Urban: Giants' Vogelsong at peak of powers


Urban: Giants' Vogelsong at peak of powers

July 18, 2011


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Mychael Urban

SAN FRANCISCO -- Whether it's Michael Jordan dropping a feathery finger roll over a 7-footer, Wayne Gretzky conducting an orchestra on ice behind the net, Jerry Rice turning a seam route into a 66-yard score, or Ken Griffey Jr. launching long balls with that languid lefty swing that looks like it came straight out of a bottle of thick maple syrup, the truly great ones make it look effortless.The ease with which they do what they do as elite athletes is akin to the ease with which rank-and-file mortals dump the previous morning's coffee grinds into the trash compactor.Wait, check that. Who hasn't dropped those grinds on the linoleum floor when the soggy filter basket busts? Oh, stop it. Yes, you have.We're getting off point now, though, so let's bottom-line it near the top: No matter the field, the best in that field at the very peak of their powers perform with such enviable grace and efficiency that you can't help but stop, watch, admire and wish you were them for one stinking day.Even a Cavs fan would want to be like Mike.What's all this got to do with Giants baseball? If you were at AT&T Park on Monday for the opener of a three-game series against the visiting Dodgers, you know.Ryan Vogelsong made it look that easy.RECAP: Giants 5, Dodgers 0
Not that anyone's ready to dive into a sea of hyperbole and come up claiming Vogelsong deserves a spot among the aforementioned all-timers, but if Vogelsong keeps doing what he did to the Dodgers for another few months, at the very least his story will be an all-timer -- not just locally but nationally.It was a shame that Vogelsong didn't get to make an appearance in last week's All-Star Game; if he had, the Fox announcers would have been forced to tell his story to an audience that likely hasn't heard it. Here in the Bay Area, we can recite it by rote.But the story isn't a story at all without Vogelsong doing incredibly special things on the mound, and while he's had games with numbers similarly impressive to the ones he posted Monday, Monday's outing had that magical simplicity that marks all masterworks.Strike one, strike two. Fastball in, slider away, wrinkles at the knees. Heck, everything at the knees. Everything around the plate. Nothing in the crush zone.Trouble? Whatever. Here, ground into a double play for me, you nuisance. There's a cup of water in the dugout with my name on it, and I'd very much like to get back to it before that Wilson character does something evil in it.That was Vogelsong's night in a nutshell. It was the kind of game you watch and think, "I could do that."But you can't. Not in a million years. That's the thing about guys who make it look easy. What they're doing is actually hard as hell, but you'd never know it watching them.It's when talent and preparation collide at the intersection of intelligence and preternatural poise.It's the best at their best, and with his dominance of the Dodgers, Vogelsong actually was able to lay claim to being the best: His 2.02 ERA is the lowest in the National League.Giants Insider gallery: NL ERA leader
He also improved to 7-1, an .875 winning percentage. The Giants are 10-5 in his 15 starts, a .667 clip of success.Can he keep it up? There were whispers before this one that he was fading, mostly because he'd issued 13 walks in his final three starts before the All-Star break, to the tune of a 3.38 ERA that looked beached-whale bloated compared to the minuscule numbers he was ripping off prior to that.Did Vogelsong hear the whispers? His own, perhaps. As the Giants clubhouse emptied well after the 5-0 victory was in the books, after he'd done the surrounded-by-cameras-and-notebooks thing, he conceded during a brief one-on-one chat that those three starts had, indeed, gnawed at him a bit."I felt a lot better tonight than I had in those three games before the break," Vogelsong said. "My command was back to where I want it to be, to where I need it to be."To where it has to be to make it look easy?If you think Vogelsong would bite on a question like that, maybe his story needs even more telling. This man does humility like Ghandi does peace and tranquility. He lauded the defense behind him more than anything, calling the double plays that got him out of his only two jams "big-time."But before those big-time turns can be made -- and there's no question that Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Crawford made a little magic of their own -- there needs to be a big-time pitch made under big-time pressure.Vogelsong made them. And he made them look easy."It wasn't easy," he said with a smile, slowly shaking his head left and right. "It never is."

Here's to hoping Marshawn Lynch upstages the NFL Draft


Here's to hoping Marshawn Lynch upstages the NFL Draft

Marshawn Lynch is going to upstage the NFL Draft for a few moments by announcing his signing with the Oakland Raiders Thursday.

The problem with this is obvious. He can’t upstage it all day long.

The NFL Draft is one of those events that demeans all who come in contact with it, because it basically extols the three virtues the owners find most inspiring – dishonesty, bullying and treachery. Between everyone lying about everything they do, making players submit to the most revolting reputational indignities, and just good old-fashioned broken promises like, “If you’re there at 119, we’re taking you, oh wait, we suddenly hate you and your skill set,” the draft is largely a festival of misery.

Not universally, mind you. Some players love it, especially the ones who hit the lottery, get picked higher than they thought they would and go to the perfect team for their talents and temperaments. That’s not the usual road, but there you go.

But mostly, nah. And we’re not even getting into the cavalcade of media self-anointeds who think they know what they’re talking about but only serve to remind us that not everybody is a fun companion in a bar.

Now the disclaimer: If you like the NFL Draft, fine. Wallow in every minute of it with our blessing. It'll keep you from all level of other mischief, and it is relatively harmless fun if you can deal with the aesthetic unpleasantries to which we just referred. Just understand that you are spending 356 minutes of party prep for three days of partying and six days of cleanup. It's a hamster wheel of fun, but it is a hamster wheel.

But then there's Marshawn Lynch, who overcame being one of those draft casualties (because Buffalo didn’t work for him, and he didn’t work all that well for Buffalo, either), is coming out of retirement to be traded and then rendered a Raider in the time still allotted for them to reside in Oakland. As a distraction, this will play well enough. It sure beats DeMarcus Cousins being traded by Sacramento during the NBA All-Star Game.

I suppose this is a heart-rending tale of one man’s loyalty to his city (the right place at the right price), although there is the naggingly worrisome component that going back to football won’t be good for his overall health. It is the risk he runs, to be sure, and one can only assume that he has made a clearheaded choice, but this is not a spot that treats its recidivists well.

That’s recidivists, as in “folks who walked away happily, then found out they needed it too much for their own good.”

Frankly, there is no good reason not to want this to turn out well for Lynch (the Raiders can take of themselves with or without him, and within two years will do exactly that), but it is a case of bucking some daunting odds in what is too often a zero-sum game. That’s a level of risk that should make anyone queasy.

But it is what Marshawn Lynch wants, risks and all, and as a grown adult he should get the opportunity few are afforded – to chase and catch his dream until it stops being a dream and becomes a chore.

If it works out for the Raiders as well, fine. Lynch isn’t the one who will put them over the top in a conference dominated by three teams – New England, the Patriots and Bill Belichick – but if he finds the athletic closure he seeks, it ought to be good enough for the rest of us.

Especially if it even momentarily minimizes the rest of the hot rhetorical/gasbaggy mess that is Draft Night. If nothing else, here’s hoping Marshawn Lynch is the star of the night. That’s not the way to bet, of course, but a person can hope.

Source: Marshawn Lynch set to join Raiders, pending physical


Source: Marshawn Lynch set to join Raiders, pending physical

Running back is no longer a pressing Raiders need. They eliminated it just before this NFL draft by acquiring a good one for the team, a great one for the East Bay Raiders fan base.

Marshawn Lynch is going to wear Silver and Black.

The powerful running back and proud Oakland native has agreed to terms on a contract with the Raiders, a league source with knowledge of the situation confirmed on Wednesday morning.

The Raiders have also acquired his rights from Seattle in trade.

The deal and the trade is contingent on a physical. Lynch is expected at Raiders complex Wednesday to complete that formality and sign a contract to make everything official.

The news was first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo before dawn Wednesday morning.

NFL Network reports Lynch agreed to a two-year contract worth $8.5 million. He's set to make a $3 million base salary in 2017. He can earn another another $2 million coming if he reaches 1,000 yards. 

The Seahawks and Raiders will swap 2018 draft picks to complete the trade. According to USA Today, Seattle receives Oakland's fifth-round pick next year in exchange for Lynch and their sixth round pick next year.

The Oakland Tech High grad and Cal alum retired from NFL football after the 2015 season, but wanted to return after a year away from the game. The 31-year old only wanted to return for his hometown team, and got his wish after prolonged contract talks.

A union is now a completed physical away from becoming complete. 

Raiders players were overjoyed at the news before that, including quarterback Derek Carr.

Former Seahawks teammate Bruce Irvin, who has been championing the Lynch-to-Oakland cause for weeks now, was thrilled to see Lynch join the squad.

Lynch is not expected to be a Las Vegas Raider. His contract runs through the 2018 season. The Raiders plan to play in the Bay Area until their new Las Vegas stadium is complete in 2020. They have lease options to play at Oakland Colsieum through the 2018 season.