Wednesday, April 20, 2005

White Smoke?

Gosh, did I have a great day yesterday or what? You could be forgiven if you thought you were seeing white smoke pouring not only from the Sistine Chapel on CNN, but also Zephyr Field on ESPN2- where there also was a changing of the guard of sorts in Louisiana college baseball.

Baseball is not like football- where one game can tell you a lot about the merits and failings of the two teams involved. Accordingly, I am not sure there is much unique or insightful to be drawn from last night’s satisifying whipping of the Tigers. Tulane's “everyday eight” is a clear step better than the Tigers this year. JR Crowel is a competent mid-week pitcher- with all the pluses and minuses that entails. Billy Mohl has been a revelation- if just because he gets nine or so outs every time he takes the ball. Any serious observer of the Green Wave right now knows these things already; so it was a great pleasure to see the Wave show the country- via methodically dismantling the Tigers, again, on national television.

To be honest, I found the game more interesting from an LSU standpoint. They are a sort of odd dichotomy this year. How can the #12 team in the nation not play .500 ball in their league- and get swept by its biggest in-state rival and lose a game to Centenary?

I have to imagine that today the Tigers are closer to a sub. 500 SEC team than the #12 team in the country. Even a casual observer can see that these are not the same Tiger teams that dominated the 1990s. How about that starter last night? Nall? Frankly, he was a joke. From the first pitch, it was obvious this guy was not capable of fifteen outs in this spot. I can remember when LSU, as out-of-conference starters, would wheel out endless freshmen who threw fire, and who were desperately trying to crack the weekend rotation? Or classy upperclassmen whose talent level just missed the elite level demanded from the weekend guys? Not this sort of slop. Seriously, Tulane might have nine pitchers with more ability than Nall- probably Ramirez too.

I was also struck by the “bottom four” hitters in the Tiger line-up. When was there as weak a crew of offensive players in LSU history? LSU used to hit top to bottom: average, power, etc. Again, no huge deal- except that relentless offensive pressure was a hallmark of LSU baseball for a decade. And again, I don’t follow LSU baseball all that closely- but I bet a big reason they are 2-5 in their last seven against teams other than Northwest State- is they don’t bring that scary offensive pressure anymore.

Bottom line- I don’t think there were any surprising revelations about Tulane last night. They are a solid Top Five team- with a troublesome weakness atop the rotation- both before and after the game. Nothing changed. The only impression I had altered is that the Tigers aren’t as deep or scary as normal.

Lastly, of course, Glory! Glory! Glory to God! Long Live Benedict XVI!