Orangel Arenas begin 2010 in the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ starting rotation. He’s the scheduled starting pitcher tonight for Rancho Cucamonga at San Jose.
Let’s get ready to rumble!”
— Michael Buffer
The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes open the California League championship series tonight at San Jose. Orangel Arenas is the projected starting pitcher, according to RCQuakes.com. As of this writing, San Jose hasn’t announced a starting pitcher.
Stirring the pot is a story in today’s Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reporting that Quakes management apparently intends to let its affiliation with the parent club Angels expire.
One thing certain is there are at least three California League franchises that have not yet renewed their PDC’s: the Quakes (with the Angels), the [Inland Empire] 66ers (with the Dodgers) and Bakersfield [Blaze] (with the Texas Rangers).
The buzz around the Epicenter this season is the Quakes would go after the Dodgers as a new affiliate.
Under Hank Stickney, the prior owner, the Quakes changed affiliations after the 2000 season from the Padres to Angels. (Click here to listen to the December 2000 press conference.) The Quakes filed to terminate their Angels affiliation after the 2002 season, but after exploring the market finally renewed their agreement, and it’s been a largely peaceful arrangement until now.
Stickney sold the team in the spring of 2009 to Brett Sports & Entertainment. (Click here to watch the March 2009 press conference.) The 2009 season was a transition year as the old regime worked alongside the new, but afterwards nearly all the Stickney people left and/or were replaced.
The Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) between Major League Baseball and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (AKA “Minor League Baseball”) restricts how much a minor league team can demand from a potential parent club. About a decade ago, minor league teams commonly demanded the parent club play an exhibition game. The Angels played a few exhibition games in Lake Elsinore at the end of spring training in the late 1990s, and played an exhibition game at Erie, Pennsylvania in 1999 for their new affiliate in the Eastern League. But MLB put an end to that, so exhibition games are a rarity these days.
Angels players line up for an exhibition game at Lake Elsinore on March 31, 1999. That’s minor league outfielder Juan Tolentino in the middle between Mo Vaughn on the left and Darin Erstad on the right.
I’m not sure what it is the Brett brothers hope to gain by playing the Dodgers off the Angels. Although it’s a down year on the field for both parent clubs, the Dodgers in the public consciousness are a dysfunctional business operation, in part due to the divorce trial between Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie over who owns the Dodgers. The PBA governs standard fees and various other business arrangements between a parent club and its minor league affiliate.
Will changing affiliations result in more ticket or advertising sales? Hard to say. Many surveys over the years have shown that the casual minor league customers — who buy the majority of single-game tickets — have no clue who they’re watching. They go to have a good time. So I doubt an affiliation change will affect sales.
Will hardcore Angels fans be replaced by hardcore Dodgers fans? Probably not enough to make a meaningful difference.
The new ownership changed the way attendance is counted. The Stickney regime counted tickets sold, not actual attendees, so the Quakes annually led the league in attendance. Using a different method in 2010, Rancho Cucamonga finished seventh at 2,153 per game, while San Bernardino fifth at 2,561. Perhaps that’s the number driving the Bretts’ interest in exploring an affiliation change, but I really doubt the difference has to do with a theoretical Dodgers’ popularity. The San Bernardino affiliation over the years changed from the Dodgers to the Mariners and back to the Dodgers. No one seemed to care much.
Of the two minor league operations, San Bernardino (now known as “Inland Empire”) has been considered less desirable than Rancho Cucamonga, largely because of location. Arrowhead Credit Union Park, originally known as The Ranch back when the 66ers were known as the Stampede, is located in an industrial neighborhood with a reputation as a high crime area. The Epicenter is also in a light-industrial area but close to commercial and residential developments, and part of a multi-use sports complex.
It’s about 40 miles from Angel Stadium to The Epicenter, while it’s almost 50 miles to Arrowhead Park. California’s car culture laughs at a ten-mile difference, but on weeknights when the commute is brutal I doubt many Angel fans would make the drive. Rancho Cucamonga would be about ten miles closer to Dodger Stadium than San Bernardino, but again I doubt many Dodger fans would care.
So I’m not sure what the Brett brothers intent to accomplish.
Anyway, on to tonight’s championship series.
Various indicators would seem to give a slight edge to the Quakes.
Head-to-head in 2010, the two teams only played six games — three at San Jose, three at Rancho Cucamonga. The Quakes won four of six. They last faced each other in a three-game series July 27-29 at The Epicenter. The Quakes swept the series by scores of 4-3, 6-5 and 5-3.
The California League’s 140-game schedule is divided into two halves of 70-games each. San Jose in the first half was 45-25 to win the North Division and earn a post-season slot, but in the second half the Giants were only 31-39 and finished last. The Quakes were a more consistent team, finishing 39-31 in both halves. But don’t underestimate the Giants, as they just swept Modesto (73-67 overall) in their three-game series.
The first two games of this five-game series are at San Jose, but after that the remaining three are at Rancho Cucamonga. If the Quakes can pick up one win in San Jose, then they need two of three at home to win the title.
The rotation after tonight is unannounced, but Garrett Richards last pitched on September 11 so he’s well-rested. Ryan Chaffee last started on September 13, so it could be Richards on the 17th and Chaffee on the 18th but we’ll see. Manny Flores started on September 14 so he would align for Game #4 (if necessary) on the 19th.
As I mentioned on Tuesday, the Angels have a rich history with San Jose. It was an Angels affiliate from 1962 through 1969. The 1962 San Jose Bees won the California League pennant, the first Angels minor league team to win a title. Dick Simpson hit 42 homers that year, an Angels’ minor-league single-season record that stood until Brandon Wood hit 43 with the Quakes in 2005. Woody hit #43 on the last day of the season against … San Jose. Click here to watch Wood’s 43rd homer.
Brian Harper as the manager of the Mesa Angels in July 2002.
San Jose Giants manager Brian Harper began his professional baseball career as the Angels’ fourth-round pick in the June 1977 draft. He made his major league debut with the Angels on September 29, 1979 but was traded in December 1981 to the Pirates for infielder Tim Foli. Harper returned to the Angels organization in 2001 and managed their Rookie-A team in the Arizona League through 2005. He managed the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees in 2007. Click here to listen to a July 2005 interview with Harper, including his observations about a rehabbing minor league pitcher named Nick Adenhart.
UPDATE 11:30 AM PDT — The Quakes have issued a press release listing the rotations for both teams.
UPDATE 5:30 PM PDT — A post on the Orange County Register sports blog mentioned an August 29 article on BallparkDigest.com which claimed the Dodgers are about to buy part of the Quakes:
Though nothing’s been officially announced — and won’t be until the end of the regular season — word is that the Los Angeles Dodgers are negotiating a purchase of a chunk of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (High Class A; California League) and will switch affiliation to the team.
It sounds far-fetched to me, but stranger things have happened.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA — Down 5-2 at the 7th inning stretch, the Quakes posted a run in the bottom of the 8th and scored three in the bottom of the 9th to win 6-5 over Lake Elsinore and take the South Division title. Angel Castillo delivered a bases-loaded double in the bottom of the 9th to drive in the tying and winning runs. Castillo was 3 for 5 in the game with 3 RBI. Dillon Baird hit two doubles, and Gabe Jacobo was 2 for 4 with a triple.
The Quakes advance to face the San Jose Giants in the California League’s championship series, starting Thursday night. Games #1 and #2 are in San Jose, then games #3 and (if necessary) #4 and #5 are at Rancho Cucamonga.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA — The Quakes won 6-1 over Lake Elsinore to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series for the California League’s South Division title. Ryan Chaffee allowed one run on two hits in seven innings with five strikeouts and four walks. Gabe Jacobo homered and tripled. Dillon Baird also homered.
The Quakes can take the series and advance to the championship round with a win at home tonight. Manuel Flores (5-9, 4.23 ERA) is the announced starting pitcher against Matt Lollis, who didn’t pitch in the Cal League this year but was 5-2 with a 1.66 ERA in nine starts for Ft. Wayne in the Low-A Midwest League. If the Quakes lose, Game #5 is tomorrow night at Lake Elsinore.
The winner goes on to face the San Jose Giants, who swept Modesto 3-0 for the North Division title. San Jose has a rich chapter in Angels’ minor league history. It was the Angels’ first California League affiliate in 1962. Then known as the Bees, they won the league pennant that year, the first Angels team to win a title. In 2010, their manager is Brian Harper, who was drafted in 1977 by the California Angels and played briefly in the majors for the parent club before he was traded to Pittsburgh in December 1981 for Tim Foli. Harper returned to the fold in 2001 as the manager of the Rookie-A Mesa Angels for five years and managed Triple-A Salt Lake in 2007.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA — What goes around, comes around. On Saturday night, Lake Elsinore started rehabbing Padres’ pitcher Chris Young and shut out the Quakes, 5-0. Last night, it was Rancho’s turn to play the Rehab Card, as the Angels’ Joel Piniero delivered five innings of no-hit ball before giving up two runs on three hits in the sixth. The Quakes had a 4-2 lead going into the 9th, scored three in the top of the frame, then Allan Dykstra hit a three-run homer off Eddie McKiernan in the bottom of the inning to make it interesting, but Rancho won 7-5 to even the series. Darwin Perez was 3 for 4 with a homer, Mike Trout was 3 for 5 with a triple and stolen base, and Dillon Baird hit two doubles. The best-of-five series shifts to Rancho Cucamonga starting tonight for Games #3 and #4. Ryan Chaffee will start for the Quakes.
OREM — It was the one game to decide who would win the Pioneer League South Division and go on to the championship series. The Owlz scored seven runs in the top of the 1st, but no lead is safe in the Pioneer League. The Ogden Raptors scored three in the bottom of the 1st, and four in the bottom of the 4th to tie it at 7-7. In the end, Ogden outscored Orem 12-9 and that ended the 2010 season for the Owlz. Jake Rife was 3 for 5 with a homer and double. Although they won’t go on to the title series, this marks the tenth straight year that the Provo Angels/Orem Owlz franchise has gone to the post-season under Tom Kotchman since the franchise moved from Helena for the 2001 season.
A reminder that webcast links for the playoff games are on the FutureAngels.com web site home page.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA — The Quakes dropped Game #1 of their five-game series. Literally. They committed seven errors in their 5-0 loss at Lake Elsinore. Rancho had only four hits, with a double by Luis Jimenez the only extra-base hit. The Padres’ Chris Young started on rehab assignment with the Storm and pitched 5 2/3 innings, striking out seven while giving up only three hits and a walk. The Angels get their rehab revenge tonight as Joel Piniero takes the mound for the Quakes. Game time is 5:05 PM PDT.
OREM — They’re still alive. Down one game to none in their best-of-three series, and down 10-8 after seven innings, the Owlz scored three runs in the top of the 8th and six in the top of the 9th to win 17-10 at Ogden. (Typical high-scoring Pioneer League game …) Travis Witherspoon was 3-6 with a homer. Andrew Heid and Kole Calhoun also had three hits. Wes Hatton homered and doubled. Starter Donn Roach gave up four runs (two earned) on three hits in 5 1/3 innings with nine strikeouts and a walk. So it’s Game #3 for the South Division title. Ogden-Raptors.com reports Pil Joon Jang will start for the Owlz. Game time is 4:00 PM MDT / 3:00 PM PDT.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA — The Quakes begin tonight their five-game series with the Lake Elsinore Storm for the California League South Division title. Games #1 and #2 are in Lake Elsinore, Games #3 and (if necessary) #4 are in Rancho Cucamonga, and (if necessary) Game #5 is at Lake Elsinore. Garrett Richards will start tonight for the Quakes, with the Padres’ Chris Young making a rehab start for Lake Elsinore. The Angels announced last night that Joel Piniero will make a rehab start with the Quakes in Game #2 Sunday night. It doesn’t seem right that rehabbing major leaguers should be eligible for minor league playoff games.
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Kernels were eliminated last night, as they lost 6-2 to Clinton. The game was delayed nearly an hour due to rain, and announced starting pitcher Stephen Locke was scratched due to a bad back, so Tyler Kehrer took the start. Kehrer didn’t get out of the first inning, giving up three runs on two hits and three walks while recording only one out on a strikeout.
OREM — The Owlz lost Game #1 of their Pioneer League South Division playoff series, 2-1 to Ogden. Kole Calhoun hit a solo homer in the first inning to give the Owlz an early 1-0 lead. Heath Nichols pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings and A.J. Schugel tacked on another inning-and-a-third. In the top of the 9th, Justin La Tempa gave up a one-out two-RBI single that gave the Raptors the lead. The Owlz got the tying run to third in the bottom of the 9th, but pinch-hitter Kaleb Cowart grounded out to end the game.
I’m a bit surprised that Cowart, one of the Angels’ first-round picks last June (#18 overall), wasn’t in the starting lineup. Cowart was assigned to Orem on the last day of the regular season after playing with Tempe. The Angels did something similar last summer with Mike Trout, who joined Cedar Rapids at season’s end after playing with Tempe in his first pro year. Trout had only a token appearance in the Kernels’ 2009 post-season. I guess the feeling is that the players who earned the post-season should be the ones who take the field, but minor league rosters turn over so much that the post-season roster often has little in common with the roster on Opening Day. If it were me, I’d want Trout or Cowart in the lineup because he improves my chances to win.
So the Owlz are down 1-0 in their best-of-three series. They must win tonight and tomorrow at Ogden, or they’re eliminated. Donn Roach (4-1, 6.04 ERA) is the announced starter for Orem.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA — The Quakes won 7-1 over High Desert to take the mini-series 2-0. They go on to face Lake Elsinore, which had a bye due to their first-half title, in a best-of-five series for the South Division championship. The series starts Saturday night at Lake Elsinore; Garrett Richards is the reported starting pitcher. Games #1 and #2 are in Lake Elsinore, Games #3 and (if necessary) #4 are at Rancho, and Game #5 (if necessary) is at Lake Elsinore.
UPDATE 2:45 PM PDT — A Quakes press release reports the Storm starting pitcher for Game #1 will be Padres’ right-hander Chris Young, assigned to Lake Elsinore on rehab. Now that’s just cheatin’.
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Kernels lost 8-2 to Clinton to even their best-of-three series at one apiece. The deciding game is tonight at Cedar Rapids, with LHP Stephen Locke (8-7, 4.37 ERA) the announced starting pitcher. The winner goes on to face the winner of the Quad Cities – Kane County series, with Kane County the home team tonight.
OREM — The Owlz ended the regular season last night with a 14-12 win at Ogden in 10 innings. Kaleb Cowart, one of three Angels’ picks in the first-round of the June 2010 draft (#18 overall), was called up from Tempe and homered. His addition to the roster will be a big boost for the Orem offense. The Owlz finished the regular season 39-36, while the Raptors finished 44-31. The two teams play in a best-of-three series for the South Division title starting tonight at Orem, with Games #2 and (if necessary) #3 at Ogden. Although the Raptors have the better overall record, the Owlz were 11-5 this year against Ogden and just finished a four-game sweep — two in Orem, then two in Ogden. But in a short series, of course, anything goes. Heath Nichols (4-2, 3.57 ERA) is the announced starting pitcher for the Owlz.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA — The Quakes won Game #1 of their three-game series with the Mavericks, 12-5 at High Desert. Angel Castillo hit a grand-slam. Alberto Rosario, Mike Trout, Dillon Baird and Richard Cates also homered. Starter Manuel Flores gave up four runs on six hits in 3 1/3 innings with four strikeouts and three walks. Orangel Arenas starts for the Quakes tonight at Rancho Cucamonga. The winner of the series will face Lake Elsinore in a best-of-five series for the South Division title.
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Kernels won Game #1 of their three-game series with the LumberKings, 3-2 at Clinton. Starter Ariel Pena gave up one run on one hit in 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts and four walks. David Carpenter got the win in relief, striking out three in 1 2/3 innings. John Hellweg notched a save. Jose Jimenez was 2 for 3 with a homer. Buddy Boshers will start for the Kernels tonight at Cedar Rapids, according to LumberKings.com. The winner of the series will face the winner of the Quad Cities – Kane County series in a best-of-three matchup for the Western Division title.
OREM — The Owlz clinched the South Division wild-card with a 4-2 win over Ogden. The Raptors won both halves of the division race, so they will have the home field advantage in their best-of-three playoff series starting Friday night. Game #1 will be at Orem, while Games #2 and (if necessary) #3 will be in Ogden. The two teams finish the regular season tonight at Ogden; as of this morning, the Owlz have won 10 of 15 games this season between the two teams, although overall the Raptors (44-30) have a better record than Orem (38-36).
I’ll also note that Damon Berryhill, Ogden’s manager, was Rancho Cucamonga’s hitting coach in 2002.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA — The Quakes begin a three-game series tonight against the High Desert Mavericks. Game #1 is tonight in Adelanto at 7:05 PM PDT. Games #2 and (if necessary) #3 are Thursday and Friday at Rancho Cucamonga. The winner goes on to face Lake Elsinore for the South Division title. The Storm got a bye for winning the first half. The Quakes won the second half and the Mavs are the division’s wild card.
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Kernels begin a three-game series tonight against the Clinton Lumberkings. Game #1 is tonight at Clinton at 6:35 PM CDT / 4:35 PM PDT. Games #2 and (if necessary) #3 are Thursday and Friday at Cedar Rapids. The Kernels won the Western Division first half, while Clinton won the division’s second half wild card. The winner goes on to play the other quarterfinal winner for the division title.
OREM — The Owlz won 5-3 over Ogden, while the Casper Ghosts also won 7-6 over Idaho Falls. Orem and Casper are playing for the South Division wild card. With two games left, the Owlz have a 1½ game lead over Casper. The wild card winner goes on to play the Ogden Raptors, who won both halves of the Pioneer league South Division title race. Orem is at Ogden the next two nights, while Casper will be at home hosting Idaho Falls. One Owlz win or Ghosts loss puts Orem in the playoffs.
Statistics are as of the morning of September 7.
The regular season is over for the full-season minor leagues. The Pioneer League still has a few days to go. Here’s an update on the playoff status for each of the Angels affiliates.
SALT LAKE — The Bees finished 73-71, 1½ games behind Tacoma in the PCL Pacific Conference North Division. Bobby Cassevah, Hank Conger, Kevin Frandsen, Matt Palmer and Mark Trumbo were called up to Anaheim after the season finale.
ARKANSAS — The Travelers finished with an overall record of 55-85, worst in the Texas League. They finished last in the North Division in both halves — 26-44 in the first half, 29-41 in the second half. The Travs sent two 2010 players to Anaheim, Michael Kohn and Jordan Walden.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA — The Quakes finished with an overall record of 78-62, three games behind South Division rival Lake Elsinore (81-59) for the California League’s best record. Rancho was 39-31 in the first half, then 39-31 in the second half which won them the second-half title. The Quakes will face the High Desert Mavericks (75-65 overall) in a best-of-three series starting Wednesday; Game #1 is in Adelanto, then Games #2 and (if necessary) #3 are at Rancho Cucamonga. The winner goes on to face the Storm for the South Division title.
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Kernels finished with an overall record of 82-56, third-best in the sixteen-team Midwest League. Cedar Rapids won the West Division’s first-half title with a 43-25 record; in the second half, they finished 39-31. They’ll face the Clinton Lumberkings (74-65) in a best-of-three series starting Wednesday night at Clinton, with Games #2 and (if necessary) #3 at Cedar Rapids.
OREM — The short-season Pioneer League plays a 76-game schedule divided into two halves of 38 games each. The Owlz finished 19-19 in the first half, four games behind Ogden (23-15). Two weeks ago, Orem appeared poised to go off on another one of those famous Tom Kotchman runs as they won eight of ten between August 13 and 22 to move into first place for the second-half title, but since then have gone 3-10.
The Ogden Raptors have clinched both halves of the South Division title, so the team with the second-best overall division record will play Ogden in the playoffs. In that race, the Owlz are 36-36, 1½ games ahead of Casper at 35-38. (The half-game difference comes from an Owlz’ rainout August 30 at Billings that won’t be made up.) Both Orem and Casper have three games left. The Owlz play tonight at home against the Raptors, then go on the road at Ogden for two. The Ghosts host Idaho Falls at home for the remaining three. One Orem win and one Casper loss are enough to clinch the post-season for the Owlz.
TEMPE — The Arizona League plays a 56-game schedule which ended Sunday August 29. The Angels finished 24-31, last in the AZL East, so no playoff this year for the rookie league team.