Friday, July 31, 2009

Wire Check - 7/31/09


Ray Ratto thinks the Alderson-Sanchez deal will turn out good for the Giants just because the Pirates suck and his evidence to back it up? Armando Rios. I was listening to Tim Kawakami on with Ralph Barbieri yesterday and was surprised that Ralph said most of the response to the trade was positive. Kawakami was quick to note that the response was less positive outside the Bay Area. The fact is, most fans don't know about minor league prospects, especially AA prospects. Ignorance is bliss.

This is what you call "turning the corner" and I ♥ Matt Cain.

Despite our recent Beane bashing, at least he was able to turn his SS into a new prospect while the Giants are stuck with their SS for another season and $9.5M.

Jonathan Sanchez had a "show me" start last night and fared well.


DHB has signed his contract
and is at Raiders' camp. Best DHB related tweet from Nancy Gay yesterday: nancygay Did his hamstring hold up? RT @bydavidwhite DHB is stretching. I know, breathless stuff. I'll post if he actually gets on the field.

Andrew Walter was released yesterday, and if you read between the lines, he couldn't be happier.

If you listened to the latest amateur RT and Koski podcast you'll hear that my assumption that contract talks with Crabtree would be resolved after DHB signed his contract. WRONG!

Meanwhile, the 49ers camp schedule has been termed "brutal" by several vets. Included in the schedule will be tackling drills. Justin Smith says he's never done tackling drills in the NFL. To me, that's ridiculous. I know injuries are a main concern and most season ending injuries occur in training camp, but how frustrating is it to see missed tackles in the NFL? "They" often say you play how you practice, so if you don't practice tackling...?

Candid Cam went to Raiders' camp
and came away yawning.


MTII asks if the Warriors should pick up Brandan Wright's option? I say yes. If you saw Kawakami's blog yesterday you'd know the Warriors have ZERO of their first round picks on their roster since 2002 (Wright was acquired via trade). It's time to put some faith in their youth.


Gwen Knapp says it's Diva Time in the sports world.

TENNIS stuff, OMG!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wire Check - 7/29/09

I am dedicating this wire check to a few of my friends who might need a little clarity today


For my buddy Andrews - The Giants have (had) 4 untouchable prospects (Alderson, Baugartner, Posey and Villalona) going into the trade deadline. Teams looking to win the World Series usually only trade such prospects for super star players (Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Matt Holliday, etc.). Teams looking to just make the playoffs trade them for one dimensional players.

For my buddy adrock - Adrock is a HUGE Warriors fan so I figured I would give him a basketball comparison that would allow him to better understand the Sanchez trade. The Corey Maggette signing and the Sanchez trade are very similar. Just like the Warriors, the Giants gave up too much (in a prospect as opposed to dollars) for a guy that only does one thing well. There is no doubt that Maggette can score and Sanchez can hit but that is ALL they can do.

For Koski - If we offered the Indians Villona, Alderson and a mid-level prospect for this guy, do you think we get him? I say Yes. Of course, the Giants front office is not interested in acquiring big name players that help you win World Series.

For Brian - I will hire you as Director of Trading once I run the Giants. If for no other reason then to avoid this headline.


For AJ - Your team will always be terrible as long as this guy is in the quarterback conversation.

For Tino - This guy could use some of your sound advice when it comes to personal finance. (HINT: the real money comes when you dominate on the field not in your head.)

For all Wifes, Fiances and girlfriends - This will make the perfect gift for your significant others birthday.


For Drew H. - Let the Devean George era begin!! Let's go Warriors!

For Ben - According to, this Warrior has yet to fulfill his promise. I was hoping you could inform me on what exactly that promise was. Thanks

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Top Ten Reasons you should love the Freddie Sanchez Trade

10. Roberto Kelly can teach anyone how to steal a base including a guy with 10 career steals

9. The Giants pitching staff is so good they don’t need range at second base

8. The recent success of home grown pitchers leaves something to be desired.

7. Players in the early 30s only get better with age

6. Needing two different opinions on a player’s knee is a good indicator of success.

5. If Sanchez doesn’t produce (highly unlikely), the Giants can decline his option and have nothing to show for giving up some mediocre minor leaguer.

4. Bonds, Schmidt … Sanchez.

3. The Giants were getting too young. Teams built around older, experienced players always have winning seasons.

2. The Giants did not have to give up some of their best young players (Fransen,
Bowker, etc.)

1. It was about time the Giants got another light hitting .300 hitter … Edgardo Alfonzo we continue to miss you.

Sanchez for Alderson: Koski is not Happy!!

It appears the Giants have traded for Freddy Sanchez. That's not the worst part, they gave up one of their top prospects, Tim Alderson. I'm flabbergasted. I don't get it. Freddy Sanchez? Couldn't the Giants be patient and look for, I don't know, a bat with power after the season for Alderson? I'm praying the Giants saw something they didn't love in Alderson that urged them to sell high, but I really don't get this move. Sure, 2B is fixed for the time being, but the Giants biggest weakness has been power all season. Freddy Sanchez does not hit for power. Sanchez is also 31 years old and could be a rent-a-player if the Giants decide not to pick up his $8M option for 2010. I hope Ralph Barbieri is happy.

Here's some Sanchez stats, per

.300 hitter who doesn't walk

No power with 37 HRs in four and a half full seasons.

Below average fielder.

Alderson was 6-1 with a 3.47 ERA in AA. The only thing I can think of is he's not a strikeout pitcher, but I'm grasping at straws here.

A mere three hours ago, Baggs posted this on his blog regarding the deal:
"Names such as John Bowker, Kevin Frandsen and Jesus Guzman have been bandied about by as guys who might be going the other way."
I would give up ALL of those guys for Sanchez if I could keep Alderson. I don't get it!

The Barry Zito Signing: A Complete Upper Management Failure

It is time to clear up who is to blame for one of the worst signings in the history of baseball and how the biggest failure is not the performance on the field but the performance on the third floor of the Giants building.

Here is my take on what happened in the week leading up to the signing of Barry Zito:

Meeting Attendees: Peter McGowan (Owner) and Brian Sabean (General Manager)

Here are two other individuals that should (could) have been at the meeting –

1) Director of Marketing: This position is an actual job within the club and should be consulted before any major league ready player is acquired.

2) Director of Trading: This position does not exist. Every team should have a person responsible that understands the fundamentals of buying and trading assets. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about buying bananas at a Farmer’s market or trading distressed corporate debt, there are basic fundamentals that need to be followed. This person would make sure those fundamentals are strictly enforced.

“We have some money to spend and it is time we find the new face of the franchise. This player must be the exact opposite of Barry Bonds. Bonds doesn’t treat me with any respect and there isn’t a person I despise more than him. As the result of my extreme dislike for Bonds, I feel like Barry Zito is the perfect player and, more importantly, person for this franchise.”

DOT: The number one rule in trading is “Do not trade on emotion.” I already feel like this decision to sign Zito is based on your personal relationship with Bonds and not on Zito’s projected value on the field.

Sabean: “It is going to take a lot of money to sign him because I know the Mets are very interested. I have to believe that we are going to need to offer him ~$15 mm a year.”

McGowan: “Do whatever it takes to get it done. He is the perfect player to transition this franchise away from the Barry Bonds era. Unlike Bonds, I am sure Zito will return my phone calls and resurrect the reputation of the franchise.”

DOM: Barry Bonds has made us a LOT of money over the past 6 years. I realize he is difficult to deal with, but the fans love him. Your belief that the fans of the Giants want a new face of the franchise seems to be somewhat unfounded.

“We project Zito to be a number 2 starter, but I cannot justify paying him more than $15 mm. After all, Zito was not the number 1 starter on the A’s last year … Dan Haren was.”

“He is worth at least $3 mm more in public relations and marketing. In two years, every young Giants fan is going to be wearing Zito jerseys and they will all but have forgotten about Barry Bonds. Zito is the perfect combination of talent on and off the field.”

DOM: Actually, starting pitchers are like left tackles in football. While they are very important when it comes to winning games and championships, they are never the face of the franchise. Paying up for an everyday player for marketing reasons makes a lot more sense. Big Papi and Manny sell jerseys for the Red Sox not Curt Schilling.

Sabean: “Let me see what I can do. Let’s talk later in the week.”

Later in the week …

Sabean: “We believe the Mets have offered him something between $15 - $17 mm a year. I am not comfortable going over $15 mm.”

DOT: If you don’t feel comfortable offering more than $15 mm than you shouldn’t do it. At the minimum, we should review our due diligence process to make sure we are not missing anything.

McGowan: “Brian, please stop looking at this signing as a pure baseball decision. This franchise needs a fresh start and players like Barry Zito do not come along very often. Offer him $18 mm a year.”

Sabean: “There are rumors that Zito has contacted the Yankees and told them he would be willing to accept a deal that is less than what the Mets are offering. Furthermore, the Yankees have told Zito they are still not interested. There is something they know that we might not. I would like a little bit more time to think about how we approach this deal.”

DOT: The biggest player, the Yankees, in this market place is not willing to take this guy at $15 mm a year!! Under no circumstances can we offer him more than $15 mm!

McGowan: “I could have run you out of this town over the Joe Nathan trade but I stuck with you and I have remained loyal despite rampant criticism over that deal. Now, I am telling you to get Barry Zito in a Giants uniform before the calendar turns over to 2007. GET IT DONE!”

Sabean: Yes, Sir

DOT and DOM: Did we fail to mention that starting pitchers are signed to win championships and soft tossing pitchers generally don’t win in the playoffs?

To be clear, Peter McGowan should be remembered for saving the Giants in San Francisco and building one of the most beautiful ballparks in the history of the game. However, there is little doubt that he had a significant amount of influence over the Zito signing.

There are two lessons to be learned here:

1) All General Managers should consult a marketing person and a trading person before making any personnel decisions about the big league club.

2) Owners should have very little say when it comes to the team on the field because the majority of them made their money doing something else besides winning sports Championships.

(I know many of you are thinking that Lincecum is the perfect face of the franchise for the Giants. While I will not disagree that his outstanding performance on the field and his near perfect personality off it, the goldmine for the Giants is Pablo Sandoval. If he becomes a regular in the All-Star game, he will sell more tickets, jerseys and t-shirts than Lincecum ever will.)

Wire Check - 7/29/09


An excellent article from Tim Kurkjian on the evolution of the 100 pitch count. It's a good read and Orel Hershiser drops a lot of good knowledge even going back to the lowering of the pitching mound forcing pitchers to depend more on movement than stuff.

Bruce Jenkins says, "C'mon!" to Cooperstown inducting Pete Rose. I feel the same way. Buster Olney echoed the same thoughts yesterday about steroid users. The Hall of Fame should record baseball history, good or bad.

The rumors swirl that the Giants almost added and still could add Freddy Sanchez, but Baggs is beginning to doubt it. Baggs also mentions the Giants are really interested in Dan Uggla at 2B and would bat him clean up. Both those potential deals frighten me.

Who hits the shortest home runs? Surprisingly, no Giants on the list, probably because they don't hit ANY home runs. (h/t Neyer)


Training camp opened up yesterday and if you've been feenin' for some football here's Kawakami's transcripts of Alex Smith and Mike Singletary. The main things being Alex Smith feels good and Mike Singletary understands Crabtree's contract situation.

Gwen Knapp thinks Michael Vick will have no problem landing a job in the NFL.

Ray Ratto dusts off his College Football hat and says Cal's road to the Rose Bowl is going to be tougher than before...even though they haven't been in how long?

Is Scott Ostler the the Chronicle's Milton from Office Space? He just writes stuff and they publish it so they don't have to deal with him?

Matt Miaocco with more on Mike Singletary's personal history with holding out.

David White has Raiders reporting day notes.

Where to find Los Raiders en espanol this season.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Quick Hitter: Ryan Garko

The Giants traded for Cleveland 1B, Ryan Garko yesterday. While Garko will never, ever, ever be mistaken for Albert Pujols, he will be an upgrade at 1B where he will platoon with Ishikawa. Bochy said he's going to bat Garko 5th or 6th, so that gives you an idea Garko's limitations.

Here is Rob Neyer's take on Garko, which includes Kawakami's points within.

Here are some Garko nuggets from

.280 career hitter with .355 OBP, 20-30 HR power and is right handed (good for AT&T power compared to lefties)

He hits .318 v. lefties, .270 v. righties. Same average v. righties as Ishikawa, but half as many Ks.

He's never played at AT&T so it will be interesting to see how well he adjusts.

Doesn't strike out too much (94 Ks is career high)

He's under team control for two more seasons at reasonable price and is 28 years old. (Cot's Contracts)

All in all, a decent move. The Giants traded a Single A(Scott Barnes) pitcher who probably tops out as a middle reliever. Sabean has said the team is not finished, so look for the team to add possibly a corner outfielder or 2B.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wire Check - 7/27/09


Ray Ratto wonders if T.O. wants Michael Vick in Buffalo. I don't think T.O. would be "happy" with the outcome. Vick's completion percentage has never surpassed 56% in a season and Vick's leading receiver has gone over 60 receptions once and it was tight end Alge Crumpler.

Kawakami's "what to watch in training camp" column for the Radiers and 49ers.

Crabtree and 49ers headed for contract deadlock?

David White breaks down the Raiders' defensive backs.


Scott Ostler. I haven't the words.

In case you haven't noticed, Billy Beane has been lauded for his Holliday trade. If you were paying attention, RT doesn't agree and neither does Rob Neyer.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wire Check - 7/24/09


Matt Holliday is now a Cardinal. Albert Pujols was having a huuuuuuuuuuge year and now he has potection? Wow.

This is it? You're the A's beat writer and local newspaper! Another reason why the newspaper industry is dying. It's sad when a commenter(EiO) has a better write up about the prospects than the beat writer. Your Oakland A's!

Between the Lakers and the Dodgers, Bruce Jenkins can't stand the LA success. I just look at the Dodgers fans' worship of Manny and laugh at the hypocrisy. I hope someone throws an E.P.T. on the filed next time the Dodgers are at AT&T.


The NFL Draft will now stretch over three days with round one being Thursday night and Matt Maiocco likes it. I bet the 49ers like having that extra pick in the first even more now.

Pre-camp Raiders' OL breakdown. Less than a week until football! Finally!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wire Check - 7/23/09


* Posey is at the top of the list of Untouchables for the entire league.

* The Giants need to stick with Romo because his stuff can be nasty.

* The chances of Holliday accepting arbitration with the A's is ZERO.

* Am I the only one who doesn't buy into this pressure of making $126 mm over seven years? Seriously, he goes to clubs and nice steak houses and is set for life. Trying to figure out how to feed a family and make rent is a LOT more pressure filled experience than trying to major league hitters out. I hate these articles.

* If you give up more than 10 runs to the A's in two of out of three games, you should be demoted to the National League.


* It really is amazing how much more excited we are to see Beckham fail than succeed. If it helps soccer, I am all for it.


* Michael Vick to the Niners or Raiders doesn't change the fact that both of these teams don't have a good quarterback.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Billy Beane: The Ultimate Steroid Benefactor

Nobody benefited more from the steroid era than Billy Beane.

As the steroid era continues to unravel, we continue to find more and more people that were guilty of everything from taking performance enhancing drugs to enabling the use of performance enhancing drugs. While many players (Bonds, A-Rod and Manny) have been rightly found guilty in the public’s eye through bloated numbers and body parts, others (David Ortiz, Johnny Damon and Pujols) have become guilty by association. The fans and media are failing to realize who the true winners were/are during and following the steroid era … the team executives.

Here’s a short list of executives who continue to be gainfully employed because they played See No Evil during the steroid era:

Brian Sabean:

Number of legitimate major league hitters drafted during tenure: 0
Number of home runs hit by Barry Bonds during tenure: 470

Brian Cashman: Andy Pettite, Roger Clemens, A-Rod, Jason Giambi, Kevin Brown …

Theo Epstein: The Red Sox might still be looking for their first World Series Championship if it wasn’t for Manny Ramirez. Don’t believe me? Ask the 2008 Red Sox how much they missed his clutch bat against the Rays. Furthermore, the Red Sox are having a real hard time scoring runs and need a hitter to keep the Rays and Yankees at bay this season. Guess what … the Red Sox miss Manny.

Billy Beane: keep reading …

Billy Beane has been the GM of the Oakland A’s since 1998 (the start of the mainstream steroid years) and his best years as a general manager came during the peak of steroid era (2000 – 2004). Some of Beane’s best teams had numerous confirmed steroid users (Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi and Miguel Tejada) and others that have not been confirmed guilty (Eric Chavez, Damon, Randy Velarde and Ramon Hernandez), but sure look guilty on paper and in press photos. After the success of Moneyball, Beane was seen as the god of baseball executives. He just knew a lot more about the game, how it worked and what stats were important to look for in a prospect compared to the mere mortals who were running other teams.

The truth is that Beane did a fantastic job with the A’s from 1998 through 2002. It was not his fault that steroid use was rampant throughout the league and he did a very nice job capitalizing on it. To say that he should have called a stop to the use of performance enhancing drugs would be hypocritical because everyone from fans to players should shoulder some level of guilt during the era.
However, the beginning of the end of the Billy Beane era arrived in 2002 when he and Art Howe made the unforgivable decision to start Barry Zito in the last game of the season so Zito could win the Cy Young award. As a result of this terrible decision, the AL Cy Young winner only pitched one game in the ALDS where the A’s would fall to the Minnesota Twins in 5 games.

(To be clear, if you consider yourself an A’s fan and do not remember this moment like it was yesterday, you are not an A’s fan)

Here are just a few of the poor decisions that Beane has made since October 2002:

* Signing Chavez to a 6 year, $66 mm contract in 2005

* Signing Esteban Loaiza to a 3 year, $21 mm contract in 2006

* Trading Dan Haren

* Trading Andre Ethier for Milton Bradley

* Not trading Bobby Crosby

* Not drafting a decent hitting prospect

* Signing older players in the twilight of their careers and not realizing the steroid era was basically over.

(I heard Billy Beane speak at a conference in 2007 and he must of said “we have to be smart to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees” about 1000 times. I have to admit he was right. The A’s and Rays are good proof that the smart teams can compete and the not-so-smart teams can’t. There is nothing more annoying to me than players and fans who continue to play the underdog card. NEWSFLASH: It is harder to be the favorite than the underdog! Also, the conference was in June and there is nothing like a GM doing guest speaking engagements while his team is in a downward spiral. Priceless.)

However, the worst decision that was made during the Billy Beane era wasn’t even made by him. In 2005, Lew Wolff (the majority owner of the team) gave Beane a minority stake in the team. While Wolff thought this move would motivate Beane it seems to have done the exact opposite. Beane was never going anywhere because he was too afraid of the pressure that comes with having a big pay role and high expectations. Now Beane has all the security in the world and only needs to answer to … himself.

(Beane is now free to do speaking engagements in June knowing full well his job is secure.)

Beane’s “moneyball” philosophy has failed has let him and, more importantly, A’s fans down. When it comes to drafting position players, the A’s have been nothing short of abysmal and the players (Ethier) that do blossom into major leaguers are often traded to other teams. Beane and Co. has a slightly better track record with pitchers but it is only recently that these draft picks are starting to show any signs of potential. Given his recent track record, there is no reason to think Beane won’t trade these pitching prospects away in a couple years just like he did with Huston Street.

Needless to say the A’s are on the verge of falling into a Kansas City Royals/Pittsburgh Pirates type abyss and there is no one more to blame than Billy Beane.

While players like Bonds and A-Rod have been ridiculed for their use of steroids and may not make the Hall of Fame because of it, Beane continues to receive high praise for what he did in the most tainted era in baseball. Many of his contemporaries started to build more stable franchises from within and are doing a decent job of proving they belong in this new era of baseball but the same cannot be said for Beane. While many of the most successful players have been ridiculed by the public and the media, Beane continues to reap the benefits of good work he did over 7 years ago and that is why nobody benefited more from the steroid era than Billy Beane.

Congratulations Mr. Beane, you are the big winner!

Wire Check - 7/22/09


Bruce Jenkins wins the Captain Obvious award for the day.

Kawakami takes a realistic look at the Giants trade market and he says the only realistic move is for Holliday. RT and I talked about Holliday on our last podcast and we agreed he would be good to rent and see how he plays at AT&T to possibly sign long term. I like Villalona, and he's young, but like Kawakami says, he's destined to be a 1B/DH.

In wake of the missed call at the plate to end the A's Twins slugest, Gwen Knapp says baseball doesn't need to expand it's instant replay. I tend to agree, unless it was the post season. I know I wanted a replay and fan interference in Game 6 in 2002, but that was mostly anger.

John Shea recaps Rickey Henderson's Hall of Fame legacy.

Interesting story about a couple who house San Jose Giants out of the kindness of their heart. Good read.


Matt Maiocco's list of most important players on the 49ers this season.

Kevin Lynch with an interesting blog entry about NFL players' weight.

The Silver and Black blog is back and looks at the Radiers QBs.

Meanwhile, Jerry Mac looks at the running backs.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wire Check - 7/21/09


* The A's pull of a huge comeback and nobody cares except for the Twins who got screwed on the last play of the game.

* I love how a team can lose 3 out of 4 games and score a total of 4 runs in the 3 losses and the story is about the bullpen not getting the job done. If your bullpen goes out there in a 3-3 game knowing full well the team has no chance to come back from a 2 run defecit in the late innings, how good do you think they are going to pitch!?


* Seriously, the Chronicle has two separate stories on Tom Watson this morning. Nobody cares about the British Open and they are going to write two articles two days after it is over. Keep up the good work.


* You know it is a slow day in sports when this is the main story.


* Rod Woodson is going to the Hall of Fame. How exciting!


* Let me be the first to tell you that Blake Griffin is not nearly as good as everyone thinks he is. Would you trade Randolph for Griffin? Either would I.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wire Check - 7/20/09


Kawakami's getting too much sun and it's causing him to think positively about the Warriors.

Anthony Randolph didn't win the Summer League MVP, but he will be a part of the Team USA camp.


Mike Lombardi begins his first year coaching breakdown with Mike Singletary. Pretty good read talking mostly diagnosing Singletary's coaching style and what he will need to work on.


Bruce Jenkins with some random first-weekend-of-second-half-thoughts, including Matt Holliday throwing Big Mac under the bus.

When you write for a San Francisco newspaper and you[or your editor] should know better than to title and article, "HALL OF FAME: Rice about to be inducted...." Raise your hand if you were expecting to read about Jim Rice. Yeah.

Sadly, Giants' majority owner, Sue Burns, passed away after a short battle with cancer.

Stiglich's Sunday leftovers from the A's best pitching performance of the season.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wire Check - 7/14/09


* In breaking news, the American League is better than the National League

* The Phillies rotation got downgraded today when they signed this man.


* While this Niners article is pretty boring, check out the HUGE picture of Ray Ratto - hilarious.

* Ironically, I didn't need any stats to know the Niners have a brutal schedule and no quarterback so they are going to be mediocre in 2009.

* Cam Inman (the man that brought you the Magic are going to beat the Lakers because Dwight Howard dunks hard) tells us that Matt Cassel owes the Raiders a referral fee for his new contract. Funny, I thought he might want to pay the fee to his teammate that knocked Brady out for the season or the Patriots for having an elite franchise or Randy Moss who might be the best receiver ever or the Patriots offensive line or Scott Pioli who will prove that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the reason the Patriots win Super Bowls and not the president. Of course, what do I know? I said the Lakers were going to win the Finals because they had a better team. We all know how that turned out.


* How many articles will we have to read about guys aspiring to be C.J. Watson until everyone starts to realize that C.J. Watson should not be in the NBA?

* You have to love Randolph and Curry playing together in the summer league. Do you think Belinelli is starting to get nervous about losing his title as best summer league player ever?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Is the Hall of Fame Missing a Branch?

I was going through the NFL Network’s America’s Game marathon on my DVR July 4th weekend, deciding which of the 48 hours of programming was worth recording. Truth be told, all the episodes were worth recording and I’ve added the America’s Game box set to my Christmas list because I couldn’t record them all. One of the first episodes I watched was the Super Bowl XI episode with the 1976 Oakland Raiders. What impressed me most were the highlights of Kenny “The Snake” Stabler throwing bomb after bomb to Cliff Branch. I’m a San Francisco native, but I wasn’t born until two years after Super Bowl XI. The Raiders had moved to Los Angeles by my football formative years, so there is a bit of a disconnect between me and those great Raiders teams. However, my mom was a Raiderette during the ‘60s and those ‘70s-early ‘80s Raiders were so good you’d think there would be some lingering tales of greatness, yet I don’t recall hearing much about Cliff Branch at all in my youth. Recently, I’ve heard my father-in-law talk about how Branch could catch anything (and the stick’em) and I would smile and nod politely, but really, I was clueless. I’d heard of other great Raiders from those ‘70s teams: Stabler, Upshaw, Shell, Otto, Tatum, Atkinson, Hendricks and Biletnikoff, but not Branch. The America’s Game 1976 Raiders episode piqued my interest and I decided to dig deeper and find out what kind of player Branch was why he isn’t in the Hall of Fame.

When I first looked up Branch’s stats I began to think the NFL Films editors had done their best to embellish Branch’s impact. Branch’s stats seemed rather pedestrian with a career high of 60 receptions and only 46 receptions in and All Pro 1976 season. In 2008, Ike Hilliard, Warrick Dunn and Brandon Stokely all caught more than 46 passes and I know how “good” those guys are. But, that’s the problem you run into when you compare different eras. In 1976, teams played a 14 game schedule with the average offense passing for 2100 yards while today’s schedule is 16 games and the average team gained nearly 3400 yards passing in 2008. In 1976, Branch’s 46 receptions were only good enough for 19th in the league, but he gained 1111 yards on those 46 receptions, one yard short of the league leader and more than doubling the yardage of Branch’s Hall of Fame teammate and Super Bowl XI MVP, Fred Biletnikoff. It was obvious that what separated Branch from his peers was his ability to create big plays over and over again. He was second in 1976 with an excellent 24.2 yards per catch and tied for first with 79.4 receiving yards per game. Cliff Branch was an impact player on a great team with numerous Hall of Famers on it, including two guys Branch was competing with for receptions, Biletnikoff and Dave Casper. Why was Branch left out of the Hall of Fame? Could it be the ever popular anti-Raiders bias? I don’t think so. Seven Raiders from the Super Bowl XI championship team are already enshrined in Canton. Maybe Branch was just really, really good, but not Hall of Fame great? I need to know how Branch stacked up against his Hall of Fame contemporaries.

The following table compares the statistics of Branch against 11 of his contemporaries in five categories: Receptions, Receiving Yards, Yards per Reception, Receiving Touchdowns and Receiving Yards per Game. I had a hard time deciding which players to compare. Offensive and defensive strategies constantly change over time in the NFL causing statistics to fluctuate. The decade before the AFL/NFL merger in 1970, the average team passed for 2,554 yards a season and the following decade (1970-1979) the average team passed for a slightly lower 2,250 yards per season. But, the next decade, 1980 through 1990 (not counting ’82 strike year), the AVERAGE team passed for 3,229 yards, almost 1,000 yards more than the previous decade. I want to compare players whose careers overlapped the same time period as Branch’s career, the 1970’s leaking into the early ‘80’s when passing increased significantly league wide.

Top 11 Career Leaders Receiving Yards plus Lynn Swann
Receivers drafted 1967-1975







Charlie Joiner(1969 -’86)*






Harold Jackson (1968 -’83)






Harold Carmichael (1971 -’84)






John Stallworth(1974 – ’87)*






Cliff Branch(1972 -’85)






Haven Moses (1968 – ’81)






Drew Pearson (1973 -’83)






Nat Moore (1974 -’86)






Ken Burrough (1970 -’81)






Isaac Curtis (1973 -’84)






Reggie Rucker(1970 – ’81)






Lynn Swann (1974 – ’82)*






* - Hall of Fame

The first thing I notice is the similarity of the elite receivers of this era. Nine of the twelve receivers gained between 7,000 and 9,000 yards. They all reached between 15 and 18 yards per receptions and gained 40-50 yards per game. Originally, I put Swann in the mix to show how low his career totals were, but his Yds/Rec, Tds/G and TD total help put perspective on the lesser receivers who played more seasons than Swann. Statistics will only get you so far on the road to Canton anyways. Extra-curriculars like Pro Bowls and Super Bowls are what separate the very good from the great. To try and pare down the list above and separate the elite from the very good, the next chart uses the same categories, but gives points for finishing top 10 in the league in a category, 3 points awarded for finishing in the top three and one point awarded for finishing fourth through tenth. I don’t know how to quantify Pro Bowl/All Pro selections or Super Bowl appearances other than just to list them let them speak for themselves.





100 yd

Top 10

Top 10

Top 10

Top 10

Top 10


Harold Jackson











Cliff Branch











Harold Carmichael










John Stallworth











Ken Burrough










Charlie Joiner











Lynn Swann*











Nat Moore











Haven Moses








* - Super Bowl MVP

Now, we start to get a clearer picture of which receivers were consistently performing at an elite level over multiple seasons. Swann played only nine seasons in the NFL including a non-descript rookie season and a strike-shortened final season, but his play was consistently better over a shorter career than Moore and Moses. Charlie Joiner had more than 2,500 yards receiving than his peers, but his consistency over a long career was also buoyed by an Air Coryell offense with Hall of Famers Dan Fouts and Kellen Winslow. Meanwhile, Branch is tied for the second most Pro Bowls among this group and he has most All Pro selections and an undefeated 3-0 Super Bowl record. You can’t underestimate the importance of the post season to Hall of Fame voters, either. Take Harold Jackson for example. He’s got over 10,000 yards receiving, 76 career touchdown receptions and thirty-one 100-yard receiving games, but he only played in 10 career playoff games and never reached a Super Bowl and is not in the Hall of Fame. Branch, on the other hand, had both regular season and post season success and his playoff numbers compare favorably with the two Steelers Hall of Famers.