Archive for May, 2008

I see UC
Thursday, May 29, 2008

If one thing is certain about Nebraska, it knows how to win at home. Haymarket Park has produced plenty of magic for the Huskers. From the incredible comeback against Texas A&M, to the shutout win over Wichita State, to the marathon victory over Louisiana Lafayette, these guys know how to get it done at Haymarket.

These last couple of weeks, however, we’ve seen a different Nebraska team. A team that hasn’t gotten solid starting pitching. A team that can’t get the clutch hits. A team that can’t seem to get out of its own way defensively.

What we first believed about Nebraska is now coming to fruition: the team is only as good as its starting pitching. As Johnny Dorn, Thad Weber, Dan Jennings and Aaron Pribanic go, so goes the team. And considering how the pitching has faded down the stretch (and not coincidentally, so has the team) this could be a disappointing weekend for Nebraska.

Dan Jennings gets the nod on Friday, his first NCAA postseason start. How will he handle the pressure of a regional? Mike Anderson says his decision to start Jennings instead of Dorn is not a risky one.   I believe it is.  What if Jennings doesn’t last four innings and the bullpen gets taxed?  I wonder if his decision to save Dorn for Saturday is less about faith in Dorn, and more about a lack of faith in the rest of the staff. Let’s be honest, aside from Dorn, this Husker staff has been very hit-and-miss.

Eastern Illinois should not provide much of a challenge, at least you wouldn’t think so. That being said, this regional is not about the Eastern Illinois game. It’s about Saturday and Sunday.

Back in 2006, I called Nebraska’s regional chances a “coin-flip”. I didn’t like the way the Huskers were playing and I didn’t have confidence they could turn it around.

Two years later, I feel the same way.

UC-Irvine has the best pitching staff in the regional. In fact, its 2.87 ERA is second nationally. Led by Big West co-pitcher of the year Scott Gorgen, the staff ranks ninth in hits allowed per nine innings (8.38). That being said, Irvine’s staff is not a regional-dominant staff. Even coach Mike Gillespie said, “If we’re going to win this thing, we need to do it in three (days).”

Ben Orloff and Ollie Linton lead the way offensively, bringing that invaluable College World Series experience to the Anteaters to the lineup.

All that being said, the regional comes down to Sunday. Johnny Dorn is far from unhittable, but should be able to get the job done Saturday night. Then, Thad Weber and Aaron Pribanic take the mound Sunday. Weber is in a pitching slump, unable to get into a groove or rhythm in his last few outings. That can’t happen Sunday.

I’ll take Irvine in the regional based on pitching and experience. They’ve won four of the last five, and won’t panic if they find themselves down in Lincoln. They seem like a confident bunch, and for good reason.

Predictions:

Game 1: Nebraska defeats Eastern Illinois.

Game 2: UC Irvine defeats Oral Roberts.

Game 3: Oral Roberts defeats Eastern Illinois.

Game 4: Nebraska defeats UC Irvine.

Game 5: UC Irvine defeats Oral Roberts.

Game 6: UC Irvine defeats Nebraska.

Game 7: UC Irvine defeats Nebraska, with Gorgen coming back for a few innings, just as he did on short rest in last year’s CWS.

Then again, I could be very wrong.

I’m sure you’ll let me know.

Walking Wounded
Sunday, May 25, 2008

It’s what you feared if you’re a Husker fan: the team tanking down the stretch. You’d better hope history doesn’t repeat itself.

  • In 2006, the Huskers lost nine of their final 15 games before the NCAA Tournament. They went 0-2 in the Lincoln Regional.
  • In 2007, the Huskers lost eight of their final 13 games before the NCAA Tournament. They went 2-2 in the Tempe Regional.
  • Now, in 2008, the Huskers have lost five of the their last six heading into the NCAA Tournament.

In mid-April, I wrote about then-6th ranked Nebraska in one of my blog posts:

Is it wrong for me to still sit on the fence? I just hope these arms stay as consistent as they’ve been. As long as they hold up, I’ll get off the fence. If not, they may need a little more offense. And if the offense doesn’t come, the fence is where I might stay.

I think they’ll host a regional. But something tells me some rocky times are ahead. If they host a Super Regional, I’ll be surprised.

——————-

The pitching has not held up like you would’ve hoped. Thad Weber, Nebraska’s No. 2 starter, has given up 20 earned runs in his last 10 2/3 innings.  Nebraska’s oft-times No. 3 man Aaron Pribanic had been struggling, giving up 6 runs in 6 2/3 innings before a decent showing in the Big 12 Tournament.  The once-deadly Dan Jennings has given up 8 earned runs in his last 8 2/3 innings.

The bottom line: this Husker starting rotation is not set up well for a regional. Not with how these guys are pitching right now, aside from Johnny Dorn.

Here’s the one big thing going for Nebraska: the regional is in Lincoln. Sure, that didn’t seem to matter two years ago when the Huskers went 0-2 in their own backyard. But this team has enjoyed the home cooking all year long, with a record of 28-3-1 at Haymarket Park.

As long as they don’t hold the bats too tightly next weekend, they should advance to the Super Regional round.

After that, it’s anybody’s guess.

Foul Format
Friday, May 23, 2008

The Bluejays were eliminated from the Valley tournament Friday, falling 6-5 at the hands of Southern Illinois.

But that’s not the story. The story is the absolute traveshamockery of the Valley Tournament.

The conference altered its tournament this year. The decision was made to give the top two seeds an advantage with a bye in the first round. A ludicrous idea in a double-elimination format. This was done so each of those top teams could throw its number one starter against the opposition’s number two starter (there had been many top-seeded first-round upsets in the past, as most teams have a solid number one starter). One problem: This forced the lower seeds to play twice as many games.

Before Wichita State even played its first game, Creighton had already played three games.  Before Missouri State and Wichita State took the field for their second game on Friday, three teams had already been eliminated from the tournament. THREE! That included Creighton, which played four games in less than 48 hours. If Creighton had beaten SIU Friday, it would have had to play (and win) three more games in a 24-hour span. That would be seven games in four days. That would also mean Creighton would have played in seven of the eleven tournament games. Are you kidding me?

Quick question for the Missouri Valley Conference brainstems: How many teams have five starting pitchers? How about six? Seven?

Had the Jays beaten SIU and advanced to the championship round on Saturday, they might’ve had to throw the right-handed Pat Venditte in one game, and the left-handed version in the next. For a conference that wants to be thought of as “one of the big boys”, it sure has a juvenile way of going about its business.

Here’s the more criminal issue: Creighton was the #3 seed. Southern Illinois was the #5 seed. Both CU and SIU won their opening games on Wednesday. Both teams lost their first games on Thursday. But only Creighton had to come back the very next game and play again. Southern Illinois had the luxury of not playing again on Thursday, instead getting to sit and watch and wait for its Friday opponent. All of this despite Creighton being the #3 seed and having taken two out of three from SIU in the regular season. The teams in the losers’ bracket were not re-seeded following the opening day, giving Creighton the short end of the stick. Even as the #3 seed, the Jays were the home team only once and played in the early game all three days. How could the Valley, in a six-team tournament, not run through all of the possible scenarios and make sure that each seed would get a fair shake? Especially the #3 seed.

Creighton coach Ed Servais, one of the most politically correct coaches you will find, summed it up this way after the game:

“You couldn’t ask for more disadvantages… it’s ludicrous to play four games in 48 hours and expect your kids to play hard. We’re a third seed and we got screwed.”

Amen to that.

And shame on the Missouri Valley Conference.

Joe Pa Preaching to Joe Choir
Thursday, May 22, 2008

He may be old.  He may be close to retirement.  He should’ve switched to contacts 25 years ago.  But Joe Paterno has not lost his common sense.  In fact, he’s as sharp as a tack that’s been sharpened some more… or something.

While speaking in Pittsburgh, the 81-year-old coach said that he doesn’t know why college football does not have a playoff system.

“You can talk about missing class and all that kind of stuff, [yet] you see basketball go on forever. You have a lot of bogus excuses, but obviously the majority of people who have the say don’t want it.”

Preach it, Joe Pa. 

One More Year
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has proposed a fifth year of eligibility for college football players, while removing the redshirt option.

This idea was recently spearheaded by former UNL athletic director Steve Pederson. Do still like the idea?

I do. I’m sure the coaches do, too. They don’t want to burn a redshirt season by throwing a kid out on special teams, and with this they wouldn’t have to worry about it. At the same time, coaches might have to get a little more creative in order to get more freshmen out on the field. I suppose that’s a good problem to have. Coaches will be a lot less hesitant to use kids in spot situations, knowing they’re not burning redshirts. As long as the kids understand they still might not see any significant time that first season, I can’t see any problems with it.

Division I-A football players take an average of 4.7 years to graduate. They might as well play football the entire time they’re on campus. It might even help graduation rates.

Football is a unique monster. It has to be treated differently than all other sports. Coaches should be waving their pom-poms for this proposal.

Imagine hearing this, though: “After four years at Nebraska, ________ has decided to leave school early for the NFL.”

Odds and Ends
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

  • The Atlanta Falcons gave number one draft pick Matt Ryan a six-year, $72 million contract that included nearly $35 million in guaranteed. He should send a thank-you note to Michael Vick.
  • The Chicago Bulls won the NBA Draft Lottery, giving them the top pick in next month’s draft. The organization entered the lottery with a 1.7 percent chance of winning the top pick. No word yet if they picked the Powerball.
  • Oddly enough, the odds of the Bulls selecting any player other than Michael Beasley are also 1.7 percent.
  • I watched my first full episode of the 2008 version of “Dancing with the Stars” Tuesday night. Kristi Yamaguchi beat out Jason Taylor for the top prize. Yamaguchi probably didn’t think she would ever top that Olympic gold medal.
  • Too bad for Jason Taylor. If a current NFL player is going to go on “Dancing With the Stars”, he’d better win. The Dolphins might have already changed all the locks at team headquarters.
  • I saw a preview for ABC’s new summer television program, “Wipeout.” A question for those who saw it: Is it just me, or is this show a total rip-off of “Most Extreme Elimination Challenge” ?
  • After being sued by a Las Vegas casino for failing to pay $400,000 in gambling loans, Charles Barkley says he will never gamble again. In related stories, John Daly says he will never smoke again, Lindsay Lohan says she will never drink again, and Mark Mangino says he will never eat again.

Let’s Be Frank
Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday night we ran a portion of Jon Schuetz’s interview with Bo Pelini.  Schuetz asked him if he cares about what other people think about the things he says (i.e. talking about Solich getting a raw deal).  Pelini’s response, “If they don’t like it, tough.”

We ran a web poll asking you if Frank Solich should be honored at Memorial Stadium this season.  55% of you believe he should be saluted, while 45% are opposed to it.  Honestly, I was surprised by the results.  Husker fans love their own, and I know that most of them don’t like how Solich was so unceremoniously kicked out the door like an unwanted houseguest. 

I expected at least 70% of fans wanting some sort of peaceable closure with a type of tribute to Solich.

For those of you that say “no”, why not? 

Just curious.

Goose to Joba: Change Your Feathers
Tuesday, May 13, 2008

From the associated press:

Hall of Famer Goose Gossage has some issues with New York Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain’s expressive celebrations on the pitcher’s mound.

“There’s no place for it in the game,” Gossage told reporters Monday during a tour of the Hall of Fame, according to MLB.com. “I will stand by that and I love Joba Chamberlain. I’m with him down in spring training. He’s a great kid, but no one is passing the torch today. Nobody talks to them. When I broke into the big leagues, I didn’t say two words all year.”

Chamberlain’s antics again drew attention after he celebrated after striking out the Indians’ David Dellucci last Thursday. Two days earlier, Dellucci hit a game-winning pinch-hit home run off of Chamberlain.

Chamberlain gave an exaggerated fist pump and hollered after fanning Dellucci to end the inning.

“That’s who he is. He’s not showing anyone up. He’s going to show emotion,” Girardi said last Thursday. “He didn’t look at Dellucci. He looked into our dugout.”

That’s not exactly how Dellucci saw Chamberlain’s celebration.

“It is what it is. If he wants to yell and scream after a strikeout, I guess that’s what gets him going,” he said. “It’s May baseball. The home run was in a much bigger situation. I didn’t dance and scream.

“If a hitter did something like that, it would be bush. It’s kind of interesting how a pitcher gets away with it,” he said.

Said Chamberlain last Thursday: “It didn’t matter who it was, I just wanted to get them out.”

Chamberlain’s antics have fueled New York talk radio commentary. Now Gossage, who starred in the late innings for the Yankees from 1978 until 1983, is weighing in.

“I’m old school, I’m sorry,” Gossage told reporters, according to MLB.com. “I didn’t see [Dellucci] celebrating when he hit the home run.”

Gossage also told The Bergen Record that Chamberlain needs to remember what uniform he is wearing. According to Gossage, playing for the Yankees carries a different set of rules.

“That’s just not the Yankee way, what Joba did. Let everyone else do that stuff, but not a Yankee,” Gossage told The Record on Saturday. “What I don’t understand is, the kid’s got the greatest mentor in the world in Mariano [Rivera]. He’s one of the leaders of the team, so you’d think it wouldn’t happen on that team.

“But there’s no one to pass the torch anymore, no one to teach the young kids how to act. The Mets did a lot of that [celebrating] last year, and look how it came back to haunt them.”

Gossage told The Record he would never have been allowed to show emotion as Chamberlain does. His teammates would have made sure of that, Gossage said.

“I’m trying to think of what would’ve happened if I did what Joba did, especially if I was a rookie,” he told The Record. “The veterans would’ve sat me down so fast, it would’ve never happened a second time. Truthfully, there would’ve never been a first time.”

—————————–

Give me a break, Goose.  You recently got voted into the Hall of Fame.  Why are you so bitter?

This is who Joba is.  It’s who he has been for a long time.  He wore his emotions on his sleeve at Nebraska, and he’s wearing them on his entire uniform in New York.  Funny how nobody said anything last year.  Now, when one player makes a remark about his antics, everybody has something to say about it.

I love that phrase, “The Yankee Way.”  Does the “Yankee Way” call for pitchers to ‘roid-up?  How about using steroids as a means to hitting home runs, a la Jason Giambi?  How about Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson brawling in the dugout?  This morally upright way of conducting onseself is an illiusion of grandeur.

The “Yankee Way” is winning.  Period.

Who is out of line here?  Goose or Joba?

Huskers vs Aggies
Thursday, May 8, 2008

I’m off to Colorado for the weekend, so I’m going to miss Nebraska’s seres with Texas A&M. It’s sure to be a great one, as the Aggies come into Lincoln riding a 15-game conference winning streak.

So, your job is to fill me in on what I miss.

Nebraska needs to take two out of three (at minimum) to have a chance at a regular season conference title.

Click on “responses” above and submit your comments about the weekend series.

Tragedy at Churchill Downs
Saturday, May 3, 2008

Big Brown captured the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.  Perhaps overshadowed by the triumph was the tragedy of runner-up Eight Belles.  The lone filly in the race broke both front ankles shortly after crossing the finish line, and had to immediately be euthanized.

“There was no possible way to save her,” on-call veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage said in an Associated Press online story. “She broke both front ankles. That’s a bad injury.”

In a television interview, the veterinarian said horses sometimes experience strains when they finish a race but it is very unusual for a horse to experience fractures in both front legs following a race.

“When we passed the wire I stood up,” Saez said in another online story. “She started galloping funny. I tried to pull her up. That’s when she went down.”

A couple of years ago we looked on as Barbaro pulled up lame in the Preakness, shattering his right hind leg.  He was eventually euthanized after developing laminitis as a result of the injury.

Do these injuries in any way impact your view of horseracing ?