Urban: Bay Ball, Hot Stove edition (Dec. 1)


Urban: Bay Ball, Hot Stove edition (Dec. 1)

Dec. 1, 2010

With baseball's annual Winter Meetings set to jump off in full force Monday in Florida, it's exactly the right time to hop into that dusty old dinghy and head out into the restless bay before the next storm hits. The A's are in the lead spot today, so let's start at Jack London Square and head toward McCovey Cove to start what figures to be a fairly bumpy ride The Giants have dominated the Bay Area's Hot Stove doings for the past week or two, but the A's jumped back into the spotlight late Monday when got confirmation that GM Billy Beane was set to meet with free agent Lance Berkman on Tuesday.
RELATED: A's to meet with Berkman
The spotlight got brighter still early Wednesday, when it was reported elsewhere -- by a veteran, conscientious, well-respected local scribe -- that the A's also met Tuesday in Houston with free agent Adam Dunn. Serious candidates for Dunn's services, the A's were said to be, and that got Oakland fans all atwitter (pun intended). Let's face it: Dunn is a heck of a lot more exciting as a potential addition to that power-deficient lineup. Berkman? Not the needle-mover A's fans want to see, and it doesn't help that he's gone public with his disdain for being a DH -- that's kind of where you'd fit best in Oakland, buddy and his preference for playing in the National League.Alll indications are that Beane's meeting with Berkman went well, but Berkman isn't good enough to prompt any sort of move regarding Daric Barton, who is nine years younger (25 vs. 34) and a far a far superior defensive player. Yeah, Berkman hit 45 homers in 2006, but that was while playing in the thimble that is the Astros park, and he had plenty of lineup protection at the time. His power production had dipped every year since, though, and he'd be virtually naked in Oakland's lineup. There's no room for him in the A's outfield, either, so he's a DH at best -- and not the most attractive or healthy option at that. Hideki Matsui would be a far better fit.Dunn, however, would definitely prompt a move to make room at first base. He's a legit slugger, still in his prime, and four years at, say, 60 million total would be a worthy investment despite his defensive shortcomings. He's the epitome of the power bat Oakland needs.Alas, bad things happen to good people, and the report of the BeaneDunn meeting was withdrawn later in the day. Even the very best reporters in the business get burned by bad information from time to ts interest in free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre thus far unrequited, its Berkman or bust. And those two words are a little too close for comfort right now. Brandon Belt, the Giants top prospect, isn't exactly basking in the glow of his stellar 2010 season, which included a star turn as a member of the Arizona Fall League champion Scottsdale Scorpions.I spoke to Belt on the phone Wednesday to set up an interview Friday, but he said, "That's not a great day for me."To clarify: It's not a great day for an interview. It's sure to be a great day in general, though, Belt, back home in West Texas now, is getting married Friday.So we're going to talk again Thursday or early next week. The honeymoon is going to have to wait; his bride-to-be is still in college. The interview, though, will be right here on before you know it. Stay tuned. What of Beltre? I hear he's got an eye on the Angels, who are going to spend whatever it takes this offseason to get back into the contender mix in the AL West next season. Carl Crawford is likely to land there, too, and Crawford and Beltre would turn things around in Anaheim in a hurry.That makes adding a Matsui type -- Berkman at the very least, because Jack Cust is all but gone -- all the more urgent for the A's, whose pitching is great but not so great that it can carry a team that scores less than Les Nessman of WKRP in Cincinnati. The Giants' signing of Miguel Tejada should serve as another kick in the butt for Pablo Sandoval, who appears to be penciled in as the starting third baseman in 2011. But that pencil has a big, fat eraser on it, and with Mark DeRosa said to be headed for 100 percent readiness come spring, Sandoval better be digging him some lettuce sandwiches for the holidays.DeRosa is being paid starter's money, too, and if he's healthy and Sandoval comes to camp still looking like the Michelin Man, DeRosa will happily claim the hot corner. Food for thought for the Panda; just don't smother it with cheese and sour cream, big boy.Smart move by the Giants, by the way, to basically tell their dough boy that he's on his own this winter. No more "Camp Panda" or hand-holding. It's time to find out, once and for all, exactly what makes the guy tick, and leaving him to his own devices -- and vices -- this time around should provide the all-important answer come February. That's it for now, folks. I'm leaving for the Winter Meetings on Sunday, so if you have a coverage idea, drop me a line at Until then, peace, Taco Bell's chicken flatbread sandwiches, and Love Gun by Kiss to all.
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Raiders DC Paul Guenther talks Khalil Mack, Gareon Conley and more


Raiders DC Paul Guenther talks Khalil Mack, Gareon Conley and more

Paul Guenther hasn’t been Raiders defensive coordinator long. He has been in Alameda about a week now, interviewing potential position coaches and pouring over last year’s game tape.

He has some initial impressions on the group that struggled at the start and improved throughout the year. Generally speaking, however, Guenther sees talent on the roster.

“I believe there’s a lot of good players here, a lot of good, young players,” Guenther said Wednesday in a conference call. “You’ve got to get them out and develop them and get them to understand your system. But I think there are a lot of good pieces here for a foundation, for sure.”

Guenther’s system, where it came from and why he brought it to Oakland is a story for another day. Thursday morning, to be precise, so stay tuned for that.

Guenther’s early evaluation of key Raiders, however, supports his statement about a strong foundation. He is most excited, as you’d expect, about working with edge rusher Khalil Mack and several others in silver and black.

Here’s what Guenther said about…

-- DE KHALIL MACK: “Having a talent like that and ability of a guy like that, certainly you want to make it the centerpiece of the defense. We have to continue to develop our younger players to bring those guys up to speed and add people as we go through the draft and free agency. He’s a guy that you can really build a foundation through and around. He’s an exciting guy to be able to coach for sure.”

-- CB GAREON CONLEY: “He was my favorite corner coming out. His ability, he’s smooth in the pedal, he’s a good press corner, which we love to have. I’m excited to work with him.”

-- S OBI MELIFONWU: “Obi is a big guy that when you turn on the tape, you’re like, ‘Man, who is this son of a gun?’ He’s playing half the field, he’s down in the box playing the run.”

-- LB NAVORRO BOWMAN: (an impending free agent): “NaVorro is a prototype middle linebacker, really. The thing that impressed me most with NaVorro is that they got him here midseason and by the end of the year, it appeared to me that he was kind of the leader of the unit, making a lot of calls. You can see that on tape. It looks like he is a smart guy that understands the game. I love smart guys that love playing football. Hopefully we can get him back in the fold and keep him a Raider.”

Raiders OC believes Raiders will 'grow as Derek Carr grows'


Raiders OC believes Raiders will 'grow as Derek Carr grows'

Quarterback Derek Carr’s stage is set for a giant step forward.

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson thinks it happened the moment Jon Gruden became Raiders head coach, though not solely due to the mentor and his proven offensive system. It’s also the 10-year contract formally bringing him back. There’s no telling whether Gruden mans his post a full decade, but an extended stretch is guaranteed.

That in itself, Olson, says, is invaluable to a passer entering his fifth season with a fourth head coach and third offensive scheme.

“Probably more so than anything,” Olson said, “this guy has to get some continuity.”

Gruden will provide that, with Olson a link to Carr’s past. Olson was Raiders offensive coordinator from 2013-14, and guided Carr’s rookie campaign. Quarterback and coordinator worked well together a 3-13 season where the Fresno State alum started every game.

They’ll reunite under Gruden and stick together this time. Olson, after all, signed a four-year deal that’s double the industry standard.

“Derek is going to be in a system now,” Olson said Wednesday in a conference call with local media. “He’s going to be coached by a head coach that’s going to be the play caller. That’s the first time Derek will have an offensive head coach that has a quarterback background and will be hands on with him on a day-to-day basis. I just see that growth curve skyrocketing because of that.”

Carr’s trajectory went straight up from his rookie season with Olson through the next two years – he was a legit MVP candidate in 2016 -- though it markedly dipped during a disappointing 6-10 campaign.

Gruden and Olson are generally charged with fixing an offense with talent but little production last year, though their primary objective remains more specific.

Get Carr back on track.

“Everything we do in this building is going to be about the development of Derek Carr,” Olson said. “The way we script practices, the way we are doing drills, everything that we do is all about the development of the quarterback. That will really speed the development of Derek. More so than anything is that there’s somebody here in place that’s going to make everything that we do and that everyone in the building understand that we grow as Derek Carr grows.”

Olson knows first-hand about Carr’s work ethic and acumen. He has seen athleticism, passing accuracy and a quick release turn football smarts into production. He told Gruden all that following the 2014 season, and believes Carr’s presence was an attraction to take the Raiders job.

“We drafted this guy to be that franchise quarterback," Olson said. "We feel like he has the potential to be that guy that can be here and play for 10 more years. It’s up to us to try and get that out of him. We’ll do everything in our power to make sure that that happens."