Mar 17, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Joe Savery (50) throws in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Bay Area Buzz 3/21: A’s Pitching, Walsh Principle, Jerry West


A’s pitching still could be best in West

Ron Washington has seen too much of the A’s to buy into any doomsday scenarios. “Doesn’t mean they’re going to fall apart,” the Texas Rangers’ manager told reporters when asked about the injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin. “It just gives one of their other pitching phenoms a chance. They’ve got tons of them. Always have and always will.”

As for his own staff, Washington would rather reserve judgment. That also goes for the Angels, Oakland’s other high-powered rival in the American League West. If there’s a silver lining to the A’s lamentable week, it’s that they still might have the division’s best pitching.

If one game were to decide it all, the A’s could have a problem. They don’t have anyone with the credentials of Texas’ Yu Darvish or the Angels’ Jered Weaver. Beyond that, though, the A’s look remarkably stable in comparison.

With Derek Holland recovering from knee surgery and Matt Harrison (back) out until at least mid-April, the Rangers are filling their rotation with question marks. “I guarantee you we’ll have five when we leave here,” said Washington, but he couldn’t promise anything from a field including Martin Perez, Joe Saunders, Tanner Scheppers (formerly a setup man), Alexi Ogando, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hanson.

The Angels have a reliable No. 2 starter in C.J. Wilson, but then it gets tricky, with Garrett Richards and left-handers Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago leading the competition (Joe Blanton seems to have pitched his way into irrelevance). Skaggs, the onetime Arizona prospect who grew up in Southern California and originally was drafted by the Angels, could be effective if his newfound fastball (up to 94 mph, thanks to a longer stride) is sustainable.

– Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle

Raiders, 49ers should apply the Walsh Principle, draft a QB

Bill Walsh thought that every NFL team should strongly consider drafting a quarterback every year. He wasn’t joking. The man knew the breed.

The quarterback position, Walsh believed, was just too valuable compared with the other spots on the field. So if a team even mildly loved any college quarterbacking prospect, anywhere, in a high round or low round, the team should pick the guy.

Why is this relevant in the year 2014?

Because this spring, the Raiders should probably draft not one but two or three quarterbacks. And the 49ers should certainly pick one during the May 8-10 draft.

Yes, I am as serious about that as Walsh was. As the 49ers coach in 1979, he made their most famous third-round pick in history by selecting Joe Montana. But Walsh also drafted quarterbacks during each of his first four years as 49ers coach — and in five of his first seven seasons.

Montana was the only one who stuck, of course. The others all fell by the wayside, from Dan Hartwig (ninth round, 1980) to Scott Barry (sixth round, 1985) and the others in between. That was OK by Walsh. He figured the risk was worth it, in case he found a diamond.

The Raiders should adopt the same approach in May. Their quarterback depth chart right now is both vague and unexceptional — with Matt McGloin, Terrelle Pryor and Trent Edwards lining up in some sort of order. General manager Reggie McKenzie has signed up a bushel of free agents over the past week. But so far, no veteran free-agent quarterback has come aboard.

That seems likely to happen. But either way, the Raiders still should choose one or two quarterbacks in the top three or four rounds, after proper evaluation.

The Raiders need so much help at so many positions that it will be difficult to justify a first-round quarterback selection, unless they consider Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel to be the next Andrew Luck. (Hint: They shouldn’t. Because they aren’t.) But the other day, McKenzie was spotted at the Pro Day workout of San Jose State quarterback David Fales. This sighting may or may not mean anything, although Fales is projected to go in the third round or so. But it shows McKenzie was in the right place.

The 49ers are in a different situation, more solid at quarterback with Colin Kaepernick as the entrenched starter and veteran Blaine Gabbert as the presumptive backup after a recent trade with Jacksonville. Holdover third-stringer McLeod Bethel-Thompson is also on the roster. But to follow the Walsh Principle, the 49ers should also look for quarterback value at some point on draft weekend, if general manager Trent Baalke gets any sort of positive spidey-sense vibes about a prospect.

And that’s where we get to the tricky part.

You know what’s funny? In this day and age, quarterbacks are more exposed and evaluated and trained and analyzed than ever.

Still, even after that exhausting analysis, NFL teams make mistakes and whiff on their selections. There is no 100 percent foolproof way — or even a 70 percent foolproof way — to gauge how a college quarterback will make the transition to the pro level.

– Mark Purdy, San Jose Mercury News

Warriors’ Jerry West still has — and knows — game

It’s an intriguing element the Warriors have in Jerry West.

He brought instant credibility and cachet to the franchise when he came aboard three years ago as a consultant. You’ll see West walking around the Warriors’ arena before some games, chatting people up, looking relaxed, almost as lean as his NBA logo silhouette and dressed better than you or I on our best day. Man can wear a suit.

But what the heck does he do? How much power does he wield?

These and other burning questions won’t be answered here. The Warriors, a modern organization, make big decisions by committee, in secret. A second-round draft pick is like the election of a pope – all we outsiders see is the white smoke.

When West was the Lakers’ general manager, building teams that would win seven NBA titles, his power level was at DEFCON 44. He was The Man.

With the Warriors, he is a man. Actually two men. One Jerry West works the corporate side, building crucial bridges with money/political sources. The other West consumes vast quantities of basketball, much of it via TV, and weighs in on important decisions.

This unique double duty might lead some to conclude that West’s main function is to schmooze with sponsors on the golf course. But though he embraces his corporate duties – “I like people, OK?” – West is very involved in basketball.

An educated guess is that West functions as a trusted and valued adviser on personnel decisions. Word (not from West) is that he lobbied hard for the drafting of Klay Thompson. He really liked Draymond Green. One or two other current Warriors did not ring West’s bell.

On the trade of Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut, though co-owner Joe Lacob and his guys liked that idea, it might have been West who gave them the courage to pull the trigger in the face of fan criticism. West faced a similar dilemma with the Lakers.

“We made a trade in Los Angeles, to this day people question it, they ask me why we made the trade,” West said in a recent conversation at Oracle Arena. “That was the trade of Norm Nixon for Byron Scott.”

Nixon was a small guard who handled the ball. He was a dynamic player loved by fans and teammates, but the Lakers drafted another ball-handler named Magic Johnson. Sound like Monta Ellis and Steph Curry?

“I felt like the worst person in the world,” West said. “Jack Nicholson wore black for several games, but it was about Magic Johnson being the leader of this team, not having to share the ball. … I liked Norm a lot, and it bothered me personally, and I know it was vile to Norm and his fans and family, but sometimes you have to make difficult decisions.”

West always has been as high-strung as a $5 banjo, tormented by his own imperfections, as well as his team’s. He seems almost laid-back now that he doesn’t bear the full weight of every decision. So is he more relaxed than when he was a coach or GM?

“No, absolutely not,” West snapped. “I watch teams I think we absolutely should have an advantage on, and we went through a stretch there that we were losing and you’d say, ‘How can we lose to those teams?’ ”

West is 75, he played in a bygone era when the pregame introduction looked like a police lineup, but he stays current by studying the game, pro and college. On a typical evening at home in Los Angeles, he’ll sit down at his TV at 5 and watch until 11, catching at least part of every NBA game played that night.

When watching the Warriors, West switches from detached analyst to crazed critic.

“When the Warriors are on, my wife keeps away from me,” West said. “I’m a rabid fan and my language sometimes is not too good.”

He is careful to cool down before conversing with GM Bob Myers or Lacob, but West doesn’t hold back.

“I told Joe, ‘Maybe there’s some things I’ll see a lot different than you see them. I don’t want to be someone who steps on Bob Myers’ foot, on your foot, but if you ask me something, I’m going to give you my opinion. It’s up to you to determine if it’s valuable. If you think I’m crazy, so be it.’ ”

So be it. But West is crazy like a movie villain, with a brain and a plan. He pores over stats, and there is a cosmic element to his genius for recognizing talent.

“There’s always two or three players I like, and why I like them, I can’t tell you,” West said. “There’s just something about them I think would be great on a team. I follow certain players that wouldn’t be considered stars, but I think would help us improve.

“Obviously, stats are important tools, but I think there’s something behind those things, somewhere along the way you’ve got to try to look inside someone.”

West isn’t looking for Boy Scouts, but for players who would fit the Warriors, artistically and temperamentally. It’s easy to imagine West enthusiastically endorsing the trade that brought Steve Blake from West’s old team, the Lakers.

“I didn’t take chemistry in school,” West said, “but trust me, there is such thing as chemistry.”

In the compound that is the Warriors, West’s exact atomic weight is a mystery, but the formula is working.

– Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle

Tags: Bill Walsh Golden State Warriors Jerry West Oakland Athletics Oakland Raiders San Francisco 49ers