49ers Re-make, Giants Pitching and More
by Glenn Dickey
Jun 22, 2005

MIKE NOLAN has the authority to re-make the 49ers, and he has a clear idea of what he wants to do.

The signing of free agent wide receiver Johnnie Morton is part of that. Nolan had wisely resisted the pressure to sign 49ers legend Jerry Rice, and he also decided not to sign David Boston, an even wiser decision. Boston not only had character problems but he doesn’t seem to have much left physically, either. That would have been as disastrous a signing as the Lawrence Phillips move in 1999.

Morton is another matter. He adds a veteran presence to a very young wide receivers group, and he’s willing to act as a “coach on the field” with the young players. Because he can still play at a high level, the receivers will listen to him.

GIANTS PITCHING: Remember how this was supposed to be the year Brett Tomko realized his potential? So far, Tomko is 5-9 with a 4.78 ERA, and he had another typical outing against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday, yielding three first inning runs and then giving up a two-run homer in the sixth when he was supposed to be pitching around Chad Tracy.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Tomko is 32, and if a pitcher hasn’t developed consistency by that age, the odds are high that he never will. Nonetheless, the Giants thought they could find the answer to the Tomko puzzle.

Unfortunately, they aren’t that patient with young pitchers. On the same day that Tomko fell apart once again, Jerome Williams allowed three hits and two runs in seven innings for the Chicago Cubs to beat the Milwaukee Brewers. Too bad Williams wasn’t good enough to crack that great Giants rotation before he was traded with David Aardsma on May 28 for La Troy Hawkins. Now, Hawkins is on the disabled list, which is the good news because he can’t blow any games for the Giants.

WORDS I’D LIKE TO HAVE BACK: Earlier, I wrote that the NL West was improved over last season, but reality is settling in. The division-leading Padres are the only team in the division over .500, and the Padres have the worst record of any division leader in either league. Overall, the division is a staggering 31 games under .500, the worst mark for any division.

A’S DEFENSE: It’s no surprise that the A’s defense picked up as the pitching did. It’s obvious that a good defense helps the pitching, but it’s equally true that good pitching helps the defense.

The worst thing for a defense is to play behind a pitcher who works slowly and throws a lot of pitches. Defenders have problems staying alert and they make more errors, which is exactly what was happening to the A’s in early season.

Conversely, when a pitcher works quickly and throws fewer pitches, the defenders are on their toes. Manager Ken Macha and pitching coach Curt Young have worked with the A’s pitchers to pick up the pace, with Joe Blanton a special project, and the pitch counts are staying low.

Meanwhile, the defense has also picked it up. In the win over the Phillies last Saturday, centerfielder Mark Kotsay made two outstanding catches and throws, the first nailing a runner at home plate and the other doubling up a runner at first, and third baseman Eric Chavez made a leaping grab of a first inning liner that was scorched down the left field line.

Pitching and defense were the keys when the A’s made the postseason in four straight seasons, 2000-2003, and they’re putting together the same kind of team now.

ALL-STARS? Kotsay and Chavez are both possibilities for the American League All-Star roster, when managers make their selections. Kotsay would be an obvious choice, off his play last year and so far this season. Chavez has never been an All-Star because his first half numbers are always down, as they are again this year. But he’s won four Gold Gloves, he’s hit between 26 and 34 homers a season for the last five seasons and has had 100-plus RBIs in three of those seasons. Isn’t it about time his career performances are acknowledged?

PET PEEVES: Announcers who say that a player had a “good at-bat” when he fouls off a half-dozen pitches before making an out. A good at-bat is when the hitter reaches base. . . Announcers who don’t give the game score frequently. The beauty of baseball is that a listener can tune in and out of the broadcasts. It would be nice to know what the score is while you’re listening. . . Announcers who talk of “a productive out” when a hitter grounds out and a runner advances. That’s better than striking out, but giving up an out usually takes away a shot at a big inning, and it’s the big innings that win games. . . Announcers who have to put in the sport in talking about a game. This is especially annoying on the NFL telecasts when announcers always say “football game.” We know what sport we’re watching, guys.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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