Marco Scutaro/Matt Cain/Brandon Belt; Josh Reddick; Mark Davis/Roger Goodell; Serena Williams/Chris Evert/Martina Navratilova; Donald Sterling; Sandy Barbour
IT SEEMS only yesterday that I was talking of the possibility of a Bay Bridge World Series. The A’s may still make it but right now, it seems it will be a struggle for the Giants to even make the postseason.
Once again, the Giants put their faith on very fragile players. Did anyone seriously think they were going to get anything much out of Marco Scutaro, 38 with a bad back? Have the Giants forgotten Freddy Sanchez that quickly? Scutaro has long been a favorite of mine, and I still don’t understand why the A’s let him go, but back trouble only gets worse as you get older, and virtually everything Scutaro does on the playing field, from fielding grounders to swinging a bat, aggravates it. His career is virtually over.
And, of course, the Giants have nobody in the farm system to replace him. After a productive period, with Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval the best examples, the Giants once again seem to be all but ignoring their farm system.
They do have one alternative for their second base problem: Trade for Chase Utley. He comes with a very high salary but the Giants can afford it. He’s also near the end of his career – 36 in December – but the Giants would be well served if he gave them a year and a half of good play.
Angel Pagan is another key veteran recovering from, yes, a back injury. Pagan is 33, so he should have some years ahead of him, but this is the second serious back injury he’s had in two years. Hello! He’s vital to the Giants’ offense but if he can’t stay healthy….
And, of course, Matt Cain is sidelined with bone chips in his elbow, which has probably been a problem all season. He’s scheduled to visit Dr. James Andrews, a specialist in this area, and there’s a possibility he could have surgery which would sideline him for the rest of this season and possibly, even the 2015 season.
I’ve had questions from readers about Brian Sabean’s job security after the latest setbacks but I’m sure, based on the many off-the-record conversations I had with Larry Baer when I was writing my Chronicle column, that Sabean has no worries about that. I would put him in the middle of the pack as a GM. He was great when he started, with the trade that brought in Jeff Kent, which earned him the sobriquet of “village idiot” from Bruce Jenkins.
He made other good moves in that period but then seemed to lose his edge as the Giants declined. His worst move, of course, was the ridiculous Barry Zito contract. I’ve been amused by writers who blamed that on Peter Magowan. These writers, of course, never talked to Magowan. I did, and Magowan always praised Sabean while making the point that he never got involved in player moves. Since Magowan has never been reluctant to take credit when he did something, I believed him.
Writers also criticized Dusty Baker for sticking with older players but, of course, that’s what he had with the Giants. Sabean is much more comfortable bringing in older players than bringing up a young player from the minors.
There is another element to the Giants’ fall: Stupidity. I’m referring to the concussion suffered by Brandon Belt, when he was hit by a thrown ball while taking another throw.
The Giants have not told us the whole story on that, probably because somebody was really stupid. There should have been only one ball in play. I don’t blame the infielder who threw the second ball because he probably didn’t realize there was another ball out there. Most likely, it was a coach who was hitting grounders – and manager Bruce Bochy doesn’t want to call him out.
I feel sorry for Belt because it seemed this was going to be a breakout year for him. Then, he’s sidelined when a pitch hits his hand and, when he’s just starting to get his rhythm back, he’s the victim of this.
At any rate, for all the Giants, it’s beginning to seem like this might be a “wait until next year” campaign. Even the feel-good stories are beginning to pale. Tim Lincecum’s turnaround appears to be more the result of facing the Padres. Of course, that’s the one hopeful sign for the whole team: that they’re playing in the weakest division in baseball.
The A’s, meanwhile, keep winning, even though they’ve had their share of injuries, too. Josh Reddick, who was a big key to their success last year, has hardly played. He’s back now and contributing but the A’s didn’t miss a beat when he was out. Coco Crisp has been troubled with a neck problem all season, but Craig Gentry filled in nicely. Now, Gentry has a broken hand so the A’s had to reach into their minor league system to get a replacement. Two starters had to undergo Tommy John surgery. No matter. Others stepped up, and general manager Billy Beane traded for two more starters. Tommy Milone, who had been pitching very well, is at Sacramento. He’d probably be No. 3 in the rotation if he were with the Giants.
The A’s are in a tight battle with the Anaheim Angels for the lead in the AL West, so there’s no guarantee that they’ll be champions. But there’s little doubt that they’ll be in the playoffs, and they have the confidence to get to the World Series.
SPEAKING OF the World Series, there’s more and more talk about eliminating that plan to give the team which wins the All-Star game home field advantage in the Series, hosting the first two and last two games, if they’re necessary.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig pushed through that plan to make it seem that both sides were really trying to win the game, but it’s hard to take that seriously when managers take out the starters before the fifth inning. That makes it as meaningful as a spring training game.
It would make much more sense to go back to the old plan of alternating leagues with the home field advantage. But Selig has always preferred a phony premise to reality. Owners love him because he’s
found so many new money streams for them, but overall, he’s been a negative for the sport.
AS ONE who has spent his career in journalism, it pains me to see that the old pattern of actually checking facts before writing has largely disappeared. Now, there are speculators, not writers.
The latest example is the fictional report that the Raiders might be moving to San Antonio, based solely on the fact that Mark Davis was meeting with San Antonio politicians. There were no comments from Davis in writers’ stories, just more speculation. The only actual comment from Davis came on his Twitter account when he said he was there for a ceremony honoring former Raider Cliff Branch and that former mayor Henry Cisneros was a friend and had suggested he talk with city officials while he was there.”
The Raiders are not moving to San Antonio. There are cities which can support NBA franchises – Sacramento and Portland are two others – but which do not have the media or population to support NFL or major league baseball teams. None of those cities have NFL or MLB teams.
San Antonio has a football stadium which is used for a holiday bowl game but not one which could be the long-term home for an NFL team. So, the city would have to raise the $1.2 billion necessary for a new stadium. Good luck with that.
Meanwhile, the group wanting a new stadium for the Raiders in Oakland is talking about a retractable roof on it. I think supervisor Nate Miley was right when he said they must be on crack. That’s really not going to happen.
What should happen – as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said again last week – is for the Raiders to move to Santa Clara and join the 49ers stadium, which was built with the idea of joint occupancy. Of course, they’d have to leave behind that ridiculous shrine to Crazy Al in their current stadium. I still think that will happen when Al’s widow dies because it’s the only sensible idea in this whole ridiculous scenario.
IT WAS such a relief to hear that Serena Williams has recovered from her mysterious problems at Wimbledon so she can play well in the Bank of the West tournament at Stanford.
In case you can’t tell, I’m being facetious. Martina Navratilova called out Serena on her “illness” at Wimbledon, basically calling her a liar. She simply didn’t play very well.
But, that’s Serena. She’s an excellent player, one of the best ever – it’s difficult to rank women players because the new equipment brings much more power to the game, completely changing the dynamic – but it’s always all about Serena. One time, when she was the only star in the field at the Bank of the West tournament, she pulled out with a flimsy excuse, which caused ticket sales to drop precipitously. There are other stars in the field this time, so Serena will no doubt be able to play, but if she loses, she’ll have an excuse. Bet on it.
In the days when I was often writing about tennis, I found the women stars, Martina and Chris Evert, very cooperative, much better than the men. Most of the women players today are in that mold, including Venus Williams. But Serena is a “star.” Spare me.
THERE IS some good news out there: A Superior Court judge in Los Angeles ruled that Shelly Sterling has the right to sell the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, so we may finally get rid of the odious Donald.
There are any number of owners who are obnoxious because the only requirement usually is that they have enough money to buy the team. But, Sterling went beyond that with his comments about blacks, caught in a recording by his girlfriend.
There were some who thought that shouldn’t be used against Sterling because he didn’t know he was being recorded, but we’re living in an age when we’re surrounded by the social media, Facebook, Twitter, etc. There’s hardly a private life for anybody who’s a public figure now.
And then, Sterling compounded the damage by accusing Magic Johnson of having contracted AIDs with his homosexual life style. Johnson did have AIDs but Johnson was never gay and publicly and successfully fought his illness, becoming more popular than ever. I remember vividly hearing about his illness just before we taped an episode of “Good Sports.” We were all devastated by the news.
In his first major decision as NBA commissioner, Adam Silver acted decisively in suspending Sterling, paving the way for the sale of the team. That’s how a commissioner should act.
MORE GOOD NEWS: Sandy Barbour has taken a job as Penn State athletic director, all the way on the other side of the continent.
Barbour is far from the worst AD in Cal history. There were a couple of lulus in the ‘90s: Bob Bockrath, who was the ideal No. 2 guy but nobody who should ever have been trusted with the main job, and John Kasser. I originally thought Kasser was a good choice but soon realized he only sounded good. There was never any follow through. He promoted Tom Holmoe, a great guy but a terrible head coach, and ignored the fact that two wide receivers were getting credit for a class they weren’t attending. That got Cal put on probation for a year.
Barbour had no feeling for Cal tradition and when she wanted to put this year’s Big Game at the new 49ers stadium, that pretty much convinced important alumni that she should go.
CHANGE OF PLANS: Sorry if I confused you with last week’s note that I’d be filing this column on Tuesday. I decided not to go to that meeting of Bay Area football coaches at the 49ers’ stadium when I realized I wouldn’t see anything of the stadium beyond a meeting room.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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