The magic returns to The Nett as Chico State sweeps Menlo

The sample size is small but the early returns point to an exciting and fruitful 2016 Chico State Wildcat baseball season. Behind two walk-off wins and improbable comeback from six runs down the Wildcats served notice that the 2015 season appears to be an aberration, a mere blip on the screen in their storied and historic run.

After Friday’s 1-0 walk-off win over a very good Menlo College squad the Wildcats were pushed to the limit on Saturday in the first game of a double-header. Menlo jumped on the Cats early and often in the first game scoring two runs in the first and 5 more in the second. Chico found themselves down 7-1 in the 2nd. By the fifth it was 9-3, and the deficit seemed insurmountable in the 7th after Cal Berkeley transfer Lucas Erceg slugged a home run to right giving Menlo a 10-4 lead in the 7th.

With hope waning Chico State summed up some old Nettleton Stadium magic. The Cats would score two in the 7th and then four runs with two outs in the 8th highlighted by a Josh Falco bases clearing double to tie the game at 10. The game almost slipped away in the top of the 9th after a one out error allowed the Oaks to grab an 11-10 lead. Chico had the tying run on third with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the 9th, only to have Erceg air-mail a 1-2 pitch to the back-stop allowing the tying run to score.

In the bottom of the 10th, after a single and two walks, the Wildcats Dillon Kelley would hit a ground ball in the hole, Menlo got the force at second but the return throw to first was late setting off a wild celebration and improbable 12-11 win.


The Chico State Wildcats would win the night-cap 8-1 finishing off a fantastic weekend for the Wildcats.

In 2015 the Wildcats finished under .500 for the first time in 21 years. The autopsy from the disappointing season revealed that the Wildcats were lacking some key components that leads to success between the lines.

First, the Cats had virtually an entire roster that under-achieved from their 2014 West Region Championship. Second, the club lacked the necessary depth to withstand pro-longed slumps from key players. And lastly, the Wildcats needed to canvass their squad with players that mimicked the teams of Wildcats’ past. Chico State baseball isn’t about playing perfect baseball. Wildcat baseball is about playing the game with a laser like focus and belief that you will somehow find a way if you “GRIND” it out. Grinders……..Chico State had lost that identifier in the 2015 season. On the recruiting trail, the Cats needed to find a bunch of players that would throw caution to the wind and play the game with a joy, fervor, passion and belief that made us all believers again.

As I said, it’s the smallest of sample sizes. It’s a long season, there will be highs and invariably there will be lows, but when a group of players are all pulling in the same direction and play with passion and selflessness good things happen. This weekend showed the Wildcat faithful that is all is well in Wildcat Land. They showed us……

it’s OK to believe again.

*PHOTO AND VIDEO COURTESY OF CHICO STATE ATHLETICS AT CHICOWILDCATS.COM

Dodgers sign Kendrick: Forgive me for feeling less than satisfied

 

It is being robustly reported that my beloved Los Angeles Dodgers have signed free-agent second baseman Howie Kendrick to a two-year 20 million dollar deal. I am thrilled. I have always loved Howie and what he brings to the table. He is the consummate professional hitter. I will say this, his professionalism better border on extra-ordinary if this team is going to make noise in the NL WEST.

I have been purposely silent during these winter months. One could say I have been hibernating, but that would not be true. Because whatever sleeping I have been doing pales in comparison to the Dodgers brain trust and their malfeasance.

Let me be PERFECTLY CLEAR. I fully support the Dodgers NOT giving Zack Greinke 6 years and 206 million dollars. I fully support the Dodgers not signing Jeff Samardjiza for 90 million dollars and Johnny Cueto for the 100 plus million he signed for with the Hated Ones. Let the Giants rebuild their rotation with Johnny”I had a 9 ERA in September and couldn’t pitch on the road in the post-season” Cueto. And with Jeff “I gave up the most hits, the most runs and the most home runs of any pitcher in baseball” Samardjiza. Best of luck Hated Ones. I applaud Friedman, Zaidi, Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy, Rockefeller and whomever else resides in the Dodgers front office. Great job.

Secondly, I love stock-piling young talent and the Dodgers have gone from a bottom-five minor league system under McCourt to having gold-plated toilet seats up and down their minor league system. The Dodgers have stock-piled power arms galore. They didn’t need to spend big money on the Greinke’s of the world because Jose DeLeon and Julio Urias should be tipping their hats to an appreciative Dodger Stadium crowd by mid-July. Kudos to the brain-trust for the accumulation of talent.

Now, the reason for my angst.

I will not deny that a lot of my frustration and edginess stems from the bitterness of watching the Giants win three titles in five years. I live in Northern California and have to hear from these people all the time. Their haranguing is nauseating. I deserve it. As I’ve said, my mouth after the 2002 World Series wrote checks that are now being cashed. Ok, got that out-of-the-way.

I look at the Dodgers and I see an imperfect assemblage of what a baseball team should look like. Freidman and company  can assemble all the talent they want but so far they are content with a team that doesn’t generate runs unless the ball sails into the seats, and either can’t or doesn’t want to move runners with productive outs or selflessness at the plate. This “philosophical” abyss is what cost the Dodgers Game 5 of the NLDS. People can point to Corey Seager not covering third base, but the true crime of that loss was the Dodgers seeing 57 pitches with runners in scoring position and not producing one run. This team is devoid of situational awareness. Now, a ton of the blame deservedly falls at the feet of former manager Don Mattingly and released hitting instructor Mark McGwire. The Dodgers were horrific at situational hitting during the regular season, there was not reason to believe that would change when the pressure is ratcheted  up.  I loved what I heard from Dave Roberts after he got the job. He is a believer in stealing bags, hitting and running and sees value in “small ball.” As Denzel would say, “My Man.”

The signing of Kendrick gives the Dodgers a great bench. What they don’t have is a lead-off hitter, an influx of contact hitters and right-handed power. It’s a line-up that strikes out too much and doesn’t have much speed. So, while Roberts may philosophically be my kindred spirit, he may not have a ton to work with as the Dodgers try to shape themselves into a team that can actually win something in October.

The starting rotation does not bother me as much as it bothers some. I like Scott Kazmir. I like the Kenta Maeda signing. And, if Hyun-Jin Ryu is healthy by June I really like the rotation, especially with the kids waiting in the wings. What is unforgivable is the Dodgers going into the 2016 season with virtually the same bullpen as last year. Yes, I know they had a deal for Aroldis Chapman that fell through when the world learned he likes to fire 8 gunshots into the wall of his garage while his girl-friend cowers in the bushes. Again, I applaud the Dodgers from walking away from Chapman. From a baseball perspective it hurts, from a human perspective….screw that guy.

I’m sorry I have no faith in Pedro Baez. If I see this one pitch wonder in another leveraged situation again…….Chris Hatcher needs to show me more than six weeks of effectiveness. And, the Dodgers continue to tout Joel Peralta who seems to lose velo on his fastball by the pitch. Have the Dodgers paid attention to the last five World Series champions ? They have all had stellar bullpens with power arms or nasty slider strike throwers. Now is the time in the story when I lament the Dodgers not backing up the Brinks truck for Andrew Miller……..but I digress.

The baseball philosophy must change. The approach must change. The bullpen needs to be reborn. Until this is all put in motion, I will applaud the Kendrick signing, only to stop realizing that Baez and Hatcher have only one serviceable pitch and they will be asked to get outs in the 7th and 8th innings.

Someone get me some Maalox…..

Hall of Famer Pat Gillick on the BitOBaca Show…..

We had a chance to talk to Hall of Famer, Butte County native and co-owner of the Chico Heat Pat Gillick today. We chat about the return of summer baseball to Chico, plus his continuing work with the Philadelphia Phillies in trying to rebuild their organization……

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*header photo courtesy of the Chico Orion*

Chico continues their excellence on the road with big win over Humboldt

By Mike Baca

Photo courtesy of Chico State Athletics

The challenge was clear for the Chico State Wildcats men’s basketball team on Thursday night. Slow down that Humboldt State offense or pay the price. With a stingy defensive performance and domination on the boards, the Wildcats knocked off their rivals to the north 86-68 winning the first of at least two installments between the long-time antagonists.

From the outset the Wildcats made it clear that closing out on the Jacks potent three-point shooters and face-guarding would be the order of the day. Aside from a 6-to-7 minute stretch in the first half, the Cats executed Greg Clink’s defensive game plan perfectly. They challenged Lumberjack shooters, forcing them to beat the Cats off the dribble. Chico’s confidence in their back-side rotations was paramount in this strategy. They knew they would pay a price for these hard close-outs, but the result would be a contested two point shot rather than a wide open 22 footer, which Humboldt has been hitting with regularity.

The rebounding advantage for Chico State was one of the biggest surprises of the night. Chico decimated the Jacks on the boards, out-rebounding the hosts 45-21, grabbing 18 offensive rebounds which led to 25 2nd chance points.

Chico is now 8-1 on the road this year.

Coming into the game Chico knew Rakim Brown, Malik Morgan and Thomas Witzel were major impediments. The Cats held Brown to 12 points, 8 below his season average. Morgan was forced into an uncharacteristic 7 turnovers and Witzel, a 43 percent three-point shooter, was only 1-for-6 from deep and scored only 11 points to go with 4 boards.

Chico’s offense clicked at a rhythm and pace that gave them every opportunity to get good shots. An emphasis for the Wildcats over the last few weeks was to not just take the first good shot they saw. Instead show the patience to get a great shot. Since a sub-par performance against Sonoma on Dec 19th the Wildcats had been grading their shots. They are now in constant search for Grad A shots. They are not going to settle for Grade C’s or even B’s. Head Coach Greg Clink is insisting on Grade A shots and Chico was nearly flawless in that department on Thursday night.

Despite 18 turnovers, Chico State displayed a disciplined approach that met Clink’s criteria. Robert Duncan scored 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Tanner Giddings dazzled again with 17 points and 10 rebounds and Isaiah Ellis scored 14 points and grabbed 6 boards. Drew Kitchens chipped in with 11.

It was as complete a performance by the Wildcats that we have seen all year in one of the biggest games against a long-time rival. This certainly is not the time for Chico toot their own horn. Awaiting the Cats on Saturday is perennial power and co-tenant of first place in the CCAA, the Cal Poly Pomona Broncos. Another in a series of big games in this 2015-2016 campaign.

Defense again will rule the day as the Broncos are the best team in the CCAA giving up only 60 points a game. Offensively things will not come as easily for Chico on Saturday night, but with one road scalp already in their pelts, they look to sweep the road-trip and get the 2016 calendar year started right.

Browns MUST tank against Pittsburgh to ensure Goff is QB of future

Browns Dawg

If the Cleveland Browns want to correct recent wrongs and get better their path is clear. They need to lose this weekend.

The Browns need to lose this weekend to their arch-rival Pittsburgh Steelers. While this is sacrilegious for any Cleveland fan to embrace, hear me out. A win this weekend could drop the Browns from, at worst, the second overall selection in the NFL Draft to the fifth spot in the draft. For the Browns to get the player that I think they should target (Jared Goff from Cal) they must crumble against a motivated Steelers team that must win and get some help to get into the post-season. If the Browns have the number two pick in the draft, and Tennessee sits at number one, the Browns have no worry since the Titans have Marcus Mariotta and won’t be looking in Goff’s direction. A loss this weekend ensures Goff lands in the Browns laps.

With every fiber of my being I can’t stomach hoping the Browns lose to Pittsburgh. But, I am a big picture guy and the Browns big picture is a messy, convoluted mess of mis-judgements, hard headed-ness and plain swings-and-misses in the player evaluation process.

Those close to the Browns anticipate Ray Farmer will be relieved of his General Manager duties after Sunday’s game. This move is necessary. It’s actually vital. Farmer’s tenure has been one of the most injurious in the history of the franchise. The Browns were bad for a long time before Farmer was handed the keys to the franchise, but never have we seen a GM handed so many multiple first-round selections and completely muff them. Farmer has made mistake after mistake in the draft. His disastrous 2014 draft which netted complete bust Justin Gilbert at number eight and Johnny Manziel at 22 will go down as his worst. The Browns needed a wide-receiver in the 2014 draft after learning that Josh Gordon would face suspension for drug infractions. Instead of picking Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins or LSU’s Odell Beckham, the Browns went with Gilbert, a Missouri defensive back with kick return capabilities. Never mind the Browns already had a shut-down corner in Haden or a returner in Travis Benjamin. An inexcusable mistake.

The jury is still out on 2015 first round selection Danny Shelton. Much was expected and little has been returned. I advocated the Shelton selection and am not ready to declare him another bust.

One thing is clear, the Manziel experiment should end. The Browns can not depend on Manziel staying clean and being the leader the franchise needs him to be. I have no problem having Josh McCown leading the club in 2016. Let’s be honest, McCown is the least of the Browns problems.

Their run defense is a sieve. Their secondary is aging. Their linebacking core is average at best. Cleveland’s wide receivers may be the worst collective unit in the game. Their running backs are pedestrian and their special teams has allowed four field goals to be blocked  this year, including a game-winner against the hated Ravens.

This franchise needs a lobotomy. Farmer needs to be the first domino to fall. The Browns need to select Cal quarterback Jared Goff with the first round selection. But, to guarantee that, Cleveland needs to (gulp) lose to the Steelers this weekend.

Do I trust the Browns to do the right thing ? What do you think ?

Trusting Friedman is not the easiest thing to do

There is a lot of uneasiness in Dodger-land these days as the Boys in Blue await the decision of free agent pitcher Zack Greinke. The two teams vying for his services are rivals; the Dodgers and Giants. The longer this thing drags on you have to think the worse it could be for the Dodgers.

Greinke is being courted hard by San Francisco. Ken Rosenthal reported on the MLB Network today that Buster Posey and Bruce Bochy met for the 3.5 hours with Greinke last week. No one is talking about the offers Greinke has fielded but several reports have the Giants offer as “aggressive.”

All while this takes place the Dodgers have been announcing the hiring of new manager Dave Roberts and hopefully negotiating hard to keep Greinke in Dodger Blue. But, none of us know since there is radio silence.

Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman has not had the easiest or most successful first year as the leader of the franchise. On one hand he did what almost every Dodger fan wanted him to do and that was keep the superb young talent in the Dodger system. Those of us who are not members or our lunatic fringe fan base did not want to see the kids traded for a quick fix.

While he was getting skewered nationally for not entering the Cole Hamels or David Price sweepstakes at the trade deadline, I was actually encouraged by his reticence not to trade the kids for  a rotation addition that wasn’t a pressing need at the time. It turned out Mat Latos was a disaster and Alex Wood was average and the lack of depth in the rotation certainly hurt, but wasn’t the primary reason the Dodgers were sent packing in the first round of the playoffs. Make no mistake, the Dodgers lost in the playoffs because they couldn’t generate runs. They couldn’t play small ball and that should change with their new field manager.

Now as we approach the Winter Meetings in Nashville the task of strengthening this Dodger team is more difficult and a lot more treacherous than many might think for Friedman. First, if he loses Greinke to the Giants. God help him. In my opinion it would completely shift the balance of power in the National League West. Greinke is the lynch pin for the Dodgers, which should scare the hell out of everyone right now because with the Dodgers resources, if he hasn’t signed already with Los Angeles then the deeply analytical and thoughtful Greinke could possibly be thinking this isn’t the place for him (pure nervous conjecture on my part.) If Los Angeles isn’t the place for him than San Francisco most assuredly will be……..disaster.

When Friedman was brought in to run the organization and Farham Zaidi was brought in as the General Manager it was believed these young statistical geniuses would finally have some dollars to play with as they built a dynasty with their unique vision for Los Angeles. This may be true, but I also believe owner Mark Walter and the Guggenheim Group also told them to get the finances in order. Guggenheim needed to bring credibility back to the franchise while they negotiated their record TV deal in 2012. They did that. Now it’s time to quit paying people NOT to play for the team. So, who better to do it then two small market guys in Friedman and Zaidi who were use to pinching pennies.

The problem is the Dodgers have been too busy saying “no” to their peers in other front offices around the league and eventually they will have to start saying “yes.” It may be time to start trading some prospects to bring back some proven talent that can get this team over the hump. It may be time to make De Leon or Holmes available in an Aroldis Chapman trade. It may be time to look at trading the mercurial Yasiel Puig if he can net a Shelby Miller or Carlos Carrasco. It may be time to completely eat the salaries of Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier as they are both horribly overpaid and are clogging up the outfield. Certainly a line can be drawn of players the Dodgers will not and should not trade. But, the Dodgers need to start exploring ways of getting better that doesn’t involve the Jim Johnson patch-work deals we saw this year.

As you see it’s a difficult proposition for Friedman. He was handed the keys and he had a C-minus type of season. His two worst mistakes were the Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy signings, after Anderson accepted his option, those two deals will cost the Dodgers 76 million dollars. 76 million dollars for 4th and 5th starters AT BEST. Awful deals. The Dodgers were an imperfect assemblage of talent and its Friedman’s job to make the pieces fit, all while trimming long-term dead money but also investing in players that can serve the franchise into the future, but not too far into the future where they hamstring the team. Not easy.

It is unfair to bury Friedman after one year of questionable decisions. He didn’t adequately address the bullpen last year and it was a weakness once again. This year he can right-the-wrong by wrestling Chapman away from the Reds for prospects and signing the flavor of the month Darren O’Day as a free agent. If the Dodgers lose Greinke, they may HAVE to make those moves, shortening the game and giving them a lights out 7th, 8th and 9th inning option.

Lastly, if the Dodgers keep Greinke it will be in the neighborhood of 6 years and 210 million dollars with another OUT-clause. That is roughly 65-70 million dollars for two pitchers (Kershaw and Greinke) that couldn’t get you out of the first round the past two years. That is exactly why the Dodgers will need to get another quality starter, not knowing the health of Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy for next season. Whether it is Jeff Samardjzia, Mike Leake, John Lackey or a trade for a Carrasco, Shelby Miller or Chris Sale. The Dodgers will need to add to the back-end of their rotation.

When I look at the Dodgers I see way too many question marks. Do they sign Greinke ? If they don’t who do they sign ? If they do, who do they sign ? How do they rectify the log-jam in the outfield ? Is the real Joc Pederson the guy we saw before the All-Star break or after ? What do they do at second base ? What arms and how many arms do they bring in to solidify and finally strengthen a bullpen that has been an albatross for years ? Does their philosophy change under Dave Roberts ?

Three straight division titles, yet we all feel so unfulfilled.

Sleep well Andrew Friedman, you are going to need it

 

Pleasant Valley breaks 17 year title drought

On today’s BitOBaca Show we broke down Pleasant Valley’s amazing 2015 season with Chico Enterprise Record sports-writer Joseph Shufelberger. We look at their dismantling of Shasta, Their weaponry and who they might play in the upcoming state playoffs….

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The Glorification of Kobe tour can’t end soon enough…..

He hasn’t been retired for 24 hours and I am already sick of the fawning over of one of the most selfish, self-centered players in the history of team sport.

 

High School Football Preview Show SECTION TITLE PREVIEWS !

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW SHOW

SECTION FINAL EDITION

LISTEN TO SHOW CLICK ON LINK BELOW

Wednesday

Division V: Fall River vs Portola

Division IV: Williams vs East Nicolaus

Saturday

Division III: Sutter vs Orland

Division II: Shasta vs Pleasant Valley (KpaySports app)

Chico Almond Bowl

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Joseph Shufelberger- ChicoER @JShufelberger on twitter

Rick Silva- Paradise Post @POST_RickSilva on twitter

Lee Carrell- Action News 12 & 24 @CarrellLee on twitter

TJ Holmes- Redding Record Searchlight @tjholmes_RS on twitter

Sharon Martin- ChicoER @SharonBMartin on twitter

Jeff Larson- Paradise Post @jtlarson on twitter

Mike Baca- KpaySports Radio @BitOBaca and @KpayBacaSports

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High School Football Preview Show-SEMI-FINAL EDITION

High School Football Preview Show

SEMI-FINAL EDITION

LISTEN TO THE SHOW CLICK LINK BELOW

Chico Almond Bowl*Download the KpaySports app to listen to High School Football Section Championship games next week* (FREE in app store)

Joseph Shufelberger- ChicoER @JShufelberger on twitter

Rick Silva- Paradise Post @POST_RickSilva on twitter

Lee Carrell- Action News 12 & 24 @CarrellLee  on twitter

TJ Holmes- Redding Record Searchlight @tjholmes_RS on twitter

Sharon Martin- ChicoER @SharonBMartin on twitter

Jeff Larson- Paradise Post @jtlarson on twitter

Mike Baca- KpaySports Radio @BitOBaca and @KpayBacaSports

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