has been another bargain basement find. Rowand played well for a time when Torres was injured but lately he’s been, well, Aaron Rowand again. Giants general manager gave Huff a big raise in the postseason, and now Huff has fallen off. Could Huff be the next victim of the Sabean Curse?
Meanwhile, Sabean didn’t move quickly on Uribe, who left in a huff for the Dodgers. Panicked, Sabean signed Miguel Tejada for $6.5 million. Tejada’s had an occasional burst when he looked like his young self – a three-hit game last week, a great play in yesterday’s game, when he grabbed a ball off Jonathan Sanchez’s glove bare-handed and threw the runner out – but mostly, he’s been a disappointment, slow in the field and a .200 hitter.
When Pablo Sandoval was injured, manager Bruce Bochy moved Tejada to third and put Mike Fontenot at shortstop. That was the surest sign that the Giants believe Tejada is through. If you look up “utility infielder” in the dictionary, Fontenot’s picture will be there.
Tejada is a bigger problem than Huff. Brandon Belt is crushing Triple-A pitching at Fresno and there’s no question he’s the Giants first baseman of the future. That future may be sooner than anticipated if Huff doesn’t come around soon. Bochy showed last year when he benched Rowand and put Torres in center that he’s going to play his best players, not his richest ones. He got no argument from Sabean. So, if Huff isn’t doing the job, he may become a part-time player, with Belt full-time at first.
But it’s not so easy to solve the shortstop problem, and that’s critical for a team so dependent on its pitching. The Giants have players who can fake it at shortstop – Tejada, Fontenot, Mark De Rosa – but they do not have a legitimate major league shortstop on their roster.
They also have a real age/injury problem in the infield. Freddy Sanchez, who has played only 111 major league games in each of the last two years, is injured again. De Rosa can’t stay healthy. Tejada is healthy but he’s not playing well, in the field or at bat.
Hurry back, Pablo Sandoval!
BUSTER POSEY: The question of whether Posey should continue at catcher or be shifted to first base was brought up again in a Chronicle column on Sunday.
There’s no question that Posey’s career will be shortened if he catches 140-150 games a year. Minnesota’s Joe Mauer is the latest example of a great athlete suffering from physical problems because of the demands of the position.
But there’s also no question that Posey is far more valuable to the Giants as a catcher because he’s an offensive force – hitting cleanup most games now – at a position where defense is foremost.
A quarter of a century ago, Bill James wrote about the great advantage a team gained by having a good offensive player (who was also good defensively) at a position where defense was paramount.
As I remember, he used first base and shortstop as the opposite poles of his argument. A first baseman who hit 35 homers a year was about average for his position; a shortstop who hit that many would be a tremendous boost, as Ernie Banks was for the Cubs for many years. Conversely, Ozzie Smith hit as high as .250 only once in his first five years and, though he became a better hitter, his lifetime average was only .262. But would you ever bench Ozzie because he wasn’t hitting enough? No manager was that stupid.
Catcher is that kind of position. If you have a catcher who is good defensively, you’ll put up with a low batting average. The eighth position in a National League batting order is often occupied by either the catcher or the shortstop.
But if you have a good defensive catcher who is also a good hitter, you’re way ahead of the game. That’s why Mauer was so valuable to the Twins – and why he got a much bigger contract than if he’d been a first baseman.
Posey hasn’t played enough to show that he’s in Mauer’s class but he’s certainly shown that he will be a superb catcher who will hit well above the average for the position. At first, he’d be an average hitter.
So, it may shorten Posey’s career, but it will be much better for the Giants if he stays at catcher. And, I suspect, Posey will make more money in a shorter career as a catcher than he would as a first baseman. Maybe he’s figured that out, too.
HOW LONG IS TOO LONG? In the span of less than three weeks, two very talented pitchers were left in a bit too long and their teams lost because of that.
Monday night in Denver, Bochy left Tim Lincecum in for one pitch too many, and Carlos Gonzalez hit a three-run homer as the Rockies beat the Giants.
I was at the earlier game, when A’s starter Brett Anderson allowed seven runs before he was taken out.
The cases have significant differences, though. I find it easier to understand Bochy’s hesitation in taking Lincecum out because, in his short career, Lincecum has had some significant accomplishments, including two Cy Young awards. Pitchers as good as that often find a way to get out of trouble, even when they don’t have their best stuff or control.
Anderson is a very talented pitcher and I believe he will have a great career, but he’s only 23 and in his third season. He doesn’t have Lincecum’s resume. He said after the game that he had the worst stuff he’d had since high school and didn’t have much command, either. I’m sure he communicated that when he was on the bench when the A’s were at bat. Yet, Bob Geren made no move until Anderson had given up seven runs. Incredible, unless Geren was asleep on the bench. Always a possibility.
TENNIS, ANYONE? I don’t know how many of you are tennis fans and, truth to tell, I no longer follow the sport closely, either. But there was a time I did, and a new book, “High Strung,” by Stephen Tignor, has been a fascinating read for me.
The book centers on the rivalry between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe but it is much more than that, using the rise of professionalism in tennis as an example of the change in society.
In the ‘70s and early ‘80s, my whole family was involved in the tennis world. My wife and I were playing regularly – Nancy was much better – and Scott was taking lessons. We went to Wimbledon in 1978 and I wrote a couple of columns on it for The Sporting News. It was the only time I ever wrote on a vacation but this was a family event. The only times we’ve ever gone to sports events on vacation has been when the whole family wanted to, the French Open in 1990 and horse racing in Paris and Chantilly in 1982 being the other ones. At Wimbledon in 1978, I didn’t even have a media credential but got tickets from Jerry Diamond, who headed up the Women’s Tennis Association at the time.
I’ve often gone against the grain with my writing, so you probably won’t be surprised by the fact that I loved McEnroe and was happy to see the pros battling the tennis establishment, especially at Winbledom.
We really enjoyed the first week of Wimbledon when we walked around the courts and watched everything up close. It was much more like an American sports event, with people talking during the match – so much so that, in one match, a player whose name I’ve forgotten, went into the corner to hit a shot and, after he did, yelled at the crowd, “Shut up!”
I didn’t enjoy sitting at Centre Court, where we watching a Chris Evert-Martina Navratilova final, nearly as much. It was like sitting at a church service. I was afraid to sneeze.
And, I gave away my tickets to the men’s final the next day to a friend.
This book fully explains that change in tennis and society. Even the Wimbledon establishment was dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century. But Wimbledon and tennis are the better for it.
HARMON KILLEBREW: I never knew Killibrew, never even talked to him, but I always admired the way he conducted business, never complaining, just doing his job. I wish other players could be like him, though I never expect that. Killebrew maintained his grace in the way he accepted cancer, first trying to battle it, then accepting the inevitable. He was a great player and a great individual.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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