Why does Adam Rosales sprint his home run trot? Answer: He loves baseball that much

A modern day Charlie Hustle (photo by Ezra Shaw)

A modern day Charlie Hustle (photo by Ezra Shaw)

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

If you listen to the interview above between Jim Rome and Adam Rosales, it's almost impossible not to fall in love with the man that A's fans affectionately call "Rosie." After all, Rosales literally sprints around the bases following his home runs, and in the interview with Romie, he explains how it all started, as a 12-year-old in Michigan who knew nothing but hustle. 

Now in his tenth big league season, the 34-year-old Rosales has already played for four MLB teams, with this being his second go around in Oakland. For his first nine seasons, Rosales never made more than a million dollars (this year he is making 1.2 mil). He's had to earn every one of his at-bats through the years, with trade talks following the utility man wherever he goes. Famously, back in 2013, Rosales was designated for assignment three times and claimed off waivers three other times, all within a tumultuous ten day window. 

As a career .228 hitter, Rosales is not exactly Ted Williams at the plate, nor does he posses the grace of a Buster Posey right handed swing. But what he lacks in talent, he more than makes up for with heart and hustle. Charlie Hustle himself (Pete Rose) was notorious for sprinting down to first base after drawing a walk. But Rosales has taken things a step forward in the hustle department, to the point where he routinely rounds the bases on homers in less than 16 seconds. 

Rosales is so passionate about respecting the game and playing it the right way, that he has gone out of his way to start a movement called "#SandlotNation." According to Rosales, Sandlot Nation is as simple as it gets. Rosie heads out to youth baseball fields around noon time across America, with not much more than his glove, bat and a bucket of balls. He organizes a group of kids to come out and play and Rosie throws to them in a sandlot style game. While most Big Leaguers are just waking up in their hotel room on the morning before a road game, Rosie is often out on an all-dirt infield, starting a pickup baseball game with a group of surprised kids. "I always seem to play better at night when I pitch a sandlot game that day," Rosales tells Rome.

The A's have moved on to #RootedInOakland as their marketing tagline this season, but the true core of the A's still lies in the #GreenCollar movement, started a few years back. If anyone embodies the blue collar, lunch pail ethos of industrial Oakland, it's Adam Rosales. A's fans shouldn't take his all-out style for granted. Every 16-second home run trot should be savored, every horizontal dive on the Coliseum dirt applauded. He might be gone before you know it.  

Giants facing new hard reality: They aren't any good

At the end of April, the Giants had the worst record in the National League (photo by Matthew Stockman)

At the end of April, the Giants had the worst record in the National League (photo by Matthew Stockman)

By Ryan Ward | @RyanJWard

There’s no sugarcoating it. The Giants have been brutal to watch, and the hits - except the ones that improve your batting average - keep on coming.

To say that the Giants have failed to live up to expectations after the first month of the 2017 season would be like saying the Warriors are good at basketball. It’s a Captain Obvious statement, and one that is a result of disappointments on the field, careless decisions off the field, and the lack of decisive action made by the front office leading up to the season.

The nightmare began on Opening Day vs Arizona, a game that can be viewed as something of a microcosm of the first month.

On that day, Madison Bumgarner proved his undisputed value to the team by opening with five perfect innings and slugging two home runs (a first for any pitcher on Opening Day). Then, with the help of some spotty defense in the outfield, new closer Mark Melancon blew the save and the Giants lost on a walk-off single after the offense failed to tack on runs throughout the game.

Flash forward to the present, and you have the following realities to face, along with a 10-18 record (last in the NL): 1) Bumgarner is out for an indefinite amount of time after a dirt biking accident, 2) Melancon has blown two saves, the Giants have blown five as a team, 3) Seven players are on the disabled list, and 4) they have received almost zero contribution from their outfielders.

Collectively, these realities lead to a 10-18 record for a team that was supposed to contend for the NL West title.

Let's start with Bumgarner. After fours starts, he was receiving some of the worst run support in baseball, and was almost certainly becoming frustrated. The Giants haven’t been scoring for any of their pitchers, but the bats were especially silent for MadBum days, which must drive a perennial All-Star and Cy Young candidate like MadBum crazy.

Then, almost as if to say, “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone," Bumgarner chose to go dirt bike riding on an off day in Denver and took a spill, resulting in injuries to his throwing shoulder that will take months to heal.

I don’t have to tell you how stupid, irresponsible, and baffling that is for a professional athlete who is in-season, let alone a superstar, but I’ll just say it anyway: what was he thinking? Apparently he wasn’t following the Giants back when Jeff Kent injured himself “washing his truck."

Next, the bullpen. The problems that plagued the 2016 Giants have persisted in 2017, and you can’t help but point some of the blame at a front office that made only one significant addition to the core area of need the Giants had in the offseason.

Mark Melancon has been so-so and will surely be fine as the season goes on, however the supporting cast has been inconsistent. The season-ending injury to Will Smith didn’t help, but overall the bullpen has been unreliable and hasn’t lived up to best-case-scenario expectations that Bochy and team were hoping for when they remained quiet in free agency.

Speaking of injuries, the Giants have them spread across their entire roster. Buster Posey lost a week of his season after being plunked in the head during his first home at-bat of the year, Jarred Parker separated his shoulder, Span has lingering shoulder issues, Crawford is currently on the DL, and of course there’s Bumgarner. The injury bug has also hit role players Aaron Hill and Trevor Brown.

Finally, the  cast of outfielders that many were nervous about heading into the season has proved to be just as bad as you didn’t hope. Hunter Pence has slowly rounded into form, but the other two Opening Day starters, Parker and Span, had been horrendous before succumbing to their respective injuries. The stop gap replacements have been just as bad, with the only arguable bright spot being Michael Morse’s triumphant return to SF with a game-tying HR in his first AB.

The reality is, it’s not looking good for the Giants. Yes it’s still early, but aside from Matt Cain’s resurgence, Christian Arroyo’s emergence as a rising star, and some decent batting averages from guys you’d expect to hit, the Giants don’t have a lot to be excited about after one month.

First and foremost, they need to score runs (worst run differential in baseball). Next, they need to get healthy. Finally, they need their bullpen to quit blowing the few leads they’re given.

*Not mentioned, but not forgotten: Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzija have been flat out disappointing, and Ty Blach continues to exceed expectations as Bumgarner’s replacement.

Thoughts on Draymond Green

(Photo by Ezra Shaw)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw)

By Kyle Heise | @KyleHeise

With a cast of unprecedented talent, the Warriors are the team to beat regardless of last year’s result (and there will be more to come on this later). And with this current collection of Warriors players from Iguadola to Klay to Step and now KD-- my favorite player is Draymond Green. For as much as Steph can dazzle me with his on-ball pirouettes where his balance is so off kilter that getting a shot off, let alone draining a three, is beyond comprehension; or Klay’s catch and release that is more kill than conservation; or KD’s lanky body that trebuchets the ball over his defenders worse than medieval warlords; for as much as the Warriors exhibit basketball’s finesse at its optimum, I still prefer Green’s arduous defensive rate and his unselfish play. Safe to say I love him because he's the fire of the best team in the league. Draymond cleans up the trash. He has help too. He in know way can exhibit so much emotion on the court without winning. He’s also a target because of it. So before the play-offs begin, I’d like to offer some unrestrained thoughts on Mr. Draymond Green. These are some observations from this season and some of the previous post-season as well as what to come. (Excuse the banal approach to making a list, your author hopes you can see beyond the simplicity of it.)

1-Rarely does a player control the tempo of a team that is not their best player or their point guard. Rarely do the reigning MVPs listen when a role player threatens. We see it with Draymond Green. When Draymond speaks people seem to listen. Let’s start with that. Next point.

2- He's cerebral. He will probably be a phenomenal coach, and if not: a better pundit that most of those who currently ridicule him. (Most geniuses had a quirk, an oddness to them-- violent, passive, socially inept whatever) There was a game early on this season where the Dubs got beat by the Grizzlies. The game was an early lesson on game management, the 4th quarter in particular. Towards the end of the loss, Green and KD got into a visible verbal tussle. The spat appeared intense from TV. When asked after the game about what transpired, KD admitted that Draymond was just telling him the correct thing to do. That Draymond had seen a stagnation in the offense that was contributing to the team’s poor effort. In the following video, KD concurs with Draymond:

Here they are talking again:

3-He's a counter to the guard heavy league. Draymond is the antithesis of today’s NBA. He’s not a scorer. He’s a provider. In today’s game, beyond Lebron, one seldom sees this performed night in and night out by a forward. Show me another team that let’s it 6’7’’ forward play top. Show me another team that has a 6’7’’ forward capable of passing like Draymond.

3a. He doesn’t fit a position. On most possessions he plays point guard on offense but runs the floor with the big man on D. But against another opponent he’ll D-up the swing-man and then play pick-n-roll on offense, where he’s the buttery roll.

4-In a league where the King is soft, Draymond’s player types should be celebrated. Pundits who revel in the 80s should take note.The softness of today’s NBA is detrimental to the ferocity and fervor of a player like Green. Green is doing his best to make it a man's league again. The raw emotion that players show on a nightly basis in the NBA is tantamount to all other sports. It’’s hidden behind a facemask in football and shunned by traditionalists in baseball. Night in and night out NBA players are scrutinized from every angle in the NBA. Nothing on the court goes unnoticed these days and nearly everything that happens on the court can be retroactively cited as a dubious penalty or a flagrant foul. And with Draymond we’ve seen that come back and haunt him. Albeit the NBA has a history of outspoken players and it’s field of flapping yaps, when Draymond speaks his mind the ears listen. He's the loudest and faces the fire. We have a king who cowers. He's isn't afraid to challenge.

5- Green has made five defensive plays in the last minute of one-possession games that have helped seal victories this season. Game stealers are as good as game winners.

6- In league full of egos, he's a team player. Sure, he has an ego but one must in a dog eat dog league. He’s a prolific passer for his size and usually prefers a pass to a shot. And beyond that ego is a compassionate man. E.g. He made the largest single player alumni donation back to Michigan State in the school’s history. This lion’s got a heart in there somewhere. He’s known to keep in contact with his college coach, Tom Izzo. Izzo is legendary in his own right, but his praise for Draymond is high. Izzo acknowledges Green’s tenacity, sheer will to win, and that he might be the smartest player on the court. The two still exchange game plans for Michigan State. He’s cerebral. And he’s lucky to have Izzo as a mentor.

7-He scored the first triple double w/o points this season. And. Like. Ever. In. History.

8-Dray has the audacity to hit Lebron when he was a flagrant foul away from suspension during the NBA Finals. Stupid obviously, but didn’t we all want someone to do it? He did what every rational American would think at the time. All the favoring to the Lebron over the years culminated through Draymond’s little wrist flick. It only took this many years for someone to try and break Lebron’s hegemony, his invincibility. Draymond fell for BronBron’s mind game. Kudos to BronBron for eliciting a response that got Green suspended, but don’t tell me the series ended right there.

9- In March, Chris Broussard said that Draymond’s behavior lost the Warriors the 2016 title. He’s not the first to suggest so nor was it his first time doing so. But wow- what hyperbole that is.

Can they really pin one player’s one-game absence on the whole series? How about the cold shooting to start game 5? Or blowing a 14-pt lead at the half in game 7? Draymond scored 32pts, 15 rebounds and 9 assists in Game 7. He missed game 5 not the decisive game 7. There were still two games to be had. If the rest of the players couldn’t rise with the occasion and hold up their teammate, then why are they in the NBA? Seems to me like Green’s ferocity and diehard style are what kept the Warriors from being embarrassed even more. Scapegoating Draymond for losing the series is easy. What’s not easy is calling out the reigning two time MVP for disappearing in the most important game of his life. Draymond has shown he can step up when not just the game, but the season is on the line.

10-His technicals are an indeed issue though. But this is a league wider issue that stretches back years to the league’s poor ruling on technical fouls that began with players like Rasheed Wallace. The Warriors are great. All-time great. Paired with this greatness and the happy-marketable faces of Steph and KD, the Joe Cool-Spicoli-sly demeanor of Klay, and Iguadola’s Tech Ambassador moniker, there had to be a anti-hero. Enter Draymond. The refs need some to patrol. Plus,the NBA pretty much has a de facto law out that wants a cleaner game but instead rewards the flopping and coddling of star players. In today’s game, players like Green and Demarcus Cousins are hunted by the Refs. These guys can’t so much as look at a ref without the ref feeling fear. Just see John Wall’s recent comments about the reffing in the league. It’s nothing new. Refs are human. Humans have biases. And that’s just the way it is. That’s just that way it’s always been.

11-Some say Draymond looks like Donkey from Shrek (as of that’s a good thing). But damn, I think he looks like a big, cuddly man willing to risk it all in order to take our relationship (read: team) to the next level.

12-His tenacity goes back years. I can’t recall the source of these rumours but word on the street is that during his years at Michigan State, Draymond would head to the local pick-up spots and wreck house. He’d bring his fiery personality to the hardened black tops across East Lansing and pick fights. He’d talk shit to cliche old men you find at these locales. Take these with a grain of salt. All I know is that it adds to the man’s aura. I want to believe these stories because they are so perfectly Draymond. I can imagine these pick-up games--hardly even games if they are like any other pick-up league, ya know where they are more tests of spirit than skill-- taking place in the frigid weather of Michigan where it’s cold enough to where the ball embodies truly its nickname: the rock; and where the breaths of each player fill the air and each man’s perspiring skin radiates a fog that gives the whole scene a mystic feel, with that kind of occult haze that emulates a hallowed cemetery at twilight. It’s Hollywood-esque, but then again, isn’t Hollywood like real life? And it’s in these scenarios where champions are born; all the extra hours spent learning tricks and trades from the has-beens and never-wases--what Reggie Miller often calls “old man game”-- that one cannot learn from playing with your peers. These experiences are what culminate into a player like Draymond.

13-The guy's mom don’t take smack either. Remember when she was notorious for trolling fans, refs, and the NBA on Twitter? Prolly good she went awol. At least we got to see where some of the madness stems from.

14-Why’s he always flailing his legs? He always flails his legs like an untamed gymnast on offense trying to draw fouls. It’s totally dramatic folly. It’s totally Draymond. He’s playing into the malarkey permitted by today’s NBA. See this video:

The refs award this kind of play. Lebron does it. Harden does it. Everyone does. But how Draymond does it borders the finest line between fair play and just plain stupid.

15- He believes he can outshoot Steph, Klay, Steve Kerr, and even the Durantula. That fact the he believes, makes me love him even more.

16- Yes, he’s dirty. Myriad youtube vids show this theory’s truths. Show me a team without one of these players? Again, every angle of these guys on the court is scrutinized. Y’ever played for keeps like these guys? Me neither. But I’d def try to pinch a guy or two during a few rebounds for a crown.

17- Watch someone try to post him up. The way he moves his body is textbook perfect. That's how he can roll with the big dogs. It's like that scene in "Finding Forester," he know's where you are going before you do. He plays D with his legs and gets to the spot before his opponent. The last play in that game against the Pelican's was defensive genius. That play where he stripped Anthony Davis as time expired. Drey robbed him straight up. That’s big NBA D.

18-Draymond doesn’t need to change. He’s born from a different era. He’s not bred for the softness of the modern NBA. I’m sure he would have been a catalyst to the bad-boy Detroit Pistons or the fundamentally sound 2004 Champs. He grew up watching these teams and he plays like them.

19- He gonna be DPOY. Anything less will be a conspiracy and we ought to take Adam Silver to the Bastille.

This playoff run is gonna see the Warriors go as far as Draymond pulls the train. Yes, they’ll need everyone to drain their jumpers and contribute, but as Game 1 against Portland showed, Draymond is the central catalyst emotionally and his all-around phenomenal contributions will be the glue that puts all the pieces together.

Section925 Podcast Ep. 161 - Basketball Insider Jon Wheeler on Cal hoops, Final Four & More

The Mobile Podcenter returns to the Hoop Cave where Section925 Basketball Insider Jon Wheeler addresses the fall-out from his comments about the Cal Basketball coaching search, previews the Final Four, talks resurgent Dubs, and reflects on his days playing pick-up hoop against the likes of Hook Mitchell in the parks of Berkeley.

Al Davis' son cashes out, moves Oakland Raiders to Sin City

By Merlin Edwards III | @Trey_Me

The dreadful day has finally come... the Oakland Raiders will be no longer.

Owner Mark Davis has decided to pick up and leave the most loyal fans in the NFL for a city that has never even housed a professional sports franchise. There are multiple reasons why this has happened, but all of them mean nothing to the die-hard Raiders fans in the Bay Area. Sure, the Raiders have left before, but no team, until now, has ever left the same city twice. March 27th, 2017 will go down as a tragic day in Oakland sports history and nobody is to blame but the money hungry, corporate greed that is the NFL and its owners.

There are a lot of "never before's" attached to this move. There has never been a team that left its city twice. There has never been a professional team of any kind in Las Vegas. There has never been a team to leave a top 5 television market (SF Bay Area) for one as low as 40 (Las Vegas). There has certainly never been a city who has put up $750 million-plus in taxpayer money either, as Nevada has done. Oakland Raiders owner, Mark Davis is one of the least wealthy owners in the NFL and that is the reason why the Oakland Raiders will now call Las Vegas home. Oakland was not willing to put up anywhere near that amount of taxpayer money, and for good reason...why should they? NFL owners (for the most part) are billionaires. If you want a new state-of-the-art stadium, build the darn thing yourself! Just like Stan Kroenke did with the Rams in Los Angeles. Just like Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons are doing. Jed York and the 49ers...the list goes on.

However, since Mark Davis is not among those uber rich owners, the only thing he can do to get a stadium is take an enormous handout. He tried it in LA and got shot down by the other owners in favor of the Rams and Chargers. Now here is his next attempt, which turned out to be the straw that broke the camels back.

The fact that three teams have been approved to move in the span of 14 months is the zeitgeist of our political and financial society. All of these teams moving are because the other owners gave a vote of at least 24-8. The Raiders vote was 31-1. Only the Dolphins owner voted against it and his reasoning was sound with my own. Why would we take a team out of a top five market to one that is below 35? It may be a short term fix, but what about the long term? Things in Las Vegas seem to only be cool for a span of 2-5 years. So what happens after that? Mark Davis and the other owners have the belief that they'll still make money. And maybe they will. The 49ers have been top five in revenue while playing in a half-empty Levi's Stadium. The NFL making money is not about butts in the seats anymore. It's much more than that.

Loyalty on display in the Black Hole (photo by Thearon W. Henderson)

Loyalty on display in the Black Hole (photo by Thearon W. Henderson)

Now, to play devils advocate for a second, why wouldn't you vote for it? There is a relocation fee that must be paid which is evenly split between all of you. Since the fee this time was $300+ million, each owner is getting a check of over $10 million in your pocket. You also know (or can at least speculate) that the mystique of the Raider Nation fans will not be as strong in Vegas, so there is a good chance there is no more home field advantage that the Black Hole has held for years. Meaning your fans may even find another excuse to tell the wife they're going to Vegas for the weekend, and your VISITING team could be louder on those crucial 3rd downs. Not to mention you get to go to Vegas and maybe even hold a Super Bowl there.

The other owners had good reason to vote for this. The only owner that has had any semblance of loyalty to Oakland is Mark Davis. He threw that out of the window for a handout that Oakland would not give him, while assuming that the Raider Nation is so strong that the fan base will follow him.

Well, he's wrong. There are definitely fans in Las Vegas. The fans in LA are probably not angry either, as it's just a tad closer to them. But Oakland fans? We, as a whole, will never follow this team the same way. As signs in the stadium said all last season, "Las Vegas...if you build it, we WON'T come." Sure, there will be fans who follow the team, but in my humble opinion, there will be far less of the followers than the ones like myself. As soon as it was announced that season ticket holders would get their deposits back for the 2017 season, I called and did just that. So did my other family members that have had them for years. So did plenty of lifelong Raiders fans, because if you build it, we won't come. I refuse to be subject to the greed of an owner that clearly never cared about us. I refuse to give my hard earned money to a man who will leave my city without even trying to work with Oakland in the last 2 years. I respect you if you will still be a part of the Nation, but don't expect my fanaticism when there has been no gratitude shown to me. Loyalty is a two way street, and Raiders fans, for the second time, have had their hearts ripped from their chests.

The NFL is all about money, and it always will be. The fans may have mattered a long time ago, but the sad and inconvenient truth is, it will never be that way again. If they did, the Chargers would still be in San Diego and the Raiders would most definitely not leave Oakland yet again. My heart goes out to you Raider Nation. And wherever your fandom will or will not transfer to, more power to you. We are, and have always been in this together, and without us, all of us, the NFL and the Raiders will never be the same again.

The sign speaks for itself (photo by Lachlan Cunningham)

The sign speaks for itself (photo by Lachlan Cunningham)

Section925 Podcast Ep. 160 - Hoops Insider Jon Wheeler & Tommy Renno

Hoop Insider Jon Wheeler is joined by UCLA Bruin supporter Tommy Renno in the Hoop Cave to talk about the Cal Head Coach hiring process, what the likely new coach, Eric Musselman will bring to the job, and the challenges he would face at Cal, along with a discussion of who could replace Steve Alford at UCLA and how far they can go in the Tournament.

The "Even Year Magic" has run out, but Giants return ready for another World Series run

Mad Bum is back for more in 2017 (photo by Tim Warner)

Mad Bum is back for more in 2017 (photo by Tim Warner)

By Ryan Ward | @RyanJWard

Well, it finally happened.

Oakland A’s faithful and MLB fans nationwide can rejoice, because the "Even Year Magic" (or “Even Year BS,” as some say) has finally run out for the San Francisco Giants.

Fitting as it may be, it was painful for Giants fans to watch the backbone of their team - the definitive strength of the 2010, 2012, and 2014 championship teams - directly lead to their demise. It felt ironic, but it was only a matter of time before their reliable bullpen arms aged, became fatigued, lost precision, and the luck began to run out.

The warning signs were there throughout the year, as the team blew an incredible 30 saves during the 2016 regular season. The front office took a gamble by not making significant improvements to the bullpen at the trade deadline - aside from 8th-inning lefty Will Smith - and it couldn’t have ended worse in the playoffs.

The 9th inning of Game 4 of the NLDS was the straw that broke the camel’s back, as Derek Law, Javier Lopez, and Sergio Romo failed to record an out while coughing up a 4-run lead vs. the Cubs, leading to San Francisco’s first playoff series loss since 2003.

Let’s take a moment to admire the team’s run, though. Leading up to the 2016 NLDS, the Giants had defeated a whopping 11 consecutive playoff opponents since the start of the 2010 postseason, which ties a record set by the 1998-2001 New York Yankees, one of baseball’s greatest dynasties.

Now, as they look ahead to Opening Day 2017, it’s out with the old and in with the new. The final three members of the Giants’ “Core Four” bullpen - Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, and Santiago Casilla - have either moved on or retired (Romo to the Dodgers, keep an eye on that one).

Filling their shoes will be difficult, but the Giants have several guys ready and willing to be promoted to the later innings, including Hunter Strickland, Derek Law, and Steven Okert, all with big league experience and intermittent success, primed for their careers to advance.

The Giants’ front office did their best work of the offseason when they courted and eventually signed Mark Melancon away from the Pirates to anchor the bullpen staff. Melancon brings instant stability to the role with 147 saves since the start of 2013 (3rd in the league), and although his contract is large, the Giants were very clear that they were not willing to take any shortcuts at that position in 2017.

Along with a newly solidified ‘pen, the Giants continue to bolster an All-Star caliber infield, both offensively and defensively. Amazingly, all five starting Giants infielders - Posey, Belt, Panik, Crawford, and Nunez - have All-Star selections to their names. And equally as incredible, the home-grown group of Posey, Panik, and Crawford have all won Gold Glove Awards.

The outfield, however, remains the Giants’ undisputed question mark. Hunter Pence is their biggest asset and emotional leader, however his health has been a huge question mark these past few seasons, as he’s fought oblique, wrist, and leg injuries. If the Giants plan to return to the World Series, they’ll need Pence to regain his .280 BA, 20 HR, 80 RBI form, and play upwards of 140 games in right field.

Denard Span is also a question mark, as he’s proven to be less of a prototypical leadoff hitter, despite Bruce Bochy’s insistence that he remain in that spot. If he can get on base at a good clip ahead of the heart of the lineup, the Giants will be fine. If not, then it poses a problem, and might warrant a change in the lineup order.

That leaves left field open, which is entirely up for grabs. Management made it clear that they have faith in their young outfield talent by not even pursuing a LF replacement in free agency, and at this point in spring training, it looks as if lefty Jarrett Parker will win the job...but it’s almost a certainty that both he and righty Mac Williamson will split the duties in platoon roles, depending on the day’s starting pitcher.

It would behoove Bochy to go with the hot hand, however, and avoid stubbornly sticking to the platoon definitions, as both guys have huge power and can get streaky over stretches of games. Let’s not forget that Parker has a 3 HR game on his big league resume.

Finally, the starting pitching. Unlike last offseason, the Giants went into the winter break confident in 4 out of 5 of their starting spots. In rotation order: Bumgarner, Cueto, Moore, and Samardzija. The 5th spot is there for the taking, and the Giants may well give it to Matt Cain, but he has done nothing to earn their trust this spring, and guys like Ty Blach and Tyler Beede are chomping at the bit to get their chance.

Still, having two All-Stars at the top and two solid starters at 3 and 4 is much more than almost any team can say, and the Giants certainly count their starting pitching as an advantage over most opponents.

Now that the even year magic is over, the Giants look healthy and ready as ever to challenge for the NL pennant in 2017, led by solid starting pitching, an All-Star infield, and a fresh-faced bullpen with a game-changing closer. Stay tuned, 2017 may have some magic up its sleeve.

"East Coast Bias" - What West Coast teams and players will do damage in the Tournament?

Darius Graham from Sac High runs the show for UC Davis

Darius Graham from Sac High runs the show for UC Davis

By Connor Buestad | connor@section925.com

As far as depth goes, this isn't the best year for west coast teams in the NCAA tournament bracket. But among the teams that made their way in, most of them could make major waves over the next couple weekends. Below, we preview some of the teams and players you should pay attention to while navigating through Bracketville, USA. 

1. UC Davis (16 seed, "First Four" play-in game)

The Aggies are in the Big Dance for the first time in school history after winning the Big West Conference. For the majority of their existence they have been D2, but head coach Jim Les now has them D1 and doing damage against more traditional hoop programs. The seeding committee was not exactly gracious to Davis in their first trip to Bracketville. Not only is Davis a 16-seed, but they will have to participate in Wednesday's play-in game at Dayton University vs. North Carolina Central (3:40 tip on TRU TV). Davis is led by a senior from Sacramento High named Darius Graham. Standing just 5 foot 10, Graham is known for his all-out hustle and all-around grit. If the Aggies can get through their first game, they'll earn a date with the Kansas Jayhawks. A team hungry after a Big-12 tourney loss to TCU. Thanks committee! 

#JockJams (photo by Ethan Miller)

#JockJams (photo by Ethan Miller)

2. Saint Mary's College (7-seed, West Region)

Randy Bennett's Gaels were relieved to hear the news on Selection Sunday that they did indeed receive an invite to the tourney, despite not winning the WCC. But anytime you have the #1 ranked team in America at the top of your league for the majority of the season, you get the benefit of the doubt. As usual, St. Mary's is extremely well coached and efficient on offense, while smart and tough on defense. Nobody describes the Gaels as overly athletic, but they are led by Jock Landale, who is as smooth as they come in the low post. Blessed with immaculate footwork, Landale has steadily improved his game over his three year career in Moraga. Once a plump freshman who lumbered down the court, Landale has thinned out and looks great in his 6'11" frame. Like Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova before him, Landale developed his ball skills down under in Australia. If he gets hot in Round 1 versus VCU, the Gaels should march on to face Arizona in the Round of 32 with nothing to lose.

Jordan Mathews was a star in Berkeley just last year. (photo by Ethan Miller)

Jordan Mathews was a star in Berkeley just last year. (photo by Ethan Miller)

3. Gonzaga (1-seed, West Region)

1999 was the year Gonzaga came out of absolute obscurity to make an Elite-8 run that put the Zags on the map. Matt Santangelo and Richie Frahm still are treated like royalty in Spokane, as they should be. Since that run in '99, Gonzaga has been to the tournament 18-straight times under current coach Mark Few. Of course, none of those 18 trips have resulted in a trip to the Final Four. Here in 2017, most pundits concede that this is Few's best collection of talent. From inside to outside, Gonzaga seemingly has no holes to speak of. A mixture of homegrown talent and transfers has resulted in talent all over the court. One such transfer, Jordan Mathews, came up to play for Few after leaving Cuonzo Martin's Cal program last spring. The loss of Mathews threw a wrench in Martin's best laid plans, and the Bears ending up as a 1-seed in the NIT (Not In Tournament). Meanwhile, Mathews figures to be a difference maker for the Zags throughout the month of March. 

Arizona Freshman Lauri Markkanen of Arizona is a 7-footer who is also a threat from deep. (photo by Gary Vasquez)

Arizona Freshman Lauri Markkanen of Arizona is a 7-footer who is also a threat from deep. (photo by Gary Vasquez)

4. Arizona (2-seed, West Region)

Somehow, the Arizona Wildcats may just be flying under the radar this year. Rest assured, they are very, very good. They won 30 games this year, including a 16-2 record in the Pac-12 and a conference tournament championship. As a 2-seed in the West, they could very easily meet Gonzaga in the regional final with a trip to Phoenix on the line. The squad is deep, with weapons scattered throughout the floor. And they are battle tested too, including a close loss to Gonzaga in pre-conference play. 

Dillon Brooks' last second three handed Cal a crushing loss toward the end of the Pac-12 season.

Dillon Brooks' last second three handed Cal a crushing loss toward the end of the Pac-12 season.

5. Oregon (3-seed, Midwest Region)

The Ducks finished at the top of the Pac-12 Conference alongside Arizona, with an identical 16-2 league record. Unfortunately, they lost inside presence Chris Boucher to an ACL tear last week, so Oregon will be limping into the tournament. Injuries aside, the Ducks will never be out of a game with Dillon Brooks on the floor, who proved himself as a buzzer-beating savant this season, saving multiple games for his team in crucial moments. If Oregon expects to make it to Phoenix, they'll likely have to navigate through Louisville and Kansas to do so. 

What will Lonzo do under the bright lights of the Tournament? (photo by Joe Robbins)

What will Lonzo do under the bright lights of the Tournament? (photo by Joe Robbins)

6. UCLA (3-seed, South Region)

Lonzo Ball's hype train has just reached maximum capacity. There's not much more that the media can say about him or his overzealous dad LaVar who claims his son is better than Steph, or his youngest brother LaMelo, who is an high school basketball internet phenomenon. Fortunately we will quickly find out what Lonzo can produce on amateur basketball's biggest stage. If the brackets play out as planned, Ball will face-off with Kentucky in the Sweet 16. If he passes that test, he'll likely get a shot at North Carolina. Here's to hoping it plays out that way, as God knows how much drama that will create. Who knows what the Ball family is capable for the remainder of March, but it will certainly be fun to watch.  

Opinion: Let Steve Kerr do his job

The Warriors' three-game skid has left pundits questioning Steve Kerr's tactics. (photo by Rob Carr)

The Warriors' three-game skid has left pundits questioning Steve Kerr's tactics. (photo by Rob Carr)

By Connor Buestad | connor@section925.com

At some point, we as Warriors fans need to ask ourselves a simple question: What do we want from Steve Kerr? Because at this point, he's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. 

After infamously losing hold of a 3-1 lead to Cleveland in last year's Finals, Kerr was chastised for running his team ragged over the course of the 82-game schedule. Talking heads declared it a fool's errand for Kerr to be so concerned with chasing history and eclipsing Michael Jordan's mark of 72-10, only to run out of gas come June. 

"If only he had gotten his guys some rest! The regular season doesn't mean a thing. Just have the boys ready for a deep playoff run," they grumbled. 

But of course here in 2017, the public is singing a different tune in regards to Kerr's management style. Things boiled over on Saturday night after the Warriors lost their third game in a row to fall to 52-14 on the year. Kerr made the executive decision to sit his starters for the entirety of the evening, leading to a 22-point drubbing at the hands of the second place Spurs. Sob stories poured in about fans who had paid "high-prices" for tickets only to see Steph and company recline court-side. Naysayers bickered endlessly about the fact that NBA players are making millions. And how it shouldn't be too much to ask to play 48 minutes of basketball following a charted flight.

Some of these are halfway valid points, depending on who you ask, but that doesn't change the fact that Steve Kerr is in charge of this show. He needs to make tough decisions in the blink of an eye. It is too much to ask him to balance the best interests of the NBA television contracts, the marketability of his stars, or the opinion of basketball fans at-large. Steve Kerr was hired to win championships, and he's doing his best to successfully complete that task.

If the NBA is going to send the Warriors zig-zaging across the lower 48 in search of the optimal ad revenue from their sponsors, it is Steve Kerr's duty to step in and do what is best for his team. The man has been around the league forever, as a championship player, a member of the front office, a broadcaster, and now as a championship coach. He knows what he's doing and that really shouldn't be disputed. If the league puts him between a rock and a hard place, Kerr is inevitably going to need to make some tough calls. He's going to need to play a hunch here and there, even if it means resting the lifeblood of his team at the end of a road swing in March.

Let Steve Kerr do his job and stay out of the way. 

Cal heads to Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament with more questions than answers

Grant Mullins and the rest of the Cal shooters will need to catch fire in Vegas to have a chance at an automatic tournament bid. (photo by Steve Dykes)

Grant Mullins and the rest of the Cal shooters will need to catch fire in Vegas to have a chance at an automatic tournament bid. (photo by Steve Dykes)

By Nate Rosenbloom | @hibernature

The 2016-17 season was supposed to be transitional one for the Cal Men’s Basketball team.

Following a disappointing upset defeat in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year, conventional wisdom held that freshman stars Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb would both declare for the NBA draft. Their early exits, coupled with the departure of 4-year starter Tyrone Wallace and the graduate transfer of Jordan Matthews to Gonzaga, set the stage for a rebuilding year.

The season outlook changed drastically when Oakland native Rabb surprised everyone and decided to stick around for his sophomore season. Then Coach Cuonzo Martin landed a recruiting windfall when Illinois’ Mr. Basketball, pint-sized point guard Charlie Moore, decommitted from Memphis and decided to come to Berkeley.

All of a sudden, the team had a National Player of the Year Candidate in Rabb to dominate the post, Moore to run the offense, while the talented Jabari Bird had an opportunity to play Robin to Raab’s Batman. There was still hope in Berkeley.

After a 9-2 start to this season, Cal hosted #12 Virginia with a chance to claim a statement win. The Bears ended up losing a close game to the Wahoos, but proved to the nation (and themselves) that they could compete with the big boys.

The schedule makers decided to test that confidence immediately. Following Virginia, the Bears began Pac-12 Conference play and faced four top-25 ranked teams in the first seven conference games.

The results of those seven games are as follows:

  • 4-3 record including an important win at #25 USC

  • Losses to Arizona (barely), UCLA (by 10 but could have been much more if not for a strong second half performance) and Oregon (bad)

Following that tough stretch, Cal fans were still convincing themselves that this team had potential and that they could find themselves dancing come March. The team apparently thought so too as they proceeded to win five in a row including a 2-OT thriller over Utah, complete with a Charlie Moore to Jabari Bird game-winning alley-oop.

Even after a second 5 point loss to Arizona ended the winning streak and was followed by a surprising loss to Stanford on the farm, hope sprung eternal for the Bears with #6 Oregon coming to Berkeley. A win over a top 10 team was exactly what the Cal team’s tournament resume needed. Throughout the first half, it looked like they were on track to claim that signature win, holding the Ducks to just 16 first half points. The second half told a different story, however, as the Ducks clawed all the way back, capped by Dillon Brooks hitting his 2nd game winning 3-pointer of the season.

(Bear fans may want to look away):

That shot may very well have sucked the remaining fight out of the Bears, as they closed the season with ugly losses to Utah and Colorado that dropped them into a tie for 5th in the conference (meaning they do not get a bye in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament). With only a single win over a ranked opponent to their name (USC) and a weak strength of schedule (71st in the nation), the Bears now appear to be on the outside of the tournament looking in.

They’ll need to find their mojo in Vegas, and quick. Winning the Pac-12 Tournament earns an automatic bid to the NCAAs, but winning the tournament may not be required for the Bears to earn an at-large bid. If they make the Final, which would require beating Oregon State and Utah to set up a semi-final match-up with who would likely be Oregon. A win over the Ducks would make the Bears hard to ignore for the selection committee as they would then have a 22-11 record and a signature win against a top-10 team.

Anything less than an appearance in the championship game and Cal is looking at the NIT and a season of missed opportunity. It’s hard to imagine Rabb coming back for a third season considering he is likely to be a top-10 pick in next year’s NBA draft - although a boy can dream about him coming back, right?!?

The other storyline to watch as the season draws to a close is the future of head coach Cuonzo Martin. Martin and Cal agreed to an extension in October 2016 to keep the coach in Berkeley through the 2021 season. It’s uncommon for a coach that just signed an extension to be mentioned as a candidate for other jobs, and yet for Cal fans this makes perfect sense. Just when it felt like the program was headed in the right direction, the rug looks ready to be pulled right out from under them.

In his three years in charge, Martin has proven himself a top-notch recruiter and has given Cal fans nothing but hope about the future of the program. While there is nothing more important to Cal fans than hope, they are also prone to serial cynicism. The cynics out there are currently convincing themselves that the Cal job is a stepping stone for Martin. He is a self-proclaimed “midwest guy” and there are some interesting jobs opening up in that part of the country.

Personally, I would prefer to be paid a million and a half a year to coach and live in the Bay Area over Champaign, Illinois or Bloomington, Indiana. But then again, I’m not a "midwest guy." Cal fans have to be hoping that Martin agrees with me and decides to stick around at least a couple of more years to see the fruits of his labor. If Martin leaves, where does that leave the program? A program in serious need of an identity, and its third coach in four seasons.

As for a prediction: Cal goes on a run, beats Oregon and then loses to UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament final. Cal then makes the tournament as an 11-seed playing in the “First 4” in Dayton, OH. What can I say? I’m an eternal optimist. Survive and advance. 

Section925 Podcast Ep. 157 - Hoops Insider Jon Wheeler

Tripper brings the Mobile Podcenter into the Hoop Cave to join Insider Jon Wheeler to talk about the Dubs run to the playoffs and how the Boogie trade may impact the Dubs, the possible departure of Cuonzo Martin from Cal and why the Bears may never be a perennial athletic power, and how St. Mary's tourney hopes are looking as we approach March.

The North Coast Section playoff brackets are set as first round games begin on Tuesday

Kyree Walker of Moreau Catholic in Hayward is arguably the best freshman in the country. (photo by Ray Chavez)

By Section925 Staff

With league seasons wrapping up over the weekend, the time has come for Bay Area high school hoopers to battle it out for an NCS crown. A total of 96 teams will take to the hardwood starting on Tuesday with hopes of chasing down an elusive championship. From Division 1 down to Division 6, each field of 16 teams is full of talented players and teams that are sure to entertain, especially in the later rounds. Check out our preview below and get out to some games around The Bay to support your local team. We promise it will cost you less than a Warriors game. 

De La Salle's Justin Pratt splits Dublin defenders Tim Falls (#1) and Connor Jackson in one of their two matchups this season. (photo by Ray Chavez)

Division 1

Thanks to their overtime triumph over De La Salle in the East Bay Athletic League title game on Saturday, the upstart Dublin Gaels will hold the poll position in the Division 1 NCS bracket this season. The Gaels are led by electrifying guards Tim Falls and Connor Jackson, who have helped solidify the Gaels as an East Bay force who has the ability to score seemingly at will. 

Heritage High will be the no. 2 seed in the D1 bracket, while DLS will start as a 3-seed. De La Salle, led by first year head coach Justin Argenal, will open up their playoff campaign against Berkeley High, a team that wound up winning the NorCal Championship at Sleep Train Arena last season. 

If De La Salle wants a re-match with Dublin in the NCS finals, they'll have to get past Heritage on their side of the bracket, not to mention 6-seeded San Leandro, who has given DLS trouble in playoffs' past. Dublin, on the other hand, will have to get past teams like 4-seed James Logan and 5-seed Freedom, both athletic teams that could make a deep NCS run. 

Naseem Gaskin of Bishop O' Dowd

Division 2

In the Division 2 bracket, all eyes are on top seed Bishop O' Dowd and 4-seed Moreau Catholic. The two ultra-talented teams look to be on a collision course, meeting in a potential March 1st semifinal dream matchup. The O'Dowd Dragons are led by senior guard BJ Shaw (Brian's son) as well as backcourt mates Elijah Hardy (junior) and Naseem Gaskin (junior). Down low, the Dragons feature Raymond Hawkins, a 6'8" sophomore who has college coaches salivating.

Moreau Catholic is led by all-everything guard Damari Milstead (headed to Grand Canyon University) to go along with Kyree Walker, a 6'5", 200 pound freshman who many regard as the best 9th grader in America. Needless to say, to see Moreau and O' Dowd lock horns on March 1st would be a real treat.  

Derrick Langford (#5) and the rest of the Salesian Pride

Division 3

The class of the NCS D3 bracket is clearly Salesian of Richmond, who began the season celebrated as the best team in the Bay Area. The Pride haven't disappointed, proving their worth night in and night out. Jabari Bird's alma mater is led this year by junior guard Derrick Langford, one of the best in all of California.

On the bottom half of the Division 3 bracket, you'll find 2-seed Campolindo, 3-seed Analy, and 6-seed Miramonte. If the Matadors can earn a road win at Analy, it could set up an enticing showdown with Campo in the semifinals.

Jade' Smith (#5) helps hoist the State Championship Trophy in 2016. (photo by Keith Birmingham)

Division 4

The D4 bracket is led by St. Joseph of Alameda who currently stands at 27-1 on the year. Despite being a small school, the Pilots feature one of the most dynamic players in the state in Jade' Smith, who is headed to Pepperdine in the fall. He has a different game than ex-pilot Jason Kidd, but he can takeover in a similar fashion when his team needs him most. 

St. Patrick-St. Vincent is a dangerous 2-seed in D4, not to mention sharp shooting Marin Catholic at the 3-spot. St. Joes could very well run into some trouble by the time they reach the finals. 

Division 5

Cloverdale is your one seed in D5 this year, followed by Branson of Marin in the two spot. Look for 11-seed Oakland Military Institute as a potential sleeper pick. They are coached by Darrell Hiroshima Jr., son of the late Darrell Senior. 

Division 6

If you fancy yourself as a basketball junkie, look no further, the D6 bracket is there for you. Rio Lindo Adventist is your top seed, while California School for the Deaf comes in as a 2-seed. 

To take a look at all six 2017 NCS brackets, click here.