Giants' moves all about context

Giants' moves all about context

Jan. 11, 2010


Aubrey Huff, who will become a Giant if he passes his physical Tuesday -- isn't going to make anybody hyperventilate. Neither is Mark DeRosa. And while the return of Juan Uribe was welcome, it wasn't exactly a call-your-mother moment.Three moves, none of them particularly exciting. There might be another move or two in the making, be it the addition of a right-handed early setup man, a fifth starter or a glorified backup catcher to keep Buster Posey's seat warm, but that's your offseason in a nutshell, Giants fans.Is it bumming you out? Given that the two true additions -- DeRosa and Huff -- are the kinds of players we've seen in these parts before, that's certainly understandable. At first whiff, Huff smells a little like Ryan Garko or Shea Hillenbrand or Todd Benzinger, or any of the other 48 underachieving first baseman the Giants have had over the years. He's 33 years old and coming off a dramatic drop-off of a season statistically, and history provides plenty of evidence that some players, when they start to lose it, lose it in a hurry. Might Huff be one of them? The Giants are paying 3 million to find out. It's a relatively small price to pay to see if Huff might have another 2008 -- .30432 HRs108 RBIs.360 OBP -- in him, but if what's discovered is that 2009 -- .2411585.310 -- was the far more accurate predictor, those of us who wonder if a GarkoTravis Ishikawa platoon would have been so bad will be wondering it aloud.And DeRosa, well, he's going to be 35 by Opening Day; he's being paid more by the Giants per year than he's ever made in his career; he's not what anyone would call a true difference-maker; and, um, HE'S GOING TO BE 35 ON OPENING DAY!We've seen this movie before, right? Like, yesterday? Wasn't it called "Being Dave Roberts"? "The World According to Randy Winn"?What we have here is a test -- of patience, faith, and of the kind of optimism that many baseball fans find difficult to muster, particularly when they've been conditioned to disappointment.The optimist, though, looks at what the Giants have done this winter in context with the team's pitching. They had very good pitching in 2009, and they would have made the playoffs were it not for a lineup that did little more than set the bar of offensive ineptitude so low that Jimmy Raye didn't come off as a complete failure.All of that pitching, save Home Run Howry and Brad Penny (whose two-month resurrection with the Giants could very well be proven fool's gold by May), is coming back. And a solid case can be made for most of the pitchers coming back better than ever. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo and Jonathan Sanchez aren't yet 28, which is when a great many pitchers start finding their groove. Jeremy Affeldt is 30. Merkin Valdez just turned 28 in November. Barry Zito improved enough last year to suggest that he's not as cooked as we thought.
And give me Madison Bumgarner, the likely No. 5 starter this year at age 20, every day of the week ahead of a bloated contract for Penny that rewards two months of good and ignores the previous year-plus of bad.That's a playoff-worthy staff, and with that staff, the Giants went into the offseason knowing that they didn't absolutely have to have a huge name that would have commanded a huge contract. Jason Bay and Matt Holliday? Not for those prices, thanks. No, what the Giants absolutely have to have in support of their stellar staff is a lineup that's at least marginally better in 2010 than it was in 2009. The moves they've made this winter have clearly been made with that -- not call-your-mother moments -- in mind.--Mychael Urban

LeBron doesn't care about long Finals odds: 'I only play blackjack in Vegas'

LeBron doesn't care about long Finals odds: 'I only play blackjack in Vegas'

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — LeBron James says the challenge of facing the Golden State Warriors in the Finals is “up there” with any of his career.

Appearing in his seventh straight Finals, James knows the Cleveland Cavaliers are underdogs as they prepare to the play the Western Conference champions for the third straight year. This version of the Warriors is even scarier than previous ones as Kevin Durant is now playing with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

James was in a similar situation in Miami when he went up against San Antonio and a roster of future Hall of Famers.

The three-time champion said playing Golden State is “going to be very challenging not only on me mentally, but on our ballclub and on our franchise.”

Reminded that Las Vegas oddsmakers had made him an underdog in six of his eight Finals, James quipped, “I only play blackjack in Vegas anyway, so it doesn’t matter.”


Shanahan delegates offensive duties to 49ers staff

Shanahan delegates offensive duties to 49ers staff

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan will retain the role he held the past nine seasons in his first year as head coach of the 49ers.

Shanahan eschewed the formality of naming an offensive coordinator because he will keep those duties for himself. Still, Shanahan made it clear that he alone will not be able to fix the 49ers’ offense.

Shanahan has assembled a supporting cast that he said makes him comfortable to delegate responsibilities whenever his attention has to be focused on something other than the team’s offense.

“I mix it up,” said Shanahan, who previously held offensive coordinator roles with Houston, Washington, Cleveland and Atlanta. “Different guys have different attributes.”

Mike McDaniel and Mike LaFleur joined Shanahan after time together on the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive staff. McDaniel is the run-game specialist, while LaFleur, the wide receivers coach, is the pass-game specialist.

Tight ends coach Jon Embree, formerly the head coach at Colorado, is Shanahan’s assistant head coach. Shanahan said Embree has a vocal role on his staff.

Moreover, long-time NFL running backs coach Bobby Turner is a trusted assistant after spending 14 seasons in Denver and four more in Washington with Mike Shanahan, Kyle’s father. Turner coached under Kyle Shanahan the past two seasons with the Falcons.

”Bobby Turner’s been an assistant head coach for our teams we’ve had in the past and anytime that I need him to take over, he does,” Shanahan said. “So it depends what period it is, depends what we’re talking about.”

The 49ers opened organized team activities last week. It was the first time the 49ers’ rookies and veterans were together on the field for offense vs. defense practices. Shanahan said it takes some adjustment for him to figure out how to best budget his time during the workouts.

“I’m used to knowing exactly where to go and what to do and I always did that from an offensive coordinator standpoint which I still do a lot of those responsibilities,” Shanahan said. “So, at times, I feel most comfortable when I go to do that because that’s something to do. But, when I pass it over to some other guys and let them do it, I find myself walking around a lot and I’m not used to that.

“It feels awkward, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think I should walk around and watch everyone and see it. I always see it on the tape, but that’s later at night. You want players to know you’re there and paying attention to everything and I usually try to cover that in meetings the next day also.”