Montana, Bonds, Cal Football . . and More
by Glenn Dickey
May 17, 2006

WISH LIST: That the 49ers would persuade Joe Montana to work with Alex Smith in their June mini-camp.

Who could be better to teach the mechanics to Smith? Practically the first thing Charlie Weis did when he was hired to coach Notre Dame last year was to get Montana to work with Brady Quinn during spring drills. Not coincidentally, Quinn had a great year.

Mike Nolan has been so determined to forge his own legacy that he hasnít talked to Bill Walsh and, to the best of my knowledge, hasnít recruited Montana to help Smith. But it wouldnít be a sign of weakness to use such great resources.

BARRY BONDS has often been accused of being a bad teammate, but after he was hit by a pitch last night, he helped his team by telling Giants starter Jamie Wright to ignore that and concentrate on his pitching.

What goes on with Houston managers? When Bonds was shooting for the home run record in 2001, Larry Dierker ordered him walked intentionally in lopsided games. Last night, Phil Garner obviously ordered his pitcher, Russ Springer, to throw at Bonds. Springerís first pitch went behind Bonds, another pitch hit the knob of his bat and his 3-1 pitch hit Bonds in the shoulder. Garner and Springer should both be fined big time.

Meanwhile, Giants manager Felipe Alou made a very good observation about Bonds, that he needs to concentrate on being a good hitter, not on hitting home runs. Bonds seemed to get back to that last night with two singles and a drive that nearly left the park. Heíll get 714 and 715 if he concentrates on making contact. His chances will improve this weekend in the inter-league series against the Aís at the Coliseum, because heíll be able to DH and not have to embarrass himself in the field.

WHAT IF. . . the Aís played Adam Melhuse more? Manager Ken Macha likes the way Jason Kendall handles the young pitchers, but Kendall has not come close to hitting as he did with the Pirates. Melhuse has improved defensively, and heís an excellent hitter, which he showed as he played regularly this last week, first as a catcher during Kendallís four-game suspension and last night as the designated hitter, when he hit a grandslam homer.

GOLDEN OLDIES Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are prospering this year, but Randy Johnson is struggling with the Yankees. He has a 5.13 ERA and, perhaps most telling, has struck out only 36 hitters in 52 2/3 innings.

Sounds like a candidate for the Giants rotation next year.

QUESTIONS IíM frequently asked:

--Why isnít Ken Stabler in the NFL Hall of Fame? I donít vote for this one (I do for baseball) but Iíve talked to voters who say that Stablerís relatively short time as a topflight quarterback hurts him. The same might be said for Jim Plunkett, who took the Raiders to two Super Bowl wins but lost many potentially productive seasons early in his career because of injuries he suffered playing behind a terrible offensive line with the Patriots.

--Why isnít Sacramento considered as a possible site for the Aís? Because of the relative lack of population around the city. Right now, the Aís draw primarily from the East Bay but also from the valley area, Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto. If they moved to Sacramento, theyíd lose most of the East Bay audience. Not a good tradeoff, which is why the Aís have never considered Sacramento anything more than a very good triple-A city. If they did make that move, the Giants would pay for the moving vans, because theyíd get the entire Bay Area back.

MONEYBALL: Iím losing the battle for a clear definition of this term because itís too easy for lazy sportswriters to use it as a catch-all phrase for the general approach of Aís general manager Billy Beane. In fact, the term applies specifically to Beaneís approach of trying to get the most value for money spent. It has nothing to do with his offensive approach of getting hitters who work the count and show good plate discipline.

BUILDING AN AUDIENCE: Some Sharks fans among my readers think their team would be more popular if it got more attention from Bay Area newspapers, but in fact, newspaper coverage has very little to do with a sportís popularity.

I got my first lesson in that more than 25 years ago. Dick Berg, then general manager of the San Jose Earthquakes, told me he had mapped out a campaign one year to get a story on the Earthquakes on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News sports section every day of the season. He succeeded, but when he compared opinion polls on the popularity of the Earthquakes, there had been virtually no change since polls were taken before the season started.

The reason is obvious: Newspaper readers simply ignore stories theyíre not interested in, and Mercury readers were mostly not interested in the ĎQuakes.

Television is different because viewers arenít so discriminating, so TV is an excellent way to show your product to people who are not familiar with it. But neither soccer nor hockey televise well, so they havenít been able to expand their audience in this area.

PRICE OF FAME: The Cal athletic administration is understandably ecstatic that the Bears will be playing in three Saturday night games on ABC-TV this fall, but the scheduling will wreak havoc with dinner plans for Cal supporters. I long for the days when local college games, both Cal and Stanford, all started at 12:30, but the Pac-10 sold out for TV dollars long ago.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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