Friday, July 29, 2011

49ers Left In Dust, Asomugha to Philly

Well, just about every team across the NFL has made some proactive moves. Two of the few teams that haven't reside here in the Bay Area.

The 49ers bowed out of the Nnamdi-sweepstakes, which was a bit surprising to hear after they just released their top corner, Nate Clements. Nate hasn't been an all-pro with San Francisco, but he's better than anything else they currently have on their roster and now they could be relegated into trying to convince him to comeback. No matter what, the 49ers need to add at least one corner through free agency and preferably someone who's started in this league and has a track record. With Joseph and Asomugha both inked elsewhere, the top two corners are now off the market, leaving the 49ers with the choice of Antonio Cromartie, Carlos Rogers or Chris Carr. If they fail to land one of those 3, Clements starts looking very plausible again, but who even knows if he'd consider returning after the 49ers gave him the axe Thursday? The 49ers also need to find a safety if they can't re-up with Dashon Goldson and must find a replacement for Takeo Spikes who went to San Diego. There are plenty of linebackers out there and it's actually the one spot where the 49ers do have some depth, so I'm not nearly as worried about that as I am their secondary at this point. What's worse is that defense is just part of the 49ers worries with 2 weeks to go before their first exhibition game.

Star running back Frank Gore has decided to hold out of camp in attempt to get a new deal from the 49ers that gives him near what DeAngelo Williams just signed for with Carolina, and I can't say I blame him. Not only is Gore out of camp, but the teams number one receiver, Michael Crabtree, will miss his 3rd consecutive preseason and again start the season behind the 8-ball after arriving to camp with a bum foot. The injury is expected to keep Crabtree shelved for over a month, which could threaten his chances to start the opener. It's also added another thing to the to-do list for Trent Balkee and he's apparently inquired about Chargers free agent wideout Malcom Floyd. I mentioned the other day I'd like to see the 49ers make a move for Braylon Edwards, who I think is the best WR on the market with Rice and Holmes now off. He'd give the team a legit deep threat (17.6 YPC last year) and another reliable red zone target for Alex Smith. If not Edwards, Floyd wouldn't be a bad fallback as he too is a big deep threat who excels in the red zone, but Edwards is the superior player, younger and more explosive. That said, Edwards does have some off-field issues to take care of but I don't think he'd be a problem for the 49ers and I think he's ready to get his head on straight after barley avoiding jail time on a DUI this summer.

Also in 49ers news, the one player they've brought in from outside the organization is all-pro kicker David Akers. I really like the add. Joe Nedney was solid during his tenure here, but he was losing leg strength with each passing season, and Akers is one of the most powerful, accurate kickers in all of football.... Across the Bay, there still hasn't been much on the Raiders front. They've spoken with free agent tackle Jared Gaither, but nothing appears imminent. I still don't understand why they haven't re-signed Zach Miller and are just allowing him to sit on the free agent market as not only the top TE, but one of the best free agents on the market. They too should be looking into receivers like Mike Sims-Walker and Braylon Edwards and need a replacement for Asomugha like the 49ers do for Clements.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Player Movement Galore Hits Bay Area

Well, we all knew it was going to be an active few days here as July winds down. The NFL lockout just ended 72 hours ago and the MLB trade deadline sits just 72 hours away, and things are jumping on both sides.

Locally, the San Francisco Giants have made one of the most noteworthy moves of all sports franchises Thursday by acquiring all-star outfielder Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets for top prospect Zach Wheeler. For all the rants and thoughts on that deal, check out our Giants Baseball Blog. In this post, I want to stick with the NFL and the 49ers especially. Niner fans are well aware by now that Alex Smith has agreed to a deal to be the 49ers starting quarterback again in 2011 which we all were anticipating, I'm just surprised the Niners had to fork over $5 million in guaranteed money in order to keep Smith. I don't think there was much of a market for him and they probably could have gotten him for half that. Regardless, the Niners made a big move to put themselves over $16 million under the salary cap Thursday by releasing former pro-bowl corner Nate Clements. The corner's situation was growing cloudier by the day as the 49ers have made no secret that their pursuing other top free agent cornerbacks, namely Nnamdi Asomugha and Jonathan Joseph. Asomugha is the top player on the free agent market, and the 49ers are going to have to outbid more than a few teams for his services, but by clearing out Clements salary, they're in position to do just that. I expect one them to join San Fran otherwise they wouldn't have confidently let Clements go like they did.

Another guy apparently high on the 49ers radar is former Bears all-pro center Olin Kruetz. Last years starter David Bass quickly signed with the Giants, leaving the 49ers out of a starting center. If they can't woo Kruetz, they could rely on an in house candidate like Adam Snyder or rookie David Kilgore. I would love to see the Niners bring in a smart, useful veteran like Kruetz to help anchor the line and bring along some of the teams bright young lineman so I definitely see logic in that move. Another move I'd like to see the 49ers pursue is possibly bringing in former Cal defensive tackle Brandon Mebene who's spent the last few seasons in Seattle. The 49ers are thin at defensive tackle and could use a guy like Mebane who's had success rushing the passer from the inside. I like Issac Sopogoa, but now that Aubrayo Franklin's out of the picture, the 49ers need more depth there, and I actually think Mebane is a better option than Ike. He's younger, bigger and more explosive and probably wouldn't cost the 49ers an arm and a leg to acquire. Right now I'm just not at all excited about their D-Line outside of Justin Smith. They're handing Ray McDonald the starting left end spot and he collected 0.0 sacks in 16 games last season. They just don't generate much pass rush up front and Mebene or a guy like Cullen Jenkins could certainly help.

These are just a few things going on in the crazy NFL free agent frenzy and we'll keep you up date as often as possible here in the next couple days as free agents settle in. As far as the Raiders are concerned, I've heard or read absolutely nothing of substance that tells me they're going to be players in free agency. They're over the cap and need to clear space which they need to focus on before they can look for a replacement for Asomugha, re-signing Zach Miller and trying to upgrade their wideout spot in a deep WR market.

Monday, July 25, 2011

They're Back! NFL Lockout Ends

It took roughly 5 long months and came close to threatening the preseason, but the Players Union and NFL owners finally agreed on a new 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement which will put the NFL back in business Tuesday.

So just like that, the NFL is back, and there is a lot to get done between now and kickoff 2011 in September, less than a month and a half away. Yahoo Sports came out with the top-100 NFL Free Agents who will be looking for new contracts between now and then, and there are quite a few big named players out there, and a few key players from last years 49ers team as well. Not only is expected starting QB Alex Smith free, but the 49ers starting nose tackle (Aubreyo Franklin), 2 of their key linebackers (Takeo Spikes and Manny Lawson), and starting safety (Dashon Goldson) are all free to sign with whatever team they please. The 49ers will bring back Alex Smith as coach Jim Harbough has made public his endorsement of Smith on more than one occasion and there just aren't many better options out there. We talked a bit in our last post how the Niners may look to bring in a veteran stop-gap like Matt Hasselbeck, but it would be wiser on their part to focus on their defensive free agents and roll with Smith again. I would definitely like to see Lawson and Spikes return. Spikes is a leader and still valuable on the field and although Lawson didn't quite reach his potential in San Francisco the first go round, but I would hate to see him leave and become another Julian Peterson (25 sacks over 3 seasons in Seattle after he left the 49ers).

As far as other potential free agents who could interest the 49ers, I don't see a whole lot out there that the Niners will likely consider. There are a couple of other safeties out there that could provide an upgrade to Niners secondary, but their focus is likely going to be on Goldson who's had two strong seasons in the 49er secondary and is really coming into his own. I really like Charger safety Eric Waddle, who many believed was the backbone of that defense for the last couple of seasons. He's only 25 and is already a pro-bowl caliber player and would look pretty good lining up next to Dashon in "center field" for the 49ers. Other than that, I don't really see the 49ers doing a whole lot as far as player movement between now and the start of the season besides inking their rookies and retaining Franklin, Smith, Spikes, Lawson and Goldson. I don't see them letting Lawson go because of the lack of depth at outside linebacker, even though they have Ahmad Brooks, Parys Haralson and #1 draft pick Aldon Smith figuring to get tons of playing time.

The two areas I'd like to see 49ers upgrade is their wideout and cornerback position. Wideout isn't a need, but it's an area where they can upgrade the squad big time, and we all know offense was an issue for this team last year. Michael Crabtree is locked into one starting spot, but I've never been overly impressed by Josh Morgan, and he's had plenty of time to prove his worth. He is coming off his best season, but neither him or Crabtree are considered deep ball threats and I think it would drastically open up the 49ers offense if they added someone who could stretch the field. The guy I'm looking at after reviewing the full free agent list is Braylon Edwards. He's had some off field issues and some inconsistency in his play, but had a nice finish to last season, is still just 27 years old and I think his best days are still ahead of him. Cornerback is a different story. The 49ers were highly considering grabbing a corner with their top pick in the draft which tells me they are indeed interested in upgrading there, and they have the money to do so. Perhaps the reason they decided against drafting one is because the FA market is so stocked with above average cornerbacks that they're bound to wind up with one if they so choose. The top dog is Nhamdi Asomghua, but he's out of 49er price range unless they cut loose Nate Clements. Jonathan Joseph, Antonio Cromartie and Ike Taylor would also provide nice options if the 49ers want a top-notch CB and cannot land Nhamdi.

BASJ Notes: With the NFL back in full swing, there's likely going to be tons and tons of things to talk about between now and Kickoff '11, so we'll be shifting back into football mode here at The BASJ. We'll still also mix in A's, Giants, Cal and Stanford sports coverage as well as other breaking news around the Bay Area and in the Sports World, but for most of the NBA Lockout talk, check out our Warriors Rundown, and for complete Giants daily coverage, check out The Giants Baseball Blog.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Players Hold Key to End NFL Lockout

We're inching closer and closer to August, and the NFL lockout is starting to cut into teams projected training camps. However, the Owners have agreed to a deal that is supposed to take the NFL off of hiatus and are just waiting for the players union to sign off.

The players supposedly needed some time to look over the deal and finalize things and have yet to sign and agree to the new CBA, but most people close to those involved in talks believe this will be a done deal in due time. It's kind of weird how the tides have turned, at first, it was the players who wanted to end this thing and it was the owners who were tentative, but know it appears the have shifted the other way. Either way, this lockout is really starting to cost NFL on both sides, and I think we're just days away from the NFL opening for business and when that does happen, there should be a flurry of activity. There will probably be a 2-3 week period where teams sign free agents and make their offseason moves, rather than the 3-4 month period they're used to. There are some pretty big names out there still looking for homes, including wideouts Terrell Owens, Plaxico Burress and Sidney Rice, halfback DeAngelo Williams as well as star cover man Nhamdi Asomgua and many, many more reigning and potential pro-bowlers. I don't really expect the local teams to get involved in any of the big name free agent sweepstakes, but both the Raiders and Niners have needs to address before kickoff 2011.

One of the thin areas of the free agent/trade market when it does open up will be at the quarterback position where both the Raiders and 49ers have a need. One of the few guys who will be available and could interest both teams is veteran slinger Matt Hasselbeck. The 35 year-old QB is coming off a rough couple of years in Seattle, but in fairness to him, he's had limited protection and nobody to throw to in the last couple of years. He's also said to be as healthy now as he's been since '06-'07 and I know the 49ers have at least considered the idea of signing him. It's likely going to come down to a guy like Hasselbeck or another round of Alex Smith. I guess the 49ers could realistically bring both guys in and use rookie Colin Kaepernick as the 3rd stringer, but I don't foresee that happening. I personally think Hasselbech would be alright in San Francisco, where he'd have a better O-line and running game than he did in Seattle, and some legit targets to throw to in Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. I really don't have a preference of one over the other between Smith and Hasselbeck. Smith knows the offense and is familiar with the personnel, but Hasselbeck probably would give the team a more consistent performer and better decision maker behind center. I liked the possibility of adding Kevin Kolb before the draft, but since they got Kaepernick, it likely takes Kolb off the table. The 49ers want Kapernick to be their QB of the future and probably envision him starting as early as next fall.

The Raiders will probably decide to roll with Jason Campbell again, as he finished off the years solidly. Campbell had a 95 QB-rating with 6 TD's and an average of 230 passing yards per game over the Raiders final 5 games, leading the Raiders to a 3-2 record in the process. There's been some chatter that they may pursue Donovan McNabb, but unless they can get a young up and comer like Kolb, I'd just assume give Campbell another shot than rolling the dice on another veteran on the downside of their career's. Besides, the Raiders should focus on adding guys around Campbell, especially up front on the line and at the wide receiver spot. I don't think T.O.'s attitude would be a good fit in Oakland, but he's the type of guy Al Davis likes to go after and would actually fit nicely into their plans on the field. They're set at running back with D-Mac and Michael Bush, but that's about the only are of their team that couldn't use some extra help.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A's Lose Anderson to Tommy John Surgery

Well, 2011 hasn't been too kind to the Athletics, especially on the injury front. After playing much of the first half without closer Andrew Baily and starter Brandon McCarthy, the A's have now suffered their first injury loss of the 2nd half, and it's one that's going to carry over into next year as well.

The A's were thought to have a good shot at winning the AL West this year particularly because of their strong starting pitching, led by the two-headed monster or Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill, so Anderson's loss is a huge blow to this starting rotation. It would be the equivalent of taking Matt Cain out of the Giants starting rotation, and not only is Anderson going to miss the remainder of the 2011 season, it's highly doubtful to expect anything sufficient out of him in 2012 as well. The Tommy John recovery time for a starting pitcher tends to fall between 12-18 months, which in best case would put Anderson at the start of his rehab at this point next year. Maybe he comes along and can contribute in the final month in 2012, but that would be absolute best case scenario. Now moving up into the 2 spot in the rotation and likely staying there through next year will be newest A's all-star Gio Gonzalez. With Rich Harden and Brandon McCarthy's healthy return, the A's still have a strong and deep rotation, but losing Anderson is going to have an effect on everyone on that team. It's really too bad too cause the A's were just starting to get healthy. Even star relief pitcher Joey Devine, who hasn't pitched since 2008 when he sported a 0.59 era out of the bullpen for Oakland, made his 2011 debut this week and Josh Willingham came off the DL in strong fashion with a 3-hit night and a home run.

Now, as we approach the trade-deadline, I think it's pretty clear what position the A's will take, and will likely be looking for teams they can unload veterans like Hideki Matsui, David Dejesus, Willingham and Kevin Kouzmanoff onto. Out of the bunch, I think the A's would be wise to hang onto Willingham. They don't have a lot of power on their roster at all, and Willingham is the one guy who's shown that he can hit the ball out of the ballpark on a consistent basis for this team. Matsui and DeJesus have been huge disappointments after coming over with big expectation in the offseason.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Giants Draft Interview and All-Star Notes

Over at our Giants Baseball Blog, we had a chance to catch up with College Baseball Daily editor Brian Foley and quiz him on the Giants recent draft selections. Here is just one of the questions and answers from the interview. For the rest of it, mosey on over to our Giants Blog.

Q1) What are your thoughts on Joe Panik, and how long do you think before we see him in San Francisco? He's already started off red hot with their Single-A team, showing power and average, and kind of reminds me of Stephen Drew. Do you think he'll be a Buster Posey-type, sort of overnight success, or does he still have a few years of development to undergo?

B.F.) Panik was the best shortstop I saw with my own eyes this season. I was extremely impressed with his hitting while he is a solid defender but will not win any gold gloves though. Panik seems to do all the little things right from moving players over and coming through in the clutch.


As for actual on the field baseball, we're in the middle of the All-Star break as the mid-summer classic went in the National League's favor Tuesday night in Milwaukee. NL 1st Basemen Prince Fielder was the MVP, hitting the game deciding 3-run home run off C.J. Wilson in the 4th inning to give the NL a lead they'd never relinquish. The only Athletic to make the team was left-handed starter Gio Gonzalez and he made it into the game for the AL, striking out Jay Bruce in the bottom of the 8th inning in what was his only out and batter faced. The Giants got 2 of their 5 all-stars into the game as well, and I'm a little surprised we didn't see either Vogelsong or Matt Cain too. It was just Brian Wilson and Pablo Sandoval. Wilson closed the game out and got the save for the NL, collecting the final 2 outs of the ballgame in just 7 pitches. Pablo Sandoval also had an impact, driving in the NL's 5th and final run in the 7th inning with a ground rule double to left-center. The dude doesn't care if it's the all-star game or a regular season game, he's absolutely tearing the cover off the ball. With the focus he's had this season, it's really a shame he had to miss more than a month with a broken hand, cause his numbers would be a lot better than they are, and they still aren't bad at all for a guy who missed 5 weeks of the first half with a broken bone in his throwing hand! Nate Schierholtz has come on real strong as of late, but since Opening Day, there hasn't been a more valuable commodity to this lineup than The Panda and he's making the loss of Posey a little easier to swallow!

Monday, July 4, 2011

BASJ'S Deserving MLB All-Star Teams

The AL and NL All-Star rosters for July 12th's mid-summer classic were released Sunday, and as usual, there were many snubs and guys left off that were absolutely deserving while guys who weren't as deserving managed to sneak onto the teams. So here is the way we'd fill out each team's 32-man roster, including 6 replacement options for each team (3 position/3 pitchers):

American League All-Star Team

CF Jacoby Elsburry Bos
LF Curtis Granderson NYY
1B Adrian Gonzalez Bos
RF Jose Bautista Tor
3B Alex Rodriguez NYY
SS Asdrubal Cabrera Cle
2B Robinson Cano NYY
C Alex Avila Det
P Jered Weaver LAA


1B Miguel Cabrera Det
1B Paul Konerko Chi
3B Adrian Beltre Tex
3B/OF Alex Gordon KC
OF Adam Jones Bal
SS Johnny Peralta Det
OF BJ Upton TB
OF Adam Lind Tor
IF Michael Young Tex
C Victor Martinez Det
C/1B Carlos Santana Cle

SP Justin Verlander Det
SP James Shields TB
SP Michael Pineda Sea
SP Gio Gonzalez Oak
SP C.C. Sabathia NYY
SP Scott Baker Min
SP Felix Hernandez Sea
SP Dan Haren LAA
RP Kyle Farnsworth TB
RP Mariano Rivera NYY
RP Sergio Santos CWS
RP Chris Perez Cle


OF Melky Cabrera KC
1B Mark Teixeira NYY
SS Elvis Andrus Tex
SP Alexi Ogando Tex
SP Phil Humber CWS
SP C.J. Wilson Tex

National League All-Star Team

SS Jose Reyes NYM
2B Rickie Weeks Mil
CF Matt Kemp LAD
1B Prince Fielder Mil
LF Ryan Braun Mil
RF Lance Berkman Stl
C Brian McCann Atl
3B Aramis Ramirez ChC
P Jair Jurrjens Atl


1B Ryan Howard Phi
1B Joey Votto Cin
OF Carlos Gonzalez Col
OF Hunter Pence Hou
SS Troy Tulowitzki Col
OF Justin Upton AZ
OF Mike Stanton Fla
2B Danny Espinosa Was
IF/OF Daniel Murphy NYY
C Miguel Montero AZ
C Jonathon Lucroy Mil


SP Cole Hamels Phi
SP Roy Halladay Phi
SP Tim Lincecum SF
SP Cliff Lee Phi
SP Tommy Hanson Atl
SP Matt Cain SF
SP Clayton Kershaw LAD
SP Ryan Vogelsong SF
RP Craig Kimbrel Atl
RP Joel Hanrahan Pit
RP Heath Bell SD
RP Brian Wilson SF


3B Pablo Sandoval SF
OF Carlos Beltran NYM
1B/OF Michael Morse Was
SP Johnny Cueto Cin
SP Jeff Karstens/Kevin Corrien Pit
RP Drew Storen Was

This wasn't a very easy roster to pick, as there are a lot of guys who have had deserving years like Dustin Pedroia and Andrew McCutchen who wouldn't make the squad, but every year you have a few of those type of players. What I think is a crying shame is that Derek Jeter is the actual starting SS for the AL while J.J. Hardy doesn't even make the team.... In the NL, you have to take a Pitsburgh starting pitcher, they've been great, even with limited run support. Either Karstens or Corriea, but Hanrahan will likely get their spot. Otherwise, the NL looks outmatched again this year by looking at the roster. I mean, you know your in trouble when your 2nd most deserving 3rd basemen is David Murphy!

Friday, July 1, 2011

NFL Lockout Should End By Mid-Late July

Well it was looking more and more like the NFL lockout could come to an end in mid-July, allowing teams to start training camp right on time, possibly just a week late. However, talks stalled some more Friday, and won't pick up again until next week.

Apparently, there are still things to hash out between the two sides, specifically of which I'm not too clear on. I know league minimum salary and player insurance (Player Pension) after retirement, were big issues for the players heading in. Now the latest news as far as an end date that I heard at the end of last week was July 15th, which is 2 weeks from today, but again, we'll just have to wait and see. If this thing drags into August though, your starting to talk about missing ballgames. I haven't been big on discussing the specifics of the lockout on this site, and I'm not going to start today, but I'm really hoping we get to be seeing the Raiders and Niners in action sooner than later. Speaking of the Silver and Black, they were amongst the group of teams rumored to be headed back to Los Angeles, though it appears that was just purely speculation. I know you local Raider fans may hate to hear it, but I actually think it would be a great move for to for the franchise as a hole to get to SoCal (Raider fans can't even watch home games unless they attend). They'll regain a much bigger fan-base in a place where they'll sell-out with ease, even if they're 2-14. They'd probably still keep most their local NorCal diehards and easily be a team that generates interest with stars like D-Mac and Michael Huff, Zach Miller to market around (All well known in LA playing vs. USC in big games). As it stands, I don't know for sure, but I don't really see Oakland building a stadium for both the A's and Raiders, even if the A's park is built south of Oakland. So, if the Raiders stay across the Bay in the Almeda County, they'll likely call the Coliseum home for another 15-20 years or so until the A's situation is long since figured out and done and the City's ready to re-indulge for a sports team.

As far as actual playing action, different team leaders across the country have been putting together mini un-official workouts here and there. Here in the Bay Area, Alex Smith has been leading the charge as far as coordinating workouts and what not, though I'm sure he's getting a ton of instruction from Jim Harbough (though Smith is currently a FA and isn't supposed to work out with or plan with Harbough officially, yet). This is something I really like to see, Smith striving to get better. The dude's 26-27 years-old and just now entering his QB prime. There's no telling whether he won't just take off underneath the tutelage of Harbough, just look what Coach H did with that other big named Bay Area QB (Stanford's Andrew Luck), and don't think Luck doesn't attribute a huge amount of his success to his former coach. And don't think he's bitter about the arrival of 2nd Round QB Colin Kaepernick, cause "Kapy" has been to every one of the "Camp Alex" (as the players call it) sessions and Smith has taken him under his wing. Even if the Niners didn't necessarily want Alex starting behind center in 2011, the offseason is going to be a slim one, and there simply won't be many options for the 49ers to upgrade that position, and that's why Harbough has been so public with his backing of Smith. Add that to the fact that Alex looks like a different guy taking charge in these camps and wants to be that leader that he hasn't been. Kevin Kolb would be nice, but there are teams lining up for the Philly QB, I just don't think the 49ers want to part with a high draft pick or one or two bright young players for Kolb if they believe Kaepernick could be a better player (which intrigues me, hearing it come Harbough).

On the Raider side, I know Defensive Lineman Richard Seymour has put together some workouts, though I'm not too clear on who attended them and what went on. Again though, it's good to see the Raiders staying active, and together in the long wait in which they'd have already taken place in numerous mini-camps.