Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Comfort for Tulane Fans

Now just for a moment- think about how old you are? Subtract that number from 82- let’s call the result “x”- and correspondingly, you have in actuarial terms roughly “x” years left to live. And so then be comforted, that in those “x” years, you’ll likely never see a more sickening hour of Tulane athletics.

This Tulane class has played in two College World Series- and exited both times in an utter horror show. This is perhaps a good time to prompt one another that one principal reason these guys are at Tulane, as opposed to AAA-Richmond, is that sometimes the routine, the monotonous, is still hard.

I still maintain that each individual game is not indicative of a team as a whole- but regardless, blowing that kind of lead even once is not an acceptable paradigm of a championship team. I thought Tulane was in trouble by the mid-innings, when the game shifted into, really, the most languid of affairs. Crowel slowed way down, the team lost intensity and focus- particularly at the plate. All it took was one bad error by the shortstop, almost inevitable given the pace and tenor of the game, to open the floodgates. Tulane never got back the concentration- and played defensive and scared over the last eight outs.

There were individual stories as well. It is unfortunate the top two hitters in the line-up currently cannot hit. Southard is in a slump; he’s off-balance- lunging, and making poor decisions. Eamus has hit some sort of freshman wall and has not been good really in weeks. Latham inconveniently choose last night to hit the wall too; the guy’s fastball was topping out at 82-83 mph- which is not competitive in Division I.

To me, in this CWS, Tulane just looked tired: the long season defending the number one ranking, a Cal State-Fullerton series that played like the CWS, rallying from their indifferent start in conference play, and the very tough Rice Super Regional. Couple this effort with my season-long pet-peeve, Jones' never-ending dependence on the same group of six core guys to do just about everything, and it all finally caught up with Tulane. I bet we all wish now Bogusevic, Latham, Eamus and Southard had maybe watched seven or so more games throughout this season, right?

Ultimately, the tournament left me with two thoughts about the 2005 Tulane Green Wave. First, once Bogusevic ceased to be an effectual member of the rotation, Tulane stopped being an elite tournament baseball team. Sure, they were still better than this year’s tier-two programs like LSU and Alabama. However, Tulane no longer featured the day after day after day rotation constancy to compete with Texas and such. Looking back, in the Super Regional, what was the real difference between Tulane and Rice? Owings really- and that is about it. Really, Rice was not a serious national title contender. And without an effective Bogey, neither ultimately was Tulane.

Second, while pitching stats seem to carry over, awesome offensive numbers generated in C-USA are completely suspect until validated. Out of the league and bad local schools, when did Tulane really hit? A little against Alabama. Not at all against Rice. Not much against the Titans. If you count yesterday’s second inning- one inning in the CWS? Owings and Bogusevic- Holland maybe- and that is about it. I wonder if Tulane’s wonder sticks were really largely just a creation of facing Billiken, Tiger and Cardinals’ pitching.

Since the hitting was suspect, to be charitable, in the post-season, pressure came down relentlessly on pitchers Owings, Bogusevic, Latham & Crowel- and then to play good defense behind them. In the end, the pitching buckled. Too many innings and too many appearances for Latham and Bogusevic.

Be honest. On paper right now- today- without a strong Bogey and a newly suspect line-up, this team is categorically not one of the top five teams in the country. It simply is not as strong as it was a month ago. It peaked too early- played and asked too much from the key guys in March and April. Accordingly, the club as constructed- at this instant- probably over-achieved a bit to get to the CWS and win. Had you told me prior to the tournament that Bogey would be continually ineffective and the Wave simply would not hit much, I am not sure I would have predicted Tulane would make it to Omaha.

So it is what it is. A great club that peaked a month ago- and drug too many tired players about two weeks too far. My only complaint: I wish they had been able to bow out more gracefully. They deserved better. But no season that ends in Omaha is ultimately a disappointment.

Wait ‘til next year.