Back in Black and Gold
I have returned from Birmingham to Vandyland. Although I didn't eat my hot dog quota, I did make it out to the SEC baseball tournament this weekend for Saturday night's LSU-MSU game, a 17-5 blowout. A couple of quick notes on the game:
- Rain Effects: Being on hand to watch the university that grinds pitchers to dust (LSU/Ben McDonald U), I wondered how this game would be affected by the compressed schedule caused by the Wednesday rainout. LSU didn't suffer too badly, but MSU's staff got lit up early and often. I can't imagine it's a positive thing for these pitchers' development to have to pitch back-to-back doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday, plus the opening round games on Thursday and the eventual championship games on Sunday. For LSU and Alabama, that was six games in four days. We'll see how these teams hold up in the NCAA tournament.
- Small Ball: With three runs already plated and runners on first and second and nobody out, facing a reliever who I believe had pitched earlier in the day against Mississippi, LSU orders its DH to bunt the runners over. Are you kidding me? MSU has shown no ability to record an out and you give them an easy out? The move "worked" in that the runners advanced and eventually scored, but given the hitting that came to pass, they would've scored anyway. Although, watching this hitter later in the game, he is a free swinger. Maybe the manager simply didn't want to screw up the momentum with a strike out or double-play.
- LSU Fans: We sat on the LSU side, and though I met some nice folks from Memphis who were big LSU fans, the rest of the LSU contingent certainly attempted to live up to their fabled levels of sportsmanship (though it wasn't nearly as bad as I imagined it would be with no fights in the stands). The MSU fans continued to cheer the very few positive events for their team (first baserunner, first run), so the relatively muted fans (to their credit, the LSU fans had turned down the wattage after getting ahead 14-0) re-energized themselves to chant "LSU! LSU!" after every positive event, as they added another 3 runs. Perhaps they were just too worn out from so many games and such a quick knockout. But, you know the kind of people I'm talking about. The people who chant "USA! USA!" at Olympic men's basketball games against Uruguay and 48 point lead. Basically, it's people who have no diminishing marginal returns to patriotic/fanatic revelry. This wasn't nearly so bad, but it was close to where marginal returns equal zero.
- Big Field: LSU and MSU have sent more than their share of stars to the majors, and the prime candidate for LSU this year, according to the faithful, is shortstop Aaron Hill. He certainly played well, though he didn't seem so obviously better than everyone. Seems to have a little too much double-pump in his throws to first, like many infielders I watched in pre-majors baseball. So, I'm not holding my breath on him becoming an All-Star.
What was surprising was that these fellas were playing on a minor league field, the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, home to your Birmingham Barons (AA-CHW) and managed by former Mets 2B Wally Backman; and, yet, even with aluminum bats, the biggest hitters on both teams had trouble getting the ball out of the park. Several LSU players came real close, bouncing many hits off the fences. It also seemed the larger dimensions affected the fielders. Maybe they were exhausted from so many games, but it seemed like the outfielders on both sides (though mostly for MSU) had a tough time judging flight of the ball and misplayed possible outs into hits. Talking to several fans there, the key difference was in the power alleys: LSU has comparable measures down the line and to straightaway center, but the pro field has a little more curve to it.
Anyhoo, that covers me for now about the SEC tournament. I got through 1 of the NLRH CDs. Mini-capsule review: the most amazing thing about the show is the quality of its broadcast in terms of sound effects and mimicry of styles. But, the only bits that had me laughing out loud were the "Canadian Newsreel," which featured a story about a spelling bee between 25 hockey all-stars and a group of retarded children (obviously, the kids won), and a James Taylor parody called, "Methadone Maintenance Man." It's hard to evaluate innovators in an artform long after the innovation is common knowledge. Sure, Galileo was smart, but who thinks it was that
hard to show the effects of gravity or that the world was round? We've been thinking that way for what seems like forever, but, of course, we haven't. As I go through the rest of the discs, I'll give a more complete review.