Posted on: July 25, 2008 11:23 am
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My Preseason Top 25...plus five

Here's my preseason rankings I submitted as a voter in TheGreek's TBDPITL. I'm hitching my wagon to Missouri this year. People knock Gary Pinkel and maybe rightfully so but he's not the leader on the field. Chase Daniel is that guy and I think this kid has the stuff champions are made of. The Tigers schedule sets up fairly well too. The opener against Illinois will be a test but one they pass with flying colors in my opinion. The next real test should be at Texas and Missouri can lose this game and still get into the Big XII title game. There they would most likely face Texas in a rematch or Oklahoma. A win there and they're in. Anyways, here we go......

 

1. Georgia Bulldogs logoA showdown in the desert looms if Spurrier doesn't bite them first.

2. Missouri Tigers logoDaniel & Co. have a chance to put the Tigers on the map right out of the gate against the Illini in St. Louis.

3. Oklahoma Sooners logoCan Bradford avoid the sophomore slump?

4. Southern Cal. Trojans logoJoe McKnight needs to be all he can be to keep the pressure off of Sanchez.

5. Florida Gators logoWill the Gators defense hold up through the SEC mine field?

6. Ohio St. Buckeyes logo They're loaded, but an early season trip to the left coast should tell us all we need to know.

7. Texas Longhorns logoThe Horns have some time to tune up before the Red River Shootout.

8. Clemson Tigers logoEverything points towards the BCS for the Tigers. Now they just have to avoid that pesky late season collapse.

9. LSU Tigers logoWill the loss of Perriloux prove to be too much to overcome?

10. Arizona St. Sun Devils logoDennis Erickson is a winner wherever he goes. Is this the year he gets past California Pete?

11. Auburn Tigers logoTate and Lester conjure up recent memories of Brown and Williams.

12. West Virginia Mountaineers logoDespite the departure of Rodriguez and Slaton, things look Devine in Morgantown.

13. Texas Tech Red Raiders logoDefensive Coordinators have nightmares about other wordly wideout Michael Crabtree.

14. Kansas Jayhawks logoReesing is back but Talib leaves a big hole on the edge of the Jayhawks defense.

15. Wisconsin Badgers logoP.J. Hill has Heisman potential for a typical Badger team.

16. Illinois Fighting Illini logoHow much can Zook squeeze out of the Juice?

17. BYU Cougars logoThis year's most likely BCS buster. 

18. Tennessee Volunteers logoCan Fulmer live up to his contract extension and get back to the BCS? Not likely in the loaded SEC.

19. Virginia Tech Hokies logoTaylor or Glennon? Glennon or Taylor? When was the last time you saw a two-headed national champion?

20. Pittsburgh Panthers logoIntroducing 2010 Heisman Trophy winner LeSean McCoy.

21. Penn St. Nittany Lions logoEveryone but the QB back from a 9-4 squad. Was he that good anyways?

22. South Florida Bulls logoThe mohawk is gone but Grothe and his legs are back.

23. Florida St. Seminoles logoJimbo and Drew start to assert themselves and the Noles begin their climb back to elite status.

24. South Carolina Gamecocks logoIn Week 3 the Dawgs come calling but Spurrier has some business to take care of first.

25. Michigan Wolverines logoNew coach, new system. New everything on offense. The ride may be bumpy but it will end up with a bowl game.

26. Wake Forest Demon Deacons logoHow does Jim Grobe do it at a school with an enrollment 6,700?

27. Fresno St. Bulldogs logoBeating Georgia Tech in last year's bowl game was one thing. But Pat Hill has been down this road before.

28. Oregon Ducks logoDixon and Stewart are gone. With them went the majority of the Ducks offense.

29. Alabama Crimson Tide logoThe Saban rebuilding process continues in a very competitive SEC.

30. - Connecticut Huskies logoThe conference co-champs have a lot of talent back and the Mountaineers and Panthers both head to East Hartford.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: July 25, 2008 9:32 am
 

The Olympics are right around the corner....

The schedule for Olympic baseball is out, and the Round Robin tournament begins on Aug. 13 for Team USA when they take on Korea in Beijing to start their quest for a gold medal. Should the Americans finish in the top four in the standings, they would be part of the medal round in which the semifinals will be played August 22 followed by the finals the next day. Team USA will take on Team Canada in an exhibition series stateside Aug 1-4 in North Carolina before heading over to China to win their second straight Olympic gold medal, but first since 2000.

In the 2004 Americas Tournament the US lost to Mexico 1-0. The rub was that the tournament was single elimination, while every other Olympic qualifying tournament was double elimination. Some might say that if the national team had taken care of business, there would never have been an issue. Others were a little irate over the fact that one bad day cost them an Olympic bid and a chance to defend their title in Athens. There was no issue this season as the squad went 13-1 in two separate qualifying tournaments to leave no doubt they'd been making the trip to China next month. Here's the complete Team USA schedule:  

Aug. 13 vs. Korea, 6:00 a.m. EST
Aug. 13 vs. Netherlands, 10:30 p.m. EST
Aug. 14 vs. Cuba, 11:30 p.m. EST
Aug. 15 vs. Canada, 10:30 p.m. EST
Aug. 18 vs. China, 7:00 a.m. EST
Aug. 19 vs. Chinese Taipei, 7:00 a.m. EST
Aug. 20 vs. Japan, 7:00 a.m. EST

The team's final roster spot was recently filled as well. Colorado Rockies second baseman Jayson Nix, a native of of Midland, Texas, was named as the team's 24th player. Nix is currently playing for Triple-A Colorado Springs but has spent time with the Rockies this season.

There were also three changes to the original roster. Former West Virginia Mountaineer Jeremy Cummings and Nebraska alum Brian Duensing, both pitchers, and Chabot JC grad Nate Schierholtz, who is an outfielder in the San Francisco Giants organization and has seen time with the big league club, accepted invitations to represent their country next month. They replace pitchers Clayton Richard and Geno Espineli, who were recently called up by their respective major league clubs, and Cardinals top prospect Colby Rasmus, who got hurt and cannot participate.

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Down on the Cape, several players continue to impress. One who you might remember is Rich Poythress, who had a tremendous College World Series for runner-up Georgia. Poythress is hitting .345 with eight RBI and a robust .500 on-base percentage for the Orleans Cardinals. Notre Dame rising junior outfielder A.J. Pollock currently leads the league with a .391 batting average and is tied for the lead in doubles with 11. He also ranks among the Cape's top five in hits (45, third), on-base percentage (.474, second), slugging percentage (.557, third), extra-base hits (14, third) and runs scored (29, second).

The Cape League All-Star Game rosters were announced this week. The game is slated for Saturday night, while the most popular event of the weekend (yes, the same one that Josh Hamilton dominated in the majors not too long ago), the Home Run Derby will take place two hours prior to the game at 5 p.m. The East is led by the league's No. 1 hitter, Chatham shortstop Grant Green (Southern California), whose average on selection day was .398 and who has also slugged five home runs to go along with 16 RBI. Green is joined as a starter by five other .300-plus hitters - his Chatham teammate, center fielder Cory Olson (Orange Coast), who's at .380, Orleans third baseman Poythress (Georgia), who's at .364, Y-D second baseman Nick Liles (Western Carolina), who's at .355, Brewster designated hitter Brent Milleville (Stanford), who's at .354 and Brewster first baseman Ryan Wheeler (Loyola Marymount), who's hitting .327.

The rest of the East starters are Y-D catcher Tony Sanchez (Boston College), Y-D left fielder Ryan Ortiz (Oregon State), Orleans right fielder Tim Wheeler (Sacramento State) and Orleans right-hander Matt Thompson (San Diego), who's sporting a 3-0 record and 1.56 ERA to go along with 24 strikeouts.

Harwich has five reserve players: Pitchers Chirs Manno (Duke), Brian Dupra (Notre Dame) and J.J. Hoover (West Virginia), catcher Mark Fleury (North Carolina) and infielder D.J. Lemahieu (Louisiana State). Brewster's two reserves are outfielder Ty Kelly (Cal-Davis) and pitcher Buddy Baumann (Missouri State). Orleans is reprented by Martin Viramontes (Loyola Marymount) and Adam Wilk (Long Beach State) while Chatham sends Brad Boxberger (Southern Cal) and Sammy Solis (San Diego).

The power-laden West squad is led by the top five run producers in the league. Hyannis third baseman Chris Dominguez (Louisville), whose eight home runs led the league on selection day, is also fourth in the league in RBI with 22. Falmouth second baseman Jimmy Cesario (Houston) is the league leader with 26 RBI, while Hyannis first baseman Ben Paulsen (Clemson) and Bourne left-fielder Mark Krauss (Ohio) have driven in 25 runs apiece. Green's total of 22 is followed by the 21 RBI of Cotuit DH Kevin Patterson (Auburn).

The West squad features some other talented batsmen in Falmouth' Pollock, Hyannis right fielder Trent Ashcroft (East Carolina), who's hitting .357 and Bourne shortstop Dusty Coleman (Wichita State), who checks in at .333. The rest of the West starters are Falmouth catcher Trevor Coleman (Missouri) and Bourne right-hander Bryce Stowell (California-Irvine), who was 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA and 40 strikeouts on selection day.

The West has eight pitchers on its 11-player reserve list. They are Wareham's Brandon Workman (Texas) and Dallas Keuchel (Arkansas), Hyannis' Andrew Carraway (Virginia) and Russell Brewer (Vanderbilt), Bourne's Nick McCully (Coastal Carolina) and Eric Pettis (California-Irvine), Falmouth's Ben Tootle (Jacksonville State) and Cotuit's Seth Blair (Arizona State). The remaining bench players are Hyannis catcher Dale Cornstubble (Central Michigan), Wareham infielder Raynor Campbell (Baylor) and Bourne outfielder Jordan Henry (Mississippi).

All-Star Game alternates for the West are all pitchers: Austin Hudson (Central Florida) of Hyannis; Chris Gloor (Quinnipiac) of Falmouth; Nick Hernandez (Tennessee) of Cotuit and Max Perlman (Havard) of Wareham. One position player was named among the East's alternates: outfielder Keenan Wiley (Kentucky) of Y-D. He's joined by pitchers Craig Fritsch (Baylor) of Y-D; Caleb Cotham (Vanderbilt) of Brewster and Willie Kempf (Baylor) of Harwich.

Also announced Saturday were the six players who will represent their respective divisions in the annual Home Run Hitting Contest, always a highlight of the pre-game festivities on All-Star Saturday. The West trio includes current league home run leader Dominguez of Hyannis (8), plus Wareham's Blake Dean (3) and Bourne's Kyle Roller (2). The East's sluggers are Connor Powers of Brewster (5), Joseph Sanders of Harwich (4) and Angelo Songo of Orleans (3).

Coinciding with the All-Star planning was the announcement that the new Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame and Museum opened its doors to the public on Tuesday. The Museum is located in "The Dugout," which is the lower level of the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum at 397 Main St. in Hyannis. Thanks to three major sponsors - Curry College, TD Banknorth, and Bank of America - the almost $80,000 project has been in the works since last fall.

The Hall of Fame, which began in 2001, has a total of 81 members who were inducted in eight classes, starting in 2000. The official home of the Hall of Fame induction ceremony is the Chatham Bars Inn, where the next induction ceremony will take place on Saturday, Nov. 22. The Hall of Fame and Museum features the plaques of all inductees plus memorabilia from the 10 teams in the league. There are many old photos and the original charter of the Cape League. Autographed bats and baseballs with corresponding Major League cards are displayed in cases and show the direct connection between the Cape League and professional baseball. This is one attraction I will surely check out very soon.

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The NCAA Baseball Rules Committee met during the past week. They apparently spent the majority of their time discussing the pace of the game and ways to eliminate downtime during contests. The committee again decided to reinforce several rules that are already in place to try and speed things up - in particular, enforcing time limits (a pitch must be delivered within 20 seconds with no runners on base), the batter's box rule (the batter must generally keep one foot in the box during an at bat), handling of conferences (defensive and offensive) and speeding the time between innings and during pitching changes were among the things the committee identified as areas of possible improvement.

There is sure to be some serious debate about this in the coming weeks and I can certainly foresee a few coaches here and there that will be getting the heave-ho for chirping at the umps over enforcement of these rules. The committee also reviewed the baseball code of ethics, which is printed in the rules book. While not a widespread problem, the group believes that in some isolated cases, unsportsmanlike acts are creating a negative image of the college game.

Along the lines of sportsmanship, the committee also made it a point of emphasis for umpires and coaches to be aware of the consequences of some forms of team celebration, particularly during a live ball. In some cases, players from the dugout have entered the field to support a teammate, which the committee does not necessarily view as a bad practice. However, when the ball is live, it can create a potential interference or obstruction scenario.

Also, on the heels of the Mike Coolbaugh incident - Coolbaugh, a Colorado Rockies' minor league coach, was killed last year when he was struck in the neck by a batted ball) - all base coaches are required to wear a helmet when coaching the bases. This rule is in line with the requirement put in place last season by Major League Baseball.

The committee also believes that, in some cases, fields are not being lined properly before play begins. In particular, the batter's box is occasionally too close to home plate and the coaching box is too close to the foul line or home plate. The committee plans to outline the proper procedures for conferences and institutions to follow when lining fields to ensure proper compliance. Additionally, the committee is asking umpires to pay closer attention to field markings before starting play. This is an interesting little tidbit - something that never crossed my mind. But if you have a team of hitters who like to turn on the ball, why not try and get a couple inches for your guys by telling the guys who lay down the chalk to fudge the lines a little? Some will call it cheating. Fans of those teams will most likely refer to it as "home field advantage." I'm all for the rules being equal for everyone and both teams hit from the same spot, so if a coach is getting this done, he better be smart about it and make sure his opponent doesn't like the inside pitch too.

Posted on: July 18, 2008 9:57 am
 

Team USA update, Cape Cod League news and more...

As the dog days of summer set in, the national baseball scene is still as busy as ever. USA Baseball's collegiate national team beat Cuba 4-1 in the championship game of Haarlem Baseball Week in The Netherlands Sunday afternoon. The Cuban squad was nearly identical to the one that won the gold in the 2004 Olympics and the silver at the 2006 World Baseball Classic. It will also represent Cuba at the Beijing Olympics next month. Sunday's victory marked the first time a U.S. collegiate national team had beaten a Cuban Olympic team in a tournament title game. They've beaten Cuba twice on their way to a perfect 14-0 record this summer.

In both wins over Cuba in Haarlem, Vanderbilt lefthander Mike Minor started and got the win, and Baylor righty Kendal Volz got the save. USA pitching held Cuba to just an unearned run on 10 hits while striking out 16 in 18 innings in the two wins.

Team USA reached the finals after beating Chinese Taipei 5-2 in the semifinals on Saturday night. San Diego State righty Stephen Strasburg picked up the win in that one, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out 11 over seven strong innings. Miami shortstop Ryan Jackson led the offense, going 2-for-3 with two RBI.

In other Olympic news, USA Baseball announced 23 of the 24 members of its 2008 U.S. Olympic Baseball Team on Wednesday. The squad will compete in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games from Aug. 8 to 24. The 24th and final member of the Olympic Team will be named before the July 22 cut-off date.

The 23-member roster includes San Diego State's Strasburg. The rising junior had a 23-strikeout performance against Utah on April 11. Strasburg was the only collegian selected for the team, which will be managed by former Mets and Orioles skipper Davey Johnson. 14 of the team's players are currently playing in triple-A, seven in double-A, and one in Class A. Johnson managed the USA team to a gold medal last November at the 2007 IBAF Baseball World Cup in Taiwan.

The U.S. last competed in the baseball competition in the Olympic Games in 2000. Tommy Lasorda managed the team in Sydney and guided a squad featuring Ben Sheets and Roy Oswalt to the gold medal over Cuba. Historically though, the U.S. has not fared as well as you would think. Since baseball was recognized as an official medal sport in 1992, the U.S. has finished fourth in 1992, third in 1996, brought home gold in 2000, and failed to qualify in 2004.

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Checking in back down on Cape Cod, we recently learned of some sad news. Late Sunday night a pitcher with the Brewster Whitecaps sustained serious injuries after he was pinned beneath a truck that police say was driven by a teammate.

Both 20-year old pitchers involved have ties with teams in the College World Series. B.J. Dail, who was injured, was suspended from the North Carolina squad in February for a violation of team rules. Ryan Woolley, who has been charged in the incident, pitches for Georgia but did not make the 25-man roster for the CWS.

Dail was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in critical condition late Sunday with injuries to his legs and head, though his condition has since been upgraded to serious. In Orleans District Court yesterday morning, Woolley pleaded not guilty to operating under the influence of alcohol resulting in serious bodily injury, negligent operation of a motor vehicle and minor in possession of alcohol. Police say Woolley failed field sobriety tests, and that alcohol breath tests he took at the scene and again at the Brewster Police Station registered twice the legal limit. An 18-pack of beer was also found in his black 2000 Ford Ranger pickup truck. Woolley, of Montclair, Va., was released from the Barnstable County Correctional Facility yesterday after posting $500 bail.

Police say Dail and Woolley spent Sunday evening drinking beer at the home of another player's host family. Woolley told police he decided to stay overnight at the residence, and went outside to move his truck from the driveway to the street. As soon as he reached the street and was moving forward, Dail ran out in front of his truck and jumped on the hood, he told officers. When Woolley hit the brakes, Dail fell off and somehow became pinned under the left front tire, according to police reports.

Woolley is a sophomore righthander who appeared in three games for Georgia this season, giving up five runs and five hits in 1 2/3 innings. Dail is a sophomore righthander from Raleigh, N.C., and was drafted in the 32nd round in 2006 by the Baltimore Orioles.

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Sorry to keep things on a somber note, but remember that early March morning in 2007 when we woke up to the horrifying news that a baseball team bus had crashed? There is new information in the crash that killed seven people, including five Bluffton University baseball players. A report released by the National Transportation Safety Board says confusing highway signs and poor safety features led to the crash. The report says the bus driver thought he was in an H.O.V. lane, when he drove up an exit ramp instead. That caused the bus to turn over on its side. Nothing earth shattering here, but I just thought people would like to know.

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On a more positive note, Florida State catcher Buster Posey is going to need a pretty big moving truck when he moves into the new house he will undoubtedly buy when he finally signs a professional contract. The fifth overall pick in this year's amateur draft by the San Francisco Giants added yet another award to put on his ever-expanding resume on Wednesday, winning USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award. Posey received the award at a ceremony in the Sports Museum of America in New York, beating out fellow finalists Georgia's Gordon Beckham, Missouri's Aaron Crow, San Diego's Brian Matusz and Arizona State's Brett Wallace. Posey swept every major player of the year award in 2008.

Posey becomes just the second catcher to win the Golden Spikes in the award's 31-year history, joining the 1994 recipient, Georgia Tech's Jason Varitek. Posey led the nation in batting average (.472), on-base percentage (.572) and slugging (.908) and led Florida State with six saves without giving up an earned run. He helped the Seminoles get to the College World Series for the first time since 2000 and 19th time in school history.

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Another great story comes out of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League on Long Island. The league has seen its share of major leaguers come through, as Craig Biggio, John Valentin, Doug Davis and current Kansas City Royals shortstop Mike Aviles all logged some innings in eastern New York. Last week, Hampton Whalers right-hander Phil Klein threw just 71 pitches while setting down all 21 batters he faced in an 8-0 victory. The Youngstown State freshman became the first Whaler in history to throw a perfect game. It's the first such feat in the modern era of the ACBL, which dates back to 1977. Klein appeared in just nine games for the 23-33 Penguins last season. 

Posted on: July 11, 2008 3:09 pm
 

Cape Cod in the Summertime....

Once the collegiate season comes to a close in Omaha, many players scamper up to Massachusetts to play in front of hoards of major league scouts in the premier summer league in the country. Ten towns scattered across the peninsula make baseball truly a part of the summer fabric, as the Cape Cod Baseball League attracts the top college talent in the nation. Those college players with eligibility all have one goal: they want to impress pro scouts. It's the MLB version of the Nike All-American summer camps in basketball. If you're not on the national map and you want to get noticed, you head to the Northeast and play in this league. It can make or break your career. The biggest positive - or drawback, depending on how you look at it - is the use of wooden bats. Aluminum is the standard in college but not on the Cape, so pro scouts converge like ants on a picnic basket to see who can cut it with a tree in their hands instead of metal.

It's probably the biggest stage for a college kid looking to make an impression. Think I'm kidding? A total of 212 former Cape Leaguers are currently performing in the major leagues, including former Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito (Wareham, 1997-98), former MVP Frank Thomas (Orleans, 1988), former American League batting champion Nomar Garciaparra (Orleans, 1993), current Red Sox captain Jason Varitek (Hyannis, 1991, 1993), 2007 World Series MVP Mike Lowell (Chatham, 1994) and Boston rookie phenoms Jacoby Ellsbury (Falmouth, 2004) and Justin Masterson (Wareham 2005-06). Here's a look at what's going on as they approach the midway point of the season:

Boston College Junior Tony Sanchez has earned CCBL Player of the Week honors. Sanchez hit his first two home runs of the season - both grand slams - to earn the accolade for the week ending July 6. The 6-foot, 220-pound catcher connected for his first grand slam with one out in the fifth inning to break open what had been a close game as Yarmouth-Dennis went on to blank Orleans 5-0 on June 29. Four nights later, Sanchez's first-inning blast with three aboard got the Red Sox off and running as they cruised past Bourne 10-6. Sanchez is hitting .308 with 12 RBI in 13 games for Y-D. He hit .313 during BC's 2008 season and led the Eagles in most major offensive categories, including hits (66), RBI (45), total bases (109) and home runs (9).

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University of North Carolina All-Americas Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager are off to sizzling starts in the Cape Cod League after the Tar Heels' second straight appearance in the College World Series delayed their arrivals. Since making their debuts July 1, both are batting better than .400 through six games. Ackley, who is hitting in the middle of the order and playing in the outfield for the Harwich Mariners, is batting .450 with nine hits and nine walks in just six games for a .621 on-base percentage. He had three hits against Orleans July 6. The junior-to-be has a hit in all six games for Harwich after hitting safely in his final 13 games of the season for the Tar Heels. Meanwhile, Seager is batting third and playing second base for the Chatham A's. He's hitting .400 with 10 hits, including two doubles, and has already posted two three-hit games. Ackley is making his wooden bat debut, while Seager is playing his second season in Chatham.

In other summer league news, right-hander Bryant Gaines has been dominant on the mound for the Wilmington Sharks of the Coastal Plain League, which features teams in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. In six starts, he is 3-2 with a 1.41 ERA in 44 2/3 innings. He has struck out 26 and walked 11 while holding opponents to a .194 average. Elsewhere in the CPL, lefty Brian Moran has made one start for the Wilson Tobs and struck out six and allowed just one unearned run in seven innings.

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Former UCLA star Jackie Robinson was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame on Thursday, July 3, as one of three Vintage-Era inductees in the 2008 Hall of Fame Class. Robinson, UCLA's first four-sport letterwinner, played baseball for the Bruins in 1940 after having played two seasons for Pasadena Junior College. Owen Carroll, a pitcher at Holy Cross and coach at Seton Hall, and William J. "Billy" Disch of Sacred Heart College joined Robinson as the other two Vintage-Era inductees.
Robinson became the first African-American to play in the major leagues when he made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. In two seasons at Pasadena Junior College, he posted a .417 batting average, totaling 43 runs and 25 stolen bases in 24 games. At UCLA, he became the school's first four-sport letterwinner, competing for the football, basketball, baseball and track and field teams.

The College Baseball Hall of Fame also inducted nine former college baseball standouts - Steve Arlin (pitcher, Ohio State), Eddie Bane (pitcher, Arizona State), Floyd Bannister (pitcher, Arizona State), Neal Heaton (pitcher, Miami), Burt Hooton (pitcher, Texas), Richard Howser (shortstop and coach, Florida State), Ben McDonald (pitcher, Louisiana State), Greg Swindell (pitcher, Texas) and Gary Ward (coach, Oklahoma State and New Mexico State).

To be eligible for the College Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, players must have completed one year of competition at a four-year institution and made an All-America team (post-1947) or an All-League team (pre-1947) and or/earned verifiable national acclaim. Ballot-eligible coaches must have achieved 300 wins or won at least 65 percent of their games.

Posted on: July 6, 2008 1:11 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2008 1:45 pm
 

The Latest College Baseball News

I stopped blogging here for a while because I was covering the NCAA postseason baseball tournament right through the CWS. Now I'm writing a weekly piece on college baseball for a metro newspaper so I figured I might as well post it here..... 

Think back to your senior year in high school. Exams are just finishing up and you're almost ready to move on to that next step of your life. As you walk in the door after finishing one of the last tests of your high school career, the phone rings. It's Bill Gates, and he wants to give you a five-year, $8 million contract to come work for him at the Microsoft home office in Redmond, Wash. What do you do? Do you turn Bill down to spend four more years in a classroom and risk not getting a better offer four years down the line, or do you pack up your futon and head to the Great Northwest?

That was the decision facing nine high schoolers taken in the first round of the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft, not to mention the scores of college underclassmen who were selected. However, the students are the ones who are dictating the price tag nowadays, and consequently the word "signability" has gained significant meaning. When preparing for the draft these days, major league front offices have to worry about more than just the talent of the player; they must factor in whether or not the prospect is willing to make the decision to turn pro and choose not to remain in school for at least one more year, or whether he'll want more money than the boss wants to spend. Make the wrong decision, and someone probably loses their job. It's one of the factors that led to Player of the Year Buster Posey slipping to the Giants with the fifth pick. Tampa Bay was concerned about whether they willing to meet the Florida State catcher's contract demands, so they passed on him with the first overall pick.

The first overall pick just went to promThe kid who ended up being the first overall pick was Tim Beckham, a shortstop from Griffin High School in Georgia. The Rays figured Griffin would not cost as much as Posey, and would fill a need as well. Tampa Bay went with the youngster, who was willing to pass on his commitment to USC for the pros, instead of the more major league-ready Posey. Griffin recently inked a deal that included a $6.15 million signing bonus and is playing for the Rays' Rookie Level Appalachian League affiliate in Princeton, W.Va., where he's off to a bit of a slow start. So far, Beckham is hitting .231 in seven games, though he has proven advanced for his age by fanning just four times in 26 at bats.

The moral of the story is that the baseball draft is more of a crapshoot than that of just about any other major sport. Being in possession of the top pick can be a precarious position for a team to find itself in. However, it doesn't make it any easier to have any of the other 30 picks. Some teams are always going to have issues with the first player they select in the draft. Number one is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Let's take a look at some other notable first-round selections:

One player who is yet to sign, and may just return to South Carolina for his senior season, is the No. 11 pick in the draft, Justin Smoak. The first baseman was selected by the A's out of high school but he wanted more money than Oakland was willing to offer so he headed for Columbia to showcase his talents in the SEC. Three years later, the Rangers own his rights. They have until August 15 to sign him or he can return for his senior season, meaning Texas would be awarded a compensatory first round pick in the 2009 draft. Smoak is expected to be offered between $1.5 and $2 million. It's anyone's guess as to whether he'll accept it or try to improve his game for a year and move into the top 10 in 2009.

The Blue Jays got the first commitment out of a top pick when first baseman David Cooper, the No. 17 pick out of Cal, inked a deal that included a $1.5 million signing bonus. He was immediately assigned to the Auburn Doubledays of the New York-Penn League, where he will make $1,100 per month. From there, he'll be headed to Advanced Class A Dunedin before the summer is over if he plays well enough.

Padres first-rounder Allen Dykstra may sport the name, but he's not related to former Phillies roughneck Lenny Dykstra. Lenny's son, Cutter Dykstra, however, was taken in the second round by the Brewers and is already playing for the team's Rookie Level affiliate in Helena, Mont. Will his father manage his money as part of his fledgling investment firm for athletes? And will Dad charge a commission?

Weeks could be patrolling the left side of Oakland's infield very soon.Another major-league family connection involved the No. 12 pick of the draft. Miami second baseman Jemile Weeks, little brother of Milwaukee's Rickie Weeks, was drafted in the eighth round by the Brewers out of high school but decided to go the college route. The move seems to have paid off for Jemile as the A's are most likely going to offer the former Hurricanes star a $2 million signing bonus after selecting him following his junior season.

Pittsburgh may have some trouble signing the second overall pick, Pedro Alvarez. The Vanderbilt third baseman is represented by sports super agent Scott Boras who has the reputation of being, well, a wolf in a hen house. Major League Baseball makes recommendations on what a draft pick's signing bonus should be in a method called "slotting." Boras is notorious for ignoring those recommendations, choosing to pretend they don't exist and getting his clients considerably more guaranteed money. It's another factor that usually goes into a team's draft strategy. Curiously, the small-market Pirates chose to ignore the Boras factor and took the top-rated player on the board in Alvarez. Whether they will pony up the cash and meet Boras' asking price is yet to be seen, but to lose out on this prospect would certainly sting for a franchise that hasn't seen a World Series in thirty years.

Posey could be the most intriguing pick of them all. The FSU catcher is the one whose picture is next to "signability" in the dictionary. Posey's agent Casey Close is said to be asking for nearly double what top pick Beckham got. The Giants, on the other hand, are working from the figure last year's No. 5 pick, Matt Wieters, got from Baltimore - $6 million. Both Posey and San Francisco are reportedly eager to get something done, so they figure to meet somewhere in the middle before August 15. If they somehow fail to come to terms, Posey will return to Tallahassee, try to take care of some unfinished business and probably set every NCAA offensive record known to man.

We'll continue to track big league teams' progress as they attempt to sign their first round picks as the clock ticks down to the deadline, and updates will come as they become available. For now, here are a few more items of note:

Not even three weeks have passed since Fresno State finished their improbable run to the national championship, yet 17 Division I schools are already going to have new head coaches for one reason or another. Three SEC teams are among that group, as Auburn, Kentucky and Mississippi State all will have a different face on the bench come 2009. Ironically, John Cohen leaves the Wildcats and crosses over conference lines to take over in Starkville for the retired Ron Polk, who won nearly 1,400 games in his career. Polk led eight Bulldogs squads to Omaha in his lengthy career, but only one in the past 10 years. 

Posey won the Johnny Bench Award as the nation's top collegiate catcher last week. The FSU backstop bested Stanford's Jason Castro and Coastal Carolina's Dock Doyle. Posey finished the season as the national leader in six offensive categories - batting average, hits, RBI, total bases, slugging percentage and on-base percentage - to lead the nation's top offense.

Mendonca and Fresno St are national champsCWS hero Tommy Mendonca, fresh off a national title with Fresno State, has been added to the USA Baseball National Team. The rising junior third baseman had no time to rest as he met the team last weekend in North Carolina, where the Americans hosted a six-game series against Chinese Taipei. Mendonca was 2-for-7 with a pair of runs scored in the two games he started at the hot corner.

Georgia, which lost the championship series to Fresno State, gave head coach David Perno both a raise and a five-year contract as a reward for leading the Bulldogs to the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship and a runner-up finish in the College World Series. Georgia athletic director Damon Evans announced the five-year, $2.25 million deal Wednesday. The Athens native and former Bulldog third baseman will earn $450,000 per season over the next five years - a raise of about $150,000 per year. Perno is one of only 12 coaches to lead three teams to the College World Series in their first seven seasons as a head coach.

The 2008 NCAA Freshman All-American Team was announced on Monday:

Catcher - Micah Gibbs, Louisiana State
First Base - Hunter Morris, Auburn
Second Base - Josh Adams, Florida
Third Base - Scott Woodward, Coastal Carolina
Shortstop - Rick Hague, Rice
Outfield - Kentrail Davis, Tennessee
Outfield - Ryan Lockwood, South Florida
Outfield - Brian Fletcher, Auburn
Designated Hitter - Kyle Parker, Clemson
Utility - Brett Eibner, Arkansas
Starting Pitcher - Chris Hernandez, Miami
Starting Pitcher - Seth Maness, East Carolina
Starting Pitcher - Shane Davis, Canisius
Starting Pitcher - Chance Ruffin, Texas
Relief Pitcher - Chase Dempsay, Houston

The left-handed Hernandez was named Freshman of the Year after posting an 11-0 record with a 2.72 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 112 2/3 innings. Hernandez was drafted in Round 14 of the 2007 draft but opted to play for his hometown Hurricanes instead of signing.

The 2008 Cape Cod League is underway on the Massachusetts peninsula. Hundreds of college players who weren't among the top choices in the draft have made the trip out to eastern Massachusetts to showcase their talents to major league scouts. We'll update the happenings on the Cape next week.

Posted on: April 17, 2008 12:12 am
 

Baseball announcers stand the test of time......

I apologize in advance to anyone I offend by leaving out their favorite, or their hometown guy, etc. I have the dish so I see a ton of games and listen to a lot of play-by-play guys. I'm going to discuss my favorites, my least favorites and some honorable mention guys as well. I'll also have some memorable quotes that stick out over the years. Please keep in mind that I'm not an old man, and I'm not in college either. You'll get a good sense of my experiences based on who is named in this post.   

Let's start with one of the worst moments in baseball announcing history that I've ever heard, nevermind in recent years. This one's actually a two-part answer:

1.)Roger Clemens returns to New York - Ok, so this one touches a bit of a nerve. I've never forgiven Clemens for lying to the fans upon his departure from Boston. It's true, I believe he was forced out by Dan Duquette (and the Duke has basically admitted they weren't bringing him back at any price in later years). But he said he wanted to pitch somewhere closer to home, mainly Texas or Houston. Then he turns around and goes north of the US border and pitches in another country. It was then that I knew this guy was a true mercenary and only cared about the amount of money he made. We all know his travels then took him to the Big Apple, then to Houston and then "triumphantly" back to New York. So Roger was returning? Big deal. If that were Fenway or Wrigley, I highly doubt Harry Caray or Sean McDonough would have had an orgasm in the booth at the sight of The Rocket. Sure, it was a dramatic moment but Suzyn Waldman went way over the top. "Oh my goodness gracious!" is the best she could come up with at that moment?? I have about twenty better lines going through my head right now. And to blather on and on about him returning to pitch like he was bringing World Series rings with him was ludicrous. Enough ranting. You get the point. Waldman gets the gold....and the silver......

2.)Bye Bye Joe - "There's no crying in baseball!" - Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) in "A League of Their Own". Suzyn outdid herself in the clubhouse after the Yankees lost to Cleveland in the 2007 ALDS against Cleveland to put an end to Joe Torre's tenure with the Yankees. With the coaches all misting up because they knew the end an 11 year run was at hand, Waldman audibly teared up on the radio broadcast with John Sterling. Granted it was a somber situation, but come on! You're a professional! Emotion should not interfere with your job and Waldman let it get the best of her. The best part of the whole situation was the attempted transition (and a quite good one I might add) of Sterling, who paused briefly after Waldman stopped sniffling and uttered "Well Suzyn.......in life...all good things must come to and end." Priceless! But no matter how great the line, it was not going to overshadow the previous 30 seconds of emotional breakdown incurred by the worst baseball announcer in all of baseball.

Count me as one of the throng of baseball fans who think games should be called with a heavy dose of unbias. Yes, I hate "homers". Hometown announcers who openly root for their teams absolutely drive me crazy like fingernails on a blackboard. "Hawk" Harrelson is front and center in that group. The White Sox announcer changed his Sox in 1981 when he was "politely asked to leave" by Haywood Sullivan. Ever since, his "PUT IT ON THE BOOOARD....YYYYYYES!!!" home run call has gone up my spine sideways like a meaningless three pointer for a backdoor cover when I've got the favorite. I've never cared for the "homer" announcer and wouldn't want one calling the Red Sox. I think Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy do a good job of bringing excitement to the positive plays for the team they work for, and there are a lot of other duos out there who do it as well or better than they do. It's enough to get you excited about the home team, but it's not overkill and outright rooting against the opponent. And the "we" references always slay me. You're in the booth now Ken, not on the 25 man roster. Act like it. You are you and they are they.  

That's it for tonight. Tomorrow I will post again with some of my favorites and more fantastic moments. For now, those are the worst of the worst in my opinion.......but what do I know?

Posted on: April 7, 2008 3:31 pm
 

Random Day Baseball and NCAA Title Thoughts

What in the world happened to Tom Gorzelanny in the offseason? He was absolutely horrendous today and has looked like he lost his control in both starts. The Pirates are the kind of team that can sneak up on you nowadays. Good talent that aren't really household names like Nate McLouth and Xavier Nady but they produce. A few more arms like Ian Snell and they could be contenders once again.

Same goes for the musician who thinks he can pitch in Bronson Arroyo. His numbers have taken a slide now that NL hitters are familiar with him. When they first made the deal for Wily Mo Pena, I thought the Sox had made a mistake. Arroyo put up great numbers last years and that got me even more aggravated, but the Sox won the World Series without him anyways and now he's reverting back to the pitcher he was in Boston before he left.

As for the title game tonight, I see an up and down slugfest with the team who wins the rebounding category taking home the hardware. Kansas has good size inside and coming off the bench but Memphis works harder and for that reason I give them the edge. If Rose continues his solid play, and lays off the sugar (if you didn't hear, he had stomach troubles yesterday because all he ate was candy) then I think Memphis pulls it out. Free throws have been their "achilles heel" according to the pundits. How can you have an achilles heel when you've only lost one game all season???? Beyond me. I don't think it bites them tonight either.

Memphis 85 Kansas 78 

Posted on: April 6, 2008 9:00 pm
 

Sunday Night Thoughts

I used to write for my local rag and was an editor in college and I got the itch to write again. I figured posting on the message board would satiate my desire, but it only fueled it so now I'm going to bare my sports soul in this space. There's already a guy who writes for a competitor of this site, but I'm more focused on sports he's not. Sure I'm a Boston guy and I'll have a lot of info on those squads but I have been a writer and a sports fan my whole life. I have a lot more to share.....

Congratulations John Calipari and the Memphis Tigers. All year long the pundits kept knocking them down because they played in a weak conference. The experts said they can't shoot free throws. They would even dismiss the non-con schedule saying in effect, sure they beat some good teams (Olahoma, USC, UConn, Georgetown, Arizona and Gonzaga) but the tournament is a different story. Well, the Tigers had their own idea of a different story, one that ends with them holding up the wood plaque that says "NCAA Div. I Champions Men's Basketball". UCLA was the "in" pick to get to the final tomorrow night against Carolina. We'll get to UNC in a minute. Kevin Love will be a star at the next level, but the one thing that the Bruins don't have, that the other three teams in San Antonio do, is a surplus of athletes that run the floor and work hard in half court situations on both ends of the floor.  It was evident early on in the game that Memphis had more speed and quickness on both ends and that UCLA would have to play a great game just to be in the situation to test the Tigers free throw shooting in the last couple minutes. It never really materialized because Memphis kept Love, Collison and company at arms length all game and shot 86% from the line. Coach Cal has made his team belive that they can win this tournament and that is half the battle. Just ask Bill Belichck. I really think tomorrow night's game will be one of the more exciting finals in history. It has the look of a high scoring, up and down slugfest that will come down to execution and rebounding. I'll make my pick tomorrow.

I honestly didn't think Carolina would get there. I thought Tennessee had the make-up, the ability and the coaching to get past the Heels but that matchup never materialized because for some unkown reason, Rick Pitino can coach in college but will ruin an NBA franchise faster than Derrick Rose can get to the rim. So all four number ones advanced and Kansa came calling. I thought Bo Ryan's Wisonsin Badgers had a good shot to take the Jayhawks out of their game and get to San Antonio but I didn't count on Stephen Curry borrowing Dwight Howard's Superman costume and making the George Mason-esque run to the Elite Eight. The kid can shoot the lights out and reminds me of Reggie Miller with a better jump shot. Some NBA team is going to be very happy and all that pass on him will live to regret it. Are you listening Danny Ainge? This kid could be the spot up shooter the Celtics could use. Back to the Kansas-Carolina game, if you can call it that. Kansas wanted it more than everyone on the Heels except Tyler "get your hands off me bro" Hansbrough. He has more desire than anyone who has ever stepped on a college basketball court. By no means do I think he's one of the best ever, nor do I think he'll have anything more than a journeyman career in the NBA, but you've got to give it to the kid. He won't ever quit.....ever. He does more with less than anyone in history short of Dan Reuttiger. Maybe you've heard of him. Hansbrough is Rudy on steroids. But he didn't count on the rest of his squad leaving their games in the state of North Carolina. This game was over five minutes in. Roy Williams even knew it. CBS caught him hanging his head in disbelief when they got down 20. There are rumors that Hansbrough will be back. He's apparently renewed his lease on his apartment. I think he will come back now that they got bounced. If they had won the title, I think he was a ghost and headed to the NBA. Now he can look forward to sitting on the bench cheering on his teammates. At least he'll be rich.

I am thoroughly convinced the Red Sox are flat out exhausted. They've got to be ecstatic they are coming home. They get their rings tomorrow which will be nice, but I think they'll be even happier just to sleep in their own beds. They've gone from Boston, to Japan, to the west coast, to Toronto and back to Boston in just a couple weeks. That's a long vacation, nevernind a business trip! I've heard Francona say that the team just wants to "get back to the grind of baseball". They've been trotted around the globe as an attraction. They've been part of essentially five opening day ceremonies after tomorrow. It's no wonder Francona and his players just want to play ball and get back to their "normal" lives. Now if they can only get back in the win column.

Well, I've got a lot more on my mind an I'll get to it all, but I don't want to go crazy my first time out, I'll probably be back tomorrow. I hope you liked my thoughts even if you didn't agree with them. Hey, I think this is all the case, but then again what do I know....

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com