Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Talent will out

When an athlete trumps the experts, take notice.

The Padres' Mat Latos, for example. In the summer of 2010, Latos trucked along as the best pitcher in all of the majors or close to it, despite being only 22 years old. Only two years earlier, Latos was known as an immature hothead who couldn't say healthy.

Cam Newton is on a similar joyride for the Carolina Panthers, months after several pundits labeled him a likely bust.

Newton was too raw at reading defenses, the football men said. Skeptics croaked doom after watching Newton labor in explaining to ESPN's Jon Gruden how he called plays for Auburn. 

"Old School" football men saw Newton's grounding in the spread offense as another obstacle.

So far -- and it is still early -- they're all wet.

Newton is one of the NFL's more promising quarterbacks. He's reading defenses, hitting targets near and far and limiting mistakes. Few rookies are more exciting.

For what it's worth, a quarterback guru on the West Coast isn't surprised by Newton's glow. Norv Turner gleaned in August that Newton was on the verge of surprising the outside world.

Turner had inside information. Carolina's offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, was Turner's assistant head coach with the Chargers in 2009-10. Turner's son, Scott, is on the Carolina staff, which is headed by another former aide to Turner, Ron Rivera.

"Listening to those guys talk in August in visiting with them, no, I'm not surprised by what he's done," Turner said.

Nor did Turner get fogged by Newton's affiliation with the spread offense.

"People are too caught up in systems," he said. "Good players are good players. They play in a system. The best players I've been around can play in any system you want to put them into. Sometimes, there might be a little bit of an adjustment. But over the long haul, guys that are good players are going to be fine."

I don't want to stretch Turner point here; nevertheless, it's a point worth remembering when discussing the distinctive challenges of Petco National Park and player development in baseball. Good players are going to be fine.

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