Future fans line up at the Quakes’ 2007 youth clinic. The Quakes won’t hold a youth clinic or Hot Stove banquet in 2010.
For the first time since their Angels affiliation began in 2001, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes are not holding a Hot Stove banquet this winter. Nor will they hold a youth clinic.
A Hot Stove banquet is a tradition in most minor league towns. The phrase refers to old days when fans might sit around a “hot stove” during the winter to stay warm and talk about baseball. Today we might call it “Hot Space Heater,” but it just doesn’t have the same charm. In any case, the Hot Stove banquet is an opportunity for minor league teams to get their fans thinking about baseball again as the season approaches.
The parent club often provides a speaker. This year, Angels manager Mike Scioscia went to Orem, second baseman Howie Kendrick went to Cedar Rapids, and farm director Abe Flores went to Arkansas.
The Triple-A Salt Lake Bees, owned by the NBA’s Utah Jazz, have never done a winter event to my memory, but the Quakes have always had a dinner. Among the speakers have been Scioscia and former pitcher Jim Abbott.
The Quakes were sold a year ago to Brett Sports & Entertainment. After the season, most of the prior owner’s staff were let go or left. Heavy turnover is not unusual for many minor league teams, but it is for the Quakes, one of the steadier operations in the California League.
In recent years, the Quakes have also held a youth clinic on a Saturday in January. This typically involved Angels minor league players, coaches, and former Angels pitcher Clyde Wright.
I asked Mike Lindskog, the new broadcaster and Public Relations Manager, for a statement I can release about why the Quakes would have no banquet or clinic this year. Mike’s response:
“With the recent ownership change, we decided that our efforts would be best spent focusing on reaching out to our season ticket holders and corporate partners, starting to build relationships in the community and planning to enhance the experience of Quakes fans when visiting the Epicenter in 2010. Kids Clinics during the season are currently being planned and we hope to have some details finalized very soon.”
In the current recessionary economy, I can understand why they wouldn’t host the clinic, because it’s free and just P.R., although it was certainly an opportunity to sell souvenirs and hawk season tickets.
The Hot Stove banquet, though, was always well-attended. Many corporate sponsors bought entire tables, and the core fans turned out to reconnect and begin plans for supporting the team in the upcoming season. The Quakes gave awards to local high school athletes, and recognized a “fan of the year” for service to the organization.
Organizing a Hot Stove requires a lot of work, but it’s one of those annual events that are considered a benchmark of an organization’s stability. It was an opportunity for the new ownership to show its core fans that they care. I’m sure they do, but I suspect a lot of those fans are wondering if the new management has its act together. Core fans often judge success by continuity, and when that continuity is broken, questions inevitably arise.
The Quakes were eliminated from the playoffs last night after losing 11-6 at High Desert. Rancho Cucamonga went much further than anyone reasonably expected. They upset the Lake Elsinore Storm in their wild-card series, then took the Mavericks to five games. Not bad for a team that finished 61-79 and lost power-hitter Matt Sweeney to the Tampa Bay Rays in the Scott Kazmir trade.
The Owlz suffered a surprising 7-6 loss at home to Missoula, to fall behind 1-0 in their best-of-three pennant series. The bullpen blew a 5-1 lead by giving up three runs in the 8th and three runs in the 9th, including a three-run homer in the 9th to Osprey right fielder Bobby Stone off David Carpenter.
Both teams are off today for the long bus trip to Missoula. Games #2 and (if necessary) #3 are Friday and Saturday. I haven’t done the research, but anecdotally I know it’s very hard for a team to lose its home game #1 in these best-of-three series to sweep #2 and #3 on the road. That’s what faces the Owlz.
Ryan Brasier pitched eight shutout innings Tuesday as the Quakes won 2-1 over High Desert. Brasier struck out seven, walked one, and gave up just three hits.
Ryan Brasier pitched what might be the game of his life to lead the Quakes to a 2-1 win over High Desert. The win evened their best-of-five series 2-2, with the deciding game tonight in Adelanto.
A sixth-round pick out of Weatherford (TX) Junior College in the June 2007 draft, Brasier was a reliever his entire professional career until June 30, when he was moved into the Quakes’ starting rotation. Ryan’s numbers with Rancho this year have been unimpressive — 5.23 ERA overall, 4.45 as a reliever, 5.56 as a starter — but his performance last night was as improbable as the Quakes’ survival in the post-season. Brasier pitched eight shutout innings, struck out seven, walked one and gave up just three hits.
The Mavericks were 83-57 overall in 2009. They won both halves of the California League’s South Division season. The Quakes were 61-79. Rancho shouldn’t have got this far, but they upset Lake Elsinore (73-67) in their best-of-three playoff series, and now they stand one game away from the pennant series. In the north, Bakersfield (75-65) is at San Jose (93-47) for Game #5 tonight.
Manuel Flores is the announced starter for the Quakes. He spent most of 2009 with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, where he was 7-4 with a 3.59 ERA in 120.1 innings. In six starts with Rancho, he was 2-3 with a 4.32 ERA in 33.1 IP. He’ll face Donnie Hume, 17-5 with a 4.81 ERA in 151.2 IP for the Mavericks.
Winner take all.
Let’s not overlook the Orem Owlz. They begin their best-of-three series tonight against the Missoula Osprey for the Pioneer League pennant. Pat Corbin is the announced starter for the Owlz, according to OremOwlz.com. Game #1 is tonight in Orem, then the teams are off Thursday to bus to Missoula for Game #2 and (if necessary) #3.
Down 2-0 in their best-of-five series with High Desert, and down 6-2 at the stretch half of the 7th inning in Game #3, the Quakes posted a run in the bottom frame thanks to Alberto Rosario’s solo homer, then three runs to tie in the bottom of the 9th, and finally scored in the bottom of the 10th to win 7-6. Game #4 is tonight at Rancho Cucamonga; Ryan Brasier is the scheduled starter.
Will Smith was a big-game pitcher in 2008 with the Orem Owlz, and he delivered a big-game performance last night for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, but it wasn’t enough as the Burlington Bees won 2-1 to eliminate the Men of Corn. Will gave up a broken-bat single in the 1st followed by a two-run homer off his changeup, then settled down to allow no more runs through the 8th when he exited the game. He struck out nine, walked five, and allowed only three hits — just one after the 1st-inning dinger.
The Orem Owlz are off until Wednesday, when they host Game #1 of the Pioneer League best-of-three pennant series at Orem. They’ll face the Missoula Osprey, a Diamondbacks affiliate. Missoula’s overall record was 40-36. Because of the short series, only one game is in Orem, then Games #2 and (if necessary) #3 are in Missoula. The divisions alternate by year who gets the home field advantage, and in 2009 it’s the North Division’s turn, so whomever wins the series celebrates in Missoula. The Owlz were 7-0 this year against Missoula, but that means nothing in the post-season.
The Orem Owlz won 7-4 at Ogden Sunday to win the Pioneer League South Division series 2-0. They await the winner of the Great Falls-Missoula series. The Pioneer League alternates which division gets the home field advantage. This year it’s the North Division, so Orem hosts Game #1 before going on the road up north for Games #2 and (if necessary) #3.
The Kernels won 4-1 over Burlington to tie their best-of-three series 1-1. The Game #3 finale is tonight at Cedar Rapids. Iowans, turn out and support your team! The winner goes on to face the winner of the Great Lakes-Fort Wayne series, Dodgers and Padres affiliates.
The Quakes were shut out for the second straight night, 4-0 at High Desert. They trail their best-of-five series 2-0. Game #3 is tonight at Rancho Cucamonga. If the Quakes survive, Game #4 is at Rancho and Game #5 in High Desert. Quakes fans, turn out tonight!
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.
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.