For SFGiants no assets, no money, no good

Having won two World Championships in a three-year stretch has given San Francisco Giants fans the ultimate treat in recent years. After 56 years of waiting the Giants rewarded their ever-faithful fans a couple of magical rides in 2010 and 2012. After going a major-league best 42-21 over the first nine weeks of the season the Giants season has fallen off a cliff. The reality for this team is that they have lost six in a row, are in a virtual free-fall in the playoff chase, and has lost an unimaginable 21 of 27 at home since mid-June. The 2014 campaign is on a respirator and here is why.

First, the injury bug has hammered this team. These just aren’t periphery injuries. Big-time players with big-time names and big-time contracts have gone on the shelf and now San Francisco is just trying to piece together a serviceable roster. Injuries to Angel Pagan, Brandon Belt and Matt Cain are hard to overcome. As a franchise you do give yourself a chance to compete by continuing to replenish the big league roster with young players in the minor league system. The problem is the Giants just don’t have those players. The recent World Series titles were built on home-grown talent. An influx of young, energetic players who helped drive the Giants to a couple of titles. But, those can’t-miss blue chippers are nowhere to be found now. The Giants have whiffed on their recent drafts and don’t have an everyday position player on the cusp of big league stardom.

A Giants strength has now become a weakness. In times like these where you are facing mounting pressure from injuries and sub-par play it makes sense to cherry-pick talented kids from the minor league system and give them a shot. But, for the Giants the cupboard is bare. When you consider they just traded their second and 11th best prospects to Boston for Jake Peavy, one can see how dire the situation is in the Giants system.

Another problem emerges when you don’t have a minor league system with depth, it hamstrings your ability to trade for star players at the trading deadline. To put it succinctly the Giants don’t have the pieces to make such a deal. Unless other teams want to gamble on Giants pieces in the low minors, the Giants have no assets of value for other teams. So, while the Dodgers, Brewers, Pirates and Cardinals all bid for the services of a Jon Lester or David Price, the Giants have to sit by the sidelines and see which rival improves their team while the Giants sit idly by. The pitching rich Giants rolled the dice in 2011 when Carlos Beltran became available at the trading deadline, so they dealt young flame-thrower Zack Wheeler to the Mets. What Giants fan would do that trade over again ? None. San Francisco lost an electric arm for a three-month rental.

And that brings me to the other factor hampering this team, financial inflexibility. The Giants aren’t exactly broke. With a payroll of 157 million dollars the Giants are in the upper tier of teams in spending money on players. The Giants are not broke. They fill that jewel of a ballpark every single game and the money is flowing in pretty good these days. But, Giants CEO Larry Baer and the Board of Directors have made it perfectly clear that the Giants are at the upper end of their payroll ceiling. Publicly they have stated that by taking on more money for a Lester/Price or other big name free agent they won’t be able to compete to keep Pablo Sandoval in the a Giants uniform when he becomes a free agent. And, looking at how thin the third base free agent market is, the Giants figure to go hard after The Panda.

The kind of dilemma the Giants face here was their greatest fear when the Guggenheim Group bought the Los Angeles Dodgers. Guggenheim has unlimited funds. When the Dodgers need an improvement, they fork over the cash and make it happen. Basically the Dodgers can afford to make poor personnel decisions because of the largesse of their coffers. Another factor that has to trouble the Giants is that ever since Frank McCourt was jettisoned by Los Angeles the Dodgers have invested heavily in the minor league system. Five years ago the Dodger farm system was a wasteland with no talent on the horizon and no money being pumped into the drafting and developing of talent. But, over the last 24 months the Dodgers have leapfrogged the Giants’ farm system. The Dodgers farm is teaming with major league prospects. This depth gives the Dodgers a chance to make block-buster deals at the trade deadline, a luxury the Giants don’t have. Another card to play that your arch-rival doesn’t have.

So, with no farm, and no available cash, and an injury-riddled roster the Giants have been boxed into a corner. General Manager Brian Sabean has proven to be a magician at times with his ability to wheel and deal in times of need. He will need to pull the greatest of Houdini acts now as his team is on the precipice of falling out of the race.

Browns’ Haslam clueless when it comes to Manziel


It is so incredible watching my beloved Cleveland Browns screw up this Johnny Manziel court-ship. lt seems inevitable that this will not work.  The Browns are unhappy the guy is partying ? Owner Jimmy Haslam is surprised at the amount of partying by Manziel ? Browns have demoted Manziel to second-team after two practices ? Browns making him change his cleats on a daily basis as he saunters onto the field in neon cleats ?

Sit back and enjoy the train-wreck folks…..the train-wreck not being the 20-something precocious QB, but the franchise that drafted him. It hurts to say this because I truly do love the Browns and everything to do with Dawg Pound, but I find it nearly impossible for a franchise to be completely oblivious to the off-field activities of such a lightning-rod type of player in Johnny Manziel. Did the Browns think he would suddenly stop going to Vegas ? Did they not know who he was? Did their front office brass not pay attention to the last two years of college football ?

The rumor on draft day was that owner Jimmy Haslam was told by a homeless guy to draft Manziel. While it made a cute little story I am now starting to believe it. How can someone be so detached from football reality as Haslam. Yeah, I know his Flying J service stations were just fined 92 million dollars for gouging the faithful paying customer, but how does he not know. He said recently, “we expect better of Johnny.” Huh ? Really ? Personally as a Browns fan he should be happy we are all keeping tabs on Manziel’s social calendar. It takes the attention away from the horrid performance of this franchise since they came back to the league in 1999.

New head coach Mike Pettine has been tempered in his comments regarding Manziel, but GM Ray Farmer continues to elucidate on the professionalism of QB Brian Hoyer, who is in direct competition with Manziel.

This is not a pro-Manziel column. I am just amazed at how blind-sided the Browns appear with the Manziel circus enveloping Browns camp. How could they not see this coming ? And, if they didn’t, what were they thinking ?



NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants you to believe that the punishment handed down to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rick is severe. Don’t believe him. The league has possibly never seen a bigger slap on the wrist.

Goodell handed down a 2-game suspension for Rice after the running back beat his fiance in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino. So, if you are keeping score at home it reads like this. Rice pounds a perceived loved one into submission, beats her unconscious in an elevator and is suspended for two games. If you get free tattoos in college you are suspended for 5-games (Terrelle Pryor.) If you get busted using Adderall you get a 4-game suspension. If you get busted for smoking pot twice you will get a 4-game suspension. And, if you smoke pot for a third time you will get suspended for an entire season (i.e. Josh Gordon.) What the hell is wrong with this league ?

The punishment was announced this morning and there is already a stunned reaction from fans of the game. This morning Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said, “ He’s (Rice) a heck of a guy. He’s done everything right since. He made a mistake. He’s gonna have to pay a consequence. It’s good for kids to understand it works that way. That’s how it works. That’s how it should be.” So John, this is a GOOD example for the kids. “Hey kids, beat your girlfriend, leave her a huddled mess and get a minimal punishment from the league ?” Is that what you want the kids to learn ? You want to teach them that if you harm another person the punishment is not as severe as punishing yourself by smoking the green bud ?

If you are outraged, you should be. I don’t care what Ray Rice has done in the after-math of the incident. I don’t care whether he has apologized, whether he has donated money to women’s shelters, whether he has spent months doing community service. I don’t care. The league that is supposed to set the example, just let every kid, pro and amateur know, they don’t consider that abuse of women that big of a deal. There is really no other way to view this.

Roger Goodell in his ultimate authority can hand down any type of punishment he sees fit. This has been a huge point made by the NFL Players Association as they have taken issue with several of his rulings. Today, even the most hardened NFL player has to be looking at this with eyebrows raised.

It’s a shameful day for Goodell, it’s a shameful day for the shield.

Dodgers stars are under-achieving


The Dodgers couldn’t have expected their 251 million dollar outfield to be performing like this. When you are paying your super-stars Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp that kind of money  you need to get more than what they are bringing to the table.

While the Dodgers ponder a prospect-laden deal to try to acquire starting pitching help, I have to wonder what the Dodgers brass sees. The Dodgers starting pitching is the best in the National League. They don’t NEED starting pitching help. What the Dodgers need is for their entire 20 million dollar year line-up to start playing like stars.

The under-achieving seasons of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez are the sole reasons why this team languishes offensively.  All five  of these players are playing well below their mean. The Dodgers are tied for first place today because of their pitching, not in spite of it. If only the big names in the everyday line-up would do their part.

Kemp looks nothing like the guy who tormented pitchers with his short compact and powerful swing in 2011. Can you remember the last time you saw Kemp swing at a ball away and drive it to the right-center gap, raising his bat like sword in his follow-thru circa 2011 ? Yeah, I can’t either. His body has beaten and battered. The shoulder injury he suffered in Colorado at the tail end of 2012 has clearly changed him. And, its sad because he was destined for an amazing run during his prime years. Not only has the shoulder injury clearly affected Kemp, but his pulled and then torn hamstring, and his bone-head base-running resulting in torn ankle ligaments have hampered his game. In a lot of respects it’s sad to see a guy with so much promise have his body completely abandon him in his late 20’s.  He is not worth 20 million dollars a year. 8 HR’s 38 RBI’s and a .260 average in 87 games are, to put it succinctly, average.

I have no idea what has happened to Andre Ethier. I watch him play and I almost feel that his frustration with the Dodger  crowded outfield has him completely apathetic towards the team’s plight. I remember the  Ethier that would have ripped off his own finger nail for a base hit. While that type of behavior is not healthy, I would like to see a little “fire” from the Andre of old. His offensive numbers have plummeted. His average is pedestrian and his power is virtually non-existent. A .250 hitter with 4 home runs. Captain Clutch he is no more. He is still serviceable in the outfield. But, at 16-17 million a season, he is over-paid and has a contract the Dodgers can’t move unless they are willing to eat it.

The Carl Crawford project has been an unmitigated disaster so far. I know the Dodgers could not have acquired Adrian Gonzalez without taking Crawford’s ridiculous contract, but I thought the Dodgers would at least get a fraction of the production Crawford gave the Rays. I expected him to perform much better once he got out of that toxic situation in Boston. Instead Crawford has been a huge disappointment. Aside from his two home run performance against Atlanta in Game 3 of the National League Divisional playoff last year, Crawford has given the Dodgers nothing but repeated trips to the disabled list. I knew there was risk in taking him as part of the AGon deal, and if presented with the choice, would do it again. But, Crawford has been awful. And, at 19 million dollars a season I see him as the biggest albatross of the over-paid bunch. Out of the Dodgers sub-par performers, his contract is the worst to move. Due to his diminished production, frequent trips to the disabled list, and horrific throwing arm. He is a concrete slab that weighs the Dodgers down.

On one hand Hanley Ramirez is an electrifying hitter and can carry a team all by himself. When he isn’t scalding hot offensively he is simply a defensive liability that hurts a team with his bad range and iron hands at shortstop. Ramirez is a free-agent to be and this promises to be a  tough call for the Dodgers. Hampered the last two years by injuries, Ramirez doesn’t appear to be that game changing type of hitter anymore. But, it’s tough to know since he isn’t healthy. I would love to see the guy healthy, but due to pulled muscles and getting dusted and plunked by opposing pitchers, Ramirez can’t stay out of the infirmary. I love the “I SEE YOU” Ramirez. But, I don’t see that guy much anymore. Instead I see a hobbled and slow short-stop who hurts this team immeasurably with his porous defense on this pitching rich team.

I don’t really WANT to point out Adrian Gonzalez for a sub-par performance but in his case the numbers don’t lie. Despite his big game-winning RBI hit last night Gonzalez’s numbers are down this year and in big spots it has hurt the Dodgers. Since May, Adrian has hit a woeful .224 and has been flirting with the .250 mark since mid-June. His 14 home runs are nice, but they primarily came during an early season power surge. He is not hitting the long ball of late. In the past that was OK, since AGon could always be depended on for a high average and his reliability with runners in scoring position. But, he hasn’t been as consistent in those spots this year. He is on pace for his 20 home runs and 100 RBI’s and the Dodgers and their fans will take it. I am just here to say that if Gonzalez was having a typical Gonzalez season he would be on pace for  130 or 140 RBI’s. Remember, Gonzalez has had Dee Gordon and Yasiel Puig on base in front of him all year. He should be driving in at least 120 with the seasons those two have had. Am I nit-picking a bit with AGon ? Of course, but when you are making 21 million a year, we should be critical. Gonzalez is still producing. My argument is, he should produce more.

These five players are making a ridiculous amount of money. All of them except for Hanley are under contract for years to come. So, Dodger fans, this is your core. These are the players that management has chosen to build around. I think that has to change. At some point it’s time to “fish or cut bait.” There is no question the Dodgers have to get rid of at least two of these players. The problem is no one wants them. They don’t produce and get paid way too much money. The questions are clear for Guggenheim and the Dodger brass. Who do you move ? And, how much is Guggenheim willing to eat to shed themselves of these players who were once serviceable, but now are playing the role of anvil for this organization.

Warriors could be big losers in LeBron’s return to Cleveland


Without a doubt the legacy of LeBron James was rehabilitated with one well-penned letter. And now that James returns home the trickle-down effect on the rest of the Association will be significant.

Dissecting the winners and losers in this monumental power shift is easy. Winners, LeBron, the Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert and to be quite honest, the league. This is a great move for the NBA. The Association’s biggest star was a villain. His “Decision” in 2010 left a sour taste in many people’s mouths. And while James didn’t owe the fans anything, his dis-respect for his home-town team was shameful.

Now, the league’s best player and biggest star is a sports-hero again. He returns home, with hat in hand, fully aware how he wronged them before and how he hopes to make amends. This is truly a Prodigal Son story. The biblical tale where the pretentious son leaves the house, vowing never to return. Only to return, apologetic, solemn and contrite and asking forgiveness. It’s a great story. It fits, and we are seeing it in motion. The NBA and its fans are big winners here.

The biggest losers, without a doubt, the Miami Heat. The Heat had to feel supremely confident in knowing that they could offer him the most money, along with the possibility of playing with his best buddies. What they didn’t realize is that James missed home. He missed Akron, and the tug of home was bigger than anything Miami could offer. The Heat will now try to piece together the remnants of an aging roster that is deficient in high quality talent but has money to spend.

I don’t consider Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh big losers in this scenario. In my opinion they are partly responsible for James bolting. Wade’s eroding skills and Bosh becoming a shell of his Toronto-self signaled to James that his future was not in South Beach. Wade will get paid by Heat owner Micky Arison, but he is not even close to the player he once was. There is too much tread on those worn tires.

Bosh has become a perimeter jump shooter, that didn’t seem to fit with James anymore. And, while they are great friends, when on the floor together their games just didn’t mesh. With Bosh signing a 5-year 118 million dollar deal to stay in Miami, maybe he can become that dominating player again. He will get his shot, with no James in the picture. I think we could see the Bosh that was such a special player in Toronto because now Miami will need him more than ever.

The other big loser, sadly my beloved Golden State Warriors. Now that James is back in Cleveland he will want to surround himself with other high quality, YOUNG championship type players who are hungry. One of those players is Kevin Love. Love has told the Minnesota Timberwolves he will not re-sign with them and will leave via free agency if they don’t trade him. Love has played six outstanding seasons in the league and has yet to make the playoffs. He exemplifies hungry.

The Cavaliers have assets and picks to trade. Ironically, they have first round picks galore, including a Miami Heat first rounder from the 2010 LeBron DECISION to leave Cleveland. I can see the Cavs packaging a few first-rounders and a couple of young players for Love. This package may be something the Wolves jump at as they try to get impact players and rebuild. Minnesota GM and head coach Flip Saunders has said he doesn’t want the TWolves to rebuild.  He says he wants to compete now. But if he is honest with himself and his fan base, they will need picks and some ping-pong ball love  in the draft lottery to become a playoff team. He may not WANT to tear the team down and rebuild it, but I think he has to.

Sadly, that means the Warriors and their flirtations with the Wolves in trying to acquire Love may fall on deaf ears. It may also force the Warriors to part with Klay Thompson, someone new head coach Steve Kerr and consultant Jerry West DO NOT want the Warriors to trade. The Timberwolves have insisted they get Thompson in any deal for Love. If the Warriors want that possible franchise turning power forward they may have to include Thompson.

This is a bad day for the Warriors who were the clubhouse leaders in the race for Love. They may have been able to get him without dealing Thompson, that seems far-fetched now. ESPN quotes Love as saying he is “intrigued” about joining James in Cleveland. If the Warriors truly want Love, they may have to act and act fast.

As the league celebrates its biggest star returning home, the Warriors need to make some hard and fast choices on whether they currently are constructed to win a championship, or whether Kevin Love is that missing piece. The Warriors war-room has some strong personalities with varying opinions, ultimately Joe Lacob signs the checks and will be making this decision, regardless of how much Kerr and West plead to keep this current core together.

Oh to be a fly on the wall in those Dubs offices…….

Hey Bron Bron, about that DECISION…….

Oh, let the great mea culpa begin. If I am reading the tea leaves correctly the Cleveland Cavaliers are about to bag the biggest free agent of them all in a coup’ de’ tat of epic proportions.

While there has not been an official announcement it appears Le Bron James is about to call Cleveland his basketball home once again. After being non-committal with Heat President Pat Riley in Vegas today, there are some subtle signs that LeBron is going to let bygones’ be bygones and return to his home town team.

If LeBron returns it will be of Prodigal Son proportions. James not only left Cleveland four years ago, but he left them in the cruelest fashion. This was not leaving a loved-one at the altar type of break-up. It was a Rory McIlroy break-up. Let’s mail the invitations, have dinner with the fam, call a presser, and then dump you while your family is watching.

As bad as LeBron looked with his media manipulated decision, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert looked just as bad. He played the jilted lover role so well. He was bitter, scorned and hurt and it showed for the whole world to see. The Cleveland fans in my opinion had every right to be PISSED. And they let the self-proclaimed King know it. They burned his jersey, they made hilarious parody Nike commercials, they dis-owned a player more than I have ever seen a player dis-owned by his home-town.

Now, with this amazing turn of events, LeBron could be returning to the scene of the break-up. Not only looking to make amends, but looking to lead the jilted lover to the promised land. How do the fans react ? How do the fans deal with this ?

We have precedent.

When Al Davis crapped on Oakland Raider fans in the early 80’s he was vilified by Raider faithful. His name was dirty language in the Bay Area. When Davis starting flirting with the Oakland again, many of those same fans were not going to be screwed over again. “A pox on you Al Davis, a pox on your team.” But, there was a core of fans that stayed faithful to Davis. Forgetting that it was the same man who had taken their beloved team away some 20 years earlier. They forgave the gangster, and welcomed him back with open arms, even  at the expense of funding police officers and schools. The city of Oakland guaranteed Davis sell-outs, and even if the Raiders failed to sell the games out, the city would make up the difference. A colossal financial failing.

I expect Cleveland to welcome back James overwhelmingly. They will forgive and forget. They will cheer their favorite son wildly. They will take their tattered and torn James jersey’s that they were using to line the bottom’s of their bird cages and throw them in the washer. If they had burned their jersey’s, they will fork over another 149.99 to get another one. Why ? Because James’ return promises something greater than sports vitriol. It promises a championship. Oh yes, the magic elixir, a beautiful, wonderful, miraculous championship. If James can deliver that, then THE DECISION of five years ago will be nothing but a forgettable footnote in the return of their favorite son.