Featured – Martinez Tribune https://martineztribune.com The website of the Martinez Tribune. Mon, 04 Nov 2019 22:00:24 -0800 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3 Clippers give Warriors Reality Check on Opening Night at Chase https://martineztribune.com/2019/10/24/clippers-give-warriors-reality-check-on-opening-night-at-chase/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/10/24/clippers-give-warriors-reality-check-on-opening-night-at-chase/#respond Fri, 25 Oct 2019 06:39:43 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=13555 BY MASON BISSADA  The Golden State Warriors were eviscerated by the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, losing to their in-state rival by a whopping 141-122 on opening night at the new Chase Center in San Francisco. To say that the Warriors got off to a slow start would be an understatement, seeing as how …

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BY MASON BISSADA

 The Golden State Warriors were eviscerated by the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, losing to their in-state rival by a whopping 141-122 on opening night at the new Chase Center in San Francisco.

To say that the Warriors got off to a slow start would be an understatement, seeing as how the Clippers went on a 14-0 run to start the game. D’Angelo Russell took it upon himself to stop the bleeding, scoring the Warriors’ first 10 points, including a pair of pull-up 3’s in transition. Russell looked passable offensively in his Warriors’ debut, going for 20 points on 4-8 3-point shooting. Thanks to Russell’s hot start and some competent bench play from Jacob Evans (4-9 from 3 for the game) and rookie Eric Paschall, Golden State was able to cut the lead to a reasonable 11 points at halftime. Then all hell broke loose.

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Eric Paschall looks to get off a shot over the Clippers Lou Williams in his NBA debut for the Warriors Thursday night. Paschall scored 14 points, but Los Angeles routed the Warriors 141-122.

 

During the Kerr era, the Warriors have become notorious for going on huge 3rd quarter runs to either come back from a deficit or extend an already sizable lead. Thursday, however, the opposite happened, as the Clippers outscored the Warriors 46-33, effectively ending the game. The Warriors’ defense was abominable, as they were unable to slow down Kawhi Leonard (21 points) or the super-sub combo of Lou Williams (22) and Montrezl Harrell (18). The Clippers shot an eye-popping 62.5% from the field and 56.3% from three for the game.

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Lou Williams of the Clippers goes up for a shot around Jacob Evans III during the Clips 141-122 win over the Warriors Thursday night. Williams led Los Angeles with 22 points off the bench to help spoil the opening night at Chase Center for the Warriors.

 

“Our defense was atrocious,” Draymond Green said postgame. You got to give [the Clippers] some credit but when you give them the type of rhythm they were allowed to get in, they’re going to make shots and a lot of them were open.They have a good team but our defense was pathetic.”

Steph Curry struggled mightily, turning the ball over eight times. It was also a rare off-night in terms of shooting for the usual 3-point sniper, going just 2-11 from beyond the arc. The Clippers clearly designed their defense around stopping Curry, constantly sending two players to the ball when he had possession and trapping him in pick-and-roll situations. Defensive pest Patrick Beverley hounded Curry, constantly toeing the line between fantastic defense and physical assault. Beverley even bated Curry into an offensive foul via a shove out of frustration.

“The easy answer is that it is one out of 82, but there is some glaring and there are things that we need to correct if we want to win basketball games consistently,” Curry said postgame.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Kawhi Leonard drives the lane against Glenn Robinson III during the Clippers 141-122 win over Golden State Thursday night in the opening game at Chase Center. The reigning NBA Finals MVP scored 21 points and dished off nine assists.

 

The Warriors’ defensive scheme appeared to include placing Draymond Green on Clippers forward Patrick Patterson, who has not shot the ball well in recent seasons past. Green played off of Patterson in an attempt to play free safety as a help defender, daring Patterson to shoot. Patterson did indeed, knocking down 6-10 3-point attempts and ending the night with 20 points, a higher total than he had in any game last season. This is something the Warriors will just have to live with, as the logic behind the scheme was sound.

 The Warriors bad injury luck also continued, as starting center Kevon Looney sat the second half after re-aggravating a hamstring injury. If this causes Looney to miss games, the Warriors will have to look to newly-acquired Marquese Chriss to start at center with Willie Cauley-Stein already out. Green also sat out for a short period in the first quarter with some sort of nerve issue in his shoulder, but was able to return in the second quarter. Green’s health is definitely something to keep an eye on as the season progresses, as the Warriors would likely fall off a defensive cliff without him.

Perhaps it is a good thing that the Warriors took such an emphatic loss this early in the season. It was a reality check they needed, conveying to them that they are no longer a juggernaut that can walk into any game and win with one hand tied behind their backs. This Clipper team might be the toughest opponent they’ll face this season, so at least they know it’s all uphill from here.

 “This is not a one-off,” Head Coach Steve Kerr said postgame “This is the reality. There are going to be nights like this during the year. You have to play through it and you have to keep fighting and keep getting better. That’s the plan.”

 The Warriors next travel to Oklahoma City to play the Thunder on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

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New look Warriors entering 2019-20 season in uncharted waters https://martineztribune.com/2019/10/23/new-look-warriors-entering-2019-season-in-uncharted-waters/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/10/23/new-look-warriors-entering-2019-season-in-uncharted-waters/#respond Wed, 23 Oct 2019 13:00:41 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=13528 BY MASON BISSADA The Golden State Warriors are walking into foreign territory, entering the 2019-20 NBA season as anything other than the championship favorites for the first time in three years. The postseason and offseason were not kind to Golden State, as only two of the five players that make up the infamous “Hamptons 5” …

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BY MASON BISSADA

The Golden State Warriors are walking into foreign territory, entering the 2019-20 NBA season as anything other than the championship favorites for the first time in three years. The postseason and offseason were not kind to Golden State, as only two of the five players that make up the infamous “Hamptons 5” lineup will be returning on opening night. For fans, the sequential wounds of the Kevin Durant Achilles tear, the Klay Thompson ACL tear, the devastating Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors and the nearly-as-devastating (if not predictable) loss of Durant in free agency felt like multiple proverbial kicks while they were down. Still, many are optimistic that a core of two-time MVP Stephen Curry and former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green is a formula for success. But two players does not a basketball team make, and there are quite a few new faces to whom fans will have to adjust, along with their season expectations.

 The Roster

Though not positionally, D’Angelo Russell is the Kevin Durant replacement, being the return the Warriors received in the sign-and-trade of Durant to the Brooklyn Nets back in July. Russell is in no way a similar (or as efficient) player to Durant, but it will be his job to keep the offense afloat when Curry is on the bench. Russell is a probing guard with a reliable jumpshot and excellent court vision who ran a playoff-level offense last year with the Nets. He relies heavily on screen-and-roll action to generate offense, something the Warriors have been averse to in the Steve Kerr era, though the head coach has said this will change to better fit this year’s personnel.

Defensively, Russell is a bit of a liability, easily losing his man on screens and back-cuts. He is also rather unathletic in terms of moving his feet. A Curry-Russell backcourt will be a feast for opposing offenses, particularly ones with dynamic scoring guards (looking at you, Portland).

Speaking of Curry, he is still a top-five player in the NBA, and is the most prolific offensive weapon a coach could ask for. Curry’s floor spacing, off-ball movement, dribble-penetration and court vision can turn any offensive lineup into an elite scoring group, which the Warriors likely will be in the minutes that Curry plays. The issue will be the minutes that he doesn’t. 

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As the Warriors enter the new season with an overhauled roster, Steph Curry’s ability to stay healthy is more vital than ever to the team’s success.

 

If Curry does earn an MVP narrative, it’s going to be similar to that of Russell Westbrook’s 2016-17 campaign: A sixth-seeded team being carried by one superstar that would be a lottery team without him. If the Warriors can outscore teams on a nightly basis as Curry pulls off another 30+ points-per-game average on 50/40/90 shooting-percentage splits as he did during his unanimous MVP run, he’ll be heralded as a God among men. The 50/40/90 efficiency is unlikely, however, as defenses will design their entire scheme around stopping Curry, seeing as the Warriors only have one other scoring threat in their starting lineup. Were it not for Russell, defenses might try box-and-1 defensive alignments to stop Curry as the Raptors did in the Finals.

While much of the offensive burden is being placed on Curry, the entirety of the defensive burden will be placed on Draymond Green. Green will turn 30 this year, with five straight Finals worth of mileage on his tires. When engaged and in shape, Green is still one of the most impactful defenders in the league. He can guard every position, switching onto guards with ease and defending low-post threats with boulder-like stubbornness. His long arms and sneaky athleticism make him an excellent rim protector and weak-side shot-changer. However, Green will not be able to play free-safety as often as he did when he was playing alongside other versatile defenders like Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Durant. In the past, Kerr would often place Green on the opposing team’s worst offensive player (think Tony Allen in the 2015 playoffs), allowing him to roam freely and contribute helping defense wherever it was needed. This year, Green will likely have to guard the opposing team’s best player from the jump out of necessity, which may be taxing in the long-term. Green will have to maintain the level of fitness he was at in last year’s playoffs in order to raise Golden State’s defense above the league average.

“We don’t have as good of defenders as we had,” Green said matter-of-factly at Media Day. “I don’t think that’s any surprise. But at the same time, we’ve just got to find our identity. You know, before our identity was switching. That may not be our identity anymore.”

Starting alongside Green in the frontcourt will likely be Kevon Looney, one of the few holdovers from last year’s roster. Looney has grown into a legitimate starting-calibur center whose defensive mobility has flown a bit under the radar. Last year, Looney was often the best traditional option at the 5, even when DeMarcus Cousins was healthy. Looney has never played more than 18 minutes a game, so look for fatigue to be a factor as his role increases.

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One of the most impactful defenders in the league, an even larger burden will fall on Draymond Green’s shoulders in the upcoming season with less help than usual.

 

The other option Kerr may resort to as the starting center later in the season is new acquisition Willie Cauley-Stein. Cauley-Stein is currently recovering from a left-foot sprain that will likely keep him out for the first few games of the season, but when he returns, he’ll bring an athletic lob threat that the Warriors haven’t had since JaVale McGee left for Los Angeles. Cauley-Stein averaged 11.9 points and 8.4 rebounds on 56.6% true shooting as the starting center for the Sacramento Kings last season, and projects to be a decent rim-running pick-and-roll partner for both Curry and Russell.

A third option could be Marquese Chriss, whom the Warriors originally brought in as a training camp stop-gap in the wake of the Cauley-Stein injury. Chriss flourished both in practice and in the preseason, averaging 9.4 points, 8 rebounds and 3.4 assists on a whopping 66.8% true shooting in just 22 minutes of action. The Warriors clearly believe in Chriss, as they cut returning forward Alfonzo McKinnie (who was projected to start before the preseason began) in order to give Chriss their final roster slot. Chriss, still only 22, was a lottery pick who has bounced around the league in his first three seasons. If he can finally actualize his potential in a more stable situation, he may become found money for Golden State.

The talent dip becomes truly evident when focusing on the final starting slot and the bench behind it. The starting small forward position, which was once held by Durant and which will eventually be held by Thompson, will likely be filled for the time-being by Glenn Robinson III, who started three of the Warriors’ five preseason games. Robinson III is a 6’6 wing and a dunk-contest-winning-level athlete. In his three years with Indiana before a lost year in Detroit, he shot 39.4% from 3-point range, a number the Warriors would love to see continue into the upcoming season. The problem is that Robinson is hesitant to take those three’s, averaging just 1.5 attempts over that same span. Defenses will be made aware of this hesitance and may treat him as a non-shooter despite the percentages.

Behind him are names such as Alec Burks, Damian Lee and Jacob Evans. All undersized wings that are capable of scoring on second units but have never made a rotation-level impact in the NBA. None of these names necessarily fit the profile of a conventional Warriors swingman-type, though those types are few and far between across the entire league. The D’Angelo Russell sign-and-trade triggered a hard salary cap for the Warriors, prohibiting them from spending money on players with true two-way capability. Until Thompson returns, the Warriors will have to live with what they’ve got.

The Rookies

Jordan Poole, drafted #28 overall by the Warriors, is a 6’5 guard out of Michigan. Poole is an athletic scoring wing who is not shy about pulling the trigger from behind the arc, something the Warriors will value given their lack of spacing with Thompson sidelined. Poole attempted 39 three’s over the span of his five preseason games. Regardless of the number of makes (13), Poole’s willingness to shoot should keep defenses honest and give Curry and Russell a bit more space to operate. Poole looks to be getting the bulk of the backup shooting guard minutes, at least to start the season.

Eric Paschall, drafted #41 overall, is a 6’7 power forward out of Villanova. As a four-year college player at age 22, Paschall has had time to fully grow into his body, weighing in at 255 pounds. Paschall projects as a Draymond Green-lite type, bringing some switchability, a decent looking jumpshot and a malleability in terms of his position. He’ll be fighting for minutes, as the Warriors front court is slightly deeper than their guard/wing rotation.

 The Klay Dilemma

Thompson’s ACL tear is a complex issue. The Warriors have stated that there will not even be an update on his recovery until after the All-Star break, and General Manager Bob Myers made it clear that this does not mean he’ll return after the break. It just means there will be an update. The Warriors will be 55 games into their season by that point, and will have a vague idea as to where they stand in the Western Conference in terms of talent and playoff seeding. If they are not a clear-cut playoff-caliber team that looks like one All-Star away from being a title contender, it would stand to reason that they will not rush Thompson back and may even state publicly that he is ruled out for the remainder of the season.

Kerr has spoken on this particular topic, stating recently that Thompson was unlikely to play this season and later emphasizing the term “unlikely,” thus leaving the door ever-so-slightly ajar.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
It’s quite possible that the biggest moment of the Warriors upcoming season occurred four months ago in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, as Klay Thompson’s ACL injury threatens to force him to miss an entire season.

 

Projections and Predictions

Various NBA publications, writers and tweeters have pegged the Warriors to finish somewhere in the 6th-8th seed range of the Western Conference (ESPN has them as the 6th seed with 49 wins), far removed from the 60 win range Warriors fans have been accustomed to during the Steve Kerr era. But if one were to look up and down this Golden State roster, these predictions begin to seem reasonable, if not a bit generous.

This team has not only lost a ton of its past talent, it has also lost its intelligence. The Warriors as presently constructed will not be able to run the beautiful-game, Spursian-style motion offense that has perplexed teams for half a decade. An offense like that requires a certain type of player that the Warriors just don’t have beyond their top three players.

“Having lost a lot of passers,” Kerr said at Media Day, “a lot of veteran basketball players, Andre, Shaun, Kevin, even going back a couple years with Zaza and David West, our roster has really been filled with passers. And so it made a lot of sense for us to get the ball moving… [The new players] haven’t done it yet at this level. If you don’t have that kind of passing, then you tend to rely on more specific sets. So that’s what I would look for with this team as we go. We’ll figure out what we have.”

With their offense relying heavily on Curry and their defense relying heavily on Green, the Warriors need to pray to the basketball Gods that these two injury-prone stars (Curry has played an average of 66.3 games per season over the last three years; Green 70.6) can stay relatively healthy. The Warriors will likely be an underdog in any game in which Curry does not play.

This could easily become a bye-year for the Warriors. The hard cap has limited them in terms of acquiring assets midseason, and they will also owe their 2020 draft pick to the Brooklyn Nets as part of the Durant sign-and-trade if the Warriors finish with a top-10 record in the league. If Thompson’s recovery isn’t progressing rapidly and Golden State decides it’s just not their year, look for them to attempt to keep their pick, rest Curry and Green as often as possible and throw in the towel for the season.

It is with this very possible outcome in mind that I’m predicting the Warriors will win 43 games and finish just outside of the Top-8 in the Western Conference, missing the playoffs for the first time in eight years. At full strength, even without including Thompson, there are probably not eight teams in the conference that are better than Golden State. But the West has never been deeper, and the Warriors just don’t have the depth to sustain any sort of absence from Curry or Green. Compound that with their limited floor-spacing, lack of defensive versatility and a plethora of unproven role players, and the Warriors may find themselves on the outside looking in. It is also worth noting that Golden State has one of the smartest front offices in basketball, and they’re wise enough to realize that chasing the 8th seed and running their players into the ground just to be swept by one of the L.A. juggernauts is not beneficial for the long-term success of the franchise.

The Warriors themselves will be playing wait-and-see along with their fans when gauging the quality of this team. However, as it stands now, there is more that can go wrong than go right. Time will tell if this team can defy the odds.

 

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D’Angelo Russell is a Perplexing Puzzle Piece for the Warriors https://martineztribune.com/2019/10/19/dangelo-russell-is-a-perplexing-puzzle-piece-for-the-warriors/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/10/19/dangelo-russell-is-a-perplexing-puzzle-piece-for-the-warriors/#respond Sat, 19 Oct 2019 16:00:20 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=13509 By MASON BISSADA It goes without saying that D’Angelo Russell was not an initial target of the Golden State Warriors prior to the 2019 NBA offseason. Russell was a restricted free agent looking to garner a max-contract who played the same position as Steph Curry. The Warriors were instead focused on retaining their superstar free …

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By MASON BISSADA

It goes without saying that D’Angelo Russell was not an initial target of the Golden State Warriors prior to the 2019 NBA offseason. Russell was a restricted free agent looking to garner a max-contract who played the same position as Steph Curry. The Warriors were instead focused on retaining their superstar free agent, Kevin Durant. However when it became clear that Durant would not be returning, the Golden State front office attempted to make the most of an unfortunate predicament. For General Manager Bob Myers, his job temporarily ceased to be acquiring assets that fit his roster and became simply acquiring assets, period.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
As D’Angelo Russell begins his first season with the Warriors, questions remain about what type of fit he’ll be playing the same position as Steph Curry.

 

“It happened really quickly,” Myers said during Media Day. “But from our standpoint, it was either we try to get something from the situation…or we don’t get anything at all and Kevin goes, which he certainly had the right to do, and Brooklyn could have taken him into their (salary cap)  space.”

The Warriors were fortunate that the Brooklyn Nets also had an outgoing, max-level free agent, and even more fortunate that all parties agreed to a sign-and-trade. However, before inking Russell to a hefty 4-year, $117 million deal, Golden State was forced to trade Andre Iguodala and a protected first-round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies in order to clear the cap space necessary to sign Russell. Iguodala, though now age 35, is still a more-than-capable wing-defender that the Warriors would love to have given their current lack of wing depth. They are also incapable of replacing Iguodala, as sign-and-trade transactions trigger a hard salary cap for the team. Regardless, the Warriors walked away with a new, notable name on their roster, and Myers must now cede the floor to Steve Kerr with the hopes that he’ll validate his decision.

On the court, D’Angelo Russell is still somewhat of an enigma, though he does have distinct strengths and weaknesses. Last year, his fourth in the NBA, was a breakout year for the guard, as he averaged 21.1 points and seven assists on his way to his first All-Star appearance (though it was as an injury replacement). He was a clear-cut number one option for the Nets, posting a 31% usage rate, the fifth highest usage in the league, according to NBA.com. Most of this ball-handling was spent on his bread-and-butter, the pick-and-roll.

It might be misleading to say that Russell is at his best as a pick-and-roll ball handler, simply because it’s the only form of offense he’s ever known, at least as a Net (his Laker days playing alongside old-man Kobe Bryant and Jordan Clarkson don’t hold much weight in terms of analysis). In the 2017-18 season, Russell ranked 13th in the NBA in pick-and-roll frequency as a ball-handler amongst players who played more than 30 games, running the offense for 43.5% of his possessions. In the 2018-19 season, that number rose to 49.9%, good for fifth in the league.

The play is fitting for Russell’s skillset. He’s a shifty, probing guard with a silky jumpshot that he can hit either beyond the arc or in the mid-range. When defenses would go under the screen, Russell wouldn’t hesitate to pull up. This worked to some degree in Brooklyn when Russell was paired with an excellent roll man in Jarrett Allen. But are the Warriors going to shift their entire motion offense, the offense that has thrown so many teams for a loop the last five years, to cater to Russell’s strengths?

Head Coach Steve Kerr answered this question rather definitively. “We know D’Angelo’s really good in pick-and-roll, so we’re going to put him in pick-and-roll,” Kerr said.

If this turns out to be the case, Russell will be paired with a ball-handler’s dream pick-and-roll partner in Draymond Green. The Curry-Green pick-and-roll proved time and again to be an extremely effective tool in playoff scenarios when necessary, particularly last year while Kevin Durant was injured. Green is a genius passer out of the short roll, with point guard-level vision capable of finding lob threats and corner shooters. The jury is still out on whether the Warriors have enough shooting on their roster to keep defenses honest, but they know at least one of the players standing behind the arc will be a career 44% 3-point shooter with one of the quickest releases in NBA history.

Speaking of Steph Curry, it appears that he and Russell will be sharing the ball-handling responsibilities. Russell has experience with this, playing alongside point guard Spencer Dinwiddie in Brooklyn and assuming the role of off-ball shooter. Russell shot an extremely efficient 39% on catch-and-shoot 3’s last season. If he can continue this in Golden State, he’ll provide a much-needed pressure-release in terms of spacing.

“It’s getting him used to when we don’t call plays,” Curry said when asked what kinks needed to be worked out offensively between him and Russell. “It’s our second nature, our reads, spacing and overall expectations… It’s just make the reads and go. For the most part, just don’t stop moving and good things will happen.”

When Curry is off the floor, it’ll be the D’Angelo show. It’s a safe bet to assume that one of the two guards will be on the floor at all times.

“We’ll probably end up staggering them because they’ll be our two top scorers, and we’ll figure all that stuff out as we go,” Kerr said at Media Day.

Russell will get all he can handle in terms of usage, and the Warriors will need him to create seams in the opposing defense. He still has a lot of room to grow as a go-to option. He’s never reached league-average in terms of true shooting percentage, partially because he doesn’t get to the rim and doesn’t draw fouls. But if Kerr uses him as the back-up point guard, he should be able to break down bench-level defenses and at least buy his team time until Curry checks back in.

As a whole offensively, there doesn’t seem to be a scenario where Russell isn’t at least a slight positive for the Warriors. His jumpshot is crucial and his court vision is an added bonus that will keep the engine humming. 

“I think with this style of play that we play with here, the pass is valued,” Russell said. “The pass is what gets a guy the shot. The pass is what keeps the offense flowing. A lot of guys are forced to double-team, so you have to get off of it, and that creates an advantage downhill. I think just adding another passer on to the team, myself, it just can help the team.”

Where the question mark truly lies in terms of the Russell addition is on the other side of the ball. He’s never been known to be a good defender, despite decent physical tools. He’s long for his position, and has a heft to him that he could potentially use to switch onto larger offensive players in the post. But he refuses to fight over a screen and often loses his man off the ball.

This won’t fly with Golden State, a team that has notched a Top-11 defense each of the last six seasons. The Warriors cannot afford to hide him on the opposing team’s less-threatening guard, as they are already forced to cater to Curry’s defensive limitations.

Russell will likely never be an above-average defender, but the Warriors switching schemes should minimize his weaknesses to some degree. They may have lost their surplus of long-armed, strong-yet-mobile wing defenders, but they still have a former Defensive Player of the Year starting at power forward in Green who can clean up defensive mishaps when it matters most.

Russell’s fit overall is a bit round-peg-square-hole-ish, but if one were to squint, there’s a chance he can help bolster the offense while Klay Thompson is out and be just passable enough on defense for Steve Kerr to keep his remaining hair. He may very well be worth Bob Myers’ risk. However, if that is the case, the ball may not be completely out of Myers’ court in terms of asset management.

If Russell starts the season on a hot streak and his trade value increases, Myers may look to capitalize and flip Russell at the trade deadline (or any time in the next four years) for a piece that fits more seamlessly with the Curry-Thompson-Green core. But this scenario is a bit of a catch-22; if Russell is playing well enough to increase his trade value, and this play is translating to winning games, than the Warriors should want to keep him and hope that this success continues. If he underperforms, his value will diminish and the team might hesitate to trade him as they would likely take a loss on their investment. Either way, it seems more likely than not that Russell stays, at least in the short term. The Warriors seem to be viewing this year as a transition season, and should be willing to test Russell’s fit before making yet another hasty decision. At the very least, he’s an exciting, young variable that will give fans something to wonder about as the season unfolds.

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Peter Frampton goes out on top, calling it a career in Concord https://martineztribune.com/2019/10/14/peter-frampton-goes-out-on-top-calling-it-a-career-in-concord/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/10/14/peter-frampton-goes-out-on-top-calling-it-a-career-in-concord/#comments Mon, 14 Oct 2019 07:00:22 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=13459 BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER In an era where musicians routinely promote farewell tours to cash in on their riches, only to return to the road countless times shortly thereafter, there was a legitimate sense of finality to Peter Frampton‘s performance at the Concord Pavilion Saturday night. The 69-year-old, Frampton, who first gained prominence as a 16-year old …

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BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER

In an era where musicians routinely promote farewell tours to cash in on their riches, only to return to the road countless times shortly thereafter, there was a legitimate sense of finality to Peter Frampton‘s performance at the Concord Pavilion Saturday night.

The 69-year-old, Frampton, who first gained prominence as a 16-year old lead singer and guitarist for the British band The Herd, three years prior to co-founding Humble Pie with Steve Marriott, announced publicly in February that he had been diagnosed with Inclusion Body Myositis, a degenerative disorder causing muscle inflammation, weakness and atrophy. It’s a progressive disease whose symptoms include weakness in the wrists and fingers, as well as the muscles that lift the foot. San Francisco Giants fans might recognize it as the same disease that has plagued longtime announcer Mike Krukow, and seen it’s effects on him since he first made his condition public in 2014.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Peter Frampton performs Saturday night at the Concord Pavilion on the final stop of his Farewell Tour.

 

Some four years after first learning of his own diagnosis, Frampton’s symptoms have become more noticeable. He’s fallen on stage and indicated that performing live is continuing to get more and more difficult. When announcing the tour, he said, “I’ve had a very good run. The reason I’m calling it the ‘farewell tour,’ is because I know that I will be at the top of my game for this tour and will make it through this and people won’t be saying, ‘Oh you know, he can’t play as good.’ I can. But we just don’t know for how long.” Not knowing how much longer he’d be able to play guitar, or perform onstage, he immediately went into the studio to undertake multiple recording projects along with plotting what will likely be his last big tour.

Dubbed Peter Frampton FinaleThe Farewell Tour, the final stop of the four month tour reached Concord with many fans of the beloved English-American traveling long distances to celebrate the end of an era. A businessman seated next to me came from St. Louis just to be one of the 12,000 fans that packed the Pavilion on a beautiful autumn evening. On the shortlist as one of the biggest omissions to not be inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame, along with Jethro Tull and Ian Hunter, Frampton co-founded Humble Pie, one of rock’s first super-groups, in 1969 before starting his solo career three years later.

Taking the stage appearing slim but vibrant in a black leather jacket and blue jeans, the long flowing locks that helped him become pin-up material following the 1976 release of Frampton Comes Alive are long gone but the guitar virtuosity, golden pipes and passion to entertain at the highest level remain intact.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Peter Frampton performs Saturday night at the Concord Pavilion on the final stop of his Farewell Tour.

 

Opening a 130-minute set that provided a near perfect overview of his 16 studio albums, Frampton took the stage to the first of many video tribute compilations with “Baby (Somethin’s Happening)” from 1974’s Somethin’s Happening, the last of his four early albums that would provide the bulk of the contents of his upcoming double live album that would change his life forever when it was released two years later.

The unheralded “Lying” from Premonition and “Lines on My Face” would follow, as the first three songs, along with Frampton’s engaging dialogue with the audience, stretched to 25 minutes. Paying tribute to some of his bandmates from the early days no longer with us, it would be indicative of the intimate storyteller role he embraced throughout the evening.

Another of the six tracks played on the night from the 16-million selling Frampton Comes Alive, “Show Me the Way” highlighted the amiable artist’s use of synthesizers to deliver the desired effect. Seemingly always smiling, Frampton began telling tales of crawling over bodies at Humble Pie’s party house prior to starting his solo career, before fast forwarding to deciding go into the studio to make a blues album after touring with Steve Miller last year. Actually, after coming to grips with his illness, he went into his Nashville studio and made 3 1/2 albums, a creative burst of energy motivated by his desire to record as much music as he can while his affliction will still allow it.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Peter Frampton performs Saturday night at the Concord Pavilion on the final stop of his Farewell Tour.

 

The first to be released, All Blues, has hovered near the top of the blues charts since it dropped in June, and it provided the birthplace of the set’s next trio of songs. An instrumental cover of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia (On My Mind)” and the Freddie King songs “Me and My Guitar” and “Same Old Blues” fit nicely in the middle of show while also ably demonstrating Frampton’s natural ability both as a blues guitarist and vocalist.

After returning to rock with the title track of 1981’s Breaking All the Rules, Frampton detailed how he reached out to fellow musicians including Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones to assist him in recording 2005’s fully instrumental Fingertips. The resulting album earned him a Grammy for best instrumental album of the year, and yielded a beautiful cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” which he dedicated to Chris Cornell prior to concluding the song with voice box vocals as an image of Cornell flashed on the video monitor behind the stage.

Still, the best was yet to come. The infectious groove and guitar pyrotechnics of “(I’ll Give You) Money” set the stage for Frampton to return to storyteller mode while introducing “Baby, I Love Your Way” and its memorable hooks that dominated radio waves. A 15-minute version of “Do You Feel Like We Do” insured that any of the few members of the crowd still seated would be on their feet for the remainder of the evening, ecstatic and singing along as the band left the stage for a moment before returning for an electrifying three song encore.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Peter Frampton salutes the crowd Saturday night at the Concord Pavilion on the final stop of his Farewell Tour.

 

Digging deeply into his roots for “Four Day Creep” and “ I Don’t Need No Doctor,” a pair of Humble Pie tracks from their epic 1971 live album Rockin’ The Fillmore, before closing out the evening, and perhaps his touring career, with a rousing performance of The Beatles “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” the fervor in the audience reached near manic proportions. As a joyous Frampton invited the entire cast of his behind the scenes personnel to join him onstage one last time, resulting in an endless series of hugs and embraces, he spoke to the crowd of it’s inspiration healing him. It would be the only time all night that he referenced his illness.

Peter Frampton’s setlist on October 12, 2019 at the Concord Pavilion:

    1. Baby (Somethin’s Happening)
    2. Lying
    3. Lines on My Face
    4. Show Me the Way
    5. The Lodger
    6. Georgia (On My Mind)
    7. Me and My Guitar
    8. Same Old Blues
    9. Breaking All the Rules
    10. Black Hole Sun
    11. (I’ll Give You) Money
    12. Baby, I Love Your Way
    13. Do You Feel Like We Do

      ENCORE:

    14. Four Day Creep
    15. I Don’t Need No Doctor
    16. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

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The Who continues to orchestrate rock history at Chase Center https://martineztribune.com/2019/10/11/the-who-continues-to-orchestrate-rock-history-at-chase-center/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/10/11/the-who-continues-to-orchestrate-rock-history-at-chase-center/#respond Fri, 11 Oct 2019 07:00:35 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=13432 BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER Arriving at the Chase Center Wednesday night to perform for the first time since lead singer Roger Daltrey lost his voice early in a concert in Houston two weeks ago, The Who wasted little time reestablishing their presence as one of the most iconic bands of the rock era. As the unmistakable …

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BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER

Arriving at the Chase Center Wednesday night to perform for the first time since lead singer Roger Daltrey lost his voice early in a concert in Houston two weeks ago, The Who wasted little time reestablishing their presence as one of the most iconic bands of the rock era. As the unmistakable opening strains of “Overture” from Tommy kicked off a career spanning setlist that provided a far more diverse overview of their catalogue than their most recent Bay Area appearance at Outside Lands in 2017, it was crystal clear that these kids are still quite alright.

© DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Roger Daltery and Pete Townshend of The Who perform in a recent file photo.

 

Dubbed as the Moving On! tour in advance of the December release of their first new album since 2006, the iconic English rockers are Mod’s no more, a fact later documented by guitarist Pete Townshend’s encore proclamation to the crowd that he Daltrey are just “A couple of co-dependent old chaps.” The band’s well polished two and a quarter hour performance featured a sampling of their most recognizable hits that have become classic rock staples for at least three generations of fans.

Supported throughout most of the night by a 48-piece orchestra fronted by Keith Levenson, Townshend and Daltrey performed 23 songs, all but a handful with the orchestral backing. It did seem they provided more punch during the period they had the stage to themselves, performing early songs ranging from “Substitute” and “I Can See for Miles” to 1982’s upbeat “You Better You Bet,” along with “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Behind Blue Eyes” from the 1971 classic Who’s Next, but there were some great moments where their limitations were clearly enhanced by the extra manpower which included percussion, brass, violin and cello accompaniments from the crowded stage.

Daltrey, 75, has clearly regained his voice enough to continue providing spot on vocals. While the scent of herbal supplements was heavy in the arena, prompting him to quip “Whoever is smoking pot in the front row, can you please smoke it the other way or eat it ?”, the one time pin up idol demonstrated no loss of his showmanship in fronting the still bombastic band, as his many microphone twirls and tambourine bashes continued to demonstrate. The 74-year old Townshend’s vocal contributions to “I’m One” and “Eminence Front” also showed that time has had little affect on his golden pipes as he deadpanned that “Roger is even older than I am,” and that there would be “wheelchairs and oxygen available to fans at the end of the show.”

The Who’s first studio album since 2006, WHO, is set to be released on December 6th.

 

The two new songs preimered from WHO, “Hero Ground Zero” and “Ball and Chain” provide great promise for the upcoming album. And any production that also includes tracks including the bombastic “Who Are You,” the always epic “Love, Reign O’er Me”, the legendary “Pinball Wizard” or a finale of “Baba O’Riley” (defined in Webster’s as how to play harmonica on a classic rock track with a picture of Daltrey) has clearly left nothing on the table. Yet for a show that provided no encore, one of the most lasting memories will be the nearly five minutes that Daltrey and Townshend addressed the crowd after the music had concluded.

Along with band introductions that included Pete’s brother Simon Townshend on guitar and Ringo Starr’s son Zak Starkey on drums, the duo generously thanked the crowd for it’s support over the years. But Townshend’s tributes to deceased bandmates Keith Moon and John Entwistle “part of the great band in the sky,” along with mentions that October 9th was both Entwistle and John Lennon’s birthday, were more personal moments that will also be remembered from a band that has been in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame since 1990.

For a band that has survived much adversity and played their first “Farewell Tour” in 1989, one must continue to hope that they will grace stages in the Bay Area yet again, but you just never know. As their British colleague Mick Jagger has been known to say, “This Could Be The Last Time.” The tour continues with three shows this weekend at the Hollywood Bowl before heading to San Diego next Wednesday.

Opening act Liam Gallagher, the former lead singer for Oasis, seemingly set a new All-Time record for the shortest set by a musician of his stature, barely clocking in at 25 minutes. His newly released solo album, Why Me ? Why Not has been getting well-deserved strong reviews and continues to help carve out his identity as a solo artist. Hopefully he’ll be returning to Northern California to headline his own shows in 2020.

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Thousands attend SF’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival https://martineztribune.com/2019/10/06/san-franciscos-hardly-strictly-bluegrass-festival/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/10/06/san-franciscos-hardly-strictly-bluegrass-festival/#respond Mon, 07 Oct 2019 01:30:36 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=13389 BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER The 19th annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco saw over 80 diverse acts perform during a three-day concert over the weekend that drew over 300,000 people to Golden Gate Park.   A gift from the late Warren Hellman to music fans throughout the Bay Area and beyond, the concerts started …

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BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER

The 19th annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco saw over 80 diverse acts perform during a three-day concert over the weekend that drew over 300,000 people to Golden Gate Park.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Robert Plant mugs for the crowd during his headlining performance at The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park Saturday evening.

 

A gift from the late Warren Hellman to music fans throughout the Bay Area and beyond, the concerts started out as a free festival devoted to bluegrass music but has evolved to include many different genre’s of sound as it’s grown into one of the largest free festivals in the country.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Country singer Margo Price performs on the Banjo Stage during the Hardly Strictly Bluesgrass festival at Golden Gate Park.

 

Hellman, a successful financier and philanthropist who was an amateur banjo player himself, passed away in 2011, but his parting gift was creating an endowment to cover the costs that would ensure that the festival would continue long after he was gone.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Calexico and Iron & Wine perform together on the Towers of Gold Stage during the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.

 

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Robert Plant, Emmylou Harris, Grace Potter, Tanya Tucker, St.Paul & The Broken Bones, The Waterboys, Margo Price, Judy Collins and Joan Osborne were among the performers at this years festival.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Hordes of fans flocked to the three-day Hardly Strictly Bluesgrass festival at Golden Gate Park.

 

While Harris has traditionally closed out the three day Festival, it was Plant’s Saturday evening performance at dusk that was the most transcendent. Playing to an overflow crowd that had Lindley Meadow bursting at the seams, the former Led Zeppelin lead singer and Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Famer delivered an eclectic 75 minute set of solo and cover material along with a generous dose of choice Zeppelin cuts including “When the Levee Breaks,” “ Black Dog,” “Gallows Pole” and a curfew busting “Ramble On.”

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
A young fan rises above it all Saturday afternoon at the Hardly Strictly Bluesgrass festival at Golden Gate Park.

 

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
A boy climbs tree to find a creative way to get a better look at the action during the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Par.

 

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49ers and Browns typify why QB is the most vital role in sports https://martineztribune.com/2019/10/04/49ers-and-browns-typify-why-qb-is-the-most-vital-role-in-sports/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/10/04/49ers-and-browns-typify-why-qb-is-the-most-vital-role-in-sports/#respond Fri, 04 Oct 2019 07:00:47 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=13319 BY J.A. SCHWARTZ Stanford’s Andrew Luck was the top overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Colts. Indianapolis earned the #1 pick in that draft after going 2-14 in 2011, and Luck paid immediate dividends. Starting every game as a rookie, he led the Colts to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth, …

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BY J.A. SCHWARTZ

Stanford’s Andrew Luck was the top overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Colts. Indianapolis earned the #1 pick in that draft after going 2-14 in 2011, and Luck paid immediate dividends. Starting every game as a rookie, he led the Colts to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth, a stunning turnaround. He would propel his team to postseason play in four of his seven NFL seasons, playing in all 16 regular season games in each (2012, 2013, 2014, 2018). Injuries would cut short his 2015-2017 seasons, during which he played only 22 of a possible 48 games. The Colts missed the playoffs during those seasons, going 10-16 without him. During training camp in 2019, Luck stunningly retired from football. The Colts, whose odds to win the Super Bowl were 16-1 with Luck under center, quickly plummeted to 50-1 after his announcement.

How can one player exert so much control over the outcome of a game ? Watch any NFL contest, and focus on the QB when he’s on the field. As he comes to the line of scrimmage, he’s scanning the defense, looking for clues as to the type of defense that is being deployed against his teammates. Only he knows if the play that is called is likely to be successful against the defensive array he perceives, and only he can audible, changing the play call, to improve the likelihood that his team gains yardage that might sustain a drive, or lead to a score. He’s doing all of this within the 10-15 seconds of time once the play is wired from his coach into his helmet speaker, and he’s communicating his decisions to every teammate on the field by using hand signals, foot movements and verbal commands.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
The unexpected retirement of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck on the eve of the start of the 2019 season sent shockwaves throughout the NFL. The 30-year old Luck walked away with three years remaining on his contract.

 

Once the play actually begins, and the ball is in his hands, the QB is responsible for reading the defense in real time, finding the weak spots in their coverage, and identifying the receiver who represents the best chance for a successful completion. On a play that is designed to be a pass, he needs to process all that information within split seconds, so that he reads the defense, targets his receiver and unleashes the throw in 2.5-3.0 seconds, all while 300 LB defensive linemen bent on his destruction whirl and claw their way towards him to interfere violently with his efforts.  The acumen with which those decisions are made, and the accuracy with which those throws are delivered can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

The best quarterbacks are the ones who make the right decisions most often, and avoid costly sacks, fumbles and interceptions, all of which can doom or end a drive and minimize the potential for a win. Year after year, those select men lead teams to winning seasons, playoff opportunities and ultimately Super Bowl appearances. Their coaches, teammates and fans (most of the time!) agree on their value, and the men who own the teams who employ them are usually more than happy to pay them salaries commensurate with their impact on the game. What is remarkable is just how much more they are paid than the players on the field with them.

Professional athletes are compensated handsomely, and the elite level performers are paid a premium based on their talent. Quarterbacks, however, eclipse even the upper echelon of salaries paid to other players relative to the salary cap in the NFL.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Bears linebacker Khalil Mack is one of the few non-quarterbacks to crack the Top-20 in NFL salaries during the 2019 season.

 

Of the top 20 salaries being paid to NFL players in 2019 (based on the average annual value of the contract), 16 of them belong to QBs, including each of the Top 10 on the list. Only DE Khalil Mack, DT Aaron Donald, WR Julio Jones and DE DeMarcus Lawrence break into the Top 20. The Top 10 QBs, ranked by their salaries in 2019, average $30.55 million, which equates to 16.2% of the $188.2 million salary cap teams have to spend this year. That figure is nearly double the average of the Top 10 salaries being paid to other positions this season, led by DE and WR, who average $17.55 and $17.33 respectively (9.3% and 9.2% of the cap).

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
The Rams Aaron Donald signed a six-year contract extension worth $135 million with $87 million guaranteed prior to the start of the 2018 season, the largest contract for a defensive player in NFL history.

 

In every other major sport, there is no such stratification between positions. Pitchers and position players are represented among the highest paid baseball players. Centers, forwards and guards are sprinkled among the NBA’s largest salaries. In the NHL, the top 20 salaries are all within $3 million of each other, with goalies, wings, centers and defensemen all represented similarly among the biggest contracts. In each of those sports, there is no singular position that is regarded as being more valuable, or critical to team success, and the salary rankings reflect that. Quarterbacks, however, have dominated the upper stratosphere of league earners for decades, and 2019 is no different.

Why should the QB position be regarded as so much more important than any other position on the field? The results speak for themselves. In 2018, 11 of the 12 teams that made the playoffs featured a QB with a Quarterback Rating of 95 or better. Only three of the top 10 QB’s ranked by that metric failed to make the playoffs last year. If a team’s QB is not playing at a high level, the chances are good that that team will fail to qualify for postseason play. What about the Super Bowl ? Every team’s goal is to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy, not have a highly ranked QB. Going back to 2010, the Super Bowl has featured QB’s who are ranked in the top 12 by the Quarterback Rating in every year aside from 2015, when Peyton Manning, arguably one of the greatest QB’s ever to play, was at the helm as the Broncos defeated Carolina (and MVP Cam Newton). There is a very strong correlation between the quality of quarterback play and team success, and the entire NFL knows it.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers is currently the highest paid player in the NFL, earning $45 million for the 2019 season.

 

When a franchise manages to draft a QB they believe is capable of being an above average performer, they rarely let that player leave the team. To insure that such stars stay on the teams that drafted and developed them, the teams have to pay their QB the going rate to retain their services, and that rate continues to escalate. The top salary being paid to an NFL player in 2019 is the $45 million the Steelers will pay QB Ben Roethlisberger, which is slightly more than the $44.75 million the Falcons will give QB Matt Ryan. In 2020, the top salary (for now) will be paid to Seattle QB Russell Wilson, who will earn $53 million for his services under center. Every passing season sees a new threshold of compensation for signal callers established, and Wilson’s current claim as the highest paid player for 2020 may not last very long. It will surprise nobody to see a new contract record set by the next franchise QB whose team wants to secure his future.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is scheduled to earn $53 million next season.

 

Of the top 25 QB’s ranked by QBR for 2018, only three played for a team that didn’t draft that player out of college (Drew Brees, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kirk Cousins). Every other QB on that list is still with the team they broke into the league with. Teams without consistent play from the position are in a constant search for a solution to that problem, because without it, success on the field is difficult to come by. The Cleveland Browns have had 28 QB’s in the twenty seasons since 1999, and until they drafted Baker Mayfield in 2018, none of them were regarded as worthy of being a long-term fixture on the roster. It is not difficult to explain the Browns futility during those twenty seasons by noting their ineptitude at the position, which led them to an 0-16 season in 2017, fresh off a 1-15 season in 2016.

In contrast, the New England Patriots drafted Tom Brady in 2000, and he’s led that franchise to six Super Bowl victories in his 19 seasons. The 42-year old is still calling the signals in New England, and will do so as long as his body allows him to perform at an elite level. During roughly the same period of time that the Browns cycled through 28 QB’s searching for their savior, the Patriots have had the same singular superstar slinging missiles into the end zone for their franchise. During that period, New England has been to the playoffs 16 times, making the Super Bowl nine times. The Browns have yet to appear in the Super Bowl in the history of their franchise, and haven’t even won a playoff game since January 1, 1995.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
The most successful quarterback in NFL history, Tom Brady has led the New England Patriots to six Super Bowl titles and has them favored to win a seventh this season.

 

The men making decisions about the future of their teams place such a high value on finding the next star QB that those teams have routinely chosen a quarterback as the #1 overall pick in the draft. In the history of the draft, dating back to 1936, QB’s have been taken first in 34 of those seasons, far more than any other position. In the past 20 seasons, a quarterback was selected as the first player to come out of college that season 14 times (DT/DL were chosen four times, and OL twice). Teams that have poor records, thus earning the top pick in the draft that follows the season, are usually in need of improved QB play.

The impact of being able to finally find a quarterback to help change the fortunes of a franchise is dramatic. In 2017, the year before the Browns drafted current starting QB (and 2018 #1 overall pick) Baker Mayfield, their odds to win the Super Bowl was 200-1. In 2018, a year in which Mayfield was not projected to play much, Las Vegas estimated their chances of winning it all at 300-1. Coming into the 2019 season, after Mayfield established himself as the starting QB in Cleveland and showed flashes of greatness ( setting the rookie record for touchdown passes with 27), the Browns perceived chances to win the big game improved significantly. Before the 2019 season, the Browns were 14-1 to win Super Bowl LIV. They had made other moves that improved their roster (trading for Odell Beckham Jr., among others), but Mayfield’s play as their QB was the signal to the rest of the sports world that the Browns might finally be ready to compete at the highest level.

The history of the San Francisco 49ers is an excellent case study for the impact a QB can have on a franchise. Beginning in 1981, Joe Montana’s first year as a full time starter (he had started seven games in 1980 as the team transitioned from Steve DeBerg to Montana as their primary signal caller), the 49ers would make the playoffs nine of the 10 seasons Montana was under center. During the prior eight seasons, they had not qualified for a single postseason, and had only had one season above .500 (1976, when they went 8-6). Montana would rank in the top 10 in passer rating in every season he played in San Francisco, leading the team to four Super Bowls, each of which they won.

San Francisco would be blessed with another Hall of Fame quarterback, Steve Young, who took over as the starter in 1991. Young led the 49ers to the playoffs in seven of his eight seasons with the franchise, winning the Super Bowl in 1994. San Francisco would win at least 10 games in every year Young was at the helm, and Young was never rated lower than the sixth best QB in the league during his tenure as the starter. In fact, Young led the entire NFL in passer rating an astounding six times in eight years from 1991-1998, and he ranks seventh on the All-Time list of quarterbacks by that rating.

The team would transition to other quarterbacks once Young retired, from Jeff Garcia to Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick to the current starter, Jimmy Garappolo. During the period from 1999 (Garcia’s first year as a starter) through the current season, San Francisco has made the playoffs just five times in those twenty seasons, without winning a Super Bowl, and only reaching one, losing to Baltimore after the 2012 season with Kaepernick leading the way. In the five seasons they qualified for the playoffs, their QB’s ranked 3rd, 12th (Garcia in 2000-2001), 9th (Smith in 2011), 13th and 10th (Kaepernick in 2012-2013) in the league by passer rating. In every other season during that span, their QB rating was no better than 15th.  Thus far in 2019, Garappolo is rated 14th, at 96.3, and the team is 3-0 heading into their upcoming Monday Night Football showdown against Cleveland. The correlation is unmistakable: When a team has a quarterback playing at a high level, that team is far more likely to have seasons that result in playoff, and ultimately Super Bowl appearances.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
When Baker Mayfield made his debut at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns after becoming the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, he became their 28th in twenty seasons since they re-entered the league in 1999. They’ve yet to win a single playoff game during that stretch, only qualifying once.

 

San Francisco and Cleveland have been searching for a player to fill that position and excel there for the better part of twenty years. Cleveland has used five first round draft picks looking for its next franchise savior, including the first overall selection in both 1999 (QB Tim Couch) and 2018 (Mayfield). San Francisco used the top pick in the 2005 draft on Alex Smith, who led them to the playoffs in just one of his seven seasons.  In Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garappolo, both teams hope their long search has ended, and that the future with those players leading the way will be filled with playoff berths and Super Bowl titles.

Quarterbacks are still seen as the face of a franchise, and are positioned as such in marketing campaigns. Five of the top 10 biggest endorsement contracts in 2019 will go to QB’s, led by Tom Brady. Three of the top four marketing deals also went to quarterbacks (Brady, Patrick Mahomes and Mayfield), who routinely rate as the most recognizable players on any given team. It stands to reason that the players who have the largest impact on the outcome of any given contest will be compensated at the highest level on the field (as has been discussed earlier in this article), but that same group of athletes also garner the lion’s share of marketing dollars available to NFL players.

If your team doesn’t have its franchise QB in place, chances are this NFL season will end without a playoff appearance. An unsuccessful season, painful as it may be, might afford your team’s front office the chance at a high draft pick, which could be utilized to find the player to be the new face of your franchise. Top QB’s rarely, if ever, become available as free agents, so drafting them is usually the only way to secure one. The Vikings signed free agent QB Kirk Cousins following the 2017 season, paying him a fully guaranteed $84 million over three seasons to insure they would outbid other quarterback needy teams.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys is widely expected to be the next quarterback to receive a record breaking contract.

 

Not every team is in a position with regard to their salary cap situation to allot such lofty sums to free agents, but above average QB’s are seen in a far different light because they become available so infrequently. Most teams are proactive, choosing to extend the contracts of their signal callers so that they never have the chance to reach free agency. Such negotiations have been publicly discussed around Dak Prescott in Dallas, and it would be a shock if a new deal isn’t reached prior to the end of the season. The Cowboys can’t afford to let their star QB go, and it’s only a matter of time before Prescott ascends the rankings in terms of his average annual salary.

In the NFL, you either have a “franchise” quarterback on your roster, or you’re looking for ways to obtain one. The performance of your team is very closely tied to the skill of your signal caller, and has been for quite some time.  The NFL celebrates its 100th year of existence in 2019, and the league has changed and evolved in myriad ways during that century of combat. Players are now bigger, stronger and faster than they’ve ever been before, and training methods, coaching and statistical analysis have ushered in a new era of game management.

The advent of the forward pass in 1933 (when a pass could be made from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage, which changed the rule that required forward passes to be thrown from at least five yards behind the line) positioned the quarterback to be the man who decides the fate of any given play, and whose skill could be the difference between success and failure. One hundred years later, despite the evolution of nearly every aspect of the sport, the simple fact remains: Quarterbacks are the key to victory. If your team has one, be grateful. If not, hope for the top pick in next year’s draft.

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Diaz and Tampa Bay spoil the A’s playoff party at the Coliseum https://martineztribune.com/2019/10/02/diaz-and-tampa-bay-spoil-the-as-playoff-party-at-the-coliseum-5-1/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/10/02/diaz-and-tampa-bay-spoil-the-as-playoff-party-at-the-coliseum-5-1/#respond Thu, 03 Oct 2019 05:51:37 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=13337 BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER For the second year in a row, the A’s dreams of postseason glory died a sudden painful death, falling to the Tampa Bay Rays 5-1 Wednesday night at the Coliseum in the AL Wild Card game. Tampa Bay’s Yandy Diaz ripped a leadoff home run against A’s starter Sean Manaea, his first …

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BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER

For the second year in a row, the A’s dreams of postseason glory died a sudden painful death, falling to the Tampa Bay Rays 5-1 Wednesday night at the Coliseum in the AL Wild Card game.

Tampa Bay’s Yandy Diaz ripped a leadoff home run against A’s starter Sean Manaea, his first of two in the game, and Oakland was never able to recover.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Tampa Bay’s Yandy Diaz celebrates his lead-off home run after crossing the plate in Wednesday’s Wild Card game against the A’s at the Coliseum. Diaz would hit another homer in the third inning to help lead the Rays to a 5-1 win.

 

For A’s fans it was eerily similar to last years Wild Card game in Yankee Stadium, when Aaron Judge, the second batter of the game, blasted a two-run homer in the bottom of the first off of Liam Hendriks, launching an off-season of second guessing about using an “opener” to start a playoff game as New York raced out to a 6-0 lead before Oakland showed any signs of life on the way to a 7-2 loss.

But this year it was supposed to be different. The A’s won 97 games in the regular season for the second year in a row, and playoff inexperience was no longer a legitimate excuse. They also hit a franchise record 257 home runs during the season, tied for the eighth most in Major League history, but their offense was no where to be found against Rays starter Charlie Morton or a trio of relievers.

Manaea returned to the mound in September from Tommy John surgery and was dominant, fashioning a 4-0 record with a minuscule 1.21 ERA, leading A’s Manager Bob Melvin to give him the ball to start an elimination game ahead of Mike Fiers, who was Oakland’s unquestioned ace after going 15-4 in the regular season.

With a Wild Card record crowd of 54,005 looking on, Diaz immediately silenced the partisan Oakland crowd with a 372 foot blast to deep right center, and Avisail Garcia ripped and even longer two-run homer 426 feet to deep center an inning later. Diaz would go yard again leading off the third, sending Manaea to the showers while extending the Rays lead to 4-0.

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Tampa Bay’s Charlie Morton delivers a pitch during the Rays 5-1 win over Oakland in the AL Wild Card game Wednesday night.

 

Meanwhile, Morton was pitching like the ace he was while going 16-6 in the regular season. Only two years removed from leading Houston to a World Series championship with a dominating Game 7 performance at Dodger Stadium, he also won Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS against the Yankees, making him the first pitcher to record wins in winner-take-all games in Major League history.  He never allowed the A’s bats to awaken, tossing five innings while only allowing an unearned run on five hits. Oakland scored their only run in the third without a hit, capitalizing on Marcus Semien’s hustle in going from first to third on Mike Brosseau’s throwing error before coming in to score on a Ramon Laureano sacrifice fly.

Yusmeiro Petit came on to pitch masterfully in relief of Manaea, shutting down the Rays for 2.2 innings before getting touched up for a solo shot by Tommy Pham in the fifth for Tampa’s fourth home run of the game to establish the games final margin. Jesús Luzardo, in just his seventh big league game, came on in the sixth and pitched three scoreless innings for Oakland.

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A despondent Matt Olson removes his batting gloves for the final time during the 2019 season following the A’s season-ending 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card game Wednesday night at the Coliseum.

 

“It’s frustrating,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s very sudden. Usually you have a series to kind of have a tomorrow and come back and win a game. And we’ve been really good this year about having a tough game and coming back and responding.”

“There’s no responding in a game like this. It’s a little out of the norm for baseball. Both teams battled to get to this point and knew it would be one and out. They just played better than we did.”

So, after advancing to the post-season for the fifth time in the past eight seasons and going a Major League best 60-29 (.674) since June 17, the A’s continue to look for their first series win since 2006 after another deflating loss in an elimination game.

GAME NOTES:

The loss extended the A’s futility in winner-take-all playoff games. They’ve now lost nine consecutive games when a win would have advanced them to the next round, or won a series, the longest such streak in Major League history. The last time Oakland won an elimination game was Game 7 of the 1973 World Series. It also dropped their record to 0-3 in Wild Card games.

 

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Warriors Media Day Takeaways from the Chase Center https://martineztribune.com/2019/09/30/warriors-media-day-takeaways-from-the-chase-center/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/09/30/warriors-media-day-takeaways-from-the-chase-center/#respond Tue, 01 Oct 2019 04:45:25 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=13309 BY MASON BISSADA The Golden State Warriors held their first media day at the brand new Chase Center in the Mission Bay district of San Francisco on Monday, and the tone given from the players and the organization as a whole was that of cautious optimism. Injuries potentially cost the Warriors another championship last season, …

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BY MASON BISSADA

The Golden State Warriors held their first media day at the brand new Chase Center in the Mission Bay district of San Francisco on Monday, and the tone given from the players and the organization as a whole was that of cautious optimism.

Injuries potentially cost the Warriors another championship last season, and it seems they are continuing to haunt them as the 2019-20 season gets underway. General Manager Bob Myers confirmed during his press conference that All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson will not return until after the All-Star break this season after recovering from an ACL tear suffered in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals.

“We’ll have another update on him probably around the All-Star break,” Myers said before taking any questions from the media. “Don’t construe that as if we think he’ll be back by the All-Star break, that just means we’ll have an update then.”

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Draymond Green, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and D’Angelo Russell (L-R) appear at Warriors media day Monday afternoon at the Chase Center.

 

Thompson himself reiterated this caution and patience in his own press conference later in the day. “I’m going to do what the team says, and I’ve done my due diligence on rehabs and ACL injuries, and the last thing you want to do is rush back, especially for a player like me who wants to play until he’s in his late 30’s. I want to play at a high level until that point, too. As much as it kills me not to be on the court, patience is a virtue, and rushing back would be not very smart.”

Myers also stated that newly acquired center WIllie Cauley-Stein will miss training camp and the entire month of October due to a left-foot injury. Shortly after, Head Coach Steve Kerr confirmed that fifth-year center Kevon Looney has secured the starting position at center, at least until Cauley-Stein returns.

“Looney is the starting center,” Kerr said during his press conference. “He’s one of our best players. He’s moved up the ladder considerably with all of the losses that we’ve had, and so not only is he one of our best players but he’s one of the guys who has the most experience and the feel that we need with this group to try to incorporate the young guys.”

“I’m ready for whatever Steve wants to throw at me,” says Looney, who started Game 6 of the NBA Finals last year and was considered by some to be a more reliable option than DeMarcus Cousins when both players were healthy. “I know my first couple years I was only able to play about 20 to 25 (minutes) and actually be productive. Steve actually challenged me this off-season to be able to play more, up to 30 minutes a game if I have to, and I think I’m ready to play 30, 30-plus if I have to.”

Beyond the injuries media day felt mostly light-hearted and casual, which is surprising, considering Golden State is coming off of a tragic Finals defeat and the loss of a franchise player to free agency this past summer. These issues didn’t seem to affect the ever-optimistic Steph Curry, who gave a playful jab at a reporter when he was asked how he felt about now being the oldest player on the roster.

“Stop reminding me !” said Curry, who turned 31 back in March. “I mean, just hearing it is weird, but I’m still young. I wake up every day with a smile on my face, with the opportunity I have in front of me, being in my prime, being able to play basketball at the highest level and do it with this team and in front of our fan base, and I know I have a lot, a lot of years left at this level.”

On the other end of the optimism spectrum was forward Draymond Green, who expressed candidly his doubts about the Warriors defense this season after losing so many of their long-armed wing defenders.

“We don’t have as good of defenders as we had,” said Green, a former Defensive Player of the Year. “I don’t think that’s any surprise. But at the same time, we’ve just got to find our identity. You know, before, our identity was switching. That may not be our identity anymore. We’ve got to figure out and kind of toy with different things throughout the preseason and figure out what works the best for this group.”

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Newly-acquired D’Angelo Russell, acquired in a sign-and-trade with Brooklyn as part of Kevin Durant’s signing, is coming off a season where he averaged 21.1 points and seven assists per game on the way to being selected an All-Star for the first time.

 

Newly-acquired All-Star D’Angelo Russell swung the optimism pendulum back the other way yet again, raving about his new teammates and how glad he is to be playing alongside them.

“Man, I’m so excited,” said Russell, who made his first All-Star game last year with the Brooklyn Nets and was acquired via sign-and-trade as a consolation prize for losing Kevin Durant. “I’m trying to act like I’ve been here before, like I’m — like this cool, 10-year vet. But no, this is so cool to me to play with Steph, Klay, Draymond, all those guys, to be able to be around Steve Kerr and his coaching staff, as well. I think it’s just a luxury. You can easily come into the league and be around something completely different or be around a completely different group of guys that don’t have the credibility like this group does. It’s cool, man. I played with them the first time last week, and I literally called my dad, my brother, and I was just like, yo, this is about to be so fun.”

One hot-button topic of the day was which player would fill the starting small-forward position with the departure of Kevin Durant and the ACL tear of Klay Thompson. Third-year wing Alfonzo McKinnie seems to be the default option, but new additions Alec Burks, Glen Robinson III and rookie Eric Paschall are all potential fill-ins at the 3.

“I do think that I’m definitely a candidate for that spot, and that’s what I’m competing for every day,” said Robinson, who signed a one-year minimum contract with the Warriors this offseason. “It’s exciting. I hate to see guys go down, but with Klay’s injury, it’ll open up a huge opportunity for me.”

“It would be great to be a starter, but you know, to be honest, that’s not even my main focus,” says McKinnie, who started in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals last year while Kevin Durant and Andre Igoudala (whom the Warriors traded to the Memphis Grizzlies this offseason) were both out with injuries. “I just want to come in and be able to contribute to help this team win. If I am a starter, that’s great, but if not, I’m not going to change the way I approach this game based off of that.”

Burks, Robinson and Paschall weren’t the only new additions to this Golden State team that had essentially kept its core together for the previous five years. In total, the Warriors have eight new players on their roster, many of whom are age 23 or younger.

The Warriors will play their first preseason game against the new-look Los Angeles Lakers at the Chase Center this Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

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Winner of Giants – Dodgers rivalry this decade up for debate https://martineztribune.com/2019/09/26/winner-of-giants-dodgers-rivalry-this-decade-up-for-debate/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/09/26/winner-of-giants-dodgers-rivalry-this-decade-up-for-debate/#comments Thu, 26 Sep 2019 23:57:30 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=13160 BY J.A. SCHWARTZ What defines success in the eyes of a baseball fan ? There is a heated rivalry between the supporters of the Dodgers and the Giants. Their fan bases are imbued with a deep-rooted contempt for their counterparts. When these two teams and their partisans reflect on the decade that concludes with the …

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BY J.A. SCHWARTZ

What defines success in the eyes of a baseball fan ?

There is a heated rivalry between the supporters of the Dodgers and the Giants. Their fan bases are imbued with a deep-rooted contempt for their counterparts. When these two teams and their partisans reflect on the decade that concludes with the 2019 season, which one will feel the greater sense of achievement ?  Which franchise is better positioned for the decade to come ? The answers to these questions are not as straightforward as they might appear at first blush.

What is most important to the fans of any team ? Should success be measured only by championships won ? Is sustained excellence without a title as satisfying as short bursts of competitiveness that lead to trophies ? The owners of sports teams might be more attuned to the value of their property-and the profit that asset generates-than fans are, but they are still driven by the ultimate prize: a World Series victory, and the right to be identified as the best in the game for that year. For all eternity.

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Cody Bellinger has wasted little time becoming the heart of the Dodgers batting order since being named NL Rookie of the Year in 2017. Only 24, he’s hit 110 home runs in just three seasons, and is the favorite to win the MVP Award this season for batting .301 with 46 homers and 114 RBI’s entering the final weekend of the season while helping to lead Los Angeles to the best record in the National League.

 

The Dodgers are a model baseball franchise, and have clinched the best record in the National League at 103-56, just two games off the pace for the best record in the major leagues. They have won the NL West for the seventh straight season this year, and have won 90 or more games in every year since 2013. Their current roster is populated with young superstars: SS Corey Seager, OF Cody Bellinger, OF Alex Verdugo, C Will Smith, OF Joc Pederson and 1B Max Muncy are all hitting at above league average levels, and only Muncy is older than 27 (he’s 28).

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After starting his career with a .195 average in two seasons with the A’s, Max Muncy has been a different player since joining Los Angeles for the 2018 season. Selected to appear in his first All-Star game earlier this year, Muncy has hit 69 home runs with 176 RBI’s since signing with the Dodgers.

 

Aside from Muncy, each of those players were drafted and developed by the Dodgers franchise, and their combined salary is nearly $11 million (which is less than the Giants are paying 3B Evan Longoria, 33 this year). Infield prospect Gavin Lux (ranked as the sixth best prospect in baseball by Baseball America) was just recalled after laying waste to the top levels of the minors, and projects as an above average hitter who will likely slot in to the Dodgers lineup at 2B going forward.

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Walker Buehler has demonstrated the potential to be an ace in his first full season with the Dodgers. The 25-year old righthander has a 22-9 career record with 370 strikeouts in just 324 innings pitched.

 

Joining this young core of talented hitters is a veteran group that includes 3B Justin Turner, OF AJ Pollack, utility player Chris Taylor, and 1B David Freese, each of whom is producing at above league average rates at the plate in 2019.  Their pitching staff is led by future Hall of Fame LHP Clayton Kershaw, indisputably the best starting pitcher of the decade, as well as LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu and RHP Walker Buehler, all of whom were drafted and developed by Los Angeles. Each of those starters rank in the top 12 in the NL in ERA, and Ryu currently features the top mark in all of baseball at 2.41. Of their starting lineup and top five starting pitchers, only Ryu will be a free agent following this season. The dynastic run the Dodgers have established as the kings of the NL West figures to continue into the next decade as well.

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Clayton Kershaw has been one of the best pitchers of his generation since joining the Dodgers in 2008. The 31-year old lefty has won three Cy Young Awards while posting a 2.45 career ERA, but has a losing record in the post-season. He’s 16-5 with a 3.05 ERA in 2019.

 

Despite drafting near the bottom of the first round for most of the decade, the Dodgers have built the fifth best minor league system in baseball (according to Baseball America rankings published in late August), and are poised to continue to populate their major league roster with talented, cost controlled players such as Bellinger, Seager, Verdugo, Smith and Lux.

For the 2020 season, this is the likely Dodgers lineup, with their ages and 2019 OPS listed.

C Smith           (24)                (867)

1B Muncy       (28)                (878)

2B Lux            (21)                (1028-AA/AAA)

SS Seager       (25)                (819)

3B Turner      (34)                (881)

LF Pederson  (27)                (877)

CF Bellinger   (23)               (1025)

RF Verdugo    (23)               (817)

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In his fifth full season with the Dodgers, Joc Pederson has wasted little time establishing himself as a serious threat in the middle of their lineup. The 2015 NL Rookie of the Year has established career highs with 35 home runs and 72 RBI’s this season.

 

During the decade, the Dodgers overall record is 915-701 (.567). They’ve made the playoffs the past six seasons, and will be in the postseason in 2019 after clinching their seventh straight NL West title. They are poised to sustain their winning ways with a young, inexpensive core of stars that are still improving, and their player development system has been outstanding, regularly augmenting the Dodger roster with a seeming never ending supply of impact talent.

Their postseason record, however, does not support the Dodgers claim as the best team of the decade despite their winning percentage being the second highest (Yankees) during the period from 2010-2019. The Dodgers have been beaten in the playoffs during each of their six appearances this decade, and have failed to win a World Series since 1988. They’ve advanced to postseason play 12 times since winning that championship, and have won the NL pennant just twice since 1988.

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Buster Posey has had a lot to smile about since becoming the 2010 N.L. Rookie of the Year, becoming the face of the Giants franchise and the backbone of three World Series championships, but 2019 has seen him put up career lows in nearly all major offensive categories.

 

The Giants are 77-82, 12 games out of a playoff spot, and a whopping 26 games behind their NL West leading rivals to the south. Their current roster is comprised of players who are mostly on the wrong side of 30, and they lack a signature young franchise icon. Their best players, C Buster Posey, 32, and LHP Madison Bumgarner, 29, have been at the heart of the Giants success this decade, but Posey is finishing arguably his worst season as a professional. He’s seen a precipitous decline at the plate, where his current year .256/.320/.368 levels are below league average for the first time in his illustrious career. He is signed to continue his tenure with the Giants through at least 2021, making $22 million in each of the next two seasons.

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Madison Bumgarner has established himself as one of the most dominant post-season pitchers in history, pitching shutouts in two Wild Card games and fashioning an All-Time record 0.25 ERA in five World Series appearances. His impending free agency casts a huge shadow over the Giants off-season.

 

Bumgarner, the subject of trade rumors all summer, is set to be a free agent at the end of the season, casting his future with the Giants in an uncertain light.  Fan favorite 3B Pablo Sandoval, who returned to the Giants following a disastrous stint in the American League with Boston, has seen his career revitalized by the Bay. Sandoval has found his batting stroke, producing at a level that is his highest since 2013. Unfortunately, he underwent Tommy John surgery in early September, so his season has ended. Given that he’s also a free agent, the Panda may have played his last game as a Giant.

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Pablo Sandoval was a part of all three Giants World Series championship teams while becoming one of the most popular players to ever wear a San Francisco uniform. His elbow injury in August required Tommy John surgery, creating an even bigger question mark about his future as he enters free agency.

 

The Giants pitching staff is still fronted by Bumgarner, though his future with the team is uncertain based on his upcoming free agency. The rest of the rotation, should he depart, could include 34 year old RHP Jeff Samardzija (11-12, 3.52), RHP Tyler Beede, 26 (5-10, 5.23), RHP Dereck Rodriguez, 27, (6-10, 5.27) and RHP Shaun Anderson, 24, (3-5, 5.10). Bumgarner’s role as staff ace and team leader makes re-signing him all the more critical. Given the current candidates to toe the slab for the Giants in 2020, his veteran leadership and example would be welcome attributes.

The Giants farm system is ranked 14th by Baseball America, and includes top 100 prospects C Joey Bart, OF Heliot Ramos, and SS Marco Luciano. Bart and Ramos both reached AA in 2019, and could factor into a San Francisco lineup late in the 2020 campaign should their development continue. Luciano is 18 as of September 10th, and is further away from a big league promotion.

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Bruce Bochy leaves the Giants as the most successful manager in franchise history, winning three World Series titles in a five year period during his 13 year tenure. Just last week he became only the 11th manager in MLB history to record 2,000 victories.

 

Perhaps the Giants most important figure, manager Bruce Bochy, is retiring following this season.  Bochy, 64, has a career record of 2002-2026, and he just became only the 11th manager ever to amass 2000 victories. Bochy, who took over as manager of the club in 2007, led the Giants to World Series victories in three of the four seasons his team made the playoffs. Given his stellar stewardship and longevity, he would appear to be a lock for Hall of Fame induction.

The Giants immediate future would appear to be far less clear, and arguably less promising, than their rivals to the south. Based on their current roster, their 2020 starting lineup might look like this (with ages and 2019 OPS listed)

C Posey                (32)           (688)

1B Belt                 (31)            (744)

2B Dubon            (24)            (718-AAA)

SS Crawford        (32)            (657)

3B Longoria        (33)            (768)

LF Yastrzemski   (28)            (845)

CF Pillar              (30)            (730)

RF Slater             (26)            (781)

 

During the decade, the Giants have a 820-796 (.507) record, and they made the playoffs in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. They won the World Series in each of the first three of their postseason efforts, but were knocked out in the LDS in 2016. San Francisco can advance an indisputable claim as the best team of the decade, having won three titles during that span. Through 2018, only the Boston Red Sox have won more than a single title, taking the championship in 2013 and 2018. Regardless of who wins the World Series this year, nobody can best the Giants three title winning seasons.

The brightest development for the Giants in 2019 might be the unexpected breakout of OF Mike Yastrzemski. He was drafted in the 14th round in 2013 by the Orioles after his career at Vanderbilt University. After a relatively nondescript minor league career that saw him reach AAA at age 25, he was traded four years later in March to the Giants for minor leaguer RHP Tyler Herb. Yastrzemski, who had never hit more than 15 HR’s in a season in the minors, started 2019 at AAA Sacramento. In 136 at bats in the PCL, he hit .316/.414/.676 with 12 HRs, which earned him a promotion to the big leagues on May 25th. In 104 games with the Giants, he’s hit .274/.333/.511 with 21 HR’s, including an emotional blast to dead center field in historic Fenway Park last week.

Hours after walking across the green outfield grass with his grandfather, Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, who patrolled left field in front of the Green Monster for the Red Sox for 23 years, the Yaz sent a Nathan Eovaldi fastball over the center field wall. In a rare show of support for an opponent, the Fenway faithful gave the younger Yastrzemski a standing ovation. “The crowd reactions, all night, were incredible,” he said after the game. “I can’t thank them enough for being supportive.” The Giants would go on to win that game in 15 innings, which was Bochy’s 1,999th win in the majors. He would get his 2,000th the following night.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
The unexpected success of Mike Yastrzemski gives San Francisco reason for optimism as it enters a rebuilding phase. A career minor leaguer, the 29 year old rookie has hit 20 homers while becoming a fan favorite since making his debut in May.

 

Yastrzemski has likely evolved into a starting player around which the Giants can build their lineup in 2020 based both upon his productivity and meager salary. San Francisco has $110 million of payroll already on the books for next season, led by the $22 million owed to C Buster Posey, 33 next year. RHP Johnny Cueto, 34 next season, will earn $21 million, and RHP Jeff Samardzija, 35 in 2020, is on the books for nearly $20 million. All are outsized figures compared to the value those players return on the field. Add in 1B Brandon Belt, 32, SS Brandon Crawford, 33, and 3B Evan Longoria, 34, who will make $17, $15 and $13 million respectively in 2020, and the Giants will be paying over $100 million dollars to players who are all over the age of 32, and each of whom is past their most productive prime. Those obligations make it very unlikely that the Giants will go after a front line free agent this winter, which will allow players like Yastrzemski to have a chance to establish themselves as being part of the next generation of Giants heroes.

The relative financial resources of the rival franchises do little to distinguish one from the other. The Dodgers have a payroll of $200 million in 2019, fourth in the majors. The Giants are at $172 million this year, which ranks fifth. During the decade, through 2019, Los Angeles has spent $2.02 billion on their players, while San Francisco has allotted $1.6 billion to theirs. Both teams have been in the top ten in payroll nearly every season during the decade, and the Dodgers have actually had the highest payroll in five of those years, sitting atop the list of franchise expenditures from 2013-2017.

It would be difficult to dispute that the Giants hold the current bragging rights over the Dodgers based strictly on their three World Series championships this decade. Going into a three game series at Oracle Park this weekend to conclude the regular season, the Giants have a 95-89 head-to-head edge over the Dodgers in the 2010’s. The experience of a fan is shaped by successful seasons that lead to playoff runs where franchise heroes and legends are born. Remarkable achievements that occur on thrilling October evenings can embed themselves forever in the psyche of the fervent supporters who witness those magical efforts. Giants fans will always be able to revel in the postseason brilliance of Bumgarner and Sandoval, even as the careers of those players crawl inexorably forward (and perhaps on other teams). The memories those players helped create, in the service of leading their franchise to glory, can never be erased, and will be lovingly and reverently shared as one generation passes fandom along to the next with stories of their determined exploits.

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Brandon Crawford was a centerpiece of the Giants 2012 and 2014 championship teams, and has continued to be reliable defensively, but the 32 year old shortstop’s declining offensive numbers wil be a source of concern entering the 2020 season.

 

There are certainly merits to rooting for a team that is consistently competitive, for whom every season begins with the hope (and expectation) that a playoff berth could lead to the elusive championship that year. The Dodgers have demonstrated incredibly effective management of their resources, drafting and developing players to regularly promote fresh new young stars into a lineup and a rotation that are already packed with productive veterans. Their prolonged success in this capacity is reflected in their record during the decade and their run of seven consecutive division titles, each of which was achieved by winning 91 or more games.

No other major league franchise can make that claim this decade, and the fact that only Kershaw and Ryu were part of each of those teams speaks to the Dodgers’ ability to continually build playoff teams despite significant roster turnover. They haven’t suffered “rebuilding” seasons, consistently providing their fans with competitive baseball in Chavez Ravine. Since 1993, the Dodgers have finished below .500 only threetimes in those 27 seasons. Given the young talent that comprises their current roster, the leadership of the team, and the financial resources they boast, the immediate future of the franchise appears brilliantly promising. Even Giants fans will grudgingly concede that the outlook for the Dodgers is far more rosy than that of their own team, and that the decade to come will at least begin with Los Angeles featuring the more talented collection of ballplayers.

The betting odds in Las Vegas currently show the Dodgers as the favorite to win the NL pennant, and they’re second only to Houston to win the World Series. Those same formulas will almost surely establish the Dodgers as one of the favorites to win the 2020 World Series, while the Giants will be relegated to the middle of the pack of hopefuls depending on how their offseason plays out.

Historically, the Giants franchise (including the New York Giants) has won eight championships-five in New York, and three in San Francisco. The Dodgers franchise (which began in Brooklyn) has won six championships, all but one of them claimed since moving to Los Angeles. More recently, the Dodgers have made the playoffs 12 times in the past 30 seasons, and will make that figure 13 of 31 following this year’s NL West title. The Giants have made the playoffs nine times over that same stretch, but are all but assured of not adding to their postseason history in 2019. The athletic crucible of the 2019 baseball season has yet to reach its ultimate dénouement, so we are left to ponder what has already come to pass.

The current generation of fans, who have been indoctrinated into the legion of supporters of either the Giants or Dodgers, each has reason to feel a sense of pride about their heroes on the diamond.  The Dodgers boast an unmatched run of sustained excellence over the decade 2010-2019 (and the past 30 years), and a current core of young stars that are poised to perpetuate their dominance in the NL West for the foreseeable future. The one maxim that undoubtedly provides solace for Giants fans who reflect on the relative achievements of their team against those of their hated rivals from Los Angeles: Flags Fly Forever.  The Giants boast three such championship banners this decade, and despite having had more opportunities, the Dodgers have been unable to earn similar adornments to their palatial Los Angeles home.

By that final accounting, the San Francisco Giants and their partisans can justifiably lay claim to being the best team in California this decade, and, without hyperbole, the best team in North America as well. Regardless of what the future holds for each franchise, that statement will be forever accurate, at least by counting the rings.

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