Urban: Scouts high on newest Giant Keppinger


Urban: Scouts high on newest Giant Keppinger

July 20, 2011


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Mychael Urban

SAN FRANCISCO -- Jeff Keppinger didn't arrive at the Home of the Ring on King until about 1:50 p.m. Wednesday, delaying his highly anticipated first start in orange and black.No matter. That merely provided more time to do a little digging on the guy who, at the very least, will be keeping second base warm until Freddy Sanchez makes a triumphant return to the Giants' lineup. At worst, in this case represented by potential complications from a potential Sanchez shoulder surgery, he's your starting second baseman for the start of 2012.
URBAN: Giants' Keppinger deal solid if unspectacular
This was no archeological dig in an exotic locale, mind you. For hours before every game at AT&T Park, you'll find three or four big-league scouts lounging in the press box, prepping their paperwork, swapping stories and generally solving every problem from Questec to the draft slotting system to the baffling selection of random hosts on the once-great The View.

They're more than happy to entertain any questions an industrious media type might have of a player on whom they have an opinion, and that covers pretty much every player who's strapped it on.Urban Shocker, for instance? Yeah, flexible guy, the scouts will tell you. Plus command. Nice little slide-piece. Character issues early but matured into plus makeup. Don't ask 'em how they know. Shocker's last season was in 1928. They just do. They're scouts. Come on.They know about Keppinger, too, and it would have been nice to record their thoughts on the guy for all Giants fans to hear. Alas, as much as scouts love to talk about any and all players, when it comes to being identified, they're downright Hughsian. Everything has to be anonymous.Not off-the-record. Anonymous. And here's what they had to say about Keppinger on Thursday before Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum locked horns in one of those rare pitching matchups that actually lived up to the hype.
RECAP: Kershaw outduels Lincecum in 1-0 Giants loss
Scout 1: "Kepp's a nice little player; I call him Kepp. Saw him at Georgia when I was a cross-checker. Liked him then, like him now."Scout 2: "I like him more now. He's filled out real nice."Scout 1: "Filled out, yeah. Still can't hit one out of my kid's Legion ball yard, though."Scout 3: "That's not the type of hitter he is, anyway. He's a slash and burn guy. Real aggressive. Doesn't even look to hit for power, it seems."Scout 2: "It's in there, though. He'll jump up and bite you here and there if you try to sneak 3-1 past his belt."Scout 3: "Has he even worked a 3-1 count? I haven't seen many of those with him. He's up there to hit. Look at his on-base. Not a big walker."Scout 1: "Not a big strikeout guy, either. Hardest guy to strike out in the league, I read today in one of the papers here."Scout 2: "You can read?"Scout 1: "I can read your mind. You're thinking about your next meal. I suggest a salad, porky."Scout 3: "Look at Mr. Universe giving dietary advice."Guys, guys. Can we re-focus here? Keppinger, remember? How's his D?Scout 2: "Better than most people think. He'll make the routines. Solid fundamentally. Won't hurt you. Almost never."Scout 1: "Won't be on Plays of the Week very often, though, either. He's what I like to call a base defender; athletic enough to make the plays you need to win and move around the diamond a little bit, but not athletic enough to save your ass very often."Scout 3: "Make enough routines and you're saving enough asses as it is."Scout 2: "Especially with this pitching staff. The Giants don't need highlight plays. They need plays, period. Freddy Sanchez isn't a highlight machine, either."Scout 1: "But Kepp's no Freddy Sanchez."Scout 2: "No, but he's similar in that he's solid, scrappy, hard-nosed like Sanchez."Scout 3: "Not as good a hitter as Sanchez, either."Scout 2: "Yeah, but he's not that far off. He can handle the two-hole like Sanchez, and he's gonna get you a bunch of hits."Scout 1: "Or at least hits in bunches."Scout 3: "Yeah. A little streaky. But aren't we all?"Scout 2: "Still waiting for you to get hot, actually. When's that gonna happen, anyway?"Scout 1: "Same time Kepp hits his 25th homer -- never. Nice little player, though. Giants did well on this."

Despite loss, Sharks 'in a good spot' headed into bye week


Despite loss, Sharks 'in a good spot' headed into bye week

SAN JOSE – Despite what was technically their sixth loss in the last eight games, the Sharks seemed to put more stock in the point they gained in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Bruins on Sunday night at SAP Center, rather than the one they left on the table.

They have that luxury. 

The Sharks will enter their bye week five points ahead of Edmonton and Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, and figure they’re due for some time off after a short summer followed by a World Cup for some, and a brutal condensed NHL schedule for all.

“[We’ve] showed up and played hard,” Joe Pavelski said. “We’ve been in a lot of games. Games we’ve lost, we’ve battled. There hasn’t been any cheat in [our] game. Defensively, we’ve been strong. There’s a lot of good areas in our game that we like right now.”

Playing in the second of a back-to-back against a Bruins team had was coming off of its own bye week, the Sharks fell behind 1-0 on a first period goal by Ryan Spooner, but notched a Patrick Marleau equalizer in a second period in which they outshot the Bruins 16-9. An evenly played third period gave way to overtime, where Brad Marchand scored on a breakaway to give the Bruins their fourth straight win since changing head coaches.

The Sharks spoke before the weekend about finishing the final two games strong before the respite. They ended up gaining three of four points, including Saturday’s 4-1 win in Arizona, and were pleased with their effort against the Bruins as they capped off 10 games in 20 days since the All-Star break.

“It was an important push into this break,” Pete DeBoer said. “To go in up [five points] on the next closest team is a real testament to our group.”

Paul Martin said: “I thought we played pretty well, considering the back-to-back with some travel, and a team that was waiting for us.”

Perhaps the most encouraging performance came from Martin Jones, who was one of a number of Sharks players that was looking particularly fatigued lately. The goaltender entered the game with a 1-0-2 record, 4.46 goals-against average and .837 save percentage in his last four starts, including getting pulled after the first period in Boston just 10 days ago.

Jones was impressive, though, making a vital pad stop on the dangerous David Pastrnak in front of the net midway through the third period to keep it a 1-1 score.

“It was a good game. Two teams playing hard,” Jones said. “We can take a lot of positives from that one. It was a good hard game, just didn’t go our way tonight.”

Overtimes have been an issue lately, though. The Sharks have lost their last four games decided during the three-on-three, all coming within the last two weeks. As satisfied as they are with their cushion in the division, it could have been cushier.

Against the Bruins, Tuukka Rask denied Brent Burns on a two-on-one in overtime, and Marchand scored off of the ensuing faceoff, blowing the zone past Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and corralling a long toss from Torey Krug before sliding it home.

“We get to overtime, shootouts – we expect to get that extra point,” Pavelski said. “We haven’t found it lately. We’ll just keep looking for it.”

DeBoer said: “The points are critical, they’re valuable. I don’t read a lot into [overtime decisions], we’ve won our share over the time I’ve been here. We had a chance to win tonight, too. … I concentrate on the effort, and I thought we got better as the game went on.”

Being focused and energized, as they have been most of the season to this point, shouldn’t be a problem when the season resumes next Saturday in Vancouver. The Sharks are in prime position to win their first division title since 2010-11, and a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final is a distinct possibility.

Losing six of eight won’t be nearly as acceptable coming out of the break as it apparently is going into it, but that’s not something to worry about now, even after another defeat. 

“There are some games you wish you could get back and get those points, but we’re still in a good spot,” Marleau said.

Trading Cousins is the ultimate Kingstastic move

Trading Cousins is the ultimate Kingstastic move

There was a lot of complaining about the lack of defense in this year’s All-Star Game, as though last year’s All-Star Game didn’t happen.

But the Most Valuable Player, which was putatively Anthony Davis for scoring a record 52 points in front of his home crowd, was actually the man with the fewest minutes of all.

Yes, the man, the god, The DeMarcus Cousins. The Very Definition Of A Sacramento King, By Becoming An Ex-Sacramento King.

Cousins, now the second-best player on the New Orleans Pelicans, played only two minutes Sunday, the lowest total by any All-Star since Connie Hawkins in 1971, ostensibly because he told head coach Steve Kerr he was a little ouchy, but more likely because the Kings were frantically trying to trade him and didn’t want him hurting himself in a game with even no contact whatsoever.

Not during the All-Star Break, mind you. DURING THE ALL-STAR GAME ITSELF! Adam Silver must have been vomiting hedgehogs into a bucket at the very thought.

As it turns out, the Kings, who have sworn up and down that they would never consider trading Cousins, did that very thing, closing a deal to send Cousins and forward Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans for a first and second-round pick in the upcoming draft, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway (who is likely to be waived in true Kings fashion) and 2016 first-rounder Buddy Hield.

You remember Buddy Hield. He’s the guy who clocked Cousins in the joy division going around a Cousins pick during the last Pelicans-Kings game, and got tossed for doing so.

In other words, the Kings prefer the guy who punched their best player in the goolies to their best player. This is so Kingsy.

But on the back end, Cousins’ agent, Jarinn Akana, said Cousins is disinclined to sign a long-term contract with his next team, making him a rental who could some day return to Sacramento in a Groundhog's Day remake that would cause the Oroville Dam to get up and walk off the job.

This too is so Kingsy.

This is the greatness of the Kings. They blew up the All-Star weekend during the game itself. They blew it up trying to get rid of their best player when they are within fighting distance of their first playoff spot in 11 years. They blew it up after saying they weren’t considering trading the dynamite at all.

Kingsy, Kingsy, Kingsy. It’s Kingstastic!

And the best part of it all is that the trade leaves everyone deflated and confused and ultimately angry, while the Kings undervalued their only marketable player to invest in a future they have mocked for decades.

You know what we;’re talking about. Gimme a K! Gimme an I! Gimme an N-G-S, throw an extraneous Y on the end of it what does it spell?

Yeah. Right.

It’s remarkable thing, being a King. While we have all amused ourselves with the machinations of the thick-as-two-short-planks New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony, the Kings have been Kinging this way for most of the last 35 years.

And now, they have decided to feed their obsession with the Golden State Warriors by running even further away from them, by tossing their only bargaining chip for a future player or players that they typically ruin, and Buddy Hield, who just found out that even at these prices life can still be cruel.

Give them their due, though. The Kings could win the NBA title and hock the trophy. They could be invited to the White House when the President is off playing golf. They could increase their Forbes valuation to $5 billion and declare bankruptcy.

Because they are the Kings, and that sentence has rarely meant more than it does now.

Not because they traded Cousins. Trades happen all the time. Wilt Chamberlain got traded twice.

But the Kings handled this with all the skill of a pickpocket with feet where his hands should be. They lied unconvincingly. They talked hard business and ended up with a nebulous deal that guarantees nothing except more speculation come summer. And they have nothing else to trade between now and . . . well, whenever they stopped being so damned Kingsy.

For New Orleans, it is a roll of the dice, an attempt to make the playoffs with a two-headed monster in Cousins and Davis. It may be too much to giver, but without knowing how the Kings will screw up those picks, it remains speculative at best.

Indeed, this is subtraction by subtraction, the standard Kings deal. And whatever the Kings have gained in this trade (hey, you never know), we remain safe in saying that they did it in such a Kingsy way that they may never top this.

Until the next time they do anything at all. Never doubt the power of Kingsiness.