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Archive for February, 2009

Cassel To The Chiefs

Posted by davefowkes on 02/28/2009

The biggest move in free agency to date is a trade. All reports indicate the New England Patriots have traded QB Matt Cassel to the Kansas City Chiefs. No word yet on compensation. Cassel received the franchise tag from New England so one would think there is a first round pick plus others involved in the trade. (Monday’s thought: Cassel and Vrabel for a 2nd rd pick? Great trade by KC! I am stunned NE could not get more out of this deal. Granted it is a high 2nd rd pick,  I would have guessed multiple picks over the next two drafts. I love the additions for the cost for KC)

An interesting trade. It was hard to imagine Cassel would earn all that money to stay and back up Tom Brady. This trade says two things to me: The Patriots believe Tom Brady will be 100% by the start of the season, and new Chiefs GM Scott Pioli is a big believer in what he saw out of Cassel this year.

I was not a huge Cassel fan last year but the reality is he did play pretty well down the stretch. He is clearly an upgrade at QB for Kansas City who has the new Pioli and Todd Haley regime coming in. The big question is can they surround him with another talent to get him to the be the QB he was last year? I will be very interested to learn how much KC had to give up.

In the end though, this is an upgrade for KC, a way to get younger (draft picks) for New England and probably a good “need” move for both teams. And after 20 years of Carl Peterson, Chiefs fans must be ecstatic about the moves newcomer Pioli is making!

—The 49ers made it official today, signing WR Brandon Jones from the Titans to a 5-year, $16-million deal.

As I said yesterday, definately not the splash and flash, but that type of move was really not ever expected. It does not sound like the over paid him although the length of contract is interesting. I suppose it falls into the low risk/high return type of signing that I expect to see a lot of from this free agent period in Santa Clara.


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More Free Agency Thoughts

Posted by davefowkes on 02/27/2009

–The Browns have reportedly sent TE Kellen Winslow to Tampa for undisclosed draft picks. A fresh start for Winslow is needed. The value of the trade will of course depend on what the picks are. Winslow has an injury plagued past so I would be surprised if Tampa paid to much for him. But what does this say about the era of Mouthy TEs? Last year Jeremy Shockey was traded. This year Kellen Winslow. Vernon Davis anybody?

–Matt Maiocco of the Press-Democrat is reporting that return man Allen Rossum will return to the 49ers. That is a good move by the 49ers. Rossum was a definate upgrade on the past and while expectations for him at his age can’t be great, he will at least solidify the position for 10-14 games.

–Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee is reporting the 49ers have come to terms with FB Moran Norris. This is a good signing. Norris was a great blocker for Frank Gore two years ago. He was ousted because of the Mike Martz experiment, but now that the 49ers are bringing back the 1950’s offense, a fullback was much needed and Norris is a good one.

–Barrows is reporting that the 49ers have agreed on a two-year deal with LB Takeo Spikes. Another solid move here. Spikes showed he still has game in the tank. Combine the talent of Willis and the experience of Spikes and I like that combo in the middle of the defense!

–Denver has been active. Nice upgrade on defense getting Safety Brian Dawkins. I think he still has some years left on his legs. They also add a couple of WRs. Jabar Gaffney is mediocre and David Anderson is a career #4 receiver. But with all the changes going on in Denver you really get the feel that the new regime is trying to turn over the roster without touching the tow kingpins: Cutler and Marshall.

More to come as the day progresses!

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A Few Thoughts: Free Agency, Hockey and Hoops

Posted by davefowkes on 02/27/2009

First up free agency. The first day is always fun:

–No surprise, the 49ers seem pretty quiet on day one. No big splashes yet! Matt Maiocco of the Press-Democrat is reporting that WR Brandon Jones of the Titans is due in town for a visit today and when players visit Santa Clara the first day they do not usually leave without a contract. Brandon Jones is just the unexciting player I thought the 49ers would dabble in. His stats:  I would hope the 49ers do not overpay him. Maybe there is potential which is fine, but he does not seem worthy of breaking the bank!

–Dan Snyder is at it again in Washington. He makes DT Albert Haynesworth the highest paid defensive player, then signs over-hyped CB Deangelo Hall to play CB. Remember the guy for the Raiders that could not cover anyone? One good signing and one bad one for the Skins on day one. But it goes to show that Snyder still has money and is willing to spend! Maybe some day it will actually work out for him!

–No shock to see Rex Ryan raid his former defense. A great addition for the Jets picking up Bart Scott from the Ravens!

–The National Post is reporting that the Raiders are interested in Center Jason Brown from the Baltimore Ravens.

On to other sports!

–Big win for the Sharks last night! Nice to seem them put together a solid effort and avoid the two game losing streak. Boucher continues to rock as a backup goalie!

–One of the most frustrating seasons I have endured as a Stanford fan. Being bad would be one thing but every game out it seems Stanford teases me with success before not being able to finish the deal in the end! They could have beaten UCLA last night, yet still fell short again! The season can not end soon enough!

–Punch the ticket, Cal is on their way to March Madness! After the OT thriller last night against USC, the Bears are now playing for seeding!

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49ers Look at Free Agency

Posted by davefowkes on 02/26/2009

Free agency begins tonight in the NFL at 9pm pacific time. That is when teams are free to start signing available players. Every year some big names sign for big cash to move to another team. Some lesser names sign for way too much money to move teams.

I am not expecting the 49ers to be too splashy this year. The 49ers are in an interesting mix. Unlike years past, they don’t have huge needs at every position, yet an upgrade could be had just about anywhere. This free agent period has the potential to be a very expensive one. The salary cap has gone up another $4-million or so, and every team is under the cap with money to spend. That means teams will be overpaying for what they get. It is not worth spending the money just to spend it. The 49ers need value for their buys and sometimes you don’t get value in a market like this.

If I were the 49ers I would play it pretty conservatively. If I were to break the bank it would be for Titan DT Albert Haynesworth. His character might be a bit questionable but his talent is not. You put him in the middle of that defense next to Justin Smith, it changes the way teams will look at the Niner defense. If there is one guy out there worth the price of admission, I would put it on Haynesworth.

However, I don’t see the 49ers in the hunt for Haynesworth. So the 49ers could look WR but given the new offense the 49ers will run, I am not sure it is worth big money to get one of the top WRs. They might as well go with what they have and look to upgrade through the draft. The other position the 49ers desperately need to upgrade is at safety. Not sure there is a big ticket player out there for the 49ers but I would be surprised if they did not bring in a second level player to compete at safety.

Other than that I would not expect to see a lot of activity from the 49ers in free agency. I would guess we’ll just see 4-5 support level guys to come in and compete for roster spots. I think the 49ers seem dedicated to building through the draft which is probably the right thing to do.

The 49ers have spent a lot of money lately on the likes of Justin Smith and Nate Clements in free agency. My hunch would be they will be much quieter this year.

But boy would Albert Haynesworth be a wonderful surprise!

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Sharks Stumble In Hockeytown

Posted by davefowkes on 02/25/2009

That was not quite how we drew it up on this road trip. Lose to Dallas or Ottawa maybe, but Sharks fans wanted that win in Detroit! It was not meant to be. The Sharks did not bring their A game and Detroit played very well across the board letting them defend their home ice with a 4-1 win over the Sharks. The home team in this series goes undefeated in four games this year!

The story for San Jose really were penalties. The Sharks excel when they play on the power play. But instead, they had 9 penalties and spent too much time in the box. Detroit had 8 penalties but for the Sharks they just could not get it going.

Tonight Detroit was just the better team across the board. Better on offense, defense and Conklin out played Nabokov tonight. The better team won the game! It started early when Clearly smashed Thornton into the glass. Thornton would spend a few shifts in the locker room before returning late in the first period. But that one hit, illegal as it was, set the tone for the Red Wings. The Sharks tried to play physical but in the end the Wings just forced them into taking penalties.

It is not to say the Sharks played badly, they did out shoot Detroit 35-33, but tonight Detroit was just the better team on the ice. No excuses, just reality.

The Wings cut the Sharks lead in the Western Conference to 3 points tonight. It seems clear to me that what is best for the NHL is a sharks/Wings rematch in the Conference Finals because I still believe these two teams that faced off tonight are the best in the NHL. It will be a great playoff series if it happens!

Until then, we shake our head in disappointment and move on to Ottawa tomorrow. It is just another regular season game as we set our sights toward the playoffs! Hopefully the Sharks recover with a win tomorrow. Given the home ice advantage in this series, the real fight down the stretch run will be to keep the number one seed! The loss tonight drops the Sharks to 4-26-1-2 all time in the regular season at Joe Louis Arena!

Home ice in the playoffs would seem to be important!

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Tiger Is Back!

Posted by davefowkes on 02/25/2009

What great news for the golf world! Tiger Woods is back on the golf course this week at the Match Play Championships. The sport has missed him!

I wish I could say that I am a huge golf fan and that I will watch a tournament regardless of who is in it. But I’d be lying. I like to play golf. But watching it on TV can be a bit slow. So I need the excitement of a major, or the excitement of Tiger. Yes, there truly are two classes of golf watchers. The true golf lover and the Tiger watcher. Put me in the latter group.

The problem is that I have seen Tiger do so many amazing things, how can you not watch him play? Well other golfers certainly make incredible shots every once in awhile, don’t we match them more to implode? What will Mickelson do to blow it this time? But with Tiger Woods you watch because each swing could be something spectacular! Maybe his drive does go off track behind a tree. But that just adds to the excitement. How many times have we seen him take a second shot from out of nowhere and end up on the green. Need  a clutch putt with pressure on? Tiger is the man!

The TV ratings certainly echo my thoughts and prove I am not alone. While Tiger has been absent rehabbing from knee surgery since mid-June, there has been plenty of time for another golfer to come along and grab the headlines. But nobody could. Did Mickelson dominate in Woods’ absence? Did Vijay? Did any of the newcomers like the much hyped Anthony Kim whirlwind through the PGA? Nope, sorry. The PGA showed that as far as the viewer and casual spectator, the sport is still Tiger Woods vs the field. Personally I don’t think that is a bad thing as long as Woods does not need another 8 month break.

It will be fun seeing Tiger out there again. Will he be rusty and lose in the first round? Will he prove the magic is still there and dominated and defend his championship. This is match play. The PGA’s version of March Madness. It can be fun. But with Tiger back it is a lot more fun!!!

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Big Game For Sharks

Posted by davefowkes on 02/25/2009

Okay, so maybe it is not that big a game. The Sharks have the most points in the NHL. Detroit is second in the west 5 points behind them. But as they face off in Joe Louis Arena tonight, for Sharks fans this is a big game! Why? Because it is Detroit!

This rivalry was first forged when the upstart Sharks upset to top dog Wings in the Sharks first ever trip to the playoffs. Since then, Detroit has always been top notch and therefore a benchmark team. Now it is the Sharks on top of the world looking down at Detroit. Sure both teams are playoff bound. Sure there is a real good chance they will face each other in the playoffs with much more at stake. But for now, this is just a classic show down of the two best teams in the NHL! For regular season hockey it does not get much better!

The home team is 3-0 in this series to date. The first two games were blowouts, but that third game in San Jose in Mid-January that the Sharks won 6-5 was regular season magic! (Of course I missed that game due to other commitments and am still kicking myself!) So tonight it comes down to this, does Detroit hold serve? Or do the Sharks show the Wings they can beat them at home and away, potentially a huge mental lift for a potential playoff matchup?

With the Sharks on a 4-game, 6-day road trip you can be sure all their energy will be focused on this game tonight. Sure, both sides will say “it is just another game” but we all know that it is not. This is San Jose vs Detroit! This is the two best teams in the NHL! This should be a great game! I know I can’t wait to watch!

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A’s Blacked Out On DirecTV

Posted by davefowkes on 02/24/2009

When the A’s announced their new TV contract I was very skeptical. Now I am just scared. Apparently because of contract squabbles between DirecTV and Comcast Sports Net, there is a good chance that DirecTV viewers will not be able to see any of the 150 games to be broadcast. The San Jose Mercury provides the details:

I knew this was  a big gamble being moved to the Sacramento CSN. Normally I would take the optimistic view and say “smarter heads will prevail and something will get worked out.” But in years of labor disputes and on going cable/satellite battles, I am just not so sure. So will I really be forced to get cable if I want to watch the A”s? I like DirecTV because of its sports packages so it is unlikely I will change. Which means this A’s fan will not be able to watch any games! That is not what the A’s need. A team like the A’s needs as much exposure as they can get! Being blacked out from DirecTV would not be good for them.

On a side note, I wonder what the connection could be between the new A’s deal with CSN California (the Sacramento affiliate) and the Co-owner Lew Wolff pulling out of the Fremont stadium plan today. Hmmm… I wonder!

What I don’t wonder about, this year will really suck if I can’t watch A’s baseball! Somebody better do something to get this worked out!!!

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Harrison Released by Colts

Posted by davefowkes on 02/23/2009

Very sad when you see this stuff happen. Marvin Harrison was a great WR and deserved to end his career in Indianapolis. Today the Colts agreed to release him.

Hey, we live in the Bay Area so if Joe Montana and Jerry Rice have to finish their careers elsewhere, I certainly understand the business of it. Just like the Rice scenario in San Francisco, I am sure that Harrison believes he has more in the tank while the Colts feel he is running out of gas compared to his contract demands.

In the end it is just sad to see great players like Harrison not be able to go out on his own terms with his own team. But the NFL is a business, and Marvin will not be the last to go out like this!

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San Jose A’s

Posted by davefowkes on 02/23/2009

My prediction: in the year 2020 we will be calling them the San Jose A’s!

On Friday the A’s officially pulled the plug on the idea of the Fremont A’s. The organization asked Fremont city officials to cease all planning and environmental reports for a potential stadium. A couple of months ago they had already revised their so called ballpark village idea near hwy-880 and Auto Mall Parkway.

So what is next for the Athletics? This is a no-brainer. It has been discussed, it has been ruled out, but in the end it will happen. The A’s will build a new ballpark in the downtown San Jose area.

The Giants own the territorial rights which is why this project has not gone forward yet. This is the reason that Lew Wolff and the A’s have concentrated on Fremont. But times are changing.

In this economy the idea of building a new stadium anywhere is rather ridiculous. Just ask the 49ers and Raiders. But the economy will not be down forever. And when it starts to come back the A’s and baseball are going to have to work together to find a new home.

Football encourages its owners when it comes to new stadiums. They even offer loans from the league. It has not helped us here in the Bay Area but it certainly has helped other new projects get built. Baseball has not done that. It is much more of a take care of yourself atmosphere. Financially that is fine. But geographically baseball will eventually be forced to look at the A’s and decide what is best for the game.

What is best for baseball is to have a team in San Jose. It has the fan base, it has the support and oh yeah, it has the money! Sure the A’s can rekindle their talks with Fremont or look to Dublin or even Sacramento. But Lew Wolff is a businessman first, and I know in a rebounding economy he is going to have to focus on San Jose. When the time is right, MLB will be forced to negotiate an agreement between the Giants and the A’s for territorial right. I am sure the A’s will pay for the privilege, but it will be in everyone best interest to see the A’s move to San Jose!

Fremont A’s? Sacramento A’s? Dublin A’s? Las Vegas A’s? Even the Oakland A’s? The money, the infrastructure, the common sense is all in San Jose. Someday it will happen! It may not be soon, but it will happen!!!

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Sharks Hit The Road

Posted by davefowkes on 02/23/2009

This should be a fun road trip for the Sharks this week. Four games in six nights against very legitimate talent. It all starts tonight in Dallas. Then it is the big showdown in Detroit on Wednesday. Then they wrap things up with a trip to Canada for Ottawa on Thursday and Montreal on Saturday.

This would be a grueling trip for most teams but for the Sharks, we hold them to a whole new standard. For years we would look at this trip as a make or break for San Jose. Can they win a game or two? Now, based on the first half plus of the season we expect the Sharks to win every game home or away.

Let’s look at the last “brutal” road trip. I would argue the Sharks did not play very well. Evgeni Nabokov certainly was not right the last couple of games. The goals against on the team was certainly up. But despite the negatives, the Sharks ended up 1-1-3. They got half of the possible points available to them. They had a huge win in Boston, thrashing the team in the NHL with the most points. Maybe the results were not what we hoped but it is not like it was horrible. In past years that would have been a very good road trip, but this year? eh!

The Sharks are playing now on a whole new level compared to anything Sharks fans have ever known. And it is a lot of fun. Will we be disappointed if they come back from this trip 1-1-2? Probably. But isn’t that a likely outcome based on the destinations, travel and short duration of the trip?

But this is the best team in the West, and we expect our Sharks to do better. Even on the road we want to see the Sharks pull the big win against arch-rival Detroit and maybe pull off a 3-1. What is scary is that the Sharks are a good enough team to pull it off! Which is why if they do come home 1-1-2 again, we will be disappointed!

It has been a great regular season in San Jose so far! Let’s hope that leads to greatness in the playoffs!!!

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College Hoop Thoughts

Posted by davefowkes on 02/22/2009

The hype yesterday was on bracket-buster weekend, but it was the big boys that made a lot of the news:

–I think we can officially call Stanford a bad basketball team right now. It is hard to know where it all went so wrong. Three one-point road losses in a row? The home shellacking to Oregon State? Bottom line, there is no excuse for losing to Oregon this year. And that is what the Cardinal did yesterday. It is a brutal year on the farm and with three seniors departing and not much fresh talent coming in, it could be a long couple of years for Stanford.

–By the way, how far has the Oregon program fallen that the Duck faithful decided they needed to storm the court after beating Stanford! Can we all say it together, “Oregon now introduces Mark Few as new basketball coach….”

–Bad loss by Cal. OSU is clearly better than it has been but the Bears could be in 2nd place today. Instead they need at least one win either at home against the LA schools or on the road in Arizona to secure that tournament bid.

–Kudos to OSU for sweeping the Bay Area this year. 4-0! That is impressive. I am quite sure that has not happened since the Ralph Miller era!

–Losing at home to WSU is bad enough but how the heck did UCLA give up 81 points? It usually takes WSU a game and a half to get 80 points. Yet they did it on the Bruins home court against a traditionally strong, defensive minded team. UCLA will find themselves out of the top 25 this week. A true sign of how far behind the Pac Ten is this year.

–That said, the Huskies keep rolling. Nice road win for them over USC.

–Big game tonight in the state of Arizona. The Cats are one of the hotter teams. Can they keep the streak alive? ASU seems to have rebounded from a mid-season slump. For ASU 2nd place is on the table, for AZ it is about getting to the tournament.

–A win by Maryland is bad for those of us dreaming about mid-major conferences getting at-large bids. By rallying to beat UNC (and shocking me) Maryland is right back in the tournament talk. The more of these mid-level big conference schools that make a run, the less opportunity for the mid-majors to participate in March.

–Congrats to USF for getting the big win in OT over Santa Clara. Since USF suspended 4 players last week they have been competitive in all their games, including Gonzaga last weekend. It was nice to see them get rewarded for their efforts last night. Maybe Rex Chapman knows what he is doing after all?

–With a recent loss to Boise State (who got pounded last night by Portland State) and then losing at St. Mary’s last night, Utah State has proved the WAC will only get one team into the tourney. They better win their conference tournament! As for St. Mary’s, they are playing well and have a shot at winning the WCC tourney if Patty Mills comes back. They will need to because their losses when he first went down will keep the Gaels from an at-large bid. But if they do manage to win the berth, Gonzaga would get an at-large bid!

–I know nobody else west of New York cares, but I would love to see Niagara beat Sienna in the MAAC tourney and then the tournament reward Sienna with an at large birth. Both teams could create match up issues in the big dance and shoot their way to potential first round upsets.

–Butler vs Davidson was a good game but I wonder what would have happened had Stephen Curry not been hurt last week. He clearly was not the same player yesterday that he has been. Butler plays good defense so give them some credit but Curry just did not seem to have his legs under him. Anyone else catch how young that Butler coach looks? They pick him up out of high school?

–How do I know that Oklahoma is a great team? On the road, with the best player in college hoops on the bench (Blake Griffen left early with a concussion), they still almost beat Texas. With good health Oklahoma wins that game by 10.

–Three of the top four teams lost this past week. Still, this is a four team race as far as I am concerned with the top four teams being much better than the rest. After yesterday’s results, this would be my top five if I had a vote: 1. Pittsburgh 2. UConn, 3. Oklahoma 4. UNC 5. Memphis.

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