As the super regional between Michigan and Oregon State got washed out today, I've got no game action to review. As such, I've decided tonight's a good time to share some observations, suggestions and wild speculation with you.
As is usually the case around here, this material is in no particular order. A term paper or something for work gets days of organization and review. Blogging? A few hours, tops. It doesn't make me the world's greatest blogger, but it does keep my marriage on solid ground.
* We've got our first two College World Series teams. Rice and Mississippi State are headed for Omaha. No surprise the Owls return, but MSU? I'm thinking most of us didn't pick the Bulldogs in that portion of our bracket.
* While at the Big Ten Tournament, I was told that a couple of programs experienced a higher rate of broken bats this season. Sure enough, another bat bit the dust during the Big 10 tourney. The bat I saw crumble wasn't even from one of the programs complaining about the problem. Anybody have any insight as to why the bats are breaking this year?
* I believe I've mentioned this here before, but the Big Ten and Big East are hammering out the details to establish a challenge series like the Big Ten has with the ACC in basketball. The Big Ten/Big East baseball challenge should be on the docket by 2009. (I don't think they can get it into the '08 slate, but you just never know.)
Hopefully, this series will create some additional exposure for both conferences. I would expect to see the Big Ten Network pick-up coverage, but it's premature to announce anything concrete.
* In his Thursday Thoughts column, CSTV's Eric Sorenson mentions Vanderbilt's persistence in stomping on home plate. Not only did Vandy make a point of each run scored, but their firstbaseman spent all of Sunday night spiking the baseball each time an inning ended with the ball in his possession. Not satisfied to toss it or roll it back to the mound, he had to spike it like he scored a TD. Or, as Eric suggests, he's angry.
If those two ongoing theatrics weren't enough, I felt that David Price gave the Michigan dugout a stare down in Monday's game. After the All-American set down the Wolverines in the top of the ninth, it appeared to me that Price finished his jubilant cry with a brief, but direct look into Michigan's dugout.
Now, could I just be a pro-Michigan guy over analyzing this? Yep. Could it be I was just so annoyed by the other Vanderbilt antics that I was looking for more trouble? Absolutely. Could it be that I'm just an old guy that doesn't embrace all these new forms of on-field exuberance? Without question.
However, if you are the number one team in the land, at home, in a regional you are supposed to dominate, is it necessary or even appropriate to be quite so animated? Their actions just seemed over-the-top to me.
(I'll spare you the traditional "Where I come from, if you did that stuff you'd get knocked on your butt the next time you stepped in the box" speech. I'll also skip the story about walking to school uphill, both ways, in six feet of snow.)
* Surprisingly, Tennessee and Florida both have job openings. However, I wouldn't be surprised if a Big Ten or Big East coach is rumored to be on either UT's or the Gators' short list. (Or, for that matter, a Big West or WCC coach.) If a mid-major coach can get into the regionals, why not consider them?
* Wild Speculation Alert: Word has it Purdue is looking for the right piece of real estate to build a new ballpark on. Let's hope that's more than just a rumor.
* Friend and blogging ally Ian Casselberry and I were thinking of watching today's super regional in an Ann Arbor watering hole. Come to find out, only a few of them had ESPNU. When those that did were quizzed if they would have the Michigan/Oregon State game on most were tepid in their response. It was like "Well..... if somebody is really interested, we might".
Come on. This is in Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor, Michigan. Home of the University of Michigan. I know the Detroit Tigers and New York Mets game was running at nearly the same time, but it's the super regionals and your school is in it. Besides, it's a nearly perfect June weekend day. How many people are going to drag themselves into a sports bar in the middle of the afternoon on a day like this? Wouldn't you encourage us to arrive to watch the program's biggest game in twenty years?
Clearly, I haven't gotten everyone aboard the college baseball bandwagon yet. The blogging continues.
* For those who follow the other nine schools in this conference, I am starting to review summer league rosters and hope to post something outlining that within the next seven to ten days. Regardless, I would encourage you to check out the Summer League Blog.
* For the record, I'm in favor of the Big Ten having the conference tournament at a neutral site. I think the advantages (like knowing a year in advance where to book a hotel, playing in better facilities, making it look like the conference cares about baseball) out number the disadvantages (the regular season winner no longer having home field advantage). That said, I was told that conference and university officials remain opposed to the idea.
As it was explained to me, it's a problem of equity. If the Big Ten baseball championship is held at a neutral site, the coaches of the other non-revenue sports are going to ask for the same thing and no one is prepared to work out the logistics for every single sport having an off-campus event.
I guess I understand the equity issue. However, I believe one thing and one thing alone can toss the equity issue out the window -- money. If the Big Ten baseball tournament was a revenue producer, this wouldn't be a discussion. However, as the tournament probably costs them more money than they make, they aren't going to give them special consideration.
I would offer this objection to the conference's objection. The Big East hosts a neutral site baseball championship. So do a number of the power conferences. While the big boys of college baseball might make some cash in this process, does the Big East? If they do, is it because it's at a neutral site?
At some point, somebody in this conference needs to understand that perception is reality. If you treat baseball like a second rate sport, and the Big Ten does, then the public will react accordingly. It's a self fulfilling prophecy.
* In reviewing attendance at the Big Ten tournament, I'm convinced that I'm one of about only ten to fifteen people who actually paid to get in. Everybody else got in with credentials or freebies. It's no wonder it's a non-revenue sport.
* Nobody is happier with the way northern schools have played this year than I, but the question remains "Is this an anomaly or a trend?". I'm hoping for the latter, but it's just too soon to tell. It will be interesting to see if Michigan and Louisville, in particular, gain any recruits because of their tournament success this year.
That's all for tonight, boys and girls. I hope you enjoyed this rambling commentary. Remember tomorrow's super regional game is on ESPN. No U, this time.