Thursday, June 4, 2009

Chopping Wood With The Railsplitter

They are the future of professional baseball and will one day sit on my fantasy squad. I will inevitably curse them when they are injured and sucking. That’s right gentlemen, they are Division I baseball players. So why don’t I care more about them and their sport? I mean, I love baseball and I love college sports…so where’s the disconnect? Is it because I compare their sexiest asset (the World Series) to that of “The Tournament” and “The BCS”? Probably, but I think it is much more than that. Over the course of the last week some truly remarkable performances took place on the college diamond and I haven’t batted an eyelash at them:

1) The Fighting Shoplifters defeated Ohio State 37-6. FSU had 38 hits, 66 total bases and only 2 misdemeanors. They led 32-0 by the 5th inning for the love of Peter Warrick!

2) Stephen Strasburg took his first defeat of the season as Virginia dropped him to 13-1. The kid has 195 strikeouts in 109 innings and has been as dominant as any college player in recent history, yet I would venture to say there are some who follow this blog who have no idea who this wunderkind is. Admittedly, I didn’t know until 3 weeks ago.

3) Texas outlasted Boston College 3-2 in 25 innings. Here’s my favorite part, Texas reliever Austin Wood tossed 12 1/3 innings of no-hit ball! Think about that, in a sport where a comparable team scores 32 runs by the fifth inning, this kid channeled his inner Nolan Ryan and handcuffs his opponent for a game and a half.

I’ve really tried to delve into why this sport doesn’t entice me, so I first needed to figure out what exactly does a sport need to give me before I become an unconditional follower. The answers all pointed to one aspect…ACCESS.

Before being moved to ESPN in 2009, it was a fact that the college world series got less CBS play than Coy and Vance Duke’s rebel rousing days in Hazzard County. One weekend? Hell, the Little Leaguers get just as much, if not more, time on ABC. I’m not searching TSN-Biloxi or any other obscure channel to try to find regular season college baseball either. It’s the lack of availability and my unwillingness to search that has me so far removed by the time the post-season rolls around and by then, all interest is lost.

Go to espn.com sometime and scroll over “All Sports” and you’ll be shocked what you find. College basketball and football have their own section and so does, wait…what? Women’s college basketball has their own link? Bingo. It is not until you click on the “College Sports” that you will find baseball articles sharing the headlines with women’s softball, men’s lacrosse and men’s golf.

With college post-season baseball in full swing, I decided to shoot over to my favorite wagering site to see what the action was, and much like the Longhorn’s bedroom in Lawndale …there wasn’t any. I can bet on NCAA futures for both basketball and football (both 7+ months away), but I can’t pull the trigger on a sport that wraps up in the next few weeks?

I think it is simple to see why college baseball ranks right up there with rugby and hurling in my eyes…I was never exposed to it. Now, I know there are some college baseball alums on the blog so what is your take? Are there some who feel this way about another sport?

21 comments:

PG said...

Great article, Railsplitter. Love the college baseball love. I can think of two reasons why college baseball isn't in the upper echelon. One is simply because it's not the best players of the age group. Let's face it, the premier players of college age(at least, the majority of them) are getting drafted,signing, and are in rookie ball or low A. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of college ballplayers that have stellar MLB careers. But the talent pool is a little diluted then say, college football.

Another reason is college baseball players are not "major league ready" after they graduate. Most of the time, they're in the minors for at least 3 or 4 seasons (depending on your talent level)before they hit the show. Not so in college basketball and football. They're going straight to the show. So it's easier to get excited about a Matthew Stafford or Derrick Rose than it is about a Grant Green or Alex White. Because, quite frankly, you aren't gonna hear from them for a couple of years (that is, if they make it through the system intact).

Railsplitter said...

I completely agree, PG. With the gridiron and hardwood, we get the instant gratification of watching young talent get drafted and immediately contribute to their professional franchise. I'm glad you brought up the whole issue of the minor leagues.

T-Dub said...

I think college baseball is still really, really good. And I don't think your point is to disagree with that statement ... going is fun, I wish I was in a college town sometimes for that reason. (And the 18-22 yr old girls.) That said, I like going to minor league games, too.

This brings me to the point of that paragraph ... you are spot on, its based on exposure. I played a bit, watched quite a bit, so I loved college ball. Neither college nor minors, with the talent present, can ever be anything other than a novelty.

Heck, I didn't like the American League as a youngster, I only had WGN and didn't fathom why baseball would be so different. I would cheer mightily against the AL in the World Series, whomever was in.

Then came ESPN showing some games, but that didn't do it. Extra Innings showed up ... and I'm now as much a fan of AL baseball as NL ball. Agree, its exposure.

Cornholers said...

I for one am happy that College Baseball hasn't been tainted to the level of NCAA Football and Basketball.

I can't stand the exposure that football and basketball receive. Maybe its because I never played either of these sports to a higher level, but I hate the commercialization of college sports.

Sometimes I cringe when I watch the Little League World Series because ESPN has a certain way of ruining something pure.

For example I was stuck in a hotel in KC without MLBN, and wow I didn't realize how much I missed it. I only had ESPN and can't believe how much Sportscenter concentrated on NBA and AL East. It's really quite pathetic. Thank god for MLBN.

Oh and I did watch the College Softball World Series. Out of all the teams there are about 2 hot girls. The girl for 'Bama was really cute until I saw her spitting into her batting gloves outside the batters box. That sport is weird.

Daddy said...

No need to take shots at the mighty noles just because they embarassed another Big 10 team (see 2009 bowl game against Wisconsin)

jealousy is not a strong quality

- FSU grad

Michael said...

Nice article. I am looking forward to see how they do the first round of the draft on MLB network. That could go a long way in giving some exposure to college ball. I like college ball and follow ASU, but rarely ever get to see a game on TV. I have to follow it through ASU websites and the AZ republic online.

I do think that in the next few years, we will see a trend develop where some of the top picks from the college level will be "rushed" up to the majors pretty quickly. I dont think it will be a ton of kids, but I do think we will see it more often.

PG said...

Haha! I was waiting for Hef to chime in on the Noles dig.

Did anyone read the SI article about the high school phenom from Vegas who, as a sophomore, is supposed to be further along than A-Rod and Griffey were at that age? He's called "baseballs chosen one". Here's the link-

http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1156215/index.htm

Cornholers said...

Enough of these 15-year old phenoms. They talk of these kids just to sell newspapers.

It's like the entire Stephen Strasburg hype-train. Enough already! This poor kid will be heading to the Nasty Nat's and will probably flame out before he ever meets his potential.

I'm really looking forward to the draft and some of the interesting talents that should/could drop to the late-1st round and into the Sandwich picks.

Oh yeah, and I can officially state that the Gordon Beckham Era has now begun! He's starting at 3B for the White Sox today.

PG said...

Doesn't Gordon Beckham kind of fit into the Stephen Strasburg category. I mean, sure, Strasburg will not have played in one minor league game if he gets called up, but Beckham has played in how many? To me, the difference is negligible.

I am therefore compelled to point out a double-standard.

Cornholers said...

I don't see where the double-standard lies? I'm hoping that Beckham turns into a decent everyday infielder for the White Sox but I certainly don't expect him to be the best SS in the league, or break records, or automatically hit 20 bombs. If anything I think he'll struggle initially.

Furthermore, Beckham has been peppered with doubt throughout his entire career. Whether it be out of high school, into college, summer ball and even when he got drafted. In turn he's hit at every level. He just finished a 45 game run in the minors where he hit 23 doubles.

I'm not taking anything away from Strasburg as a pitcher but I have just seen time and time again, largely hyped flame-thrower pitchers who are dubbed the next Roger Clemens flame out. The odds are against Strasburg is all I'm saying. Just as they were against Ben McDonald.

As for the 16-year old kid in Vegas, I hope he's the next Mickey Mantle or Pete Rose. The game deserves players like that. I just caution the way the media sweeps themselves up in a teenager. Guys like Mantle, Harmon Killebrew or Robin Young didn't have to deal with all that attention at such a young age. It won't be easy for a kid of that immaturity to deal with. This is also why I still contend Lebron is like 35 because he has handled everything very well for his age.

PG said...

I was talking more from the standpoint of overhyped players (didn't distinguish between pitcher and position player) who are fast tracked to the majors (much like Beckham was and Strasburg will be).

Time will tell on Beckham...will his 59 total game experience in the minors be enough (including only 7 in AAA Charlotte) to translate to a great MLB career? Perhaps. Is he ready for Major League pitching (which is vastly different from the 7+ AAA pitchers he saw or the numersous others he saw in AA and below )? Does he need more time developing? It'd be a shame if he was the next big bust (especially if he was rushed).

PG said...

I would also like to point out Mr. Beckham's 13 errors in 58 total minor league baseball games (which translates to roughly 36 total errors over the course of a 162 games season. Will his defensive foibles affect his performance at the plate?

Cornholers said...

PG, you attempted to put Gordon Beckham into the Stephen Strasburg category and I don't see any similarities between the two.

Beckham was the 8th pick overall last year, signed for an 8th pick amount of bonus money and is on a minor league contract, went to A-ball for the remainder of '08, played fall ball, went to Spring and started the season in AA, with a week in AAA before dire straits made the White Sox call him up to MLB. He hit at every stop too.

Strasburg is going to be the 1st pick overall and will look to sign a major league contract in the $100M category. Boras is attempting to bridge a corollary between Strasburg and Dice-K to get him that $50M signing bonus. Strasburg will then most likely be shipped to AA with the hopes of getting him up in the majors by the end of this season. If the Nationals are going to spend that amount of money you can bet that they want Strasburg to draw fans into the seats in DC!

So a guy like Beckham making the major league minimum right now and the Sox delayed his Super Two status by calling him up after June 5th, to a guy like Strasburg making close to $100M over the course of the next 5 years or more. Yeah, so similar!!!

Cornholers said...

I also want to officially have it noted that I have never over-hyped Gordon Beckham. As excited as I was that the Sox seem to finally have drafted a "baseball" player I think I'm shooting high if he can have the success that a guy like Michael Young has achieved in Texas. Meaning it might take GB a couple years to get his feet underneath him (like Young) before he shows his true strengths as a .300 hitter with 20 homerun power.

The fact that Beckham more then likely projects out as a 2B for his major league career will further prove that I don't think I am over-hyping him as I think his defense is subject to criticism. I fully expect him to make some errors at 3B but he's an upgrade over Wilson Bad-Mitt's .500 fielding percentage during his tenure at 3B for the Sox.

PG said...

You can spin it all you want, 3K...both are first round picks, both have been talked about ad nauseum before they have played in a major league game, and both have had either a cup of coffee or no coffee at all in the minors.

The difference is that Gordon Beckham is on the Chicago White Sox, and Strasburg will not be.

PG said...

His "went to A ball for the remainder of 08" was 14 games!!!!! Don't make me laugh, 3K. You can talk all the fall ball, AA crap you want, he's played in 59 minor league games. At the end of the day, that is his resume. That's it.

BTW, you've never overhyped Beckham. what do you think you're doing right now. HAHAAHAHHAAAH!!

Cornholers said...

You're the guy spinning this from your original statement, I quote

"Doesn't Gordon Beckham kind of fit into the Stephen Strasburg category. I mean, sure, Strasburg will not have played in one minor league game if he gets called up, but Beckham has played in how many? To me, the difference is negligible.

I am therefore compelled to point out a double-standard."

Now tell me how I have over-hyped Gordon Beckham today. PG you love to think that I somehow am a typical hometown fan who thinks my teams players are better then anyone else. Geez, I said that Beckham would succeed if he reached Michael Young levels in 2 to 3 years. How is that over-hyping someone?

There are two major differences between Beckham and Strasburg:

1) Beckham has received Chicago level hype, but not naitonally. While Strasburg is on ESPN every night and he isn't even drafted yet.

2) You, and almost every other person in Chicago and beyond, didn't even know who Gordon Beckham was prior to June 15th, 2008.

Stop yourself....

PG said...

You proved my point in that I pointed out the similarity in both players having zero to minimal time in the minor leagues to develop (hence, me qualifying the statement by giving my opinion that Beckham's 59 games is negligible).

And yes, I further mentioned that both were overhyped players. Whether it's being overhyped on a national or local level, isn't it overhype nonetheless?

I also pointed out that both players have been or will be fast tracked to the majors without the aforementioned minor league experience.

But you're right, 3K. Anything you say, man.

Cornholers said...

Twist it anyway you want PG, my simple point is that I doubt you hear anybody else in the world ever use Stephen Strasburg's name and Gordon Beckham's name in the same sentence. Two completely different animals....but yeah, keep trying to compare the two based upon games played.

That's like attempting to compare Big Mac to a Morton's Filet because they both have meat.

Railsplitter said...

No Gut Check Friday?

Cornholers said...

I think PG is on the lam with the entry fees....last seen entering the Ohio tollway with the loot and Newman!!