With three and a half months left in the sports year, here's a quick forecast, fair-weather and foul, involving our local professional sports teams!
It starts off badly for baseball with no sun setting on the Oakland Athletics, and very little shining on the San Francisco Giants. As for Oakland, they were eliminated from any playoff hopes with yesterday's 4-1 loss to the California Angels, however, despite numerous injuries, specifically to veteran Coco Chrisp and to the entire pitching staff....they've stayed competitive with guts, effort, and stubborn pride.
Next season looks much brighter, following break-out efforts from young stars Josh Willingham (26-HR's--90-RBI's) and rookie sensation Jemile Weeks at second base. Fine pitching performances from Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey, Guillermo Moscoso, Andrew Bailey, and Brandon McCarthy point toward more success in 2012....and a much easier transition for Manager Bob Melvin, who emerged in mid-season following the firing of Bob Gerin.
As for San Francisco, the Giants are still hanging on by a thread after a disastrous 14-26 slump that has them all but eliminated from catching the West division leading Arizona Diamondbacks. Thank God there's a wildcard hope still dangling, however, to pick up six games on the Atlanta Braves with time running thin, it would take a miracle!
However, after today's 3-1 win over San Diego, their 4th-strait victory (Carlos Beltran hit 2-homers for winning pitcher Tim Lincicum) it's tough to count out the reigning World Champs....especially considering what happened last season!
Should they fail however, blame the infamous injury bug which stung them harder than any other National League Team in 2011, losing the likes of catcher Buster Posey, and second baseman Freddy Sanchez for the whole year, while ailing others for part of it, including relievers Brian Wilson and Jeremy Affelt, and sluggers Pablo Sandoval and Andres Torres to name just a few!
Better times next year depend on Wilson and the rest of their potent pitching staff returning healthy, along with strong, second seasons from up-and-comers like Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, and newly squired infielder Jeff Keppenger.
Combine that with a few good roster moves and cuts, along with some bucks better spent on another offensive slugger...and I think manager Bruce Boche will have this team contending for another championship in 2012!
To basketball and the "new look" Golden State Warriors...literally! Start at the top with new Owner-CEO Joe Lacob, Co-Chairman Owner Peter Guber, and Hall-of-Fame superstar legend Jerry West joining the executive board as Chief Consultant.
These three refreshing breaths of fresh air finally banishing old Owner Chris ("could care less") Cohan, AND...the addition of new head coach Mark Jackson, have me and others finally believing that things are looking up for a Warrior team which has missed the playoffs every year but ONE, since 1994!
Add to that the maturation of the two young, spectacular guards Monta Ellis and Steph Curry, and an even better year for center-forward David Lee, and you've got at least the beginning ingredients for a team ready to make a playoff run.
Much may also depend on how center Andris Biedrins is either replaced, or somehow slips OUT of last years "comatose" state of play...and returns to his former winning form.
Realistically though, sparkling efforts from veterans like forward Dorell Wright and, perhaps first round draft choice Klay Thompson may better improve the Warriors chances.
I'm looking for a 40-win season at best, which will NOT get them into the playoffs....however, rest assured they will play in front of home-sellout crowds filled with the best NBA fans in the league, all from right here in the Oakland, San Francisco Bay Area. Go Warriors!
Our National Hockey League team the San Jose Sharks remain the most consistant winners of all Bay Area pro sports teams, and yet, despite getting a little closer in 2010, they're still two steps from heaven....where the Stanley Cup Trophy resides!
In order to reach the finals (step one), and win it all (step two), the Joe Thornton-Patrick Marleau-Dan Boyle era....can NOT have run its course--yet, because all three are back this season!
I'm keeping the faith, and remain a stubborn believer that this trio can hold the fort together, and, at least get them back to the Western Conference finals.
From there it will take a mixture of last years recipes and some key, new ingredients to cook up a meal worthy of the coveted CUP!
The October 8th home season opener against Phoenix will not see 2010 stars Devin Setoguchi or Dany Heatley, both traded away in the off season.
However, look for an influx of young stars, like last year's rookie sensation Logan Couture, hopefuls Mike Connelly and Freddy Hamilton.
Then, tutor them with newly acquired veterans Michael Handzus and Martin Havlat together with staple reliables Ryane Clowe, Doug Murray, Joe Pavelsky, Torrey Mitchell, Jason Demers, and Antti Niemi....blended relentlessly with Jumbo-Joe, Patty, Danny-Boy and executive chefs Doug Wilson (GM)and 3rd-year Head Coach Todd McClellan--and I predict THREE'S A CHARM, and a gormet delight! The final SHARK FEAST!
Finally to Pro Football:
Al Davis's biggest mistake may have been letting Jim Harbaugh get away after serving as an assistant coach in Oakland. Now, after leading Stanford to college football prominence a few short years later, Jim threatens to do the same as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers...and I bet he does, eventually!
shakey secondary....and I prognostigate a 7-9 record.(Possibly 8-8)
This could get them to the playoffs because they contend in a very weak NFC West Division. It will be close!
To tip the scales, look for big years from runningback veteran Frank Gore and receivers Michael Crabtree newly acquired Braylon Edwards, and tight end Vernon Davis, along with a much better pass rush from the likes of Ray McDonald and Justin Smith.
When it's all said and done, the 49ers MAY finally make the playoffs by combining existing talent with Coach Harbaugh's ability to inspire quarterback Alex Smith toward patient, safe, ball-control success under center--just as Harbaugh did quarterbacking the Colts in 1995.
It may come down to the final regular season game. We'll see.
As for the Oakland Raiders, I think they are FINALLY ready to take that next step too, with an even stronger chance than San Francisco. Their new headcoach Hue Jackson has spent more time with his team having led the offense last season as an assistant coach, thus becoming extremely popular with his players.
After watching the Raider front seven defense destroy the Bronco running attack in Denver on Monday night, this may keep them in more games than last year with stars like team leader Richard Seymour, Cameron Wemblely, and Stanford Routt.... despite the fact their schedule is a grueling one again!
I say, if the Raiders can win at least two of their first four games (already won the first), and, at the same time gain a strangle-hold on NOT drawing tons of penalties...they can at last WIN the AFC West Division for the first time since 2002!
However, they must have a better than average year from somewhat average quarterback Jason Campbell. For him to succeed, they must run, run, and run even harder and farther that last year....and they ran FAR in 2010 with Darren McFadden and Michael Bush.
Young, speedy wide receivers like Jacoby Ford, Darius Helyward-Bey, Chaz Schillens, and now ailing Luis Murphy must also step up and reach their potential...as must a newly developed, although talented offensive line to protect Campbell, thus allowing him to find those open receivers!.
The 2011 Oakland Raiders have a playoff-bound defense, and an almost-playoff-bound offense. If they minimize mistakes, and play as hard for Coach Douglas and his staff as I think they will--then watch the Raiders go 9-7 and sneak into the post season!
The "SILVER AND BLACK"...are back!
p.s. There is one OTHER mini-pro team...the San Jose Sabercats of Arena Football who follow up last years painful 7-11 season with new hope behind returning quarterback Mark Grieb...who has led this team to three championships in the past decade. (more than can be said for the other guys) Go Cats!
If you want to try out for the team and really get into the sports scene, the Sabercats are holding a try out session Saturday October 1st. Ouch!
Thanks again, and remember to catch Streetwise Radio by logging on to www.streetwisesd.com