Wednesday, December 31, 2014

To The Future!

Happy New Year, Mets Nation!

Here's to these three gentlemen above fulfilling all the promise that's got us excited about the upcoming season for the first time in several years.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Seasons In The Sun

Not surprisingly, the 49ers final game of the 2014 season ended up being the swan song for the Jim Harbaugh era in San Francisco. After an excruciating stretch of 4 straight losses, the 49ers were at least able to send Harbaugh off to (assumedly) Michigan with a win, closing out their season with a 20-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

The game itself seemed kind of academic on both sides. It wasn't on in New York, so I was relegated to following on the computer, but basically the 49ers were just trying to get things right after 4 weeks where everything went completely wrong, while the Cardinals, already playoff bound, I assume were just trying to not get any more key players hurt. Colin Kaepernick finished an uneven season with a reasonably solid effort, throwing a 76-yard TD pass to Anquan Boldin and another short TD pass to Bruce Miller in the 3rd Quarter that gave the 49ers the winning points. Boldin capped off another 1,000 yard season, as did Frank Gore, who finished off strong with a pair of 100+ yard efforts. A patchwork defense intercepted Arizona's 3rd string Quarterback Ryan Lindley 3 times and made a slim lead stand up.

But the story was more about Harbaugh, whose departure from the 49ers after 4 seasons surprised nobody. The fans and the team seemed to rally around him after the game, and why not; he was obviously a major reason that the 49ers had this resurgence the past few seasons after so many years of failure. Under his watch, the 49ers returned to relevance, making it to three consecutive NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl appearance. There were great plays and great moments that happened these past few seasons that brought back all the memories of the 80s and 90s when this was the NFL's flagship team. Harbaugh took over a team that had a lot of undisciplined talent and molded them into winners. He took a chance on Colin Kaepernick and Kaepernick emerged as a rising star. Other players like NaVorro Bowman, Michael Crabtree and Aldon Smith grew into All-Pro caliber talent. The team went from a string of 7-9, 6-10 seasons to go 13-3 in Harbaugh's first season at the helm and for three seasons was as good as any team in the NFL. And for that, Harbaugh deserves all the credit in the world.

But for all the success the Harbaugh 49ers had, they couldn't finish off the job. Three seasons in a row, they came right to the precipice of glory only to be turned back at the last moment. And for all the victories, Harbaugh couldn't find that common ground with GM Trent Baalke and Owner Jed York. It's a shame, because clearly, Harbaugh is the kind of coach that doesn't come around very often. It's real easy to bring in a bad coach, the 49ers suffered through a few of those in their 8-year slumber. The fear is that without Harbaugh, and with the roster certain to change a bit due to salary cap concerns, the success could prove to be very fleeting and the team will rue not only their inability to find a way to work past their internal difficulties, but that they weren't able to seize the opportunities they had to win another Championship. It was a great few seasons, for sure. But you can't help but feel more than just a little unfulfilled. 

Whoever the 49ers do end up hiring to replace Harbaugh will have some pretty big shoes to fill. They'll also be taking over a roster that's going to have plenty of talent, but also a lot of questions. Not only are there some players that stand to make a good chunk of money next year that underperformed and may be cut, such as Ahmad Brooks, but there's some pretty big names that are heading into Free Agency, and who knows whether or not the 49ers may be able to resign them. Justin Smith may retire. Vernon Davis held out this year. Alex Boone held out. Players like Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, Perrish Cox and Frank Gore may have all played their last games with the team. Gore, in particular, is perhaps the most poignant name on this list. The longest-tenured 49er, Gore finished up his 10th season strong, but there's a lot of miles on those legs of his. Certainly, younger guys like Kendall Hunter and Carlos Hyde are there to help spell him, but if he should return—and he's made it pretty clear that he wants to return—it would likely be in a reduced capacity. Then again, Gore has bucked the trend of the every down Running Back that wears down as the years pile on. The 49ers all-time leading rusher and a player who has gone about his business with class and efficiency, nobody on the roster seemed more aware of just how precious it was to find success as a team these past few seasons. Gore toiled away for years on those awful 49ers teams, piling up great games in mostly hopeless efforts. Nobody's embodied the spirit of the team more, so it's going to be truly sad if he moves on.

So, there's no January story for the 49ers this year. The season is done and now come the questions, many of which have been lingering throughout this frustrating season. The first order of business, obviously, is to bring in a new coach and who knows who that's going to be. Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio has been bandied about as a likely candidate, and other names such as deposed Jets Coach Rex Ryan have also been mentioned. I really don't know what to expect, other than that I know that it's hard to find the Jim Harbaughs of the Coaching world and it's not likely that the next coach is going to be as dynamic. Then come the players. In spite of the names that may not or will not be back, other players like Anquan Boldin will be here, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman will be back and the roster will have plenty of talent. But will the offense be able to rebound after a wildly uneven year? Has the rest of the NFC advanced enough to catch and pass the 49ers as a contender? The NFL season is a blur and so too is success on a continued basis. Hopefully this year isn't a sign that the team is about to go back into the tank.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Flores Forgotten

The Troy Tulowitzki trade rumors that were flying around late last week seem to have died down, probably because the rumors were more media creation than serious discussion, and quite honestly, I think that's a good thing. In fact, there seem to be more rumors flying around that Tulo might be headed to another of the local ballclubs, but that makes even less sense than Tulo coming to the Mets, because that other club has its own pariah to deal with, but I digress. Tulo as a Met isn't going to happen, at least not anytime soon, and I'm OK with that.

I seem to be in a small minority of fans that are buying in to the idea that Wilmer Flores can be the every day Shortstop for the Mets. I know it's not a particularly popular decision that the Mets are going with here, but you can consider me behind starting Wilmer Flores at SS in 2015. It's less a matter of me buying into what Sandy Alderson and the Fabulous Wilponendas are spoon-feeding us and more a matter of the kid can play.

I made the comparison a few years ago between Ruben Tejada and Edgardo Alfonzo, thinking Tejada could develop into Alfonzo with less power. I couldn't have been more wrong about that because in the two seasons hence, Tejada has been an abject train wreck and basically played his way out of town, struggling to hit his weight, getting hurt, or both. All the while, a player much more in the Alfonzo mold in Flores was working his way up the Mets system. Flores debuted at 21, much like Alfonzo, although Alfonzo arrived in the Majors with the kind of polish that few players of that age have. Even so, it took Alfonzo a couple of years playing part-time before he established himself as an every day player, and even then, he was constantly shifting positions. Flores lacks Alfonzo's defensive prowess—and that's being somewhat kind because he was kind of scary in the field at times—but he's also a player without a regular position, he's played 2nd, Shortstop and 3rd Base since arriving in the Majors.

One thing Flores has demonstrated is that he can hit. He didn't display it in full force in 2013 or in some early season cups of coffee in 2014, but as the season wound down and he found himself playing on a regular basis, he did hit with some regularity. 5 of his 6 Home Runs and 22 of his 29 RBI came after August 1st. I know 6 Home Runs and 29 RBI in 250 or so ABs isn't eye-popping, but considering that he bounced around for 4 months, the idea here is that if he knows he's playing SS on a daily basis, and that's all he's got to worry about doing, the offense will become more consistent and could offset whatever defensive liability he brings (and given that Daniel Murphy appears to be sticking around, it means that the Mets aren't exactly toolsy when it comes to middle infield defense). He could conceivably improve. He's going to be 23 on Opening Day of 2015, and hasn't, to the best of my knowledge, ever had a "regular" position that he's played. Worth mentioning that when Edgardo Alfonzo was finally given a regular position and regular playing time, he responded with a breakout season in 1997.

It's time to get over the fact that the Mets can't fix every single hole in their lineup at once, and remember that many moons ago, this team found success with players like Rafael Santana and Rey OrdoƱez playing SS. Flores may not boast a glove to rival either of those players. Hell, he might not boast a glove to rival Elio Chacon, but he can hit, and in an offense that's really been lacking, he's a better option than anyone's giving him credit for. So, maybe this is some blind, foolish hope, and maybe I might sound like an idiot 6 months from now, but I'm all in on Wilmer Flores. I want to see what this kid can do. This is one of those people that we've been waiting for, so now let's let him play.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Even The Good Is Ugly

There's nothing left for the 49ers to play for at this point, we already know that. But in an opportunity for them to salvage some pride and knock the Chargers out of the playoffs, the 49ers charged out to a huge lead on Saturday night, ran all over San Diego to the tune of a team-record 355 yard rushing, got an unbelievable 90-yard Touchdown run out of Colin Kaepernick...and still managed to lose the game, blowing their lead thanks to a furious 2nd half charge by Philip Rivers and eventually folding in Overtime after a Quinton Patton fumble. The 38-35 loss marked their 4th loss in a row, their longest such streak in the now-almost-certain-to-be-over Jim Harbaugh era and each loss has underscored the issues with the team to the point where I'm not unconvinced that they haven't just decided as a team to give up and just lick their wounds and come back next year.

The game started out just fine for the 49ers. Frank Gore took off for a 52-yard Touchdown run on the game's 4th play. For Gore, just another forgotten man in this forgettable season, this could be a last hurrah of sorts; as an impending Free Agent and with a good deal of miles on his 32-year old legs, he certainly is approaching the end of the line. But he'd like to come back and it certainly doesn't seem right for a guy who's meant so much to this team to just walk away at the end of a bad season. But that's just another question the team has to address. One of Gore's potential replacements, Bruce Ellington, had a good half as well, running for one Touchdown and catching a second from Kaepernick in the first half, and Antoine Bethea picked off a Philip Rivers pass and returned it for another score, so the 49ers, who hadn't played well in weeks, certainly seemed off to a good start in this game, and went into the half with a 28-7 lead.

And then, of course, the whole thing went to shit.

The Chargers scored a Touchdown midway through the 3rd Quarter that seemed kind of academic. But the 49ers appeared quite happy to hand the Chargers even more on their ensuing possession. First, Kaepernick hit Vernon Davis, who might be even more forgotten than Gore this season, for a 63-yard Touchdown. Great! Davis has just been lost all season, not getting any kind of opportunity or momentum and for a guy who's been one of the real key guys in this offense, you can understand why he might be another player who's more than just a little frustrated and another guy who has a contract situation coming up (when I don't quite remember, but that's besides the point). So for him to catch a TD here seemed good, just to get him involved somehow, but of course there was a holding call on Joe Staley that wiped it out. And on the next play, Kaepernick was sacked, fumbled the ball backwards and was buried when the ball rolled into the end zone and was recovered by the Chargers for a Touchdown.

The 49ers then managed to back themselves up by not returning the ensuing kickoff past the 10 yard line. This was rendered academic when Kaepernick, in yet another example of important parts of the 49ers offense that disappeared for no reason this year, took off on 2nd down under a little pressure, picked up a block and before you could blink was gone for the Touchdown, rushing all of 90 yards without really being touched. It was a career long score for Kaepernick, the 2nd longest run in 49ers History period, and Kaepernick's first Rushing TD of the season. In the next to last game of the season. Kaepernick's bread has mostly been buttered by his running ability and this was the kind of play that underscores how dangerous he can be...except that for whatever reason this kind of a play was absent from his arsenal all year. I've already talked about why but it's another question on that long list of questions.

You can forget the rest of the game. I'd like to. Whereas in prior weeks I was away and unavailable to see the carnage live and ultimately deleted recordings of a couple of games (Seattle and Seattle) mostly unwatched (though I did watch enough of the game in Seattle to see old friend John Olerud raise the 12th Man flag, which was probably the only enjoyable thing about that game), I was actually home for the 2nd half of this one, so I saw everything come apart from there. The Chargers were, at that point, down 35-21 and they scored twice in the 4th Quarter to tie the game. In Overtime, the 49ers started off with the ball and appeared to be well on the move because Quinton Patton, the young receiver who came on strong at the end of the year last year but got lost among the high-priced talent the 49ers brought in this year (and didn't accomplish all that much), gained 20 yards on an end-around on the 2nd play of OT, but then he was stripped by Eric Weddle and the Chargers scooped up the fumble, and ultimately drove down and kicked the winning Field Goal while Philip Rivers ran around screaming with the kind of ferocious intensity that would rival Matt Ryan. And that, friends, is how this game got away.

So, there's now just one game left in this season, a game against the Arizona Cardinals that's similarly meaningless for the 49ers, and kind of meaningless for Arizona, who is in the playoffs and jockeying for position. You'd like to think that the 49ers would show a little bit of juice for this game, but after so many weeks of bumbling, I don't think there's too much to look forward to. Hopefully, I'm wrong.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Wrong Direction

The scuttlebutt flying around today involves the Mets, which is strange for December, but given that the Jets and Gnats both stink, the Knicks are even worse and nobody can get it up enough for the Rangers (and the Islanders are a non-entity), why not the Mets? The discussion centers around a trade that hasn't been made but has been talked about plenty, involving the Colorados and their all-World Shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki.

It's no secret that Tulo is a great Shortstop. He has been for several seasons, and what's more, he's one of those players that can actually hit in Citi Field, since he came in one year and hit something like 6 Home Runs in 3 days, or at least it felt like that. The resume speaks for itself; he's been an All Star 4 times, and he's got two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers. With the Mets in need of a Shortstop since nobody seems too keen on Wilmer Flores (and everyone's given up on Ruben Tejada), well, a trade for Tulowitzki on paper makes a lot of sense.

But it's not the right move, in spite of several arguments to the contrary that I've heard.

Tulowitzki is a great player. That's not up for debate. But it goes against pretty much every principle that Sandy Alderson has been building towards. This might not be the world's most popular argument, but it's the truth. Tulowitzki right now is set to make $20 million a year for the next several years, with a contract that runs through 2021 and owes him $114 million in total. The Mets right now as they're comprised have a low payroll and ownership that won't spend for better or worse, and since you can't force an owner out (or at least not until someone catches Ratso Wilpon screaming racial epithets on video), this is what we've got. This means little now since the Mets don't have a lot of high-priced players, but if we're to believe that the guys here are going to continue their budding success, they'll have to get paid at some point, and sooner rather than later.

And, sure, Tulo is probably worth the money he's making, but he's got to be playing in order to make that work, and in his 9-year career, Tulo has played over 150 games twice. Injuries have been a major issue for Tulo, and in case you were wondering why we haven't seen Tulo playing when the Colorados have come to Citi Field the past few seasons, well, it's because he's always hurt. Injuries limited him to 47 games in 2012, 126 games in 2013 and a major hip injury cut his season to 91 games last season. And how major was that hip injury? Remember the hip injury Carlos Delgado had in 2009? He needed hip labrum surgery and it was Goodnight, Sweetheart for his career. I bring this up because that's the same injury Tulowitzki had last season and he's yet to prove he can return to his normal high level of play.

Then, there's the question of ransom. The Colorados are choking under his contract and his string of injuries and would happily get rid of him, but it's clear that they're not just going to give him away. The word is that Noah Syndergaard would have to be the centerpiece of the deal from the Mets' end of things, but what else are the Colorados asking for? Nobody's brought up what it would cost the Mets. Word is a second pitcher would need to be involved; nobody's quite sure what level pitcher but you'd have to assume at least Rafael Montero, and then even MORE! This goes against pretty much everything the Mets have done over the past 5 seasons. Why spend all this time breaking things down and rebuilding the farm system only to gut everything just when it seems like it's about to pay off? The hot word is that the Mets fans that are up in arms about Tulo and why they don't spend money "would go batshit" if they knew what the Colorados were asking in return.

The bottom line here is that it's a nice pipedream to think of Tulo coming to the Mets, but that's all it is, and that's all it probably should be. There's no indication as to what he'll be after so many seasons lost to injury, and it smacks of a replay of Jason Bay more than anything else. My feeling was summed up rather concisely by a caller on WFAN early this afternoon. If the Mets wanted an expensive, injury prone Shortstop, they would have kept Jose Reyes. In fact, Jose Reyes seems a much more attractive option for the Mets if you really believe THEY GOTS TA HAVE a better Shortstop. I know there's no particular discussion involving him and who knows if Toronto even wants to deal him, but you'd have to imagine he'd cost the Mets less than Tulo would, and lord knows Reyes would probably run back to the Mets in a second, since he a) Hates the Astroturf in Toronto's cave of a stadium and b) Loved playing here. It doesn't sound quite as crazy now as it did a few years ago.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Fold Up The Tents

Analyze the way the season broke out for the 49ers, and it probably isn't too surprising that this ended up being as much of a mess as it turned out to be. Never mind the constant controversy surrounding Jim Harbaugh and the will-he-stay-or-will-he-go-and-if-he-goes-where soap opera. That's the least of it. There's the in-fighting between the Owner John York, the GM Trent Baalke and Harbaugh. There was the preseason holdouts by Vernon Davis and Alex Boone. There was the Aldon Smith suspension. There was the ongoing rehab of NaVorro Bowman, who this week was placed on IR, ending his season without him ever setting foot on the field. There were a constant stream of injuries, to key players like Patrick Willis, Glenn Dorsey and Daniel Kilgore. There were the other injuries to players like Anthony Davis, Eric Reid, Tramaine Brock and Stevie Johnson, which kept each of them off the field at one time or another and left the 49ers shorthanded. There were the issues with Colin Kaepernick and his general regression from a dynamic running and passing weapon into a confused mess who held on to the ball too long while pockets crashed around him. There was the general abandonment of a running game that had long been the strength of the team for no particular reason. There were too many questions that were getting answered with "We'll address it in the offseason..."

Add it all together and I guess it shouldn't be too surprising that the 49ers 2014 season, which had tenuously remained on the fringes of the NFC playoff picture, officially met its end Sunday, fittingly at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks 17-7 victory earned them a season sweep of their rivals, their 3rd straight victory over the 49ers overall and their 4th straight victory over the 49ers in Seattle, a place that has become a house of horrors for the 49ers in recent years.

This game wasn't quite the washout the Thanksgiving Debacle was for the 49ers, but that's not to say it was much better. The 49ers, this time, managed to hang around for most of the game and actually led 7-3 at halftime, but two Seahawks Touchdowns in the second half, the first, not surprisingly, by Marshawn Lynch, and the second on the heels of an egregious roughing the passer penalty that probably shouldn't have been called but almost always is, put the game away. Colin Kaepernick, whose numbers, 11 of 19 for 141 yards and 6 sacks, seem reflective of the way he's played all season, couldn't lead the 49ers back, couldn't get them out of their own way, and the Seahawks basically outwilled the 49ers the rest of the way and kicked them out the door and into the offseason.

Not only did the Seahawks bash the 49ers on the scoreboard, they did so on the Field. We already know what happened to the 49ers the last time they visited Layne Staley Windows8 Adderall The Shermandome Clink Field, and this game brought about similar carnage. Frank Gore, who started the game strong, left with a concussion in the 1st half. Carlos Hyde also left with an injury. Chris Borland hurt his ankle on the last play of the 1st half and didn't return. Not that any of these players would have made much of a difference on a day like this, but perhaps they might have. Who knows. At this point, it's too late to get too worked up about this particular game, because it seems like the team has been heading down this path all season long.

Consider that the 49ers, after 3 games this season, had managed 3 points in the second half of games in total. They've been outscored in the 3rd Quarter of games by something ungodly like 183-48, and they're last in the NFL in 4th Quarter scoring by a significant margin. This is a team that has always struggled with a general inability to play complete games, for all 60 minutes. They peaked last season late in the year and hit a stride, but even then they had some bad moments. This year, it seems like they never peaked. They never got going. The wins were all more of a battle than they needed to be, and teams that have those kinds of struggles ultimately can't maintain. The 49ers didn't maintain, they ended up collapsing, and after having enough of their games televised here in New York, I can't say I was too surprised to see it unfold that way. I already said I DVRed the Thanksgiving Night game and ended up deleting it unwatched. After being out most of the afternoon on Sunday with the DVR running, and coming home to see the waning minutes of the game come crashing down, I have a feeling this game may see a similar fate. Why subject myself to this when I already know how it turns out, and it doesn't turn out well?

Whether I watch the game or not doesn't matter. What matters is that for the first time since Jim Harbaugh took over as coach of the team entering the 2011 season, the 49ers will not appear in an NFC Championship Game. They won't be appearing in January at all. With their record now at 7-7 and nothing meaningful left to play for, the final two games of this season are now more about seeing if what's done can somehow be undone, if there's some pieces here that can distinguish themselves, and, of course. if there's any pride left for this team to play for. The way they've looked the last few weeks, limp and sluggish, it makes you wonder what they can muster up.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Grim Reapings


The 49ers, who've had enough of a puzzling season through 11 games, saved perhaps their worst effort of the season for last week, in a game so putrid against the Seahawks in front of a national audience that I ultimately erased the game from my DVR without ever watching it. But if their lifeless 19-3 loss to the Seahawks was bad enough, they appeared to be in a similar slumber yesterday when they voyaged across the bay to Oakland to face a Raiders team that, at 1-11 and coming off a 52-0 loss, was basically a punchline, and managed to not only lose, but lose convincingly, 24-13, dropping their record to 7-6 and basically putting their playoff chances on life support.

The offensive struggles that have plagued the 49ers for the past several weeks have pretty much come to a head these past couple of weeks, but it's one thing when your offense struggles against the Seahawks. The Raiders boast a defense that strikes fear into nobody, and yet they harassed Colin Kaepernick all day, holding him to 148 yards passing, intercepting him twice and sacking him five times. Kaepernick was intercepted by Brandian Ross (I know, who?) on the first play of the game and that pretty much set the tone for the game right there. Though Kap connected with Bruce Miller for a Touchdown late in the 1st Quarter, they didn't accomplish much else and the game was tied 10-10 at halftime. Then, the 49ers, as has been their annoying habit all year, went in the tank in the second half as their offense stagnated completely and couldn't respond once the Raiders went ahead.

The 49ers were in need of a better performance after last week's stinker, and certainly, though their playoff position in a crowded NFC was disadvantageous after their loss last week, but things now are looking pretty grim for them. Having lost two games in a row, the 49ers now have the pleasure of attempting to break this losing streak and save their season on the road in Seattle next Sunday. That's not what I would call a pleasant proposition. Seattle is streaking and Arizona, even without a viable NFL Quarterback is still cobbling together wins. Green Bay, the NFL's darlings, are primed to doublecheck their way into January, but unfortunately it seems unlikely that the 49ers will be there to kick them in the nuts once again.

Then again, given how Kaepernick has regressed this season, it seems unlikely that even the sight of the Packers would be enough to right his ship. It's baffling to me how badly he's played, even in some 49ers victories, and it can't simply be that the league is catching up to him. For one, the play calling isn't as wide-open as it has been over the past few seasons. An argument I'd heard—I forget where so I'm sorry I'm not properly attributing it—on Kaepernick's poor play ties less into the uncertainties surrounding Jim Harbaugh and the status of several other players on the team, and more around the big contract Kaepernick signed in the offseason. The 6-year deal that guarantees him a rather princely sum of money may have forced the 49ers to dial back their playbook in an effort to make Kaepernick more of a pocket passer, rather than a runner who can use his legs as a weapon of equal danger to his arm. This is in some sort of convoluted effort to protect him, taking the case of Robert Griffin III as a cautionary tale. The problem is, that's taking him out of his comfort zone and forcing him to go against his general instinct on the field. Kaepernick is used to making his progressions on the move, looking around and running in order to make things happen. If he's sitting around and not moving the way he's used to, he's going to end up a sitting duck, get sacked a bunch of times, and when you get your ass hit like that often enough, you start to look pretty ordinary.

Lately, Kaepernick has looked ordinary. That's not the way the 49ers have looked the past few seasons and not the way they were supposed to look this year. I can understand why the 49ers want to protect their investment, but stack Kaepernick and Griffin against each other for a second. Griffin had a history of knee issues before he even reached the NFL, and that's before you get into his height and his build, because he's a Quarterback in a scatback's body. Kaepernick, on the other hand, hasn't had injury problems, and that's probably because he's built like a truck, and where Griffin's promising start came off the rails because of a knee injury, the stupidity of his coach was also a contributing factor because he was allowed to play hurt. Kaepernick has had neither of those problems around him.

Point is, Kaepernick was within a whisker of winning a Super Bowl and within a second whisker of a second Super Bowl and now he's starting to unravel into Tim Rattay or any one of the 22 horrible Quarterbacks that managed to start games for the 49ers between 2003 and 2010. And there's no good reason as to why he's regressed or why the offensive game plan has now been designed to shackle him and take him out of his strengths. As Quarterback, he's subject to a majority of the blame, and certainly he's not blameless, but you have to wonder if this could all have been avoided if the team had just stuck to their guns. At the very least, they wouldn't have gone out yesterday and puked up an awful effort against the horrible Raiders and their Darth Vader hats.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Can't Bear To Watch

I'd mentioned that due to Thanksgiving family functions and the fact that I am outvoted on the TV front, I was relegated to DVRing the game that night. But in this age of technology, I was being fed updates on my phone throughout the evening, and as the game progressed and the results proved to be of the turkey-regurgitating variety, I felt little desire to watch the recording of the game when I got home. It's Monday, and the 49ers and Seahawks played on Thursday night. I still haven't watched the game, and I can't say I have any desire to. The 49ers probably put their worst effort out on the field in the most important game to this point this season, pretty much no-showing a Nationally Televised game against their most hated of rivals and losing to the Seahawks 19-3.

After last week's middling effort against Washington on the heels of another pair of unimpressive games against the Gnats and New Orleans, I talked in great depth last week about the general blah-ness of the offense, and in particular the play of Colin Kaepernick. I surmised that Kaepernick, who has a habit of playing his best in big-stakes games, might rebound against Seattle. But that didn't happen. In fact, for as bad as Kaepernick looked in the previous two games, he was downright embarrassing against Seattle, and I didn't need to see the game in order to know that to be true. Kaepernick completed 16 of 29 passes, which is actually a good game for him as far as completion percentage is concerned, but those 16 completions got the 49ers all of 121 yards, and when you figure in the 4 sacks he took, the 49ers offense gained all of 100 yards through the air. The rushing game did no better and the end result was the 49ers finished the night with 164 yards of offense, and that's not even getting into the two interceptions from 49ers nemesis Richard Sherman. Add it all together and this was a wholly miserable performance that team owner Jed York deemed unacceptable.

York has taken some flack for his tweet, but he's got a point. This wasn't an acceptable performance and the fan base has begun to abandon Kaepernick, Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman and Jim Harbaugh in droves. A season that has been marred with injury, inconsistency and internal turmoil may now be coming to a head. This isn't good and kind of underscores the "season from hell" talk that's been flying around the team all year long. Somehow, the 49ers have managed to keep themselves in contention, and at 7-5 they are still very much in the hunt, but in a deep and competitive NFC playoff race, they find themselves currently on the outside looking in.

But the success of the team has been a one-sided effort, as the defense, a unit that's been really decimated by injuries and suspensions, has carried the team. The defense has, at one time or another, been missing Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith, Eric Reid, Glenn Dorsey and others has played sterling football all year long. The offense has been the problem, and when you look at the level of talent that the 49ers have, the blame naturally lies with the Quarterback and the Offensive Coordinator. Think about the local teams and the daily floggings their QB and OC have taken this season. No team is immune, and when you consider the high bar that's expected from the 49ers Quarterback, you realize how impossible a situation Kaepernick is in. But his early success has contributed to that bar being raised so high. We know he can play better, but he's not. Not even with 4 All-Pro caliber recievers (and that's not even including Vernon Davis) at his disposal. Is it his play? Is it the play calling? Is the situation involving the supposedly imminent departure of Jim Harbaugh wearing on this team more than they let on?

I guess it remains to be seen. All I know is that there's 4 games left in the season and, basically, the 49ers need to win all of them if they want to realistically give themselves a shot at making the playoffs for the 4th consecutive season. That would mean that the 49ers would need to go into Seattle in two weeks and win, so the odds are right now very much against that happening. But, stranger things have happened in the NFL. The bottom line here is that this team needs to get its act together, because they're not playing at the level they should be playing at, and they haven't done so at all this season. They manage to win games simply because they're an incredibly deep and talented team and can overcome opponents because of that at many times, but this isn't going to work when the Big Boys come to town and Big Boy Seattle exposed this to the point of embarrassment. And now you know why I don't want to watch Thursday night's game.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Level of Competition

I wrote last week about yesterday's 49ers/Washington matchup holding all the potential of a Trap Game, particularly given the way the 49ers have had the annoying habit of playing down to the level of their opponent. Washington came in to San Francisco with a record of 3-7 and hadn't looked good in weeks. The 49ers were coming off a pair of uneven, but effective road victories and sat at 6-4. What should have been an easy win was anything but, as the 49ers offense continued to stagnate for a majority of the afternoon and they nearly let the game slip away because of it. It took a clutch late drive led by Colin Kaepernick, punctuated by a clutch catch by Anquan Boldin and finished by a clutch Touchdown run by Carlos Hyde for the 49ers to escape with a 17-13 victory.

The game wasn't on in New York—mysteriously, CBS was carrying the game for reasons I'm not quite sure of—so I was relegated to Gamecast for most of the proceedings. I say most, because let's face it, it's just not so conducive to track an entire NFL game on a computer screen that doesn't consist of actual video. Therefore, I only know what the lines on the screen tell me, and what it told me is that the 49ers once again failed to smash the proverbial flea with the proverbial sledgehammer and it very nearly bit them in the ass.

Things started off well enough for the 49ers, but then again, the 49ers have been starting games strong all season. Aldon Smith kicked things off by registering a sack on Robert Griffin III on the second play of the game, and after a punt, the 49ers tore down the field, as Colin Kaepernick hit Anquan Boldin for an 18-yard gain and then a 30-yard Touchdown that put the 49ers ahead.

After that, nothing. The game dissolved into a series of punts and mistakes by both Quarterbacks, but it was the 49ers that seemed to be making the costly errors. Carlos Hyde fumbled on the first play of the 2nd Quarter and Washington took over, but did nothing with the ball. It wasn't until midway through the Quarter that they broke through, as a drive predicated mostly on the running of Alfred Morris ended in the End Zone as Morris punched the ball in from a yard out to tie the game. The 49ers appeared primed to not respond at all, but just as the clock was running out in the half, Kaepernick, who'd done little of consequence since the Boldin score, hit Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree for a pair of long gains to set up what of late has been the offensive specialty—a Phil Dawson Field Goal just as the clock ran out.

The second half was a similar shit show. On the 49ers second possession, Kaepernick was intercepted on a deep throw intended for Boldin. Washington did nothing, and only when Aaron Lynch was flagged for Roughing the Passer on Washington's subsequent drive did they manage to mount any sort of yardage and their drive ended with a Field Goal that tied the game 10-10.

It was clear that the team that ended up getting a break would be the team that would break through, and when Frank Gore for the second week in a row uncharacteristically lost a Fumble deep in San Francisco's end, it appeared Washington had the break as their ensuing possession resulted in a Field Goal that gave them a 13-10 lead with 7:48 to go.

So, that was what the 49ers were faced with. In a similar situation against the Rams 3 weeks ago, the 49ers got themselves in position to score and, after eschewing a tying Field Goal instead watched as Kaepernick fumbled the game away on the 1 yard line. Now, after an afternoon of pretty much stagnating, the 49ers needed to come up with a big-time drive and score a Touchdown and put Washington in their place. Things didn't look good after Kaepernick was sacked on the first play of the drive, but somehow he got his act together, completed passes to Boldin and Davis and Gore plowed through to convert a 4th down and keep the 49ers afloat. On the following play, Kaepernick found Boldin in traffic over the middle and Boldin, who continues to make big plays in big moments, caught the ball in traffic while delivering a helmet-splitting hit to Ryan Clark, who went for the knockout and instead not only knocked himself out but got flagged for unnecessary roughness in the process. The additional 15 yards set the 49ers up inside the Washington 20. Kaepernick hit Boldin for another 10 yards to set up Carlos Hyde to score on a 4-yard run to put the 49ers ahead for good.

Washington couldn't move the ball on their ensuing possession, and after spending their time outs on the 49ers possession, Griffin was sacked by Justin Smith in the game's final moments and fumbled the ball away to Ahmad Brooks, and the 49ers were able to kneel on the ball and get the hell out of there with an unnecessarily difficult 17-13 victory.

At the beginning of the season, after a wildly inconsistent and unimpressive showing in the Preseason, Herman Edwards, the legendary motormouth who now pundits for ESPN, was talking about Colin Kaepernick and basically said that Kaepernick played lousy in games that don't matter, and really well in big games, using the preseason and last year's Playoff game in Green Bay as examples. The argument as he put it made no sense, but I understand the point Herm was trying to make. Kaepernick has been totally mercurial this season. He had great games against Dallas, Philadelphia and St. Louis, and even when the 49ers lost in Arizona. He made some key throws in New Orleans and again late in yesterday's game. But in general, he hasn't had a good season. For every good game he's had, there's games like Chicago, or Denver, or winning efforts yesterday and against Kansas City and last week against the Giants where he played poorly and the defense ended up winning games for them. He hasn't performed at the lofty level he set for himself when he took the league by storm two years ago and found himself in a Super Bowl after 10 games. It makes you wonder just how much trust the 49ers can continue to have in him. It's frustrating because the talent is there, but he continually plays down to the level of his opponent, or, as Herm was trying to say, the magnitude of the game. All too often, when it comes down to the 49ers playing a game against a Washington, or a Gnats, or the Rams, Kaepernick ends up having one of those annoying games where he tries to run out of trouble and either takes a bad sack or, worse, forces himself into turning the ball over. The numbers he's generated don't look bad on the surface—2,615 yards and 15 Touchdown passes are on pace to surpass his figures from last year with 5 games to play—but dig a little deeper. While he's only thrown 6 Interceptions, he hasn't yet played Seattle, who was responsible for half of the 8 picks he threw last season, and his completion percentage lies at a barely passable 61% (yet is somehow higher than the 58% he set last year). More alarming are the sacks. Last season, Kaepernick was sacked 39 times for losses of 231 yards. This season, and again, remember there are still 5 games to go, two of which are against Seattle, he's been sacked 34 times for losses of 227 yards, and he's fumbled 7 times, losing 4 of them (both numbers surpassing his totals from 2013). Whether it's been an over-reliance on his legs or an inability to read through the progression of his receiving options without panicking or trying to force a bad pass, he's not taking the next step.

The point is, he's not performing at the level expected of him, and I'm sure he'd be the first to admit that himself. And what's most frustrating about this is that this is a guy who's won multiple Playoff games, and multiple Road Playoff games in his first two seasons as a starter, and in those games, he's been a primary reason that the 49ers won those games. Need I remind you how he routinely eats the Packers for lunch, even in Green Bay? Need I remind you that he threw for over 300 Yards in the Super Bowl in his 10th career start, and nearly led the 49ers back from a 22-point deficit? These things actually happened. This isn't as though we're talking about some flash in the pan, he's proven he can be successful playing his game at this level. Too often, though, we get performances like yesterday, where he's not completing passes, he's taking too many sacks and he's throwing bad interceptions, and it takes a last-gasp drive to save another embarrassing defeat. Or you have a game like in New Orleans, where he saves his ass by completing a desperate heave on a broken play. And then the next week, he could go out and throw for 300 yards or run for 100. There seems to be no happy medium here. There's no particular consistency to his performances this season. It's making the 49ers rather nerve-wracking to follow this season, because they certainly have the talent to be a Championship-caliber team (and on Defense, they play as such).

Somehow, in spite of all these struggles, the team has managed to will their way to 7-4 going into a Thanksgiving Night showdown against the Seahawks at home. Since I tend to spend my Thanksgivings in an environment where I'm likely to get glowered at if I put on the TV, I'm setting the DVR for this one. But I have no idea what the hell kind of performance I'm going to get out of the 49ers on this night. Seattle has certainly had their own troubles this season; they also sit at 7-4 and have had plenty of internal strife and offensive woes. But these two teams certainly don't hold back when they face each other, and they're going to meet twice in the next three weeks and these matchups will quite likely go a long way in determining who will continue to play come January.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Throw It Again!

I did not, in spite of my best efforts, figure out a way to score tickets to the 49ers/Giants game yesterday at the Meadowlands. I instead was relegated to a front row seat on my couch to enjoy the 49ers second consecutive Kevin Burkhart game, and their second consecutive Kevin Burkhart win on the road, as the 49ers defense harangued Eli Manning all day long and forced him into 5 Interceptions, which was good because the offense kind of loafed around all day and a game that felt like it should have been a runaway win ended up being a 16-10 squeaker.

This was the kind of effort that underscored just how quietly good the 49ers have played on defense this season, because they really carried the team to this win. Chris Borland, who's played so well in Patrick Willis' stead, had yet another big time performance, racking up another 12 tackles and scoring a pair of Interceptions, the second of which came late in the 4th Quarter with the Giants 5 yards away from scoring a potential winning Touchdown. Borland was backed by Michael Wilhoite, Chris Culliver and Eric Reid, who also picked off Manning and Aaron Lynch and Ray McDonald, who sacked Manning and generally made his life difficult all afternoon.

It was clear that the Defense was going to have to come up with a big time outing early on. Though the 49ers started with the ball and moved smartly down the field on a drive comprised mostly behind the power running of Frank Gore with a side of Carlos Hyde. Colin Kaepernick also added in a 16-yard run. But the running game ended up doing the 49ers in when Gore mishandled a handoff from Kaepernick and in the process of trying to pick the ball up ended up having it conk off his helmet instead. Needless to say, this did not end well, and instead of an early lead, the 49ers found themselves with an early deficit as Eli Manning ripped the Giants offense right down the field, finishing in the End Zone when he hit Larry Donnell for a 19-yard score.

The 49ers responded by going right back to Frank Gore, who redeemed himself by picking up 17 yards. But Kaepernick was not only sacked but also lost 7 yards on a designed run which prevented the drive from progressing further, and ultimately the drive stalled and ended in a Phil Dawson Field Goal. The 49ers next possession appeared a mirror image, as runs by Gore, Hyde and Kaepernick moved the 49ers down the field. Though Kaepernick managed to avoid getting sacked, he also overshot Michael Crabtree near the end zone and the drive finished with yet another Dawson Field Goal.

The Giants ensuing possession started out well enough, but on the 3rd play of the drive, Chris Borland jumped in front of a Manning pass intended for Odell Beckham, Jr and picked it off for his first career Interception. Borland returned the pick down to the Giants 29 yard line, putting the 49ers in prime position to grab their first lead of the day. They did grab the lead, but only after Kaepernick failed to complete passes to Crabtree and Vernon Davis (who's become a bit of a lost man in this often-stagnant offense). This led to—you guessed it—a Phil Dawson Field Goal that put the 49ers ahead 9-7.

The Giants responded with a drive that appeared primed to end in points, as Manning completed a pair of long passes to Donnell and Rueben Randle. But with the ball inside the 49ers 20-yard line, Manning reared back and fired a pass directly into the hands of Michael Wilhoite. Manning obviously just didn't see Wilhoite—at least that's the only logical explanation—because the pass was just thrown so perfectly to Wilhoite that you might have assumed he had a Giants uniform on. Manning could only stand there with his trademark dumbfounded look on his face while Tom Coughlin turned 34 shades of purple. Fortunately for Manning, the 49ers couldn't do much with their good fortune. Kaepernick nearly handed the ball back to the Giants on the next play when he fumbled the snap, and although he hit Crabtree for a 25 yard gain, he then overshot Brandon Lloyd and missed Crabtree on a short pass, and the 49ers ended up punting back to the Giants.

Following halftime, the 49ers forced the Giants to punt before finally getting themselves into the End Zone on offense. Kaepernick started the possession with a deep pass intended for Vance McDonald, but McDonald, who has a knack for not taking advantage of the few passes intended for him, didn't come particularly close to catching the ball. No matter. Two plays later, Kaepernick threw a pass down the middle for Crabtree, which Crabtree did catch in traffic and subsequently broke an attempted tackle by Quinton Demps and then just outran Demps into the End Zone for a 48-yard Touchdown to put the 49ers ahead 16-7. This seemed, for all intents and purposes, a game-clincher for the 49ers, but the action was far from over. The Giants, on their ensuing possession, drove down the field and scored on a Josh Brown Field Goal to cut the 49ers lead to 16-10. They then surprised the 49ers by executing an Onside Kick that bounced off the hands of Bubba Ventrone and into the hands of Michael Herzlich, setting up the Giants in prime position to grab the lead back with the ball near midfield. But on 3rd down, Manning airmailed a pass not particularly close to Randle that was easily intercepted by Eric Reid, giving the ball back to the 49ers and putting that exasperated look on Eli Manning's face once again.

The 49ers, who on offense continued to let the Giants hang around, again set them up in prime position when their subsequent drive stalled and Dawson came on to attempt another Field Goal. But a poor snap short-circuited the effort, and Andy Lee was forced to scramble and throw an ill-fated pass into no man's land, giving the ball back to the Giants near midfield. Though the Giants did move the ball, they ended up faced with a 4th down and 1 at the 49ers 43 yard line. They attempted to convert, but the 49ers defense rose up and stuffed Rashad Jennings for no gain, taking the ball back as the game moved to the 4th Quarter.

The 49ers offense continued to do a whole lot of nothing, which meant that the Defense was going to have to make plays to win the game. And make plays they did. After punting the ball back to the Giants, Manning managed to move the ball into the 49ers end of the field, completing multiple passes to Odell Beckham, Jr. But once again, when it was needed most, the 49ers got pressure on Manning, forced him to rush a pass, and he overthrew his intended target and a 49ers defender—this time Chris Culliver—was there to reel in the Interception. One drive (and a 49ers punt) later, Manning had the Gnats on the move again. This time, he hit Beckham for a highlight reel catch at the 49ers 4 yard line. Now, after all the heavy lifting the 49ers Defense had to do, they had to come up with one more stop, because this was probably the game right here. The offense had kind of limped along all afternoon, and in spite of creating 4 turnovers, this was going to bite them in the ass. But for as bad as the 49ers looked on Offense, the Gnats proved themselves just as inept. Three consecutive times, Eli Manning tried to throw a fade route towards the back corner of an End Zone, and three consecutive times, a 49ers Defender got in the face of a Giants receiver to knock away the pass. It came down to a final 4th down play. Manning this time didn't go back to the fade, because clearly, although the 49ers kept giving him open looks on the outside, he couldn't seal the deal. Instead, he tried to thread a pass over the middle intended for Preston Parker, but Donte Johnson jumped the route and batted the ball up in the air, where Chris Borland was waiting to come down with the Interception, which was either the scintillating 5th on the day created by the 49ers defense, or the Comically Embarrassing 5th thrown by Eli Manning, which left both he and Coughlin to stand there with stupefied looks on their faces.

The remainder of the game was academic. The 49ers couldn't run out the clock and punted back to the Gnats. Eli Manning didn't throw a 6th Interception, but he also didn't complete any passes to his own teammates either, and thus, the 49ers were able to escape with a 16-10 victory, their second consecutive hard-fought Road Victory.

The win, I'll take, although on the offensive side of things, there wasn't much to be thrilled about. Gore ran for 95 yards, and Hyde and Kaepernick also had a few yards on the ground. Kaepernick managed to complete a paltry 15 of 29 passes for 193 yards and a Touchdown. He didn't turn the ball over, but he also didn't do anything especially impressive, either, which makes you wonder what the offensive concept was this afternoon. Last week, it seemed like he was only able to make plays when he absolutely had to. This week, the urgency wasn't there, I guess. I suppose it helps when your defense gets you 5 turnovers, but that obviously doesn't happen every week.

At now 6-4, the 49ers return home for a game against Washington which they might be looking past considering that game is followed with a short week and a Thanksgiving Night matchup against dear friends the Seattle Seahawks. They'd be wise to not fall into one of those trap games next Sunday. Washington looks the part of a pushover, but the 49ers have been burned by supposedly inferior opponents at home twice already this season and another loss in a crowded NFC Playoff hunt could be severely damaging.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Missing Man

A season that's already been disrupted by injuries and internal controversy got cut a little deeper for the 49ers this week when the team announced that Patrick Willis, perhaps the team's only consistent force on defense, to say nothing of his leadership, would miss the remainder of the season. The culprit being a toe injury that seemed fairly benign, but managed to knock him out of action for several weeks before it was finally determined that surgery would be needed, ending his season before it ever really got going.

This wouldn't have been good news even if things had been going well for the 49ers, but given that Navorro Bowman has yet to play or even practice this season (the window for him to be allowed to practice at all this season shuts on Tuesday) and Aldon Smith is only now returning from his suspension (and who knows how that will go), a thin 49ers Linebacker unit losing its anchor feels that much more devastating.

Without Willis, the 49ers defense has been shorthanded, but they've still managed to play at a high level, which is a credit to both Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio, as well as Willis' replacement at inside Linebacker, Rookie Chris Borland. Though Borland is no Willis and will never be, Borland has kind of come out of nowhere to play really well, racking up 35 tackles in the past two games and being generally disruptive against the run and the pass. He also scooped up Drew Brees' fumble in Overtime on Sunday, setting the stage for the 49ers to win the game. Credit ought to go to Willis as well; Borland had seen some spot duty filling in the spot that Navorro Bowman would have been in were he available, and Willis has long had the habit of making the players next to him that much better. Hard to say Bowman would have become what he is now without the benefit of playing next to someone of Willis' stature, and lesser players like Michael Wilhoite and now Borland have emerged to have fine seasons—particularly Borland in this instance.

Still, for as well as Borland has played, he's still a Rookie and an unknown commodity at the kind of position where you tend to get overlooked unless you're Patrick Willis, or Lawrence Taylor, or some sort of other monstrous, otherworldly presence at that particular position. Willis is one of those players that everyone rallies around, a leader on the team in every sense of the word even though he might not have the panache of a Colin Kaepernick or Vernon Davis. Nobody's been more important to the team over the past 8 seasons and to now have to do battle without him is a blow that shouldn't be glossed over.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Filling In The Gaps

The signing of Michael Cuddyer, much like the signing of Curtis Granderson last season, won't make the Mets better by itself. But what these signings have done is added the presence of useful, helpful veterans that know how to succeed and win on the Major League level to a team that's generally comprised of younger players still figuring it out.

The Met outfield, particularly Left Field, was a point of contention throughout the 2014 season. Chris Young didn't work. Neither did anyone else they tried out there, whether it was Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Matt den Dekker, Andrew Brown, Josh Satin, Eric Young Jr., or the rest of a forgettable runaway mob of guys that weren't ever going to be an every day solution. Young was a strikeout waiting to happen and didn't finish the season. den Dekker struggled to bat his weight. Eric Young was exposed and returned to the super sub role he was better suited for. Satin, Brown, and other such memorables bounced between the minors and majors all season without making much impact. Thus a better answer was needed.

Michael Cuddyer, at age 35, isn't a long-term solution for the Mets, but he comes at a reasonable price, 2 years, $21 million, for a guy that's coming off some fine seasons with the Colorados after many years playing for the Twins during an era in which they enjoyed more than their share of success. An All Star in 2011 and again in 2013, Cuddyer's accomplishments have long been in the spirit of the team; more about the whole than the sum of the parts. The numbers are solid, but not eye-popping, the man not flashy, just consistent.

This is sort of what the Mets need. While Cuddyer isn't going to hit 35 Home Runs, there's nobody readily available to the Mets that's going to, for one. For two, unlike the pu-pu platter the Mets kept throwing out in Left Field last season, Cuddyer will actually play every day and more than likely will not hit .200 and strike out a third of the time. Though Cuddyer was limited to 49 games last season due to injury, his career track has generally been pretty healthy, and in his 49 games, he hit .332 with 10 Home Runs and 31 RBI—numbers that were markedly better than anyone the Mets were able to toss out in Left Field any of the last 3 years.

The argument on the other side of this of course, is everything I just stated. Cuddyer is 35, which is old as ballplayers tend to go, and he was injured for a majority of the last season, which isn't a good sign, and also that the Mets just haven't had a great deal of luck with Free Agent Left Fielders in recent memory. Some of us are still scarred from their last dalliance with someone of this particular ilk. Then, there's the whole draft pick issue. Cuddyer received a qualifying offer from the Colorados before bolting town, which meant that whoever signed him and a bah blah blah. The Mets, with their middling finish from last season, had the #15 pick in the draft which now goes to the Colorados. For a system that seems so predicated on prospects and developing talent, why give that up? Alderson wouldn't budge on this for someone like Michael Bourn.

And so here's why it makes sense now, Charleston:

By this point, the Mets and their fans are sick of rebuilding and waiting for prospects to pay off. All the prospects they have are just about to hit the scene in the Majors, if they haven't already. The farm system has been rebuilt and there's even more prospects on the horizon. There's enough prospects here already, and the Mets don't need one more, especially if the idea of a potential prospect is going to prevent the team from making a move that will help to bring in a player that's going to help the team Win. Now. Not that it hasn't already been discussed, but 2015 is no longer about waiting to see what the hell we have here, it's time to start filling in the gaps at the Major League level to make this into a complete, cohesive roster that will contend. Whoever the #15 draft pick in June 2015 ends up being, that guy isn't going to help the Mets in 2015. Michael Cuddyer is going to help the Mets. And that's why now, it makes sense to sacrifice the pick and get the player. And maybe do it again if the right player presents himself.