Game on: Greinke sweepstakes begins

Not only is Colin Kaepernick a poor excuse for an NFL quarterback right now, but he’s also in denial, not to mention at odds with his coaches.

In his first public comments since his demotion last week, Kaepernick didn’t agree that he needed “step back and breathe,” as coach Jim Tomsula put it at the time. Blaine Gabbert will take his place against the Atlanta Falcons today.

“I’m not out of breath, so I don’t understand that reference,” said Kaepernick, who added, “They told me they were going to sit me, and that was the extent of the conversation. That decision is out of my control, and I respect their authority.

“I don’t believe in pressure. Pressure is not being prepared for what you want to do. To me, I’ve played full seasons and had success. Mentally, I’ve been through (adversity) before. I’m not incapable of going through this.”

Kaepernick also took exception with Geep Chryst’s recent critique of him. The offensive coordinator believed Kaepernick had played tentatively since the third game of the season, when he threw four interceptions against the Arizona Cardinals, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

“I don’t believe that’s accurate,” Kaepernick countered. “Every time I step on the field, I step on the field to make plays, so that’s just a matter of opinion.”

The numbers suggest something else. Since the one-sided loss against the Cardinals, Kaepernick has thrown only one interception but has been sacked 20 times in five games, the sign of a guy who’s afraid to throw the ball because of a lack of trust in his teammates or coaches or both.

GAME ON FOR GREINKE: The Major League Baseball season is five months away, we’re told, but don’t believe it. Next season arrived at 12:01 a.m. Saturday — the free-agent season — and as it concerns the Giants, the bidding war starts with pitcher Zack Greinke and very well may end there.

As the plum of the free-agent pie, Greinke has the potential to shift the balance of power in the NL West, if not the National League itself, in the next few weeks. He says the rival Los Angeles Dodgers remain his first priority, and at first blush, the feeling appears mutual. Like the Giants, the Bums have an elite left-hander in Clayton Kershaw but little else they can count on in their rotation.

But do the Dodgers want the 32-year-old pitcher enough to resign him for, say, $200-something million over the next seven years? Or even $150 million over five? As historic as his 1.66 earned run average was last season, Greinke can’t possibly get better. Yet those are the type of numbers that he has in mind. When one considers that a past-his prime Jon Lester was offered a six-year, $155-million deal one year ago, he’ll probably get something close to $30 million per season, too.

The Dodgers have the resources to give Greinke whatever he wants pretty much — their $8-billion local television deal dwarfs that of the Giants and almost everyone else. But under operations chief Andrew Friedman, their focus has moved toward metrics and the farm system. Oh, the Dodgers will continue to spend like crazy, all right, but they’re less likely to commit the kind of monstrous longterm deals that blew up in their faces over the years.

While the Dodgers remain the favorites in the Greinke sweepstakes, their shift in philosophy allows the Giants to get in the game. The contracts of Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and others will take nearly $50 million off the books. Furthermore, they scored a major victory in the recent voters’ approval of the Mission Rock development plan, which will be a haven for their fans and result in even greater finance gain.

(And while Balls is at it, wouldn’t free agent Yoenis Cespesdes look mighty good in left field, too?)

A lot can and will happen in the next few months, but if Greinke stays put, it’s hard to like the Giants’ chances next season. If the Chicago Cubs lock up David Price as heavily rumored, that leaves Johnny Cueto and little else. Scott Kazmir, Mike Leake, Jeff Samardzija and Jordan Zimmermann aren’t true No. 2 starters by World Series standards, but because of the shortage of marquee names, most if not all are sure to receive generous offers.

It’s time for the Giants to roll up their sleeves, step to the plate and swing from the checkbook.

WE CAN’T HEAR YOU: So what does Trent Baalke do for a living, anyway?

Apparently,  Chryst would like to know himself. It didn’t receive much publicity the other day, but in so many words, Chryst suggested that the general manager set up Kaepernick and the team to fail with his inability to maintain a competitive roster in recent years.

“We know that the 2012 team that he stepped into the huddle with had a lot of really nice characteristics,” Chryst said. “And it probably – I don’t want to say ‘years in the making’ – but (Kaepernick) showed up in 2011 and walked into the huddle in 2012. Some of those elements had been put in place, in terms of the o-line, in terms of the defense, in terms of the stability he walked into.

“In 2015, we know in the NFL, the roster will churn, what, 30 percent every year, it seems like. Well, here we are, a couple years down the road, and we still have some core elements from that 2012 team, but there’s a lot of pieces that are new.”

Chryst hasn’t gotten much right himself this season, but he sure did nail this one.

SIGHT SEEN: To understand why the Warriors’ Stephen Curry is the real Most Valuable Player, one only had to watch him after practice the other day.

For about 15 minutes, Curry worked with consultant Steve Nash on how to rub off defenders on high screens, which Nash did better than any guard in his playing days.

That took place after Curry swished his customary 100-plus jump shots from around the arc. After virtually every one of his teammates had headed to the showers.

THE LIST: Balls’ can’t-miss picks against the spread for Week 9 of the NFL season: 
Denver Broncos (-3) at Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning returns to Indy, but the defense steals the show. 
Green Bay Packers (-3) at Carolina Panthers: The Broncos made Aaron Rodgers look bad last week. And Aaron Rodgers doesn’t like to look bad.
New York Giants (-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The G-men were toasted for 52 points last week. The only way the Bucs can score 52 is in an intrasquad game.
Tennessee Titans at New Orleans Saints (-9 1/2): What will Drew Brees do for an encore after seven touchdown passes? Probably only three TD passes.    
Washington Redskins at New England Patriots (-13): Next NFL investigation: How did the Patriots get so many bye weeks?
Last week: 3-2. Season 28-12 (.700).

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