September 2009

The Playoff Picture


Jeremy Moore tripled with one out in the top of the 9th, and scored on Jay Brossman’s single, to give the Quakes the lead run Thursday and an eventual 3-0 win at Lake Elsinore.

 

The last will be first, and the first will be last.

– Matthew 20:16

Unlikely upsets last night have two Angels affiliates moving up to the next round of their leagues’ playoffs.

The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes finished 2009 with an overall record of 61-79, the worst ever in California League history for a team that qualified for the post-season. They faced Lake Elsinore (73-67) in a best-of-three series between the South Division’s two wild-card teams, while High Desert (who won both halves of the season) got a bye.

The Storm got the home field advantage, which meant Games #2 and #3 would be at The Diamond. The Quakes hosted Game #1 at The Epicenter on Wednesday and won 6-5, forcing Lake Elsinore to win both remaining games at home. But Manuel Flores pitched seven shutout innings last night, the Quakes scored three runs in the top of the 9th led by a Jeremy Moore triple, and the Storm lost 3-0 to be eliminated.

The Quakes advance to a best-of-five series against the Mavericks (83-57) which starts Saturday in High Desert. Games #1 and #2 are in Adelanto, #3 and #4 in Rancho on Monday and Tuesday, and #5 in High Desert. Of course, #4 and #5 are only if necessary.

It’s the first time a Quakes team has advanced in the playoffs since becoming an Angels affiliate for the 2001 season. It’s also the first time an Angels affiliate has advanced since they were affiliated with Lake Elsinore in 1996, when they went on to an improbable California League pennant. The Storm that year were 35-35 in the first half to finish third in the South Division, and in the second half were 40-30 to finish second. They were the division’s wild card and faced Rancho Cucamonga in a best-of-three series similar to this week’s pairing. The Storm took that series, no big upset as the Quakes were only 31-39 in the second half. But Lake Elsinore went on to knock off High Desert (41-29 in the second half) for the South Division title. They then faced the San Jose Giants, who had won both halves of the North Division with an overall 89-51 record. The Storm upset San Jose three games to two to win the pennant.

That also happens to be the only ring I have from a pennant winner. The Storm allowed certain fans who’d helped the team to order replica rings personalized with their names. So I have a Storm 1996 pennant ring in the drawer.

It wasn’t that much of an upset, because the teams were more evenly matched, but the Cedar Rapids Kernels (78-60 overall) eliminated the Peoria Chiefs (81-57 overall) last night at Veterans Memorial Stadium, to win their best-of-three series 2-0. Peoria was 43-26 in the second half, the Kernels 38-30. C.R. was only 18-17 in August-September while Peoria was red-hot at 25-11.  Head-to-head, the Chiefs beat the Kernels eight games to three this year.  But the Kernels won 6-4 Wednesday at Peoria, then last night fought back from an early 4-0 deficit to win 9-8.

It was literally a “walk-off” win, pushing across two runs in the bottom of the 9th. The Kernels drew four walks to force in one run to tie the game at 8-8, then Matt Crawford was hit by a pitch to force in Dwayne Bailey with the winning run.

The Kernels move on to face the Burlington Bees (64-75 overall), who upset Kane County (76-64 overall) in their best-of-three series. The three-game series begins Saturday at Burlington, with Games #2 and (if necessary) #3 at The Vet.

Not to be overlooked are Tom Kotchman’s Orem Owlz. Their 4-3 win last night against rival Ogden gave them a 31-6 record in the second half, a Pioneer League record for best second-half record. The Owlz finish their regular season tonight at Ogden, then face the Raptors in a best-of-three series for the South Division title. Game #1 is Saturday at Orem, with Games #2 and (if necessary) #3 in Ogden.

Men in Blue

Examiner.com writer and Arizona League official scorer Rodney Johnson has posted an article about minor league umpire Mike Terry, who’s chasing the dream of an umpiring job in the big leagues.

The development process is similar to that of a minor league player, working to move up to the next level while enduring brutal conditions and minimal pay.

Rodney’s column introduced me to the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation (PBUC), which is Minor League Baseball’s entity for training umpires. I ran across an article on the St. Petersburg Times web site published on August 29 about a switch-throwing reliever with the Tampa Yankees named Pat Venditte. The article said that the PBUC developed a special rule requiring Venditte to announce before facing a batter how he would throw, left-handed or right-handed. Now I know who the PBUC is.

As an aside, I was researching Venditte because I spend the last few days calling the Brevard County Manatees’ post-season games on the Internet. The Manatees were playing the Yankees. (The Yanks eliminated them last night.) If you’re interested in my bargain-basement webcasts, go to my Florida site SpaceCoastBaseball.com and you’ll see the links at the top of the page.

The Playoff Picture

Yogi Berra famously said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Well, it’s over.

Salt Lake and Arkansas have been eliminated from post-season contention, and finish their regular season schedules today.

Rancho Cucamonga and Cedar Rapids also finish their regular season schedules today, but they’re going to the post-season.

Despite a poor year, the Quakes are in the post-season due to how the California League playoff system works. High Desert won both halves of the South Division, so the second- and third-best teams by overall winning percentage play in a best-of-three series while the Mavericks get a bye. So the Quakes (61-78) will host the Storm (73-66) on Wednesday, with Games #2 and (if necessary) #3 Thursday and Friday at Lake Elsinore.

The Kernels (77-60) play Peoria (80-57) in a best-of-three series starting Wednesday at Peoria. Games #2 and (if necessary) #3 will be Thursday and Friday at Cedar Rapids. The Kernels get the home field advantage because they qualified in the first half but Peoria didn’t.

The Orem Owlz (47-24) play through Friday 9/11, then begin their three-game series against Ogden (41-30) on Saturday 9/12 at Orem. Games #2 and (if necessary) #3 are Sunday and Monday at Ogden, which won the first half title.

The Tempe Angels (38-18) qualified for the playoffs but lost to the Scottsdale Giants (39-17) in the Arizona League playoffs.

Coast to Coast: Pull Up a Chair

The Brevard County Manatees are the Milwaukee Brewers’ affiliate in the Florida State League, the equivalent of the Angels’ Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in the California League.

The Manatees have no radio contract. They’ve already clinched a playoff appearance next week, a best-of-three series against the Tampa Yankees. I offered to webcast the games for free. The Manatees said yes.

By coincidence, the regular season concludes this weekend with the Yankees in town for three games against the Manatees. We’re going to use the series as a “playoff preview.”

Most minor league teams have to pay to put their broadcasts on the radio, which is why several broadcast only on the Internet or have no broadcast at all.

Our project is definitely on the cheap. I bought a gaming headset last week for about $40 at the local Best Buy. It plugs into my laptop computer, which will connect to MLB Advanced Media via the Internet. We’ve already done a couple games no one knew about to test the technology.

Believe me, it won’t be Vin Scully.

It’s just a way to get the games online so the players’ parents can listen around the world. Hopefully the locals here in the Space Coast will listen too.

And being an Angels fan, how could I possibly pass up an opportunity to beat the Yankees?


UPDATE September 4, 2009 3:15 PM PDT — My webcast debut has to wait for another day, as we’re rained out. Makeup twinbill tomorrow at 2:00 PM PDT.

Coast to Coast: Nationals Win GCL Pennant

Nothing to do directly with the Angels, but the Viera Nationals won the Gulf Coast League pennant today, 5-4 over the Jupiter Marlins.

I was there to film it for my sister web site SpaceCoastBaseball.com. If you’re interested, Click Here to watch the final out and celebration. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection are required.

Nothing beats a good dogpile for must-see TV.

Sean Rodriguez is the PTBNL in Kazmir Trade


Sean Rodriguez at shortstop for the Mesa Angels in July 2003, his first year as a professional ball player.

 

As I speculated this morning, Angels general manager Tony Reagins told the Orange County Register that Bees infielder Sean Rodriguez is the third player in the Scott Kazmir trade.

“I knew obviously what the cost was all along,” Reagins said. “The package was a package we felt was fair, based on Scott Kazmir’s age and the time period we had Scott under control.”

I’ve been warning on the Register blog and the MLB.com Angels fan board for days that the PTBNL would be the biggest name of the three. Rodriguez will certainly challenge for the Rays’ second base job in 2010.

P.S. Congratulations to Mike DiGiovanna at the Los Angeles Times for being the first one to figure it out. Some fan sites are out there claiming they got the scoop, but it was DiGiovanna who posted last night that it was probably Rodriguez.

PTBNL Hysteria

Ever since the Angels acquired Scott Kazmir from the Rays on Saturday for minor leaguers Alex Torres and Matt Sweeney, speculation has run rampant on the identity of the third player sent by the Angels to Tampa Bay.

In baseball parlance, such a player is known as the Player To Be Named Later (PTBNL).

The identity of the PTBNL has ranged from idle speculation to false claims from certain fan sites that they have “insider” information as to his true identity. The truth is that no one — including me — knows who is the PTBNL, other than the front offices of the teams involved.

We do have some clues.

Rays Manager Joe Maddon said at the time of the trade that the PTBNL is “a very interesting player that I’m very excited about.” The St. Petersburg Times suggested that the player “is considered closer to the majors” than Torres or Sweeney. In many PTBNL transactions, the two teams have agreed on a list of players from which the receiving team may select one, but Maddon’s statement suggests there’s no list. His identity is known.

• If the player were active now and not on the 40-man roster, he simply would have been included in the trade. Why wait? It risks the PTBNL being injured while playing for another organization. If not on “the 40,” the only reason he wouldn’t have been moved is because he’s on the disabled list. I believe a disabled player can grant his consent, although that’s fairly unusual. Jake Peavy’s trade to the White Sox is a recent example of a disabled player being traded.

• If the player is on the 40, there are two reasons why he wouldn’t have been traded at the time — he has to pass through waivers, or he’s disabled. If he didn’t pass through waivers, both teams would simply wait until after the season, at which time the waiver period ends. The disabled list also ends after the season.

• Here’s another obscure and frequently misquoted rule. The PTBNL cannot be in the same league for the balance of the season. In 1967, Hall of Fame baseball writer Leonard Koppett wrote an article noting a potential conflict of interest should a player learn he’s the PTBNL. Let’s say PTBNL will be traded from Team A to Team B after the season. Team B faces Team A in a series. Does PTBNL perform poorly for Team A, knowing he’s soon to be an employee of Team B? So the rule was amended to keep a player from performing in the same league; in the case of the Kazmir trade, the PTBNL cannot perform in the American League for the rest of the season. So that rules out anyone currently on the 25-man roster.

The Angels just promoted five players from Salt Lake as part of the September callups — pitchers Sean O’Sullivan and Rich Thompson, catcher Bobby Wilson, infielder Brandon Wood and outfielder Reggie Willits. Since they will violate the “same league” rule if they play, we can rule them out as PTBNL candidates.

Who’s left among the 40-man roster candidates?

Kelvim Escobar, Robert Mosebach, Dustin Moseley, Anthony Ortega, Scot Shields, Ryan Budde, Matt Brown, Sean Rodriguez, Freddy Sandoval, Mark Trumbo and Terry Evans.

We can throw out Escobar, as he’s a free agent at season’s end.

The other scenario is it’s someone not on the 40-man roster, i.e. everyone else in the minors. But as noted above, the PTBNL would have been included in the trade at the time unless he was disabled.

For clues, we can look at the Tempe Angels roster on FutureAngels.com. This shows us players assigned to Tempe on rehab. Who are they?

Leo Calderon, Mike Davitt, Tim Dorn, Robert Fish, Anthony Ortega, Matt Oye, Jose Perez, Tim Schoeninger, Mason Tobin, Jordan Walden, Brian Wilson, Luis Jimenez, Jean Segura, Rian Kiniry, Val Majewski, and Julio Perez.

The roster was last updated on August 24. Since then, Robert Fish has been activated and sent to Rancho Cucamonga. So it’s unlikely to be him, although his playing doesn’t violate the “same league” rule.

Given Maddon’s comment that the PTBNL is “a very interesting player that I’m very excited about,” no offense intended to some of the guys on those two lists, but I think that whittles it down considerably. The St. Petersburg Times speculated it was someone closer to the majors than Torres or Sweeney, although nothing stated specifically rules out someone already in the majors, e.g. a disabled player like Scot Shields, who had knee surgery earlier in the year and is out for the season.

So given all these clues, I’ll speculate that it’s Shields, Sean Rodriguez, Mark Trumbo, or Jordan Walden. If Rodriguez isn’t called up when the Bees’ season ends, he’s the leading PTBNL candidate.

But that’s my speculation. I won’t be so arrogant as to claim “insider” information as some fan sites simply pulling it out of a certain body orifice.

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