Alex Smith, Woody, TO and the A's BART Connection
by Glenn Dickey
Aug 16, 2005

ALEX SMITH’S ears should be burning. It seems everybody has an opinion on his present and future. On my way up and back from Raider camp yesterday, I heard a range of opinions on KNBR sports talk shows, both from hosts and listeners. It’s even driven the Larry Krueger/Felipe Alou controversy off the air.

There are two points I’d like to make:

1). Nobody could have realistically expected that Smith would be a smash hit in his first game as a pro; Aaron Rodgers had a similarly bumpy road in his first game for Green Bay. When players step up a level, from high school to college, from college to pro, their first comment always is how much faster the game is. That’s accentuated for quarterbacks, who have so much more to learn.

Forty-Niners coach Mike Nolan was smart to give Smith a taste of that right away, so he could start the learning process early. Even if the 49ers had lost the game, it wouldn’t have mattered; these games don’t count in the standings.

The next time should be easier for Smith. He's not the type to hang his head after a bad experience, so there's no reason to think he'll get discouraged. His progress won't come in a steady line - no rookie's ever does - but his future is bright.

2) For those who got excited because Tim Rattay threw a couple of touchdown passes – chill. Rattay was throwing against a Raiders defense which had several reserves, and any veteran NFL quarterback should look good in that situation.

We’ve seen enough of Rattay to know that he’s basically Steve DeBerg, a talented passer with a lamentable tendency to throw costly interceptions late in the game. Or, as Bill Walsh used to say about DeBerg, he’ll play just good enough to get beat.

DeBerg lasted a long time in the NFL because he was always a good backup, a quarterback who could keep his team in the game if the starter went down. Rattay is the same kind of quarterback. He’s valuable as a backup, but it’s a sign of weakness if he starts.

That doesn’t mean Rattay will not be the starter when the season starts. Nolan will go with the quarterback he thinks gives him the best chance of winning, and that could be Rattay at that point. It’s all conjecture now. My guess is that Rattay will be the starter when the season begins but Smith will play in specific situations later and be starting by midseason. Nolan understands very well that his future, and the 49ers', is tied to Smith.

THE ONLY surprise when the Giants designated Kirk Rueter for assignments is that it took so long.

The Giants have always overvalued Rueter because everybody liked him. In truth, he was always a six-inning pitcher (sometimes less) which put a burden on the bullpen, and a pitcher who depended on strong run support and a defense which could bail him out of trouble with double plays.

He also relied on umpires to call strikes on pitches just off the corner – a practice which ended when baseball went to an electronic system to monitor umpires’ calls. When Rueter had to throw over the plate with his mediocre stuff the last two years, he got hammered.

His reputation also took a hammering as he complained about not pitching and called for the Giants to trade him. In truth, they’ve been trying for some time, but there isn’t a lot of demand for a starter who wins just two games with an ERA that is almost six runs a game in a half season, especially since Rueter was coming off a 9-12, 4.73 ERA year in 2004.

Rueter had done nothing to deserve to stay in the Giants rotation. He had the worst ERA of any of the Giants starters. His insistence that he should start made it obvious that he was more concerned about himself than the team.

The Giants have also released Marquis Grissom, but I doubt they’ll make any more startling moves – unless they can get the Mets to take Edgardo Alfonso off their hands. General manager Brian Sabean said on the air Sunday that he didn’t think it would be fair to the fans if the Giants started unloading veteran players. I think it’s unfair to hang on to those who aren’t helping much now and are standing in the way of young players with an upside.

It isn’t just age; Omar Vizquel and Moises Alou are both 38, but they’ve had outstanding years, though Alou is in his second stint on the DL.But by next season, I’d like to see Alfonzo, J. T. Snow, Michael Tucker and Brett Tomko gone. I know rebuilding is a nasty word to the Giants, but this season should be an eye-opener for them.

THE REASON A’s owner Lew Wolff is adamant about building a new park on a BART line: Approximately 22 per cent of those coming to A’s games come on BART. That translates to about 450,000 when the A’s draw two million.

The percentage is likely to go up in the near future, as traffic just gets worse and worse. The latest proposal called for a “retail village” around the new park, and BART would be important for that, too.

The BART connection is what tips the scale for me in comparing the two sites that have been discussed recently, this site, across 66th Street from the Coliseum, and the one proposed by Ignacio De La Fuente, President of the Oakland City Council, near the Oakland Estuary.

Both sites have their problems, but it would be relatively easy to put another BART station near Wolff’s preferred site because the line goes right by there. The nearest BART station to the Estuary site is the Lake Merritt station. It would be prohibitively expensive to put in a new line to that area, so shuttle buses would have to be run from the BART station. I think that puts in an extra degree of difficulty in attracting fans.

MEMO TO Terrell Owens: Just shut up.

Owens is a very talented receiver, but he has an uncommon ability to foul his own nest. He did it with the 49ers, insulting his coaches and quarterback Jeff Garcia, and he’s doing it with the Eagles, insulting quarterback Donovan McNabb and sulking because the Eagles won't re-negotiate the contract he signed just last year.

The Eagles are a no-nonsense organization, including coach Andy Reid, who sent TO home last week. Owens is likely to be suspended and/or traded, if the Eagles can find another team foolish enough to take him on. His on-field performances aren’t worth the headaches he causes.

A GOLF tournament to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Oakland will be held Monday, Oct. 10, at the Claremont Country Club. For ticket information call Karin Seid (510) 444-8211 or e-mail her at kseid@bgoakland.org.


TOMORROW: Randy Moss and the Raiders

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