Urban: With Barr, Giants in good shape for MLB draft


Urban: With Barr, Giants in good shape for MLB draft

June 6, 2011

The amount of information now available on amateur baseball players in the United States has done wonders for the MLB draft, which as recently as 10 years ago was no more compelling to casual fans than any given episode of "Dog Whisperer" is to a cat lover.The MLB Network and the league's website have played major roles in increasing interest and visibility, too.But still. Be honest. Baseball's draft is a dud. All the information, bells, whistles, lights and talking heads in the world can't change the fact that, unlike in the NFL and NBA drafts, most of the players being drafted won't be wearing your favorite team's uniform for a couple of years at minimum, probably quite a bit longer.Giants fans have been somewhat spoiled of late when it comes to top picks. Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey -- San Francisco's first-round picks in 2006, 2007 and 2008, respectively -- made it to the bigs quick-like, and last fall they each played a massive role in the city's historic first World Series title.
Yet Lincecum, Bumgarner and Posey were early first-rounders, the result of some less-than-compelling Giants teams in previous years. And while the two most recent No. 1 picks, Zack Wheeler and Gary Brown, appear to have very bright futures, they're still honing their games at Single-A and don't figure to make an impact in San Francisco for a couple of years.This year the Giants have the No. 29 pick in the first round, and if you correctly predict the player with whom they end up out of that slot, head to Reno with a roll of quarters immediately. MLB.com's latest mock draft has them tabbing Brian Goodwin, a "toolsy" outfielder out of Miami-Dade College, and if you know a great deal about young Mr. Goodwin, good for you. Most people know far more about Cesar Millan and his canine magic.So here's how you might want to approach this year's MLB draft, which kicks off today at 4 p.m. PT with coverage of the first round and "sandwich picks," which is draftnik-ese for what you get for losing a free agent: Trust John Barr.Barr is the Giants' draft guru, and he's done a hell of a job in recent years.Think the Giants need to stock up on young arms in preparation for the inevitability of the current rotation's breakup? Think they should focus on snagging as many power hitters as possible? Think a catcher has to be high on the list of wants?Barr might very well feel the same way, but none of that is going to dictate what he does today and tomorrow.Even when the team has an early first-round pick, Barr doesn't act based strictly on need. He goes the best-player-available route, and that's to say the sensible route. The players available in the draft are, for the most part, far too young and far too removed from the ridiculous skill levels present in the high minors and majors for the draft to be anything more than a series of gambles informed by as much information-gathering as possible.It's not all that sexy, but then again, neither is the MLB draft. On the sexy scale, it's Estelle Getty to the NFL's Alyson Michalka.But you know what? That might be a good thing. When you have very little clue as to who you'd like to see your favorite team snag, there's very little room for disappointment.

Report: Shanahan 'almost certain' to accept 49ers' offer

Report: Shanahan 'almost certain' to accept 49ers' offer

Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is reportedly “almost certain” to accept the 49ers’ offer to become head coach.

Shanahan is the lone remaining candidate among the six individuals who interviewed with 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe. The 49ers plan for a second interview with Shanahan and a job offer, a source told CSNBayArea.com. Shanahan is expected to accept the 49ers’ offer, reports Michael Silver of the NFL Network, citing sources familiar with both parties.

The 49ers continued to work Tuesday evening on the process of narrowing down the general manager choices, a source said. Shanahan is expected to play a role in the select the team’s next GM, sources said.

On Tuesday, Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable and Seahawks co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner removed their names from consideration for the vacant coach and general manager positions. The 49ers fired Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke after the 49ers' 2-14 season.

One source said Cable and Kirchner believed the 49ers were using them as leverage to hire Shanahan. Cable interviewed with 49ers co-chair Denise DeBartolo York over the phone on Tuesday, NFL Network reported.

The 49ers are allowed to interview Shanahan for a second time after the Falcons’ NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The 49ers are prohibited from hiring or making a formal contract offer to Shanahan until the Falcons' season has concluded.

The top remaining candidates for the general manager job are believed to be Green Bay executives Brian Gutekunst and Eliot Wolf, Arizona's Terry McDonough and Minnesota's George Paton.

Wilcox embracing challenge, will change the way Cal looks on field


Wilcox embracing challenge, will change the way Cal looks on field

BERKELEY — With more than a half-century without a Rose Bowl berth, tougher academic standards than most Pac-12 schools and lackluster fan support in a pro-sports focused market, there are plenty of hurdles for a football coach at California.

Coach Justin Wilcox took the job for the Golden Bears because he embraces those obstacles and he wants players who feel the same way as he seeks to rebuild a program that has one winning record in the past five years and no conference championships since 1958.

"When you come here, there are challenges," Wilcox said at his introductory news conference Tuesday. "You don't come here and go through school and just go through the motions. You'll be challenged in the classroom, challenged on the football field and learn to interact in a dynamic society. I believe in that and that helps guys grow."

Wilcox faces many hurdles in his new job replacing the recently fired Sonny Dykes less than three weeks before national signing day. He has to put together a coaching staff, evaluate the players already on campus and try to keep together, and even add to, a recruiting class that committed to a different staff.

Athletic director Mike Williams fired Dykes after four seasons on Jan. 8 because he wanted a coach committed to Cal instead of flirting with other jobs and needed someone who could excite a fan base that often stayed away from Memorial Stadium in recent years as the Bears teamed porous defenses with sometimes exciting offenses while posting a 19-30 record.

Williams had five finalists for the job but chose a former Cal assistant with a defensive background and familiarity with the Pac-12 as an assistant for seven years at three schools in the conference.

"He truly gets this place, he truly gets coaching in the West," Williams said. "He came in and was very organized and thoughtful. He knew what he wanted to do and who he wanted to hire. ... It's a special place and I think he'll treat it as a special place."

While Dykes flirted with job openings at Houston and Baylor this past offseason in part because of his concern about increased academic standards for recruits, the Bears hope Wilcox is someone who wants to stick around after more than a decade of being on a self-described "windy" path as a top defensive coach.

The former Oregon defensive back began his coaching career in 2001 as a graduate assistant at Boise State. He spent three years as linebackers coach under Jeff Tedford at Cal from 2003-05 when the Bears nearly ended their Rose Bowl drought during a 10-win season with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback in 2004.

Wilcox has spent the past 11 years as a defensive coordinator with stops at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington, Southern California and finally Wisconsin, where he helped the Badgers field a top 10 defense and win the Cotton Bowl.

Wilcox has worked and played for many successful coaches, including Tedford, Chris Petersen, Dan Hawkins, Mike Bellotti, and Paul Chryst.

"I've been extremely fortunate to work for and with people I learned so much from," he said. "Each step along the way, I've seen it done a lot of different ways. I'm not trying to be any of those people. I always try to take pieces and make it my own."

Wilcox has begun putting together his staff, having hired former Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin as offensive coordinator and longtime Oregon offensive line coach Steve Greatwood to fill that role on the Bears.

The Bears will look very different under Wilcox than Dykes. Wilcox said he will recruit tight ends as Cal moves from the spread "Bear Raid" offense that relied on four receivers almost exclusively to a more balanced offense with tight ends and more power concepts.

While he will delegate most of the offensive responsibilities to Baldwin, Wilcox said he will be more involved on defense where he wants to find players who can fit into his base 3-4 system.

Cal ranked 125th in total defense, 127th in scoring defense and 122nd in yards per play out of 128 FBS teams last season on the way to a 5-7 record.

"Every second is critical right now," Wilcox said. "I will not sacrifice the long-term good of the program for what everyone wants which is certainty. Things will happen quickly. I understand the recruits have some anxiety about the situation and there's emotions involved. That's totally understandable. I'd feel the same way."