My Year in Golf

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I’ve been playing golf for maybe 20 years but didn’t start until after graduate school. (For those of you quickly doing math, that’s right, I’m old as hell. We’ll get back to this fact.)
I’ve bounced around in the “bummed if I don’t break 100, happy if I break 90” range for years, but decided towards the end of last year to set a goal. I’d worked my handicap down from about a 21 to a 19, and I thought a goal of 15.0 would be a good stretch target for 2018.
I knew based on some planned trips that I’d have a good opportunity to play a good amount of golf, and as things happen, I unexpectedly got a chance to play even more later in the year to work towards that goal.
Here’s the relevant stats:
Rounds of Golf Played: 43 — I have no way of tracking, but I’m fairly sure this is the most rounds I’ve ever played in a calendar year, and certainly the most in the last 15 years. 
New Courses Played: 21 — I always want to play courses I’ve never played before, and not only got to play some legendary courses this year, I also discovered a few courses not far from me that are quite fun and affordable. 
Average Score: 92.9 — This feels about right. Of late, I’ve been breaking 90 fairly regularly but it’s not nearly as frequent as it would have to be for this to be much lower. A good target in 2019 would be getting this down a few strokes. 
Best Score: 81 (personal best).  This was at Peacock Gap, my local course, and I started with five straight pars, then hit a rough patch for awhile and got it back on track on the back nine. When I’m playing decently, I try not to add up my score on the front nine as I don’t want to be thinking about my score when I need to be thinking about my shot. So glad I didn’t as I went 41-40. (By the way, after those five straight pars, I double-bogeyed the par-3 6th hole. I had another on the back. Even just bogeying those holes and I could have had a 79! Golf is stupid.) 
Worst Score: 106.  At Corica Park South, a gorgeous remodeled course in Alameda. It was so gross I’m not yet over it. 
My previous best score was an 86, several times. In the summer, I shot an 84 and was thrilled. Then, I left my job at the end of the summer, and was unemployed for about two months, during which I played a LOT of golf. Right towards the end of that period, I ended up shooting that 81.   
All of this helped lower my handicap from a 19.0 to … 15.0. Yep, that was my target, right on the nose. (It was down to 14.9 but a last minute round on December 28th knocked a good score out of the calculation. Alas.)
I collect ball markers when I play a new course. Here are the new courses I played this year:

And since we’re doing this, here is the list of courses I was able to play this year (some more than once), with an asterisk if it was the first time I’d played there, which should correspond to the ball markers above.  
  • Litibu Golf Club, Puerto Vallarta, MX *
  • Poppy Ridge Club, Pleasanton, CA
  • Avery Ranch Golf Club, Austin TX *
  • Grey Rock Club, Austin TX *
  • Plum Creek Golf Club, Austin TX *
  • Falconhead Golf Club, Austin TX *
  • Peacock Gap Golf Club, San Rafael, CA
  • Moore Park Golf Club, Sydney, Australia *
  • Indian Valley Golf Club, Novato, CA
  • Torrey Pines South, La Jolla, CA *
  • StoneTree Golf Club, Novato, CA
  • Monarch Bay Golf Club, San Leandro, CA
  • Castle Stuart Golf, Scotland *
  • Royal Dornoch Golf Club, Scotland *
  • The Golf House Club at Elie, Scotland *
  • Carnoustie Golf Links, Scotland *
  • Gleneagles Golf Club, Scotland *
  • Kingsbarns Golf Links, Scotland *
  • The Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland *
  • Royal Troon, Scotland *
  • The Ailsa Course at (cough) Turnberry, Scotland *
  • Corica South, Alameda, CA * (remodeled)
  • Oakmont West, Santa Rosa, CA *
  • Bennett Valley, Santa Rosa, CA *
  • Metropolitan Golf Links, Oakland, CA
  • Foxtail Golf North, Rohnert Park, CA
  • Mare Island Golf, Mare Island, CA
  • Hiddenbrooke Golf, Vallejo, CA
  • San Geronimo Golf, San Geronimo, CA
  • Half Moon Bay (Ocean), Half Moon Bay, CA *
  • Baylands Golf Links, Palo Alto, CA *
The trip to Austin was part of a normal boys golf trip we do each year and try to mix it up. However, this year was a big birthday year (50) for that crew, so we celebrated with the trip to Scotland which accounts for nine of the courses above and some of the very best golfing experiences of my life.  
The worst round of the year was obviously the 106, but what was even worse was I’d played the same course (Corica South, gorgeously remodeled what had been a very pedestrian muni track into a course I love…) less than a week prior and shot an 88. I not only had trouble off the tee, but ended up with 40 putts. 40 putts! I’m still considering seeing a therapist about it.
While the best round of the year was technically the 81, I’d have to say the best golf experience I had was playing The Old Course with three of my closest friends. The craziest part of the city of St. Andrews is that you can and do walk on or around the course when you aren’t playing. We’d spent days there, unsure whether we were going to have to camp out and get single tee-times (and play separately) … and at the last possible moment got a tee-time on our last day in town. A lot of memories made that day for sure. 
After considerable debate, the very best golf course I played was Royal Dornoch in Inverness, Scotland. I think if you lived nearby and had time, you could play it 3-4 times a week and depending on the wind and weather, play differently every day. 
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In 2019, I have one trip planned but otherwise it’s unsure how much golf I’ll be able to play, but I hope to get some more ball markers and memories, and perhaps a good score or two. 2018 will be hard to beat. 
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Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan

Manhattan BeachManhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three stars in some way feels charitable, but it’s hard to rate it worse than this … the writing is well done and I was interested throughout. And yet … it’s truly hard to know what I just read. This doesn’t feel like a Jennifer Egan novel at ALL, lacking both the modern setting and the dark, edgy tone that makes her other work so enjoyable.

I tried hard not to mentally compare this to Dennis Lehane’s THE GIVEN DAY, another historical novel in the early part of the 20th century that stands apart from the novelists other work…and I’ll continue to do that because MANHATTAN BEACH would be even harder to rate favorably.

Presumably the tale of Anna, her father and her father’s mob boss, the story weaves from the Great Depression to years after World War II. I don’t want to recite the plot back point by point, because what’s the fun in that? But I’m also a bit lost in what else to recap as I struggled to find a theme or a …. point to it all. So much felt unfinished or incomplete, or (and this feels harsh to write) just an idea not worth exploring as much as Egan did at the end of the day.

Still, I finished the novel and wanted to learn more. It wasn’t a satisfying end, but I didn’t hate it either. Hence, 3/5 stars feels about right. That said, and the end of the day this is a disappointment from a normally terrific writer.

View all my reviews

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

4 3 2 14 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paul Auster has been one of my all-time favorite novelists since I first read THE NEW YORK TRILOGY years ago (like…25 years? Cripes.) He’s one of the few writers who I still reflexively buy whatever he writes, even during a stretch that was – for me – somewhat uneven. (Mr. Vertigo and Timbuktu, I’m looking at you.)

Of late, he’s not only regained form with Brooklyn Follies and Sunset Park, but here, with 4 3 2 1, he may have written his best novel since Leviathan. This is the story of Archibald Ferguson … or rather, the four stories of Ferguson. In a Sliding Doors-esque sort of story, it is four versions of Archie’s life, each with overlapping storylines and similarities, but each quite different and unique. Each set of chapters (named 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4…and so on) cover roughly the same period of time for each version, and while it takes a moment or two to catch on to what’s happening, it’s the similarities and the differences that are so evocative and meaningful.

The first novels I read of Auster’s were almost existential and surreal, hovering in a recognizable reality but off in clever ways. Of late, he’s much more grounded in reality and aside from the structure of the book, this is very much in that realm.

Perhaps the only critique I have of the novel is that it’s quite long – not a bad thing on its own – but as such, when you get to one story, it brings up characters you haven’t seen in awhile and it can take some time to even remember who the heck they are. There is also a bit more focus around a campus protest (which runs through each version of Archie’s life) that seems like it should feel more important than it does, but these are minor quibbles.

In his 70’s, Paul Auster seems to be getting BETTER and that’s good news for everyone. HIGHLY recommended.

View all my reviews

Hope

So, the last few entries I seem to have written here were in the months before the debacle that was Election Day 2016. It’s still impossible to believe that Donald Fucking Trump is the most powerful man in the world, has the nuclear codes and everything else that goes along with being President. I am not going to re-litigate how legitimate of a President he is, only to say that the mere suggestion REALLY, CLEARLY bothers Trump, so even he suspects he’s a fraud.

Or, he knows he is. He’s just about the most insecure man I’ve ever seen in public and it’s a daily embarrassment to realize he represents my country.

But … then there was today. I flew out of the country yesterday, not because of the Inauguration, but it surely was a happy coincidence. I actually flew to Australia for work, and because of that, I took the redeye out so I actually DID see some of the pathetic display in D.C., most especially how nobody showed up, relatively speaking.

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This is the parade route, and … that’s not a lot of people.  And just in case you think this photo is from way before Trump and Pence walked the route … there’s this. Note that they AVOIDED the truly sparse areas, and yet this was part of their route. Look behind the bleachers – THAT’S THE WHITE HOUSE. Is there a more prime spot to see the parade? Maybe, but this is good seating and nobody wanted to be there. Because so few people like Trump its historic.

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And really, the only reason I give even half of a shit is that Trump REALLY cares about this.So much that he and his Press Secretary openly and brazenly lied about it – and the press called them on it.

So, I have some hope there.

c2v9tllweaycwjlBut where I also have hope is what happened today. Again, I’m about as far away from home today as is possible – but I logged into Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and almost every single post was of a friend or family member at a rally somewhere – Washington D.C., Oakland, Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere – and ALL of them were absolutely packed. Literally millions of people around the world.

You’ve seen the photos – hell, you may have been at one of the rallies – and despite what the right is trying to suggest, they were extremely peaceful, positive and absolutely hellbent on making sure the White House knows we’re not going to lie down like dogs (like most everyone did during GWB’s terms, something so horrible then and yet so much better than this joke).

The White House’s response to this INCREDIBLE display of freedom? Utter silence.

Remember the lie that the Republicans told about Obama going on an apology tour? Well, I’m in Australia for business but you can bet I’ll be apologizing for our President many times while I’m here. I’ll  never apologize for the display today – I’ll brag about it. And when I get home, I’m going to hug, high-five and praise all those who participated today. This is what makes America great, and no geriatric, racist misogynist with an inferiority complex is going to change that.

Facebook, good for something after all…

It was my birthday recently, and so I went to Facebook for the first time in a year to do my annual thanking of folks for their kind wishes…and while I was there, I of course looked around.

This was posted and since it’s been shared over 100,000 times I’m happy to do likewise here. The original author is Mark Amore, and here is the original post. I like it because it has links to so many things I want to have access to, and makes the points I wanted to make but didn’t do so as eloquently as Mr. Amore. Mostly, this is just a bookmark for me, but please enjoy as you see fit.

Listen, I’m not going to change your mind and you’re not going to change mine.

If Hillary’s emails bother you but the 22 million deleted emails during the Bush/Cheney administration – also on a private server – don’t, I can’t argue with that.

http://www.pbs.org/…/w…/web-video/missing-white-house-emails

If Benghazi bothers you, and the 13 embassy attacks during Bush (where 60 people were killed) doesn’t bother you, I have no argument for that.

http://www.politifact.com/…/prior-benghazi-were-there-13-a…/

If you think the Clinton’s running their charity (a charity with an “A” rating with CharityWatch.org, that has 88% of its contributions going out to charity and not overhead and has a higher rating than the Red Cross and United Way) is a conflict of interest, while having no desire to know where Trump’s money comes from – which is now from all foreign sources, because no US bank will loan him money anymore – AND if you had no problem with the conflict of interest with Dick Cheney running Halliburton and making BILLIONS during the war in Iraq, then I have no argument for that.

http://www.factcheck.org/…/where-does-clinton-foundation-m…/

https://www.charitywatch.org/…/bill-hillary-chelsea-cli…/478

If you have women and girls in your life who you want treated with respect and don’t have a problem with Trump’s rampant misogyny, I have no argument for that.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/18-real-things-donald-trump…

If you don’t find Trump’s praising of Putin and Kim Jong-un alarming, I have no argument for that.

http://abcnews.go.com/…/controversial-dictators-lead…/story…

If you’re OK with voting for someone who is against LGBT rights and has stated that his supreme court pick(s) could overturn marriage equality, I have no argument for that.

http://www.hrc.org/…/donald-trump-opposes-nationwide-marria…

If you have no problem with someone who has gone on and on and on about Bill Clinton’s infidelity while he has cheated on his first wife with his second and his second wife with his third, then I have no argument for that. ALSO, BILL CLINTON ISN’T RUNNING FOR OFFICE, HIS WIFE IS.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/8e31fe68-834a-11e6-a3ef-f3…

If the list of proposed Supreme Court nominees that Trump put forth doesn’t scare you enough to crap your pants, I have no argument for that.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/new-trump-supreme-court-l_b…

If Trumps history of racial inequality doesn’t bother you. I have no argument for that.

http://fortune.com/2016/06/07/donald-trump-racism-quotes/

If you have no problem when you hear Trump go on about how companies are shipping their jobs overseas and how he will stop this, while his suits are made in Mexico and his ties in China, I have no argument for that.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/how-many-trump-products-w…/

If Trump’s use of his charity’s funds to pay personal debts and buy paintings of himself don’t give you pause, then I have no argument for that.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/adc88f9c-7d11-11e6-ac8e-cf…

I you think that Trump’s a good businessman and will be good for our county’s economics, when knowing about how many of his companies failed, I have no argument for that.

http://www.rollingstone.com/…/donald-trumps-13-biggest-busi…

If the charges of fraud on Trump University and the scandal of his “donation” of $25,000 to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, after which she stopped her investigation into Trump University don’t bother you, then I have no argument for that.

http://www.newyorker.com/…/trump-university-its-worse-than-…

https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/trump-pays-irs-a-penalty-…/

If you buy into the smear campaign against Hillary and don’t get that so many on the right have – and have HAD – a hardon to get Clinton for what… 30 years now? And have spent MILLIONS of tax dollars to get her on something and have gotten NOTHING, NADA, ZILCH, ZERO. 30 years of half truths, lies and some bat shit crazy lies (my favorite being the one where she has killed so many people that it would make Hannibal Lector seem lazy!) repeated incessantly until the gullible and uneducated take it as truth, then I have no argument for that.

http://www.dailykos.com/…/6/…/1541728/-The-Thirty-Year-Smear

And if you think Trump is the better candidate, I have no argument for that either.

And the reason I have no argument with that? Because as I wrote earlier… I’m not going to change your mind, and you’re not going to change mine.
SO IF YOU HAVE A CONTRARY OPINION TO ANYTHING THAT I’VE WRITTEN HERE… POST IT ON YOUR OWN DAMN WALL!

We’ll have to agree to disagree.

Trumped

Think about all the things we already knew about Donald J. Trump. Imagine, if you will, if just ONE of them was true about Hillary Clinton. Or don’t bother with that – imagine any other election of either major party candidate and how any ONE of these things would be disqualifying:

  • Called for the deportation of people due to their religion, which among many other things, violates the very First Amendment in our Constitution.
  • Mocked a reporter for his physical disability, then pretended he didn’t even know the reporter despite having worked with him for years.
  • Pledged to deport 11,000,000 people living and working here without residency, via deportation squads, and then building a $25 BILLION wall and pretending Mexico will pay for it. (Hint: They will NOT do this.)
  • Filed for bankruptcy four separate times
  • Sued for fraud for the huckster scheme of Trump University
  • Proclaimed the judge in the Trump U case couldn’t possibly be fair because of Trump’s stance on Mexican immigrants and the fact that even though the judge was born and raised in Indiana, since he is of Mexican heritage, he’s inherently biased against Trump.
  • Picked a fight with a Gold Star family and suggested the mother wasn’t allowed to talk because of her Muslim heritage
  • Suggested that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination
  • Repeatedly lied about Muslims celebrating in the streets of New Jersey on 9/11
  • Secured a $150,000 grant from the city for 9/11 relief funds despite not having any related damage and supposedly being a billionaire
  • Suggested Vladimir Putin is a great leader, done interviews on Russian TV, asked Russian hackers to hack Hillary Clinton and so. much. more.
  • Said as President he might stop aiding other countries without them paying more for it, essentially turning the military into a mob protection racket.
  • Suggested it would be fine if Saudi Arabia, South Korea and other countries arm themselves with nuclear weapons. Later reportedly asked in intelligence briefing three times why we have nuclear weapons if we won’t use them.
  • Been married three times, and cheated on (at least) the first two wives with (at least) the women who would marry him next.
  • Has the worst combover and fake tan of any sentient life force known to man.
  • Stated that if his daughter wasn’t related to him, he’d probably date her because she’s so attractive.
  • Blamed victims of sexual harassment at work for not being stronger or finding a new job.
  • Said that former prisoner of war John McCain wasn’t a real hero, because he likes heroes who aren’t captured.

I could keep going on but I’m getting furious realizing how far this has gone with such an inept, morally bankrupt candidate for the leader of the free world.

cd8tprbTonight, things got much worse. Tonight, a video was released from about 11 years ago, where Trump is bragging to Billy Bush (really? Of all people, Mr. Trump, you sought to impress Billy Fucking Bush?) about trying and failing to sleep with a married woman on the show (while Trump himself was recently married and with Melania three months pregnant with their son) – and then, stated he needed a Tic Tac because he might just have to kiss an attractive woman, stating that as a ‘star’ he could just do what he wanted. Here are some choice quotes:

  • “I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married.”
  • “I did try and fuck her. She was married.”
  • “Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
  • “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

If you’d like to see the whole delightful thing, it’s all over but here it is on Deadspin.

Remember, evangelical Christians have overwhelmingly decided to support this piece of shit. Tonight, many leading GOP figures are stating that this is ‘inexcusable’ and repellant, etc. A few have even withdrawn their endorsement – perhaps more will follow suit.

a6zce9kI doubt that this is disqualifying. Nothing seems to be. What’s more, ballots are already mailed and people are voting. Some assholes have already voted for this guy.

Look, I know a LOT of people despise Hillary Clinton. I don’t think she’s extremely likeable (though I do think President Obama and Bill Clinton and Joe Biden all are, as a guideline). And I know there are many who have been convinced that she belongs in prison, has had people killed and sprinkles crispy baby flesh over her oatmeal each morning. But for sentient human beings who avoid the more ridiculous side of things, at the very least you can’t vote for this turd.

I honestly don’t know how I could look my wife and daughter in the face and tell them that I chose to vote for THIS guy to lead the country.

Trump Head.

So, I was reading this article about a potential plan to force a VP candidate onto Donald Trump at the convention – seems weird and unlikely, but hey, it’s vaguely interesting. The main picture in the article is by John Sommers II. The photo itself isn’t commented on directly but … just look at this:

trumphead_big

Yeah, so … if you don’t see it, here’s The Donald’s head blown up to a larger size in the right corner:

trumphead

I mean .. dude, give it up. Shave it all off and own your baldness. This is … super gross and sad and creepy and weird and lots of things that just don’t make me happy. (Also? It’s impossible for me not to think of the guys in his entourage with this same view – like prospective VP pick Newt Fucking Gingrich – who are just staring at this apocalyptic landscape of a head. That part makes me a bit happier, I suppose.)

Yuck.

For Dallas

This quote about the shootings last night in Dallas is both perfect and …tragic:

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black. So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the families of those killed tonight in Dallas — but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love—a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

Why is it perfect? Well, I’ll leave that up to you to determine.

Why is it tragic? Because I changed the quote. It’s not about last night in Dallas. The last line really reads:

So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King—yeah, it’s true—but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love—a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

Bobby Kennedy said this almost 50 years ago. We have a long, long history of racially motivated violence in our country and we’ve not done nearly enough about it.

When will it be time for change?

The Greatest Has Died. RIP, Muhammad Ali.

“I would like to be remembered as a man who won the heavyweight title three times. Who was humorous and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him. And who helped as many people as he could. As a man who stood up for his beliefs no matter what. As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.

And if all that’s too much, then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people. And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”

– Muhammad Ali

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In Which Trent Baalke Suddenly Looks Better

Trent Baalke

Is Trent Baalke a good GM?

It’s become fashionable on Twitter, Reddit and elsewhere to crap on 49ers GM Trent Baalke, and certainly there are plenty of examples to back up the claim that he hasn’t done a great job of late. (And they’re not all named A.J. Jenkins.) The 49ers roster is easily one of the worst in the league, suddenly, after being considered one of the deepest just a few short years ago.

The reason for that shift, of course, is not only did a bunch of high profile free agents leave for much higher salaries than the 49ers wanted to pay –Mike Iupati, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Alex Boone, but that was coupled with some key players retiring (some predictably, others not) like Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Chris Borland and Anthony Davis. Aldon Smith screwed up one too many times, and suddenly he was gone, too.

Look at those names for a second and realize that in two years, the team lost nine starters there (Borland being the possible exception there) and many of them have been or still were Pro Bowl level players. Regardless, losing eight or nine starters is a preposterous amount of turnover, and it’s a tall order to be able to handle that gracefully.

Still, a good GM prepares for this through draft and development – but here’s where Baalke got caught a bit with his pants down. In a true Catch-22, Baalke had built (and inherited) a team to mostly compete now – adding depth was smart but it wasn’t always with young players. The team was so strong in most places that he had to get creative in the draft in order to try and get new young prospects.

This was done in several cases by drafting guys to stash on the Injured Reserve list, essentially an extra roster spot with a player who was unlikely to play in that season anyways. Marcus Lattimore famously never played a down (but in my mind was still completely worth the late 4th round pick used on him). These gambles have thus far not really yielded anything of note on the field.

But that could change this season.

tttannnkkkTank Carradine played as a 4-3 Defensive End in college, but the team asked him to bulk up to play a DE in the 3-4 base defense the 49ers use. Even knowing he was out with an ACL, the team used their late 2nd round pick on him, making him by far the priciest “injury” player Baalke has drafted. He sat out his first year, while bulking up to a weight his frame isn’t built for, to play a position that in our scheme minimizes his biggest collegiate skill – rushing the passer. This was stated at the time as a way to prepare for Justin Smith retiring.

Unfortunately, the position switch didn’t work – perhaps that’s because Carradine just isn’t going to pan out. But this season, they’re trying him out where he has always made more sense, as a OLB in the 3-4 defense. With Aaron Lynch on the other side, an additional pass rushing threat fills a major deficit on the team. Carradine has shown flashes of his talent, and it seems the team is finally trying to put him in a position to succeed.


Brandon Thomas
was drafted at the end of the 3rd round and put on IR – before his injury (which happened in a pre-draft workout for the Saints), he was projected as late 1st or early 2nd round pick. Grabbing him where we did was on Draft Day considered pure larceny.

Brandon Thomas has yet to play a down in the NFL.

484454968-brandon-thomas-of-the-san-francisco-49ers-gettyimages(This picture is from a pre-season game.) Why is a complete mystery to me – his first year he was injured, but despite not being on the injury list he simply never played. Not a single beat writer ever mentions why, and it’s either that he just isn’t the same player anymore or he was in the doghouse with the coaching staff (since changed)…or something.

A change of coaching is not a bad thing for a player like this, and interestingly – though clearly because 2nd round pick Joshua Garnett was still back at Stanford – Thomas started with the 1st team in OTAs. Now, offensive line rotations in OTA’s doesn’t mean much – but he did so alongside Joe Staley, Zane Beadles, Daniel Kilgore and Erik Pears. The first three guys on that list are definitely projected starters, and Pears was last year (though hopefully not in 2016). If Thomas can get good snaps as a swing guard – or even just at one side if needs be – and start to show why he was such a high prospect, that would be HUGE for the line.

DeAndre SmelterOne of the flat out worst positions on the team is at wide receiver. Aside from Torrey Smith (who candidly is nobody’s idea of a #1 receiver), it’s a total toss up. And that’s where someone like DeAndre Smelter could take advantage. He projects as a potential Anquan Boldin replacement, and his size and relative speed have got to be tempting to Chip Kelly. Before his ACL injury, he was projected as a 2nd, maybe 3rd round draft pick – Baalke got him late in the 4th round instead. Smelter has a real shot to get a decent amount of snaps this year, and as a 6’3” receiver with gigantic hands, he can be that red zone target we’ve really lacked. Smelter highpointing some quick passes in the red zone? I’m in.

These are the real injury gambles still on the team and really all of them have a chance to show their stuff this season. What if, say, Tank Carradine shows up as a great situational pass rusher – and Smelter a reliable, physical receiver with tons of potential? Suddenly, Baalke is looking a lot better…right?

At this juncture, it’s not just about drafting but player development. For a lot of these guys in their 2nd or 3rd year, they’ve had new coaches every year as a 49er. Good players show up, but hopefully this is now a situation where they can really contribute.

The reality is that the team is unlikely to be very good this year, but we can surprise and more importantly, develop the young talent we do have so we can maximize next years offseason and target our other areas of need.

Here’s a quick, off-the-cuff thought on who could be the starters next season:

QB – Colin Kaepernick

RB – Carlos Hyde

WR – Torrey Smith

WR – Quinton Patton

WR – DeAndre Smelter

TE – Vance McDonald 

LT – Joe Staley

LG – Zane Beadles

C – Daniel Kilgore

RG – Joshua Garnett

RT – Trent Brown

LDE – Arik Armstead

NT – Ian Williams / Glenn Dorsey

RDE – DeForest Buckner

LOLB – Aaron Lynch

ILB – Navorro Bowman

ILB – Gerald Hodges/Jaquiski Tartt

ROLB – Tank Carradine / Eli Harold

CB – Tramaine Brock

CB – Jimmie Ward

FS – Eric Reid

SS – Antoine Bethea

I mean, maybe to other people that looks horrendous … but it doesn’t look that bad to me, to be honest. A couple of these positions – DL , S and CB, specifically – the team has some good young backups/rotations as well. (That actually also includes OL, where the team drafted liberally.)

With a good plan and coaching, this could be a very positive year for the team. It could also be another train wreck, because Lord knows the franchise is good at that, of late. And Jed York will almost certainly do something to make things worse. But, I think there’s something here … and it should be fun to watch.