On Sunday, the Bay Area sports scene was focused on two teams heading in opposite directions: the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Athletics.
While one team was pouring champagne and basking in the sweet taste of victory, the other team was bombarded with questions from the media regarding a disappointing loss and multiple controversies.
We’ll start with that team….
I touched on this subject earlier this week, but it’s still very relevant right now: why did the 49ers let Aldon Smith play on Sunday against the Colts, and why didn’t he take an indefinite leave of absence before the game instead of afterwards?
Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News speculates that the 49ers told Smith the “only way you play Sunday is if you agree to seek treatment after.” Despite the 49ers’ silence regarding why they didn’t just shut him down following his DUI arrest, Purdy probably has hit the nail on the head. The truth is that the 49ers needed Smith to play against the Colts, and they wanted him to play so badly that they were willing to shoulder the criticism from the media.
Now, the 49ers are making the right move, sending Smith off to seek treatment. This is a young man with tremendous potential, and he needs to get his life back on track before he can focus on football.
Unfortunately, Aldon Smith is not the 49ers’ only concern at the moment.
Frank Gore and Jim Harbaugh apparently had a little spat after the 27-7 blowout loss at home against the Colts. The 49ers will also be without All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis on Thursday against the Rams. Willis injured his groin on Sunday.
So here’s the situation that the 49ers are looking at right now:
- A 1-2 record, first time they’ve been under .500 since Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach.
- An unhappy Frank Gore, who would like to be seeing more touches as the 49ers have strayed away from the running game for some reason.
- An injured Patrick Willis, one of the best linebackers in the league.
- A troubled Aldon Smith, whose career may be in jeopardy following his DUI arrest and subsequent indefinite departure from the team.
- A Colin Kaepernick who has had little success the past two games, completing only two passes in the first half on Sunday.
- A receiving corps that is extremely depleted without Michael Crabtree. Kyle Williams can’t catch the ball, none of the other wide receivers have done anything to be a factor, and Vernon Davis missed Sunday’s game as well with an injury. Mario Manningham, their No. 2 wide receiver, is also out with an injury and will miss quite a bit more time.
And finally, a fanbase that is starting to get a bit nervous about the defending NFC champions.
On to happier things…..
Somehow, someway, the A’s have done it again. Despite having the fourth lowest payroll in baseball and not a single household name on the roster, the Oakland A’s ran away from the Texas Rangers and clinched the AL West on Sunday.
The A’s are the epitome of “teamwork,” with everyone pitching in and no one standing out. The depth on this team is nothing short of incredible, and there never seem to be any complaints about wanting more playing time.
Take Chris Young, an everyday outfielder with the Diamondbacks his entire career who was traded to the A’s in the offseason. Here, he was the fourth or fifth outfielder, not playing every day and getting at-bats mostly as a pinch-hitter, defensive replacement, or designated-hitter. He has struggled as well, hitting just .198 in 102 games.
But did he complain one bit? Not that I’m aware of.
It’s this type of behavior that strengthens chemistry; when a player is willing to sacrifice playing time for the betterment of the team, and that has given the A’s the ability to be extremely flexible in terms of depth.
The A’s have also received timely contributions where they would least expect. Bartolo Colon showed everyone that an overweight, 40-year-old pitcher coming off of a suspension can still pitch lights-out. Coco Crisp joined the 20-20 club with steals and — wait for it — home runs. Josh Donaldson was snubbed off the All-Star roster, but still had a remarkable season for someone who was playing in the minors a year and a half ago.
I can keep going on and on with other names of key contributors for the A’s this season, but then I’d be up all night. That’s because everyone is a key contributor. On this team, the sum of the parts really is greater than the whole.
Briefly, some other notes from around the bay……
- The America’s Cup is still going after Oracle Team USA defeated Emirates Team New Zealand twice on Sunday to lessen their deficit to 8-5. But Oracle still has work to do, as they need to win four consecutive races to retain the title in what would be an improbable comeback.
- The Raiders will take on the Broncos on Monday Night Football tonight. Head coach Dennis Allen has said that he doesn’t believe in moral victories, but it will be a victory for the Raiders if they can be competitive against Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
- The Giants played spoiler on Sunday by knocking off the Yankees as New York tries to make a desperate push for a playoff spot. By the way, it’s way too easy to hit a home run to right field at the new Yankee Stadium. Alfonso Soriano’s home run and A-Rod’s grand slam on Friday would not have left the yard in any other ballpark in the majors, even Coors Field.
- No. 5 Stanford defeated No. 23 Arizona State in the only matchup between Top-25 teams on Saturday.
- The San Jose State Spartans are trying to rekindle the success of last season after being routed by the Golden Gophers 43-24.