Of Bonds, Zito and Al Davis
Bondsí knee is not going to hold up for anything like a full season. Even 120 games is a reach, with 110 games a more reasonable goal. If he plays too much early, he wonít be there in September. Of course, the Giants may not be there, either.
THE NEW NO. 1: Albert Pujols has succeeded Bonds as the No. 1 offensive threat in baseball, and opposing pitchers and managers are realizing that. Pujols isnít being walked as much as Bonds has been, but he has 31 walks in the first 34 games for the Cardinals, which would have been a near-record pace in the pre-Bonds era. Heís hit 17 home runs in 112 at-bats, one for just over 6 Ĺ at-bats. What do you want to bet his walk ratio will pick up?
WHOíS TO BLAME? In sorting out the blame for the Giants poor minor league system, readers often ask if itís bad scouting, poor coaching in the minors or poor coaching on the major league level. Itís probably a combination of the three, but I think the biggest problem is probably the coaching in the minor leagues. When prospects come up, theyíre not ready. Thatís why I thought Matt Cain should have been brought up in midseason last year. He wasn't going to learn much more in Fresno. He could have gone through his early struggles at the major league level, and it was obvious by then that the Giants were going nowhere.
ZITO TRADE? I fully expect trade rumors to swirl around Barry Zito all season, but I also expect Zito to remain with the Aís.
Fans and media alike often forget that there has to be a reason for a trade on both sides. Sometimes it can be to improve both teams, sometimes to get rid of problems, as with the Angels sending Steve Finley to the Giants for Edgardo Alfonzo.
Who could the Aís get who would be more important to them than Zito? General manager Billy Beane thinks he has his strongest every day lineup in several years, and Zito is an important part of the starting rotation. Itís better that he stay.
KENDALL SUSPENSION: Iím not shedding any tears over the Jason Kendall suspension, though he blames what Angelsí pitcher John Lackey said to him before he charged the mound. This business of hitters charging the mound has gotten out of control. When I first started covering major league baseball in the Ď60s, brush back and knock down pitches were part of the game. Now, hitters lean out over the plate and, if the pitcher throws inside, charge the mound. Ridiculous.
SHARKS: Several Sharks fans have e-mailed me, wondering when Iím going to write about their team. The answer is never. I donít have the knowledge to write about hockey and I donít have the incentive to learn because the audience is too small. Hockey is a tremendously exciting sport in person but that excitement does not extend to television coverage, so in an area like this, with no hockey tradition, the sportís fan base hasnít expanded. There are enough passionate fans to sell out Sharks games, but there isnít a big enough audience for reading purposes. In this area, hockey is a cult, not a sport.
ADELMAN FIRING: You can add Joe and Gavin Maloof to the list of owners who donít get it Ė John York still tops that list Ė after Rick Adelmanís contract was not renewed, though he had coached the Sacramento Kings to eight straight playoffs, which is eight more playoff appearances than the Warriors in that period. General manager Geoff Petrie announced the decision, but those who have been close to the Kings are certain the decision was the Maloofs. Apparently, theyíre unhappy because their trophy case doesnít include any championship trophies. Poor babies.
Adelman will never be classified with Red Auerbach and Phil Jackson in NBA history, but heís a solid coach and one who showed his flexibility this last season. The Kings have been known for their offense in recent seasons, but with the midseason arrival of Ron Artest, Adelman stressed a defensive approach. He also was able to deal with the temperamental Artest, who had worn out his welcome with the Indiana Pacers.
Before a coach is fired, an owner or general manager should be sure he can find a better one. The Warriors Chris Mullin thought he had that man when he fired Eric Musselman and brought in Mike Montgomery. Mullin was wrong.
STEVE HOWE: The death of the talented but troubled Steve Howe was a reminder that professional sports have faced more serious problems than the overblown steroid issue of today.
Howe was one of the many athletes who ruined their careers with the use of ďrecreational drugsĒ like cocaine. Some, like John Lucas and Delvin Williams, were able to stop their addiction and have productive lives, though no longer as athletes. Others, like Howe, could not stop their self-destructive behavior.
This is not the only example of addictive behavior in sports. For decades, many star baseball players drank themselves into early graves.
Yet, there was never the media-inspired uproar over either alcohol or cocaine abuse that there is now about steroids. That doesnít computer for me.
FALLING OUT: Iím often asked the cause of my problems with Al Davis, or vice versa. The answer is simple: One column.
When I covered the Raiders, 1967-71, I greatly admired Davis because I learned so much from him. By the time Wayne Valley sued Davis for control of the Raiders, I was a columnist, and I criticized Davis because Valley had given Davis his opportunity to coach and then had brought him back after Davis's short stint as AFL commissioner and allowed him to buy 10 per cent of the Raiders for $18,500; the book value of the club was $185,000.
After that column, despite all the complimentary articles I had written earlier, Davis cut me off. But that wasnít the most extreme example of Davisís all-or-nothing approach.
George Ross was the Oakland Tribune sports editor at the time and a relentless promoter of the Raiders. The Tribune was virtually a house organ for the team, with several articles every day, all of them complimentary. Ross and Davis were very close, going out to dinner on the road, and Davis told Ross many things off-the-record.
Ross was the only journalist Davis spoke to when news of the Valley suit broke. He obviously thought that would be off-the-record, too, but Ross printed his candid comments. That was it. Davis cut off Ross completely.
You donít get any mulligans with Al Davis.
LETTERS: I updated this section late yesterday.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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