Feb. 25, 2010GIANTS PAGEGIANTS VIDEO
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. If you think players work hard at spring training, you should see what kind of time the coaches put in. Theyre the first to show up in the morning and typically the last to leave.This is their busiest and most important time of year; once the season starts, the amount of actual coaching -- more specifically, teaching -- is minimal. Here is where they refine everybodys fundamentals, help individuals make any necessary adjustments in their game, and set the work-ethic tone for the marathon to come.During the season, coaches are basically in maintenance mode, keeping their troops sharp during the limited work time before each game. During the game, they assume roles just like the players.Third-base coach Tim Flannery has one of the most important in-game jobs on the Giants coaching staff; hes the guy who has to make the split-second, high-profile decisions -- stop or try to score -- that can be the difference between winning and losing.His job at spring training is awfully big, too, though, as evidenced by a scene I observed and a conversation I had with Flannery in the Giants dugout at Scottsdale Stadium.The scene -- part of which you can see in my flip-cam home videos for the day -- played out on the main diamond, some 45 minutes before the start of the full-squad workout. Flannery, well into his workday at about 9:15 in the morning, was on the mound feeding a pitching machine. Rotating in and out of the cage were Andres Torres, Eugenio Velez, Nate Schierholtz and Kevin Frandsen.Early hitting? Nope. Early bunting, and Flannery is the designated bunting instructor. Torres, Velez, Schierholtz and Frandsen are the fastest players on a generally slow roster, and the Giants need to take advantage of that speed whenever possible.None of the aforementioned four has a starting job locked down, but Schierholtz is the obvious frontrunner in right field. Torres likely will end up as a backup in the outfield, Frandsen is trying to win a job as a utility infielder, and Velez will play all over the field.As bench players, theyll be key to the Giants success this year, and Flannery needs to make sure each of them can consistently play small ball.Thats not all Flannery does here. He throws batting practice every day, hes the baserunning instructor, and he hits fungoes -- ground balls -- throughout the day. He hits a lot of fungoes. I was wondering exactly how many hes hit in his 15 years as a coach, so I asked him when he stopped to get a drink of water while I was working in the dugout. "You know, I figured it out one day, a rough estimate," he told me. "I figure I hit about 44,000 ground balls a year."Multiplied by 15 seasons, that equals 660,000 fungoes. If he stays in coaching, that means hell pass the million mark at some point in 2017."Thats why," Flannery said with a smile before running back onto the field for more work, "we all get double shots of cortisone the day we get here every spring."--Mychael Urban
What's your take? Email Mychael and let him know. He may use it in his weekly Mailbag.
NEW YORK -- Tyson Ross, an All-Star pitcher for San Diego two years ago, was among 35 players who became free agents when their teams declined to offer them 2017 contracts on Friday.
Washington outfielder Ben Revere and Philadelphia outfielder Cody Asche also were cut loose, along with Arizona catcher Welington Castillo and pitcher Rubby De La Rosa; Baltimore pitcher Vance Worley; and Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Louis Coleman.
Milwaukee first baseman Chris Carter and Pittsburgh pitcher Jeff Locke were non-tendered as well; their teams had already designated them for assignment earlier this week.
Teams cut players at the tender deadline to avoid committing to salary arbitration, in which about one-sixth of next season's salary is guaranteed.
Ross, a 29-year-old right-hander, was 13-14 with a 2.81 ERA in 2014 and 10-12 with a 3.26 ERA the following season. He was limited to one major league appearance this year and had surgery in October for thoracic outlet syndrome. Recovery time was expected to be four to six months, and the Padres deemed him too pricy for arbitration after he earned $9,625,000 this year.
Asche, 26, was designated for assignment earlier Friday to clear a roster spot for left-hander David Rollins, claimed off waivers from Texas. Asche hit .240 with 31 homers and 125 RBIs for the Phillies during 371 games in the past four seasons and would have been eligible for arbitration for the first time.
The 28-year-old Revere was acquired from Toronto in January for reliever Drew Storen but strained his right oblique in his first at-bat of the season, left after four innings and went on the disabled list. Revere returned May 6, hit just .217 with two homers and 24 RBIs in 103 games and would have been on track for a raise from his $6.25 million salary.
Castillo batted .264 with 14 homers and 68 RBIs and would have gotten a big raise from his $3.7 million salary.
The one that got away.
There have been plenty of faces that have come and gone over the last decade of futility in Sacramento. But rarely has there been a player that has gone on to become something more than just a standard role player in the NBA.
Isaiah Thomas is the exception.
Selected with the 60th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Thomas went from zero to hero in the strike shortened 2011-12 season with Sacramento. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.
In three seasons with the Kings, the generously listed 5-foot-9 Thomas became known as “The Pizza Guy” in Sacramento due to his commercials for a local pizza restaurant and his ability to deliver in the clutch. With a million-dollar smile and the presence of a man a foot taller, Thomas became the Kings’ most marketable player.
By his third season, he was much more than just a novelty item. Despite his size limitations, Thomas posted 20.3 points and 6.3 assists per game in his final season with the Kings, forming a nice trio with DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay under head coach Michael Malone.
During the summer of 2014, the Kings, under general manager Pete D’Alessandro, decided to go in a different direction. Sacramento’s regime valued Thomas around the $5 million per season range, although they may not have even gone that high to retain the high-scoring point guard.
When the Phoenix Suns came calling with a 3-year, $21 million deal offer for Thomas, D’Alessandro dealt the fan favorite for Alex Oriakhi (a second round pick that has never played a game of NBA action) and a trade exception.
The Kings went a different direction and basically received nothing for one of their best assets.
Rumors swirled afterwards about Thomas’ departure of discourse was between he and Cousins, but neither has ever substantiated the claims. In fact, both have denied that there was a rift.
“That’s all this league is, what people think they know - 99 percent of the time, they don’t know,” Cousins said. “That’s my guy. I’m extremely happy for him. I’m happy for all of the success he’s gotten so far.”
To take it a step further, Thomas has even lobbied to have the Kings star center join him with the Celtics.
“If he came to Boston, that would be good, really good,” Thomas told the Sporting News over the summer. “The thing is, I’ve got his respect. I’ve always had that."
“When I was with him, I didn’t back down,” Thomas added in his conversation with the Sporting News. “I’m a point guard and that was my job. No matter if we did or didn’t get along off the court, on that court we were going to get along, and I was going to hold him accountable. That’s just how it is. It’s how I’ve always been. And he respects me for doing that.”
Instead of paying slightly more for Thomas in 2014, Sacramento signed Darren Collison to a 3-year, $15 million deal that summer. The Suns already had two point guards in Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe and after 46 games, they dealt Thomas to the Celtics in a 3-team deal for Marcus Thornton and a future first round pick.
Through multiple conversations with management at the time, it was clear that Sacramento’s front office didn’t value Thomas as a starting point guard and they also didn’t believe that he would willingly accept a role as a six-man.
Their valuation of Thomas was wrong.
Fresh off his first All-Star game appearance and back-to-back playoff runs with the Boston Celtics, Thomas has taken his game to even greater heights this season under coach Brad Stevens.
Thomas came into Friday night’s showdown with his former team averaging 26.1 points and 6.3 assists. He ranks ninth in the league in scoring and has the Celtics in the mix for a third straight playoff run.
Sacramento made his life difficult, but the pint-sized point guard still managed to post 20 points and seven assists in the win over the Kings.
Thomas, 27, is a free agent at the end of the year and looking to cash in off his stellar numbers. Not only does he bring an ability to hit the big shot, but he’s a leader that has proven that he can take a team to the playoffs.
The move to let Thomas slip through the Kings’ fingers goes down as one of the all-time gaffs in team history. Watching him thrive in Boston is a painful reminder to fans in Sacramento and the fact that the Kings got nothing in return makes it that much worse.