Elmore back in charge of Bakersfield Cal League affiliate

D.G. Elmore is back in control of the Bakersfield Blaze of the California League, reclaiming ownership of the franchise he operated for seven years after a bid by new local ownership to build a new ballpark for the club crumbled last week.

New owners Chad Voiland and Gene Hathaway bought the Blaze from Elmore for an undisclosed price in March 2012, with the intention of building a new stadium to replace 72-year-old Sam Lynn Ballpark. The pair managed to raise just $18 million of the $30 million they said they needed for the project, however, and called off the project last week.

Elmore said the new owners failed to make a loan payment that was due Oct. 1, reverting control of the franchise back to him. Voiland and Hathaway said they simply exercised an option in the purchase contract to sell the team back to Elmore at the original sales price if they could not secure a new home for the team. Either way, the team is back under Elmore’s control, with its future in the city looking doubtful.

“I had every hope that Gene and Chad would build a great new ballpark for the Bakersfield community,” Elmore said in a press release.

Where the franchise goes from here is uncertain. Continuing at Sam Lynn Ballpark is not an option, California League president Charlie Blaney has said, as the stadium no longer meets Minor League Baseball facility standards. Blaney told the Bakersfield Californian that he will search for other markets within the league footprint, but a shortage of public money to use for local construction projects in California makes finding a location a challenge.

Last week, Blaney said the league has not considered revisiting a previous plan to shift to franchises to the high Class A Carolina League.

Angels oust Haselman, Emmanuel of Sixers staff

Some of the decisions the Angels have made are dumbfounding. Here’s another one. Despite winning the High-A California League Championship, the organization has severed ties with Inland Empire manager Bill Haselman and pitching coach Brandon Emmanuel.

The organization has done very little right at the major league level the past few years, one would think they’d reward those that did a superb job at the minor league level. Well, think again.

The Sixers had a very unique team chemistry. All teams say they have it but this team REALLY had it. It was obvious in watching the team as much as I did this season. Players had nothing but good things to say about the coaching staff. One player even told me at the end of the season he would rather NOT get promoted to Double-A because he enjoyed playing for this team and coaching staff so much and wanted to compete in the playoffs with them.

The Sixers did finish two games under .500 at 69-71. But that isn’t necessarily an issue. Players get injured. Players get promoted and demoted. Winning really does take a back seat to player development.

Look at what the team did in the postseason. The Sixers had to beat Rancho Cucamonga, coming from behind in the final inning of the decisive game.

Then they beat Lancaster in the same manner, winning a 15-inning thriller in the decisive game. And that was a Lancaster team loaded with top-notch Astros prospects and heavily favored to win it all.

To win the title the  Sixers knocked off San Jose, a team that the Giants annually makes sure is loaded  for a postseason run.

The only good thing about this farce of a decision is it comes early enough Haselman and Emmanuel will both have no trouble landing jobs with other organizations.

The Mariners would be a good bet for Haselman. Not only did he play in that organization, but he lives in the Northwest. He did some television analyst work there before going to the Angels and was very well received.

The Mariners organization is in transition so that moves makes the most sense.

The others let go were

Double-A Arkansas hitting coach Ernie Young
Class A Burlington manager Jamie Burke
Class A Burlington pitching coach Trevor Wilson

 

 

Rancho Cucamonga gets league honor

The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes have been honored as California League Organization of the Year.

The annual award is voted on by all 10 teams in the California League and honors a “complete” baseball franchise that has demonstrated franchise stability and significant contributions to its community, league and the baseball industry.

“Our incredible Quakes fans helped make this 2013 season, a memorable one,” said Vice President – General Manager Grant Riddle. “From the Exhibition Game with the Dodgers, the new partnership with LoanMart and a return to the Cal League Playoffs, the Quakes are humbled by this award and want to thank all the fans that visited LoanMart Field throughout the year.”

The Quakes will now represent the California League at this year’s Baseball Winter Meetings, where one minor league team will be named the John H. Johnson President’s Award winner, honoring the top organization in all of minor league baseball.

Unlikely or not, 66ers won Cal League title

Although admittedly I didn’t get to cover many games in the last half of the season, I have been considering how surprising a run it was for the 66ers to win their sixth California League title, sweeping San Jose in the best-of-five finals on Saturday night.

It was the franchise’s first and the first for an Angels affiliate since Lake Elsinore in 1996.

There are some similarities with this team and the last Sixers team to win a title, in 2006 as a Mariners affiliate.

That 2006 team, managed by Gary Thurman, won the first half in bizarre fashion. Poor scheduling left the Sixers a game short in the first half an a half game behind High Desert. So the Sixers’ last game of the 1st half (and High Desert’s first of the 2nd half) was a Sixer victory that tied them for the first half title. So the next game, also against High Desert was another Sixer win, and the first half title, clinching a playoff spot.

Then the team was gutted. Players were promoted and what was left was a rag-tag group primarily of non-prospects.

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Mavericks appoint new GM

The Seattle Mariners California League affiliate at High Desert will head into the 2014 season with a new general manager. Southern California native Ryan Cook has been appointed.

Cook has worked with numerous professional sports franchises, most notaby the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Hornets and Sacramento Kings. With both the Hornets and the Clippers, Cook set new records for monthly revenues for ticket sales and new business development.

Cook also has pro baseball experience, having worked for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Most recently, he has worked as an agent specializing in action sports for the Sports Syndicate in Newport Beach, California.

An All-American Water Polo player himself, Cook led the effort to develop an Olympic division at the Sports Syndicate, cultivating relationships with Olympic USA volleyball players, Team USA water polo players, Team USA swimmers, and USA water polo, the sport’s national governing body.

 

 

The announcement comes after the team and the City of Adelanto made major improvements to Mavericks Stadium in the spring of 2013.

 

The Mavericks open the 2014 season at home April 3, against Inland Empire.

66ers take South title, beat Lancaster 4-3 in 15 innings

Given the stakes, it could go down as one of the greatest games in California League history, which began 72 years ago.
Abel Baker’s fifth hit of the game, a double with two outs in the top of the 15th, scored Angel Rosa with the go-ahead run and the 66ers downed Lancaster 4-3 in Game 5 of the South Division Finals.
The Sixers will host San Jose in the best-of-5 South Division Finals beginning Thursday at San Manuel Stadium, after San Jose downed Visalia 9-5 in Game 5 of the North Finals on Wednesday. Game 2 of the Championship Series is also in San Bernardino. Games 3, 4 and 5 are in San Jose Saturday-Monday, if necessary.
Here are some of the remarkable aspects of the game:

  • The game not only lasted 15 innings, but 5 hours, 31 minutes.
  • The Sixers were down to their final out before Brian Hernandez singled home Zach Borenstein from second base in the top of the ninth to tie the score 3-3.
  • There were plenty of opportunities, but some remarkable pitching (or poor clutch hitting depending on how you look at it). The Sixers had 22 hits but left 22 on base and were 3 for 16 with runners in scoring position. The JetHawks had 13 hits but left 16 on base and were 4 for 16 with RISP.
  • Sixers reliever Ty Kelley (1-1) pitched out of not 1, but 2, bases-loaded, no-out situations, 1 each in the 13th and 14th innings. The first time was a strikeout then a double play, the second time was a double play and then a strikeout.

The Sixers had a losing record in the regular season, but are advancing to the Cal League Championship Series. Is that rare? It is, but not as rare as you might think. Lake Elsinore did that in 2011 en route to winning the league title, the San Bernardino Stampede did it in 1997 before falling in the finals. Bakersfield did it in 1984 before losing in the finals.

A look at the 66ers-Quakes playoff matchup

The Quakes and 66ers open the California League playoffs on Wednesday in a best-of-3 series against each other. Game 1 is in Rancho Cucamonga, Games 2 and 3, if necessary, are in San Bernardino.

Here is a look at the teams:

HEAD-TO-HEAD HISTORY
Last time the franchises met in the playoffs: 2004, 66ers won best-of-3, 2-0
Last time Dodgers and Angels’ affiliates met in the playoffs: 2000, San Bernardino Stampede (Dodgers) def. Lake Elsinore (Angels) 2-0.
66ers-Quakes all-time in playoffs: 66ers are 4-0
66ers-Quakes this year: 66ers won season series, 16-8.
Team head-to-head statistics: 66ers .281 BA, 16 errors, 4.08 ERA,; Quakes .256, 36 errors, 5.02 ERA.
Top head-to-head players on current roster: 66ers — Brian Hernandez (24 G, .407, 2 HR, 24 RBIs), Zach Borenstein (15 G, .466, 4 HR, 15 RBIs), Alex Yarbrough, (24 G, .321, 18 RBIs), Eric Cendejas (8G, 3-0, 1 SV, 1.69 ERA); Quakes — Bobby Coyle (9 G, .333, 5 HR), Chris Jacobs (14 G, .286, 4 HR, 10 RBIs), Scott Schebler (.22 G, .271, 3 HR, 13 RBIs), Darnell Sweeney (24 G, .293, 1 HR, 12 RBIs), Scott Wingo (.326); Matt Shelton (8 IP, 3 H, 0 R), Daniel Coulombe (1.93 ERA, 12 K, 9 1/3 IP)
OVERALL IN 2013
Records: 66ers 69-71, Quakes, 65-75
Pitching ranks: 66ers 4.64 ERA (fifth), Quakes 4.90 (seventh)
Runs scored: 66ers 675 (ninth), Quakes 728 (fourth)
Errors: 66ers 122 (fewest), Quakes 198 (most). Sixers infield of 1B Michael Snyder, 2B Alex Yarbrough, SS Eric Stamets and 3B Brian Hernandez lead the league in fielding percentage at their respective positions
Cal League postseason all-stars: 66ers — OF Zach Borenstein (MVP, .337, 28 HR, 95 RBIs), 1B Michael Snyder (.280, 25 HR, 92 RBIs), 2B Alex Yarbrough (.313, 11 HR, 80 RBIs, 14 SBs), P Mark Sappington (11-4, 3.37 ERA, promoted); Quakes — OF Scott Schebler (.296, 27 HRs, 91 RBIs).

MANAGERS PLAYOFF HISTORY
Quakes’ Carlos Subero: first time in playoffs in 4 years as Cal League manager
66ers’ Bill Haselman: 1st time in playoffs in 3 years as Cal League manager

 

Sixers Borenstein finishes just short of Triple Crown

Inland Empire outfielder Zach Borenstein narrowly missed hitting for the Triple Crown.

The Sixers standout finished with a California League-best batting average of .337. He also led the way in home runs (28), an unusual feat for a player whose home venue is the most notorious pitcher’s park in the 10-team league.

He ended up third in RBI with 95, 12 fewer than Andrew Aplin of Lancaster who played 16 more games.

He recorded career numbers in every offensive category except for doubles. (He had 22, three fewer than what he had last year). He made the midseason All-Star team and was named Cal League MVP just last week.

Borenstein, 23, was not ranked in the Angels organization’s Top 25 prospects by Baseball America but one would think he’ll be included in that next year.

Arizona Fall League rosters announced

The Arizona Fall League rosters for this year were announced and several current or former Quakes or 66ers were selected to play.

The Mesa Solar Sox, which includes minor leaguers from the Angels, A’s, Cubs, Nationals and Tigers, includes several former or current 66ers. Current 66ers include: league MVP OF Zach Borenstein, P R.J. Alvarez, and P Cam Bedrosian. Former 66ers include: C Jett Bandy, P Mike Morin, 2B Taylor Lindsey and 1B C.J. Cron.

The Glendale Desert Dogs, which includes minor leaguers from the Dodgers, Marlins, Twins, Reds and White Sox, has a few current or former Quakes. Current Quake coach Johnny Washington is on the coaching staff, and current Quakes C Pratt Maynard, C Chris O’Brien and 3B Corey Seager as well as ex-Quake OF Brian Cavazos-Galvez.

Players of the week named in Cal League

Both California League honors went to players from North Division teams this week.

Jonathan Gray of Modesto is the Pitcher of the Week. He had two starts and gave up just five hits and two runs (one earned) with one walk and a whopping 18 strikeouts in 10 innings.

  After four so-so Pioneer League outings, Gray jumped to the Cal League, where he has been utterly dominant. The 21-year-old Oklahoma product gave up 15 hits in 13 1/3 innings with Grand Junction; in 24 innings with Modesto, he’s allowed just 10 hits while striking out 36.

This was his second Pitcher of the Week honor in the Cal League.

Mac Williamson of San Jose is the Player of the Week. . The third-round pick out of Wake Forest in 2012 hit .481 (13 for 27) with three doubles, four home runs, 12 RBI and 10 runs scored.

Williamson has found his stride in the second half of his first full season. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound outfielder is batting .329 with with 15 homers and 49 RBI in 61 games since the All-Star break and has powered San Jose to nine straight wins.

Williamson homered four times in six games last week, has an extra-base hit in eight straight games and multiple hits in five of seven contests. The surge has pushed Williamson into third place in the Cal League homer race with 24 blasts.