Sterling Fiasco opens door for Dubs

This Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers playoff series has turned from a captivating match-up between  two historically down-trodden organizations,  into a sad tale of horse-and-buggy thinking by an out of touch delusional old codger owner in Donald Sterling.

While the NBA considers its punishment, which is expected to be as severe as they can muster, considering the 72-hour window, the Warriors must keep one thing in mind.  Go for the jugular.

While we all empathize with the Clippers players, fans and organization for having such a dastardly character run your franchise, the Dubs can not have any touch of mercy for the Clippers. The Clips are a team in turmoil. The Warriors need to take advantage of that turmoil and attack Los Angeles. The Dubs need to take full advantage of how torn the Clipper core has become. I have no doubt the Clips may get a burst of energy from their home crowd, but when the passions die down, I have to believe a little of the fight has left the souls of the Clippers players. If indeed the Warriors see an opening they need to pick up on that and go in for the kill.

The playoffs are business. And, while the Warriors players can certainly feel for the plight of the Clippers franchise in the here-and-now they must recognize the preciousness of the opportunity in front of them and show no mercy for the Clippers. It’s winning time for the Dubs, and they need to enter this game with a solitary focus of getting this win against a team that may have bigger fish to fry.

Rivalry Week: Chico and Sonoma

There is no doubt the Chico State and Sonoma State baseball rivalry is the best in the CCAA. These two old NCAC rivals have always been the barometer in which the other is judged.

This week is no exception.  Sonoma State is playing for their West Region playoff lives, and Chico State is playing for a CCAA Conference Championship.

Four games this week that etch another chapter in the long, storied Chico/Sonoma rivalry…..

Photo courtesy of ChicoWildcats.com

Dubs drop Game 3 thriller

 

Just when you thought they were out, they pulled you back in.  But, in the end it was too much Blake Griffin, it was three clutch buckets by Chris Paul and it was a first half of missed opportunities that cost the Warriors in their 98-96 loss in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

The Dubs knew they would be at a size dis-advantage without Andrew Bogut, but Blake Griffin (32 points) and DeAndre Jordan (14 points, 21 rebounds) are making mince-meat of the Warriors in the paint. The Warriors just don’t have the size to battle for 48 minutes down low with those two behemoths.

Down 18 in the second half the Warriors scratched, clawed and battled their way back and had a chance to win it on their final possession but Steph Curry’s step-back three fell way short.

Curry thought he was fouled on his final shot, saying he was “100 percent” fouled on his attempt. Warriors coach Mark Jackson when asked whether his sharp-shooter was fouled, took the diplomatic approach. “You gotta give him room to land, he didn’t have room to land.”

If Warrior fans want to be honest with themselves they will admit that the first half turnovers and the woeful 6-for-31 shooting from three-point range was what really hurt. The Dubs at one point were 2-for-23 from long distance before hitting 4 of their final 8  treys. The Warriors still refuse to double-team Blake Griffin, aside from some isolated instances. Griffin is making the Warriors pay the price. He rattled off 10 straight points during a two-minute stretch in the second half as the Clips built their 18-point lead. At some point, you have to believe Mark Jackson will switch his defensive philosophy. My gut tells me he fears the double coming J.J. Redick’s defender, will leave the former Dukie open to torch the Dubs. He also probably has visions of Jamal Crawford going off from three-point range and that may be convincing him to stay with the single defender. The problem is that Griffin is beating the Warriors now with the single-team and Jackson has shown a stubbornness when it comes to this type of adjustment for much of the season. It will be interesting to see what he counters with in Sunday’s Game 4. If he counters at all.

The Warriors turnovers have been a problem all season long and in the playoffs it has been no exception. It’s not really in the turnovers themselves, it’s the KINDS of turnovers. They are in transition or they  are on spots on the floor that lead to easy buckets going the other way. It held this team back all year, and it is holding them back in this series.

To borrow a line, “Andrew Bogut is not walking through that door, Festus Ezeli is not walking through that door. Hell, even Joe Barry Carroll is not walking through that door.” The Warriors need to figure  out a few things or else this series could end next Tuesday at the Staples Center. First, how do they get Curry more involved ? Doc Rivers has done an amazing job of making Curry a facilitator and not a scorer. I have not seen Curry defended this well in a three game stretch all season. Rivers’ game-plan has been superb. Second, slow down Griffin, somehow and someway the Warriors need to figure out a way to slow the guy down. They need to double, bring different guys, play straight up, then back to double, get him thinking a bit. If Crawford and Redick start drilling three’s then you tip your hat and you wish Clips luck in the next series. And third, quit turning the ball over. I know I urge this, but it isn’t going to happen . The Warriors have been careless with the ball all year and it’s not going to change in Game 4 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. But, I can hope can’t I ?

A few made threes and that wild crowd can get the Dubs right back in the series. Needless to say Game 4 is vital to the Warriors chances.

 

Dodgers defense is worrisome

Not gonna lie, this Los Angeles Dodgers defense is a major concern. I know it is only April but there isn’t some magic elixir when your team can’t play good defense. It’s not like you can call up a young stud from the minors a-la Yasiel Puig, and all of a sudden everything gets fixed defensively. Plain and simple, the Dodgers defense stinks !!

While many in the Blue Kingdom lament the Dodgers struggling offense and recent inconsistencies in the bullpen, I know those won’t be long-term problems. But, defense could be. Let’s look at why I think the Dodgers brass should be very concerned with their penchant to kick the ball around.

First problem, Hanley Ramirez. “Yes,” I know he is a great offensive short-stop but every time the ball is hit to the guy I lose a few days off of my life. What is with his hesitation throwing the ball to first? Vin Scully says he is trying to get the seams lined up so he can make a good throw to first. Well, sometimes you just don’t have time to, field the ball, look at it, move it around in your hand to find the seams, and THEN throw it to first. Sometimes you just need to get rid of it. That is what good big league short-stops do. This Hanley-ism is driving me crazy. Every time he fields a ball it’s an adventure. Hanley’s range is limited. On occasion his route to balls is just purely nonsensical. When you combine all of these defensive attributes, it is just plain terrifying. I thought Hanley would be better defensively since he is playing for a long-term contract, it’s gotten significantly worse.

I have no problem with Juan Uribe at third. Despite a few early season errors, the guy is a Hoover over there and I am happy with Uribe’s reliability at the hot corner.

Adrian Gonzalez is a solid first baseman. He is not what he once was, but he isn’t a chump over there either. AGone’s lateral movement is not what it was when he played for the Padres, but he certainly doesn’t hurt the Dodgers at first base.

The Dodgers are crossing their fingers and hoping the Dee Gordon/Justin Turner platoon at second base, works. Gordon has been electrifying at the plate and is still learning to play second base after making the switch in the off-season. The fact that he has only played second base for a year or so doesn’t calm my nerves. But, I like how hard Dee has worked at improving his over-all game. Defense isn’t a strength of his, and it is something we will have to live with for the time being.

The outfield. Guh ! Where do I start ? Carl Crawford has speed, but watching him run balls down in the outfield is like watching a Pinto go from 0-60 in 9.4 seconds. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like it takes him awhile to get to those engines revving. When he does get going, he can really chase balls down in the gap or toward the lines. His arm is probably the worst in the major leagues. It wasn’t a good arm before he had Tommy-John surgery, now its just plain awful. It is a liability. Everyone, and I mean everyone is given the green light to run on his pop-gun.

Matt Kemp used to run like a gazelle. But the hamstring and ankle injuries have taken their toll. He just doesn’t look the same. I believe he can recapture that old magic. I have seen many-a-player take more than a year to recover from those nagging leg injuries and get back to form. But, it’s not something that one can guarantee. He just doesn’t get to balls like he used to. His arm is better than average.

Andre Ethier has been a solid outfielder. He is not a speedster but he gets to balls and has enough to just make the plays. While it’s not ideal to have him play center field, sometimes he must out of necessity.

Yasiel Puig has improved. He is now hitting the cut-off man and his ability to chase a ball down, pivot and throw may be the best in the game right now. But, his nonchalant one-handed catches will prove costly. I know he “thinks” it looks good and he has done it forever but it almost proved costly in San Francisco last week. Mix in a two-handed grab every now and then. The “Wild Horse” has a ridiculous arm. Everyone knows it. He has done a great job of not showing it off on every single throw like last year. He is young and we give him a bit of lee-way as he still learns the nuances of the game.

Having committed 23 errors in 21 games, including that brutal display in last night’s loss to the Phillies, is not acceptable. As good as we expect the Dodgers to hit and pitch, they must play better defense to be a championship contender.

Observations after a Dodger loss to Giants

 

First observation, Josh Beckett will make a good 5th starter. If the Dodgers are going to rely on him to be a number 3 or 4 starter in the rotation, that will not portend for good things in the future.

Second,  Dee Gordon is a game changer. His speed was on full display on his dribbler to Brandon Hicks that was bobbled by Hicks because he knew he couldn’t waste time getting rid of the ball. Sometimes it’s hard to quantify the value of speed, but not with Gordon. He needs to play as long as he is reaching base at a .350 OBP clip.

Third, this platoon in the outfield is maddening. I like all four guys but this won’t work out long-term. Something needs to be done to shuffle the deck and come up with a plan. Whether that is a trade, or the Dodgers wait for that impending injury to a group that has shown they are brittle. I just think it’s a poor dynamic that lends itself to rumbling and frustration in the clubhouse which is not a good thing. Right now things are fine, but how long will that last?

Fourth, the Giants will be here for the duration. San Francisco isn’t going anywhere. As long as the Giants stay healthy the Dodgers will have to fight them off all season long. They are too good, too seasoned to expect them to fade just because the Dodgers full complement is healthy. As stated before in this blog, I still feel the Dodgers are better, but the Giants “believe” they are better. And, they have the hardware to back-up the argument.

Fifth, Don Mattingly continues to befuddle. As supportive as I am of the Dodgers skipper, his decisions are sometimes mind-boggling. Leaving Josh Beckett in the game in the 5th was a head-scratcher. He presumably left Beckett in the game because he wanted his veteran right-hander to be eligible for the win. I saw Tommy Lasorda do that once with Fernando Valenzuela, with the emphasis on ONCE. When you are sentimental about individual players and their stats in this “team” game it will always back-fire on you. Mattingly needs to think team before Beckett’s win numbers. I didn’t like the move leaving an obviously tiring Beckett with the bags drunk.

Sixth, What do we do with Brandon League?  Clearly his confidence is shot. As down as the Dodger fan base is on League, I am not one of them. While I don’t like the results, virtually every time he takes the mound, his stuff is ridiculous. We always hear that organizations have more patience with a guy who has good “stuff” and we are seeing it with League. He has a power sinker, throws a nasty heavy ball, his ball runs and sinks but he just can’t locate. And, right now that is a major problem. I hate sending Paco Rodriguez down to the minors because of finances, but that is what we are having to do. At some point, the Dodgers are going to have to pay League to go away if he can’t get anyone out. The game of baseball doesn’t care how much money you make if you can’t get hitters out consistently.

Seventh, if I hear a Giant fan complain about Dodger fans leaving early again I am going to hurl. Did you see how empty AT & T was last night at the end of the 12-inning game with the Giants. I would say half of the 42 thousand were still there. It’s the biggest misnomer that Dodger fans leave early on a more consistent basis then other fan bases. It’s malarkey. Last night for the umpteenth time we saw the visual evidence.

Enjoy Giants/Dodgers tonight !

Losing Bogut is crippling for Dubs

That sinking feeling when you see the ship sail away without you on it.  That is the feeling Golden State Warriors fans have right now after learning that center Andrew Bogut will be lost for several weeks, possibly the rest of the season with a broken rib.

The injury was sustained in the game against the Denver Nuggets last week. it was aggravated in last night’s game in Portland when Bogut was hit in the ribs and he felt it bite him. After an MRI, the broken rib was seen to be close to his lung. Bogut told media members today that if he is hit in an awkward fashion, the broken rib could puncture the lung making it dangerous for him to play the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs.

This is a crippling blow for the Dubs who rely on Bogut to patrol the paint and be their defensive enforcer. Bogut’s size, girth and menacing style of play has given the Warriors a defensive identity when the game slows, as it always does in the post-season. Bogut’s ability to block shots and rotate on the back-side defensively is as important for Warriors’ success from three-point land. In short, he just can’t be replaced. In the Game 6 of the Warriors first round clinching win against Denver last year Bogut scored 14 points had 21 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. There is no way the Dubs knock off Denver without his presence.

I quake thinking of the damage Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will do without Bogut’s presence. We also can’t forget Chris Paul’s ability to penetrate and get to the rim. Who will stop him now ? Who will dissuade him from attacking ? Marreese Speights ?

I want to believe. I want to hope. My heart tells me “yes” but my head says “no.”

An Ode to a Wildcat Walk-off Weekend

Chico State's Robert Hook slides home with the winning run as Chico State sweeps Dominguez Hills  Photo courtesy ChicoWildcats.com
Chico State’s Robert Hook slides home with the winning run as Chico State sweeps Dominguez Hills
Photo courtesy ChicoWildcats.com

 

The Chico State Wildcats baseball team  swept a four game series against the Cal State Dominguez Hills Toros over the weekend. If you missed the games, this about sums up how the weekend went, with a little help from our favorite TV show theme….

 

Dodgers are fine….

 

The knee-jerk reactionaries that make up baseball fan bases’ can sometimes be the end of me. With every win, “we are going all the way.” With every loss, “dump him, demote him, run him out-of-town.” Every fan base has these irrational members of their fan base. Hell, I have been that guy at times. It’s the nature of the game.The passions our teams’ stir.

Thank goodness these reactionaries are not in charge of my  Dodgers. Baseball lends itself to the peanut gallery. The game moves at a slow pace. A simple game that “seems” easy to play. Of course those of us that have played, know there is nothing further from the truth.

Last week  Dodger fans en masse were bemoaning consecutive losses to the San Francisco Giants. These out-of-touch fans were professing the beloved Bums were done, finished, kaput. The problem with this thinking is it’s not true and doesn’t take into account the marathon nature of the game. How quickly these fans forget the two-and-a-half month slump from the Dodgers in 2013. I don’t  have to remind long-time supporters that the Dodgers were 9.5 games back of the Giants a week into June last year with a record of 23-32 and in last place. But, I find I constantly am in head-shaking mode when these alarmists pontificate on Dodger fortunes.

Here are some facts about the 2014 Dodgers.

First, they are supremely talented. A virtual All-Star team all around the diamond. Adrian Gonzalez will put up great numbers again at first base. Hanley Ramirez, despite his defensive deficiencies, is as electric from the short-stop position offensively as there is in the game. Yasiel Puig is injured now, but should bring his electrifying game back to forefront in the next couple of days. Matt Kemp is coming along, after two injury plagued years. With Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford off to solid starts, the Dodgers appear poised to be an offensive juggernaut in 2014.

When you throw in the clutch-hitting and defensive prowess of Juan Uribe and the pleasant surprise that is Dee Gordon at second base, this could be a very special offensive team.

The Dodgers pitching is the backbone of this club. Clayton Kershaw should be back soon and threw without pain on Tuesday. The two-time Cy-Young award winner is the best lefty in the game. Zack Greinke has had two solid outings and figures to be the best number two starter in all of baseball. Hyun Jin-Ryu has had two great starts and a bad one. His bad one against San Francisco was magnified by shoddy defense (we’ll get to that in a moment), and Ryu just couldn’t stop the bleeding. Ryu is  a great complement to what the Dodgers already have. Early indications are that Dan Haren of old is back. Two top-notch starts out of the number four spot in the Dodgers rotation can not be under-stated.

The bullpen is a huge strength. Despite a couple of mis-steps from Kenley Jansen in the Tigers series this week,  the Dodgers have the closer they want in that spot. With strong power arms Chris Withrow, Chris Perez, Jose Dominguez setting up set- up man Brian Wilson, the Dodger pen is deep with power arms and filth. Withrow has come into his own and is downright nasty. Perez is looking to re-capture the consistency of his days when he closed for Cleveland. His fastball was topping out at 90 in Cleveland last year, he is now throwing 94 with movement for the Dodgers. A nice fit.  Jose Dominguez flirts with 100 miles-per-hour and must be more consistent with his secondary pitches to be trusted in late inning situations. Brian Wilson has been sidelined with some elbow soreness for the past week, but is re-habbing well and should be back with big club next week. The soreness is not thought to be serious.

With lefties J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez ready to match-up when called upon, the Dodgers have the balance that should serve them well deep into the dog days.

The biggest question mark in my mind regarding the Dodgers is their defense. This club has some issues fielding the ball. Bad defense should not be overlooked. It costs teams games and pitcher’s wear and tear on their arms. Ramirez stands out as a defensive liability at short. Over the last week we have seen Hanley short-arm throws to first, air mail throws and show limited range. Not gonna lie, this concerns me. His defensive play is vital to this team’s success. The Dodgers can flourish with average defense from Han-Ram, but if he continues to leak oil in the field this will extend innings, extend games, and cost the Dodger starters pitches when they should be in the dugout. The experience that is Dee Gordon at second base has worked out nicely. Gonzalez is solid at first, Uribe is fantastic at third with that cannon and accurate arm.

In the outfield, Crawford can run balls down but his surgically repaired elbow prevents him from being a threat to throw base-runners out. Kemp, for now, patrols center and it appears to me has lost a step. His long gazelle-like strides have given way to a bit of tentativeness which shouldn’t be surprising considering he missed most of the last two seasons. Ethier is a solid right fielder with a little bit more than an average arm. This brings us to Yasiel Puig, the greatest of anomalies. It’s a love-hate relationship with Puig’s defense. I love his aggressiveness. I love how he never gives up on a ball. I love how he thinks he can make every play. As a fan I love every ounce of energy and effort he shows when chasing balls down. Now to the hate. I hate that he still doesn’t seem to understand “baseball” situations. I hate that he sometimes seems more intent on showing off his arm, rather than hitting the cut-off man and keeping the double-play in order. I hate that he doesn’t learn from his mistakes and that he seems obstinate in doing things the “Puig way.” This must change or else his novelty will wear off and it will cost the Dodgers games. As I said, it’s a love-hate thing.

In conclusion, for fans to kick dirt on our 235 million dollar team shows that many of them have never played the game. One game out of 162 does not really matter. I would even say 25-to-30 game stretches don’t really matter. While we shouldn’t expect a 42-8 stretch like last year, we should expect this team to perform consistently well for the majority of this 2014 season. Are they the best team in the West ? Yes, I believe they are. The Giants are their most serious threat. But, I believe the Dodgers starting pitching and pen are better than their rivals. The Giants are showing they are going to score runs, but their porous back-end of the rotation will be their un-doing.

I will not panic if the Dodgers struggle on a Tuesday night in May. I know, when it’s all said and done, this division is theirs. I just have ignore the peanut gallery-alarmists who think Game 7 is being played on a Tuesday night in May.

Dodger fans, it pains me to write this….

 

It really does pain me to write this because I am having to unleash against my fellow Dodgers fans who are complaining about the Dodgers and Time Warner television rights snafu…..

Simmer Down Now !

As we sit here just hours before the first pitch from The Ravine for the 2014 season, Dodger fans are furious that the Dodgers and Time Warner can’t come together so fans can see their beloved team in Southern California. Talks broke down this week between Time Warner and DirecTV making it a distinct possibility that the Dodgers will not be broadcast in Los Angeles for customers of the satellite TV giant.

I am hearing fans toss so many words around regarding the negotiations, but one word I am not hearing much of is “business.” This is strictly business, nothing more, nothing less. Dodger fans need to wake up and grasp their new reality. Days of flicking on the tube and listening to the great Vin Scully for free are over. If you want to listen to Vin for free, jettison the Guggenheim group back to the midwest and bring back Frank McCourt. Do you like a competitive team that will spend 235 million dollars on their major league payroll and tens of millions of dollars to rebuild their minor league system ? If you do, then you need to embrace this new reality.

The Dodgers are a brand. They had lost that “brand” with failed ownership in Rupert Murdoch and in Frank McCourt. The Dodgers have now re-established their “brand” under Mark Walter and this new group. They have made it clear. They want to win, they will spare no expense, but it won’t be free.

How do you think the Dodgers are paying for their vast web around the globe to find big league talent to become a perennial winner. They are spending an un-godly amount of money to make the Dodgers consistently relevent. In their negotiations with Time Warner they discussed their long-term plan to become the pre-eminent organization in major league baseball. Time Warner loved those details and is paying the Dodgers upwards of 225 million dollars annually for the rights to broadcast the games. How does Time Warner pay for this unprecedented out-lay of dollars for broadcast rights? Customers, its Time Warner’s belief that the Dodger fans are so loyal that they and the affiliated broadcast providers will pay higher fees to see the Dodger games. Time Warner is gambling that if DirecTV or any other cable operator doesn’t want to pay the increased fees, then the customers and fans will migrate to cable companies that are willing to pay those fees and eventually pass them on to the viewer.

I have no problem with Time Warner holding out for the price they deem necessary to make a profit to carry Dodgers games. I hear a lot of complaining and whining from Dodger fans. Would you rather have a second tier team, finishing 78-84, while San Francisco Giants are hoisting World Series trophies? I don’t.

I remember a few years ago Giants fans were complaining about their former owner Peter McGowan.  Giants fans were calling him cheap, out-of-touch and were ripping his moves. I had to remind these Johnny-come-lately’s  that if McGowan wasn’t the Giants owner, the team would be called the St. Petersburg Giants and they wouldn’t have a beautiful privately financed stadium sitting on the shores of the San Francisco Bay.

How quickly we forget.

So, as the venomous diatribes continue and Dodgers fans vent about their inability to see the games, I ask them to sit back, take a deep breath, and think about the alternative. We lived with it for more nearly 20 years, and it’s not very pretty.

 

It’s not gambling, it’s a game of skill

 

I absolutely detest when people say poker is gambling. It’s annoying. It shows their complete ignorance to what this game is about. Is there an element of luck to poker? Certainly, but this game isn’t pumping money in a machine and hoping a few bars pop up on the center line. Poker, pure and simple is a game of skill. You show me someone who relies on luck or hope when it comes to poker and I will show you someone who is broke.

Poker is a game about making decisions. The best players in the world force tough decisions on those they are playing. In poker champion Annie Duke’s book “Decide to play great Poker” she says the goal should be to play in such a way as to force your opponents to make hard and tough decisions, rather than making those decisions yourself. How do you do this ? Position. Taking advantage of where you are on the table. Attacking vulnerable players, reading them, learning their weaknesses, and then taking them down. It sounds simple, but it takes study, discipline and unwavering patience. You notice, I haven’t said anything about getting good cards.

On a recent trip to Vegas I put these tenets to the test with long “junkets” at the table. One thing I “MUST” have when I play poker is time. If you are at a poker table, yet you must be somewhere in 20 minutes, or an hour, or even three or four hours, then why bother ? Patience, patience and more patience is needed. A key to success is recognizing those at the table who are impatient, those who are looking for the big score. You see them all the time. They play all the hands. They get their money in. They push and push and push. I love seeing these people at the table. On occasion they may get lucky and hit their card, they may even knock you out of a tournament and even take your stack. But, I welcome these gun-slingers all the time. They don’t play odds, and they don’t play position and more often than not they could care less about reading you as a player. I may not attack these players, but I am patient enough to wait them out and then put the screws to them. I love putting these players on the spot for their stacks when I am in position. I won’t wait until I have the nuts to bust them, although the nuts help. But, just making them feel uncomfortable, seeing that squirm, knowing I have them beat. I get giddy thinking about it.

As we discuss this more we will talk about the ultimate people game that poker is. The better you know people, the better you will be at the game.