Michael Crabtree, Brian Sabean, Toby Gerhart, Jahvid Best, Jacquizz Rodgers
What was the catalyst for his signing? Just reading the tea leaves Ė the principals in the negotiations arenít talking Ė Iím betting thereís something behind the 49ersí charge that the New York Jets tampered in this case, talking to Crabtree and/or his agent about the possibility of drafting him next year. That will probably cost the Jets a first-round pick next year if the NFL finds that to be true.
The Jets would be a good fit for Crabtree, with a young quarterback, Mark Sanchez, who will get even better. But if he had to go back in the draft next year, his future was uncertain. On one hand, without a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, it will be an uncapped year, meaning the richest clubs could pay anything they want to a rookie. On the other hand, teams might have decided that Crabtree was just too much trouble. He might even have fallen into the second round next year.
Settling now was the second-best thing he could have done. The best would have been to sign promptly. The 49ers made him a fair offer for a 10th round pick. He felt he should have gone higher and I agree; he is certainly better than Darrius (Oops!) Heyward-Bey, who was drafted by the Raiders at No. 7 and has caught two passes in four games, while dropping at least twice as many. But Crabtree is not the first player to be drafted lower than expected. He got bad advice from his family Ė Iím sure he didnít get it from Eugene Parker, whoís a reputable agent Ė and itís set him back almost a year because he foolishly listened to it.
ANYBODY WHO thought Brian Sabean has learned from his mistakes had to be dismayed by his defense of the Edgar Renteria contract, two years for $18.5 million, after Renteriaís dismal season in 2009.
Sabean said the Giants alternative was to go with Emmanuel Burriss at shortstop and said nobody would have been satisfied with that. But Sabean didnít discuss what he should have done: Sign free agent second baseman Orlando Hudson and then play Burriss at shortstop. I donít think Burriss will ever be a strong major league hitter but he is much superior to Renteria defensively and, frankly, is close to his equal as a hitter at this point.
Hudson signed instead with the Dodgers for $3 million with a signing bonus of $380,000. Because Hudson had some injury issues, the Dodgers wrote an incentive-laden contract. Hudson reached all of the incentives (based on playing time), so the total contract was worth about $5 million.
Some Dodger fans complained about that contract, but Hudson played 149 games, hit .283 with a .357 OBP, nine homers and 62 RBIs. Renteriaís figures were 124 games, .250 average, .307 OBP, five homers, 49 RBIs. The Dodgers got much more bang for their bucks.
I didnít see Hudson on a regular basis but I didnít see any reports criticizing his fielding. I did see Renteria and was appalled by his loss of range. I wasnít alone. Every time I talked to writers or broadcasters who saw him on a regular basis, they mentioned the same problem. He has a strong resume but heís just a shadow of what he was.
And the Giants are still on the hook for another year!
Because the Giants still didnít have a major league second baseman, Sabean traded Tim Alderson, who had been rated as the Giants No. 2 pitching prospect, for Freddy Sanchez, who had a bad knee when he was traded, injured his shoulder later and had to go on the DL and finally had knee surgery which ended his season.
Sabean has to re-sign Sanchez because otherwise, he traded Alderson for what seemed like about 15 minutes of Sanchez, but his options are not good. If he picks up the club option in Sanchezís contract, the Giants will have to pay him $8.3 million next year. Sanchez isnít worth that, but Sabean has a history of paying good players superstar salaries; the Giants still are stuck with three years on the five years for $60 million Aaron Rowand contract. Whatís most likely is that Sanchez will work out a multi-year contract with Sanchez which pays more than heís worth and then watch him spend a good part of the time on the DL. Heís already shown himself to be injury-prone and heís playing a position where heíll get hit often as the middle man on double plays.
The next question for Sabean is Juan Uribe, who was a bargain because he signed a minor league contract and had a career year, hitting about 30 points higher than his major league average. He is also a positive in the clubhouse.
Uribe should certainly be signed to a new, higher contract, but Iíd be wary of basing it on his 2009 statistics which I believe are probably a result of Uribeís changing leagues and facing pitchers who were unfamiliar with him. The Randy Winn situation is relevant here. Winn was traded to the Giants in midseason, 2005, after playing in the American League. In just 58 games, he hit 14 homers against a new set of pitchers. He had never hit more than that in a full season before (and he wouldnít with the Giants, either) but Sabean gave him a contract based on those numbers, which made him untradeable.
But, thatís Sabeanís way. He gave Edgardo Alfonzo a four-year contract when nobody else was willing to commit for more than two years Ė and at roughly twice what anybody else was offering. Ray Durham, who should have stayed in the American League as a DH, got two (!) contracts from Sabean to prove he couldnít play second base. Dave Roberts, who was really never more than a part-time player, got a lucrative contract, for which the Giants were still paying this season.
Thatís one reason Iíve always been skeptical when Sabeanís apologists in the media claim then managing general partner Peter Magowan forced the Barry Zito contract on Sabean.
The other reason is that I had several one-on-ones with Magowan when things were going well in the 1997-2004 period, which others didnít, and he continually praised Sabean without ever suggesting he was responsible for any of the good moves. In fact, the reason Magowan pushed Dusty Baker out was because he thought Sabean deserved more credit.
And, of course, Magowan was long gone when Renteria got his contract. Thatís Sabeanís pattern. He just canít help himself.
BAD NEWS BEARS: Last Saturday reminded me why I enjoy college football, especially games played at Berkeley. I walked around the campus before the game, enjoying the mix of older alums like me and students 50 or more years younger. I spent time at a tailgate organized by a classmate, Don Kosovac, and then enjoyed the Cal and USC bands playing in the stadium.
And then, the game started. Oh, well. On the media/handicapped bus going back to the Underhill garage, a rider said, ďThat was the worst game Iíve seen in many a day.Ē Lu Lilly, former womenís athletic director at Cal, reminded him that it wasnít as bad as the week before, against Oregon.
Watching Cal football for 53 years has given me a fatalistic attitude, and Iím not alone. The Wall Street Journal even did an article on Calís woeful football history, pointed out to me by classmate Roger Samuelson. I guess that, with the economy going so well, the WSJ was desperate for a different story idea.
Itís clear that I vastly overrated the potential of this team. I chalked up the Oregon loss to the players looking past to the USC game, but they were clearly overmatched against the Trojans, who controlled the line of scrimmage both ways. USC had its usual early season stumble against Washington, but the Trojans are rolling again. Iíd be very surprised if they lose another game this season.
Now, the Bears have a week to regroup before they play UCLA. They obviously have some physical issues to resolve. The passing game needs to be much better, in all phases. Itís easy to blame the quarterback, but Kevin Riley was running for his life against USC and his receivers couldnít get open very often. No quarterback looks good in those circumstances. On the other side of the ball, the pass defense has been very spotty.
It will be a challenge for Cal coach Jeff Tedford to keep the Bears positive about the rest of the season. Heís said that he learned his lesson from the 2007 collapse, when he concentrated on the Xís and Oís and ignored the playersí emotional turmoil. Heís talking to players all the time now, both individually and as a team.
My revised view of the conference looks like this: USC and Oregon are at the top, the Washington schools are again at the bottom, with Washington State the reverse image of USC. The other schools are in the middle and Cal has as much chance to finish third as any.
In that context, it will be interesting to see how Stanford does against Oregon State in Corvallis on Saturday. That is another tough place for a visitor, though not as hostile an environment as Autzen Stadium in Eugene. If the Cardinal wins that game, that will be a huge boost for the program. If Stanford loses, it will put them back in the pack because its 3-0 league record so far has been fashioned against the Washington schools and UCLA, with two of those games at home.
BACKS IN SPOTLIGHT: The talk was about running backs at Stanfordís media luncheon yesterday.
Coach Jim Harbaugh is pushing his heavy duty back Toby Gerhart for the Heisman Trophy, citing his value to the team. Though Stanford has a redshirt freshman quarterback, Andrew Luck, who looks as if heíll be the latest in a long line of great quarterbacks at Stanford, and what has been an impressive defense, it is Gerhart who has been the main ingredient in the teamís success.
Asked whether the team had to do well for Gerhart to have a chance at the Heisman, Harbaugh at first ignored the question because it answered itself. When the question was repeated, he said, ďThatís usually the way it works.Ē
Realistically, Gerhart has no chance. Though the trophy has a running back figure on it, the award usually goes to a quarterback. A running back has to be an elictrifying athlete playing on a great team; think of Reggie Bush with USC. Gerhart is not that type of runner and Stanford is not that type of team.
There will be an electrifying runner on the field in Saturdayís game, but it will be Oregon Stateís Jacquizz Rodgers, Asked how he compares to Calís Jahvid Best, Harbaugh said, ďHeís a couple of inches shorter, which sometimes helps him. He gets behind a big lineman and itís hard to find him, especially for linebackers trying to look into the backfield. Otherwise, he has the same qualities as Best, a fast, elusive, very dangerous runner.Ē
Harbaugh said the Stanford defense relies on discipline, with linemen responsible for defending gaps, but Rodgers can disrupt that scheme because he can shoot between gaps so quickly.
TEAM OF THE DECADES: A reader, Phil Lichtenstein, sent me an e-mail on Sept. 29 pointing out that, going back to the 1980 season, the Raiders had 230 wins and 230 losses, a true Commitment to Mediocrity. Since then, theyíve added another loss, a dispiriting one in Houston last Sunday, to slip below .500 for that period. Since their return to Oakland, of course, theyíve been much worse, 93-135 overall, and an NFL record six straight seasons with double digit losses. This year, theyíre 1-3 after the easiest part of their schedule and heading into the toughest four games, so they could easily be 1-7 when they reach their bye week.
So, the question is: Which will come first, the arrest of Tom Cable by the Napa police or his firing by Al Davis? Doesnít matter to the Raiders either way because Davis will continue to coach the team, no matter who has the nominal title. But it would be great theatre if Cable were arrested at a Raiders home game. Then, the Raiders could claim it was all part of an NFL conspiracy.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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