Gutierrez: A's snap skid, but tension lingers


Gutierrez: A's snap skid, but tension lingers


ANAHEIM - It was a most surreal scene.Numerous A's players, practically the entire team, seated in the chairs and couches in the middle of the visitors clubhouse at Angel Stadium, transfixed with the story unfolding on the television. MLB Network analysts were breaking down the CSN California video of Brian Fuentes' pointed criticism of manager Bob Geren from the night before.Fuentes, meanwhile, sat at his locker, sneaking a few peeks when he wasn't fiddling with his smartphone.No one said a word. No one, really, seemed to be breathing, when first Al Leiter, then Mitch Williams ripped into Fuentes for taking his public beef with Geren onto the public stage.

Trying to ease the tension, an A's player lobbed a few choice F-bombs at the TV in general, at Williams in particular. To no avail. The clubhouse remained subdued.RECAP: DeJesus powers A's to 6-1 win over Haren, Halos
Some seven hours later, though, the clubhouse rivaled neighboring Disneyland as the Happiest Place on Earth."It's not going to divide anybody; it's not going to hurt anybody's feelings," said outfielder David DeJesus. "We've just got to go out there and play and win games and when you win games, everything is brushed to the side."Amazing what a relative offensive explosion, lights-out starting pitching and a 6-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels to end a season-high six-game losing streak can do to cover the warts. Even if the roots are still there. And noticeable.Because be sure, while both Fuentes and Geren on Tuesday attempted to downplay what he said Monday night in questioning his managerial skills and saying he and teammates had no communication with him, there is still tension.How could there not be? Especially since there are more than a handful in the A's clubhouse who believe, to borrow a classic line, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Still.GUTIERREZ: DeJesus muscles up
One clubhouse source said Fuentes sounding off was merely a veteran player blowing off some much-needed steam on a personal, player-to-manager level. Yet another said Fuentes, a relative newbie in these parts who signed a two-year, 10.5-million free-agent deal in January, essentially took the bullet for many of the longer-tenured players by saying what they have long felt.Who's right? Probably both parties.Geren took umbrage with the assertion he doesn't interact, even as he admitted Fuentes may have had a point in his specific situation."Fair to say that," Geren said, "but also, communication's a two-way street."Fuentes said the two had a chance meeting in a hallway at the team hotel. Geren said he called Fuentes into his office at the ballpark to talk.In any event, they met to clear the air on a day when legendary A's Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley took Fuentes to the woodshed on The Monty Show on Sports Radio 95.7 FM, yes, the A's new flagship station."You can't say what he said. Period," Eckersley said. "He's been in the big leagues too long to act like that. Makes a ton of money and he's not the greatest closer in the universe. So zip it."REWIND: A's Fuentes sounds off on Geren
In his favor, Fuentes has performed well when used in a specific role. In save situations, the left-hander is 1-1 with nine saves and a 2.92 ERA. In his other 12 appearances, the left-hander is 0-6 with an ERA of 8.00. Used in tie-games in his last four outings, Fuentes has given it up in all of them and, at 1-7, he is the first relief pitcher to have lost seven games before June 1 since Gene Garber in 1979.Not that Eckersley was buying any of it, though."If you fail, you don't throw the manager under the bus," he said. "You just don't. Frustration is one thing but to me, that's a weak excuse; if you're acting like you're the man, and you've got to tell me, when is Fuentes the man?"If that was (Tony) LaRussa, are you kidding me? He'd chop my head off. I would make a formal apology."Fuentes offered no such mea culpa. Instead, he said he "felt better about it" after his skull session with Geren. As did the manager."It went well," Geren said. "Yeah, talked to Brian and gave him my thoughts, he told me his thoughts. Walked out. Everything's good. Shook hands, everything's fine."Even as Fuentes was demoted from closer and Grant Balfour will assume the role until Andrew Bailey returns from rehabbing the strained forearm that felled him in spring training, possibly within the next week. And yet, Balfour told reporters before the game he had not been informed of his new job description.But I digress.Geren said he did not even think of calling a team meeting to diffuse any clubhouse friction, real or imagined."No, I think that was something for Brian and I to straighten out," he said. "Don't think it was necessary to bring anyone else into it."And yet, the players are involved. And will remain so as long as there is even a hint of someone feeling slighted by a lack of communication."Everybody respects Brian a lot and he's a good teammate," said Mark Ellis, the longest-tenured A's player. "Today, he probably wishes he didn't say it in the press. But they've talked so it's done."Everybody respects Brian."Then what about the manager?"We respect the manager," Ellis answered. "Our job is to respect the manager."As well as say the politically correct things, right?"We stand behind both Bob and Tito," DeJesus said, referring to Fuentes' nickname. "But Tito because he's one of us. He goes through the grind every day and we're backing him, we're behind him and we felt like that gave us the motivation to go out there and just play loose and it showed up in the game today."Ah, yes. Winning, the ultimate deodorant. That and communication.

Very bad 49ers stay tumbling in truly lost 2016 season

Very bad 49ers stay tumbling in truly lost 2016 season

You can almost hear the sound whistling between the 49ers’ teeth at this point, beneath the droned platitudes and vague responses to what is a fully lost season:

“Look, what do you want from us? This is who we are.”

You can almost hear it, that is. They wouldn’t dare express such rampant defeatism – I mean, if they didn’t after Sunday’s 34-17 muzzling at the hands, arms, torsos and feet of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s unlikely you would hear it at any point.

But they must surely know by now that this is a season already in the rear-view mirror. There are no secret plans, or stashed players, or untried ideas left to unearth, sign or try. The coming bye week will not clear their heads and give them new inspiration, save that of having a week off from the steady beatings. They are 1-6 on merit, and proved it again yesterday before another dispirited two-thirds-of-a-sellout crowd which is coming to realize that their hope is a mile wide and an inch deep.

[MAIOCCO: Kelly: No changes to 49ers defensive staff after loss]

Sunday, for example, Colin Kaepernick was their best running back, Shaun Draughn was their best receiver, the downed kickoff was their best special teams play, and their best strategic decision – well, they lost the coin flip so they didn’t even get a chance to defer the opening kickoff.

And their defense? It only allowed whatever Tampa Bay wanted, and only on demand. Jacquizz Rodgers became the sixth running back to gain 100 yards against them (and the first to do it in one half), which is noteworthy only because they allowed five all last year in a bad season, and nine in the four seasons before that, four of those by Marshawn Lynch.

And quarterback Jameis Winston threw the ball to wide-open receivers and into coverage with the same sense of well-placed bravado. Though his numbers didn’t exactly aurora the borealis (21-of-30, 269, 3/1, 117.2), he never emitted a sense that he couldn’t do whatever he wanted – save get the officials to give him a better spot when he snapped and cost his team a potential touchdown with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for headless-chickening.

In other words, this was not materially different than the Buffalo game, or the Seattle game, or the Carolina game. The only game that has been different is the opener against Los Angeles, when everything worked and made sense and life was happy and Jed York hummed “I Am 16 Going On 17” all through the suite all night long.

That game was 50,000 years ago. These are who the 49ers are now, and who they are going to be for awhile to come.

They speak of consistency, and yet they are the very model of it – leading the league in punts, and ranking second in three-and-outs, 27th in first downs and 31st in plays per drive. They don’t stay on the field, in other words, and when on defense, they allow 118 more yards per game than their offense gets them.

And they swear with unanimity that they are together as a team, and work hard each week to achieve the acme of their talents and learning. So this, if that is so, must be at or near the top of their game – which, as head coach for now and the future Chip Kelly (stop thinking this is just a coaching problem, please) put it, “We’re not doing what it takes to be successful right now.”

That was in response to a question about whether the 49ers were going backwards. He ducked the issue by saying, “I don’t think forwards or backwards,” which is probably a lie, but we can help anyway.

They have gone dramatically backwards since Game 1, and essentially stagnated since Game 2. It’s how they have gotten to where they are right now, and how they have become who they are right now.

It may be that stranger things have happened in the NFL than a team starting 1-6 and rallying to win eight, nine or 10 in a row, but on this team, based all the available evidence, this team won’t be that strange. They have revealed themselves for what they actually are, which is not good enough to change what they actually are.

And if that is too tough a sentence for you to swallow, well, go out and write some of your own. You can tell any tale you want, but this is the tale of the 2016 San Francisco 49ers, a team awash in unpleasant self-realization and the knowledge that there is nothing to be done but to go out each week and do it again.

Except next week, of course. Bye may be a favorite, but Bye must be played, just like all the others.

Notes: 'Carr to Crabtree was special' in Raiders win

Notes: 'Carr to Crabtree was special' in Raiders win

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree was a non-factor in last week’s loss to Kansas City, an aberration of the highest order this season.

It proved to be just a one-game lull.

Crabtree was an offensive catalyst yet again Sunday in a 33-16 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He had eight receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown, including a long bomb that changed the game.

Quarterback Derek Carr went big on 3rd-and-5 late in the second quarter, sending a perfectly-arched ball down the right sideline that Crabtree caught over his shoulder at full gallop for a 56-yard gain that set up the Raiders’ second touchdown in five minutes.

Crabtree got it, again on third down, using a quick slant just beyond the goal line.

He refused to speak with the media again, but those around him were again wowed by his impact on the game, especially when Jaguars corner shadowed and largely shut Amari Cooper down.

“Michael Crabtree made some incredible plays today for us,” Del Rio said. “…Throughout the game he came up big for us and I thought he play really, really well for us. Obviously our quarterback is a good player. He did a good job for us hooking up with different receivers, but today Carr to Crabtree was special.”

King shows speed: Raiders punter Marquette King doesn’t have to run much. Players at his position usually don’t, except as a last resort when chasing a return.

King ran forward this time, prompted by a uncharacteristically poor Jon Condo snap. He didn’t have room to punt so he took off running, converting a 4th-and-24 with a 27-yard run down the sideline. It was a move that showed great athleticism, one he

“I just picked the ball up and started running,” King said. “After I passed the orange sticks, I got a little light-headed and realized ‘I’m really running the ball right now.’ It’s been since high school that I ran from the punting formation. I came in as a wide receiver for Fort Valley State and was really good at punting so they stuck with me.”

King ran out without getting hit – a plus in the coaches minds – and extended a drive that ended with a game-icing touchdown from Latavius Murray.

Too many field goals: Sebastian Janikowski had four field goals on Sunday night, which isn’t always a positive sign for the Raiders offense. They let too many touchdown-scoring chances escape, which bothered offensive players despite the fact they scored 33 points.

“When we’re in the red zone, we want points,” Murray said. “That’s most important, but we need touchdowns over field goals. We have a lot of work to do and we’ll keep striving to get seven points over three.”

Winning turnover battle: The Raiders forced three turnovers against Jacksonville and didn’t give up any.

David Amerson had an interception. So did Reggie Nelson. Andre Holmes recovered a punt muffed by Rashad Greene. That’s a recipe for success, something that’s become common for this Raiders team.

They’ve forced three turnovers without coughing it up three times this season. They’ve ended up with a plus turnover ratio six times in seven games.

Notes: Raiders LB Bruce Irvin recorded his fourth forced fumble of the season against Jacksonville, which are the most by a Raiders since Nick Roach equaled that total in 2013. …DE Khalil Mack had his second sack in as many games, and now leads the team with three. … Nelson nabbed his second interception this year and has 32 since 2007, a total that leads all active safeties. …RB Latavius Murray has five touchdowns in seven games, the highest total in that span since 2005. … The Raiders are 4-0 on the road, a mark that hasn’t been matched since 2000.