Temple City baseball coach Barry Bacon wants to know why CIF rewards so many teams

We love it when a coach speaks out. Star-Newbie reporter Miguel Melendez talked to Temple City coach Barry Bacon about the CIF playoff format, where just about anybody makes the playoffs. The Rams are in the Rio Hondo League and in Div. IV with San Dimas, Bishop Amat and Northview. Much like the Sierra, the Rio was a close race between several teams with Temple City finishing third and La Canada fourth, but did it really matter? Read on, Bacon tells you why it doesn’t?

“It was really fun knowing any given day someone was going to get beat and we were going to move the standings. We’ve been playing CIF mentality since the Monrovia loss; you lose, you screw yourself, but (then) CIF decides to open their wallet and let everybody in the playoffs. In my opinion, I wouldn’t do that. I don’t believe in letting everybody play. We finished third, we face a third-place team which is better than most of our Valley. La Caada finishes fourth and faces a third-place team. I don’t believe in that. I don’t want to dis (La Caada) but if you finish third you have a right to go to the first round. With this division there’s 12 leagues, so you have 36 to 37 teams so you have wild cards. The Rio Hondo League team is a good league and we have to travel to play Sonora, which was in first place last week? They are the class of this league, and (CIF) is going to send us down because (Sonora has) a down year? Look at the wall. I’m not disrespecting La Caada, but I’m not an at-large guy at all.”

Bacon pointed to the wall behind left field, columns and columns of years painted on the wall to signify how many years Sonora has made the playoffs, won league championships and reached quarterfinals and semifinals. This entire season, Rio Hondo League coaches were concerned one team wouldn’t make the playoffs. It was quite clear that team would be La Caada after losing in the final stretch, though the Spartans did have a chance because of the new CIF rule. Staff writer Clay Fowler wrote in his Pasadena-Redlands East Valley report that effective this season, CIF is granting playoff berths to teams with a .500 or better record that finish one place out of automatic postseason position. Monrovia finished first, San Marino second, Temple City third and La Caada fourth, respectively. I put in a call to San Marino coach Mack Paciorek and he could understand Bacon’s argument.

“The whole season you’re fighting to be in the top three to make the playoffs, and I can see how Bacon feels, that if they finished in one of the top three spots guaranteed for the playoffs why are they playing in a wild card round instead of the first round. At the same time, what if the situation was flipped. If I finished fourth, yeah, I would have hoped I got an at-large berth because it was obvious all four teams deserved to be in the playoffs.”

Temple City lost Tuesday while La Caada defeated South Torrance to advance to Thursday’s first round vs. Anaheim at Glover Stadium. Bacon made it clear he holds no gripe over La Caada but rather the system in which CIF now operates to select teams that get into the playoffs.

“(La Caada) had a great season and deserved to be in the playoffs, but they didn’t finish 1-2-3 in their league. I finished fourth one time in 1999 and I didn’t get in the playoffs. I’m just kind of old school.”

I played a little devil’s advocate when interviewing Bacon. La Caada helped make the Rio Hondo League an exciting season. They were certainly deserving of getting invited to the playoffs. After all, they won the Southern California Invitational and was in first place in the early part of league. But you can understand where Bacon is coming from, and he makes a good point: if you finish in the top three spots why are you essentially having to play in a “play-in” in the form of a wild card game to reach the first round?

On one hand, I’m glad La Caada got in because of how exciting the Rio Hondo League turned out to be. Lets forget that it wasn’t La Caada that finished fourth. I would have rooted for Temple City and San Marino, too.

On the other hand, you have a situation where it’s been the norm to only allow the top three teams in a 6-team league into the playoffs. If you didn’t finish in the top three, tough. Try again next season and learn from not capitalizing key situations. Letting everyone play almost reminds me of Little League or T-Ball where everybody gets a trophy.

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