Carlos Beltran, Orlando Cabrera, Freddy Sanchez, Barry Zito, Zach Miller, Carlos Rogers
GIANTS MOVES: When the Giants traded for Freddy Sanchez in 2009, I had two concerns: 1) They were giving up their No. 2 pitching prospect, Tim Alderson, when their rotation had only an inconsistent Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito behind them; and 2) Freddy Sanchez was damaged goods, already injury prone and with a future that certainly included more injuries.
The first concern was misplaced. Alderson has done nothing and appears to have no real future.
But my second concern was well-founded. Sanchez played only 25 games that first season before being shut down. He played 111 last year and just 60 this year before being put on the DL and now facing another surgery. He’s a very good player when he’s healthy, but 196 games in just under 2 ½ seasons?
To make it worse, Giants GM Brian Sabean extended his contract earlier this season. I was on Comcast’s “Chronicle Live” show the day that happened and, as we were discussing the show’s topics off camera, we all expressed amazement at the move. There wouldn’t have been a bidding war for Sanchez after the season, and there was always the possibility he’d be entering the offseason on the DL. Well, guess what?
I have to say, though, that I’ve been impressed with Sabean’s moves just before the trading deadline this year. I wrote on the Beltran trade last Thursday in the Examiner. That was an extra column because the sports editor wanted me to write on it. For those of you who haven’t read it – or want to see other back columns – click on the link at the bottom of my Home Page on GlennDickey.com, which will take you to sports. Then, click on “News” at the top of the page, scroll all the way down to the bottom and you’ll see my icon under “Featured Writers.” Click on that and you’ll see a list of my most recent columns.
Since then, Sabean has also traded for Orlando Cabrera, which gives the Giants a solid veteran in the middle and allows them to send Brandon Crawford down to work on his hitting. Crawford’s defense had been outstanding for the most part but, with the catchers and pitcher, that gave the Giants three nearly automatic outs at the bottom of the lineup. Cabrera’s hitting has fallen off but he’s still much better than Crawford and should raise his average the rest of the season. He still has great range in the field.
There is a question whether these moves will be enough. I wrote an Examiner column about the tough schedule that is facing the Giants now and a reader chided me for my “dire” predictions. Apparently, they weren’t dire enough. As I write this on Wednesday morning, the Giants have lost five straight and fallen into a tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have made significant improvements themselves, as Sabean feared they would.
Nonetheless, both Cabrera and Beltran are solid additions. Cabrera is also a great guy in the clubhouse, helping young players and just being a good teammate. Though he played only half a season for the A’s, he still has admirers among those who were with the club then.
Sabean believes in a harmonious clubhouse. I don’t believe it’s vital because I’ve seen some combustible clubhouses – the 1972-74 A’s, the 1987 and ’89 Giants – for teams that won. But the Giants have great clubhouse ambience now, and that certainly doesn’t hurt. Cabrera will fit right in.
Cabrera also makes it possible for the Giants to use Miguel Tejada as a backup at third and second, or even release him when he comes off the DL. Tejada has had an outstanding career and I love his fiery attitude, but he can’t play shortstop any more and he’s only sporadically successful as a hitter. He should retire after this season, if not before.
Tejada really has been injured, so his presence on the DL is legitimate. Mark De Rosa can’t stay healthy and should join Tejada in retirement. I think the Giants have been playing games with Pat Burrell, whose presence on the DL almost certainly has been due to the crowded Giants outfield more than any actual injury. The Giants may keep him on the DL until the rosters expand in September, though that would mean they can’t use him in the postseason, if they’re in it.
They may do the same with Zito because they aren’t going to have him on the postseason roster, anyway. They should cut him, as I proposed yesterday in my Examiner column yesterday and quit giving him a chance to screw up the team.
And I can’t wait to see what Bruce Jenkins writes about him now. He ripped Zito in spring training, then apologized profusely after Zito had a couple of good outings. What now, Bruce – a column saying you were right the first time?
CAL FOOTBALL: At a media event in San Francisco, Jeff Tedford was asked the biggest change he’s seen in his 10 years at Cal. His answer surprised me:
“Social media,” he said. “When I first came here, there was almost nobody blogging. Now, it seems that everybody is. I don’t do the Facebook or Twitter thing much, basically just when I’m trying to communicate with recruits.”
And, of course, everybody expresses opinions in e-mails. “I’m not hearing so much now,” he said, “but I sure heard a lot during last season.” Not surprising, since last season was the only sub .500 season for Tedford at Cal. The Bears had been to a bowl every year but Tedford’s first, when Cal was on NCAA probation. Otherwise, the Bears would have been bowl-eligible that year, too.
Tedford is the only Cal coach in modern times to have eight straight winning seasons. Andy Smith had eight in a much earlier time when the competition wasn’t very tough. Pappy Waldorf had a great start, with six straight winning seasons and three Rose Bowl appearances, but he never again had a winning season. By the time I arrived at Cal, in the fall of 1956, the program had fallen apart and an effigy of Pappy was hung at Sather Gate.
Despite – or maybe because of – Tedford’s success, he had been subjected to great criticism from Cal alums in recent years. Their expectations had been raised and when Cal’s record didn’t merit a major bowl (though 2004 would have, except for the disgraceful politicking and poll-voting of Texas coach Mack Brown) Tedford got a staggering amount of critical e-mails. That bothered him at first but he’s learned to take a more philosophical view since. “It shows that there’s tremendous interest in the program,” he said. True. I’m sure Tom Holmoe didn’t get many e-mails because few people cared about the Bears during his disastrous coaching regime.
Last season was, obviously, a huge disappointment. “It really sank in after the Washington game, when we realized that we weren’t bowl-eligible,” Tedford said. “I don’t dwell on that now because I don’t want it to be in the players’ minds all the time, but there’s no question that provides motivation for them, as well as me.”
He’s optimistic about this season, not just for the offense with which he spends so much time but the defense. “We had a good defense last year but I think we’ll be much better this year. Clancy (Pendergast) learned a lot last year as a defensive coordinator coming from the pros. In the NFL, you pretty much see the same thing every game, but in college ball, you might see the spread one week, the Pistol the next. There’s just so much diversity in the college game and it takes time to get used to it.”
There will be on wild card for the defense, too: Keenan Allen will play some at defensive back. “We didn’t want to do that last year because he had enough to learn with the offense,” Tedford said, “but he can definitely play on both sides of the ball.”
(I’ll probably write more on Cal football for my Friday Examiner column.)
RENEWAL TIME: I will be writing this column for another year. Those of you who get it online can re-subscribe when your time runs out. If you get a message saying your password doesn’t work, that’s when you have to resubscribe.
SOME THINGS never change: Throughout my career, I’ve heard from readers who assume I write the headlines over my column. Nope, that’s somebody else’s job, but I heard again this week from Examiner readers who agreed with my column on Zito but thought the headlines on the front page and sports page were too harsh. I didn’t, because it’s the job of a headline writer to call attention to the story or column.
READERS PERCEPTIONS: Sports fans often react less to what they’re actually seeing than their past experiences.
I’ve had two examples of that recently. The first was an e-mail from an A’s fan who said Bob Melvin would keep his job as A’s manager because he wouldn’t cross Billy Beane on his offensive philosophy of ignoring the stolen base and playing for the three-run homer. Well, that is indeed Beane’s philosophy, and it’s a winning one, butt that’s not the way the A’s are playing now. Under Bob Geren and Melvin both they’ve been stealing bases – Coco Crisp has 32 and three of them came Sunday in a game I saw – and Beane hasn’t said a word to either manager. It would be far better if the A’s hit more home runs but that’s not the kind of team they have.
The one time Beane really interfered with his manager was with his first one, Art Howe, who had been an outfielder for the Houston Astros earlier. Howe wanted to play the kind of game the Astros had played during his career, with a lot of bunting, hit-and-run, etc. But, he had a bunch of slow-footed sluggers. They couldn’t bunt much but they could hit the ball out of the park.
I saw this kind of backward thinking when I started my Chronicle career and a lot of old-timers criticized the Giants for not bunting more – though they had sluggers like Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Jim Ray Hart, among others. Bunting often was not a viable option.
The other interesting e-mail I got was from a reader who grew up in the Bay Area and is now living in Oregon. After I wrote about watching Tim Lincecum lose a 1-0 game to Clayton Kershaw, my reader said he much preferred pitching duels over the 15-10 games in the American League. This same reader constantly complains that the only games he can get on TV are those of the Seattle Mariners. Well, if you like pitching duels, you should love the Mariners. What he really means is that he grew up a Giants fan and, by extension, a National League fan and he hasn’t changed. Nothing wrong with that; it’s a natural progression. But see it for what it is.
NFL MOVES: The 49ers finally made a significant move in free agency, hopefully diminishing the anguish of fans who have wondered why they weren’t more active, as they picked up corner back Carlos Rogers, who should be a big improvement on Nate Clements, who made an occasional great play but often got beat because of his tendency to gamble.
The 49ers have also lost starters Aubrayo Franklin, Takeo Spikes and Manny Lawson from last year. Franklin is a very good player but he was unhappy; the Niners had already moved Isaac Sopoaga into his spot. Sopoaga has played there before. Spikes is really the only surprise loss.
General manager Trent Baalke and new head coach Jim Harbaugh talked frequently during the lockout. I wasn’t privy to what they discussed but it’s not difficult to know. I’m sure they looked at the results from last year and the makeup of the team and realized it made no sense to go after one or two really expensive free agents. There are too many holes on this team. They have to build slowly and wisely, even if it means taking some lumps in the upcoming season. The good news is that both men know what they’re doing. They’ll get the job done, but it won’t all happen in one season.
Meanwhile, the Raiders lost a vital piece, tight end Zach Miller, because they weren’t paying attention to business. Owner Al Davis had hoped the new Collective Bargaining Agreement would contain a clause that allowed teams to have the right to match offers and keep up to three free agents. The CBA does not have that provision, which is probably why the Raiders abstained for “philosophical differences.”
They still could have kept Miller but they never made an offer to him. The Seattle Seahawks stepped in and signed him. Now, the Raiders are stuck because they have nobody on the roster to replace their most reliable receiver, who was also an excellent run blocker.
I don’t envy Hue Jackson, in his first year as head coach. He’ll now have one hand tied behind his back, but if the Raiders fall back, as they probably will, Davis won’t blame himself.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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