Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thursday Musings.

A couple of news-worthy items on a slow news day, especially if you're a Spurs fan.  You're not Spurs fans, are you?

  • An interesting tidbit from the Dallas Morning News.  Earlier this week the SEC announced who the permanent cross-division rivals for each team would be going forward and, as expected, Arkansas and Missouri drew one another.  (Quick off-topic:  How should we brand this game?  The Moonshine and Meth Mayhem?  The Deliverance Cup?  The "We should've just saved money and gotten a GED" Bowl?  Piggies and Tigers and sister-wives, oh my!?  Yours in the comments).  From there, rumors immediately started circulating that the annual Arkansas/LSU post-Thanksgiving game, which has been played at that point in the schedule since 1992, would be moved in favor of Arkansas/Missouri and aggy/LSU filling that last weekend slot.  This is fine on the surface, except for this bit of information:  Ex-aggy Coach Jackie Sherrill let it slip that, starting in 2014, aggy and LSU would start playing their series in prime time on, wait for it, Thanksgiving Night.  But wait, you say, aren't WE supposed to be playing Texas on Thanksgiving Night?  My thoughts exactly.  Of course, the game this year hasn't been moved so nothing is set in stone, but it's long been expected that we will be facing the Longhorns in Austin on Thanksgiving Night in Primetime in even numbered years.  If aggy and LSU ARE moved, what would this do to that series?  Would the networks really play aggy and UT against each other like that?  Looks like the rivalry didn't die out so easily after all.  It'll be interesting to see where this goes, but if the rumors continue to heat up, don't be surprised if the B12 announces that switch from Saturday to Thursday soon than later.
  • By now you may have heard the news that the unthinkable happened:  The University of Texas lost a top tier recruit.  Ricky Seals-Jones, A WR out of Sealy and Rivals' 18th ranked overall prospect for the entire nation, recently reopened his commitment status due to his desire to play both football and basketball, pretty much a no-no at a school like Texas.  In fact, it's not that common anywhere - outside of Julius Peppers and Matt Jones, I can't think of anyone who played both sports and had an impact - simply because the seasons partially overlap and the time demands are unreasonable.  Yet RSJ wants to attempt to bridge that gap, so here we are.  The latest rumor I've seen has LSU and aggy at the top of his list, followed closely by Baylor, but there are some odd names out there like Kansas, Kentucky and, wait for it, SMU.  Now, looking at that list makes one wonder if the kid doesn't actually value basketball over football and whether or not he might drop the pigskin altogether given an opportunity, but, my question is why on earth isn't TCU at least making a call?  Now, I'm no recruiting guru, but from the little spelunking I've done it doesn't look like Jones and TCU ever jibed - we are not on his list at this time - so it's entirely possible that the interest was never there for either party, and I accept that, but S-J is 6'5", 220 and clearly extremely athletic.   Can you IMAGINE pairing him with Ladarius Brown on the outside Why aren't we at least putting some feelers out?   SMU!!! is in the mix for goodness sake!  Wouldn't this be the easiest sales pitch ever?  "Ricky, come catch passes from a future NFL player Casey Pachall and, when he's done Tyler Matthews, as well as be the absolute face of TCU's Basketball program for the forseeable future?" Trent Johnson wouldn't care if he missed the early part of the season, I can guarantee you that.  And here's the best part - RSJ came to UT as sort of a "packaged deal" with, you guessed it, Tyrone Swoopes!  Is it possible Swoopes, a kid who loved TCU but couldn't resist the allure of Austin, would think about jumping ship?  Alas, it will never happen because our basketball program is shit and God clearly hates us this offseason, but just in case, don't let, "We don't want UT's leavings" stand in the way of what could be a huge get.  
That's all I got. Just some food for thought.  Also, will a Celtics/OKC Finals be the lowest rated broadcast in history?  Would you be fine with an epic comeback by Miami to take the East if it meant the end of the career of noted Bostonite Dane Cook?  And after losing 15 pounds in 2 weeks and being moved to the disabled list, is it possible that Derek Holland has followed the national craze and become addicted to bath salts?  Mitch Moreland and his fail bat better watch their backs in the locker room...

WHAT A DICK! Cat Murder Edition

Exhibiting characteristics of a future serial killer?  "No big deal," says Steve Smith

Baylor, as we all know from talking to Baylor fans and alumni, is the only true Christian university in Texas.  While the rest of us heathens toil in a world of sin, the people whose equally-boring parents made them go to Baylor are able to rest comfortably on a moral high ground.  We should all look to the spire-infested campus in Waco for inspiration and how to live a life of integrity.

It's a good thing, too, because I know in the days and weeks after a few TCU football players were arrested for selling pot, I was so glad that Baylor fans were there to remind me of how Patterson was (despite immediately kicking all four off the team) losing control of his program and that this rampant drug problem would cause every parent of potential athletes or students to shy away from sending their kids to such a collegiate den of iniquity.  Something like that would NEVER happen at Baylor.

Don't bring up the two Baylor football players arrested after being found passed out drunk in a Taco Bell drive-through with weed in the car during the 2010 season.  After all, the Baylor administration definitely stepped up and did the right thing by, you know, allowing star receiver Josh Gordon to play in the Bears' game against Tech two days after the arrest and every game for the rest of the 2010 season.

And the ethical leadership exhibited by the adults at Baylor was certainly on display when, in 2003, they asked members of their basketball program to lie to investigators to cover up the NCAA rules infractions by pinning all of them on a scapegoat...who happened to be one of their teammates who was murdered by another member of the team.  I'm pretty sure the bible says it's alright to organize a group of people to blame your own misdeeds on a dead person...yeah,'s in the old testament somewhere.

So it should come as no surprise that true moral compass of Lone Star State academia also acted with unblemished integrity back in March of 2001 when two players on the Baylor baseball team were arrested for shooting, be-heading and skinning a cat they found in the parking lot of a Taco Cabana.  Two weeks later, head coach Steve Smith responded by suspending the two players indefinitely.  Good work, coach- no room for budding young sociopaths on your team.  That is unless, fifteen days later, you look up at your schedule and see that #5 Rice is coming to town right before a road trip to play Nebraska, the first-place team in the Big 12.  Oddly enough, that's right when the players' suspensions were lifted.  Odder still is that the topic was never brought up in an online chat Smith had with fans that very week. 

It's so nice that, when the rest of us wayward philistines lose our way by sacrificing integrity for the almighty dollar or athletic glory, we can look to the sky above Waco to find the true moral north.

Scouting UCLA

When TCU and UCLA last faced each other on the diamond, it was the Bruins' superior pitching that allowed them to beat the Frogs two out of three times in Omaha in 2010.  While they still have a formidable pitching staff (more on that tomorrow), it is the extremely productive batting order that has powered them to a 45-14 overall record and the #2 overall national seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Bruins are led offensively by junior right fielder, Golden Spikes award candidate and 1st round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds, Jeff Gelalich.  He's batting .372 for the year, leads the team with 11 home runs and is second on the team with 46 RBI.  He will strike out from time to time, though, so hopefully if the Frogs see something like the picture of him above, it will be on a big swing and a miss. He hit two home runs in the Bruins' final game of their NCAA Regional, so don't waste your time hoping he's not coming into the weekend with momentum.

Unfortunately, Gelalich isn't the only UCLA hitter that the Frogs need to be wary about.  They hit .312 as a team this year, and had a combined .398 on-base percentage.  Every member of their starting lineup is battting at least .253, with five others joining Gelalich in hitting above .310.  The other extremely dangerous hitters to keep and eye on are center fielder Beau Amaral (18 extra-base hits), catcher Tyler Heineman (.351 batting average), second baseman Trevor Brown (team-leading 50 RBI), left fielder Cody Keefer (.342 batting average) and shortstop Pat Valaika (15 extra-base hits). They've also gotten a decent contribution as of late from freshman Shane Zeile...son of former big-leaguer Todd Zeile.

Just because the intimidating trio of Gerrit Cole, eccentric uber-douche Trevor Bauer and Rob Rasmussen has moved on to the professional ranks, don't assume that UCLA doesn't have a pitching staff capable of shutting opposing hitters down.  Their team ERA is 3.14 and they're allowing 3.77 total runs a game- which is usually a good recipe for victory when your offense is scoring 6.34 to back you up.

Their ace is sophomore right-hander Adam Plutko, who has accumulated a record of 10-3 with a 2.56 ERA this year with 85 K's and opposing batters hitting just .212 against him.  Last weekend in the regional, he tossed a two-hit, complete-game shutout of Creighton.  He's the likely starter for Friday's series opener, and represents a stiff challenge to the current momentum of the Frogs' young bats.

On Saturday and Sunday, though, the Frogs will be facing good but mortal starting pitching.  Sophomores Nick Vander Tuig (9-2) and Zack Weiss (3-2), both earned victories in the regional last week.  Vander Tuig tossed 8 shutout innings and struck out 11 against New Mexico and Weiss gave up 3 runs on 7 hits in 5 innings of work against Creighton.  It is worth nothing, though, that along with the other possible starter (freshman Grant Watson), these guys have ERAs over 4.00 and opposing batting averages in the .270-.280 range.

The real strength of the UCLA pitching staff, though, may just rest with the Bruin bullpen.  Junior closer Scott Griggs (2.70 ERA and 15 saves) freshman David Berg (1.71 in 45 appearances) and sophomore Ryan Deeter (0.94 in 35 appearances) shoulder the biggest relief load, but freshman Zack Ortiz and sophomore Chase Brewer also have ERAs under 3.00 in limited work.  So while it may seem that the odds may be tilted in TCU's favor to win the series if they're able to defeat Plutko, runs will be difficult to come by late in games when the Frogs need them most. 

If it sounds like I'm building UCLA up to be something they're not- think again.  They are a really, really, really darned good team.  Traveling 1,400 miles to beat the #2 national seed with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores is not going to be an easy task.  The good news, though, is that this current Horned Frog squad has a lot of steam heading out to California with them and they've already shown they can overcome long odds.  The Bruins are also not known for ferocious fan support, as illustrated by their home attendance numbers and previous Omaha traveling parties being dwarfed by those of TCU.  Hopefully some of our Southern California-based alumni will get out to Jackie Robinson Stadium this weekend to diffuse a little bit of the home-field advantage.

Big 12 Orientation: Baylor's other sports

No, that is NOT Udonis Haslem
 Interacting with Baylor fans during this most recent college basketball season was an odd experience.  While they were certainly and understandably proud of their neon yellow jersey-wearing men's team, most of their bravado seemed to stem from the success that their women's hoops team was enjoying.  Sure enough, as the Lady Bears barreled their way toward an undefeated national championship, my facebook timeline was littered with BU folk bragging about their dominance in women's basketball.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I'd love for Jeff Mittie and the Lady Frogs to have won two national titles.  If they did, I'm sure I'd be happy about it and proud of the team.  But there are three sports worthy of bragging or trash talk: football, baseball and men's basketball.  I'm proud of TCU's rifle team for winning their two national titles, but I'm not about to organize a watching party when they're in the playoffs.  And it's not like I don't recognize the hard work and athleticism of female athletes...I'm just not about to let Title IX cloud my thoughts enough to think that women's hoops is something worth scoreboarding someone about.

So, genuinely, congratulations to the Baylor women's team on their success.  I truly mean that.  But to the Baylor fans who turn all in your face rah-rah because your school is good at a sport no one else cares about, you all come off looking like a bunch of sing-song Young Life counselors...which I understand might not register as an insult to you.

It's also worth noting that Baylor won a national championship in men's tennis in 2004 and that their track program has produced three Olympic gold medalists: Michael Johnson (1 in Barcelona '92, 2 in Atlanta '96 and 1 in Sydney '00), Jeremy Wariner (2 in Athens '04 and 1 in Beijing '08) and Darold Williamson (Athens '04).

Super Regional Game Watching Parties

I'm assuming that people have begun to make plans for where they will watch the Frogs tomorrow night at 8pm on ESPN.  If any readers want to inform me of different locations in different cities, I will update this post to let everyone know where they can watch with fellow Frogs.  Ok, I'll start it off.

Austin, TX:
Cedar Door
201 Brazos Street
Side room rented out with big screens and sound on the game.
*Keep it weird.

Morning Dump


TCU's deep & talented roster took time to emerge Star-Telegram

TCU's Cron is showing "Big Boy" power Star-Telegram

TCU assistant Mazey accepts West Virginia head coaching job Baseball America

UCLA to face familiar foe in Super Regionals Daily Bruin

Other Sports:

Charles Silmon makes men's 100m finals at NCAA Championships

Horned Frog soccer releases Fall 2012 schedule

Campus area news:

Intersection of Berry & University to be completely closed all summer Star-Telegram