Young Bay Area stars Kaepernick, Sandoval still need to prove their worth 

click to enlarge Pablo Sandoval
  • AP Photo/David Zalubowski
  • San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval warms up before facing the Colorado Rockies in the first inning of a baseball game in Denver on Monday, April 21, 2014.
Two young stars, Pablo Sandoval and Colin Kaepernick, are seeking new contracts. So far, the Giants and 49ers have resisted. I think that’s wise.

The Giants are in danger of losing Sandoval if they don’t sign him to a new contract before the end of the season. There are surely teams with deep enough pockets to grab him. One of them is fewer than 400 miles south.

The Giants’ position has been that if Sandoval shows he merits a huge raise, they’ll sign him to that contract before the season ends. Right now, it’s by no means certain that he’ll be worth it.

When he declined precipitously last season, his expanding waist line was thought to be the problem. Certainly, it made a significant difference in the field because he could no longer bend for ground balls or move very far.

But did it affect his hitting? There have often been hitters who were effective despite being hopelessly overweight.

That includes some stars. Hack Wilson was shaped like a beer barrel, fittingly enough, when he hit 56 homers with 191 RBIs in 1930. Those 191 RBIs still stand as a Major League Baseball record.

Even Babe Ruth, who was in good shape at the start of his career, put on considerable weight, which hurt him as a fielder and on the base paths but didn’t stop him from hitting prodigious and frequent home runs.

So Sandoval’s hitting problems may simply be that pitchers have figured him out.

Oddly enough, that may mean throwing strikes. He’s been a noted bad ball hitter in his career, but he may be having problems with fastballs on the inside part of the plate. Pitchers have always done intense study on hitters — and vice versa — and there are now many more videos they can study.

He’s a long way from the hitter who slammed three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series. His slump has now extended from the second half of last season to the start of this one. As beloved as he’s been by Giants fans, they may have to soon face life without him.

The 49ers, on the other hand, have the benefit of having much more time to make a decision on Kaepernick. He has another year to go on his contract and they’ll let that ride for another year because giving him a new contract now could wreak havoc with their salary cap situation.

Kaepernick has often made spectacular plays, but his judgment in the red zone is not good, especially in the most critical situations. In the Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens, he threw three straight incomplete passes into good coverage.

In the NFC Championship Game in January, he challenged Richard Sherman, the NFL’s top cornerback, on what became the final play of the game. Sherman tipped the pass and a teammate grabbed it in the end zone.

Perhaps he’ll learn to play under control, but until he does, the 49ers will be wise to avoid a long-term commitment.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at glenndickey36@gmail.com.

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Glenn Dickey

Glenn Dickey

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