Tuesday, November 30, 2010

49ers Beat Cardinals, Lose Frank Gore

Well, the 49ers looked like an NFL team again on Monday night, and actually showed what little audience that tuned in, their best performance of 2010, from start to finish. The victory was bitter sweet though, as star running back Frank Gore broke his leg and is done for the season.

Before I get into the game, I wanted to talk about Gore very briefly. The positive way at looking at the injury, and best case scenario, is that it takes some wear and tear of Frank in the long run and he comes back as fresh, and healthy as ever for training camp 2011. The bad part about it is it came at a time in which the Niners just got their one ray of hope for this season. After Monday's win, they're now just 1 game back of the fading Rams and Seahawks in this putrid NFC West. Still though, as much as I want to see them going, I don't see the 49ers making the playoffs this year, with or without Gore, and if he can come back healthy and strong to start 2011, than this injury shouldn't be a huge set-back. The 49ers will likely plan for the worst and pursue some back-up plan at RB this offseason in-case Gore shows lingering effects, unless Anthony Dixon absolutely takes this job and runs with it, which I'm really hoping happens. Dixon has power and Gore has that elusiveness and if Dixon can gain confidence and experience in this second half, a duo of him and Gore could be huge in 2011. That's putting a positive spin on things, but let's face it, a broken hip, especially for a running back who gets hit 25-30 times a week, is no injury to scoff at.

As important as he is, the 49ers have to move on in 2010 with Gore on the sidelines, and they showed to be very capable of doing just that on Monday. Brian Westbrook ran wild on the Cards, going for 136 yards and a score on the ground and looked very healthy himself. He and Anthony Dixon (and Gore for that matter, 52 yards on 5 carries before leaving the game) combined for 190 rushing yards and 2 touches on 37 carries. Granted, they were facing the Cardinals, who aren't an elite team, they're no slouches on defense, so it's not like the Niners offense was going up against a college level-team or anything like that. It's a good thing the running game was on too, cause Troy Smith wasn't going to beat anyone with his arm. The 49ers didn't call for many passes, as Smith was just 11-23 for 129 yards with a TD and an Int, cause they really didn't need to. Not sure if it was just because the running game was on, or maybe they're trying to have Smith throw as least as possible now, I think it's probably a little bit of both. Again, they got the early lead, and Smith did look nice on the 38-yard TD toss to Michael Crabtree at the beginning of the game, but for the second straight week, he failed to complete 50% of his passes, which is a horrible.

This game didn't really feature Smith too much though, it was all about the running game, the special teams, and rock-solid defense. Teddy Ginn's 2 big 40-yard returns each led to 49er touchdowns. I really liked the move to bring Ginn in here this summer, and I'd like to see him featured more in some role on offense, cause he's dangerous. He reminds me a little of Reggie Bush, maybe the Niners could design some Wild-Cat packages with him now that Gore's out and they'll be experimenting with the run game. Heck, I'd like to see Ginn touch the ball at least a couple of times a game on offense, whether it's screen passes, reverses or what not, get him the ball, cause he can move once he has it... I don't really want to glorify the defense too much, as they were playing against the Cardinals who do have Larry Fitzgerald, but nobody to get him to ball or create a running game with. Patrick Willis had the Niners only sack and Takeo Spikes intercepted Derek Anderson as the Niners kept the Cardinals out of the endzone... Again, big win for the 49ers, keeping them alive in 2010, but man, did it come at a cost.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Battle For Draft Position on Monday Night

The Niners and the Cardinals square off Monday night on national television in a game that probably will net MNF's lowest TV audience of the 2010 season, but could have some implications on the 2011 NFL draft.

The game tonight won't dictate any playoff positioning, as both of these teams would need miracles at this point to sneak into the playoffs, but could have a say in who picks higher in April's draft. I never say I root for the Niners to loose, but in this case, winning would only hurt their draft position... Troy Smith will get the starting nod again, and I'm very curious to see how he does this week, after crapping his pants vs. the Bucs last Sunday. Smith has looked very good, like he did vs. the Rams and Broncos, or really bad like he did vs. the Bucs, and I think we'll get the real Troy Smith vs. the Cardinals. They aren't a power-house defense, but they're better than people give them credit for, they've just been overshadowed by a horrendous offense. They aren't a top-D like the Bucs, or a crummy one like Denver's and the Ram's, they're kind of in-between, kind of league average. If Smith can go off against them, I'm sure he'd get some of those supporters back that he lost last week, I just hope the Niners know it's clear that they don't have a future starting NFL QB on this roster right now, no matter how well Troy Smith looks Monday night, or the rest of the season.

Check back after the game for some post-game notes and reaction!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Niners Shutdown By Bucs

Well, any hope of Troy Smith being the answer at QB for the San Francisco 49ers was all but erased Sunday afternoon. Not only were the 49ers beaten by Tampa Bay, but they were shutout, something rarely seen in the NFL these days.

Sure, Mike Singletary should have done some things differently, as has been the case for most of the season, but this week, the players looked downright defeated too, and it all seemed to come apart. I don't want to say that they weren't trying, but in that 2nd half (really throughout the whole game) it was embarrassing, and it reminded me of a sucky little league team, going up against the league power-house, knowing they're going to get beaten, and with that in mind, not really putting it all on the line. I mean, look at Frank Gore for example. Sure the O-Line was hideous in every sense of the term, but 25 yards on 12 carries. Even when things are going bad for the Niners, Gore seems to be the one beam of light and the one guy that shows up week in and week out, but even Gore seemed like he really didn't give a S$^* out there in that 2nd half. Troy Smith ended up just 16-31 with 148 yards and a pick and showed really why he can't be considered a weekly starter at this level. For how fast he seemed at Ohio State (I know it was college and all) he's nowhere near that fluid or quick on the NFL field, or at least didn't look it Sunday.

All that said, I'm still not ready to throw in the towel on Smith, for no other reason than the 49ers lack of other options at QB. He's already their 3rd stringer and it's clear that David Carr and now Alex Smith don't have a future with this team, so why not at least see if Smith can be a capable back-up for you next year. Unless he wins out, or goes darn near close to doing so, Troy Smith will not be the starting QB of the 49ers next season, but that doesn't mean he won't be part of this team in 2011. I liked what I saw out of him the previous 2 weeks and he's shown very capable of coming in for a half or even a game and filling in nicely, but he just doesn't have ability to beat NFL teams who've prepared and planned to play him. Granted, the 49ers were going up against one of the tougher defenses in the league in Tampa Bay, but heck, the combo of Max Hall/Derek Anderson managed to put up 35 against 'rm, and the Jimmy Clausen led, Jonathan Stewart/DeAngelo Williams-less Panthers put up 16 points on em. That goes to show you how low the 49ers have sunk. In the glass-half-full spectrum of things though, the team that was supposed to run away with the NFC West with a revamped offense and Singletary-led defense may just "Luck" out in the Draft.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A's Active Early, Plus MLB FA Predictions

Since we've been so focused on football here lately , I wanted to get back into some offseason baseball stuff as the A's have been amongst the busiest teams early on.

First off, the Billy Beane dealt Vin Mazzaro to the Royals for all-star outfielder David DeJesus, then they claimed the rights to Japanese pitching phenom Hisashi Iwakura (which doesn't necessarily mean they'll sign him, but the interest means they very well could end up with him. Then they claimed third basemen Edwin Encarnacion off waivers from Toranto, right before trading Rajai Davis to the Blue Jays for a pair of prospects. Out of the three moves, I have to give Beane a 2 out of 3, because I just think he could have gotten more for a 50-base stealing, .300 leadoff hitter who plays a great center field (granted, this style of player does seem to be in abundance these days with the era shifting a bit). Other than that, I love the fact they got Encarnacion (a guy who just 2 years from now was considered one of the up-and-coming 3rd basemen in baseball) for nothing. Encarnacion has battled injury in the past, but is still just 27 years old and has a few nice seasons under his belt already. Last year in Toronto in an injury shortened, 96-game season, Edward hit .244 with 21 HR and 51 RBI. In his 3 healthy seasons in Cinci from '06-'08 he averaged a .279 avg with 19 hr, 72 RBI and +.800 OPS. He should be the A's opening day third basemen. DeJesus should move into left in place of Davis and probably take his place towards the top of the order. He's got more gap power and is a better hitter than Rajai, but nowhere near the basestealer and not the defensive outfielder Davis was. Still an overall upgrade though all things considered.

While on the topic of hot stove baseball talk and free agency, here's my picks on where some of the bigger name free agents in this very thin 2010 class will end up playing in 2011:

Adrian Beltre- Orioles, 3 Yr/ $37.5 M (O's always need help wherever they can get it. One problem is that they've had a rough defensive team for years and it's helped a mediocre pitching staff look even worse. Beltre would solidify 3rd and give the O's a consistent 3-4-5-6 hitter) Or: Indians, Rockies, Astros

Rafael Soriano- Angels, 3 Yr/ $29.5 M (If he wasn't such an injury risk, he'd be well recognized as one of the best releivers in the game today. Has been healthy last 2 years though and that should lead to big time pay day for some team in need of a closer in a thin marked. Just check out what Joaquin Benoit got!)

Pat Burrell- Braves, 1 Yr/ $4.5 M* (Big 2nd half with Giants should earn him at least a platoon/part-time role with a team who needs a RH slugger like ATL) Or: Padres, Cubs

Jorge De La Rosa- Nationals, 3 Yr/ $39 M (Would have to overpay since he's one of top arms in thin SP market, but nobody needs starters more than Wash, especially since Strasburgh's out till '12) Or: Rangers, Astros,

Carl Crawford- Dodgers, 5 Yr/ $112 M (Dodgers need to keep up in the West. Have some young talent, but need new leader who's been there, and imagine a Crawford-Kemp-Eithier OF in LA!) Others: Angels, Rays, Tigers, Mariners

Jorge De La Rosa- Nationals, 3 Yr/ $39 M (Would have to overpay since he's one of top arms in thin SP market, but nobody needs starters more than Wash, especially since Strasburgh's out till '12 Or: Rangers, Astros,

Aubrey Huff- Giants, 2 Years/ $16 M (Huge in their WS win, and even if he slows over the next 2 years, he's flexible so won't have to stick in one spot and even in his worst year still had 85 RBI). Or: Texas, Houston

Cliff Lee- Rangers, 4 Yr./ $105 M (Could be NY Bound, but something tells me he may want to stick around and help Texas finish what they got so closed to in '10") Or: Yankees, Cubs, Astros

Victor Martinez- Red Sox, 3 Yr/ $40 M (Was big for Boston in '10 and really helped solidify the middle of that order with Papi and even Youk struggling at times) Others: White Sox, Mariners

Manny Ramirez- White Sox, 1 Yr/ $12M*(Options are limited, but some AL team will take a chance on a guy still well capable of .300, 25, 100, especially without the rigors of playing the field everyday) Or: Tigers, Rangers, Orioles

Bengie Molina- Mets, 1 Yr/$6 M (Only a small disagreement in contract terms kept him from going to NY last winter and they need his influence on their pitchers more than anything... May be Chicago bound as well, where he'd be a huge upgrade over Pierzynski.) Others: Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox

Derek Lee- Astros, 2 Yr/ $19.5 M (Still a smooth fielding first basemen and although he's nowhere near the power threat he was 5 years ago, he's still a 20-80 guy who'll hit right around .300.) Or: Braves, Red Sox

Paul Konerko- Red Sox, 2 Yr/ $25 M (Huge 2010 season should earn him the most among the many free agent first basemen. Boston could use that big right-handed bat in their hole at first, with Youk moving over to 3rd in place of Beltre.) Or: Astros, Yankees, Rangers

Juan Uribe- Giants, 2 Yr/ $16 M (Amazing to think of giving Juan Uribe $8 mill. a year but the dude has really earned it. He's been consistent and clutch ever since he put on a Giants uni, not too mention he plays 3 positions very adequately.) Others: Cardinals, Padres,

Jayson Werth- Padres- 3 Yr/ $42.5 M (Getting a RH masher like Werth would be very wise for the Pads, especially if they want to try and keep Gonzalez in town. I think Werth has the pop to hit his 20-25 HR per even playing 1/2 games at Petco too, they just have to convince him that.) Others: Washington, Texas

* indicates incentive-laden deals

Monday, November 15, 2010

Smith Carries Niners to 2nd Straight Win

Troy Smith is quietly leading the 49ers back into the NFC West race, as he's now gone 2-0 since taking over after Alex Smith hurt his shoulder in Carolina.

Smith looked like a legit QB on Sunday vs. the Rams, throwing for 356 yards and a TD without turning the ball over once. In his 50 games at the NFL level, Alex Smith never once threw for 356 yards, and here is Troy Smith, a guy who's been a back-up since coming into the league in 2007 after dominating in college, doing it in just his 4th career start. I know it's only been two games, but the way Troy Smith is taking reigns of this offense is really reminding me of the way Jeff Garcia kind of came out nowhere and took the league by surprise. Again, not granting Smith the next Jeff Garcia, but he's got a similar skill set and he wins, and this is the first time he's really getting a shot. The Ravens gave him a small glance at the end of his rookie year, and he did an OK job, going 1-1 in with a QB rate of 85% in just 2 starts. Since then, he's gotten just a few snaps over the last 3 seasons, mostly in wild cat packages. I'm still eager to see what this guy can do, and I really hope Singletary keeps rolling with him until he proves he's not capable of doing the job. What I've been most impressed with is his accuracy, as he just puts the ball where it needs to be as he's over 60% completion rating with no picks in his 2 starts. I was really hoping Alex Smith would eventually figure it out, but I'm ready to let that ship sail, and this job should be Troy's the rest of the way.

The Rams were looking like the top dog in this porous NFC West coming into that game, so this win was huge for the Niners. Troy Smith looked better than Sam Bradford and Frank Gore looked better than Steven Jackson and the Niners defense held on to beat a decent football team. Now they face an even better one in the 6-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, nonetheless, a team I think they match-up well with and can beat if they play the whole game like they did the 2nd half vs. the Rams. This should be a big test for Troy Smith though, as Tampa does tout one of the best defenses in the NFL, and they can be a tough secondary to throw on when they're health. I would like to see Smith used more in bootlegs and roll-outs, as he seems to be extremely accurate on the run. He's not Mike Vick, but he can move and when he's out of the pocket, he gives defenses another element to worry about.


Raiders Atop AFC West

Speaking of winning teams, the Raiders are now leaders of the AFC West with the Chiefs loss, despite being off in week 10. I think it's safe to say Raiders fans, that Darren McFadden has now solidified his selection of 4th overall by the Raiders in '08, and he has been the man behind this 2010 offensive turnaround. Quarterback play has been hot and cold, and Michael Bush has been hurt a lot, so it's been McFadden who's really stepped up a notch. At first, it looked like he was going to go the route of so many Raider draftee's (won't start naming names in this post) before him, but the dude stayed focused and has turned himself into a top NFL running back and a multi-threat out of the backfield. Hopefully Darrius Heyward-Bey keeps progressing as well after his breakout game in week 8. Like with DMac though, the Raiders have to figure out a way to keep him on the field each week as he has a knack for getting injured.... They aren't the biggest names in football yet, but Louis Murphy, Heyward-Bay, McFadden, Jacoby Ford and the most underrated of them all, tight end Zach Miller, are starting to turn this Raider offense around. As long as they have a QB who can manage the game and make a few plays like Jason Campbell has started to over the last 3 weeks (5 TD's/1 INT, 270 YPG) they're developing the play-makers to win games.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Niners to Start Troy Smith

Well, the Bay Area is in a sports frenzy right now. The Giants just won the World Series for the first time in their San Francisco history, the Warriors have gotten off to a nice 5-2 start to their 2010-11 season, and the Niners have a new starting QB.

As always, for more in-depth Giants talk, check out The Giants Baseball Blog, and we talked a bunch about them in the last post, so we'll hold off on them for now. The other San Francisco team has also been making some headlines this week too, as Mike Singletarry is leaning towards starting Troy Smith at QB on Sunday when the 49ers host the Rams. Smith wasn't flashy, but was efficient in the Niners win over Denver in London last Sunday, going 12-19 for 189 yards and a score. He seemed to gain confidence as the game wore on and actually looked like a starting NFL QB in that 4th quarter. It was weird, it's like something clicked with him in the 4th and it all came together. He led the Niners to three 4th quarter touchdowns and a comeback win over the Broncos that I don't think Alex Smith would have been able to pull off. Frank Gore helped carry the load by gaining 118 yards on ground and scored the TD which really put the game away on a 3-yard scanter with 3 minutes left in the game. What can't get overlooked in that win though was the play of the offensive line. They didn't allow any Bronco to get to Troy Smith, though part of that was Smith's athleticism, and they opened up holes for Gore when it counted and allowed the Niners to put the game away.

Now, the 49ers need to figure out what direction they go at QB from here. On one hand, you have Troy Smith coming off a win, and Alex Smith hurting and struggling, so the obvious choice would appear to be to roll with Troy. However, in this weak NFC West, the 49ers are still not out of this thing quite yet, and Alex Smith beat the Raiders then had the Niners in a good position vs. Carolina before going down with the injury. He's played with the unit all year long and still probably gives the Niners the best shot to win. It looks like Singletary is leaning towards Troy for this upcoming, season-on-the-line game vs. the Rams. If the Niners win that game, and Arizona manages to beat Seattle, they'd, amazingly, be just 1 game out of first place in their division, and with 8 games left, they may just make this interesting. For what it's worth, I think I'd go with Troy Smith as well this week to start things off and let Alex Smith take watch for a quarter or so. If Troy struggles in that quarter, or the Niners don't do anything offensively, then go back to Alex for the game.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Warriors Roll to 5-2 Start

The Warriors are off to one of their better starts in recent years, and with good health, they have the talent in their starting 5 to keep it up all year long.

Much like with the Giants, we do a lot of our in-depth Warriors stuff over at The Warriors Rundown, but we'll do plenty of GSW hoops talk here as well. I just wanted to touch on a few things, cause this team looks pretty darn good through the first 2 weeks. The big thing that I'm noticing, is that they're doing it without big contributions from their bench. Gone are the days when Anthony Morrow would come in and give you 20 off the bench, or Kellenna Azubuike would come in and really give opponents match-up nightmares. They were counting on Brandan Wright stepping up and being a big part of this rotation, and he looked a little better in the win over Toronto, but he's been obsolete for the most part. The biggest weakness right now though is the lack of a true back-up point guard. Instead of having C.J. Watson, Keith Smart has been relegated to the services of Rodney Carney (7 ppg, 3 rpg, 1 apg) and Jeremy Lin (don't even want to post his low numbers) as the main backup's to Curry and Monta. The Warriors also haven't gotten much out of last years breakout player, Reggie Williams. After averaging 15 points and 4.5 boards per game in his rookie year, he's gotten off to a horrendously slow start so far. When he's playing good, it allows Smart the chance to rest Ellis or Curry, otherwise the W's are at a bid disadvantage with both of them resting together.

Now, as far as the starters, they're really doing their job, especially Dorrell Wright, Monta Ellis and the injured Stephen Curry. Wright is having a breakout year, and is showing his wide array of abilities now that he's not completely overshadowed by Dwayne Wade. He's averaging over 16 points, 4.4 boards and 2.7 assists per night so far, and I think the Warriors have found themselves their small forward of the future. He's a tremendous 3-point shooter, is very athletic and is a lanky 6'9" so he got great reach on defense. The one area that I'd like to see him improve on a bit is rebounding. With his height and length alone, he should be grabbing 6-8 boards a night. If he can manage that, with his shooting and defense, he's going to be a very good player. He kind of reminds me of a hybrid between Rashard Lewis (length and shooting) and Caron Butler (aggressive, active defensively). The one guy who has yet to really breakout in the Warriors starting lineup is newcomer David Lee, but I think we could be in store for something Wednesday night when he visits his old stomping grounds. Lee's been solid, averaging a double-double, but he isn't scoring at the rate he did while in New York.... This Warrior starting looks solid, good enough to go to the playoffs for sure, but I just don't know that they have the depth at this point.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Giants World Champs, San Francisco Celebrates

The moment in which Giants fan all over the world had patiently waited 52 years for has finally arrived. The Giants defeated the Texas Rangers 3-1 Monday night to clinch the World Series and bring the trophy to San Francisco for the 1st time in franchise history.
Like always, we save most of our Giants talk for our partner site over at The Giants Baseball Blog, so definitely check it out for our full World Series coverage and reaction. Here is part of our most recent post, capping off the Giants World Series win and discussing the first ticker-tape parade this City has got to host because of baseball. So here's a brief look:

The City of San Francisco and every Giants fan across the globe got a chance to Celebrate with the team on Wednesday, as the Giants returned to San Francisco and celebrated their first ever World Series tittle with a ticker tape Parade through the city.

"It was certainly a spectacle, as tens of thousands (possibly even hundreds) flooded the streets of San Francisco to watch the 2010 Champs stroll through downtown on Cable cars with parade tape reigning down from above! It was a fitting way to end what was a memorable run by the Giants here in 2010, and I think I speak for all Giants fans when I say, I could really get used to this. The feeling is still sort of sinking in for me, but I've had this perma-smile on my face ever since Brian Wilson struck out Nelson Cruz with that nasty cutter in on the hands. The Giants outplayed every team they faced in the playoffs, and they absolutely deserved the trophy. As most players made a point of saying in the post-series interview, this Giants' ballclub really was the definition of a professional "team". They played well together, they pulled for each other, there were no ego's involved and everybody had one goal in mind...."

For the rest of the story, click here!

On Tap @ BASJ
: With the Giants celebration winding up, we'll get right back into our normal routine here at the BASJ. The 49ers had a nice win over Denver on Sunday in their first game with Troy Smith under center. Also, the Raiders have caught fire over the last few weeks, and there's a lot to discuss there. Not too mention, the Stanford Cardinal football team, led by Andrew Luck, is playing well and oh yeah, the Golden State Warriors season is now underway, and the Warriors look pretty good.... So yes, there is plenty to catch-up on sports wise here in the Bay Area, and be sure to check back in this weekend as we begin to tackle all of it!