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.

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


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

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.