Monday, August 27, 2007

Season Wrap Up (Part 1 of 2)

The year is over and it is a great time to reflect on where the team has been.

Early in 2007, two off the field stories took center stage as Mike Muranthony (AKA Mike Murray) became the first PA announcer in GBL history and the first I can remember ever to be ejected by an umpire when he played a soundbite from Major League. On a close play at the plate, the soundbite, “I think we got hosed on that play” rang through the park and umpire Tyler Ramsey sent Mike out of the stadium. This action garnered national coverage…ESPN, SI, CNN, etc.

Also, the GM of the Sox, Dwight Dortch, stepped down and Asst GM Curt Jacey moved into that position. Curt’s first priority, according the press release, was to bring more of a minor league feel to the park and I think he did just that. More promotions and some cosmetic changes to Peccole really made for a better game day experience.

On the field, three issues dominated. The first was injuries. You always have turnover on independent teams but it is not usually the result of the high number of injuries the team had to endure. Here is a comparison of the opening day line-up and the final game line-up.

OPENING DAY
Hall, Victor CF
Tully, Travis DH
Sherrill, J.J. RF
Johnson, J.J. LF
Hahn, Dustin 3B
Chikazawa, Masashi CAT
Nowlin, Cody 1B
Done, Mike 2B
Devoir, Jordan SS 1
Bergman, Dusty PIT

FINAL DAY

Hall, Victor CF
Done, Mike 2B
Cole, Maurice SS
Senreiso, Juan DH
Simmons, Kane LF
Amar, Adam 1B
Kowalski, Ryan RF
Sindlinger, Chuck 3B
Mcleod, Josh CAT
Moran, Nick PIT

That made for a rough year and I am not sure the team ever got back on track after such a high rate of turnover.

The next issue was defense. The Sox committed a lot of errors this season. They finished at 124. That is second in the GBL (behind expansion St. George), though they led the league in that category for almost the entire first half. Some were typical baseball errors though many were not the kind of mental mistakes baseball players should make such as the three most common for the Sox—dropping pop-ups in the infield, catchers throwing errant pickoff throws to third that allowed runs to score, and left side of the infield players who have no chance to get the runner headed to first but make a throw anyway that ends up sailing past the first basemen. These plays led to more than a few losses for the team.

Finally, there was the horrendous play of the bullpen. I can’t even think of another word to use. If you are one of those people who sees a 5-6 run lead as enough of a safety net that you can leave the park early, then you went home and saw much different box scores than the game you left this year. Statistically, I think it really hurt starters who got no decisions after they left with a lead. James Johnson (1-5) had nine no decisions; Nick Moran (5-3) had six. Les did his best to get new pitchers in but the former Chicago Cub pitcher ended up with a staff that produced a 5.81ERA over 655 innings while the released pitchers had a 8.41 ERA over about 132 innings. Consistently putting the offense in the hole and then having the shaky defense early on led to a lot of losses.

There were some good news stories this year, especially with the rookies brought in. Kane Simmons (.326, 18 HR, 54 RBI) and Adam Amar (.354, 5 HR, 19 RBI) provided the offensive spark, Maurice Cole (.277, 6HR, 20 RBI) and Sam Walker (.259, 1 HR, 25 RBI) shored up the defense late, and Josh Evans (4-0, 5.68) performed satisfactorily out of the bullpen, staying with the team all year and leading the team in appearances with 28. In all, the final lineup had seven rookies take the field so a lot of guys got some valuable experience.

Of the veterans, Juan Senreiso (.328, 7HR, 54 RBI, 20 SB), Victor Hall (.306, 9HR, 37 RBI, 46 SB), and, despite a poor first half, Mike Done (.282, 8HR, 42 RBI, 11 SB) were a core of solid offensive players. Offense was never an issue with this team.

Starting pitching was also pretty good and that is something that gets over looked when the bullpen is consistently bad.

The Sox will finish at 33-42 and Les Lancaster will miss the playoffs as a manager for just the second time in seven years. It was a tough year but still a fun experience for everyone who made it out to the park.

Season Wrap-up (Part 2 of 2)

I have never claimed to be a baseball expert but like all sports fans, I have an opinion on what my team could do to become better next year. Most of these will focus on the league itself as the Sox are owned by the league. And they will be resource neutral meaning it is what I would do if the money were there to make it happen.

1. Longer Spring Training. This is by far the most important thing the league could do to improve the quality of play. This year it was right around 7-10 days which is way too short to get a team to gel. Learning the tendencies or your teammates is the most effective way to reduce errors. And too many errors just frustrate fans as it really make the players seem less skilled than they really are—especially those “easy” errors I mentioned in the previous post. Also, not everyone was playing competitive baseball over the months preceding the season. Then there are the college kids whose programs play, on average, about 60 games played mostly on weekends. Now these kids have to play every night, sometimes in stretches of 10 games or more, in a 76 game season. There were a lot of nagging injuries that guys are probably still dealing with and many (like some hamstring injuries) can be related to overwork and not enough conditioning to handle the grind of a season. And finally, a pitcher’s arm needs to get ready for the wear and tear of professional baseball. There are no pitch counts here and sometimes relievers even have to play back to back games due to the smaller rosters. Dusty Bergman has been doing this for a while. He knows how to stay in shape to pitch the 100 innings he did. But for a rookie, even a reliever, the workload can be very trying. In my opinion, I think that has a lot to do with the large number of pitcher injuries not just here in Reno but across the league. So, whatever needs to be done to get these kids together for 3-4 weeks as a team needs to be done to make the game better for the fans and, more importantly, to maintain the health of the players.

2. Spend money on getting umpires. Umpires have the ability to really ruin a game and we saw that on more than one occasion. One fan I know of in Reno cited the poor officiating as one of the reasons he wasn’t going to get season tickets in 2008. Anecdotally, I was told that some better umpires won’t do the GBL games due to low pay. They get paid but that doesn’t include travel, etc so it is not worth it to them. Because of the league having regional umpires as opposed to traveling league crews, sometimes you are stuck with what is available. In Reno, we loved seeing Ron Barnes come to town. But I can tell you the Reno fans knew the game was going to have issues when #45 (Tyler Ramsey) stepped onto the field. His experience is basically some college or below. He doesn’t conduct himself well, as with the Templeton ejection that I wrote about. Even if Templeton was being difficult, he was within the rules to do what he did. Tossing him just shows Tyler doesn’t understand the rules of the game. Tyler also seems to have a lot of reversed calls between him and his partner. This is not going to inspire confidence in his abilities. He and others have very inconsistent strike zones. I don’t think I have ever seen as many complaints over strikes and balls as I have seen this year. I know the league has a head umpire to watch these kinds of things so a) did he come to Reno and b) why did some of the umpires still have jobs at the end of the season?

3. No player coaches. No offense to Dusty and Mike since they are fine players, they obviously shared their knowledge, and were good leaders in the club house but the teams with player coaches did much worse this year. Reno (33-42) and other teams who used player coaches or some combination of player and non-player coaches ended out of the playoffs while Chico (44-32, first half winner) and Long Beach (48-28, second half winner) who had two non-playing coaches, will compete for the championship. The teams that used player coaches had varying levels of success but in the end they are all out. I think that if you had a guy with years of experience watching batters or pitchers he is more likely to be able to help fix small issues with mechanics than a mid to late 20s player who has spent more time doing than coaching. This too will improve the game on the field.

4. Player salaries should be re-looked. This year, the GBL had much less interest from the MLB teams if the number of players picked up is any indication. Our Sox who set an independent league record last year with the number of players sent to MLB teams sent a grand total of zero to the affiliated clubs this season. That trend existed across all clubs as there were less than half a dozen sent to the majors compared to last year when a guy was getting picked up from a GBL team every few days. The appeal of the GBL as a place to get looked at by scouts has tarnished a little. In the interim, I think player salaries should be bumped to help get some more guys out. If the GBL is seen as a step below the Atlantic League, Frontier League, the American Association, and Can-Am or even on-par with the UBL and SCL the league should pay a little more to players to see if we can’t get a solid guy to think twice before signing a contract with another league. The GBL can't match the Atlantic league but surely they can be the best paying of the lower teir leagues. Then as we get better players, the quality of my other issues improves, and the league expands to new markets, it will only help to improve the play on the field and maybe attract scouts more often.

5. Fans. The GBL needs to do whatever it can to have all teams mirror those teams that have good attendance. Now I know there are different variables in each market. But are there some consistent best practices that can be applied universally? Are there certain promotions, sponsors, or community partnerships, that will appeal to baseball fans in general? And are there some out of the box ways to get more people out? Bottom line, fans (and corporate sponsors) are the lifeblood that will allow money to do more of the things I would like to see changed. Players and fans also love being in an electric environment with a packed house. And then it multiplies as every one tells their friends what a great time the GBL games are. When you come and the stadium is dead it really detracts from experience even if the on-field product is top notch. When both are lacking, it will lead to folks not coming back. A poll on the Silver Sox site asked how many games people came to. The majority attended 1-5 games. And, the Sox ended the year with an average attendance of 1291 per game this year. Now it makes no sense as the Sox won the championship last year and increased their advertising budget and still went down from the 1573 they drew last year at each game. So the bottom line is all teams, not just the Sox, need to find a way to get those people in the 1-5 category to come to more games. What do they want? What didn't they like? Is there something low-cost that could be improved to get them to come to more games? These questions should be the focus of the off-season efforts of GBL management. Group Sales are also a good avenue since you get the ticket revenue but I think the team will benefit more from actual bodies in the stands even if more of the ticket revenue comes on a walk-up basis.

Again, I am no baseball expert. And when resources are limited, some things don't get the attention they deserve. But the GBL has a good thing going. I hope they can sustain the the gains they have made and continue to grow--if for nothing else than to ensure those of us in the isolated towns of the west (excluding OC and LB of course) have a chance to take our kids to the ballpark and teach them why baseball was the greatest game ever invented.

Well, thus ends my blog for this season. I appreciate all who read it and a special thanks goes out to those who posted on my blog or e-mailed me. There is no hit counter so that is the only way I know that people are enjoying what I am writing. Please feel free to write to me anytime even if just to talk MLB ball or whatever. Hope you have a great “off season” and I will see you again in 2008!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Game Report: Orange County @ Reno (8/25/2007)



And with a split of a double header, the Reno Silver Sox season officially came to an end. It was a good season despite the record and I will post one final entry tomorrow with a season recap and some of my thoughts on how to improve for 2008.

But for today, let me discuss the game we had last night. The first game ended with Reno on the short end of the stick after a solid performance by OC's starting pitcher, Ben Fox. He'll end the season with a 5-3 record and a 2.99 ERA but he was red hot for the first part of the season with a sub-one ERA. He is a solid pitcher and he showed that last night sending the Sox to the showers in 1 hour, 35 minutes in a 7-inning game. Notice I didn't list the score? That was by design as the Sox were held scoreless by Fox en route to a 4-0 loss. It is always tough getting shut out though not as tough as watching my Orioles give up 30 runs in their loss. But I digress.

The fans did get to end the season on a high note as they won the night cap with a 13-3 offensive explosion that included the usual suspects, Kane Simmons (2007 GBL Homerun Champion with 18) and Adam Amar (.625 slugging percentage, second only to Simmons). However, the big slugger for the night was Maurice Cole (yes, the 5-9, 165 lbs rookie from Meridian, MS). He actually has 6 dingers on the year which is fifth on the team so it is not like Jason Tyner in the MLB but it is definitely not what you would expect. The bullpen was also solid as Shawn Balteff and Eric Thomas pitched an inning each of scoreless relief. Oh, if we just had another month...

Between innings, the team awards were handed out with GM Curt Jacey and Field Manager Les Lancaster giving Juan Senreiso team MVP, Kane Simmons rookie of the year, and Dusty Bergman pitcher of the year. I agree with all of those though I do have a comment on Senreiso. I think the guy is an outstanding player and just looking at him you can tell he is a remarkable athlete. But there were some times, especially late where he just didn't seem to hustle. I think the team MVP is more than stats; leadership plays a big role in that. Now I know Senreiso doesn't speak perfect English but heart is the same in any language. Of course, I would take him back next year in a heartbeat but with a very young team (the final roster has 10 rookies on a squad of 22) the veterans have to hustle every day to set the example. He was still an impact player for us, so maybe there were things he did off the field that I didn't see. Of course, if you look at hustle, a lot of guys dropped off at the end so I won't get on Senreiso too much. It must be tough to stay focused when your team is out of contention and no scouts are in the stands to watch you play.

The game ended with the players tipping their hats to the crowd and launching baseballs into the stands which, with t-shirts, $5 hats, and otter pops earlier, ensured as many souveniers as possible went home with the Reno faithful. There was an on-field chance for one fan to win a Hinda Ridgeline but he came up short. Before you criticize him, he had to throw a baseball through a hole about 8 inches in diameter from about 56 feet (front of the pitcher's mound). Even Roger Clemens would have a hard time doing that the required 2 out of three times. But, there was a prize to be won as a young fan was able to walk away with a flat screen TV after doing an impression of Tyler Ramsey's temper tantrum that sent our PA announcer home after he played a soundbite from the Movie Major League. Speaking of awards, Tyler solidified his position as worst umpire of the year to visit Peccole as he ruled a ball that was clearly over the bag and fair a foul ball. Sam Walker, having his double erased, glared at Ramsey for what seemed like an eternity. But it wouldn't be a Ramsey umpired game without some bad calls. I don't know the guy personally and have never talked to him so I am not trying to attack him as a person...I am sure he is a great guy. He is just not a good umpire at the professional level.

So with that, I'll close this post. Check back tomorrow for my last post of 2007; I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Game Report: Orange County @ Reno (8/24/2007)

Well, if you love offense, then this was your game.

But, before getting to that, I have to comment on something that happened well before the first pitch was ever thrown. During the line-up card exchange, it was obvious that OC Manager Garry Templeton and home plate umpire Tyler Ramsey were getting into a heated exchange. Next thing you know, Ramsey ejects Templeton. Templeton, as those of you who listened to the OC broadcast know, went to the booth to be a commentator. I didn't hear him but the word I got was that Ramsey ejected him for not puttinh jersey numbers on the line-up card. The rule, as I understand it, is that in a professional game, only the player's name and position need to be listed. All else is a courtesy. Anyway, pretty dumb reason to eject a guy but maybe I didn't get the whole story.

In any event, it was an offensive explosion for the Sox including a 3-home run night by Adam Amar. I believe that is the first time this year and perhaps longer for that kind of night. It was a lot of fun to watch. Amar has always been a slugger this year and it is good to see him, as well as Kane Simmons who smacked league leading home run number 17 last night finish the season strong. Speaking of Kane, he is still within striking distance of the all time GBL homerun record. If he could have a 3-HR night in one of the last two nights, he will share the record with a guy on the opposite side of the diamond tonight, Peanut Williams.

Speaking of finishing strong, it was good to see Dusty Bergman pick up the win. He will finish 6-4 with a 3.40 ERA and 64 strike outs over 100+ innings. But there was a long stretch of no-decisions thanks to the bullpen that probably kept him from 8 or 9 wins. He is a really good pitcher who, despite some shaky appearances, proved overall that he is indeady worthy of his position as as #1 starter and pitching coach.

As far as an odd thing, did you notice all the OC players using the same bat? And every time a bat broke and a new one was used, they all used that as well. Not sure what that was...either a really strange baseball ritual or an attempt at saving money late in the season.

The game ended with a 13-2 victory in front of an announced crowd of 1498.

Hope to see you out at the yard for the last Silver Sox games of the year today!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Game Report: Orange County @ Reno (8/23/2007)



Another wild ride for the Silver Sox saw a 40 minute 1st inning, a very rare baseball call, two visiting players ejected, and the Sox take a 10-4 lead into the 9th and escape by the thinnest of margins, 10-9.

The game started with a ball that hit the umpire near second base. The umpire (Tyler Ramsey, who all Sox fans will remember as the guy who ejected PA Announcer Mike Murray earlier this season) called the batter out. Third Base coach Mike Done argued and Ramsey, after consulting with the homeplate umpire, reversed the call. OC Manager Garry Templeton then argued for what seemed like 5 minutes. After returning to the dugout, OC pitcher Michael Natale continued the tirade and was ejected. So what is the actual rule?

When a thrown ball hits an umpire, he is considered part of the play and the ball is live. However, when a batted ball hits an umpire before passing an infielder besides the pitcher, it is a dead ball and the runner is awarded first base. So, as with the Victor Hall call I discussed on this board a couple of weeks ago, the umpires were right in their final decision.

Of course, Ramsey is never content to let a game go by without a bad call and he definitely made one of those later in the game as Maurice Cole clearly beat out a play at first by at least a step if not two and Ramsey still rung him up.

Still in the first, another bizarre thing happened. OC Starter Ben Fox had to leave the game. It looked like dehydration since the trainer brought a huge bottle of water out to the mound and the pitcher took off his hat and bent over a couple of times. Andrew Soto came in and after a long warm-up, finally pitched.

All said, the inning took about 40 minutes.

The game was going along fine as the Sox, aided by three errors by the Flyers, were able to put 10 on the board. Of course, as we have seen all year long, no lead is big enough for the Sox that the fans can chalk up the "W" early. Tonight was no exception.

The starting pitching was servicable as Adam Harendza gave up 4 runs in his six innings of work. But then the thing we Sox fans fear the most occured--Les turned the game over to the bullpen. Walentin gave up 4 runs in 2 innings and Eric Thomas, probably the most reliable guy the Sox have came in. He got Bret Levier out on strikes, which resulted in Levier hitting the showers early when he continued to argue the point with the home plate umpire. He then further delayed the game when he refused to leave the visiting dugout. When it got restarted, Thomas gave up a run to bring the score to 9-10 before he finally closed it out.

Harendza got is first win which was nice to see and Thomas got his team leading 7th save. They two teams will meet again tonight at 7PM for the second of four games in this final series of the year.

Announced attendance was 1117.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Game Report: Long beach at Reno (8/22/2007)



Before I get to the game, I wanted to mention that there aren’t many people at Peccole who show up to watch batting practice but it is still interesting to watch. Some guys have some really nice swings that don’t necessarily translate to big numbers during the game. But it is fun to watch if you get a chance. Above is a pic I took of the Armada in the cage.

Silver Sox fans saw a team clinch the 2nd Half Championship last night—unfortunately it was the Long Beach Armada. The Silver Sox, last year’s league champions, are still in last place in the second half standings at 12-22 and are now 30-41 on the season.

The game was never really close after the Armada were spotted five runs. The Sox did their best but came up on the short end of this contest, 11-8.

I don’t really have a lot to say about this contest but I did want to mention that if you want newspaper coverage of this team, I hope you’re reading the Nevada Appeal out of Carson City (and on line). Darrell Moody does a great job with his column and I especially like the “notes” section he tacks on the end of each article. It is a professional touch and one you are used to seeing with MLB teams, not independent baseball. You’ve heard from me that I think the coverage in the Reno paper is lacking. I hope next year that can improve. On the radio last night, Ben mentioned that the RGJ sent Scott Oxarart on the last road trip with the team but is going to hold the story until Saturday. Personally, I think that is a mistake. Granted, it will be a “soft story” so it has a longer shelf life than a game report but doing so until the last day of the season means it has next to zero chance of getting new fans to the park. I know that is not the motive of the RGJ but in the end, the success of the Sox is good for both the GBL and the RGJ.

Most of you know about the short staffing at the RGJ (who in town doesn’t?) and that the paper is run from out of town by a corporate publisher. Those can’t help with the coverage the team gets but I hope next year they take a page out of the Appeal’s playbook and step it up a bit for the Sox fans in this town.
Announced Attendance was 1001.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Game Report: Long Beach @ Reno (8/21/2007)


All I can say is "wow". Last night was easily one of the best Sox games of the year. It had more drama that we see in most major league games and, for the faithful who stayed until the end, a great finish...well, that and the first ever dizzy bat race between Slugger and Nugget!

The game was going along fine. The score was tight (3-2 Reno) and the Sox looked great on the defensive end of the ball. Through 8-2/3 innings, the Sox had no errors and starter Nick Moran allowed those two runs on a half dozen hits while amassing 10 strike outs! Of course, though, in true baseball fashion, you can't keep a good team down and first place Long Beach proved that when Gabe Mayorga hit a game tying homerun with 2 outs in the top of the ninth.

Mayorga was the last person you'd expect that from as he was hitting .249 with just three jacks over 211 at bats. But miracles are so much a part of baseball that you really can't use that word anymore. So congrats to a young man who got to have one of those at bats we all dream of.

The Sox hung tough and finally won on some good small ball when Done singled, stole second and then scored on a Sam Walker single. And, in addition to this being the first walk off win of the season for the Sox (according to Ben Deach on last night's broadcast) it also came after the Armada intentionally walked Chuck Sindlinger to get to Walker. Tell me that is not sweet revenge.

So a great game with a great result. The only negative I saw happened with Juan Senreiso. On one play he was on second when the next batter grounded to the pitcher. Juan, already starting towards 3B, just dropped into a jog as he figured he was out. Then the pitcher threw the ball away and Juan scrambled to get to third and/or potentially score. Then, a couple of pitches later, he got picked off third. First a complete lack of hustle and then getting picked off third in a tight game with the #1 team in the league. I am sure Les had a nice chat with Senreiso so I doubt we'll see that again. It just bugged me to see that lack of hustle. And it bugs me at every level. My favorite MLB guys are Ichiro and Griffey Jr. Ichiro sets the standard for hustle and Grif usually does too. However this year, Kenny hit a ball he figure was gone so he just watched it as he walked to first...and then it bounced off the wall so all he could get was a single. I am not going to say I was a good as Grif or even Senreiso but I can tell you that one thing I learned was you always run the play out because that is just how the game is played. It is something I have instilled in my children and it only takes a Griffey or Senreiso incident as I described above to point out why. But even good players make mistakes and the season is long. That is why mental toughness is such a part of baseball that many people take for granted.

Anyway, enough of the soapbox.

Announced attendance was 989.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Game Report: Long Beach @ Reno (8/20/2007)



Before I begin, I’d like to extend a thank you to Sox Announcer, Ben Deach. I always wondered how the broadcast end of things worked for the team so I asked. Ben decided to put me on the air so I could get the full experience. So for the 4th inning of last night’s game, I got to talk about the team, the blog, and the league. It was an interesting experience; Ben has really come into his own as an announcer so it was a real pleasure to take the booth with him for our favorite team.

The game, unfortunately, didn’t go the way the Sox had hoped. The game drug on through 3-1/2 hours and ended with the Sox committing 3 errors and the team giving up 9 runs on 12 hits. The bull pen was serviceable…the good news is that Shawn Balteff and Matt Paris did their job giving up no hits and no runs. Unfortunately, starter James Johnson gave up six and reliever Josh Evans got pounded giving up 3 runs, 3 hits (including a homerun) and 3 walks in just an inning and a third. The offense was only able to score 4 runs on 9 hits.

Long Beach, or Los Angeles they like to be called on the road, is well on their way to a second half championship. Their magic number is two (they need a win and a Yuma loss to clinch) so we could see it happen tonight. Yuma was beaten by St. George last night…yes, the same St. George that has been in last place all year but now has given that “honor” to the Sox—Reno is now 13.0 games out of first place and a full game behind St. George.

The stadium was pretty empty and at one point I counted 5 people in general admission. The picnic area did have some folks but I am sure there were a lot of folks who bought tickets but didn’t show as paid attendance was 1000. It is sad that the turnout was lacking but with a weekday game and a team completely out of contention, it will be hard to get people to drive all the way to UNR to see them. Still, I would hope folks also would see that pro baseball is about to leave us on Saturday and we won’t see it again until next June. If you don’t see it now, you’re missing a great opportunity.

On a good note, I noticed that box scores have been in the RGJ more regularly this season as well as stories. That is good and hopefully it is a victory that can carry over to next season. Coverage was great this year with soft stories though the box scores and game write-ups were not as frequent.

And finally, the answer to the trivia question I threw out there yesterday was indeed Scott Schneider. So, congratulations to S. Sox for the answer. I don’t have a prize but if look me at the park, I’ll buy you the frosty beverage of your choice!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Game Report: Chico @ Reno (8/19/2007)



I didn't make the game last night so I just have a quick post on last night's game...The Sox lost a tight one, 3-2. Dusty Bergman took the loss though his seven hits and three runs spread over a complete game are nothing to be be ashamed of. The Sox offense simply sputtered against a solid pitching outing by the Outlaws that included 11 straight batters retired by Greg Bicknell and Todd Glaetka locking down his league leading 16th save.

By the way, can anyone name player that holds the season record for saves in the GBL? Hint, he had 19 saves for the Reno Silver Sox last year.

That's all for now. See you at the yard tonight.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Game Report: Chico @ Reno (8/18/2007)



The beginning of the last homestand of the season provided some excellent entertainment from the moment fans walked through the gate. In addition to a coupon in the paper for 2-for-1 tickets (which I used to put my family in Section 9 for just $18) the Sox also gave out free baseball cards to the first 500 fans. They were professionally designed and were by far the best giveaway of the year in my opinion.

The game proved equally exciting with both teams clawing for the victory. The lead changed hands multiple times and there was plenty of drama to enjoy. And, believe it or not, Reno's bullpen was lights out as Walentin, Evans, and Thomas combined for 2-1/3 scoreless innings of work in relief of starter Adam Harendza who had a rough start giving up 6 runs and 9 hits plus a balk in just under six innings of work.

It was probably one of the top five games of the year from a baseball purist perspective (i.e. good pitching, good offense, good defense, competitive from 1-9, etc.) Hopefully you were there to enjoy it.

Some notes:

-- Les was able to keep Mike Done's hot bat in the line-up without sacrificing defense. Done has struggled in the field as of late and even when he isn't committing errors, it still can be ugly with Adam Amar at first having to dig out more than a few errant throws from Done. However, Done is red hot at the dish having hit .400 with 9 runs, 2 homers, and 12 RBIs over the last 10. Our skipper was able to keep him in the game as the DH and was rewarded for that choice when Done smashed one of the Sox three homeruns of the evening.

-- Another homerun was sent over the left field wall by Kane Simmons who continues to lead the league with 16 home runs. That comes in 48 games as he joined the team about a month into the season. If he had been here all year I think he would be the all time GBL homerun leader by now. That record is held by Peanut Williams who had 20 dingers last season. There is still time for Kane to set a new record. Assuming 4 ABs in all remaining games, he will have to average 1 for ever 4.2 at bats to get 21 by the time the season ends on Saturday. By comparison, Barry Bonds has averaged 1 every 8.9 at bats from 1999-2007. Stiff competition but it is a possiblity.

-- Effort seemed a little lax last night. Granted, the guys came back from a short 2-game road trip in Orange County and it is the end of the season but I'm hoping they pick it up a bit to close out the year. Adam Amar had two foul pop-ups come his way. The first bounced off the top of his glove and the second bounced about a foot in front of him. One guy near us was giving him a hard time so I know Adam was probably getting tired of that since the guy wouldn't shut up for a full inning. Of course, I do feel the guy's frustration. Scott Dragecevich should have been out on the missed pop-up. Instead, he sent one over the left field wall a few moments later.

And I know Senreiso may not have the best range, but it did seem like he really didn't put too much effort into catching a couple of fly balls, prefering to play them on a bounce. It seemed like fielding wasn't as crisp as it should have been. But, I point it out just by way of analysis and not judgement. Maybe guys are worried about injuries or are jsut worn out. If it is not up to Les Lancaster's standard, he'll let them know.
-- Speaking of injuries, Carlos Madrid was on-hand though he was in the stands. He is still nursing the hamstring injury (I assume) that put him on the shelf a few weeks ago. Boy, injuries were out of control this year!

-- Chico brought their mascot for the game which I thought was a nice touch. Rascal and Nugget had a dance off in the bottom of the 6th. It is always nice to get more than you expect and the Sox did a good job with that last night.

Now I realize the Sox are out of the postseason but I hope that doesn't stop the fans from coming out. The team will finish against some quality opponents and it will be the last professional baseball Reno will see until next June. So give the team your 100% support to finish strong and show them you appreciate having pro ball in our town.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Final Road Trip Ends



The Sox were able to split the final road trip of the year 1-1 against the Orange County Flyers but they still ended up with sole possession of last place as St. George only played one game during that stretch (which they won.)

The Sox did well in the first game jumping all over OC for an 11-6 win. The second game saw OC strike back in a 6-3 affair.

Bullpen and errors have been the story of this year but these two games saw both those factors not play into the final decision. There were three errors in those two games, including one more by Mike Done (pictured above). However, Mike more than made up for his lone miscue batting .333 with 2 runs and 3 RBIs in the two game set. And the bullpen was servicable with a 3.60 ERA ,4 strike outs, and 4 walks over 5 innings of relief work. So these issues haven't been completely fixed but they are not as bad as they were.

The Sox return home to finish out the year. Tonight is baseball card night so be sure to get there early so you can be one of the first 500 people who get that promotional item. The game is against their long time rival, the first half champion Chico Outlaws.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Game Report: St. George @ Reno (8/14/2007)



So this is what last place feels like...

After getting swept by last place St. George last night (which was also St. George's first series sweep of any team this year), the Sox are now tied with them for a position they have never been in before--last place in the Golden Baseball League.

Bullpen implosions and key errors led to our team being in this position and last night was no exception. The scoring for St. George started in the second with Mike Done overthrowing 1st base from about 35 feet away. This allowed the inning to continue and ultimately cost the Sox 2 runs on 2 hits.

Starting Pitcher James Johnson was not overpowering but he kept the Sox in the game and even left with a lead.

He turned the game over to newcomer Joe Walentin. Joe looked great over 2-2/3 innings as he retired 8 of 9 batters including 4 by strike out.

But then, what every Sox fan felt was going to happen but didn't want to admit finally did. With 2 down in the ninth, Ryan Stevenson blasted a shot to right center. Knowing he had to get to third, Stevenson ran hard but looked like he has running out of steam halfway there. Done, receiving the relay, tried to nail him at 3rd but instead threw the ball into the St. George dugout allowing the run to score on Done's 20th error on the season and 3rd in two nights.

Of course, then the bullpen curse was in full effect as Walentin would allow two baseruns to reach safely and then, in a St. George fairy tale ending, former Silver Sox player Cody Nowlin hit what would turn out to be the game winning single, loudly clapping his hands as he reached first. Walentin would finally get the last out but not before surrendering 3 hits, 2 walks, 2 runs, and, most importantly, the lead.

The Sox would threaten loading the bases for Victor Hall in the bottom of the ninth. Victor would take the count to 3-2 and then, in a controversial play, Victor struck out. Hall, telling the umpire he was hit by the pitch on the calf, was told he went too far on his check swing and was called out.

I am going to be very direct and say I think the umpires are suspect at times and need help calling balls and strikes. I've been watching baseball for years and I know that where the catcher's glove is when the ball is caught doesn't determine if it is a ball or strike. So I am not one of those fans who boos every ball. However, I have spent this series in the area behind homeplate and I will say there is not a lot of consistency in what was called. And I am not the only one who felt this way as the umpire got complaints from both dugouts even going to the extent of raising his hand to the Sox dugout, removing his mask, and shouting "that's enough". I would love to have a camera in the outfield with the computer drawn box showing just how far they are off.

With that said, the Victor Hall call was the right call no matter how much the fans booed it. Here is the rule (editted for length):

Rule 6.05

A batter is out when:

(f) He attempts to hit a third strike and the ball touches him;

So good job to the umpire who made a call that most people in the stands didn't seem to understand. However, the fact that Les didn't come out should have been an indicator that the right call was made.
Attendance for the game was 1001.

Now it is off to SOCAL for a two game series (I will just do one blog on FRI to wrap up the series) and then it is back to Reno to finish out the season. As promised, I will write a blog for each game of the final homestand and then will post a year end wrap up the next week to close out my blog until next season. Hope you enjoy reading!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Game Report: St. George @ Reno (8/13/2007)




For 7 innings last night, the fans were treated to a pitcher's duel between former Major Leaguers Dusty Bergman (Angels) and Mark Woodyard (Tigers). Bergman went 7 innings giving up one run and fanning five. Woodyard, went 8 innings giving up four runs (two earned) while striking out four.



Then in a scenario all too familiar to Sox fans, the bullpen imploded. Bergman left with a 4-1 lead but after the bullpen gave up 10 runs, 6 walks, and 6 hits over the last two, the Sox lost for the first time to St. George on the season with a final tally of 11-4.

Matt Parris, Shawn Balteff, and Josh Evans were all over the strike zone and had trouble getting the call. Now, I will be the last one to defend homeplate umpire Tyler Ramsey since that guy has the most bizarre strike zone I have ever seen. A pitch 8 inches off the plate will be a strike and then one that kisses the black will be called a ball. But the Sox pitchers didn't help themselves. I didn't count but at one point, Balteff threw what seemed like 10-12 consecutive balls. That is obviously not going to get the job done.

Defense on this squad has improved immensely. That being said, Mike Done still committed his team leading 18th error on what should have been an easy force out at home. Unfortunately, he hurried the throw leading to two runs. Done has improved greatly in the field and those 18 errors comes across 58 games so that is not too bad for a team that lead the league in errors for almost the entire first half. It just seems that when it rains, it pours. The errors for this team (and you have to include wild pitches and passed balls) seem to always lead to another mark in the "L" column. When you have a bullpen like we do, 1 error is all it takes to open the flood gates.

The Sox are now one loss away from being tied with last place St. George. The Roadrunners, by the way, are well on their way to setting the league record for worst record in a season. The Samurai Bears of '05 went 33-57 and the Scorpions of '06 went 32-48. St. George is at 15-48 on the season with 12 games to play so even if they won all of them, they still will have a 27-48 record. Wow.

Attendance was 1003 for tonight's game.

The Sox have one more home game tonight before hitting the road for a short 2 game stint in Southern California. They will then be back to close up the season with a nine game homestand. Hopefully you'll come out and support the team. They have some good promotions lined up like baseball card night (18th), family day (19th), and a season finale that includes a double header and fireworks on the 25th. Win or lose, they are still our home team so I hope to see you at the yard!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Final Stretch

Well, the Sox went 3-4 against the two best teams in the league this last week which pretty much slammed the door on the season. The Sox are 10 games out of the second half playoff spot with 13 games left in the 38 game half.

Les Lancaster hasn't given up and made some moves this week to improve his team including trading C Jose Rodriguez, releasing P Jason Martinez, and bringing in three new players. Not sure if those were the missing pieces the team needed but they will pretty much have to win every game they have left and hope that Long Beach implodes and loses every game they have left. Yuma also has to do a nose dive to make this scenario possible. But it ain't over until it is over so I'll keep hope alive.

The Sox are back in town for a two game homestand against last place St. Goerge. Hopefully we can chalk those up as wins. But we'll have to wait and see.

There are some bright spots to look to:

Adam Harendza had a great outing last night as a spot starter pitching 6 scoreless innings. He has had some shaky appearances but has shown flashes of brilliance so hopefully there is more to come from him.

New Catcher Josh McLeod is red hot over the last five games batting .333 with 5 runs on 6 hits. Not sure he fills the void left by Chikazawa and Rodriguez but we'll have to see. Chikazawa brought the defense and Rodriguez brough the offense so hopefully Josh is a blend of the two.

Kane Simmons continues to lead the league in homeruns, checking in at 15 on the season. He's going to have to crank it up and average about a homerun every two games to set the league record but that is definitely within reach.

Hope to see you out at the yard!

Monday, August 6, 2007

It is officially time to worry...


Graphic from http://success-and-happiness.net/images/worry.jpg


Well, I am starting week 2 of 2 here at beautiful Fort Hunter Liggett. I am in class all day learning those tasks that is designed to prepare me for battalion command and service on a general's staff (hence the name Command and General Staff College Intermediate Level Education--or simply "ILE"). We start at 5:30AM with physical training, get to class by 8AM, and finish up by 6PM. After that, we have about 2 hours of homework a night. Unfortuately, the closest town is 35 minutes from here so I have a lot of time in my room since it is kind of pointless to leave here. We did have part of Saturday off so I drove the three hours to Fresno to see the AAA Grizzlies play. It was pretty cool to see Russ Ortiz in a rehab assignment and to be around all the Giants fans as Bonds broke the record. But, I digress. The bottom line is I have a chance each night to tune into Ben Deach's radio broadcast.

Unfortunately, what I have been hearing hasn't been good. I left Reno last Saturday and from Sunday to Sunday, the Silver Sox are 1-6 in that time period. That includes an 0-3 series with first place Long Beach as well as a continuation of the losing streak against third place Orange County who Reno is yet to defeat this season.

And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the bullpen continues to be unreliable.

Here are the stats for the last 10 days for the bullpen:

Shawn Balteff-----> 0-2, 6.16 ERA
Eric Brock--------> 0-0, 10.19 ERA
Josh Evans-------> 0-0, 3.55 ERA
Adam Harendza--> 0-2, 10.31 ERA
Jason Martinez---> 0-0, 8.18 ERA
Eric Thomas------> 0-1, 1 SV, 7.83 ERA

That is just not going to get the job done. The Sox have scored and average of 7.4 runs per game during that same period so the offense is doing its job. And over those past 10 days, Juan Senreiso (.375, 10 R, 1 HR, 10 RBI) and Victor Hall (.361, 18 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI) have been on fire. Hall is also now up to 30 SBs on the year and Kane Simmons still leads the league in homeruns having reached a total of 13 on the season.

Time may have officially run out for the Sox baring some late season miracle and Les Lancaster is in serious danger of having a losing record. The Sox, 18-19 during the first half, are at 6-11 with the the second half having just 21 games to play. They are 8.5 games back of the Armada which leaves them very little time to finally get hot. I, being a true fan, will not say it is over until it is officially over (which could come in the next week) but it is time to worry.

On a seperate note, Masa Chikazawa was released by the team today. As I get more info on that, I will post more information.

Here is an article on the Masa Chikazawa release. Sad story really considering the heart this guy has. I really hope his baseball dreams work out. He brings a lot to the game that American players can learn from in terms of heart, work ethic, and attitude.

http://news.rgj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070808/SPORTS/708080420

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Getting my baseball fix on the road



I have to do a couple of weeks of Army training at Fort Hunter Liggett, CA. Since I have to sign in in the morning, I decided to drive down today so I don't have to wake up at 3AM to get there.

Anyway, I decided to stop by a Visalia Oaks game which seemed like a good fit as it is the High-A affiliate of my favorite team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. The stadium is tightly inserted into a neighborhood so it wouldn't surprise me if a few foul balls land in people's yards. Parking is limited to a lot with about 100 spaces or so, a dirt lot, or the street (which I used).
Well, I must admit that if you are a Sox fan, you don't know how good we have it. First of all, the stadium is old and run down and the field is pretty torn up in spots (and they didn't even bother to draw coaches boxes).

The first thing I did was check the internet (wireless rules); it listed the following as the promotion:

July 28 vs. Lancaster - 7:00 PM
Team Photo Giveaway & Autograph Day

I thought, wow, that might be a nice thing to get since maybe one or two of these guys will be a future D-Back. Well, they moved the promotion but decided not to update the website. So I headed to the souveneir stand and thought I'd at least get a pack of team cards. They wanted $20 for them! $20! When I asked why, they said because it included a Justin Upton card. Needless to say, I walked away.

So I headed to the concession stand. After standing in line for a few minutes, I finally got to the front of the line and placed my order. Well, all they do is give you a slip of paper and you stand in another line where the grill is to actually get your hot dog.

Finally, I got to my seat and here was my view:



Nice. So I figured I would just enjoy the game. Unless you came to see Lancaster (which was the D-backs affiliate last year by the way), you'd go home empty handed as they crusied to a 10-2 victory on 15 hits. The Oaks starter, Anthony Cupps, dropped to 2-10 with an ERA of 6.43 and the bullpen didn't do much better. The guy was missing with a curveball all night but they left him in there.

As far as atmosphere, there was no mascot, no onfield promotions, and very little music or sound effects. Outside, there was a leader board that someone forgot to fill out and just moving around from my seat was difficult. The first 3-4 rows only have an exit on the first base side or the tihird base side so if you sit in the middle, it is at least 100-200 feet of "excuse mes" before you get to an aisle. Very poor construction.

I think I was spoiled...I grew up attending Rancho Cucamonga Quakes game which were in the best (at the time) Class A minor league park in the country. Since then, I've seen A level games in Adelanto, CA (High Desert Mavericks) and Columbia, SC (Capital City Bombers). I thought I had a good idea of what an affiliated stadium was supposed to be like (since they claim they have a standard that is much higher than independent baseball). This stadium, though it had nice stadium seats in the bowl around the plate, was run down and a real disappointment.


So I left after the 5th and went to my hotel room to catch the end of the Sox game. They were up 5-2 when I joined the game but then Eric Thomas came in and blew the save for Johnson after Balteff had done his part to preserve the lead. I think Ben Deach jinxed him because he called him the team's closer. Everyone that even came close to that designation started pitching poorly so I think it is safer to just say we have a closer by committee (Pluoffe, Testa, Nikolic, Martinez, and Thomas have all faltered when they had to close out more than a game here or there).

So the OC Flyers were able to steal a 6-5 win. Thus ends my journey to find my baseball fix on the road. I guess on the bright side, Les picked up two new pitchers who should get a shot soon to see if they can shore up the bullpen. Eric Brock and Adam Harendza both come to the Sox from the now defunct New York State League. With the end of the second half coming up quickly, we need to start winning the close games if we intend to get to and win the playoffs.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Game Report: Orange County @ Reno (7/27/2007)


Another beautiful day in Reno unfolded with the Orange County Flyers coming in for a three game set and their first meeting of the year with the Silver Sox.

It was sure to be a good game and it did not disappoint...OC (or "The OC" as the scoreboard read) was bringing their A game tonight...their ace Ben Fox (3-0, 0.67 ERA) took the mound with Peanut Williams (.340, 5 HR, 33 RBI), Scott Goodman (.259, 7 HR, 33 RBI), and Rich Pohle (.349, 5 HR, 38 RBIs) providing the heart of a solid line-up.

Of course, the Silver Sox countered with a stacked line-up of their own hurling their #2 starter Matt Parris (4-6, 4.12 ERA) who had Kane Simmons (.354 and league leading 11 HRs), Juan Senreiso (.345, 6 HR, 12 SB), and Carlos Madrid (.321, 4 HR, 25 RBIs) to back him up.

First blood was drawn by Senreiso who launched one over the fence in the bottom of the 1st. Senreiso looks like a ball player in a prototypcial fashion. Now I am not suggesting you judge a book by its cover but when he comes to the plate you can just see by his cuts that something is going to happen.

And speaking of unique styles, the OC's Mark Okano brings one. I thought he was Japanese for sure since he has the high leg kick you see in Japanese leagues but he is actually Hawaiian (of Japanese descent). OC's radio announcer, Jordan Moore, mentioned there was an article on the Orange County register about him and his hitting style but I couldn't find it. In any event, it was good enough for a homerun tonight.

OC's pitcher, Ezequiel Ruvalcaba tempted fate with the Sox and with their stacked line-up, he got burned. He loaded the bases (including one infield hit by Ryan Kowalski that was the best bunt I have seen all year--literally as close to perfect as you can get); and then Victor Hall made him pay with a baseclearing triple.

Parris pitched well though he put a lot of runners on. Balteff came in missing the strike zone but settled down for 1-1/3 solid innings of work before Martinez shut the door. What was a close game (5-4) going into the bottom of the 8th ended up being a blowout 10-4.

As for the park, attendance was 1358 and the energy level was up; 500 happy fans even went home with the night's giveaway of a free t-shirt. Even the mascots have stepped it up a bit. Early in the season, Nugget was pretty tame sticking to the on field promotions and walking around the stadium. Now he is on top of the dugout breakdancing (guess he learned some moves from the chicken!). That is what a mascot is supposed to do and it is great to see. Same goes for Slugger.

The Sox are firing on all cylinders. There may be some rough edges (pitching) but defense is much improved and the offense continues to churn out runs in bunches. Of course, the real test of whether or not the Sox have turned it around will come during their 6 game road trip next week. This blog chronicled their road woes of the first half and I would love to not have to do that again :)

Those six games, in case you were wondering, come during a 15-day consecutive game streak so the guys will have to reach down deep to keep up the pressure as they finish the season with two hungry contenders (LB and OC) as well as the 1st half champion Chico Outlaws.

If you haven't been out to the stadium, now is the time. The championship is around the corner and it is fast becoming "win or go home" time. We are in for a great second half.

See you at the yard.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Game Report: Yuma @ Reno (7/26/2007)

Well, I made it to my first game after our long vacation and it was Reno taking on the red-hot Yuma Scorpions who had won 7 straight since the start of the second half. This is a really good team and one that has a pechant for fast starts. Remember that they also tore it up during the first half before coming back to earth as Chico would go onto win the first half.

Dusty Bergman did well in his first few innings before running into some problems. It was similar to the last game a saw with Bergman a few weeks ago when he pitched great and then was probably left in just a little bit too long. He allowed Yuma to sneak back in and left with a tie game (6-6). However, he was able to back into a win as the Sox retook the lead before the next pitcher came in. Following a stint by Adam Nikolic, Eric Thomas came in and closed out the game. He is huge. He is listed at 6-9, 240 and I would say that is completely legit. He is a very imposing figure on the mound and he throws hard.

Kane Simmons remains hot and knocked in another homerun tonight bringing his total to 11 in 26 games. How this guy went undrafted is beyond me but I am glad we have him for as long as it lasts. I think I'll make the prediction that he will be out first pick up by an MLB team in 2007. Let's see if I am right. I also heard his family was in town so I am glad he did well with them here.

And there were a couple of roster moves--C Joe Melton and 1B Ryan Brown were placed on the inactive list with various injuries. Melton was batting .278 with no homers or RBIs in limited action; Brown was .327, 4HRs, and 15 RBIs. Not sure how long they may be out but luckily the team has some depth at those positions so the team should be able to survive.

Pitching continues to be an issue and guys who were doing well are struggling a bit. Les should be introducing a new pitcher soon so that will be nice. It has been a revolving door at that position. Starters 1-4 (Bergman, Parris, Moran, Johnson) have been solid and doing well; the 5th starter is still up in the air--even though plenty of people have had a shot at the position. There is also no clear closer. But Les is an expert in dealing with pitchers and getting the most from them so between him and Bergman, we'll have to see if they can get the wins they need from this staff to capture the second half title.

Defense has been looking up for the team. We no longer lead the league in errors (St. George has that honor)--we have 87 but the good news is 31 of those came from guys no longer on the active roster. They still have 1 or so a game but it is far better than it was earlier this year.

I'll be at the game tomorrow for the first visit of the year by the Orange County Flyers and then I will be out of the area for a couple of weeks. I'd really love to make up for that missed time by having the season extended for a week or two with the playoffs. Come on Sox!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Road Trip: Reno @ Chico (July 23, 2007)



We were on vacation for the past several days and saw a window to go to see the Sox play an away game so we took it. There is something special about seeing other ballparks but moreso, there is something special about supporting your team on the road.

We drove for 8 hours from our previous location (Woodburn,OR) and arrived about 90 minutes before gametime. Since we were staying at the Super 8 on Manzanita and 99 and only about 10 minutes from the Net, we let the kids swim for a while and got to the park about 6:45PM.


The first thing I noticed is that they charged for parking ($3), something I am not used to with the Sox. However, the next thing I noticed is the appearance of the ballpark. The facade looked nice, like a real stadium. Peccole is such that you see the backs of the bleachers where the Net had a concrete, decorated wall (flags, awnings, etc). It was a very good way to set the tone. Around the park, there was a souvenier trailer which had a much wider assortment of items then I am used to in Reno. They also had multiple concession points (3 that I counted with 1 that could be opened if the crowd required it). They also had a booth as we do in Reno where you pick up the night's rosters. In addition, they also gave out game notes and current statistics. This was a nice touch and I hope it is one all the teams institute.

There was a play area for kids as well as picnic tables down either line...again, another nice way to make sure families have a good time when the young ones get tired of sitting in 100 degree weather. They also had concession points in those areas with $1 candy bars. Speaking of concessions, they were all run by folks in Outlaw gear. At Reno, we get the Sedexho workers who have a contract to do all sporting events on campus. After seeing this, I wonder if Reno gets a cut of concessions or if theirs is smaller than Chico.

The stadium crowd was small (959) but that is defintely more than Reno draws on an average Monday night. The Outlaws staff also includes members who hold up signs to pump up the crowd (Charge, Wave, etc) and that helped get them going. Those staff members also dance on the dugouts and pulled up some fans to dance with them. And they collected trash throughout the innings.

The sightlines are great at this park. Reno, due to its continual building has structures (the batting cage/player building in right and the bullpen in left) that block views down the lines for all but those directly behind homeplate. There is a large amount of foul territory and on field pitchers mounds. In fact, the pitchers back up to the fence where the family areas are I mentioned earlier allowing for some interation with the players. There is also a much bigger pressbox/luxury seat area and more seats behind homeplate than in Reno.

And, their sound system is awesome...clear, perfect volume, etc. The scoreboard also has an Outlaws logo on it (wish we could get equal billing at Peccole where everything is about the Wolfpack at our park). Their programs were well done and published more frequently than the once a month we have in Reno. About the only negative thing I can say is that the lighting isn't as good as Peccole.

As for being in enemy territory, it was a fun experience. We sat in 101 (home team side) and when we first cheered everyone turned around to see why we would do such a thing in Chico. We later moved to the 301 side and it started fun as well. I got accosted by the mascot on the way over who put his arm around me and led me toward the exit; and my daughter got razzed by some kids in the playpark for wearing a Silver Sox hat. Of course, they were all friends after that. As for the Sox section, it included me, my wife, and a little ways down, Carlos Madrid's significant other. I have not been to a game that she has not been at--I guess she goes to away games too.

About the only negative moment came when some rowdy college kids sat behind us and began yelling obscenities at the Sox and made some derogatory comments about Reno and how the only thing from them that would ever stay there is the urine they left on the street. Eventually a staff member told them to tone it down and they did so in a sarcastic manner (shouting things like "If we can't cuss, can I say F You instead?)

As for the game, it was Reno domination from the first inning. James Johnson pitched well en route to his first win and the offense was also strong. Mike Done has really rebounded from a sub-par first half to be a prime contributor. And the pitching is much more solid as is the defense. I guess I'll throw out there again how I hope spring training is longer than 7-9 days next year. When you assemble a team basically from scratch, it is hard for them to gel and get in playing shape immediately. Even Juan Senreiso, our league player of the week, took a few weeks to find his groove--and he was playing solid baseball right up until he joined the Sox.
All in all, it was a great event and it is nice to say we followed our team on the road. The other two times I've done it didn't require traveling more than an hour or so. So this was our first official road trip! And on top of that my oldest daughter caught her first foul ball!

And, after seeing how Chico operates and how great their stadium is comparatively, I really hope the Sox do well enough to either command more decision ability at Peccole or interest some investors to build them a small park of their own. Our team plays great baseball (leads the league in HRs and SBs) and I would love it if people in Reno would just give them a chance and go see a game. The Sox have made great strides this year and it will be interesting to see how things turn out in the years to come.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

What comes around goes around




The Sox swept St. George to remain undefeated against the expansion roadrunners. That was the first three games of the series. Unfortunately, the second two saw Long Beach do the same to them. So a3-2 homestand led to an overall 14-18 record, 8 games behind league leading Chico.


Of course, the real story of the night was the appearance of the Famous Chicken. He did his normal routine of the eye chart, putting the hex on the opposing team, etc. And he danced on the dugout and acted as first base coach as well. He was great and I really enjoyed the night...probably because my family loved it so much too. It was great.


James Johnson, our starter, was a little shaky and Chris Wakeland took advantage of him early for a 2-run shot. The Armada took off to a 4-0 lead and the Sox wold claw their way back in to tie it at 5-5 in the bottom of the eight. Unfortunately, Chris Wakeland came up again and this time, with 2 outs and a 3-2 count in the top of the ninth, he sent another bomb over the fence to give the Armada a 8-5 lead which would hold for a 8-6 victory. Wakeland, no stranger to professional baseball, was a member of the Detroit Tigers in 2001. He now leads the league with 7 homeruns.


Overall it was a great night of baseball. Attendance was 2266.


I am going on vacation and then to an Army school for the next 4-weeks so posts will slow down significantly. Hopefully by the time I get back, Reno is on their way to a second half title and an eventual second GBL crown.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Chico-Reno Rivalry Hears Up

The Sox-Outlaws rivalry continues to be a good one. Chico has established themselves as the best team in the league and took the most recent series at the Net 2-1 over Reno. After taking out Chikazawa in Reno, the Outlaws felt a couple hit batsmen by Dusty Bergman was retaliation and let him know by charging the mound and starting a bench clearing brawl. I think this is a natural rivalry and one that will only continue to build. If Reno can do well in the 2nd half, look out come championship time.

The Sox came home this weekend and swept St. George keeping the Roadrunners winless against Les Lancaster's boys. Of course, beating the Roadrunners doesn't mean the ship has been completely righted. There is still a lot of work to be done. It also looks like most fans skipped the series due to the heat (triple digits) and all the smoke in the valley from the various fires going on. I, too, skipped them do do other stuff but I probably needed that weekend to clean up around the house and get ready for vacation next week. So hopefully the Armada series will see more than the 1000 fans they averaged over the last three nights.

First, the bad news. The errors continue to mount and Reno now has a league leading 71 through 30 games. The first half ends in a little over a week so hopefully there is some re-tooling to be done. Here are two guys I see as close to getting cut:

-- Mike Peck. 0-0 with a 12.71 ERA over 8 games. He has 3 strike outs to 10 walks and a WHIP of 3.16. Recall that Peck was already released once this year by a GBL team. If you take his total stats, he is 0-2 with a 15.38 ERA in 9.2 innings with 18 walks and 10 strikeouts.

-- Joe Melton. Do we really need 3 catchers? He has only had 7 at bats since being acquired on June 29. And he has only hit .143 in those at bats.

There is another player who won't get cut because he is also a coach but he needs to step up his game:

-- Mike Done needs to step it up defensively. He now leads the team in errors and is just average on the offensive side with a .223 average with 1 HR and 9 RBIs in 103 at bats. He is also second on the team in strike outs with 29, well on pace to break the century mark. Not good.

As for good news, it comes with two groups...the veterans and the newcomers of the 2007 season. First the veterans:

-- Victor Hall is by far my vote for first half MVP. He is hitting .278 with 4 HRs, 18 RBIs, and a league leading 18 stolen bases. He is also the only player to start and play in every game this season.

-- Jose Rodriguez has a .315 batting average along with 6 dingers and 21 RBIs. And he wasn't even a starter at the beginning of the year. Awesome.

-- Carlos Madrid is a guy who has made it in this league on heart and determination. This undrafted player checks in with a .351 average,3 HRs, and 18 RBIs. Glad to see him do well for the second year in a row!

-- Dusty Bergman. How does a guy with a 3.25 ERA and a 3:2 strikeout to walk ratio end up with only 1 win? 13 of the 29 runs he gave up were unearned. Talk about no defensive support. But, he is our workhorse racking up a team-leading 44 innings (10 more than another positive suprise in Matt Parris) and 30 strikeouts.

And the newcommers:

-- Kane Simmons. Last year he was a college student. Now he is player of the week and the hottest Silver Sox player with a team high .357 AVG, with 5 HRs and 13 RBIs. And, did I mention that he has done that in just 42 at bats?

-- Juan Senreiso. His offensive numbers remind me of Alfonso Soriano. Hits for Average (.313) with a mix of power (4 HR, .625 SLG) and speed (5 steals). Solid outfielder as well.

-- Shawn Balteff. He just joined the team but across 5-1/3 innings he has allowed just one hit and one run in three appearances. His 1.69 ERA is only bested by the .059 average he allows opposing hitting. Hopefully he can keep it up because we need it! I don't think any Sox reliever has had three consecutive solid performances (Josh Evans and Adam Nikolic are close) so it is nice to see

That's all for now. Long Beach comes to town for a 2-game stint with the famous chicken coming in tomorrow. I have a dinner engagement tonight so I won't be at Peccole but you know you'll find me there tomorrow.

See you at the yard.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Game Report: Chico at Reno (7/3/2007)



Before I get to the game report, I wanted to note that Masa Chikazawa took a brutal hit at the plate last night and was down for about 15 minutes. Paramedics were on scene and he was taken off the field on a stretcher. Ben Deach's game report said preliminary reports were that he would make a full recovery. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.
UPDATE (7/4/2007): Ben Deach said on tonight's radio broadcast that Chikazawa was showing no ill effects from yesterday and is even on the trip with the team to Chico. He wasn't playing tonight but may play in the series.


As far as the game, the Sox lost 13-9 but before I get into the details, I wanted to talk about the atmosphere.

The crowd was the largest of the year at 2685. I read in an article that Fireworks are the number one draw of fans followed by bobbleheads. Unfortuately, with the latter, fans tend to leave the game early, but with fireworks the majority stay through the entire game. That was definitely the case and it was the best atmosphere at Peccole that I have ever experienced. Fans were into the game from start to finish, cheering loudly at times, and even starting the wave on multiple occasions. The lines for concessions took about 20 minutes to navigate due to the large crowd compared to the normal 2-3 minute wait in line so Sodexho (concessions company) clearly wasn't ready for crowd. This is obviously good and bad. My recommendation to soothe the crowd: Add more concessionaires if possible or put the radio broadcast on speakers for the crowd to listen to the game while they wait. If you actually could get CCTV that would be awesome but radio will also suffice.

Off the field, General Manager Dwight Dortch resigned and his assistant, Curt Jacey, was promoted to General Manager. And there were already changes during these last two games. There is now a second mascot named Slugger who you can check out below.
UPDATE (7/4/2007): San Diego fans confirmed that this new mascot was their old mascot before the team folded. Their loss is our gain I guess.


Then there are signs on the concourse listing the starting line-ups, current standings, and upcoming promotions. This is a great touch. The promotions are being changed slowly and thy now include a race of 3 Silver Sox behind the right field wall with the winner determining which section gets free otter pops. Add to this that that the Sox sent an e-mail to their fans saying the promotions schedule was going to be completely reworked, there would be a kid's club and a booster club established, and that there would be a greater focus on in stadium promotions, and it is easy to see the Sox are moving in the right direction. Curt said in an RGJ quote that he wants to get as many fans in the stands as possible. I think these moves will definitely help with that. Great job, Curt!

As for the game, the Sox strategy seems to be trying to outslug their errors and pitching problems. Some times it works, but eventually, you reap the whirlwind as we saw last night.

Monday vs. Chico, the Sox committed 7 errors and gave up nine runs. However, led by homeruns from Jose Rodriguez, Ryan Brown, and a pair from Kane Simmons, the Sox were able to score 10 and win the game.

Tuesday, they couldn;t repeat this feat. They cut their errors to the more standard 2 and added in a couple of longballs from Juan Sanreiso but then they gave up 19 hits and allowed Chico to score 13 runs. Add to this 5 walks and a Wild Pitch that scored a Chico run and it is easy to see that you can only tempt fate so long. Chico, on the other hand is is the best pitching team in the league with a team ERA of 4.54. Add to this that they also have the most dominant closer in Todd Galetka and you will see that if you give them the opportunity to score runs they will beat you. Kelly Johnston, a new pitcher just acquired yesterday, took the loss giving up six runs (all earned) in the last three innings of the game.

And, if you don't recognize many of those names, it is because there has been a lot of player movement. The Sox haven't put out a press release or e-mail on those moves and that is something I would like to see improved. I sent an e-mail to the team and posted my concerns on the Our Sports Central website that many league officials and staff read so hopefully it changes.

Anyway, here is a quick rundown since the start of the season of player movement:

PLAYERS LOST: P Brian Keating (retired), OF J.J. Sherrill(out for the year with a knee injury), OF J.J. Johnson (Out with a facial injury; return unknown), 3B Dustin Hahn (Retired), P Keaton Everitt (Out for season with shoulder injury), P Matt Scott (On inactive list, injury unknown), SS Jordan Devoir (On inactive list with shin injury, return unknown), OF Travis Tully (traded to Costal Bend Aviators of American Association), and P Marshall Plouffe (released)

PLAYERS SIGNED: P Mike Peck, P Chris Testa, OF Kane Simmons, C Joe Melton, OF Juan Senreiso, 1B Ryan Brown, P Kelly Johnston and OF Gary Snyder (he was later released)
UPDATE (7/4/2007): The Sox sent out two player movement e-mails so things are already changing under the Jacey leadership. Thanks!!! Ben Deach talked about some of the moves. 1B Cody Nowlin was also released as the SOX brought in UT Maurice Cole and OF Ryan Kowalski. They also brought in a pitcher--I don't have the exact spelling but it sounded like Shawn Bartleff.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Game Report: Yuma @ Reno (6/29/2007)



This pic is of my son and Yuma manager Mike Marshall. Having grown up in the Los Angeles Area, I saw Mike a lot as an outfield for the Dodgers. He was really nice and also signed autographs for the crowd. Not sure my son Luke thought this was very cool since he was having fun high fiving the mascot (see below) but he'll appreciate it later :)






Onto the game. Well, Reno just came off a 3-game series at St. George where they scored an insane 44 runs. Yuma, having started at a blistering 12-2 had dropped the last seven. So it would be interesting to see what would happen to two teams that were better than their current records.

The game ended up being a heartbreaker for the Reno faithful. You guys know what I harp on every game...pitching and defense. This time, the pitching was really good. Dusty Bergman went 7-2/3 with 9 strike outs. I was thinking to myself that the Sox, who average over 2 errors a game, were doing well defensively. Then 3 errors later and a string of hits off Dusty Bergman in the eighth, who was left in just a little too long, sent the Sox to a 6-3 defeat.


Madrid and Hall blasted homeruns early and it looked like the Sox were on their way to another home win. But again, defense killed the team. Nothing too egregious this time--not like Mike Done dropping a pop fly or Jose Rodriguez throwing the ball into the outfield on a pick off attempt as we have seen in the past. But as we have seen too many times, if you give guys chances to beat you eventually they will. That was the case tonight and it definitely sent the home crowd out saddened after a pretty good game of baseball that was 3-2 Sox entering the eighth.

On another note, the Sox added two players before the game. Though they are not on the website roster or on the league transaction page, the roster handed out at the game now included C Joe Milton and OF Juan Senreiso. Senrieso, from the Dominican Republic, was the Sox starting left fielder tonight. He played in the Texas and Kansas City Organizations after being signed as an undrafted free agent. He spent last year with High Desert (A) and Wichita (AA). He only got 15 at bats with the latter but with the former he hit .287 with 15 HR, 60 RBIs, and 19 SBs in about 400 at bats. Unfortunately he also had 117 strike outs so that will be something to watch. I couldn't find any info on Milton so he may be a professional rookie.

Due to other committments, I won't be at the park until Tuesday but I will be listening to the games which now are broadcast on the internet. Check out the Sox official site for the link.

Attendance was 1456.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Thank you St. George!!!

There is nothing like playing a team with a 8.03 ERA that allows opponents to hit .338 when you really need a win. And the Sox did just that as they swept the St. George Roadrunners on the road to move to 3-11 on the road and move out of the oh-fer category away from Pecolle. They now also get the fortune of facing Yuma who is on a 7-game skid after starting the season 12-2. Things are looking up for the Sox and it is about time. Here is a quick run down of the St. George series.

THE GOOD

-- The offense came to life with 52 hits and 44 runs in just three games. Wow!

-- Every position player who was in a slump broke out in convinving fashion and the numbers are starting to look the way they should for the team. Some examples:

  • Victor Hall (.316, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 10 SB)
  • Carlos Madrid (.349, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 3 SB)
  • Jose Rodriguez (.344, 5 HR, 13 RB, 1 SB)

-- Every starter is finally over the Mendoza line and the team batting average is at .261

THE BAD

-- The team continues to commit too many errors and contiues it average of over 2 per game. They now have 43 on the season in addition to 16 wild pitches. These have resulted in 28 unearned runs.

-- Injuries continue to plague the team. Nick Moran missed a scheduled start due to shoulder stiffness and Jordan Devoir fouled a ball off his shin causing a contusion and a bone chip. Moran is scheduled to start on Saturday so we'll see what happens; Devoir is out indefinitely. To help stem the tide, OF Kane Simmons was brought in. He is a professional rookie who went 2-4 last night in his debut. The GBL commissioner said Les Is working on bringing a couple more AA veterans this weekend. I hope we can get that done.

THE UGLY

-- Pitching continues to be an issue. Though the Sox scored 44 runs in three games, they allowed 30. Neither pitching squad has much to brag about.

-- The Reno starters had an ERA of 10.77 and averaged just under 4 innings per game; the Sox relievers had an ERA of 7.67 and averaged about 5 innings per game. There is way too many things wrong with all four of those numbers so we are not out of the woods on the pitching side. The only change is that now the starters are starting to get beat up. Remember that these numbers came against a 3-16 team.

-- Mike Peck continues to struggle since joining the Sox a few days ago. He had a 13.50 ERA during this series and now is at 0-0 with a 16.20 ERA with the Sox; before that, he was 0-2 with a 19.06 ERA with his previous team.

-- Marshall Plouffe continues to self destruct when he enters the game. He was slated to be our closer and looked good converting his first save. Since then, he has really dropped off a cliff. This series he had a 18.00 ERA and now stands at 0-1 with a 12.71 ERA on the season. Jason Martinez also struggled early but he is back on track now pitching fairly well. Hopefully Marshall can do so too.

That is all for this time--I'd love your feedback. I'll be at the park on Friday.

See you at the yard.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Road woes continue

0-11.

Baseball fans love stats but Silver Sox fans probably don't like that one. It is the teams record on the road this year.

The Sox came home for a short 2-game series and swept the expansion St. George Roadrunners. Things seemed to be clicking and then the bus pulled up for the trip to Long Beach.

And, after getting swept by the Armada, things just looked ugly. Two of those games saw the Silver Sox get shut out. One had a season high 5 errors committed by the Sox and they now have 37 through 16 games, the most in the league. Four of the nine starting position players are batting under .200. And the team found out it now has its third player gone for the season when it was released that J.J. Sherrill will have season ending surgery. And, J.J. Johnson is on the shelf and the status of #3 starter, Keaton Everitt, is still up in the air. The team hasn't released any information on him but he missed his last start and was pulled after a couple of innings from his start prior to that.

The road trip continues tonight with a three game stand in St. George. On a positive note, Reno has crushed St. George with an 2-0 record and a combined score of 10-2 when they first met last week. Of course that was at Peccole but if there is a team who may provide an opportunity for the Sox to break the 0-11 road record, it will be the Roadrunners. But the Sox have to buckle down and cut down on the mental mistakes.

The 37 errors, including 11 by shortstop Justin Devoir alone, need to decrease significantly. The two first place teams demonstrate that pretty clearly. First place Yuma has 22 and second place Orange County has 16.

Then, the batters have to cut down on strike outs which are way to high. Chikazawa is averaging a K every two at bats and Madrid and Done about every three at bats.

And the pitching, while getting better, has to do more. It may seem unfair when the pitching is doing a lot better but they can't count on the defense to hold small leads. The team has given up 25 unearned runs this year. That means control has to be a focus. Wild Pitches (11 in 16 games) and poor Strike Out to Walk Ratios (Bergman for example has 14 SOs to 13 walks) are areas of concern.

25 unearned runs, by the way, means the Sox spot the opponents over a run and a half per game on average. You add the team ERA of 4.36 and that means, again on average, that the offense has to score 7 or more runs to win each game. With a team batting average of .225 and less than a home run a game (they have 14 on the season) that is just not going to happen consistently. Their runs per game average is 3.75 by the way.

And for one last stat, the season is 21% over. With a little over 3/4 of a season left, time to turn things around is slowly expiring. Though Yuma has come back to earth a little, they are still 12-6 and have a 7 game lead on the Silver Sox. That will quickly become a double digit lead by the half if the Sox can't turn it around quick.

On the positive side, the team has 21 stolen bases, 38 extra base hits, and, with one exception, the starting pitchers have a WHIP around 1.00. So the opportunities to score are happening and or being manufactured and the starting pitchers are not putting a lot of guys on base to come around and hurt them later.

Here's hoping they have a little magic up their sleeve and Les' new pitcher pick-ups will stay as solid as they have looked early on to take some pressure off of the starters...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Game Report: St. George @ Reno (6/18/2007)



Well, the Sox pulled out a close one tonight with a 2-1 win over St. George to not only put themselves back on the winning track but also to have a great showing by the bullpen.

When we showed up, the two J.J.s took up seats just in front of us (see above). The Sox Website said they would be back tonight so I was surprised to see them in street clothes. I talked to J.J. Johnson and he said it will probably be about another week before he was back in the line-up. He confirmed he took the foul ball off the nose and he was wearing shades at night so I assume he's still feeling the effects of that incident.

6/19/07 UPDATE: Curt Jacey, Assistand GM of the Sox, was on the radio tonight and announced that J.J. Johnson has to have surgery on a bone under his eye and will be out for some time and placed on the inactive list. Sherrill had an MRI today with the results due tomorrow. And Keaton Everitt has an injury that kept him out of the game tonight (Matt Paris made another spot start).


But the pitching and defense are what dominated this game. St. George threw former Detroit Tiger Mark Woodyard who looked great pitching the entire game (8 innings) giving up just two runs. But he would be out dueled by Nick Moran (who only went 4 innings incidentally so he didn't qualify for a win), Josh Evans, and Adam Nikolic. And though the box score will show 3 errors by the Sox, there were two huge defensive gems that preserved the lead. Travis Tully sprinted to make an outstanding diving catch on a hard liner in the outfield and Mike Done made an excellent diving stop and gunned out the runner at first. Done for his part definitely made up for dropping a pop fly at second earlier in the game.

There was a scary moment when Masa Chikazawa took a foul ball off the shoulder but he was able to continue. With the other two big bats nursing injuries, it was good to see he wasn't hurting too bad.

All in all, a great game with the Sox playing great baseball. Unfortunately, I won't be there tomorrow night but I will try to listen to the last half of the game on the radio. Hopefully, they can keep the winning ways rolling!

Attendance for the game was 979.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The nightmare roadtrip comes to an end





Picture from http://www.cuttingedgeprdx.com/Road_Trips/road_trips.html

Wow, what a difference a week makes. The Sox got hammered on the road with the following events:

-- They lost every game (0-7) including a 20-11 loss to Yuma. They now stand at 2-8 in last place.

-- They've committed 20 errors which is an average of 2 per game.

-- Their team ERA is above 5.00 and that includes 2 relief pitchers (Martinez and Plouffe) who are a combined 0-3 over 9 appearances with an ERA over 16.00 between the two of them.

-- Two of their best offensive weapons (Johnson and Sherrill) went down with injuries and neither went to Yuma to help battle the red-hot Scorpions

It was a rough week and now they head back to Reno for a two game homestand. There were some positives last week including:

-- Jose Rodriguez has 4 HRs which leads the league. He came into the season as the back-up catcher so I for one am glad the GBL uses the DH so we can keep his bat in the line-up.

-- The team batting average finally climbed above the Mendoza line (barely) so hopefully that is a sign the the offense is starting to click

Now the Sox will have to dig deep to get a win against the Roadrunners tomorrow night. They have to recover from a 12-hour bus ride back to Reno the will put them in around mid-morning and then be ready to play rested St. George squad who will have a full night's sleep after finishing a set in Chico and is riding a 2-game winning streak.

I'll be at the game tommorow night hoping the Sox can get back on the right track. Getting Sherrill and Johnson back will be key as will getting the bullpen back on track. The starters have dropped to a four man rotation after the retirement of the injured Brian Keating. And that bullpen which has looked shaky has also put in a lot of innings recently. But championship teams find a way to win and Les Lancaster is a winner so if anyone can get this team to play up to its potential, it will be him.

There was one transaction of note: The Sox signed OF Gary Snyder but then released him two days later after he got two games in the outfield and batted .222 with 4 strike outs in 9 at bats.
See you at the yard.