Around The Bases Nov. 19

November 19, 2009

Four Things I’m Thinking About Right Now

By Editor Sean Stires

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1.  College football’s Doak Walker and Biletnikoff Awards could both go to guys who also play college baseball.  If you have followed our Two Sport Reports so far this season you know that Stanford’s Toby Gerhart and Notre Dame’s Golden Tate are among college baseball players who have excelled on the gridiron this fall.

Gerhart’s 1,395 rushing yards are currently the third most in the nation, while Tate is fourth in the land with  1,172 receiving yards.  Tate has scored a total of 14 touchdowns (11 receiving, 2 rushing & 1 punt return), while Gerhart has rumbled across the goal line 19 times.  Tate needs just 78 more receiving yards to break current Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija’s Notre Dame single season receiving school record.

Gerhart batted .288 with 7 home runs and 36 RBIs for the Cardinal in 2009.  Tate hit .329 with 13 stolen bases and scored 45 runs at the top of the Irish line-up last season.

Both were also just named Walter Camp Player of the Year semifinalists.  The duo goes head to head when Notre Dame visits Stanford on Nov. 28th in the regular season finale for both teams.

2.  I talked a little about schedules last week, and I mentioned how Virginia’s first two weeks of 2010 will be challenging with three games each vs. East Carolina and Rhode Island.  Well how about Rhode Island’s 2010 slate?  Rhody opens the season with three games in Starkville, MS vs. Mississippi State and then heads to Charlottesville, VA for those three games against the Cavaliers the following weekend.

There’s a double edged sword for a northern team scheduling two such trips.  The Pros:  You’ll get guarantees for making the trips (needed revenue for teams that don’t get DI college football windfall), you’ll bump your strength of schedule and RPIs, you give your players exposure to great college baseball environments, and you have the chance to compete against and beat good competition.  The Con:  You need to win at least two games in a three-game series to get credit when it comes down to NCAA Tournament selection time.

I’ve talked to an NCAA selection committee member about this before.  Winning just one of three games is essentially the same as losing all three games when it comes to selection.  Teams from the north are better off scheduling just two games against an ACC or SEC team and hope for a split, but most teams from the south have no interest in that.

Jim Foster’s URI team won 37 games in 2009.  They played single games against the likes of Miami, Oklahoma State, Ohio State and Boston College (all tourney teams), but they missed the NCAA Tournament.  They still have a handful of “TBA” games in Winter Haven, FL to be added to the 2010 slate.  We’ll see how things shake out…

3.  I talked last week about guys flying below the radar in high school and then blossoming in college. There’s no better example than Middle Tennessee State’s Bryce Brentz.  The 2009 Team USA outfielder who grew up in Knoxville is wearing blue instead of orange in college, and he’s wearing it well.  As a sophomore last season Brentz led the nation with his .465 average, 28 home runs and .930 slugging percentage.  Not bad for a guy who says he never thought much about playing for Tennessee because he was a “late bloomer”.   MTSU has also won 71 games with a 2009 NCAA Regional appearance in Brentz’s first two years in Murfreesboro.

4.  There’s been a lot of recent talk about revamping instant replay in Major League Baseball.  Most of the talk, centered around umpiring mistakes that were made during the playoffs.   People like Bob Costas are in favor of expanding replay during the playoffs, but not necessarily during the regular season.  The reasoning is there are more cameras in use and the games mean more, so why not take advantage of the extra technology and make sure you get the calls right.  Would you want that rationale applied to the College World Series?  Those games are arguably the most important games of the college season, and they’re all televised by ESPN.  Who’s to say they are really the most important games though?  One could argue though that game three of a Super Regional is just as important as any game in Omaha, because you have to win there just to get to the promised land.  While all Super Regional games are now televised there are not as many cameras in use there, and the angles are different, because the college stadiums are smaller than Rosenblatt Stadium.

Getting the calls right is the most important thing, but sometimes hairs are split by technology.  Case in point:  the Chicago Bulls vs. Denver Nuggets game last week.  A last second shot initially looked like the Bulls won the game.  However after ten minutes of replay review the shot was waved off and the Nuggets won.  If it takes ten minutes to make the decision shouldn’t the initial ruling just stand?

College football has instant replay, but that system is far from perfect.  Who hasn’t watched a college football game and scratched their heads at calls made on the field that are overturned even when video replays don’t indisputably support the decision to overturn them.  Too often judgment in the replay booth replaces judgments made on the field, and that’s not how replay is supposed to be used.


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