Who Are These Guys? What Are the Major Issues Facing College Football?
Remember Connor Joe and Michael Reed?
Those were the opening day starters in left and right field for the San Francisco Giants. Both "lasted quick" as they say, and neither are with the club now.
The opening day center fielder, Steven Duggar, has yo-yoed between the Giants, their Triple A Sacramento team, and the injured list.
After much hand-wringing and an onslaught of well-deserved criticism, the revolving door in the outfield has finally stopped. General Manager Farhan Zaidi has assembled what appears to be a solid group—veteran Kevin Pillar in center and newcomers Alex Dickerson in left and Mike Yastrzemski (below) in right.
The veteran Pillar is an outstanding fielder who has won games with both his glove and his bat. Dickerson and Yastrzemski have injected life into the Giants' previously non-existent offense, contributing a dose of power and a boatload of clutch hits. They've also rousted the Giants' veterans, who have started to swing the bat better. Hitting, they say, is contagious.
What this all means isn't exactly clear, as the Giants are still in the "should we sell or should we try to make the playoffs?" mode.
It won't be an easy decision. After taking three out of four from the Mets, with all three wins coming in extra innings, they've won 15 of their last 18. At .500 (50-50) the Giants are just 2 1/2 games behind in the race for the second wild card spot.
Zaidi’s decision really hinges on three questions.
1) Are the new “kids” for real? Will Dickerson, Yastrzemski and another impressive newcomer, Donovan Solano, turn out to be long-term answers or will they flame out? Yastrzemski, after all, is a 28-year old (almost 29) rookie. Dickerson, 29, missed the entire 2017 and '18 seasons with injuries. Solano, 31, has bounced around before catching fire recently.
2) How much do veterans Buster Posey (.255), Brandon Crawford (.235), Brandon Belt (.244), Joe Panik (.233) and Evan Longoria (.241) have left in the tank?
3) What can he get for World Series hero Madison Bumgarner, All-Star closer Will Smith, or his other talented relievers, Tony Watson and Sam Dyson?
Unfortunately, the answers may not be known before the July 31 trade deadline.
Objectivity might dictate that the Giants trade Bumgarner and/or Smith for some top prospects.
But emotion will also play a part, even for an analytics guy like Zaidi. If the team stays hot, the Giants may play for now and keep MadBum, rather than playing out the string in manager Bruce Bochy's final season.
College Football on Tap: With the college football season right around the corner, it seems appropriate to ask, what are the major issues facing the sport in 2019?
1. Playoff Expansion. Most insiders now agree that momentum is building to expand the playoff from four to eight teams. The question, they say, isn't a matter of “if,” but “when.” The semi-final games now rotate through the "New Year's Six" bowls, allowing each bowl to host one of the two semi-finals every three years. The Rose and Sugar hosted the semis in 2015, the Cotton and Orange in '16 and the Fiesta and Peach in '17. The same three-year rotation will be completed next January in year six of the playoff. With that in mind, I'd look for the expansion to take place four years from now, for the 2023 season, after one more rotation. It'll take that long to figure out TV rights and whether the quarter-finals are played on campus, or in bowl games.
2) Conference realignment: Will there be any changes to the composition of the Power Five? It's highly doubtful in my opinion. No one is leaving the SEC, and it will not expand beyond 14 teams. The Big Ten could consider dumping Rutgers or Maryland, but who would take their place? Notre Dame, long a rumored potential member of the BIG, now has a strong affiliation with the ACC, a conference that is on the rise with Clemson's two national championships in football, and three of the last five champions in basketball, plus a new TV network. So the 14-team ACC, sitting pretty, is not looking to expand.
The Big 12, with 10 members, would seem to be the logical choice, yet commissioner Bob Bowlsby has downplayed the possibility, and there are no big-name prospects out there, unless you count BYU, whose program has been in decline. The Pac-12? Well, honestly, at this point, no one wants to join the Pac-12. In fact, there have been rumors, almost certainly unfounded, that USC and UCLA and the Arizona schools have been looking to leave.
3) Player compensation: As I have long argued, the athletes deserve a piece of the billions of dollars their efforts are generating for schools, conferences, coaches, athletic directors and commissioners. And the needle is moving. The NCAA has formed a "working group" to look into compensating athletes for the use of their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL), which is long overdue. And a bill moving through the legislature in California may mandate such payments at California colleges beginning in 2023.
It’s going to happen—finally—in the next three or four years.
4) Transfers: Coaches, as we know, can move with impunity. Athletes used to have to sit out a year after transferring from one college to another. But the NCAA has been granting waivers for all sorts of reasons—depression, mistreatment by the coaching staff, etc.—that allow some transfers to compete immediately. Not to mention the graduate transfer rule, which has become an epidemic farce.
So some consistency is needed here. The NCAA, to be sure, has never been accused of consistency, but I wouldn’t be surprised if pressure from coaches and athletic directors forced the NCAA to soon allow athletes to transfer once without any penalty.