Champion Giants gearing up for another run


Champion Giants gearing up for another run

March 31, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Aubrey Huff walked away from AT&T Park after a thrilling victory parade last fall on a championship high. He was a World Series winner in his first postseason after an 11-year wait to finally get there.The first baseman made it clear entering the winter that he wanted to come back to the Giants - and his wish was for the San Francisco brass to bring back as many of his teammates as possible for the chance at another playoff run in 2011. A self-described bunch of castoffs and misfits somehow pulled off the improbable and won a long-awaited title for the Giants, the franchise's first since moving West in 1958 and first overall since the New York Giants won in '54.
REWIND: Giants World Series page
Now, just as Huff had hoped, this club looks nearly identical to how it ended that remarkable run in five games over the AL champion Texas Rangers. The main new addition: durable shortstop Miguel Tejada replacing World Series MVP Edgar Renteria. Utility infielder Juan Uribe departed to the rival Dodgers."I was hoping in the offseason they'd bring as many people back as they could," Huff said. "For me, you win it all, let's try to defend it. Why go out there and change a whole lot? I can understand making a couple moves maybe. Let's keep it intact and see what happens."Repeating is far from easy.The Giants captured their first NL West crown since 2003 on the season's final day after missing chances to clinch in the two previous games against the San Diego Padres.
REWIND: Worth the wait -- Giants finally clinch NL West
Then, they not only eliminated the Atlanta Braves and retiring manager Bobby Cox but stunned the favored Philadelphia Phillies in six games to reach the organization's first World Series since 2002.
REWIND: Date with destiny -- the Giants win the pennant!
This group was able to do something the other great Giants teams hadn't in the Bay Area - not Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda, or home run king Barry Bonds."It's awesome. I'm thrilled almost everyone came back," right fielder Cody Ross said. "Why not (do it again)?"The Giants had the pitching with ace Tim Lincecum leading the way after his career-worst, five-start skid in August, and enough timely hitting and defense to get by a rotation as dominant as Philadelphia's featuring Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels."We know what's at stake. We did put a stake in the ground here and we want to defend this championship. To say last year was a fluke, that's the last thing these players want," manager Bruce Bochy said. "They're a very talented ballclub. We need to improve in some areas on the field."We probably do have a target on our back but that's a good thing," he added. "Let's go out and defend this championship."
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The Giants are counting on a comeback season from slimmed-down slugger Pablo Sandoval, who is determined to rebound from a tough year. After the season, Bochy and GM Brian Sabean made it clear the Kung Fu Panda would have to shape up to keep his job at third base. He did just that.Several key contributors Sabean acquired along the way last season will be around for the entire year this time, not to mention that the Giants get a full season from reigning Rookie of the Year catcher Buster Posey after he was called up in late May and went on to hit 18 home runs.Pat Burrell joined San Francisco in early June after signing a minor league deal following his release by Tampa Bay. He re-signed this year for a bargain 1 million to get another chance in this close-knit clubhouse.Then, there's Ross, the unlikely postseason hero claimed off waivers from Florida on Aug. 22."It's going to be nice to have them all for a full year," Bochy said.Ross is back on a 6.3 million, one-year contract ready to resume where he left off as NL championship series MVP. He drove in 10 runs during the playoffs, two in the World Series.
RELATED: Giants avoid arbitration with Cody Ross
Relievers Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez also came aboard midseason."Obviously we're not going to be as much underdogs as we were last year. Going into the last series I think people thought San Diego still might be able to pull it out," Ross said. "Obviously in the division series the Braves were favored and then the Phillies, then the Rangers. We were the underdog pretty much the whole time. I doubt if that's going to be the case this year but we can still have that chip on our shoulder that people are trying to take a run at us and we have to defend. We're all on board with that."Sandoval and pitcher Barry Zito probably have the most to prove.
CAREER STATS: Barry Zito Pablo Sandoval
Sandoval showed up at spring training down about 30 pounds to a fit 240 after a rigorous offseason workout regimen. The free-swinging slugger batted .268 with just 13 home runs and 63 RBIs in his second full season in the big leagues only a year after he was among the last players left off the All-Star team.Sandoval committed 13 errors and grounded into an NL-high 26 double plays. He played in only six of the Giants' postseason games, including one appearance in the five-game World Series win over Texas.Zito didn't play at all. The left-hander was left off the roster for all three postseason rounds, and now the 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner is eager for a fresh start in year 5 of his 126 million, seven-year deal.Zito finished 9-14 and failed to reach 10 wins for the first time since his rookie season in 2000. His 4.15 ERA was the fourth-highest of his career. He went 1-8 with a 6.72 ERA over his last 11 outings and 10 starts and only had one victory in his last 15 appearances. The stretch included a career-worst nine-game losing streak from July 21 to Sept. 14.The way No. 3 starter Matt Cain sees it, last season is now history - the ups and the downs. This one will be scrutinized: A camera crew will be following the club closely for a television series about the reigning champs."I think we've got to in a way carry some of the stuff we did last year with us but I think we've also got to wipe the slate clean," Cain said. "A lot of teams are different and we'll definitely be a different team this year with a lot of the same guys and we'll have to start over as well."Even Huff has a fresh approach after receiving a new 22 million, two-year contract this winter. He announced early in spring training he was retiring the red rally thong that he believes helped him in 2010. He hit .290 with a team-leading 26 home runs and 86 RBIs while playing in 157 games, then batted .268 with one homer and eight RBIs in the postseason.
REWIND: Giants, Huff complete two-year deal
"Just play baseball this year and try to keep the antics at home," Huff said, noting the notorious undergarment is back at his house in Florida.Bochy, for one, will appreciate that focus while also acknowledging it's the variety of personalities on his club that makes things click so well. "I think when you get a taste of it the way they did you're going to have it even more," Bochy said. "You realize how much fun it was and how much the fans appreciated what happened. That makes you even want to do it again more."

Curry: 'There's nothing that's going to derail' 2016-17 Warriors

Curry: 'There's nothing that's going to derail' 2016-17 Warriors

Here in the age of ubiquitous social media and rampant hyper-scrutiny, following a summer during which they tilted the balance of power in the NBA, the Warriors embark on a season in which they may be the most inspected and analyzed team in American sports history.

Their ability to handle this overload of attention will determine whether the next eight months are good, great or magical – or a colossal disappointment.

Regardless of talent level – the Warriors four All-Stars – it is incredibly difficult to consistently crush opponents while also navigating potential distractions, managing the inevitable discord and deflecting the harsh radiance of what surely will be ceaseless public glare.

“The only thing that matters is what happens in the gym every day,” coach Steve Kerr says. “And that’s our job as a coaching staff, to address dynamics as they arise, whether it’s on the floor or off. And I’m sure there are going to be lots of off-the-floor dynamics that we’ll have to get through this year.”

The sideshows are well under way. There is Kevin Durant’s much-debated decision to leave Oklahoma City and sign with the Warriors. There is the back-and-forth over how this will affect Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. There is the curiosity about Draymond Green, partly regarding his role but mostly regarding whether he can keep his white-hot emotions from overriding his considerable intellect, a subject well-chronicled as the preseason came to a close.

“You could nitpick all you want,” Curry says. “You could chime in here and there. But at the end of the day, we’re all competitive. We’re all our own person. We’re all in this thing together. It’s a ‘You take shots at Draymond, you take shots at the whole team kind’ of mentality.”

There it is, Curry indicating the Warriors are ready and willing to circle up, close ranks, link arms and spend 82 games unleashing their abundance of firepower upon the rest of the NBA.

The Warriors are a team always seeking a reason to turn up their ferocity, scanning the globe for slights and insults and anything else that will lead them to believe that you don’t believe. They will have plenty of ammunition.

They’re coming off a devastating loss in the NBA Finals, where they became the first team to take a 3-1 series lead and not finish the season with a championship. They engineered the biggest acquisition of the summer, signing megastar forward Durant. They’re reading that their incumbent Green is on a path that could destroy everything they’ve built.

And, for the heck of it, they’re being told they no longer have a rim protector.

Here’s what the Warriors hear: Their 2015 title was a fluke, they’re trying to game the system to create a super team, their good chemistry is a hoax, they’ll be giving out free tickets to easy buckets. And, more important, that some folks may be out to get them by prodding them to say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing or otherwise wreck what they believe is a championship roster supported by an enthusiastically ambitious culture that begins with CEO Joe Lacob

It was Lacob’s comment last season about the Warriors being “light years ahead” of NBA competitors that after the Finals loss became a whispered phrase of derision, a soft jab at the CEO’s propensity for glorifying his product. But that line has company. There is the Draymond Factor, the KD Decision and the fact that Andre Iguodala and Curry are in the final year of their contracts.

And there is, above all, the suspicion that the magnification of the Warriors will lead to an insane thirst for information/comment that could nudge any guileless or agenda-pushing member of the organization into deep and treacherous water.

Kerr has on multiple occasions referred to preponderance of attention devoted to the team, adding that the players “have their guards up” when dealing with media. Whether players dilute their comments will depend on that player. All are on alert.

“But at the end of the day, it’s just enjoying yourself and just trying to enjoy the game of basketball, because it can be fun," Kerr said.

If these Warriors have fun while being unified and productive, they can indeed be magical, capable of exceeding 70 wins. They can top 60 even while surviving a few bumps. They can probably win 50 even while slowly unraveling.

There was, after all, only one basketball issue during the preseason that give reason for pause. New starting center Zaza Pachulia is going to have difficult handling big men highly skilled in scoring, such as Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins. That, however, is a small problem given the paucity of such centers in today’s NBA.

Other than that, these Warriors are built to punish defenses, assaulting teams with a barrage of 3-point shots. As long as they can keep their minds on the principles of basketball, as designed by Kerr and his staff, they’ll be playing deep into June.

“We just keep moving forward,” Curry says. “There’s nothing that’s going to derail us. That’s basically the gist of it. So our goal is to not let anything come into that locker room that’s not from us, and we do a pretty good job of that.”

That has been the recent history of this group. But history has never put an NBA team through what the Warriors are about to face.

Raiders snap count: Riley over James; Murray a feature back

Raiders snap count: Riley over James; Murray a feature back

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Malcolm Smith was fully recovered from a quadriceps strain, ready to assume his typically extensive workload at weakside linebacker.

That allowed the Raiders to make a personnel change in the middle. They started relative newcomer Perry Riley at middle linebacker over rookie sixth-round pick Cory James, a young player forced into action due to Ben Heeney’s ineffectiveness and health.

Riley has six seasons and 72 starts to his name, given the Raiders experience at a position expected to make reads and checks and communicate information to teammates before the snap.

Riley fared well in that spot in Sunday’s 33-16 victory over Jacksonville, with a pair of tackles in 100 percent of the defensive snaps. He was Pro Football Focus’ highest-rated Raiders defensive player, with positive marks against the run and pass.

It was uncertain how much Latavius Murray would play in his return from turf toe, but the Raiders did not attach a short leash. Murray played 42 snaps and had 20 touches in this game.

He was the feature back in this one, a new approach after the Raiders used a near-even split with DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. That wasn’t the case this time. Washington got the start but played just 13 snaps and six touches. Richard only had two touches in limited action.

Murray sparked the Raiders run game, with 18 carries for 59 yards and two touchdowns. The work left him no worse for the wear, a positive sign for a team that needs Murray running strong.

Let’s take a look at the entire Raiders snap count:

72 – OL Donald Penn, OL Gabe Jackson, OL Austin Howard, OL Rodney Hudson, QB Derek Carr
71 – OL Kelechi Osemele
68 – WR Amari Cooper
50 – WR Michael Crabtree
49 – TE Clive Walford
47 – WR Seth Roberts
42 – RB Latavius Murray
25 – FB Jamize Olawale
17 – WR Andre Holmes, Mychal Rivera
13 – RB DeAndre Washington
12 – OL Matt McCants
11 – OL Denver Kirkland
5 – WR Johnny Holton
4 – RB Jalen Richard
1 – OL Jon Feliciano

67 – CB Sean Smith, S Reggie Nelson, CB David Amerson, LB Perry Riley
66 – S Karl Joseph
63 – LB Malcolm Smith
60 – DE Khalil Mack
57 – LB Bruce Irvin
52 – CB DJ Hayden
42 – DL Denico Autry
34 – DL Jihad Ward
21 – LB Shilique Calhoun, DL Justin Ellis
20 – DL DL Darius Latham, DL Dan WIlliams
7 -- DL Stacy McGee
4 – S Keith McGill
2 – CB TJ Carrie

29 – Darren Bates, Nate Allen
25 – Andre Holmes, Jamize Olawale
24 – Shilique Calhoun
23 – Johnny Holton, Mychal Rivera
16 – Cory James, Sebastian Janikowski
14 – Antonio Hamilton
13 – Jon Condo, Marquette King
12 – Clive Walford
11 – Jon Feliciano
10 – Jalen Richard
9 – DJ Hayden, Karl Joseph
7 – Matt McCants, Denver Krikland, Gabe Jackson, Kelechi Osemele
6 – RB DeAndre Washington, Donald Penn
4 – TJ Carrie, Dan Williams, Darius Latham, Denico Autry, Bruce Irvin, Khalil Mack
3 – Justin Ellis
1 – Jihad Ward, Amari Cooper, Austin Howard
NOTE: Snap counts taken from official NFL game book