Maybe these were some of the most important minutes of Johnny Dawkins’ Stanford tenure.
They definitely were some of the most typically frustrating and frazzled minutes, unfortunately for him and for the Cardinal season.
Maybe they will also be some of the last.
The pattern: Things got tight down the stretch for Stanford in a game it needed to win to preserve its status for NCAA tournament consideration, and the Cardinal did not deliver.
Again. For what, the 20th or 30th time in Dawkins’ six-season Stanford career, which has produced a lot of close calls and so far zero NCAA tournament berths?
More of the pattern: After Colorado had beaten Stanford 59-56 at Maples Pavilion on Wednesday, Dawkins said his team had the chances to win and just couldn’t do it.
He was right, but how does the Cardinal’s third consecutive loss affect Stanford’s chances to make the NCAA field?
“Hadn’t thought about it,” Dawkins said. “I’m just thinking about a very disappointing loss versus a team on our home floor. And that’s the extent of it for me.
“I know we need to regroup and get ready for our next game.”
Stanford hosts Utah on Saturday and then is likely destined for the dreaded play-in round in the Pac-12 postseason tournament next week.
The Cardinal is now square on the NCAA “bubble,” still a strong at-large contender, but this is not exactly a charge into the postseason.
Again, it’s totally typical of the Dawkins era. Close, but at the end, draining and disappointing.
And if he doesn’t make the tournament this time, there is every indication that Dawkins will not get another chance at it next season.
Last minutes, last losses, last days of a close-but-not-enough tenure?
There is nothing the Stanford players can do about that now, of course, except try to win every last game they can.
“I’m looking forward to Saturday,” said point guard Chasson Randle, who was just about the only offense Stanford had in the second half. “That’s all I can do.”
What was bad: With so much on the line, Stanford lost at home despite holding Colorado scoreless for more than eight minutes in the second half.
What was worse: Stanford was outrebounded 39-31 by a smaller Colorado team, and Stanford shot only 36.8 percent in the game.
What was the worst: The Cardinal disappointed another small crowd at Maples — announced as 4,558 — that included alums Andrew Luck and Richard Sherman.
Luck and Sherman cheered hard through most of the game, but they left in the final minutes, perhaps because they knew what was coming.
Maybe everybody in the building knew what was coming: A big game was on the line, so Stanford was going to miss shots and lose.
By the way, Luck and Sherman once put up 55 points in a football game against USC. Randle and his teammates could manage only 56 in a basketball game against the Buffaloes.
Before the game, Sherman gave the team a pep talk, which Dawkins said was a “seize-the-moment kind of message” to the players.
Which did not happen in the game.
How does Stanford get over the hump when it has tried and failed the leap so many times before?
“You have to win,” Dawkins said. “To get over the hump, you have to win games down the stretch.
“And we have opportunities. I think our season’s still in front of us. But we have to make sure we take advantage of our opportunities — we didn’t do that tonight.”
–Tim Kawakami, San Jose Mercury News
The end of Sonny Gray’s day arrived near the beginning of everyone else’s, and then he flipped his glove to himself all the way across the outfield. Then he got to the fence and could not locate the door, like the day suddenly couldn’t decide whether to keep him or let him go.
He was being limited to 45 or so pitches in his second spring start – his second, too, since Game 5 of the American League Division Series – and he used up all but 10 of them in a single inning. He arrived in the dugout, removed his cap and scratched his head. The catcher patted him with his mitt. He found a seat.
At the first opportunity, Gray made his move for the locker room, which is beyond the center-field wall, and his path took him along the general route of Martin Prado’s two-run double. In all, in one inning, the only one he’d pitch, he’d given up five hits and four runs, the last when catcher John Jaso raced to back up first base on a grounder to shortstop. Nice hustle except there was one out and a runner at third base and the infield was in. Jaso patted his own chest when he realized he’d left a very important area unmanned, the sort of thing that can happen in March, and also the sort of thing that found Sonny Gray for all of his very long, very short day.
The truth is Gray would have to forget which arm he favors in order to lose his place in the Oakland A’s rotation. So, rather than burn fastballs past hitters rousing from their winter’s rust or yoyo curveballs through short innings, Gray has been test-driving his change-up in game conditions, throwing bunches of them, feeling them, trusting them, finding them when they’re gone. Or not. It’s not any fun getting kicked around in front of a crowd and ducking under line drives, but it’s less fun when the lights go on and your third-best pitch is such a distant third as to render it unusable.
“Obviously,” he said, “[Thursday] didn’t go well.”
It ended with him pawing at the outfield fence. He pulled. He pushed. On the mound, the pitcher neared the end of his warm-up. The hitter flipped away his donut. He banged. He shouted. The staffer beside him worked a different area of the fence altogether.
“I thought we were going to be standing out in center field during the game,” Gray said.
Yeah, sometimes you own the day. Sometimes it sees your change-ups coming and then hides the way out.
“You’re going to have some bumps in the road,” Gray conceded. “Kind of like [Thursday].”
As he spoke, Gray appeared caught between doing what he needed to (locate fastballs, cure changeups) and stomaching a result that, for someone such as Gray, is essentially meaningless. But, he laughed at his issues in ballpark escape, and granted that spring training was created for trial and error(s), and continued to carry uncommon confidence for a young man, who, at 24, has amassed 12 career starts, including the two that stole the heart of Oakland. Those would be Games 2 and 5 of the past Division Series, where he stood across fromJustin Verlander and was, generally, superb.
–Tim Brown, Yahoo Sports
Who is the face of sports in the Bay Area?
It’s not A’s infielder Eric Sogard. The guy they call Sogie (rhymes with pierogi, the tasty Polish dumpling, and with hoagie – what time is lunch?) lost in the finals of a “Face of MLB” Twitter contest.
Just as well. It would have undermined the A’s underdog mojo if Sogie had gone all Hollywood by winning a popularity contest. The A’s need to be overlooked, and they will remain so in today’s column. You’re welcome.
Back to the theme: the Face of Bay Area Sports. Who’s the hottest jock star, the athlete who would give you the biggest charge if you saw him or her sitting at the next table in a restaurant?
Avoiding MLB.com’s mistake of trusting an important election to the Twitterati, I kept my selection panel and voting group small: one. That minimized politicking and bickering.
A word about the losers. There are no A’s, but if this was like an All-Star game and I had to pick one representative, it would be general manager Billy Beane. Wow, four straight playoffs from 2000-03 and the team’s rock star is a guy who wears flip-flops to work and hardly ever watches his team’s games live.
Raiders? Sebastian Janikowski is their top nominee. (I wonder if he likes pierogis.) It could be a different story next year, because the Raiders are about to draft 22 new and exciting starters.
–Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle