SOCAL’S FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS 2017: An Evening With Two Undefeated Teams

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

While this wasn’t the game I saw, this is an excellent photo of Culver City’s Centaurs taking the field to do battle. Photo courtesy of cchs.ccusd.org

 

SOAKING UP THE ATMOSPHERE AT THE SHOWDOWN BETWEEN THE CULVER CITY CENTAURS AND THE LAWNDALE CARDINALS

When I was deciding where to go to do my annual high school football feature for this site, it was really no contest.

The two top-ranked teams in Southern California (according to the Los Angeles Times), Santa Ana’s Mater Dei and Bellflower’s St. John Bosco, may have had all the publicity and the hype, their game being televised on Fox Sports West,

But this match-up of 6-0 teams for control of the Ocean League had just as exciting an atmosphere, as I saw when I journeyed to Culver City High School for their showdown with Lawndale’s Cardinals that those Centaurs and Centaur Nation was so pumped about, the school designated it a black-out contest with Culver City donning black uniforms, and the student body and the fans being encouraged to don black as well.

It was the best football team that the Westside (Culver City) had to offer versus the best football team that the South Bay (Lawndale) had to offer, and I knew I had to go check it out.

Upon arriving at the school, having once been a member of the marching band at Santa Monica High School back in the prehistoric days of the early to mid-1980s, I made it a point to go to where Culver City’s band was warming up outside of their rehearsal room (more on my impressions of them in a bit).

After having a rather nice conversation with some parents of the band who were helping out, talking about how I was a band member in high school and other various band-related things, I arrived at Jerry Chabola Stadium, which was refurbished with new bleachers and a new field turf in 2013, and found the stands on the Culver City side nearly full considering it was roughly 45 minutes before kickoff.

As the game began, I spent time on both the Lawndale and Culver City side of the field, checking out things.

I was impressed at how Culver City was running the game; everyone – students and adults – was behaving well and having a good time, and I enjoyed the french fries that I bought at the snack bar, situated among Culver’s various cheerleader squads’ (their JV and middle school groups) bake sale tables and another table selling blue and white Culver gear; t-shirts, caps, sweatshirts, and the like.

Another thing that impressed me at the game was Culver High’s student section, led by their student body president, a poised and impressive young lady who, along with other members of the student government, was working hard to get her fellow students going with cheers and chants, helping their blue-helmeted and black-clad (remember, it was a blackout night) team along.

Nice job by the Culver City Centaur Cheerleading squad here. Photo courtesy of cchs.ccusd.org

 

The atmosphere at this game, summed up in one word:

ENERGETIC

Particularly on the Culver side thanks to the students and the powers that be, though on the Lawndale side I mentioned to the coach of their cheerleading squad that with the game being designated as a black-out, with their black and red uniforms the young Cardinal ladies were well-dressed for the occasion.

The thing about the game that most impressed me was the Culver Marching Band.

Simply put, those Marching Centaurs were outstanding; I particularly felt that way when I was listening to them on the Lawndale side as a good way of judging a high school marching band is to listen to them from across the field.

They sounded great all evening, and I very much enjoyed their halftime show, a salute to the rock group Queen as they played classics like “We Will Rock You” and “Another One Bites The Dust”.

 

Lawndale running back Jordan Wilmore (1) carries the ball in first-half play at Culver City Friday evening.
Photo for The Daily Breeze by Axel Koester, 10/13/2017. Photo courtesy of dailybreeze.com

 

Their sound was balanced, like a college band, and I was especially impressed at the growth of their numbers, going from thirty earlier this decade to eighty.

Which no doubt was a big factor in their sound.

Much credit goes to their band director, Dr. Tony Spano, as they have certainly come a long way.

So much so that I told them that they were more than good enough to compete in field tournaments, which I said that they need to do as there are bands half their size who regularly compete.

And who Culver’s band could outplay.

The fact that their main fight song is a version of my college alma mater’s, UCLA’s “Sons of Westwood”, didn’t hurt.

BOTTOM LINE: That Culver High band, along with the energy generated by the students, was the highlight of the evening for me.

 

The Centaurs lining up against La Puente’s Bishop Amat in 2013. Photo courtesy of tape.preps.com

 

All right, the inevitable question; what about the game?

As the contest unfolded, it became clear by the third quarter that Lawndale wanted the game more than Culver did, the Cardinals taking a 19-7 halftime lead and scoring two more touchdowns afterward, pulling away and taking first place in the league, the final score being 33-14.

Travis Clark, the Lawndale coach who I grew up with in Santa Monica – we were on the same Pony League baseball team, the A’s, in 1981 (I still have the team photo) – had an excellent game plan on defense to pretty much shut down Culver City’s highly regarded quarterback, Jonathan Martin, and their high-flying offense, which was averaging 47 points a game going in.

And with only a handful of seniors, things are definitely looking up for those Cardinals.

It didn’t seem to matter that much that the Centaurs lost, though.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that Centaur Nation was disappointed, but that’s the feeling I got as I had a very good time all the same, the band making a last impression in marching from the stadium.

I made it a point to tell people that losing was no huge tragedy, that with their talent Culver City will likely still make the playoffs, and with them being very highly ranked – #1 the last time I heard – in the Southern Section’s Division 11, they have a good shot at winning the CIF in early December.

Which after all is the ultimate goal for any high school team.

All-in-all, it was an evening under the Friday Night Lights well spent, thanks to Culver City High School; kudos to them for an enjoyable time.

 

A very nice photo of the group that made my Friday night: The Culver City High School Marching Band. Photo courtesy of twitter.com

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

THE STATE OF SOCAL HOCKEY, 2017-18: A Tale of Two Teams

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

A Duck trying to keep the puck away from a rival King during a game at Honda Center. Photo courtesy of vavel.com

 

A LOOK AT THE TWO NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE TEAMS CALLING SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HOME, THE LOS ANGELES KINGS AND THE ANAHEIM DUCKS

 

In the Downtown Los Angeles Corner, the…

LOS ANGELES KINGS

51st Season

2016-17 Record:

39-35-8, 86 points, fifth in the Western Conference’s Pacific Division

Failed to qualify for the NHL playoffs

Coach: John Stevens, 1st year

Key Players (2016-17 stats):

Jeff Carter, C – 32 goals, 34 assists, 66 points

Anze Kopitar, C – 12 goals, 40 assists, 52 points

Tanner Pearson, LW – 24 goals, 20 assists, 44 points

Drew Doughty, D – 12 goals, 32 assists, 44 points

Jonathan Quick, G – W-L: 8-5, 2.26 GAA, 2 shutouts (played in only 17 games due to injury)

 

Current 2017-18 Record: 2-0-1, 5 points

Last Game: Lost to the Calgary Flames, 3-2, in overtime, on October 11th at Staples Center

Next Game: Saturday, October 14th, vs the Buffalo Sabres at Staples Center

 

 

Highlights from the Kings vs Ducks game on April 9, 2017, at Honda Center; the Ducks won 4-3 in Overtime. Courtesy of YouTube

 

And in the Orange County Corner, the…

ANAHEIM DUCKS

25th Season

2016-17 Record:

46-23-13, 105 points, Pacific Division Champions

Beat the Calgary Flames in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, 4 games to 0

Beat the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Semifinals, 4 games to 3

Lost to the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference Finals, 4 games to 2

Coach: Randy Carlyle, 2nd current season, 8th season overall

Key Players (2016-17 stats):

Ryan Getzlaf, C – 15 goals, 58 assists, 73 points

Ryan Kesler, C – 22 goals, 36 assists, 58 points

Corey Perry, RW – 19 goals, 34 assists, 53 points

Rickard Rakell, C – 33 goals, 18 assists, 51 points

John Gibson, G – W-L: 25-16, 2.22 GAA, 6 shutouts

 

2017-18 FREEWAY FACEOFF, KINGS vs DUCKS

Five Games Scheduled:

  • Tuesday, November 11th at Honda Center
  • Saturday, November 25th at Staples Center
  • Saturday, January 13th at Staples Center
  • Friday, January 19th at Honda Center
  • Friday, March 30th at Honda Center

 

 

Highlights from the Kings’ 4-1 win over the Ducks at Staples Center on February 25th, 2017. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

A Few Thoughts:

After a week and a half, both of our hockey teams are having decent starts as they are a combined 4-1-2 with five points each.

Most pundits aren’t seeing things as unfolding much differently from last season, as the Ducks are expected to return to the postseason while the Kings are not.

The Kings certainly have something to prove after last season’s disappointment, missing the playoffs.

Which got the coach that led them to their Stanley Cup glory with two titles in three years, Daryl Sutter, fired.

As for the Ducks, they are under the same expectations, perhaps a little more as they missed the Stanley Cup Finals by two wins.

I reckon there’s more pressure on them to get it done.

The biggest impression I have had of these two hockey rivals over the years is the extreme passion that their fan bases have.

They always fill up Staples Center and Honda Center, they – like their Kings and Ducks – don’t like each other (much like UCLA and USC fans!), and they often go all out to show their love in the form of “Go Kings Go!” and “Let’s Go Ducks!” filling their respective arenas.

I was particularly impressed over the Ducks – who are clearly ahead of the Kings record and result-wise right now – choosing as their annual 21st Duck a young lady named Katie Hawley, a 17-year old high school student who has had to fight cancer three times.

This video will lead you to feel much support for Katie as she talks about what she had to go through and how the Ducks have so supported her; it certainly touched my heart when I saw it…

 

 

 

 

I hope to catch a Kings game – not because I have anything against the Ducks, but because Staples Center is a lot easier to get to from my home – this season as I would like to experience hockey, never seeing a game in person.

And I’m confident that both of our hockey teams will be solid;

After all, as an illustration of the solid hockey played in these parts – I’ve always been impressed at the success of a Canadian sport in a climate that’s the opposite of an ideal hockey one – even though they had to stay home for last year’s postseason, the Kings still finished with a winning record.

 

The Ducks’ Ryan Kesler battling a Kings’ player at Staples Center. Photo courtesy of youtube.com

 

 

 

USC TROJAN FOOTBALL: 2017 Mid Season Report

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

USC quarterback Sam Darnold (#14) and running back Ronald Jones II (#25) celebrating during a recent Trojan win. Photo courtesy of bleacherreport.com

 

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TROJAN FOOTBALL AFTER SIX GAMES – BY THE NUMBERS:

Record: 5-1, 2-1 in the Pac-12 Conference, first place in the Pac-12 South

Rank: #13 in the Associated Press and the Coaches Poll

 

Top Players:

Sam Darnold, QB – 64.8% completions, 1.705 yards, 12 TD, 9 INT

Ronald Jones II, RB – 529 rushing yards, 5.9 ypc, 7 TD

Stephen Carr, RB – 309 rushing yards, 5.9 ypc, 3 TD

Deontay Burnett, WR – 41 receptions, 527 yards, 6 TD

Cameron Smith, LB – 46 tackles, 6 TFL

Rasheem Green, DL – 6 TFL, 3.5 sacks

Christian Rector, DL – 4.5 sacks

Josh Falu, DL – 4 sacks

Marvel Tell III, S – 44 tackles, 2 INT

 

This is a rather nice picture of this shiny Trojan helmet. Photo courtesy of college footballnews.com

 

Last Game: Beat the Oregon State Beavers, 38-10, at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on October 7th

Next Game: vs the Utah Utes, at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, Saturday, October 14th, 5:00 p.m.

 

 

Highlights from USC’s most impressive victory so far this year: a 42-24 decision over Stanford at the Coliseum on September 9th (click on the link)

 

 

A Few Thoughts:

At first glance, the 5-1 record that these Trojans sport at the halfway mark of the 2017 season is a clear sign that they are better than their 3-3 record at this time a year ago.

Upon a closer look, however, one word stands out as far as describing this USC team:

VULNERABLE

I saw that vulnerability in their close, sweat-it-out wins over Western Michigan, Texas, and especially California in Berkeley.

It all caught up with them in their loss to Washington State.

Remember in the Trojan predictions article when I listed those Cougars from the Palouse as one of the three teams that could beat ‘SC?

Here’s the link to that piece in case you missed it: http://www.socalsportsannals.wordpress.com/2017/08/28/usc-trojans-football-2017-game-predictions/

Well, it’s not my intent to rub it in the Trojan Family’s face in an “I told you so!” kind of way, but…

As for USC’s most recent win over Oregon State, it’s like what my first high school marching band director told us after certain field tournaments in which we won:

“We want you to feel good about Saturday, but keep in mind (with all due respect to Oregon State) that we had no competition.”

Or as Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson told one of the Mighty Ducks players during the 1994 movie D2: The Mighty Ducks as they were whipping some team’s butt,

“My little brother can score against these guys!”

In other words, while it was a good way for those Trojans to get back on the winning track after that loss in Pullman, WA,

Oregon State, who just lost their coach today, is the worst team in the Pac-12 and thus not a test of ‘SC’s abilities.

At all.

 

 

Southern California players run out to the field prior to an NCAA college football game against Western Michigan, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Photo courtesy of dailynews.com

 

Clay Helton’s team will be tested in their next two games, starting with Utah’s Utes in a game where if it was in Salt Lake City instead of the Coliseum, I’d call that contest a toss-up in which Utah could win.

After watching Colorado, a team that I had listed as being capable of beating the Trojans, against crosstown rival UCLA, I’m replacing the Buffaloes on my “Teams That Could Beat ‘SC” list with a team that those Men of Troy have been very familiar with for over ninety years:

The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, who at 5-1 is having a very solid season, showing that they are clearly better than their 4-8 team of a year ago.

The fact that college football’s biggest intersectional rivalry game under Touchdown Jesus is in South Bend, IN this year leads me to make this declaration:

While I am not outright predicting a Trojan loss to the Irish, it would NOT surprise me in the least if that came to pass.

After that showdown, ‘SC has three winnable games against Colorado and the Arizona schools before their crosstown rivalry clash with UCLA on November 18th.

In a best case scenario, their record should be 9-2 before then.

But they could be 8-3, or even 7-4.

It will all depend on how Darnold, Jones, Burnett, Smith, and their other key players perform.

And whether or not the injury bug can be avoided as they have no bye week – a key factor in that unlike the rival Bruins this past Saturday, the Trojans have no opportunity to rest and heal up.

We’ll definitely see how that affects them once and for all these next few games.

By the way, the number one highlight of USC’s season for me to this point is this young man in the picture below, appearing as a long snapper in two games, including the last one against the Beavers.

While blind.

He’s definitely one of the folks in the Trojan Family that I have nothing but respect for.

WAY TO GO, JAKE!

 

 

LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 02: USC (61) Jake Olson, who is blind, directs the band after playing in his first NCAA Football game between the Western Michigan Broncos and the USC Trojans on September 2, 2017, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) Courtesy of AOL.com

 

 

 

 

TROJAN BASKETBALL IN BIG TROUBLE? What Ought To Be Done Regarding The USC Bribery Scandal

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Probably former USC assistant basketball coach Tony Bland: the man who may bring Trojan basketball – and possibly the entire athletic department (though I don’t think that will happen) – down. Photo courtesy of conquestchronicles.com

 

First the Reggie Bush thing, where the former Trojan football superstar’s parents got to live in a house without having to pay rent for it, triggering the NCAA to throw the harshest penalties on a football program in over 25 years.

Strike One.

Then the incident where O.J. Mayo, the basketball standout, allegedly took money to be a Trojan for a year nearly a decade ago before being the proverbial “One & Done” player, bailing for the NBA.

Strike Two.

Now we have Tony Bland, who until this week was the associate head coach of USC’s basketball team, second in command to head coach Andy Enfield.

To recap what’s been all over the news, after a FBI investigation, Bland was arrested for allegedly accepting $13,000 from advisers (read: agents) in exchange for him steering USC players to such advisers (agents) upon entering the NBA.

On top of that, Bland was also accused of allegedly paying $9,000 to parents of two Trojan hoopsters.

That’s $22,000 in all used in a HUGE no-no way.

Strike Three?

All of this reminds me of the SMU football scandals of the 1980s.

Like a maliciously willful child, those Mustang boosters wouldn’t stop paying the players and giving them homes and cars after the team was put on probation and lost scholarships and TV coverage multiple times.

Which was why the NCAA gave them the “Death Penalty” in 1987; two years without a sport that’s considered a religion in Texas.

Which led to that team in Dallas not winning more than seven games in a season since.

OK, what does this have to do with ‘SC hoops?

The same fate may await USC.

I’m not saying that the basketball team should be suspended, but when the NCAA gets involved in this mess – and it definitely will,

Especially after the Reggie Bush episode,

In order to re-restore the integrity of Trojan athletics and college basketball in general and Trojan men’s basketball in particular, ‘SC will need to be made an example of.

To be the proverbial sacrificial lamb.

If things unfold the way I think they may unfold with this Tony Bland bribery issue, the only basketball played in this building may be the basketball played by the Women of Troy for a year. Photo courtesy of RateYourSeats.com.

 

Here’s what I would do if I were the NCAA President…

1.  Order USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann to fire Enfield – who as the head coach must assume responsibility – and his entire staff straight away, which I’m sure the former Trojan All-American, legendary Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, and NFL Hall of Famer will be apt to do anyway.

2.  As far as sanctions, I would not impose the death penalty.

But I would be harsher on that basketball program than their gridiron brothers in 2010, giving them at least four years of probation with, at minimum, three years of no postseason play whatsoever – not even the Pac-12 Tournament.

3. Out of the 13 scholarships available for men’s basketball teams, take away five for every year that the Trojans are on probation, which with four years on the hook would be twenty rides in all.

As for what I would do if I were Lynn Swann…

First, after firing Enfield and his staff, (stating the obvious) I would hire an interim coach to be the “caretaker” of the program for this upcoming season, which begins in a little over a month, much like Gerald Ford was after his predecessor, Richard Nixon, resigned rather than being impeached and most likely ousted due to that incident at the Watergate Hotel.

Second, not only permanently dismiss the players involved with Bland in this thing from the team, but expel them from school as well.

Third, hire an absolutely straight-arrow type to be the head coach, with a staff to match, the next year.

In other words, completely clean house.

I can’t predict if those things I would do is what is going to happen to USC.

But I do know one thing…

With the FBI involved in this, this is too big a scandal to dismiss as just another NCAA violation.

In other words, at least in some way, shape, or form, the Trojans are going down.

USC Athletics is going to take another significant hit to their reputation and credibility, get a bomb dropped on them that will perhaps be akin to – figuratively speaking, of course – those two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, on August 6th and 9th, 1945.

Again.

It’s like what that guy said in ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary on the sins of SMU football, “Pony Excess”; how many times are you going to get caught doing something wrong before you have to pay dearly (or something in that vein)?

I’ll be interested to see what develops, and what ‘SC’s fate on the hardwood will ultimately be.

 

Could we be seeing the last of these cardinal and gold-clad guys, as least for a year? Photo courtesy of latimes.com

LOS ANGELES DODGERS: What I Think Of Their Postseason Chances

Tags

, , , , , ,

A group of Dodgers celebrating one of their 104 wins during this regular season. Photo courtesy of fanragsports.com

 

LOS ANGELES DODGERS – 2017 BY THE NUMBERS:

Final Record: 104-58, National League West Division Champions for the fifth straight year, 11 games in front of the Arizona Diamondbacks

* Most wins in Los Angeles Dodger history

* Second most wins in franchise history – only the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers, with 105 wins, have more.

* Best record in Major League Baseball, will have home field advantage for the duration of the postseason, including the World Series (should they qualify)

Longest Winning Streak: TEN, June 16-25

Longest Losing Streak: ELEVEN, September 2-12

Next Game: National League Division Series, Game 1, vs either the Diamondbacks or the Colorado Rockies, Friday, October 6th at Dodger Stadium

 

Top Hitters:

Justin Turner, 3B – .322 average (tied for 2nd in the NL), 21 HR, 71 RBI

Cody Bellinger, OF/1B – .267 average, 39 HR (NL single season rookie record), 97 RBI

Yasiel Puig, RF – .263 average, 28 HR, 74 RBI

Corey Seager, SS – .295 average, 22 HR, 77 RBI, 159 hits

Chris Taylor, OF/2B – .288 average, 21, HR, 72 RBI

Top Pitchers:

Clayton Kershaw: 18-4 (most wins in NL, tied for most wins in MLB), 2.31 ERA, 202 strikeouts (7th straight year over 200 K’s, breaking Dodger record)

Alex Wood: 16-3, 2.72 ERA, 151 strikeouts

Rich Hill: 12-8, 3.32 ERA, 166 strikeouts

Kenta Maeda: 13-6, 4.22 ERA

Kenley Jansen (closer): 5-0, 1.32 ERA, 109 strikeouts vs SEVEN walks, 41 saves (tied for 1st in NL, 2nd in MLB)

 

 

Highlights from the first half of the Dodgers’ spectacular season. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

Thoughts:

If there are any baseball fans, even fans of the rival San Francisco Giants, who don’t believe that the Dodgers had a great regular season, one for the ages;

I would very much like to meet him or her.

How can anyone dispute their 104 wins, including a stretch of 16 wins in 17 games and 26 wins in 30 games mid-season?

How can anyone dispute the contributions of a young kid who spent the first month of the season in Triple-A ball, then upon getting called up in late April broke the National League record for most home runs by a rookie?

How can anyone dispute the fact that their pitching staff – and not just Clayton Kershaw either – were lights out more or less all season?

Including their relievers – and not just Kenley Jansen?

And how can anyone dispute their performance at the plate, which included no less than seven guys hitting at least 20 doubles?

 

All Right, Here’s The Inevitable Question:

How Do I See These Dodgers’ Chances Of Appearing In The World Series For The First Tine In 29 Years Over These Next Few Weeks?

One thing’s for certain:

I’m glad that the Dodgers finished the season well, winning eight of their final ten games.

Because to be honest, I was a little panicky during that long losing skid.

Any Dodger fan who wasn’t is kidding themselves as while I can’t speak for anyone else, visions of the greatest collapse in sports history was dancing in my head during those dark days.

A friend told me that he was glad that the team got that bad patch out-of-the-way when they did; better in early September than in the playoffs.

PHOENIX, AZ – APRIL 23: (R-L) Justin Turner #10 and Corey Seager #5 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate with Yasmani Grandal #9 after scoring runs against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fifth inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on April 23, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Photo courtesy of thecheatsheet.com

 

As for how I see those Dodgers’ chances…

While I do see them as having a good shot at postseason glory, Dave Roberts and the rest of those guys in blue need to keep this in mind:

Those L.A. record, MLB leading, home field advantage-earning 104 wins will mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to me – and I’m sure the bulk of the Dodger fan base,

Unless they are pouring champagne on each other’s heads around Halloween time and are parading in downtown Los Angeles with the Commissioner’s Trophy – the trophy with all those flags sticking up – in hand.

It will not be an easy, coronation-style romp, however.

The two teams that will play for the right to meet the Dodgers in the Division Series, the Rockies and the D-Backs, are very good clubs that have shown that they can beat L.A, their sweeps of them earlier in September being clear proof of that.

If those Dodgers get past those Rockies and D-Backs, waiting for them will either be a Washington Nationals team that obliterated the National League East the same way that the Dodgers obliterated the West, complete with lights-out pitching and led at the plate by a very confident super-stud, Bryce Harper,

Or a defending champion Chicago Cubs team that’s seeking to add to their fans’ happiness by being the first National League team to win back-to-back World Series since the Cincinnati Reds did in 1975 and ’76.

And if they get past those teams to win the pennant, there are two 100-win teams in the American League, the Houston Astros and a Cleveland Indians team whose 22 consecutive wins broke a record set by the Oakland A’s in 2001, that could well be waiting for them.

BOTTOM LINE: If the Dodgers do succeed at obtaining postseason glory, it will be extremely well-earned.

They must bring their A-plus game.

And I’m fairly confident that they will.

I certainly hope they do.

Though it’s not nearly as long a wait as the 108 years that the Cubs’ fans had to go through, it’s been a long enough wait.

 

A group of standout Dodgers at this year’s All-Star Game in Miami. Photo courtesy of dodgersphotoblog.mlbblogs.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOS ANGELES ANGELS: 2017 Season Wrap Up

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Sep 26, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) gets a high-five from first baseman C.J. Cron (24) and right fielder Kole Calhoun (56) after a solo home run in the fourth of the game against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Photo courtesy of calltothepen.com

 

LOS ANGELES ANGELS – 2017 BY THE NUMBERS:

Final Record: 80-82, second place in the American League West, 21 games behind the Houston Astros

Longest Winning Streak: SIX, August 8-13

Longest Losing Streak: SIX (twice), April 12-17, September 17-23

Top Hitters:

Mike Trout, CF – .306 average, 33 HR, 72 RBI

Andrelton Simmons, SS – .278 average, 14 HR, 69 RBI, 164 hits, 38 doubles

Albert Pujols, DH – .242 average, 23 home runs, 101 RBI

Top Pitchers:

Parker Bridwell: 10-3, 3.64 ERA

J.C. Ramirez: 11-10, 4.15 ERA, 145 strikeouts

Ricky Nolasco: 143 strikeouts

Bud Norris: 19 saves

 

 

Highlights from the Angels’ final game of 2017: a 6-2 win over the Mariners at Angel Stadium on October 1st. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

Thoughts:

It looks like I was dead-on right when in an earlier article on this site, I predicted that these Angels wouldn’t make the postseason due to the lack of enough effective pitching.

But as those Halos ended the season by taking two of three from the Seattle Mariners, including a 6-2 win in Game #162, I can’t help but see the silver linings.

Such as Bridwell’s performance on the mound; the rookie started the season in the minors yet showed consistency and won ten games in “The Show”, which is a sign that things just may be looking up for that beleaguered staff’s future.

Simmons had the season of his life not only at shortstop with his usual dazzling play, but with the bat as well.

Baseball’s Superman – also known as Mike Trout – encountered some Kryptonite in the form of a torn thumb ligament suffered in Tampa in June, but came back to be his usual best player in the game self;

I think the Angels would be heading for the Bronx to play the New York Yankees in the Wild Card game right now if were not for that injury.

And despite his clearly not being the hitter he was as a St. Louis Cardinal, Pujols added to his Hall of Fame resume quite nicely as his 614 home runs and 1,918 RBIs solidified him in the top ten all-time lists in both categories,

Not to mention putting him among the company of legendary icons such as Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron and Willie Mays.

 

Mike Trout sporting, in my opinion, the ugliest jersey in the American League. Photo courtesy of rosterresource.com

 

As For How The Angels Can Make 2018 Better Than 2017:

Manager Mike Scioscia and GM Billy Eppler are both talking about upgrading the hitting, but you know what?

I know they are long aware of this, but I’ll say it anyway:

If you don’t have good pitching, you don’t have a good team.

It’s pitching that those Halos need, pitching that’s effective with a legitimate ace and guys whose arms won’t break down after two or three months.

Now that Josh Hamilton’s hugely overpriced contract is finally off the books, owner Arte Moreno can finally open his wallet and spend some free agent money on some pitchers.

Until that happens, I don’t see the Angels being that much better.

Some other things that red-clad Orange County neighbor of Disneyland can do to improve next season:

1. Keep Justin Upton. Though Cameron Maybin did a decent job in left field, Upton is such a big upgrade that it’s not even funny.

2. Make a commitment to C. J. Cron at first base. That’s the heir to Pujols at that position. He provides stability and has some pop, and those Angels need to stop jerking him around, sending him down to the minors every time he slumps, and give him a long-term deal.

3. (most important) GET RID OF THOSE UGLY RED CAPS AND JERSEYS – ESPECIALLY THOSE HORRIBLE RED ALTERNATIVE TOPS THAT THEY WEAR FAR TOO MUCH – AND GO BACK TO THE UNIFORMS THAT WERE WORN IN THE 1980s AND EARLY 90s!

As I wrap things up on this team, Angels fans should understand that it’s going to take a while before their beloved Halos approach the level of baseball’s elite teams, including their blue-clad neighbors who play their games roughly thirty miles up I-5.

But the fact that they won eighty games and were contenders for a wild card until the last week, despite their lack of pitching, is deserving of respect from me.

And if they burn those caps and jerseys, I’d respect them even more.

Until the pitchers and catchers report in February in Tempe, AZ…

 

Aug 20, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels pose for their team photo before the game against the Chicago White Sox at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Photo courtesy of halohangout.com

 

 

ATHLETES PROTESTING BEFORE GAMES DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM: My Thoughts

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Los Angeles Chargers players showing solidarity before a recent game. Photo courtesy of nydailynews.com

 

MY TWO CENTS ON NFL PLAYERS AND OTHER ATHLETES TAKING A STAND AGAINST RACIAL AND SOCIAL ISSUES

It’s been another polarizing issue in a series of polarizing issues prevalent in this country as of late.

And it would be ignorant of me to not offer my personal opinion on Colin Kaepernick and other athletes, from the NFL and elsewhere, kneeling in protest of police brutality and other racial issues before games while the national anthem is playing.

So here’s how I feel about it all…

I have family who fought and died for that piece of cloth with seven red stripes, six white stripes, and fifty white stars on a blue field in the upper left hand corner.

My great-grandfather fought in World War I.

My uncle was killed in the Korean War; it’s been over 65 years and his remains are still somewhere in North Korea instead of the Los Angeles National Cemetery where it belongs.

My father, who I never knew (but that’s another story), fought in the Vietnam War.

Which is why I personally choose to stand for the “Star Spangled Banner”, my attitude being “Might as well”.

However…

I’m also an African-American male.

A black man who has encountered racism, such as being racially profiled several times by the Santa Monica, CA police during the 1990s, including getting handcuffed in front of my house because I fit the description of a stalker.

As well as being denied jobs strictly because of my being black, like when I was told that someone else was being chosen to coach a little league girls’ softball team instead of me upon sight because “He asked first”, after I made such a good impression during the phone interview.

And being called the “N-word” mostly during my early childhood years by quite a few white kids in the then-rural suburb of Woodcrest outside of Riverside, CA, and hearing that word a few times in Santa Monica.

Not to mention experiencing various slights and “microaggressions” that, looking back, I recognize that that’s what I went through on various occasions during my adolescent and young adult years.

Of course I can’t forget the many instances of African-Americans being disrespected at best and encountering outright bigotry to the point of murder at the hands of the local authorities at worst.

Incidents like the Rodney King beating and subsequent acquittal of those four white cops despite the brutalization being caught on video – which triggered the L.A. Riots/Rebellion 25 years ago – and the police murdering guys like Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray certainly come to mind.

 

THE “BLACK POWER” SALUTE HEARD ‘ROUND THE WORLD: Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right) during the 200 meters medal ceremony in the 1968 Olympics. Photo courtesy of blackwomenofbrazil.com

 

I know, I know – What does this have to do with NFL players kneeling and protesting before games?

To put it bluntly, I support those athletes.

I know that many folks – who seem to be mostly white and conservative, curiously enough – are foaming at the mouth over the kneeling, the arm-linking and the fist-raising, saying that while they have a right to protest, to do so on the job should be punishable by virtual condemnation to hell.

What those folks don’t understand is that people like my uncle died so that Kaepernick and all those other players in the National Football League,

And I’m sure a lot of guys in the National Basketball Association when that season opens in a few weeks,

And every other sports league for that matter,

Can kneel, raise fists, link arms, or not come out of the locker room at all – like the Sparks did before Game One of the WNBA Finals – during the national anthem.

To not allow that is not only denying free speech,

But denying human rights.

Of course, all of this is nothing new.

In the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City Tommie Smith and John Carlos, after winning the gold and bronze medals in the 200 meter finals respectively, raised their fists in the “Black Power” salute on the medal stand during the national anthem, earning them an expulsion from the Games and a one-way ticket home from IOC President and known racist Avery Brundage.

Muhammad Ali had his heavyweight title stripped the year before when he refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army, losing three years of his boxing prime before the Supreme Court overturned his five-year jail sentence.

And we all know the pure hell that Jackie Robinson went through for daring to integrate Major League Baseball in 1947.

All of these instances and incidents past and present have one thing in common:

The protagonists’ color of their skin.

And as a black man, I feel I have no choice but to stand in solidarity to those who are taking a stand against injustice and the hypocrisy that America has exuded to those of its citizens who don’t happen to be white, wealthy, male, straight, conservative, or Christian.

Or a combination of those six attributes.

Though I wouldn’t kneel during the Star Spangled Banner due to my family’s involvement in defending that stars and stripes flag, if I were on an NFL team and they chose to remain in the locker room before the game, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks did this past Sunday, I would be right with them.

And if the team decided to link arms, I would do that.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

EVERYONE, including professional athletes, has every right to take a stand for what they believe in and what they don’t think is right.

Those who would bad mouth such actions or would deny those rights are doing one thing:

DENYING HUMAN RIGHTS.

Which in essence is the heart of it all.

It would be very wrong of me to not give these athletes my support in this.

Especially since there are millions of people in these United States – and other places – that still see me as inferior and lesser due to the color of my skin.

 

SANTA CLARA, CA – SEPTEMBER 12: Kenny Britt #18 and Robert Quinn #94 of the Los Angeles Rams raise their fists in protest prior to playing the San Francisco 49ers in their NFL game at Levi’s Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 659019765 ORIG FILE ID: 603555170 Photo courtesy of ftwusatoday.com

 

 

IT’S OFFICIAL: Olympics Coming To Los Angeles In 2028

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, center, speaks during a press conference to make an announcement for the city to host the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games 2028, at StubHub Center in Carson, outside of Los Angeles, Calif., Monday, July 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu) photo courtesy of indianexpress.com

 

A FEW COMMENTS REGARDING THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE’S DEAL TO HAVE L.A. HOST THE OLYMPICS IN 2028 WHILE PARIS GETS THE GAMES IN 2024

Even though this is old news, it wouldn’t be right to not give this a mention on this site…

It seems like the IOC is capable of getting something almost right.

While it’s great that they awarded Los Angeles the Summer Olympics, it’s not as great that the torch will be lit in a renovated Coliseum in 2028 rather than 2024.

At least that will give L.A. and it’s Olympic Committee that much more time to make sure that the logistics – transportation, as there are expected to be more bus lines and additional Metro Rail trains, and venues like the new home of the Rams and the Chargers in Inglewood which will be up and running – are well and good.

While no one can predict the future, especially what will happen in eleven years, I’m quite confident that the Games of the XXXIV Olympiad will be like the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, which was the last time the world’s best athletes came to Southern California to compete for gold medals,

Spectacular.

To be honest, in the tradition of “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it”, I won’t think about it much until it’s upon us.

I mean, I just entered my fifties, and I’ll be 61 when that torch is lit.

Los Angeles’ current mayor, Eric Garcetti, will be long gone by then.

As a matter of perspective, I had just turned 17 the last time the Olympics were in L.A., Mary Lou Retton, Edwin Moses, and Carl Lewis doing their thing.

In the meantime, I’ll go on with my life until the sun ignites the fire on the torch on that mountain in Greece in a little over a decade…

 

A shot of the Coliseum from the last time the Olympics were held in Los Angeles in 1984. Photo courtesy of news.sky.com

 

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Regarding The Various SoCal Sports Teams This Past Weekend

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Candace Parker (#3) celebrating with Odyssey Sims and the rest of the Sparks after clinching their second straight WNBA Finals berth yesterday. Photo courtesy of womenshoopworld.com

 

Except for two teams – maybe three if you count the Dodgers taking two of three from the Washington Nationals in the nation’s capitol (though they lost on Sunday) – it wasn’t a good weekend for the sports entities that call the greater Los Angeles area home.

* MUCH kudos goes out to the basketball team that’s frankly the best that L.A. has to offer, the WNBA’s Sparks, not only for clinching a berth in their league’s Finals for the second consecutive year and earning the opportunity to defend the championship that they won in such spectacular fashion last year,

But also for being the only SoCal sports team that won on Sunday as every other team that was in action, the Rams, the Chargers (on a last second missed field goal for the second straight game), the Dodgers and the Angels…

All lost.

Now for the obvious question…

Will the Sparks repeat as WNBA Champions?

My Answer: Though those Sparks certainly have a good shot at having a second consecutive parade in downtown L.A. as they are on a roll, having won ten straight,

The Sparks’ opponent in the Finals, the Minnesota Lynx, a team that lost to them in an epic Game Five last season, will be motivated on a pronounced level to avenge that extreme last second heartbreak.

Which is why I’m not seeing those Sparks repeating.

I hope I’m wrong.

 

L.A. Sparks vs Phoenix Mercury, WNBA Semifinals, Game 3 highlights – Sparks won 89-87 (courtesy of YouTube)

 

* USC’s Trojans get a big well done from me for what at least in their mind was enacting revenge for that crushing loss to Vince Young and his Texas team in the BCS Championship in 2006 and beating the Longhorns in two overtimes on Saturday.

That game unfolded almost exactly as I said it would in the predictions article that I did on this site three weeks ago (here’s the link to prove it): http://www.socalsportsannals.wordpress.com/2017/08/28/usc-trojans-football-2017-game-predictions/, Texas giving ‘SC a real tough battle before the Trojans pulled it out in front of a very loud and dedicated Trojan Family at the Coliseum.

But as I said on this site’s Twitter page, while the Trojans should have no problem beating their next opponent, a California team that even though they’re playing better than I expected remains no match for Sam Darnold, Ronald Jones II and company,

It’s the opponent after Cal that they need to worry about, as they head for the Palouse to face a good (and ranked) Washington State team with an experienced senior quarterback,

On the road,

On a Friday night,

With several defensive players banged up as ‘SC has no bye weeks,

In what’s the perfect definition and illustration of these two words:

TRAP GAME.

 

 

Highlights of USC’s 27-24 double overtime win over Texas on September 16th (courtesy of YouTube)

 

 

* As for my alma mater’s football team…

There’s a post on the website BruinsNation.com  that was spot-on regarding not only UCLA’s 48-45 loss to Memphis on Saturday,

Which not only unfolded the way I had predicted, as a toss-up,

But also discussed the general direction that the Bruin program has been heading under coach Jim Mora for the past two years-plus, commenting on how UCLA missed their chance at taking over the L.A. sports scene in light of the USC sanctions, no pro football teams, and the mediocrity of the two baseball clubs.

And how while Mora is “…a great human being and a fantastic ambassador for UCLA,” he’s also “…probably reaching the end of the line.”

I, for one, don’t want to fire Mora in the middle of the season.

While their chances of beating their next opponents, a Stanford team with a dominant running game, are quite slim considering their deficiencies in stopping the run, I won’t know if Mora should be let go at the end of the year until around midnight on September 30th.

That’s when the Bruins home opener against Colorado will be over.

And with their record most likely being 2-2 going into that game, that match-up against the Buffaloes is the epitome of a crossroads game.

As far as I’m concerned, a win will mean that hope remains in Westwood for a good season.

And if UCLA loses,

I’ll consider the season over and will set my eyes on Bruin basketball and particularly gymnastics.

* Regarding our two NFL teams…

It was a bad day for both the Rams and the Chargers as they lost in the last minute; the last second in the Chargers’ case as Younghoe Koo missed a game winning field goal attempt for the second straight game.

All I have to say is that if the Rams and Chargers have their hearts set on their squads being of playoff caliber, they need to wake up now.

These are two mediocre pro teams that Los Angeles has, and while the Rams have a chance in a weak NFC West, I don’t see the Chargers finishing anywhere but last in a strong AFC West.

But that all remains to be seen.

That’s about it for my random ramblings regarding our teams;

As always, let’s see how things unfold…

 

Freshman walk-on kicker Chase McGrath (#40) holding up holder Wyatt Schmid (#46) after making the game winning field goal in USC’s 27-24 double overtime win over Texas on Saturday. Photo courtesy of newsday.com

 

GUTTY LITTLE ANGELS: Will They Make The Postseason?

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Baseball’s Superman, also known as Mike Trout, high-fiving some Angels teammates during a recent game. Photo courtesy of hattiesburgamerican.com

 

DO I THINK THE ANGELS WILL WIN A WILD CARD SPOT?

 

I have to give these Angels much credit.

Despite their season-long lack of the most important ingredient to a successful baseball team – pitching – Mike Scioscia’s red-clad team is right in the thick of it in the American League playoff race, sitting two games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second Wild Card spot with 17 games to go as of this writing.

They picked up two proven veterans, second baseman Brandon Phillips from the Atlanta Braves and outfielder Justin Upton from the Detroit Tigers, to help them in their bid to play in October.

And they have certainly shown much guts in their play, essentially becoming the Rocky Balboa of baseball.

There’s one factor that’s preventing me from seeing them as a playoff team, however…

The fact that while they upgraded their lineup in adding Phillips and Upton, they failed to upgrade in the area that they sorely needed to upgrade the most;

PITCHING.

 

Highlights from the Angels’ most recent game, a 9-1 blowout of the Astros at Angel Stadium. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

Yes, I know his salary was too much for owner Arte Moreno to take on, but when I saw the just traded to the Houston Astros from the Tigers Justin Verlander hurl a two-hit shutout at the Angels the other night, my thought was,

“That’s who the Angels should have picked up!”

In short, it was pitching the Angels needed, more than hitting.

Sure, young guys like Parker Birdwell have shown good potential of late, but that’s not what the Angels can depend on in the long run.

 

A look that the Angels seriously need to consider going back to, particularly the caps as what they have now doesn’t work for me. BY THE WAY: the all-time strikeout king Nolan Ryan is pictured on the left…

 

That’s why even though I completely respect those Halos from Anaheim for what they’ve accomplished to this point, my response to whether they will earn that second wild card spot and face the New York Yankees in that one-game playoff is…

NO.

That’s not to take away their A-plus effort, as I see them finishing above .500, winning between 82-85 games.

Which considering the Angels’ flaws and MANY injuries on the mound – their only pitcher with a double-digit win total, J.C. Ramirez, has just announced that he has a torn ligament in his elbow – is a tremendous accomplishment.

Of course, I hope I’m wrong.

I hope the Angels get that wild card ticket punched, as these next 17 games will determine that – and their season.

But as long as their pitching is was it has been all season, though they’ve given it a heck of an effort, I’m just not feeling it.

I do admire their guts, though.

There’s one other thing those Angels need to do…

Get rid of those ugly uniforms and caps and go back to their 80s look!

Or their original look from the 60s!

Anything but what they look like now (or that winged periwinkle ensemble from around 2000; that didn’t look good, either)!

 

ANAHEIM, CA – JUNE 03: (L-R) Maicer Izturis #13, Erick Aybar #2, Peter Bourjos #25 and Torii Hunter #48 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim celebrate their teams 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 3, 2011 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) Now THIS is a good look for those Angels, their original uniforms from the early 1960s; why can’t they go back to this?! Photo courtesy of baseballessential.com