SPEAKING OF SPORTS: Bochy’s ‘gut’ is probably right

Bruce Bochy, the only manager of the San Francisco Giants who has won a World Series (actually, 3 of them), announced this week that he will retire at the end of his 13th season running the team.

Bochy is an old-style manager who largely ignored modern metrics and large data dumps to manage with his “gut,” relying on his decades of knowledge and experience to make the right decision at the right time.

It’s hard to argue with his success, so if Bochy’s gut told him to retire now, his gut was probably right.

The Giants have not played well the last 2 seasons, averaging just 68 wins. The fall-off in performance can be attributed to injuries to veteran players and a lack of talent coming up from the farm system

The Giants canned General Manager Bobby Evans at the end of last season and have hired Farhan Zaidi, former GM of the Dodgers, as president of baseball operations.

Zaidi, who also spent a decade with the Oakland A’s learning their “money ball” philosophy, is among the new breed of GMs who rely on statistical analysis and performance metrics to guide their player personnel decisions.

Bochy could probably adjust to that style of play, but it’s more likely that Zaidi wants to bring in his own guy rather than sign Bochy to a new contract.

Bochy always struck me as a man with a temperament suited to the grind of the long season. He never got overly excited when things were going well and didn’t panic when the Giants were in a slump.

He also had a sense of humor that few people were exposed to. For example, during Pablo Sandoval’s first stint with the Giants, he went down in a heap one day after fouling a high fast ball off his shin.

Bochy came running out with the trainer to see how bad it was. As the trainer was tending to Pablo’s injury, Bochy turned to St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina and said: “Don’t call that pitch again.”

People in the stands couldn’t understand why Molina and the home plate umpire were laughing while Sandoval was hurting.

***

Rebounds: Seth Greenberg, ESPN’s lead studio analyst for men’s college basketball, is a bright guy who clearly knows the game. But a judge of talent? Maybe not so good.

Greenberg was the head coach at Virginia Tech when Steph Curry was a senior at Charlotte Christian High School. Curry’s father, Dell, was a graduate of VT and wanted his son to play there.

After checking him out, Greenberg offered Steph the opportunity to be a walk-on! Curry said no and accepted a scholarship from Davidson, a second-tier school where he blossomed into a star.

Keep that in mind the next time Greenberg pontificates about a player’s potential. His shaky judgement of talent may also explain why he’s now working in TV instead of coaching.

But in fairness to Greenberg, it should be pointed out that coaches at two other schools closer to Charlotte–Roy Williams of North Carolina and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke–also passed on Curry.

So much for their evaluation skills.

***

Among the big five college basketball conferences, the Pac-12 is clearly the worst of the bunch. And with a conference record of 0-14 after getting thrashed by Arizona Thursday, Cal is clearly the worst team in the conference.

What’s interesting here is what might have been. When Cuonzo Martin abruptly left Cal to take the Missouri job, the athletic department interviewed several candidates before giving the job to Martin’s top assistance, Wyking Jones.

This has proved to be a bad decision, made even worse by the fact that one of the candidates they passed over was Eric Musselman, head coach at the University of Nevada–Reno. The Wolf Pack currently has a 24-2 record and is ranked No. 6 in the country.

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Posted in College athletics, Golden State Warriors, NCAA, San Francisco Giants, Sports, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Johnson had the answer to Trump’s popularity

A lot of people who detest Donald Trump have a hard time understanding how intelligent, principled Republicans can continue to support a man who can always be depended upon to take the low road.

The simple answer is that even as he debases the office he holds, Trump delivers on the issues that are important to the people who voted for him.

For the fat cats, he has delivered a big tax cut and is cutting away at rules and regulations that restrain their ability to make even more money. That includes those pesky environmental regulations that require corporations to pay for the pollution they create.

For the common folk who form most of his base, Trump is offering up a border wall that the base believes will solve our illegal immigration problems, and tariffs that are supposed to protect American blue-collar jobs. Evangelicals are getting the conservative judges they fervently believe will overturn Roe V. Wade.

Perhaps a story attributed to Lyndon Johnson when he was president sums it up best. Johnson held weekly meetings with the Democratic leaders of Congress to review the status of legislation and plot strategy.

Senate Democrats complained loud and long at one of those meetings about a fellow Democrat who was creating a lot of problems on a specific piece of legislation. After listening to this for a couple of minutes, Johnson raised his hand and said: “He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.”

Posted in Donald Trump, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Trump White House even lies about how tall he is

So who’s taller?

Lying is so common in the Trump White House that the media don’t even bother to point out most of them any more. But as Trump’s recent physical exam showed, nothing is too trivial to lie about.

The White House summary of his physical lists his height at 6 feet 3 inches, but there are plenty of pictures of Trump with men known to be less than 6-3 who are clearly taller than he is. That includes former President Barack Obama, who has always listed his height at 6 feet 1-1/2 inches.

(In case you’re keeping track, MSNBC reports 25 new Trump lies this week, bringing the total since his inauguration to 4,350. Other media outlets have higher totals.)

Posted in Donald Trump, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Oh, no! More crime in Podunk’s hood!

In his ongoing effort to school the local bumpkins, Jeff “Podunk” Pelline assumes many guises. One of them is Mr. Crime Stopper.

After the Nevada City branch of Tri-Counties Bank was robbed for the third time in two years, Podunk demanded in 2016 that the city council investigate the town’s police department. His demand was ignored.

Mr. Crime Stopper

The bank is apparently in close proximity to the Pelline manse, and he conjured up images of bank robbers fleeing through the neighborhood, endangering women and children living in the area. It didn’t occur to Mr. Crime Stopper that the bank is an attractive target because it is next to the main escape route out-of-town, Highway 49.

Podunk has also complained about the ruffians who loiter about the Chevron gas station and mini-mart in Nevada City, a business that’s within shouting distance of where he lives. It apparently never occurred to him when he was buying his house that an establishment that can sell alcohol until 2 a.m. just might be noisy at night.

It now appears the gas station was the site of an effort to steal the identities of unsuspecting customers. Authorities have found skimmers on two of the gas station’s pumps, placed there by thieves who want to steal the debit and credit card information of customers.

It’s estimated that about 30 customers have been victimized to the tune of about $30,000. Was Jeffie one of them? Well, we know the family likes to spend gas money down the hill at the Arco station in Auburn, so my guess is he buys most of his gas at the Arco station in Grass Valley.

Then there’s Pioneer Park, within walking distance for somebody in reasonable shape. I have personally experienced people drinking alcohol and consuming illegal substances in that park. No telling what else goes on there that I haven’t seen.

All of this crime may explain why he installed a security system in his home. You can never be too careful in high crime towns like Nevada City.

 

Posted in Jeff Pelline, Nevada City, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

SPEAKING OF SPORTS: Are the Kings really contenders?

Believe it or not, the Sacramento Kings actually have a shot at making the NBA playoffs as the league enters its mid-season (sort of) break for the All-Star game.

That’s a real change for a team that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2006 (the longest current streak of futility in the NBA), and has prompted local partisans to recall the teams of the early century featuring the likes of Chris Webber.

The Sacramento Bee, always the civic cheerleader when it’s not holding the powerful accountable, is starting to envision an Interstate 80 playoff series between the Kings and the Golden State Warriors.

The Kings, for many years a dreary collection of second tier role players and frustrated star center DeMarcus Cousins, have achieved a remarkable turnaround under General Manager Vlade Divac.

Divac, the center on the good Kings teams of the early ’00s, was dismissed as a PR figurehead, somebody to distract the fans while giving them false hope, when he was hired in 2015 by principal owner Vivek Ranadive.

Divac has proved them wrong, directing two excellent drafts that have produced a couple of young players with superstar potential–I’m thinking of point guard De’Andre Fox and center Marvin Bagley III–along with others, like Buddy Hield and Harry Giles III, who will be major contributors in the future.

Coach Dave Joerger also deserves a lot of the credit for the team’s turnaround. Joerger’s preference is to play a ball control, half-court game, but he has turned the young Kings into a runnin’, gunnin’ fast-break team that is surprising the rest of the league.

The team actually has a winning record (30-27) two-thirds of the way through the season, and is in the hunt for the eighth playoff position in the west. If they actually make it into the playoffs, the figure to face the Warriors and quick elimination.

But that’s a big improvement over the last 12 years. The Kings have gone from bad to mediocre, and still have a long trek to becoming good and then a true championship contender, but now the fans actually have something to get excited about.

Rebounds: Kyler Murray, the two-sport star from Oklahoma University, has decided to walk away from the Oakland A’s and his $4 million signing bonus to seek his fortune in the National Football League. He may live to regret this decision.

Murray’s biggest problem is his size–he claims to be 5-10, maybe 5-11, but most people suspect he’s shorter than that. That would be okay if he was a wide receiver or defensive back, but he wants to play quarterback in the NFL, where he will have to pass the ball over defensive linemen who are 6-6 and taller.

Critics have a point when they say NFL talent scouts put too much emphasis on metrics–a player’s height, weight, speed, strength, etc. There are several too-slow receivers and undersized linebackers who have had good careers in the NFL.

But it’s hard to make the case that an undersized QB can succeed. Russell Wilson of Seattle is the only current starter under 6-feet, and he spends a lot of time scrambling outside the pocket to find clear throwing lanes down the field.

Murray’s been told all this, but I’m sure he has the confidence to believe he can overcome that handicap. Besides, its hard to beat the quick fame a QB can achieve in the NFL (just look at Carson Wentz and Pat Mahomes) versus the minor-league slog he faces if he plays baseball.

The A’s have retained their rights to Murray just in case he changes his mind in a couple of years and decides to pursue baseball, but as Tim Tebow and others have shown, it’s usually too late to come back. Murray may live to regret his decision.

***

The San Francisco Giants, who have been terrible when it comes to power hitting over the last few years, enter spring training in even worse shape than they were last year.

This is the only team in major league baseball that has failed to produce a 20 home run hitter in the last two seasons, and the Giants’ two top “sluggers” last year are no longer with the team.

But there may be a ray of hope, if you’re willing to believe the Giants are interested in free-agent slugger Bryce Harper, and visa-versa.

Harper, considered the No. 1 talent on the free agent market, is still unsigned as teams start spring training. Part of it may be cost–Harper reportedly rejected a 10-year, $300 million deal from his old team, the Washington Nationals–and the other part maybe the recent history of high-priced free agents turning into busts.

Harper in San Francisco is a long-shot. I doubt the Giants are willing to part with that kind of money, and Oracle Park has not been a good place for Harper, where he has put up his worst numbers.

Still, when your biggest star is a catcher recovering from hip surgery who has never hit more than 24 home runs in a season,  you might be tempted to do something you’ll regret later. We’ll know soon enough.

***

In an era where everybody gets a trophy, you apparently can’t cram too many teams into the high school post-season playoffs.

But this effort to make everybody feel good can produced less than worthwhile results, as the Bear River girls’ basketball team showed recently.

The girls finished the regular season with a 16-13 record, 6-4 in league play, good enough to get them a 16th seed in the D-IV playoffs. But first they had to win a play-in game against Natomas, giving 17 schools a shot at 16 playoff seeds.

BR managed to beat Natomas. Their reward? They got to play No. 1 seed Colfax the very next day, where they were demolished 77-18. Somebody needs to explain to me what this embarrassing exhibition accomplished.

Posted in Bear River girls basketball, Oakland A's, Sacramento Kings, San Francisco Giants, Sports, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Let’s see how long it takes Jeffie to correct this blooper

Jeff “Podunk” Pelline, western Nevada County’s foremost media critic, takes great delight in pointing out errors made by others in the media and on blogs.

His glee is almost palpable when he uncovers a mistake, but holding himself to the standards he establishes for everybody else is another issue. When Liz Kellar, a reporter for The Union, called him out a couple of years ago for consistently misspelling her last name, Podunk lamely replied that it occurred on his personal blog, presumably giving him a pass.

When somebody calls him on an error on his blog, he quickly corrects it without owning up to the mistake. One exception was when he managed to misspell the name of then Grass Valley council member Jason Fouyer in a headline. He couldn’t dodge that one.

So let’s see what he has to say about this little gem from the alleged ex-professional journalist in a Dec. 24, 2018, post entitled “Great grandpa’s letter on Park Record newspaper letterhead, c 1912,” in which we are informed that W.A. Raddon “had six daughters with his wife Chloe, all girls.” Good to know, Jeffie.

Great grandpa’s letter on Park Record newspaper letterhead, c. 1912

Let’s see how long it takes Podunk to correct it, and if he acknowledges the error. I’m posting this at 2:15 p.m. Monday.

Posted in Jeff Pelline, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SPEAKING OF SPORTS: Fans don’t like too much success

Tom Brady will be going for a record sixth Super Bowl ring when the New England Patriots play the Los Angeles Rams Sunday in Atlanta, and there are a lot of people who aren’t happy about it.

At first glance, this seems perplexing. Starting with George Washington, Americans have a long history of idolizing winners, showering them with fame, praise and generally more money than is good for them. Baseball fans still celebrate Babe Ruth, the game’s first super star, along with Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and others. With the exception of Gehrig, none of these guys were choir boys.

The great baseball dynasties–the “Murders Row” Yankees of the ’20s and ’30s and their great teams of the ’50s–are fondly remembers by fans. In basketball, its the Auerbach/Russell era of the Boston Celtics, the Abdul-Jabar/Johnson teams of the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Jordan/Pippen squads in Chicago. And who can forget the great 49ers, Cowboys and Packers teams?

Bill Belichick

But the same respect isn’t being accorded the Patriots, who are appearing in their record 9th Super Bowl, all during the Brady era. There are a couple of reasons for this.

One of them is Brady, with his movie star looks, super model wife, and jet set life style. (How many people do you know who attended the Kentucky Derby, then took a private jet to Vegas in time for a championship fight that night? This sounds like the Carly Simon classic, “You’re So Vain,” come to life.)

Brady can be somewhat off-putting in the rare interviews he does. You get the sense his responses are scripted rather than from the heart, seeking to find the perfect words to maintain his image. Still, a certain feeling of arrogance comes through (why shouldn’t it?).

Then there’s the evil genius behind New England’s success, coach Bill Belichick. His record of success speaks for itself, but he will never be likable in the same sense that Bill Walsh and John Madden were.

Belichick clearly dislikes interacting with the media, and does the minimum required to avoid being fined by the NFL (head coaches are required to attend 2 press conferences a week, 1 at mid-week and 1 after the game).

Belichick never smiles and studiously avoids saying anything that ‘s quotable. Jason Gay, sports columnist for The Wall Street Journal (really!), describes him as the grumpy old lobster boat captain,  and that about nails it.

Then there’s the team’s reputation for deceit, the most recent example being the deflate gate controversy of a couple of years ago. If the Patriots win Sunday, few people outside of the New England area will be celebrating.

Steve Kerr

But these days, even teams that are likable can cause grumbling for being too good. Take the Golden State Warriors, currently seeking their 4th NBA title in 5 years.

Coach Steve Kerr is quotable, funny, and able to get a roster full of stars to tamp down their egos and play together as a team–the Warriors lead the league in assists. One of their star players, Steph Curry, is one of the most popular in the league.

The Warriors achieved success by drafting wisely–Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green weren’t highly regarded when the Warriors picked them–and then filling out their roster with excellent role players.

But the team has come under criticism the last two years for signing all-world free agent Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins, perhaps the most dominant low post player in the NBA today.

Durant was criticized for spurning Oklahoma City and signing with the Warriors (who could blame him?) and then Golden State was accused of piling on when it signed Cousins, who’s trying to make a comeback after tearing his Achilles tendon. (The fact that nobody else was willing to take a chance on Cousins apparently is irrelevant.)

Whoever thought you could become TOO successful in this country?

Rebounds: Barry Bonds failed to make it into the Hall of Fame again on his seventh try. He has 3 more chances to get the 75 percent of the votes he needs.

Most people think the all-time leader in home runs is being punished for his use of steroids, and that is certainly the case. But there’s another factor at work here too.

Inductees are elected by sports writers, a group of people Bonds ignored and went out of his way to humiliate during his playing days. Barry had a well deserved reputation for being a first-class jerk, managing to alienate teammates, team officials, and just about everybody else he came into contact with during his long playing career. The Giants put up with it because he was their biggest box office draw.

But payback can be a bitch. That’s why Bonds can’t get a job in baseball today and why he probably won’t get voted into the Hall of Fame in the next three years.

***

The Pac-12 is an absolutely terrible basketball conference this season. It doesn’t have one team ranked in the Top 25 and–at this point in the season–the conference champion is likely to be the only team to make it into the NCAA tournament.

The 2 best teams in the West? Gonzaga and Nevada.

***

Dave Pasch, the lead announcer on ESPN’s coverage of the Pac-12, should get a bonus for having to work with commentator Bill Walton. He has to call the game while at the same time keeping Walton from going off the rails, no easy task.

***

New Raiders GM Mike Mayock is acting like he’s actually in charge of the team’s football operations. But he doesn’t have a guaranteed 10-year, $100 million contract like coach Jon Gruden.

***

If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, Brady will get his sixth ring, breaking a tie with defensive end Charles Haley, who won 2 Super Bowls with the 49ers and 3 with Dallas. Haley is in the NFL Hall of Fame, but he was difficult to deal with and was known for his erratic behavior.

The 49ers finally had enough and traded him to Dallas when Haley got into an argument with coach George Seifert and then peed on a teammate’s car. After he retired, Haley was diagnosed as being bipolar and has since become an advocate for early detection and treatment of the disorder.

Posted in Golden State Warriors, National Football League, San Francisco 49ers, San Francisco Giants, Sports, Super Bowl, Uncategorized | 6 Comments