Raiders

Pre-Flight Baseball Musings

Pre-Flight Baseball Musings

March 26, 2010

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While waiting out the inevitable flight delay -- it's one of my curses, along with always being next in line behind the person at the grocery store who creates some sort of extraordinary delay -- on my way home from Arizona, a few quick thoughts about recent doings in the desert at Giants and A's camps ...

-- We all like to think good things happen to good people, and it actually happened Friday in the form of the Giants sending Kevin Frandsen to the Red Sox.

Frandsen is good people, and a good player, too.

Things obviously didn't work out with the Giants, for a variety of reasons, but he's only 27 and has a lot of baseball ahead of him. There's no guarantee he'll make the Red Sox roster for Opening Day -- Mike Lowell got hurt Friday, helping Frandsen's chances of landing a utility role -- but regardless, this was absolutely a case of a player needing the proverbial change of scenery.

A San Jose native, Frandsen will be missed by the fans who always pulled for the local boy to make good, but he's going to get a real shot in Boston, and his blue-collar style of play will play beautifully among the hardcores at Fenway Park.

-- If the reports are accurate, contract extensions for Brian Wilson and Jeremy Affeldt are tremendous news for Giants fans.

Both would have been arbitration-eligible again after the season, and locking them up now avoids the potential for something messy going down. Lesson learned, courtesy Mr. Lincecum.

The extensions also keep intact, for at least the present and near future, one of the best setup-closer combos in the game. Not many teams have the type of reliability Affeldt and Wilson represent, providing a huge sense of security when a late lead needs tending.

And, hey, is there a more entertainingfunnyridiculous pair of late relievers in the game? Not bloody likely. These guys are nuts. There's value in that, too.

--And finally, what to make of Ben Sheets? The man on whom the A's took a 10 million gamble got hit HARD by a collection of Giants farmhands Thursday, the latest in a spring-long series of beatdowns.

True, Sheets has never lit up the Cactus League during his star-crossed career. True, he appears healthy after missing all of last season, and given that he's always been dominant when healthy (during the regular season), that's certainly encouraging.

But no matter how much a player or manager or executive says March numbers don't really matter, Sheets' numbers are too ugly to dismiss as totally meaningless.

Time is running out down in the desert, and Sheets is being counted on to take the ball on Opening Day and lead Oakland's return to respectability. He needs to have a decent outing before the bell officially rings, if only to calm the nerves of a loyal fan base growing increasingly impatient while waiting for a team about which it can once again be excited and proud.

... That's all for now. Flight's about to take off, and they just made an announcement: "Price check on organic bean sprouts, please."

-- Mychael Urban

What's on your mind? Email Mychael and let him know. He may use it in his weekly Mailbag.

How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

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USATSI

How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

ALAMEDA – John Pagano can’t implement his scheme in a week. He can’t import his plays and preferences cultivated during five seasons as Chargers defensive coordinator. Full offseason programs and training camps are required for that.

Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was fired on Tuesday. Pagano will call his first Raiders game five days later against Denver at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders’ assistant head coach – defense believes he can impact how the Silver and Black does business.

“There’s always room for change and there’s always room for doing things better,” Pagano said Thursday. “Without telling you our game plan, it’s about how we go out and execute the call, bottom line.”

Head coach Jack Del Rio said the Raiders weren’t playing fast enough. They weren’t creating enough turnovers, weren’t doing well enough on third down and weren’t regularly affecting the quarterback due to a lack of both rush and coverage.

That’s why Norton had to go.

Pagano’s first objective, which must get accomplished in a few days, is getting the Raiders to play with confidence. Then he can add some design wrinkles with some of his personality.

“You have to have that ability of going out there, knowing your assignment and playing faster,” Pagano said. “It’s not to say that there have been times where we’ve simplified things, but taking the thinking out of the game and making them react is, I think, most important. Going out there and playing fast and that’s doing the little extra things, the attention to details of studying and getting those things processed. See ball, go get ball.”

That last sentence sums up how Pagano wants his guys to play. He’s a quality play caller and creative blitzer with a knack making simple plays look complex. He can find and exploit opposing weak links. His defenses have always been good creating pressure and turnovers alike. The Raiders need more of both.

To do that Pagano wants to relieve a player’s mental burden and keep them focused on using talent well.

“The one thing I’ve always stressed and always been about is technique, fundamentals and unbelievable effort,” Pagano said. “I think those three things can get you home.”

The Raiders haven’t been home much as a defense. They’re tied for last with 14 sacks. They’re dead last with six turnovers. They’ve gone 10 games without an interception, the longest single-season drought in NFL history.

A lack of big defensive plays has killed the Raiders this season. It obviously increases points allowed. Good field position has been hard to come by. The offense has to earn everything the hard way. That’s a recipe for losing football, a maddening turn after the Raiders finished second with 30 takeaways last year.

Pagano has a chart listing “MOPs,” short for missed opportunities. There have been many, especially in a secondary he oversaw before this week.

“I talked to these guys this week about we need to do simple better,” Pagano said. “What is simple? It’s fundamentals of covering. It’s tackling. It’s communicating. It’s catching the ball when it comes. We’ve had opportunities. It’s not like we’re out there struggling and straining to dive and layout for the thing. It’s hit us in the hands where we’ve had many, many opportunities.”

Missed opportunities have also plagued a pass rush featuring reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack. Pagano brought up a moment early in Sunday’s lost to New England, when Treyvon Hester forced a fumble near three teammates that the Patriots somehow recovered.

Pagano’s goal is to improve performance. Players must buy in to do that. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin headline a large group close to Norton, one with enough pride and professionalism to get behind a new playcaller in Pagano, who could be here long term.

“There is a human element to this,” Pagano said. “We are family. It’s sad any time a member of your family gets dismissed or something. At the end of the day, we have the Broncos coming in here on Sunday and we have to get our minds right to go play this game. That’s something that they’ve done a great job with this week, truly focusing in on what we need to do.”

Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'

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AP

Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'

Warriors rookie Jordan Bell made an instant impact for the team this season. But as of late, his playing time has dwindled. In four of the Warriors' last five games, Bell has been inactive. 

“It's just the life of a rookie,” Bell said to The Athletic. “That's what Steve Kerr always tells me. It's not because I'm playing bad. Just gotta be professional about it and stay ready. It's like being a freshman all over again.”

While Bell wants to be on the court with his teammates, what he appreciates most from Steve Kerr is his communication. Kerr is always honest about when he won't play Bell and he keeps the former Oregon Duck encouraged. 

“He talks to me about it every time he sees me,” Bell said. “Lets me know I'm not going to be active. Keep doing what you're doing, you're doing good. But it still f------ sucks. You're playing well and it doesn't mean anything because you're younger. It sucks, but you got to be professional about it.”

Bell has played in 12 of the Warriors' 18 games this season. The 22-year-old is averaging 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game over 8.3 minutes per game. 

The Warriors bought the 38th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft from the Chicago Bulls and selected Bell. On Friday night, the Warriors, and perhaps Bell, play the Bulls for the first time this season.