Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hawkeyes Support A Friend

One of the great joys of operating this blog is getting to meet the people around the game. One such person is Iowa's Ray Gilmore. It may be a bit strong to classify Ray as a legend, but it's probably safe to call him a Hawkeye baseball institution. Ray has served Iowa baseball in any number of capacities throughout the years including his current title as "Official Scorekeeper".

While I haven't known Ray that long, it was with sadness that I've learned of the passing of his mother, Rose. However, I was pleased to learn (via this article from Pat Harty of the Press-Citizen ) that the Hawkeye baseball program took the time to support the man that has spent a lifetime supporting them.

There is a laundry list of items wrong with college athletics today. Radio, television, newspapers and blogs -- including this one -- hang each offense out to dry where the public can get a clear view. Yet, perhaps in this moment of loss we still get a glimpse of what it really means to be a team.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Illini's Roark Off Team

Just when I was thinking how incredibly mediocre the Big Ten Network's website is, at least in a baseball sense, they post some breaking news. BTN is reporting that Illinois' Friday starter, Tanner Roark, is off the team due to academic reasons. Roark paced the Illini in wins a year ago and was named to the All-Big Ten second team.

I'm never quite sure what to say in these situations. It's far too easy to make assumptions about the situation, so I certainly don't want to wander down that path. Here's what I definitely know: Illinois is not as good a team without Tanner Roark at the top of their rotation. And the young man can't pitch for his school this season. Neither is a positive.

Here's hoping that one of the pitchers on Illinois' roster will step-up to the new challenge and that Tanner Roark will do the same.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Michigan # 18 In Coaches Poll

The USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll is out. Michigan finds their way into the Top 25 at number eighteen. No other Big Ten squad garnered a pre-season vote. One of the Wolverines early season opponents, Arizona State, is ranked number one.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Rivals: Michigan # 13 continues their countdown of the Top 25 teams in the land. Michigan recently checked in at number thirteen. Editor Kendall Rogers has provided the most extensive preview of Michigan (or any other Big Ten program, for that matter) thus far.

Hanson, Christian, Abraham Tabbed For Breakout Season

Patrick Ebert of PG CrossChecker has assembled a list of breakout players for 2008. Ebert has created a team of those college players flying under the radar. Three Big Ten stars have made his list. Minnesota 3B Nate Hanson, Michigan SS Jason Christian and Michigan 3B/RP Adam Abraham each hold down a roster spot on Ebert's squad.

In addition to naming the team, Ebert includes a brief introduction to each player complete with some scouting insights.

Michigan At # 8 In BA Poll

Baseball America is the latest to release a pre-season poll. In their edition, the University of Michigan comes in at number eight. No other Big Ten program made their Top 25. (BA did not include others receiving votes outside the top 25.)

The top spot in the BA poll belongs to UCLA. The Bruins are followed by Pac-10 foe Arizona. Vanderbilt, Mississippi and North Carolina round out the top five.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

PG CrossChecker Top 100

Six Big Ten teams have made PG CrossChecker's Top 100 list for 2008. The list begins with Michigan at number fifteen. After the Wolverines, it's a long, long way down the list until Ohio State appears at number 70. The Buckeyes are closely followed by Penn State at seventy-two and Minnesota at seventy-four.

Ten slots later, Purdue is ranked at number eighty-four. The final Big Ten program in the Top 100 is Michigan State at number ninety-eight.

Michigan At Fifteen In Writers' Poll

The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association has released their 2008 pre-season poll. The University of Michigan finds itself checking in at number fifteen in the land. Coach Rich Maloney's team is the only Big Ten side in the NCBWA's Top 35. However, both Penn State and Minnesota garnered votes.

Sitting atop the initial poll of the year is Arizona State. The Sun Devils are followed, in order, by North Carolina, Rice, South Carolina and Arizona. Rounding out the top ten is Texas, Mississippi, Vanderbilt, San Diego and Wichita State. Two-time defending national champion Oregon State is in at number eleven.

Unfortunately, the NCBWA hasn't put the poll up on their website as of yet, so I can't provide a link.

(A note to the NCBWA: My check will be in the mail by Monday.)

A Gophers Preview

This frozen morning I've come across a Minnesota preview. This look at the '08 Gophers comes courtesy of Jon Marthaler of the blog The National Anthem Before A Cubs Game (or TNABACG, for short). Mr. Marthaler does such a solid job of summarizing the upcoming season that I may just put a link up to this post again when I present my Gophers' preview next month.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must point out that the TNABACG post does link back here and says something nice about BTH. I'd call it self-serving except you are already here, aren't you? Besides, I can use all the local bloggers covering Big Ten teams I can get. You don't just want to read my thoughts.

Regardless, as TNABACG does spend time covering Minnesota baseball, I'm going to toss the blog onto the sidebar here. Where exactly, I'm not sure. Nor am I sure if I will use the full name or the acronym. Look for the addition within the next several days and go read his preview.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Two Transfers Join Indiana Roster

Head Coach Tracy Smith announced that Indiana University will have a couple of transfers eligible for the 2008 season. Jerrud Sabourin, a firstbaseman, has joined the Hoosiers after a semester at Arizona. IU also added catcher Wes Wilson who left Mississippi State after the fall semester. Both will be freshmen in 2008.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ping! All-Americans

A handful of Big Ten players claimed pre-season All-Ping! honors from Ping! Baseball. Ping's second team includes Ryne White of Purdue, Michigan's Zach Putnam and Penn State closer Drew O'Neil.

Ping! also included a "For Your Consideration" slot that highlighted a player, while perhaps not next in line for all-Ping! selection, is worthy of your attention. Purdue's Matt Bischoff and Northwestern's Jake Owens both merited recognition in this category.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Baseball America Conference Rankings

The staff at Baseball America, Aaron Fitt and John Manuel to be exact, have handed out grades to programs from eight conferences (.pdf file). They used the six BCS conferences plus noted baseball conferences Conference USA and the Big West. The boys at BA ranked the programs on the basis of seven categories: National Impact, Competitiveness, Fans & Facilities and Academics. Using this criteria, BA also gave an overall baseball GPA to each conference.

The good news for the Big Ten? The conference was the only one of the eight that got an "A" in Academics. OK, The Big East did land an "A-". Is this cool? Absolutely. Unfortunately, though, this was a "baseball" GPA.

I'll let you read the report card yourself for the specifics, but overall the Big Ten didn't fare well. The conference's GPA? An underwhelming 1.82. Individually, no Big Ten program received better than a C grade. Worse, four got F's.

My initial reaction to such negative press is to defend the conference. However, it's simply impossible to argue with the conference's overall performance. On-the-field, Minnesota and Ohio State have been left to carry the load for the entire conference for much of the last twenty years. Yes, Michigan has re-joined the elite in recent years, but their return to success as been short-lived.

Off-the-field, the Buckeyes have gone it alone. OSU's commitment to facilities ran unrivaled in the conference until Penn State's new ballpark opened last season. Yes, there is a wave of new or renovated buildings on the docket, but they will all arrive over a decade after the folks in C-bus made the move.

While the future of Big Ten baseball looks bright, Baseball America's rankings were based on recent history, which isn't quite as attractive. Hopefully, if BA revisits this in five years, the Big Ten's renewed commitment to baseball will yield a much higher grade.