Monday, October 4, 2010

Giants' NL West Championship a Culmination of the Past Few Years



A couple years back, I attended a San Jose Giants game, the Giants Single-A affiliate. I attended partly because I live in San Jose, partly because the SJ Giants were/are a really good team, and mostly because I had caught a wiff of the pitcher-catcher duo of Bumgarner/Posey.

It was a fact back then, the Giants had a good core of young potential talent. It was just up to the Giants organization to raise these kids into superstars who could one day lead the Giants ball club to the promised land.

On Sunday, they did that.

A few years ago, the Giants promised that the young talent we saw climbing the minor league ladder would be great. They promised that the young hurlers of Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, and Bumgarner would be the starting rotation of the future. And we sat with patience anticipating what could be. The Giants organization didn't disappoint on this one.

Just a few years later, look what has happened. Lincecum is a 2-time Cy Young Award winner, Cain was dubbed the Giants best pitcher this season, Bumgarner is a rising star pitching far more mature than his age, and Sanchez literally clinched the NL West by himself on Sunday.

Oh ya, there's also a guy name Posey who may have clinched the Rookie of the Year on Sunday as well.

So, in some ways, this year's NL West Championship is a culmination of all that. It's a culmination of the past few years of sitting and waiting for the young stars in the minors to grow into fantastic ballplayers. It's fulfillment of a promise by the Giants organization to the fans saying that this young core group would lead this team one day. That became a reality on Sunday when the Giants' young stars led this ball club to the postseason for the first time in seven years.

Sure, it seems like Giants fans have waited forever for this to happen, but we all saw it coming, Lincecum, Cain, Posey, etc. The young talent was all there. And we witnessed it bloom on Sunday, we will watch it mature in these 2010 playoffs, and we will continue to see these young players be a success for years to come.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Giants NL West Champs


On Thursday, it was not if, but when will the Giants clinch the NL West. Now, in game 162, it was not when, but if. But the San Francisco Giants pulled it off on Sunday and are champions of the NL West, thus confirming the motto, "Giants Baseball...Torture."

But this one was hard fought, and no doubt did the the Giants show Sunday what they had in their arsenal for the playoffs, real good pitching mixed with solid hitters.

Today's savior, and yes there is a new one one every day it seems, is Jonathan Sanchez. Honestly, if the man starting on Thursday didnt have back-to-back Cy Young Awards, Sanchez is my man. He has been the Giants' best pitcher recently, and he will get rewarded for that by starting the third game of the Giants/Braves series that will start on Thursday at 6:30pm.

As for a 'Giants Season in Review,' ask yourself this question, would the Giants be NL West Champs without Huff, Burrell, Fontenot, Ross, and Guillen? No chance. You can say that especially for Huff and Burrell, really. Huff supplying numbers that were not expected at the start of the season, and Burrell with timely hit after timely hit.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, thank Brian Sabean. Yes, the man everybody wanted a piece of at the beginning of the season because he couldn't bring a legit bat to San Francisco. Turns out, he did get the legit bat. Huff Daddy. Credit, Sabean for signing Huff in the offseason for nickles and dimes, as well as taking Burrell "off the Rays' hands."

But all-in-all, this Giants season was a season of fulfillment. The Giants made a promise years ago when the likes of Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, and Bumgarner were all young and full of potential, that this would be the pitching staff of the future that would secure playoff appearance after playoff appearance for this ball club. Some years later, look what happened. The Giants arguably have the best rotation going right now and can carry that into the 2010 playoffs with them.

It's just that, though. We've always said with that pitching staff, if the Giants get into the playoffs then look out. Now is the time to see what the young guns we yearned so much to see a few years ago can do in October.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Blame Singletary For 49ers Not Meeting Expectations


It would seem to me that a team that was as underprepared for their first game of the season as the 49ers were against the Seahawks in Week 1 should point the finger in the direction of the man with the headset.

It is his job to get his team prepared for the season, and it is his job to make sure everyone is on the same page and that there are no communication issues on the field. If anything, it's to not look ridiculous and embarrassed when on the field. Check that one off the list.

After the 49ers' lackluster performance in Arrowhead on Sunday, things need to change, and it starts from the top. Is Mike Singletary the man for the job? Or is he just a bunch of billboard catch phrases that get kids psyched up? Time will tell. One thing is for sure, Singletary looks confused on game days. Just throwing it out there, but Singletary has never been a head coach at any level until the 49ers hired him. It's been showing.

First order of business, let's fire the Offensive Coordinator. That will accomplish a lot. An 8th Offensive Coordinator in 8 seasons is an embarrasment in itself, but Jimmy Raye had nothing and was nothing but a hinderance to this team. He had no imagination even though he was given the imaginative players to have that type of playbook. His offense was bland and vanilla, and when you have Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree on your team your offense needs to be anything but.

Bottom line, the people that needed to get the ball weren't getting it. That's a problem. So is an 0-3 start.

Enter QB Coach Mike Johnson as Off. Coordinator. Seems like the problem two of the last three weeks has been the QB, so let's hire the man who spends the most time with him. The 49ers had no choice, though. They're hoping to strike gold in Johnson who just seems the standard move to make following a Off. Coordinator's departure. But the players seem to back him, and that is a good sign.

They're not done, though. Reports are that Takeo Spikes and Michael Lewis will lose their starting roles. Why all the change? Just a hunch, but the defense may be this team's strongest asset next to punting. It probably didn't appear that way on Sunday against the Chiefs, but write that one off as 'giving up halfway through the game.' Ya, that's what we're going with...

If the 49ers want to turn this season around, or even avoid rebuilding yet again, it's on Singletary. Maybe the mindset he has isn't for this team or these players. So change it, or get out. There have been far too many losing seasons in this last decade and far too many seasons without a playoff appearance.

With playoff hopes looking glim and 'must win games' in the near future, pointed fingers need to remain at Singletary.

Cain Eases the Pain of 49ers' and Raiders' Debacles


Thank God the San Francisco Giants played an afternoon game on Sunday. The pain Bay Area fans were feeling by noon, and then again by 4pm was nullified, at least a little, by Matt Cain's crafty performance on the mound.

The earliest game on Sunday may have stung the worst, though. The 49ers were up against an unproven, yet 2-0, Chiefs team that seemed the perfect match for the 49ers on both sides of the ball. Except it turned out the 49ers were no match for the Chiefs, who showed that they were for real and that the 49ers are nowhere near where everyone thinks they should be, NFC West Champs. Not the way they're playing.

The 49ers were dominated in every aspect of the game on Sunday, less than a week removed from a spirited performance on Monday night. Many minds would think they could take that momentum of challenging the Super Bowl Champs into Sunday's game against the Chiefs. No chance, never had any. The Chiefs two-headed monster rushing duo were running at will against that laxidasical defensive line, and Matt Cassel, although not sharp, was able to piece the 49ers' secondary with ease. Disappointing.

As the 49ers were beat outright, the Raiders outright beat themselves. A well-played game the whole way, Janikowski's 2 missed kicks cost the Raiders what could have been a well-deserved win against the Cardinals. Even then, if Janikowski had chipped in the 3rd FG from 32 yards to win the game, all would have been forgotten. He had made 19 of 19 from 30-40 yards to that point. You can make that 19 of 20 now.

But as the Raiders and 49ers shot themselves in the foot time and time again, Matt Cain seemed to put his foot down for all the Bay Area and save them from one horrible Sunday afternoon in sports. Cain took a no-hit bid into the 8th inning and would ultimately lead the Giants to a 4-2 win in Colorado, and solo first place in the NL West yet again.

Cain pitched great, especially with the "juiced ball" conditions. He has no doubt been the Cy Young of the Giants season on a team that boasts past and possible future Cy Young Award winners. He has been consistent despite the starting rotation having its ups-and-downs. He should be regarded as their #1 pitcher.

The Giants were able to take a 1/2 game lead in the division and virtually knock out the Rockies from playoff contention at the same time on Sunday. The Giants/Padres playoff implications will no doubt come down to the last series of the year in San Francisco right where the Giants would prefer it. For that series, the Giants will have Zito, Cain, and Sanchez heading to the hill, with the Giants showing no signs of altering the rotation for the finale.

Meanwhile, the Giants will host the D-Backs Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. While the Padres host the Cubs in a 4-game series starting tonight.

A little advice, let the chips fall where they may for the 49ers and Raiders this week. With the 49ers in Atlanta and the Raiders playing the Texans, let's focus on the Giants on Sunday. For the sake of us going crazy. At this moment, they are the only true contenders in the Bay Area right now because they have shown us they are. The 49ers and Raiders have not.

Monday, September 20, 2010

49ers Put On Good Show, Fall To 0-2


The 49ers gave it all they had Monday night on national television. In the end, the Saints did what Super Bowl Champions do, win by any way possible.

It was a great show by the 49ers, though. Of course, we all knew what the Saints were capable of. Alex Smith showed up, quite a surprise. Not many expected much out of him after last week, especially going up against the Saints' defense.

In the end, you can tally this one up as the 49ers shooting themselves in the foot. Sure, it doesn't seem like that. The 49ers played a great game against a great team, but the safety and "gimme" touchdown that followed early in the 1st quarter happened to be the deciding factor.

Give Smith credit, though. 23/32 for 275 and 1 TD, we haven't seen those numbers in awhile. The 2 interceptions cost him, sure, and they couldn't come at worse times. They were momentum busters, and the 49ers could use all the momentum they could get on Monday night.

But I'll attribute Monday's success (yes, that's what I'm calling it) to the offensive line. They are young and inexperienced, but they gelled last night giving Smith time in the pocket and Gore lanes to run in.

The 49ers were a couple dumb mistakes away from upsetting the Super Bowl Champs on national TV, but the Saints are where they are because they can win games like that in that fashion. Never thought I'd see the day when the 49ers were "too" eager to score a touchdown. They left just too much time on the clock, and Drew Brees knows what to do with it.

So the 49ers are 0-2 with a hill to climb from here. Monday night was a bright spot in this season, though. They showed up to the challenge that was the Saints, and fans should be proud despite their team's record.

One bit of advice, throw Vernon Davis the ball. He had 4 catches, but only targeted 7 times, while Josh Morgan was targeted 8 times. Game in and game out, Davis needs to be the #1 target despite being the TE. He deserves the most targets because he creates the biggest mismatches.

The road for the 49ers doesn't get much easier from here. They travel to Kansas City next week to face an impressive Chiefs team, and from there they head to Atlanta.

They would be wise to get a win next week in Arrowhead.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Communication Ruins 49ers In Week 1


How many of you saw this coming? Talented defense, undefeated preseason, another year for Coach Mike Singletary, another year for Alex Smith under the same offensive coordinator.....Week 1 loss?

The 49ers in their Week 1 game against the Seattle Seahawks were quickly dubbed as the most dissapointing of all the teams to play on Sunday. Just as the 49ers were receiving national attention for being the projected winners of the NFC West, they quickly shot those down themselves. That lasted a good while..

Another question: How many of you thought "Super Bowl" when Nate Clements intercepted the very first pass of the NFL season? Ok, maybe a stretch, but I'm sure some were thinking it, if not then a breeze to the NFC West title. There's a long way to go now, as if the road before Week 1 wasn't long enough.

The 49ers stunk in all aspects, mediocre defense, poor quarterbacking, the rushing attack was horrid, I can't think of any other degrading adjectives..

You can say what you want, but the meltdown for the 49ers began when 3 trips to the red zone in the 1st half resulted in 6 points. That will deflate any team, especially the defense.

The confusion amongst the offense was too obvious, and the man under center with the "C" on his chest was quite the opposite of what he was truly supposed to be, a leader. There was no communication on Sunday.

Blame who you want, though, but I choose Mike Singletary, no doubt. The 49ers looked underprepared and that reflects on your head coach. Enough said. Pete Carroll made Singletary look ridiculous on Sunday, and Singletary will receive some heat for that.

The 49ers should regroup and think long and hard about how they are going to choose to move on from this joke that was Sunday's game in Seattle. The 49ers were supposed to win that game, by a lot. Now, the Super Bowl champs come to town for Monday Night Football, and if you don't think Singletary will get heat for this week's underpreparedness, then an underprepared team on national TV should do the trick.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Uribe Shines As Giants 1 Game Back In The West


If I had told you 2 weeks ago the San Diego Padres were going to lose 10 straight games, would you have believed me? The Padres were tied for the best record in baseball. Probably not.

In fact, at that point 2 weeks ago, I bet most Giants fans had given up on the NL West and focused solely on the NL Wildcard. Fast forward to today, the Giants are 1 game back of the Padres, and the Phillies may be separating themselves in the NL Wildcard. The ol' switcheroo.

This is why September baseball is great. If chills didn't run down your spine when Juan Uribe unloaded on the Jonathan Broxton hanging slider Saturday night, or if you didn't rise from your couch when Uribe repeated the act again yesterday, then you don't have a soul.

Sure, the Giants stole one from the Dodgers on Saturday, but think of it this way. The Padres are 0-10 in their last 10 games, while the Giants are just 5-5. Yes, they did grab 5 games from the Padres in that stretch, but you can make an argument that the Padres are lucky to have the lead in the NL West the way they're playing.

This last series against the Dodgers was just what the Giants needed, though. Big wins against a team they don't rather care for. In this series, the offense lit back up, and pitching, although not outstanding, was better than series previous.

By the way, if there is one pitcher I want to start a game for the Giants right now, it's Jonathan Sanchez.

On the flipside of that, the Giants need to make 1 huge move down the stretch: Switch to a 4-man rotation, Zito to the bullpen.

From LA, the Giants will travel to Arizona to face the worst team in NL West on Monday. In exchange, the Dodgers receive the Padres. Giants fans will never be rooting for the Dodgers harder than in this series.

In these next 3 days, the Giants will need to worry less about the Padres and more about beating the D-Backs, a team who got them good in their last meeting.