The University of California cuts its baseball team; UCLA meets with Charlie Sheen

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Notable University of California baseball players include Jeff Kent, Andy Messersmith, Jackie Jensen, Bob Melvin, Darren Lewis and Brandom Morrow. There will be no more, however, because we learned today that Cal has decided to drop its baseball program entirely:

The University of California announced today it will not reinstate its baseball program despite vigorous fundraising efforts to save it from the chopping block.

Cal announced in September that it would cut five athletics programs after the 2011 season in order to save $5 million by 2014. Athletics supporters quickly mobilized to form Save Cal Sports, which secured between $12 million and $16 million in pledges but fell short of the university’s stated goal of $25 million needed to save all five programs.

Cal chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau issued a statement Friday saying that enough funds were raised to reinstate men’s rugby, women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse, but not baseball and men’s gymnastics.

There were Title IX considerations here as well as financial ones.  I don’t pretend to know too much about the economics of Cal’s program or the Title IX implications, but California baseball writers like Bill Shaikan and John Shea are livid today and are calling the decision to axe baseball shameful.

I’m going to dig deeper this afternoon to see if that’s really the case or if it’s simply an understandable case of guys who like baseball not liking it when there is less of it.  But Shaikin and Shea are pretty savvy about behind the scenes things, so my guess is that their indignation at the university is righteous.

If that wasn’t enough California college baseball chaos for you, check out this video over at TMZ of the UCLA baseball team meeting with Charlie Sheen yesterday.  He actually tells them “don’t do crack.”  No word if he told them how much his life has improved in the nearly two weeks since he gave up weekend cocaine binges with porn stars.

The lesson here: if you play baseball, UCLA > UC Berkeley.

Rays sign lefty Ryan Merritt to a minor league deal

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The Tampa Bay Rays have signed lefty swingman Ryan Merritt to a minor league contract. Nah, it’s not a big signing but we’ll take anything today.

Merritt, who has spent his entire career in the Indians organization, spent the entire 2018 season at Triple-A Columbus. It wasn’t a bad year for him — he posted a 3.79 ERA and a 52/2 K/BB ratio in 13 starts and two relief appearances covering 71.1 innings — but the Tribe just couldn’t find a role for him at the big league level. He has shown in the past, however, that he can hack it in the bigs, having posted a 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings with the Indians between 2016-2017.

His thing is that he simply doesn’t strike guys out at anything approaching a typical clip for a big leaguer: 3.7 per nine innings in his small sample of major league outings and 6.3 Ks per nine innings in the minors. Which, while it may not prevent him from having success at the big league level, is likely a reason for the limited number of chances he’s been given.

The Rays are probably the best place he could go, frankly. They’ve shown themselves willing to utilize guys in unique ways and are more likely than most teams to find places to spot a lefty control specialist who has shown he can both start and come out of the pen.