Here is an early link to my Friday column about Trent Baalke. The full text runs below:
This is in praise of Trent Baalke.
No, not quite praise.
This is acknowledging Baalke did the proper thing. He must do more for full-on praise, do more to show he’s an upright, standup, moral human being. Lots of people in 49ers management need to do more. Baalke made a start for all of them.
On Wednesday, Baalke met with the media. The conditions of the meeting were important. It was a beat-writers-only meeting. I was not invited. That kind of beat-writers meeting is appropriate and necessary. Beat writers do the heavy lifting every day. They deserve special treatment and special access and special insight. Seven writers attended the session.
Where the meeting took place is important.
It did not take place in the big auditorium. It did not take place in Baalke’s office. It took place nowhere Baalke feels comfortable or in charge. The meeting took place in the writers’ workroom, a large room with cubicles for each writer and desks and electrical outlets for laptops.
Baalke ventured into the writers’ turf. I consider this significant. The way I understand power, you always want serious conversations on your terms. Al Davis never would have talked to writers in their room. Never in a million years. So, Baalke made himself vulnerable. That took guts.
He and the writers sat in chairs at the back of the room. The writers formed a semicircle around him. He was in the fish bowl. He answered all questions for almost 40 minutes. He explained himself. He felt the need to explain himself. He saw it as a job requirement.
The writers asked about Bruce Miller, arrested for battery against a woman. Baalke said the organization is investigating. He will have more to say when he knows more.
Fair answer. The comparisons to Ray McDonald are obvious and hurt the 49ers. But the comparisons are flawed. When Ray McDonald got into trouble for battery the first time — hard to keep the times straight — the Niners let McDonald play. Very bad. I wrote they should suspend him from games with pay. I am not writing they should suspend Miller from games because they are not playing games right now.
Writers asked Baalke why he signed Jerome Simpson, in trouble with the law several times.
Baalke said, “In everything we do, there is risk. We talked about this many times. It’s a risk-and-reward business. We’re not going to bring in people we don’t feel can live up to what we expect a 49er to live up to. But we’re also not going take everybody that has made a mistake in their past and take them off of our board. We’re just not going to do that.”
It may not be the answer you like — or I like — but it is an answer, a straightforward, reasonable answer. An intelligent answer.
Baalke even made fun of himself about first-round bust A.J. Jenkins — Baalke’s first-round bust in 2012. One writer praised Baalke’s draft acumen. “Minus one,” Baalke said. “You’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself in this business, don’t you?”
I don’t agree with Baalke on some things. Many things. I don’t believe the 49ers have a good plan for the team going forward. I am not saying Baalke has no plan. But, I doubt he has a good plan. We will learn the truth. Honest people can disagree about a plan. It’s part of sports and it’s part of life.
I don’t agree Colin Kaepernick will be a suitable quarterback. Ever. Here is the Kaepernick give and take from Wednesday:
Q: Why is he still so attractive to you as a quarterback?
Baalke: Do I really have to answer that? There are a lot of things I like about Kap, and there are a lot of things this organization likes about Kap. It’s really, I don’t want to say a foolish question, but I mean, the guy is a very talented football player. He can impact the game with his arm, with his feet, and he’s done it at a consistent level. We’ve won a lot of playoff games with him. He is our quarterback.
Please understand, I don’t agree with Baalke on Kaepernick. But he answered the question straight-on and explained his reasoning.
I don’t agree with Baalke considering free-agent Reggie Bush, a limited player and a limited person. “Great guy, great guy,” Baalke described him to the beat writers. I never can get over how Bush took down the USC football program.
Mostly, I don’t agree with making Jim Tomsula head coach. Good God. I assume Baalke played a part in this along with Jed York.
There is so much not to agree with.
But I agree with Baalke stepping forward in that close, quiet, windowless, over-lit writers’ room on Wednesday. I agree the 49ers need a face of the franchise. Harbaugh was the face. Harbaugh had grown into being the face — had a face lift? Harbaugh is gone.
The others lack sufficient dignity. Jed, who should be the leader, or at least one of the leaders, is close-lipped when he should talk, and talks when he should be close-lipped. He should be fined $1,000 every time he says “winning with class.” In a movie, someone would shove a pie in his face when he utters those dreaded words.
When he enters a media conference, Jed seems to have two or three memorized lines he uses over and over regardless of the question. He comes across insincere. He may be the most sincere person on Earth. But he comes across insincere and disingenuous.
Jim Tomsula the face of the franchise?
That leaves it to Baalke. That leaves the field, a necessary field, wide open to Baalke.
Is he big enough to assume the role?
I have no idea.
Did he do something important on Wednesday?
What did he do?
He did the right thing.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.