Tuesday, June 15, 2010

When it rains, it POURS

Things just can't get any better for TCU baseball, can they? First-ever 50-win season, first College World Series berth after beating UT on their home field. But things are happening for TCU baseball alumni, too.

First it was Scott Atchison, making the Red Sox roster out of training camp. Then Andrew Cashner got called up to the Cubs...then Jake Arrieta to the Orioles...then Chad Huffman to the Yankees. Wow! And now, Sam Demel has been traded from the A's organization to the Diamonbacks...who have immediately called him up to The Show. Don't think recruits aren't taking notice...TCU baseball is a force to be reckoned with.

My Baseball Fan Redemption Project.


I've been listening to this song non-stop this week.
The Pre-haircut Jim James live version really puts it over the top.

Back in January, you may recall I posted this article , the basis of which was my personal confession that baseball doesn’t do it for me and how I would gladly sacrifice that team’s success if it meant we could transfer it to the basketball court. Not that I didn't enjoy having a great baseball program, just that, I'm a basketball guy at heart and there's not a whole lot better than having a year in year out great basketball team at the college level.

But now I have another confession to make.

I’m a TCU Baseball T Shirt fan. And I'm proud of it.

I think, before Sunday at least, my biggest problem with baseball is this – I’m an ADD sports fan, and college baseball season falls during my busy season. By that I mean, I can’t fully focus on more than one sport at any given time; I can focus on more than one TEAM in a sport, mind you, but when it comes to giving my all to two sports at the same time, I'm like the proverbial one legged man in an ass kicking contest. Case in point: this summer, post World Cup, I will inevitably attempt to throw my weight behind some foreign soccer team and become a pseudo-fan. World Cup fever gets me every time. Say what you will about soccer, and I do; the World Cup is the greatest sporting event in the world. And as an added bonus, soccer is the only televised sport in the world that doesn’t have commercial breaks. In our TIVO-centric society, this pleases me greatly.

So anyway, I will throw my weight behind a team of my choosing – most recently, Liverpool FC, because apparently cheering for two Tom Hicks owned sports teams wasn’t enough punishment – and this will work for a while as the season starts in August and the Rangers will be eliminated from playoff contention. However, then September 5th will hit and it will be football season, so adios, soccer. Maybe I’ll see you next year during the Champions League. So football will hopefully drag on into January, or even February if things go swimmingly well, and then it will be time for the Mavs annual late season surge before the playoff collapse. But by this point I will pretty much have missed half the season, so I will have to work overtime, thus eliminating any additional interests. Especially you, hockey. So the Mavs will bow out around late May, which gives me plenty of time to ride the Rangers roller coaster, but really only enough time to get into TCU baseball for late conference play and tournament time. By then, having only peripherally invested my time into the baseball Frogs, I’ll be so far behind that I can never truly catch up.

But I’m willing to change.

I’ll be honest – this same thing happened last year. I got behind the Frogs late, then overcompensated during the Supers, and was deflated after losing that series, regressing into the shadows and looking forward to football season. I vowed to crank it up a notch this year and actually attend some games, but then I got married and old and bedtime>sports spectating. Seriously, an 8:30 start for a Mavs game? Please. And I live about 5 minutes from the AAC. And don’t even suggest a Monday Night Cowboys game. Arlington on a school night? With THAT traffic? What’s WRONG with you? So, given those constraints, and, again, not jumping into the season until mid May, the chances of making a big move like that were dead before they had a chance to manifest.

But going forward, the cards really fell into place this year. A dominant conference tournament run, immediately followed by a seeding snub, and a terribly unfavorable Super Regional draw. Matching up against Baylor ended up being a blessing in disguise as it coincided with all the conference realignment talk and their typically smug fans were running their mouths with an added sense of fear, touting their Big 12 credentials while getting run out of Lupton. And Texas did their part by getting swept out of the conference tournament, and not exactly dominating their regional draw. The stage was set and the stars were aligning.

As evidenced by my post last week. It’s obvious there’s no love lost behind myself and the University of Texas. Seriously, I’ve got a LOT more material, but seeing as how we’re now an iPhone friendly family website, I had to cut myself off somewhere. But this series really ramped up my hatred to a level I didn’t’ think was possible. Maybe it was because I hadn’t had a chance for direct hatred in a full year, and even longer in the more staggering realm of football hate, but when Matt Purke was shutting those jackasses down on Friday afternoon, I was jumping around and fist pumping so hard in my living room that my dog ended up hiding under the bed for the remainder of the afternoon and he REALLY likes getting attention, no matter the cost. I felt like Saturday would probably go in the Horns favor, albeit not the absolute meltdown that occurred, but as the US was kicking off their match against England, I had already mentally prepared for potentially the biggest showdown of my UT hate career the next afternoon.

To that point, my pantheon of personal UT hate probably reads like this.

  1. 1. 2007 UT/TCU Game – TCU 13, Texas 34. Easily number one, despite the loss. My first chance for 100% - read: college affiliated – UT hate? Coming off an 11-2 season, a convincing bowl win and an absolute destruction of Baylor in the opener? Favored in the Conference? Sitting one section off of the UT student section and drawing their ire for 3 hours? A 10-0 halftime lead? Tommy Blake possibly returning from his breakdown? How much more hate can you generate? Of course, the second half probably ranks as one of the most miserable football experiences of my life, but the fact remains – after fine tuning my hate indirectly as an Arkansas fan, this was the time to really push it to the next level.
  2. 2000 Cotton Bowl – Arkansas 27, UT 6. This one had it all – goal line stands, late game domination,Cedric Cobbs, Arkansas inflicted UT injuries and, most importantly, winning the first post-SWC matchup of the two teams. Considering at that point it was still widely assumed that we’d wake up in the Stone Age after Y2K, this was a double victory.
  3. A. 2009 Baseball Super Regional Series– TCU 1, Texas 2. As mentioned above, this one doesn’t rank quite as high because of my relative newness as a baseball supporter and after watching Paul Gerrish dominate game 2, I was majorly peaking during game 3. But, I was quickly deflated after the game 3 loss and kind of washed my hands of baseball for the time being.
  4. B. 2004 Arkansas/UT Game – Arkansas 20, Texas 22. Winning in Austin the year before was a fantastic accomplishment, but how fired up could you be after defeating a Chance Mock led Longhorns team? Plus, as it was then year 3 as a Horned Frog fan, my Razorbacks interest had considerably waned. Then I went to this game in Fayetteville the next year, and while it certainly didn’t help my Arkansas fanhood reignite, it absolutely napalm’d my Texas hate. The way the game was lost was gut wrenching enough. Having to suffer through post game with a bunch of UT fans sealed the deal. Even with a gun to my head, I would never cheer for the University of Texas.

So, I’ve had some bad times with UT. Far more bad than good, and I think that’s why this one sticks out so much and why I may have to rearrange the pantheon. When you can hate a team even more after beating them, I think that’s when you know you’re onto something special.

If I could’ve forseen that Bryan Holaday would be the centerpiece of the greatest moment of UT hate in my life, I would’ve come to my redemption sooner, but the cards must fall how they may. But honestly – I reveled in Chris Simms’ various humiliations and I’ve talked more unfounded shit to UT fans than I’ve cordially talked to my family sometimes. But when that UT fan yelled “SHUT THE HELL UP AND GET BACK IN THE BOX!” and Holaday immediately rearranged the physical makeup of that ball and hopefully bashed in Mack Brown’s window in the left field parking lot… that was the pinnacle of my career as a TCU sports fan. Easily the pinnacle of my career as a UT hater. In fact, even though it's posted right below, let's watch it again, just for kicks:

Sure, the homerun the inning before probably elicited a stronger initial reaction from me because it was so much more detrimental to the outcome of the game. But given the exact circumstances of the Holaday homerun – “the comment” as it will now be known + plus the collective sphincter tightening of their fans in the stands as the game was so close to being decided + Kevin Keye's bush league move from the day before + UT's eventual post game comments about the better team not getting to Omaha + the many, many years that I’ve watched UT claw back from insurmountable odds to win a game + the fact that UT refuses to face TCU in any competition unless it’s on their terms because they think we don’t deserve to be on the same field as them– I genuinely think it’s going to be near impossible to top that, outside of a BCS Title game, Andy Dalton led last minute drive situation with Texas on the receiving end.

So thank you Bryan Holaday, Matt Purke, Kyle Winkler and the rest of the boys for making me realize what I’ve been missing out on the past few years. I’m all in on this thing next year. You guys are going to be my sports adderral next season, even if it means coinciding with a LeBron James led Mavericks title run. Even if it means I have to miss out on a few precious hours of sleep on a work night. Even if it means sitting out in the heat and sweating my way through a June afternoon game against Air Force. Even if it means missing out on the birth of a potential Lil Sir Wesley Willis. My baseball redemption project is still ongoing, but I’m a lot closer now than I was as little as a week ago. It’s amazing what an unhealthy hatred of UT can do for your fan psyche.

So hate a Longhorn today. And Go Frogs! For your Health.

Utah to the Pac 10?

With the apparent salvation of a ten-team Big 12 yesterday, the attention of the conference realignment nation turns to Salt Lake City, where the Utah Utes will now be the main focus of speculation...at least until things change about 5 minutes from now.

I'm not sure what we're going to call the Big 12 now, but with Texas & company telling the Pac 10 "no thanks" after Colorado already bolted out west, it leaves the Pac 10 with a very odd 11-team line up. The general consensus is that Utah could join the Buffaloes and become the Pac 10's twelfth team. Obviously, that would not be good news for TCU or the Mountain West Conference.

Is the Utes departure a foregone conclusion? In the atmosphere created in the last few weeks, I don't think anything can be taken for granted. Does the Pac 10 want Utah? If the goal is to get to 12 teams, they would make a lot of sense. But as we've seen with the Big Ten playing with 11 members for the better part of 20 years, some leagues might not go to 12 just to get to 12. Also, don't forget about BYU. Utah is a state school, while BYU is run by the church...which pretty much runs the state of Utah. I wouldn't expect the Cougars to let the Utes bolt without any resistance.

If Utah does end up leaving the Mountain West, this is exactly the reason why the league added Boise State last week. The Broncos are our insurance policy. A 9-team MWC with Boise State instead of Utah is roughly the same conference we have played in for the past 5 seasons. But a 10-team league with both the Utes and Broncos is an upgrade that is likely headed toward BCS inclusion.

Morning Dump


Omaha:

College World Series schedule set gofrogs.com
-TCU vs. Florida State, 1:00pm Saturday on ESPN (in HD)

Frogs meet with media Monday gofrogs.com

TCU's CWS team loaded with Houston talent Houston Chronicle

TCU baseball completes David & Goliath tale Examiner

TCU sees commitment foster excellence Omaha World-Herald


Conference Realignment:

Utes tabbed for Pac 10? Salt Lake Tribune


Football:

TCU focused on Oregon State; tickets on sale ESPN Dallas

A View From The Other Side - Florida State Preview

The folks over at scalpem.com have put together a preview to help us get to know the Seminoles a bit better.

You can check out our preview on their site here.

FSU Baseball Primer For The Horned Frogs Fan
by Bill Kristoph, ScalpEm.com Owner

Led by Head Coach Mike Martin, the Seminoles went 47-18 in 2010, which by FSU standards is a pretty typical season. The Noles started off the year with big bats and lots of runs, scoring in the double digits in 9 of their first 10 games. The big offense allowed them to hide a mediocre pitching staff until conference play started. The Noles managed only an 18-12 regular season ACC record that included an end of the year slump and a sweep by the Clemson Tigers. The downturn had Seminole fans throwing in the towel on playoff chances for 2010.
However, out of nowhere FSU got hot and won the ACC Championship thanks to a big win over #1 Virginia, and a miracle comeback by Boston College over Miami in pool play. They then defeated N.C. State for the title. After that, FSU swept through the Norwich, CT regional as a #1 seed on the road and then survived a tough series in Tallahassee against the Vanderbilt Commodores to advance to Omaha. It's been an unlikely season for a team that lacks a traditional superstar to lead them.

Who To Watch

Pitching

I'm not sure who will start against the Horned Frogs, but Sean Gilmartin is the Seminoles "Ace" if they have one in 2010. "Gilly" had an outstanding freshman campaign, but regressed in 2010. He's the Friday starter, but he only turned in a 9-7 record on the season. The #2 guy for FSU is Brian Busch (potentially the starter against TCU), a big lefty that's been hot lately. Out of the bullpen, look for Daniel Bennett a righty submariner who is solid and closer Mike McGee who will patrol left field when he's not closing out a game.

Defense

While not spectacular, the FSU defense generally gets the job done. Mike McGee is solid in left as is James Ramsey in right. Tyler Holt, the wound-up / intense centerfielder has a big range and makes great plays look routine. Around the infield, true freshman Jayce Boyd has improved at 1B but still lacks some bag presence. At 2B, Devon Travis is a good glove. SS is Stephen Cardullo, who, frankly, is only in there for his streaky bat. Sherman Johnson stabilized 3B this year for FSU thankfully and has a solid arm. Behind the plate is usually Rafael Lopez who throws out less than half of runners attempting to steal a base.

Hitting

The biggest bright spot for the Noles is their penchant for lots of runs, where they averaged over 7 runs per game. Be wary of lead off hitter Tyler Holt, if he has a big day the Noles do very, very well. You'll also have to dodge his numerous hand claps, fist pumps and chest pumps. He leads or is close to the top in most offensive categories and he gets on base nearly 47% of the time. Sherman Johnson has been all everything throughout the playoffs, pay attention to him behind Holt. Also don't be fooled by #3 hitter Mike McGee. He's a clutch hitter, a gamer and hit a walk off home run in Game 1 of the Super Regional. Down in the order you'll find Jayce Boyd (usually at #7, but for the life of me I don't know why) who had to learn 1B this year (he played 3B in high school) because his bat is so good Mike Martin & Co. wanted to get him into the lineup. Everyone else is varying degrees of streaky. When they're all hot the Noles score a ton of runs.