All posts by mbaca

DubNation: Here Comes Revenge

I return this nightmare I will find you.

Sleepless, cloaked in despair, I’m behind you

Far too late for frail amends, now its time for Sweet Revenge

Sweet Revenge I’m Dreaming….I will end you

The snickers, the derisive tones, the 3-1 jokes will come to an end when these NBA Finals are over in a few weeks.

That is because the Golden State Warriors 2017 Seek and Destroy mission is only missing one thing……the decimation of Cleveland.

How does that happen and why I believe this thing will be over sooner rather than later ?

  1. Revenge Factor……these aren’t the Washington Generals that want a piece of LeBron and the Cavaliers. This is a team that has gone 207-39 over the last three years. And, despite what the talking heads want you to believe this team is driven by one sole purpose, BEATING CLEVELAND….PERIOD. The fire burns hot in the guts of these Warriors who were shocked, stunned and frankly embarrassed by their 2016 Finals meltdown. This entire season has built to this point. Don’t under-estimate the fire that burns below.
  2. Warriors are just better…….When healthy and at full strength (which they are) the Golden State Warriors are simply better than Cleveland. Their multi-faceted star-studded attack. Their trio of deadly three-point shooters and more importantly their ability to defend. The most-underrated aspect of the Dubs is their ability to defend as a team. Their help-side is some of the best in the league and Cleveland isn’t in their same league. WHEN Cleveland wants to, they can defend at an elite level in spurts. But, consistently you can get good to great shots against the Cavaliers. This will ultimately be their downfall.
  3. TRUST…..The only player I trust on Cleveland to play well in each and every game is LeBron James. To be fair the player the Warriors should most fear is Kyrie Irving. His clutch gene was on full display in the Cavaliers Finals comeback last season. Trust is one of the biggest reasons why the Warriors are so great. They trust each other. They believe in each other. They recommitted themselves to this organizational doctrine after last year’s Game 7 last 5-minute debacle when they went off script and quit trusting and quit sharing. I don’t see that this time around. The Warriors have learned from the ills of last year and the weaponry is different. Their ability to play off of one another and not solely focus on going for “theirs” is what separates this team from 2016. If I’m Cleveland do I trust Kevin Love to make big shots down six with three minutes to go ? I wouldn’t…..
  4. Lest we forget…….Something strange happened on the way to the Warriors blowing that 3-1 lead and Cleveland capturing “The Land” their first basketball title. We forgot how God-awful Kevin Love was the entire series. We also forgot how terrible Kyrie Irving played in Game 4 at Quicken Loans Arena to give the Dubs a 3-1 series lead. Watch the game. I have, he was dismal. Now, Irving responded with three amazing and clutch games over the final three, but the margin for error for this Cleveland team is much smaller than Golden State’s. Irving needs to be great ALL THE TIME. Love needs to be great ALL THE TIME. If they aren’t, this thing won’t be competitive.
  5. IT’S TIME…….If Kevin Durant wants to cement his greatness he will perform and excel in this series. It’s pretty damn simple. He left OKC because he didn’t want to play with a ball-hogging selfish stat accumulator in Russell Westbrook and he wanted to win in a free-flowing selfless brand and style of basketball. He has helped bring the Warriors to the precipice of a championship and it is his time to shine. No, not by scoring 40 points a game but by helping Steph lead this group with the same selfless style that had them win 67 regular season and 12 straight playoff games. It’s Durant’s time to shine. If he tries to do it by himself, then that is when trouble could creep in. He must remember why he came here and trust that the guys he is in the fox-hole with will help him bring it home.
  6. NO KLAY….NO RING…….As confident as I am that the Warriors are going to win this thing, the only thing that would bring me trepidation is if the Warriors don’t feed Klay Thompson and try to get him going. You notice that I don’t think the Warriors MUST get Klay going, but they need to make the effort like they did in the San Antonio series. I saw Curry, Draymond and Durant all pass up numerous open shots and opportunities to try and get Klay going. He never did. That’s OK. I believe if the Warriors get Klay on track then it opens EVERYTHING up for the squad and it will be “all she wrote.”  Klay needs to find his shot. If its not there, then take the ball aggressively to the hole, back-cut get a lay-up, get to the line. He is too good a player to not be a threat. The Warriors know this.
  7. I LOVE CURRY……..Yes, I love yellow curry, green curry, and red curry. I also love that Steph Curry is being discounted in these Finals. The story-lines are all about LeBron chasing Michael and Durant’s legacy. I think Steph needs a great Finals to cement his. Cleveland is going to attack him at every turn, running him off of screens and making him work for all his looks. The problem for the Cavaliers is they will not be seeing the hampered Steph of 2016 or the deferring and dis-engaged Steph of December and January. This current Steph is engaged, in-sync, and playing spry and ruthlessly. I think Cleveland will have a very difficult time defending him with the Warriors dizzying ball movement. LeBron may need this, as does KD, but Steph needs this as well.

 

Peaking Wildcats making a run at a National Championship……

*THOUGHTS ON THE CHICO STATE WILDCATS FROM 35 THOUSAND FEET*

It’s not that we didn’t think they could do it, but to expect it was totally unfair.

The Chico State men’s basketball is in Sioux Falls, South Dakota getting ready to take on Lincoln Memorial at the Elite Eight for Division II basketball. The Wildcats magic carpet ride was punctuated last weekend with three splendid performances against the three respective regular season champions in the West Region.

First, Chico knocked off high-scoring Western Washington 96-83. Despite giving up 83 points the Wildcats were more than happy getting in a shootout with the Vikings. For the first time in a long time the Wildcats found room to move on the floor. Passing lanes that were clogged and impediments that were common place during CCAA play all of sudden turned into wide gulfs of space with which they could run their offense unimpeded against a Western team that gave up nearly 80 points a game. It must have felt like a jail-break for Chico State.

The free-flowing offense where movement and motion was rewarded. It had been a while since Chico had been that wide open for drives and shots. The game was truly a testament to how good the CCAA is. To win the CCAA you MUST play defense, if not you will get carved to pieces.

On day two the Wildcats encountered a frisky bulldog-tough type of team in Hawaii-Pacific. If the Sharks were a baseball team I would affectionately call them a bunch of “dirt-bags.” Fluidity of play and dogged aggressiveness characterized the Pacific West Conference Champions. We saw them systematically take care of the best defensive team in the country, CCAA-rival Sonoma State. I was thoroughly impressed with their defensive doggedness and anticipated Chico State would have their hands full.

Chico’s 15-point lead with 9:30 to go eventually turned into a one-point deficit with 1:55 to go. A furious 25-9 rally by the Sharks had the Wildcats on their heels, before Chico State righted the ship. The Wildcats ability to rescue the game after coughing up a 15 lead showed Chico State had come a long way in a year. After Isaiah Ellis took a charge with the Cats down and with 4 fouls, Robert Duncan made a driving lay-up. After Corey Silverstrom registered a steal and driving bucket the Cats had the whip-hand and outlasted HPU 77-74. The win showed many of us Chico State lifers a toughness that at times had been missing over the last few years. It’s hard to be critical of a team that has had as much success as the Wildcats for the last several years. But, sometimes and on rare occasions, when things went south, the Cats had a hard time pulling themselves out of the abyss, especially in the middle of a game. Not this time, though.

This Chico State team made winning plays to beat Hawaii-Pacific. Sealed the game with defense and disciplined offense and moved on to the regional championship game against UC San Diego.

The championship tilt against the rival Tritons will simply go down as one of the great basketball games in Chico State Wildcats history. 10 days before this title match-up UCSD had come out in the CCAA semi-final game and as All-American guard Robert Duncan said, “punched Chico in the mouth.” With 4 minutes left in the 1st half UCSD had jumped out to a 27-11 lead. The Wildcat offense was stagnant. There was not movement, no aggressiveness, a passivity to their flow that was not conducive to winning basketball. When the final horn sounded it was San Diego 65-53 over Chico State. The final score only told a portion of the story. The Tritons had taken the fight to Chico State, and for this team to accomplish the things they wanted to accomplish, that had to change.

Right from the out-set you could tell the Wildcats wouldn’t lose this game for a lack of fight. On their first possession they would grab two offensive rebounds. They would attack on the offensive end. The ball moved, the players moved, there was cutting and motion, it was a thing of beauty. It was nothing like the three games the Wildcats had played against UCSD this year. There was a precision and rhythm to the Cats’ offensively that showed this team at their peak. To quote Norman Dale in the movie Hoosiers, “all pistons firing operating as one.”

Ellis was simply other-worldly. The Wildcat junior scored 19 of his game high 34 in the first half. The Tritons having watched Chico hit 25-of-50 from three-point range in the first two games of the regional were reluctant to double Ellis, out of fear of leaving the triumvirate of Wildcat shooters open, they paid the price.

Even after an 11-0 run by the Tritons sent their faithful into a frenzy, giving UCSD a 57-51 lead, Chico would counter with a 14-7 run of their own and this time it was more than Ellis. Corey Silverstrom would get hot taking top of the key and wing three’s to set it off. All the other pieces for the Cats played well including the other duo on the “core-fore” Jalen McFerren and Duncan. The beauty of Duncan’s play is he facilitated much of the Wildcat success. In past year’s Chico had to have Duncan score, but this year Duncan and Wildcats thrive when he facilitates ball movement and action. His talents necessitates constant attention. That attention opens things up for his mates and in the regional Duncan has never been better. McFerren took the slings and arrows from all teams to run the offense with continuity and flow. His 37-minute 1 turnover performance may be one of the more over-looked great games of the season for the Cats, but not by those of us that saw him play.

Everyone in uniform for Chico State played well against San Diego. In retrospect there just wasn’t a player who didn’t play well, that how championship teams are crowned.

With as well as the Wildcats played they still had to withstand an incredible shooting display by the Tritons. UCSD shot 14-of-26 from three-point range, making Chico State pay for their double-teams against sophomore post Chris Hansen. The complimentary pieces were tremendous for San Diego, but as CCAA-MVP Adam Klie said after the game, “we just couldn’t get stops. They (Chico) just played really well.”

Knocking off three conference champions in four days is not an easy task. When you do it, deep down you have to think all things are possible and that is the attitude the Chico State Wildcats bring to Sioux Falls. The Cats finished in a tie for third in the CCAA, got knocked out in the semis of the CCAA Conference Tournament but their championship pedigree is undeniable.

This Chico State core pushed themselves to heightened levels of exhaustion just to win a CCAA regular season title in 2016. They would never win another game the night after they clinched. They expended so much energy to win that regular season title, they had nothing left.

There was a conscious effort as many Wildcats professed to me in October to perform and win in the NCAA Tournament. The conference accolades and rewards were nice, but the NCAA Tournament riches are better. This team knew this, and their experience in losing in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years lit a flame that, at times dimmed slightly, but never extinguished.

They are peaking. They are hungry. And, they don’t feel like they are anywhere near finished.

 

Reason for optimism with Chico State baseball at 35 thousand feet

(pictured is Cody Snider after his solo blast at Minute Maid Park that gave Chico State a short-lived 2-1 lead on Sunday against Central Missouri)

Call me an eternal optimist but I am not discouraged even as the Chico State Wildcat baseball suffered a gut-wrenching loss on get-away day against 3rd-ranked Central Missouri at Houston’s Minute Maid Park on Sunday morning.

Chico was two outs away from victory before the game slid through their fingers in frustrating fashion resulting in a wild walk-off celebration for the tournament’s hosts.

Cody Snider’s laser down the right field line snuck inside the Chick-Fil-A foul pole, lighting up the Wildcat dugout and bringing the Cats to the brink of two-win weekend. But, the Baseball Gods disagreed.

You see when you don’t play the game the right way Mr. Baseball God doesn’t believe that should be rewarded. While Chico’s starting pitching and defense was absolutely stupendous all weekend, their pedestrian approach at the plate left a lot to be desired. Chico managed only two hits in a series opening loss to Texas A&M Kingsville on Friday afternoon, despite Hunter Haworth and the bullpen pitching very well.

On Saturday, the Wildcats were the beneficiaries of three St. Mary’s of Texas errors in the 3rd inning resulting in four runs. They also received two walks and those walks would come around and score in the 8th inning on wild pitches as the Cats would add to their lead, beating the Rattlers 6-3.

On Sunday, Chico State had numerous opportunities to put runs on the board and just couldn’t take advantage. Head Coach Dave Taylor was lamenting his team’s approach to situational baseball before the game and has more ammunition for mid-week teaching moment heading into CCAA play on Friday.

Chico was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position on Sunday and 1-for-22 on the weekend. Yes, the Baseball Gods don’t like long swings in hitters counts with runners in scoring position and the Cats would pay the price as the Mules of Central Missouri would walk them off with a 3-2 win.

FIRST THE GOOD NEWS

Here is the good news. Front line starters Hunter Haworth, Casey Costello and Cam Greenough were lights out all weekend. Haworth pitched six shut-out innings on Friday, and even though he surrendered four earned runs in the 7th inning. His line was not indicative of how dominant he was 6.1 innings 6 hits 4 earned runs with 10 strikeouts.

Casey Costello tied up a good hitting team in St. Mary’s on Saturday pitching six shut-out innings, giving up only 5 hits and not allowing a run.

On Sunday Junior right-hander Cam Greenough was lights out. He pitched 7 shut-out innings giving up 6 hits and striking out seven. Taylor couldn’t have asked for more from a group that is expected to be the backbone of the Wildcats 2017 pitching staff.

The defense was tremendous all weekend. Whether it was acrobatic catches by Sonny Cortez in the spacious Minute Maid Park on Friday or diving and sliding catches by Cody Snider in right or Casey Henderson ranging deep in the holes at short the Cats flashed the leather only committing one error all weekend and now have only had three miscues through their first 11 games. Defense will win a lot of games for the Wildcats this year.

Staring pitching and defense, the elements which are the back-bone of the Wildcat program, and they appear to be in fine shape again this year.

THINGS TO FINE-TUNE 

I am encouraged about the 2017 Chico State Wildcats because I saw this team “rake” all season last year. I saw them devour mediocre pitching and even find a great bit of success against some of the CCAA’s best. This 2017 has returnees up and down their line-up and I simply don’t think their struggles at Minute Maid will continue. There are too many good, veteran hitters who have experience and know what it takes to win.

Talking about it and executing are two distinct things but I feel very confident that we will not see a Wildcat team go three days and manage only 1 hit with a runner in scoring position the rest of the year. Ironically the hit was a bunt, that was meant as a sacrifice by Andru Cardenas on Saturday, but the St. Mary’s second baseman forgot to cover first base. Cardenas was given a hit. The only knock with the runner in scoring position all weekend.

I really like the “stuff” coming out of the Wildcat bullpen. This weekend they did scuffle a bit. Both Andrew Schantz and Jae Wagner walked lead-off men in the 8th and 9th innings to allow Central Missouri to get lead-off men on. Those walks directly led to Mules runs. This Cats group is expected to be strike-throwers and that was lacking at critical times this weekend. That will get better and in turn Chico will be able to nail down these tight games late.

While I sit on this team flight home with a bunch of ball players who reveled in the experience of playing at Minute Maid Park, they also know they left a win or two in Houston. They fell to a couple of really good teams in tight contests. They lost games where the little things mattered and Chico State didn’t do them. The early season problems are fixable. The starting pitching and defense is fantastic, overwhelmingly dominant at times. Chico isn’t hitting now. They will figure it out. And, when they do, look out.

*Photo courtesy of Skip Reager with Chico State Athletics http://www.chicowildcats.com

Thoughts on the Chico State Wildcat Men from 35 thousand feet

*Here are some thoughts on the plight of the Chico State Wildcat men’s basketball team from 35 thousand feet as I fly to Houston with the Chico State baseball team to Houston*

The news emerging from the Division West Region NCAA Men’s Basketball committee on Wednesday afternoon had to send a jolt of energy to the Chico State men’s basketball team.

The first regional ranking has the Wildcats sitting at number five in the West Region with the top eight teams going to the NCAA Tournament in three weeks.

The news had to be thrilling for a Wildcats team that has dropped three in a row and four of their last six. With losses over the last 11 days to Sonoma, San Francisco State and Cal State San Marcos the Wildcats were left to wonder whether their early season success would be over-looked, but as we like to emphasize, your post-season fate rests on your body of work and not entirely on “what have you done lately?”

For a team that was averaging nearly 78 points a game, the Wildcat offense has come to a stand-still during their skid. During the recent downturn it’s not as if the Cats are playing a bunch of also-rans. Sonoma State has the best Division II defense in the country and their match-up zone that put the clamps on Chico is “hell on wheels.” The Seawolves held Chico to a season-low 50 points in a 16-point win.

San Francisco State has interior size, perimeter athleticism and followed their game-plan perfectly in holding Chico to 51 points 10 days ago. The biggest surprise in the down-turn was Chico’s sub-par performance against the Cougars of San Marcos. At Acker Gym and after a great week of practice the Wildcats were held to 58 points in a heart-breaking loss against a team they put 80 points on in early December. It was Chico’s first loss at home in 13 games this year.

It is no surprise what is giving Chico State trouble right now. The match-up zone. The offense was cruising until Greg Kamanksy’s Cal Poly Pomona Broncos put the clamps on Chico’s offense in late January at Kellogg Gym. After the game Kamansky told me, “that’s best our zone has been all year.” Well, the rest of the CCAA has taken notice and employed their different versions of a defense that has suddenly put the skids on the free-flowing, ball is a blur Chico State offense.

The Wildcats have been known to carve up the zone, but inexplicably their flow has come to a stand-still against the zone over the last several weeks. Chico State head coach detests when the ball “sticks” in a players hands. By “sticking” he means when the ball is held by the offensive player, player just holds it as movement and cohesive play stops. There has been too much sticking. Too many times yours truly says, (Chico State player) is “surveying the scene.” When Chico attacks the teeth of the zone, they are either driving right into the heart of a double or triple team, make an ill-advised pass or take a bad shot. The synchronicity of the Wildcat offense is dis-jointed and has frustrated them as a group.

Clink was at wit’s end after last Saturday’s loss calling his teams’ offense “putrid.”

There is a silver lining to this slide. Last year the Wildcats lost steam after a 22-3 start and capturing their second straight CCAA title and could not recapture the magic dropping their final three games of the season including their NCAA Tournament opener against UC San Diego. Almost the entire squad that saw their season end so unceremoniously last year is on this squad and they will do whatever they need to do to prevent a repeat of last year.

Coming into the season the professed goal of many of the Wildcats I spoke with was not winning a 3rd straight CCAA title, but it was to go into the post-season playing their best basketball. With two weeks left in the regular season the regular season CCAA title may have come and gone, but the hopes of playing their best basketball still sits there like the ultimate carrot on a rope.

This team is too good and too veteran to let this little down-turn define their season. It will take more than talking about how good they are though. This team has to come together, maybe have some tough internal conversations, look themselves in the mirror and figure out what kind of team they want to be. I know they can do it, their rabid supporters know they can do it. Now we wait for them to figure it out.

Photo courtesy of Chico State Wildcats at http://www.chicowildcats.com

Preparing for the new Authoritarian reality

 

There has never been a more important time to get off the grid and become a ghost than now.

With the election of Donald Trump, the expanded executive powers  were borne out of the George W. Bush administration and then were put on steroids under Barack Obama. These powers are now in the hands of Donald Trump. There is always a danger when one branch of government purports they “need” expanded powers to “protect” the country. These powers were born after 9/11 with the Patriot Act under the auspices of protecting America. Proponents claim the Patriot Act has stopped numerous attacks but can not specifically cite one instance where it has, it can not be argued though that these powers have curtailed the personal liberties of every American. If I don’t want you reading my emails and tracking my movements, you shouldn’t be able to.

The great danger in keeping these policies in place is that one day America would elect a tyrant. We have.

If Donald Trump does half the things he professed during the campaign personal liberties will be in shambles. It’s up to you to be prepared on the best ways to fight.

I hear people say all the time. “I have nothing to hide, I don’t care what they see, I have nothing to hide.” That is a great response to which I always respond, “that is great, if you have nothing to hide here is a piece of paper I want your passwords to all your email accounts because I would like to read your emails.” I have never had one person hand over their passwords. They trust their government but they don’t trust their buddy ole pal.

While most of us are not revolutionaries and have nothing to hide, some of us don’t want the government snooping on some of our most inane of discussions. It’s not a matter having things to hide, it’s a moral standing and making sure we are  living under the laws and protections our framers envisioned.

There are 59 NSA centers around the nation collecting data on every American and sending the data to the new  8 billion dollar data center in the desert of Utah. This metadata is analyzed, logged and stored. No one knows how an authoritarian regime will use this information so if you have ever been critical of our leaders, it’s important to know what the government has their disposal….EVERYTHING.

Keywords, codes and passwords are all being logged. Any negative thing said about anyone, everything is being logged. The game has now changed with an ego-maniacal authoritarian in a position of power. Nonsensical Twitter and Facebook posts, blogs and essays are being logged and no one knows how this totalitarian and his minions  will operate with so much information.

Now that the Authoritarian age is upon us here are some things all of us should consider if we want to small snippets of independence.

  1. Get encrypted email. Preferably from an overseas source. Switzerland is a great choice. Their protections for individual liberty and privacy are some of the best in the world.
  2. Get a VPN service. A Virtual Private Network. This service will take your online conversations off the social grid. If you want to post so everyone can see you, you won’t need it. If you want to share documents, strategize or just rail against the authoritarian regime now in place VPN is essential. DO NOT get VPN services based in the United States, the UK, Australia, Canada or New Zealand. These countries are bound by the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence. The former NSA contractor Edward Snowden described the Five Eyes as a “supra-national intelligence organization that doesn’t answer to the known laws of its own countries”. If you get VPN “based” in any of these countries, you are wasting your time if you don’t want the NSA snooping on your activities. The joint surveillance doesn’t stop there. There are also agreements in place with the NINE EYES group that includes Denmark, France, Netherlands and Norway. When you throw in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden in the 14 EYES conglomerate, one can see how far-reaching the tentacles of the NSA reaches. These subsidiary groups to the FIVE EYES have agreements with the Big  Five, but are thought to have homegrown safeguards in place that prevent blanket surveillance. But, still good to know the 14 countries that are working in concert.
  3. Virtual Private Networks used in conjunction with the Tor Browser are the strongest protections one can use against the oppressive practices of authoritarian regimes. Never use a free VPN service. Pay for the service and don’t leave a trail or purchase. Use bitcoin of some other unidentifiable payment method. Remember, everything can be tracked, but if you use an anonymous payment method to purchase an anonymous and undetectable service, with verification sent to an encrypted email, it will be very difficult to track your moves, especially if you plan on organizing a resistance to President Trump. These protections must be staples to organizational mechanisms.cxzqksqvqaavhcq
  4. DO NOT LISTEN TO APPLE AND MICROSOFT…….This morning according to the Associated Press the two tech giants along with other tech companies urged their customers to use their fingerprints, faces or eyes as digital keys for their devices. DON’T DO IT. Law enforcement can make you unlock your devices with fingerprints, faces or eyes, but they can’t make you hand-over a password. Make sure your passwords are long, complicated, have upper and lower case letters, have numbers and symbols. Preferably at least 6 or more digits. If the authorities want to open your phone they can get it. But, the more you educate yourself in how to take control of your device and how to wipe it clean……FAST they will be stuck.

In closing, if authorities want your information they can get it. The resources available to the National Security Agency are unimaginable. But, if you plan to fight against the current Christian theocracy and United State regime, you must do it away from prying government eyes.

The storm is coming, you need to be prepared. Once you realize its here, it will be too late.

The Hate is Delicious for the DubNation

It’s like a fine whine. Yes, whine. The hate for the Golden State Warriors is nearing crescendo heights and the season hasn’t even started yet.

Basketball fans are criticizing the Dubs for their “so-called” team building. Ruining the game, they say. Tilting the competitive balance, they say. Blah blah blah……All criticisms from people whose teams were not smart enough to draft correctly, build their organizations correctly and now want to discredit a team that is coming off of a titanic let-down in the NBA Finals.

A basketball nation rejoiced when the 73-9 Warriors were tripped up in the NBA Finals after holding a commanding 3-games-to-1 lead on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron got his ring for the land and those dastardly Warriors with their band-wagon fans (I would agree, some are on the wagon).

They hate because the narrative now is that somehow the Warriors have built this illicit structure of greatness differently or unlike other great teams have been built. NOT TRUE !

Six other teams could have drafted Steph Curry but they bought into the notion he was too small and not good enough. Ten other teams could have drafted Klay Thompson but they bought into the notion he was simply a one-dimensional spot-up jump shooter. And, EVERY single team in the Association could have had Draymond Green believing he was too small to be a four, and not versatile or athletic enough to be a three. Well, shame on you and your LOGO-less front office.

Now that Kevin Durant has utilized his God-given and collective bargaining given right to jump to the team of his choice during free agency, teams, pontificators and fans are furious that somehow the Warriors are not playing fair and it’s not good for the game. My contention is that having super teams is fantastic for the game. When the Lakers and Celtics were dominant in the 80’s everyone watched because everyone wanted to see them get beat. I didn’t see the Rockets, Mavericks, 76ers, Bucks or Pistons shy away from the challenge of knocking off these storied franchises. I didn’t see their fan bases whining about how good the Lakers and Celtics were. Those teams and fan bases went out to try and beat them. To compete.

I will say this now and I will say it again. After spending  35-to-40 years loving the Warriors and watching them be the laughing-stock of basketball. A joke, a punch-line. I don’t feel I have to apologize for anything. The Warriors are good. The Warriors are damn good. If they could go on an epic run of championships, I will bask in the glow of happiness. I have been conditioned to know that titles are not a team’s right. I learned that in 1976 after the 60-win Warriors were upended in the West Finals and sent this 5-year old into a miserable two-day crying fit. I will relish each and every moment of this great run.

I will be embracing the hate. The Warriors should never apologize for being great.

Let the games begin

Cubs hammer Dodger bullpen; take 3-2 NLCS lead

Two things are perfectly clear as the Cubs and Dodgers head back to Wrigley for Game 6 of the NLCS. First, the Cubs hitters are no longer in a slumber. They are back. They are dialed in and they aren’t missing mistakes. Second, the Dodgers bullpen, the unit that helped propel this team past the Giants to win the National League West, is spent. They have nothing left. The chamber is empty. Aside from Kenley Jansen the Dodgers pen looks and is pitching like a tired bunch.

The signs are all there. Missing with strike one. Missing with location. Hanging breaking balls, leaving sliders up. Almost everyone in the pen is doing it. Grant Dayton, Baez, Stripling, Avilan and most importantly, Joe Blanton. The Dodgers are getting beat on 0-2 counts way too much and it has resulted in the biggest hits of the series for Chicago.

The Dodgers starters in Games 4 & 5  only lasted three and two-thirds innings. The result is a lot of work for the Dodgers pen. While we couldn’t expect the 20 year-old Julio Urias to go deeper than the three-plus he went, the mistakes he made in giving up back-to-back hits on 0-2 counts were debilitating. No Dodger fan is worried long-term about Urias. He started the game out of necessity since the Dodger brass felt Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy were the answers to the Dodgers rotation woes, but we’ll get to that much later at a different time.

Kenta Maeda pitched well tonight, but throwing 76 pitches in only 3.2 innings isn’t ideal. His stuff really doesn’t play if his command and location isn’t impeccable. Against an average team he can survive, but these are the 103-win Cubs. They don’t have weaknesses and they pound mistakes. So, when Maeda misses a spot, or falls behind, its curtains.

The Cubs have found their stroke. The slumps of Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell are now a thing of the past. Javier Baez is getting good swings and the Cubs don’t seem to have weaknesses heading to Game 6. But, the Dodgers do have hope.

That hope rests on the shoulder of Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw, pitched 7 innings of 2-hit shut-out baseball in Game 2. The Dodgers will lean on Kershaw to keep them in the game, try to grind out some runs  and get them to a Game 7. If the Dodgers can get the series to Game 7 they would send Rich Hill to the mound against Jake Arrieta.  This is the match-up where the Dodgers scored six runs, chased Arrieta after five innings and won the game going away 6-2. It seems inconceivable but the Dodgers would be happy with this match-up, even on the road, and even against the reigning Cy Young Award Winner.

The Dodgers and Kershaw have been here before. In 2013 they were down 3-games-to-2 to the Cardinals and had Kershaw on the mound. He struggled and was eventually lit up against the Cardinals. This feels so much different. Kershaw is throwing the ball better. he is better. He will pitch with a full complement of rest and this Dodgers team is tougher. There isn’t a better guy Dodger fans would want on the mound with the season hanging in the balance.

As rough as Games 4 & 5 were for the Dodgers, Dave Roberts made the right decision  making sure Kershaw and Hill were fully rested. Here we go, either the Dodgers will upset the heavily favored Cubs, winning two at Wrigley to keep this amazing ride alive, or the Cubs will win the National League pennant for the first time since 1945.

I need rest. We all need rest. Saturday will be here soon

Rizzo and Russell wake up; Cubs even NLCS AT 2-2

You knew it was going to happen, the Dodgers just hoped it didn’t materialize until Spring Training of 2017.

Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell both mired in horrific slumps busted out in a big way on Wednesday night to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 10-2 win in Game 4 of the NLCS. With Rizzo sitting on a 1-for-26 and Russell a 1-for-21, they both banged out three hits and hit home runs as the Cubs scored early and often against Los Angeles.

The ramifications for the Cubs is an ease with which they played the entire season. A group that looked tight at the tail end of Game 2 and all of Game 3 now looks comfortable at the plate and sits only two games away from their first World Series appearance in 71 years.

All is not lost for the Dodgers, although the short-term prospects don’t look promising. With the Dodgers winning Game 3 it insured the Dodgers would need to play a Game 6 if they were to be facing elimination. That Game 3 win gave manager Dave Roberts some wiggle room to adjust his starting rotation. Roberts is going to pitch Kenta Maeda in Game 5 tonight and then have Clayton Kershaw and if necessary Rich Hill pitch in Games 6 & & respectively on full rest.

On paper tonight’s Game 5 pitching match-up doesn’t appear to be a match-up at all. Maeda has thrown seven innings in two starts in the post-season and has given up 7 earned runs. Lester posted his best ERA in his long major league career at 2.44 and is a 19 game winner. Lester didn’t have his best stuff in his Game 1 start but his ability to pitch in big spots and not rattle makes him one of the best post-season southpaws in recent history. You couple these factors with the Dodgers having a major league worst .214 batting average against left-handed pitchers, and this scenario SCREAMS….mis-match.

With that said, all year the Dodgers have found a way to buck the odds. Dare I say it, a win tonight would be on par with coming back from 8.5 down in late June against the Giants and winning the division by four games.

Regardless of what happens tonight the Dodgers are set up with their best in Games 6 & 7. If they win, they have Kershaw going on full rest for a chance to win the pennant. If they lose they have Kershaw, on full rest to save their season. If needed you would then have Rich Hill on full rest as well.

If this game is close, and Maeda gets in ANY kind of trouble Roberts will pull the trigger and go to the bullpen. With tomorrow being an off-day the Dodgers can be liberal with that bullpen tonight. I have to believe there isn’t a lot of trust in Maeda right now and the leash will be short.

Bleeding Dodger Blue

Hill shines and Dodgers keep applying pressure

I have covered a top-flight baseball program for the past 20 years. The Chico State Wildcats have won two D-II national titles and 9 regional championships. The axiom which is instilled when you don the Cardinal and White is…..

“IF YOU AREN’T APPLYING PRESSURE THAN YOU ARE FEELING PRESSURE.”

Right now the Los Angeles Dodgers are applying all kinds of pressure to the heavily favored Chicago Cubs. Pressure in execution. Pressure in style of play and pressure in aggressiveness.

The Dodgers are playing free and easy. They are playing the game the way child plays baseball. Playing a game, having fun and enjoying this whole October experience. As a fan who follows this team much closer than I actually should, I can see it. This is not the same group that participated in the playoffs in 2013-2015. Watching those teams in October was a chore. We constantly waited for the other shoe to drop. The Dodgers were favored, but I never felt they were playing a game. The game looked forced to those teams.

This group is different. They are playing as if they know they aren’t better than the Cubs. They are just coming after the 103-win Cubbies as if to say, “you may beat us, but you are going to have to fight us for it.” It’s a joy watching this team grind it out. I have spent so many October’s watching the San Francisco Giants play this way. Free and easy, no pressure, just play.

After the Dodgers tossed their second straight shut-out against the Cubs it’s as if Chicago is carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. I really thought that they had gotten past their tortured past. The Cubs look tight. This game is hard enough to play when your mind is clear. To play it and succeed when your mind is racing and you are hauling around the hopes of a city…..it’s almost impossible. The Dodgers are applying pressure, the Cubs are certainly feeling it.

If anyone can turn this thing around for Chicago it’s Joe Maddon. I also think the Cubs will be well served in not facing Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill or Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers will now send their young 20 year-old phenom Julio Urias to the hill to try and grab the series by the throat. Tomorrow’s result could determine whether the Dodgers go with Kershaw on three days rest or save him for regular rest and pitch him in Game 6 in Chicago. With a win tomorrow, I think the Dodgers save Kershaw. A loss and my gut tells me Dave Roberts brings him back on three days to pitch Game 5.

I have too much respect for the Cubs to start searching StubHub for World Series tickets. The Cubs won 103 games for a reason. They are good. They are tested and they are hungry. The Dodgers just have keep doing what they are doing. But, look out if the Cubs can get out of their own way. Game 4 could very well determine who wins the National League pennant……enjoy Dodger Fam

Bleeding Dodger Blue !!!