Urban: Bay Ball news and notes


Urban: Bay Ball news and notes

Nov. 22, 2010


Mychael Urban

Joey Votto is the National Leagues MVP?Cody Ross got hosed!OK, maybe not. But thats the best we can do in terms of Bay Areabaseball conversation starters right now. Monday marked the start of whats typically a very quiet time onthe games calendar. From Thanksgiving week until the start of the annualwinter meetings, which this year will be held in Orlando, Fla.,Dec. 6-9, front offices tend to stay under the radar.Thats not to say there wont be any big news. There justwont be a torrential downpour; thatll come once the big-name freeagents start signing (i.e., setting the market for everyone else).For now, then, well have to make due with making sense of thesteady drizzle of rumors and roster machinations, including ... Oaklands stalled pursuit of Japanese pitching starHisashi Iwakuma. As first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle,talks between the As and Iwakuma, a 29-year-old righty, have hit a wall-- of cash. The As paid a posting fee of between 16-18million for the right to negotiate with Iwakuma for 30 days, and two weeks intothe process the sides are said to be worlds apart on proposed contract terms. Oaklandwont have to pay that fat fee if it doesnt reach an agreementwith Iwakuma, who apparently wants to be paid like an ace. The As,however, already have an ace in 18-game winner Trevor Cahill, and BrettAnderson and Gio Gonzalez have ace potential. Youve heard the adage that sometimes the best deals are thosethat dont go down? This might be one of them. And dont worry about that deal that Vin Mazzaro to the Royals acouple of days after the As won the bidding rights; that was more aboutlanding David DeJesus -- an excellent all-around player -- than it was aboutOaklands supreme confidence in signing Iwakuma.With or without the Japanese import, the As are going to have atremendous rotation in 2011, especially if Josh Outman is 100 percent in hisrecovery from the Tommy John surgery that cut short his breakthrough 2009season. If healthy, Cahill, Anderson,Gonzalez, Outman and Dallas Braden -- with Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer asinsurance -- would represent the best 1-5 in the American League West.And with the 16-18 million posting fee, plus another 10 million orso for the actual contract, that Oaklandappeared to have earmarked for Iwakuma, theyll have a better shot attruly addressing the glaring need that is their dearth of power. The D-Trains never-ending quest for a return torelevance. Its a sad story, really. Dontrelle Willis was oneof the most charismatic players in the game when he burst onto the scene as arookie on FloridasWorld Series-winning 2003 team, but injuries and anxiety issues have sincerobbed him of his confidence and command.They havent robbed him of his love for the game, though. Thatmuch is obvious. And perhaps because of that charisma, teams continue to givehim chance after chance to find his once-funky, fantastic form. Hes a Tiger! Hes a Diamondback! Hes a Giant! Andas of Monday, hes a Red, signed today. All in the past six months alone. Good luck to one of Alamedasfavorite sons. Darren Ford avoiding time behind bars. TheGiants speedy outfielder entered a pre-trial intervention program that keepshim out of jail in connection with a November 2009 arrest for essentiallystealing 300 from the car dealership at which he worked and making up a storyabout it being taken from him at gunpoint.Ford, who provided one of the seasons more memorable momentswith his mad dash home in a big September win over the Rockies,declined comment after reaching a deal with prosecutors.The deal means Ford wont have a criminal record in his hometownof Vineland, N.J.,and thats probably a relief to Vinelandmayor Robert Romano. Last week, Romano gave Ford a key to the city. The unenviable task of Nick Paparesta.Whos that? The guy the As just hired as their head athletic trainer.And we can neither confirm nor deny that he sprained a finger reaching for thepen with which he signed his contract.
What's on your mind? Email Mychael and let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag.

Key Giants lefty reliever Smith sidelined by elbow inflammation

Key Giants lefty reliever Smith sidelined by elbow inflammation

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- For years, the Giants would give Sergio Romo time off during spring training to make sure his tender elbow would be ready for opening day. Romo is now a Dodger, but one of the men tasked with replacing those eighth-inning outs has been shut down. 

Will Smith won't throw for about a week because of inflammation in his left elbow. Manager Bruce Bochy said an MRI came back clean, but Smith won't pitch in a game for two to three weeks. The Giants are confident, however, that Smith will be ready for opening day. Because of the long spring, the staff has mapped out a schedule where Smith can return and make six spring appearances before the regular season. 

Any setbacks would strike a big blow to the bullpen. Smith, 27, is supposed to be a key part of the revamped group. The Giants acquired him at the deadline last season hoping he turns into the next Jeremy Affeldt, a lefty capable of facing left- and right-handed hitters.

After a slow start in San Francisco last August, Smith ended the regular season with 18 consecutive scoreless appearances. The Giants entered camp with Smith set to share the eighth-inning role with right-handers Derek Law and Hunter Strickland.

Paraag Marathe: My job is to stay in my lane, help the coach and GM

Paraag Marathe: My job is to stay in my lane, help the coach and GM

SANTA CLARA – As team executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe traveled the country during the 49ers’ search to fill their head coach and general manager positions, there was plenty of criticism that followed them at every stop.

York, the CEO, has been held accountable by the local media and on social media, as he publicly welcomed, in recent seasons when the 49ers fell from the NFC Championship game to 8-8, 5-11 and 2-14 under three different head coaches.

A year ago, Marathe officially was replaced as team president and became the 49ers’ chief strategy officer and executive vice president of football operations. His duties with the football team have not changed.

In fact, York and Marathe roles with the organization took on a much-greater significance after the decision was made to fire coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke.

The 49ers interviewed six head-coach candidates and 10 individuals who were considered for the general manager position.

Along the way, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels bowed out, likely because his top choice to be his general manager partner, Nick Caserio, opted to remain as the Patriots’ chief of personnel. Then-Kansas City executive Chris Ballard declined an interview and another serious candidate, Green Bay’s Brian Gutekunst, removed his name from consideration to remain with the Packers on a new contract.

After more than a month, the 49ers finalized the hirings of general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan, who officially accepted the job the day after the Atlanta Falcons’ crushing defeat in Super Bowl 51.

“Nothing speaks better to the process than the quality of the two men that we hired,” Marathe told CSNBayArea.com. “I can’t tell you, just in the last two weeks even, how inspiring it’s been to be at work, just seeing these guys work together and how they’ve already transformed the building.”

Marathe joined the “49ers Insider Podcast” for a wide-ranging interview that touched on his personal life, as well as his responsibilities during his 16 years with the 49ers. The entire 43-minute podcast can be heard here.

Marathe has remained behind the scenes working for the 49ers mostly on contract and salary-cap matters. There has been mystery about his role while working with head coaches Steve Mariucci, Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula, Kelly and, now, Shanahan.

At one point during the search, Pro Football Talk, citing “thinking inside league circles,” described Marathe as being viewed as an “impediment” to the 49ers' ability to attract top candidates for their openings.

“It’s unfortunate that’s out there, if that’s out there,” Marathe said. “I won't say it’s something that doesn’t bother me at all. Of course, it stings. But I do know, I try to keep my head down and do a good job and support the people who are here. All I try to do is earn their respect and their trust on what I do. I feel like I’ve been able to do that. I think the individuals that you would talk to, if you talked to them, they’d probably tell you the same thing.

“I’m not trying to be anything other than what I am, which is a support to the coach and the GM.”

This offseason, former 49ers coach candidate Adam Gase told CSNBayArea.com one of the reasons he really wanted the head-coaching position in 2015 was because of his relationship with York and Marathe.

Arizona executive Terry McDonough, a finalist for the 49ers’ GM job, went out of his way to compliment Marathe shortly after he learned Lynch was hired.

“When I was done with that first interview, I said, ‘This is a guy I would want to partner with, along with Jed and whoever the new head coach might be,’” McDonough said of Marathe.

A source close to McDaniels reached out to CSNBayArea.com to dispel any notion that McDaniels’ decision to remain with the Patriots was any reflection on those running the 49ers’ search. McDaniels stated he was impressed with York, Marathe and Brian Hampton, the team’s director of football administration and analytics.

The roles of Marathe and the organization’s use of analytics have been a topic of intrigue for years. Marathe said his role is merely to support the individuals on the football side to provide the team with any kind of advantage.

“My job is to keep my head down, stay my lane, do my job and help the head coach and GM as much as I can," he said.

Marathe added, "Coach Harbaugh, as you know, was looking for every advantage. One thing why he has so much success, he’s always looking for every advantage he can get. He used to use that NASCAR example, if you can figure out how to go 1 mph faster.

"So anything that helped him, we would go through. We’d talk after other games in the league about, ‘Hey, that team, they had one minute left. How many plays do you think they could’ve gotten off in that time? I thought six. Well, I thought seven.’ We’d go through it and talk through it. So, yeah, they were receptive, and it was good.”

Marathe said Lynch and Shanahan have already asked for his opinions on the feasibility of some of the upcoming decisions the organization must make during the offseason.

“I come at it from a different perspective, which is from the salary cap and contract side of things and also just having seen a lot over the years, in terms of how deals get made or how trades happen,” Marathe said.

Without specifying a position of inquiry, such as quarterback, Marathe said he has already provided Lynch and Shanahan with reference material for what it has taken to acquire players in past NFL trades.

“Here are all the other examples of when this position was traded for, and what people gave up to trade,” Marathe said. “That would establish the range for us if we are curious about a player at that position. And then we have a discussion from there.”

As the 49ers prepare for free agency, Marathe said the personnel department and coaching staff will rank the players by position. Then, Marathe will come up with comparable players and provide a range of what he anticipates a player will command on the open market. That leads to more discussion about which players are seen as better fits when considering football and finances.

“It’s my job to keep our cap as flexible as possible,” Marathe said. “But from a football standpoint, making decisions on players, that’s those two guys . . . I’m not good at that. That’s what they’re really good at, and that’s who I take my direction from.”

The 49ers have approximately $80 million in salary cap space entering the offseason. But that does not necessarily mean the 49ers will be willing to pay above market value to attract any players.

“I think there are times when you want to be a little bit more aggressive, versus maybe not be as aggressive,” Marathe said.

“The beauty of how the salary cap works, you can roll over the room to future years. There won’t ever be a salary cap dollar that’s unspent. We’ll always spend it. It just may not be this month. It could be next month or it could be next year. We’ll spend ever dollar. It doesn’t change the values. The values are still driven by what the market dictates.”