Dalton Johnson

49ers' Richard Sherman blasts new NFL jersey swap policy for 2020 season

49ers' Richard Sherman blasts new NFL jersey swap policy for 2020 season

The NFL continued to do what it does best Thursday: Cast a meaningless mirage that the league actually cares about the players' safety. 

There's hypocrisy, and then there's this. NFL Media's Tom Pelissero reported Thursday morning that NFL players will be forbidden from interacting with each other after games from fewer than six feet apart, and jersey swaps will not be allowed. Richard Sherman blasted the NFL for "thinking in a nutshell," and couldn't help but get a laugh out of the situation. 

He's exactly right. How is the 49ers' star cornerback supposed to be tackling players and putting his body on the line for four quarters, and then the league all of the sudden cares about his health? That's not how this works. 

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

ESPN's Mina Kimes had the perfect comparison for the worthless policy if you need a good laugh right now. Who am I kidding, we all need that and plenty more to cheer us up these days.

The NFL has tried its best to act like everything is business as usual this offseason, despite the coronavirus running more rampant than Raheem Mostert in the NFC Championship Game. Free agency and the draft still were blown into giant events with hours of coverage. The same goes for schedules being released, as if everything will be smooth sailing. 

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Training camp is right around the corner, and there's no doubt the NFL wants to do everything in their power to ensure there aren't any delays. This league cares more about reminding players that drug testing resumes when they show up to camp than the actual health risks of its players, with an invisible evil lurking through the air and into our bodies. 

Sherman and any other player has every right to call out the league right now. Until the NFL puts words into action in protecting players, silence isn't the answer.

How Giants prospect Marco Luciano has impressed manager Gabe Kapler

How Giants prospect Marco Luciano has impressed manager Gabe Kapler

The mind of a sports fan is simple yet complex. They demand wins in the now, however, they can't help but dream of who their favorite team's future star will be. 

For the Giants, it could be an 18-year-old powerful shortstop who already is making noise in Summer Camp as the major league roster preps for the upcoming 60-game season.

Catcher Joey Bart creates quite the buzz as he appears to be right on the cusp of the bigs despite Buster Posey still being entrenched as the Giants' everyday catcher. But it's Marco Luciano who seems to have true superstar potential. The Atlanta Braves have Ronald Acuna, who made an instant impact at 20 years old, and the Giants only can hope Luciano soon can do the same in San Francisco. 

On Sunday, Luciano, who is on the Giants' 60-man roster, gave coaches a glimpse of what the future can hold

"Kind of taller -- little lanky still -- not fully mature in the lower half, but incredibly twitchy," Giants manager Gabe Kapler said Monday on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks" show. "Incredibly athletic and rangy to both his left and his right. In the batter's box, high level of comfort and confidence."

Oracle Park can be a nightmare for hitters at times. It's one of the biggest ballparks in baseball and the San Francisco weather can huff and puff its way to keep the ball in the yard. Not many hitters have their way with this pitcher's paradise. 

Don't tell that to Luciano, though. 

"As a teenager, driving balls out of this ballpark, making this ballpark look small -- and quite frankly, I've known this ballpark a long time and it's pretty impressive to see how he stacks up with mature major leaguers at this point in his development," Kapler said. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Luciano, who played all of last season at only 17 years old, hit .322 with 10 homers and a 1.055 OPS in the Arizona Rookie League. He then finished the year with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes before being shut down with a leg injury. 

Wherever you look, Luciano is one of the Giants' top prospects along with Bart and Heliot Ramos. Some outlets even have him as San Francisco's best young player in the farm system, and it's easy to see why. Players with his kind of power and potential at such a young age don't come around too often. 

Kapler also wants to make sure expectations don't become unrealistic for Luciano. 

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"There's reason to be excited about him," Kapler said. "Now the one thing I'll say is, it's not unusual to see very athletic, very talented, young players come through minor league systems. I think he's more talented than most, but at the same time this is a game that's about performance through the minor leagues and he's somebody to keep an eye on, certainly somebody to be especially excited about and he's got a ways to go in his development." 

There won't be a minor league season this year. Instead, Luciano will continue to develop in Sacramento after the MLB season begins. But for now, he'll just keep impressing in San Francisco, giving the Giants more of a reason to dream.

Why Giants GM Scott Harris wants Joey Bart to learn another position

Why Giants GM Scott Harris wants Joey Bart to learn another position

Buster Posey still is mulling over his plans for the 2020 MLB season, but the Giants do have a young catcher on the cusp of the majors in Joey Bart.

The top catching prospect was expected to start the season in Triple-A Sacramento, however, with the minor league season canceled, Bart is a part of San Francisco's 60-man roster. 

That doesn't mean he will start in the big leagues, though. No matter what Posey decides, the Giants don't want to force Bart up

Before the No. 2 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft makes his debut, general manager Scott Harris would like to see two key parts of development grow for Bart.

“A couple of developmental priorities for him will be first to improve the game calling," Harris said Thursday on KNBR's "Murph & Mac" show. "Not that we’re at all concerned about his game calling, I just think there is a critical mass of games you need to catch at the minor league level before you’re fully prepared to call a game in the big leagues."

Bart actually called games at Georgia Tech, something that even Matt Wieters wasn't allowed to do from the same college coach. Harris is right, though. Calling games is a skill that catchers must continue to grow and the Giants hoped that would happen for Bart in Sacramento. 

The second part to Harris' answer might be even more important for Bart and the Giants.

“The other thing we talked about quite a bit is we want to expose him to other positions on the field," Harris said. "Not because we are concerned about his catching at all, we already think he is a plus receiver and thrower, but because one of the main tenants of our developmental philosophy is versatility.

"We want to give our major league manager as many opportunities as possible to get our best bats in the lineup. We think the demands of the catching position are such that that it is a benefit of both the player and the team to be able to play multiple positions.”

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Since the Giants drafted Bart, he hasn't played anywhere on the field other than behind the plate. The same goes for his college career. Learning a new position would have been a perfect opportunity for Bart in the Arizona Fall League, but he fractured his thumb hitting in the AFL.

Now Bart will have Summer Camp to learn a new skill, making the name of spring training 2.0 that much more fitting. He will be in camp with Patrick Bailey, a fellow catcher who the Giants took in the first round of the draft this year. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Giants had Bailey work on another position as well. 

[RELATED: Why Bart, three Giants pitchers are intriguing Kruk, Kuip]

Versatility is the name of the game for the Giants and the rest of baseball right now. Bart currently is lacking it, though that soon could change. He has a strong arm behind the plate and moves well for his 6-foot-2, 238-pound frame. It will be interesting to see if the Giants simply hand him a first baseman's mitt, or if he learns another position like third base or the outfield.

“The more that Joey can move around, the more options that his major league manager is going to have to get his bat in the lineup, and I think that’s really important for his career and for the future of the Giants," Harris said. 

Bart could find his way to a major league game during this 60-game season. The Giants will make sure they feel he is 100 percent ready first, though. There's no doubt he holds a key to San Francisco's future success, and there's no reason to rush and open that door too soon.