Sunday, June 19, 2005

Beavers Are Turtles in a Big Spot

Okay, you are not going to get me to talk too much trash about the Beaver team Tulane played yesterday. Well, other than Pat Casey- who I will get to in a minute. Even in my Rolling Rock induced haze, I could tell that Beaver team came exactly as advertised: guts, team speed and baseball savvy. I am convinced my original sentiment is correct- that any real difference between these teams would take a couple dozen games to extract. Game to game, day to day, each affair would be close to a toss-up. Frankly, that was about as well as Tulane can pitch, play defense and hit- particularly against a quality I-A starter pitching, not throwing, a great game- featuring an ability to throw three quality pitches for strikes. That cutter was lethal yesterday- spotted well and thrown repeatedly for strikes in tough counts.

What were the real differences between the teams yesterday? I can only really point to two that meant anything. First, Tulane brings some better power numbers to the non-core line-up spots: Southard and crew are probably more likely to get a home run from outside the 3-4-5 line-up spots than OSU. Second, when it came to the sticks, Tulane clearly had better options coming off the bench yesterday- and OSU paid a price for it. But that is it. I guess you could add Lathan was on out of the bullpen and OSU can again, flat out run.

Candidly, the difference yesterday was almost entirely Tulane’s two-out, "lots of guys on base shot to the alley" was about twelve inches better placed than OSU’s similar effort a couple of innings prior. The only snotty thing I have to say about that is I hope the Oregon papers manage to spell the name of Tulane’s talented RF correctly in today’s editions.

And since I absolutely believe OSU team could emerge to play the Wave again, I am leaving that game analysis stand as is. Tulane was better yesterday- and that is all.

Now to the umpiring- which is getting some attention this morning in the papers. My job here is to help you “think it all out”- so please permit me. I totally understand it is hard to argue you ought to have won a baseball game when the true productive total of your offense output for an entire day is a first inning infield single and a double off the end of the bat. So you need a scapegoat- and the umps have been serving that role for about 100 years.

Accordingly, the hoopla around Owings sliding into second base is a little ridiculous. The infielder in question was not affected: he made a quality throw, on target and without a hitch. Plus, any fan knows that call absolutely cannot be made in a championship game. I don't believe for a minute that Owings' contact was incidental- but it was not consequential either. Now those are big words for Oregon people, but they do summarize the issue perfectly. And to the umpire’s credit, they dismissed Casey’s idiocy about as quickly as possible.

Perhaps I have been de-sensitized to violence: living in Manhattan and watching SEC football. But if that is what passes for dirty play in Oregon, then no offense, but you’all are a bunch of fairies and elves. Now I know why the Marines get fewer recruits per capita out of Oregon than any state in the nation.

This entire nonsense is a perfect example of that notorious Pacific Northwest blue-state sentiment. The sort of behavior born out of a culture that encourages boys to play soccer (honestly, I’d rather have my children take up smoking), leagues where everyone gets a trophy and women actually coach young boys. I always supposed there was a reason why Oregon did not produce any SEC talent, but I always thought it was more geographic distance. I would gently recommend toughening up a bit- or get used to loser’s brackets.

Seriously, can you imagine, say Smoke coming out his dugout at the Box to ask for an interference call in that spot. He’d be embarrassed. “For crying out loud”, even LSU fans would say, “rub some dirt on it." Please Oregon, at the very least don’t cry; it makes you sound French.

The second umpiring point has more validity. Owings did establish the one pitch he could throw again and again was the outside fastball- and once he established the pitch, Dini kept moving further and further outside. Some of the ball-and-strike calls were almost comical. Had I been an OSU fan, I know I would have been barking too.

This is actually one time playing in a league that is not a traditional power league helped Tulane. Any fan of C-USA knows that are league is packed to the gills with suspect officiating and umpiring- particularly compared to the traditional southern power leagues. No Tulane fan watches the ACC men’s basketball tournament without marveling at the officials not having to confer eight times per game. To Dini and Ownings' great credit, they kept throwing it out there.

And accordingly: Shame. Shame on this so-called baseball genius Pat Casey. Of all the actors yesterday, the Beavers’ coach is the only one who deserved an unabashed “F”. I was singularly unimpressed. This OSU team made zero adjustments at the plate all day long to deal with the outside strike. Wasn’t Casey paying attention? Or was he concentrating on identifying key “dirty plays”? One of the beauties of baseball is the fact they have played it for decades- and you know Coach Pat, there are endless changes and adjustments to hitting approaches to compensate for an expanded strike zone away.

You can modify your stance, go the other way with the fastball away, swing early in the count and so forth. It appears either Pat elected to merely sit there, sulk and ignore the palpable problem- or his players could not internalize the changes he demanded. Either way, shame on Pat. He failed his kids yesterday in a big way. He ought to be ashamed.