Giants' moves all about context

Giants' moves all about context

Jan. 11, 2010


Aubrey Huff, who will become a Giant if he passes his physical Tuesday -- isn't going to make anybody hyperventilate. Neither is Mark DeRosa. And while the return of Juan Uribe was welcome, it wasn't exactly a call-your-mother moment.Three moves, none of them particularly exciting. There might be another move or two in the making, be it the addition of a right-handed early setup man, a fifth starter or a glorified backup catcher to keep Buster Posey's seat warm, but that's your offseason in a nutshell, Giants fans.Is it bumming you out? Given that the two true additions -- DeRosa and Huff -- are the kinds of players we've seen in these parts before, that's certainly understandable. At first whiff, Huff smells a little like Ryan Garko or Shea Hillenbrand or Todd Benzinger, or any of the other 48 underachieving first baseman the Giants have had over the years. He's 33 years old and coming off a dramatic drop-off of a season statistically, and history provides plenty of evidence that some players, when they start to lose it, lose it in a hurry. Might Huff be one of them? The Giants are paying 3 million to find out. It's a relatively small price to pay to see if Huff might have another 2008 -- .30432 HRs108 RBIs.360 OBP -- in him, but if what's discovered is that 2009 -- .2411585.310 -- was the far more accurate predictor, those of us who wonder if a GarkoTravis Ishikawa platoon would have been so bad will be wondering it aloud.And DeRosa, well, he's going to be 35 by Opening Day; he's being paid more by the Giants per year than he's ever made in his career; he's not what anyone would call a true difference-maker; and, um, HE'S GOING TO BE 35 ON OPENING DAY!We've seen this movie before, right? Like, yesterday? Wasn't it called "Being Dave Roberts"? "The World According to Randy Winn"?What we have here is a test -- of patience, faith, and of the kind of optimism that many baseball fans find difficult to muster, particularly when they've been conditioned to disappointment.The optimist, though, looks at what the Giants have done this winter in context with the team's pitching. They had very good pitching in 2009, and they would have made the playoffs were it not for a lineup that did little more than set the bar of offensive ineptitude so low that Jimmy Raye didn't come off as a complete failure.All of that pitching, save Home Run Howry and Brad Penny (whose two-month resurrection with the Giants could very well be proven fool's gold by May), is coming back. And a solid case can be made for most of the pitchers coming back better than ever. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo and Jonathan Sanchez aren't yet 28, which is when a great many pitchers start finding their groove. Jeremy Affeldt is 30. Merkin Valdez just turned 28 in November. Barry Zito improved enough last year to suggest that he's not as cooked as we thought.
And give me Madison Bumgarner, the likely No. 5 starter this year at age 20, every day of the week ahead of a bloated contract for Penny that rewards two months of good and ignores the previous year-plus of bad.That's a playoff-worthy staff, and with that staff, the Giants went into the offseason knowing that they didn't absolutely have to have a huge name that would have commanded a huge contract. Jason Bay and Matt Holliday? Not for those prices, thanks. No, what the Giants absolutely have to have in support of their stellar staff is a lineup that's at least marginally better in 2010 than it was in 2009. The moves they've made this winter have clearly been made with that -- not call-your-mother moments -- in mind.--Mychael Urban

Cowboys expose 49ers' biggest weakness in bashing: Talent


Cowboys expose 49ers' biggest weakness in bashing: Talent

If there is such a thing as being “due” in sports (and there actually isn’t, so you can probably stop reading now), the San Francisco 49ers had Sunday coming to them.
After all, the anomaly of being the “best winless team in football” based on margin of defeat lasts only so long until the “winless” part trumps the “best” part, because even the Los Angeles Chargers – the previous “best bad team in football” – aren’t the Chargers all the time.
So it was that the Dallas Cowboys exposed every weakness the 49ers have with the simplest thing there is.
The Cowboys did everything they wanted, but only whenever they wanted it, in a 40-10 dope-slapping that could actually have been worse than it was. The 49er offense was properly stymied (again), gaining only 290 yards (4.5 yards per play) and the defense was thoroughly Elliotted (as in Ezekiel-ed, who averaged 8.1 yards in his 27 touches). San Francisco’s warts were rubbed until they glowed, and if not for the fact that head coach Kyle Shanahan already knew where they were, he’d have been shocked to see how visible they were.
And therein lies the takeaway from another day at Not-So-Great-America. It turns out that the 49ers weren’t very good at much of anything before Sunday except just how far away they are from what Shanahan and general manager John Lynch believe is their destiny. C.J.  Beathard remained the rookie quarterback he is, and Carlos Hyde's hard-won 68 rushing yards led to no scores. Indeed, San Francisco's only touchdown came on a four-yard improv sprint from Beathard, who is by no means a running quarterback except in abject flight.

Next week in Philadelphia figures to be no less grisly, if you’re waiting for that magic moment when “0” becomes “1.” That is, of course, unless Washington exposes the Eagles as less than what they seem, which is very often the case in the new parity-gripped NFL.

But there are subsequent get-well games at home against Arizona and then at New York against the Giants the week after, so whatever dreams you might have about them running the table backwards and getting the first overall pick in the draft are still light years from realization.
This is, however, another healthy reminder that the job to be done is at least two more years in the undoing before the doing can actually begin. Not that the players or coaches needed another lesson, mind you – they know.
But maybe you needed it, just to keep your delusions in check. Maybe the people who were “due” were all of you.
But that’s unfair, too. You didn’t undo this franchise. All you did was believe, and there’s nothing wrong with that – as long you know there will be more days like this before your team starts handing out the 40-10’s.
In the meantime, there is beer.

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 40-10 loss vs Cowboys


Three things you need to know from 49ers' 40-10 loss vs Cowboys

SANTA CLARA -- Three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 40-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7 on Sunday:

1. A major step backward
So much for the 49ers’ somewhat-impressive streak of close losses.

There was nothing encouraging about what transpired in the 49ers' worst loss at Levi’s Stadium. It was also the franchise's worst home loss since Mike Singletary's team absorbed a 45-10 thumping against the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 11, 2009.

Was there anything positive to take from this game?

“No, not right now,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It was disappointing. I think all three phases, players and coaches, we’ve got to play better than that, a lot better to give ourselves a chance to win.”

The competitive nature of the 49ers’ past five games was one thing. But with a big home loss on such an emotional day, it is fair to say that the honeymoon is over for Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. The 49ers looked like a team devoid of any leadership, and brings more scrutiny onto the organization’s decision last week to release linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

Now, the 49ers face a crossroads. With another cross-country trip ahead, the 49ers have to regroup in a hurry in order to avoid another embarrassing blowout against the Philadelphia Eagles.

2. Beathard’s first start
Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard certainly was not the reason the 49ers got blown out. In his first NFL start, he showed a lot of toughness, which was to be expected. He was sacked five times. But most of those sacks could have been avoided. He has to get rid of the ball quicker, especially on three-step drops.

Beathard also showed some promise, too. He let the ball fly deep for Marquise Goodwin, who caught four passes for 80 yards. Beathard completed 22 of 38 passes for 235 yards.

Beathard accounted for the 49ers’ only touchdown with a 4-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. There seems to be little doubt it was in the best interest of the organization to begin evaluating what it has for the future with the permanent switch from Brian Hoyer to Beathard.

3. Dwight Clark’s Day
The 49ers, of course, did nothing to evoke any memories of the great teams on which Dwight Clark played. Well, they did look a lot like Clark’s first team with the 49ers.

The 49ers of 1979 lost their first seven games of the season. This year’s team matched that start for the worst beginning to a season in franchise history.

More than 35 of Clark’s teammates off the 1981 Super Bowl team were in attendance to honor a pay tribute to Clark, who is battling ALS. Now in a wheelchair and considerably lighter, Clark delivered some poignant remarks at halftime.

Clark, 60, told his old teammate, Keena Turner, who works as vice president of football affairs, that all he wanted was to see some of his old teammates.

“And the 49ers heard that and flew all these players in, so I could see them one more time,” Clark said.