Thursday, May 31, 2007

May NL power rankings

Now for the National League.

1. New York -- The Mets again are the class of the NL.
2. Los Angeles -- Slightly better than the Braves.
3. Atlanta -- Slowing down, but still much better than 2006.
4. Milwaukee -- Earth, meet Brewers. Brewers, meet Earth.
5. San Diego -- Peavy, Young, Germano. Which one doesn't belong?
6. Arizona -- D'backs are making noise.
7. Philadelphia -- Phils are tough to phigure out.
8. Florida -- Is Benitez really the answer to pen problems?
9. San Francisco -- Barry in Bonds-sized slump.
10. Colorado -- Rockies are learning how to win.
11. Pittsburgh -- Pirates are second in the Comedy Central.
12. Chicago -- Another long year in store on the North Side.
13. St. Louis -- Don't worry about a Red October in Missouri.
14. Houston -- Ditto for Texas.
15. Washington -- Nationals not as bad as expected.
16. Cincinnati -- Reds are worse.

May AL power rankings

The second month of the season is history. Let's take a look around and see how things look ranking-wise.

1. Boston -- The Red Sox are rolling as the Yankees come to town again.
2. Los Angeles -- The Angels quietly keep playing good baseball.
3. Cleveland -- Hafner is heating up and that's bad news for opposing pitchers.
4. Detroit -- Cleary the Tigers weren't a fluke last year.
5. Minnesota -- Twins keep finding ways to win.
6. Seattle -- Mariners have been a big surprise.
7. Chicago -- Ozzie seat as hot as his language?
8. Oakland -- A's have ownership rights to the DL.
9. Baltimore -- Back to .500 is an accomplishment for the O's.
10. Toronto -- Jays were flying high until A-Rod screamed.
11. New York -- Cue the circus music.
12. Tampa Bay -- If only they had some pitching.
13. Kansas City -- They're supposed to be in last place.
14. Texas -- You could argue they're not supposed to be in last place.

Another feather in NSU's cap

The Northwestern State Demons are not playing in the NCAA baseball regionals this year. That doesn't mean NSU fans don't have reasons to watch.

Head coach Rob Childress is a former Northwestern State pitching coach who has emerged as a magic man at A&M. Childress, who brought along Matt Deggs (another former NSU assistant) from Arkansas (under another ex-Demon mentor Dave Van Horn), has turned the downtrodden Aggies program back into a regional host in two years.

The Demons ties don't stop there. Five schools have coaches with ties to NSU. They are A&M, Nebraska, Southern Miss, Arkansas and Sam Houston.

For more extensive background on the coaches, check out NSU's Daily Demon blog here.

The bottom line is the Southland Conference has been a hotbed for coaching and playing prospects for years. And for one school to have ties to that many more is certainly an accomplishment NSU should be proud of.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Yankee Way

If you wonder why people hate A-Rod, here is Exhibit A

Look, Alex Rodriguez certainly isn't the first major league player to go to a strip club. He is, unfortunately, not the first to go to a strip club with a woman who is not his wife.

What makes people hate Alex Rodriguez is that he's a big phony. He tries to put on this great guy image when the reality is he's just another ballplayer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Not quite the Lastros, but close

How bad can things get for the Houston Astros?

At this rate, it may take one of the Astros' second-half surges staring today if the team is going to have any hope of making the playoffs.

How bad has it been? The Astros have gone through the starting rotation twice and Roy Oswalt is 0-2. Go find the last time that's happened to the Houston ace when he's been healthy.

My good friend and fellow baseball writer Larry Wade may be the most optimistic soul I know, especially when it comes to the Astros. I'm guessing even he's having a hard time staying positive about the final 111 games of this season.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Back from Boston

I attended a Boston Red Sox home game last Sunday (5/20) for the first time in nearly 10 years.

Fenway Park is still home to the Red Sox but a lot has changed since my last trip. For one thing, tickets are almost impossible to buy. I had to go through Stub Hub to get these.

There is more of an event atmosphere around the park than it was back in the day.

They have made some improvements and renovations to the park, but it still carries the old-time feel it always had.

And, oh yeah, the product on the field is better than it was 10 years ago. Of course, you get what you pay for is the way I look at it.

Surprises on Selection Monday

The NCAA Tournament selection committee should be commended.

Staring down its own dubious history of rewarding power conferences -- and power programs -- the committee handed out only five bids to the Southeastern Conference and left Georgia Tech, a College World Series team a year ago, at home.

The ACC took home the most bids, putting seven teams in the 64-team field. The committee also rewarded northern conferences like the Big East and Big Ten with three bids apiece.

A year ago, the gnashing of teeth revolved around the unfair treatment of the northern teams and the perceived bias toward Sun Belt schools and conferences. At least for one year, the committee tried to make amends for that.

Quick hits: All 16 host teams are No. 1 seeds.

As predicted on this blog, though not necessarily in order, the eight national seeds are No. 1 Vanderbilt, No. 2 Rice, No. 3. North Carolina, No. 4 Texas, No. 5 Arizona State, No. 6 Florida State, No. 7 Arkansas and No. 8 San Diego. If you're a fan of projections and old-school rivalries, you'll notice Texas and Arkansas would not meet until the national championship series. Same goes for Texas and Rice and Vandy-Arkansas.

Traditional programs -- like Georgia Tech -- took a hit. Tech is probably the toughest snub, owning a winning record in the ACC and an RPI of 29. Tennessee and Alabama, the two SEC Tournament teams still eligible to reach the tournament, had RPIs in the mid-50s and 60s. With a down year in the SEC, that's just not good enough to merit a bid.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The sites we've seen

The NCAA announced the 16 regional hosts for the 2007 NCAA Baseball Tournament, which begins Friday.

Once again, the SEC leads the way as four schools nabbed hosting duties. Apparently, reputation -- and of course money -- speaks volumes with the committee. The SEC has no shortage of either when it comes to baseball.

But four sites? Remember this is a "down" year for the conference. We already know all eight teams that reached the SEC Tournament will not make the NCAAs. We can pretty much guarantee the four who missed out on a trip to the Hoover Met will not get a call from the selection committe on Monday saying welcome to a regional.

Granted, Arkansas and Vanderbilt deserved to host. In all likelihood, the Hogs and Commodores will be among the top eight national seeds. Vandy probably tops the discussion of the No. 1 overall seed.

Ole Miss and South Carolina have nice facilities and plenty of recent history hosting regionals. It just seems funny to me that the committee, which has done a great job in doling out regionals to first-time hosts decided to stick to the old guard this year.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Attention college players

Former Captain Shreve and Parkway coach Ronnie Coker is putting together a team to play in the Cotton States League, an NCAA-approved wood-bat summer league.

Tryouts, which are open to any college player and recently (2007) high school graduates, will be held Wednesday night at 7 at LSUS.

For more information, you can e-mail or visit

Check out the 'Dores

I may be forced to eat my words just yet. All season long I've dismissed the Vanderbilt Commodores -- especially David Price -- as being overrated.

But Vandy's run through the SEC Tournament has been eye-opening. Everyone knew about Price, who is less than two weeks away from commanding mega millions from whichever team drafts him, but Tim Corbin's bunch is proving to be much more than a one-man show.

Pitching and defense wins championships. Yes, that's even true at the college level. Well it's more true now than it was 10 years ago at least.

And having some offense never hurts. With Pedro Alvarez and Dominic de la Osa in the lineup, the Commodores can bash with the best. SEC haters had better beware. If Vanderbilt keeps this up -- and to be honest there's not a long history of postseason success to fall back on -- the SEC trophy case may get a little bit more crowded.

Friday, May 25, 2007

No title for Florida

Pat McMahon had better be on high alert.

The Florida baseball coach was already under a bit of stress just residing on the same campus as national championship coaches Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan.

Now you can bet the heat is on McMahon, a genuinely affable coach. His Gators were knocked from the SEC Tournament on Friday, finishing the season 29-30 and eliminating themselves from NCAA Regional contention.

McMahon took the Gators to the 2005 College World Series championship series, but lost to Texas 2-0. The Gators have not been in a regional in the last two seasons.

Given that athletic directory Jeremy Foley once fired the Gators softball coach after she reached the regionals, McMahon may want to keep a moving company's phone number handy.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tech in trouble

Louisiana Tech's season comes down to one game today.

Beat Fresno State and Tech remains alive not only in the WAC Tournament, but in the hunt for an NCAA at-large berth. Sure the chances of Tech making it to a regional as an at-large team are small, but, unlike Tulane and Centenary, they exist.

Tech is slipping into a bad habit of peaking too early and it's something the Bulldogs must overcome if they are to break a long regional drought anytime soon.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rocket/Yankees overload

OK I realize ESPN is located in the middle of Red Sox-Yankees country but Wednesday entered the a little too much territory.

On ESPN the ninth of 18 Red Sox-Yankees games was shown to a national audience. At the same time, on ESPN2, Roger Clemens continued his warm up tour by pitching at Double-A Trenton. Trenton was facing Portland, which just happened to be the Double-A affiliate of the Red Sox.

If there are two things the worldwide leader shoves down our throats during baseball season it's the Yankees and any story related to the Yankees. Wednesday night we got all of it rolled into one big nautious package.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Strange times in the state

No NSU in the Southland Conference Tournament. No LSU in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

What's up with Louisiana college baseball? Read Brian Vernellis' story in Wednesday's Times or on and you'll see what it is.

It's called parity and it's happening across the country.

Take a look at last year's national champion Oregon State. The Beavers may not make the NCAA postseason this season. Perennial power Cal State Fullerton is a bubble team. And when was the last time you heard a peep out of Stanford on the national scene.

Down years aren't limited to just Louisiana teams. Talented players are emerging everywhere, giving every program a chance to be competitive on a national level.

So don't feel bad if you're team didn't have a great year this year. Redemption could be less than a calendar year away.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Still reason to see SLC Tournament

The Northwestern State Demons will host the Southland Conference Baseball Tournament beginning Wednesday. The Demons won't be playing in it, however.

Still there is reason to go watch the tournament.

The SLC is one of the more underrated college baseball conferences in the country. The league produces top-notch coaches -- four SEC coaches are SLC alums and Texas A&M's Rob Childress was an NSU pitching coach.

The conference currently has 18 major league players among its alumni and NSU's Brian Lawrence is waiting to break into the Mets' rotation while working at Triple-A New Orleans.

The conference has produced first-round draft picks as well. In fact, it wasn't long ago that current No. 1 tourney seed Texas-San Antonio had compensatory pick Mark Schramek manning third base. And who could forget Hunter Pence, the Houston Astros spark plug who played his college ball at Texas-Arlington.

No Demons likely means a lower attendance for the tournament. The quality of the play, however, shouldn't.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Weekend wrap

Thanks to the Southland Conference and the Southeastern Conference playing Thursday-Saturday series this week I probably could have put this blog up yesterday. But I digress as we review what we learned in the final weekend of regular-season college baseball.

We learned Vanderbilt has no mercy and that's a good thing. By playing its regulars and sweeping LSU, the Commodores proved they weren't happy with just winning the SEC title. They want the No. 1 overall seed. Sorry LSU fans, your team just happened to be the last hurdle for what has become this year's chic pick to add another national title to the SEC's coffers.

We learned NSU's roller coaster of a season ended just short of a nice peak. Making the SLC Tournament with a million JUCO transfers would have been great, but at least the Demons have something to build on entering 2008. Winning a series at Lamar -- long a house of horrors for even the best Demons teams -- can do that for a program.

Finally we learned Centenary can't seem to make the Mid-Con Tournament without a little drama. The Gents lost the first game of a home series with Oakland before taking the final three to earn their postseason bid. That's the good news. The bad? Centenary opens with Mid-Con power Oral Roberts. Have fun with that one, Ed McCann. You'll need that ever-present positivity if your team sees Chance Chapman again.

An aside as we're exactly eight days from selection Monday -- my best (ahem) educated guess at this season's national top 8 seeds. In no certain order, Vanderbilt, Texas, Rice, Florida State, Arkansas, San Diego, North Carolina and Arizona State.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Welcome back, Baker

Worrying about the two home runs Scott Baker surrendered in Minnesota's 5-2 win over Milwaukee on Saturday night would be picking nits.

As a whole, Baker was exactly what the Twins needed and the performance was exactly what Baker needed.

After an up-and-down 2006 season, Baker struggled statistically in spring training and was optioned to Triple-A Rochester. One of the biggest bug-a-boos Baker dealt with a season ago was the long ball. He didn't quite erase that Saturday night, but he did what good pitchers do. He limited the damage done by the home runs he allowed.

J.J. Hardy and Bill Hall touched Baker for solo home runs in the former Captain Shreve star's 2007 MLB debut, but that was all the NL Central leaders scored off Baker and former Shreveport Captain Joe Nathan.

Minnesota's starting pitching has been uneven this season, even Johan Santana hasn't been his normal dominant self. Baker's performance in a hitter's haven like Milwaukee's Miller Park bodes well for the rest of his season and the Twins' chances at repeating last year's magical run to October.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Tough out for NSU

Mitch Gaspard and his staff gambled on this baseball season at Northwestern State.

Not in the monetary sense, but in the philosophical sense. Gaspard went for more of a quick-fix approach, bringing in scads of junior college transfers to replace the winningest class of seniors in NSU baseball history.

On Friday, the house showed its cards and NSU was on the losing side. The Demons dropped an 8-6 decision to Central Arkansas, eliminated NSU from the Southland Conference Tournament, which begins Wednesday at Brown-Stroud Field in Natchitoches.

The Demons found some gems like shortstop Brandon Richey in this recruiting class. But given the overall roller-coaster season NSU endured -- and the Demons' inability to get hot for an extended period of time -- it will be interesting to see how Gaspard focuses his recruiting efforts going forward.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Good and bad day for local teams

A bad day for LSU was equally as good for Northwestern State.

While the Tigers dropped a 4-1 decision at Vanderbilt, putting a dent in their SEC Tournament hopes, the Demons put together a two-out, ninth-inning rally to save their season.

NSU, which hosts the Southland Conference Tournament next week, needs to sweep Central Arkansas this weekend AND get some help to reach the SLC Tournament. The Demons took a huge step toward that Thursday night, even if Stephen F. Austin didn't help NSU's cause.

The SEC and SLC started their series early this weekend to give the teams who qualify for their conference tournaments an extra day or two of rest. Here's hoping the early starts and finishes like Thursday don't go unnoticed because of starting a day earlier.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Groundhog day in Texas

The Texas Rangers hit the quarter point of the Major League Baseball season with 25 losses.

Doing the math that would make the Rangers a 100-loss team at 62-100.

Can you fire the owner?

The Rangers stink. They've stunk for a while now. They still haven't figured out a way to either obtain or develop pitching.

This is sort of like the movie "Groundhog Day.'' Every spring the Rangers hit. Every spring the Rangers can't pitch. Every spring the Rangers stink.

I know The Ballpark is a hitter's park. But you've got to do something (move the fences back? humidor? Green Monster?) to help give your pitchers a chance.

And by the way, it appears former Rangers GM Doug Melvin knew a little bit about what he was doing. Melvin has built the Milwaukee Brewers into a team that looks like it will contend in the NL Central.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Astros have a breakthrough moment

The Houston Astros exorcised some ghosts Tuesday night and not just keeping Barry Bonds in the yard.

Houston won a home game against the San Francisco Giants for the first time since 2005. I'm not saying the Giants felt at home at Minute Maid Park but I swear the last time I was there former Shreveport Captain Pedro Feliz was enjoying some home cooking at Larry Dierker's restaurant just behind home plate.

The Astros need wins at this point of the season, just so they don't lose complete sight of the Milwaukee Brewers. The NL Central remains the most winnable division in baseball, but that's a double-edge sword.

Because a lower number of victories would win the division, it likely means no wild-card entrant will come from the Central. So for the Brewers, Cubs, Astros and Cardinals it looks like division title or bust when it comes to October baseball.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Short break for Shreveport-Bossier

When Oakland designated Todd Walker for assignment Saturday, it marked the first time in a while the Shreveport-Bossier City area did not have an active player in the major leagues.

That could change shortly.

After Minnesota released Sidney Ponson, Scott Baker's name surfaced as a possible replacement for Saturday's game. Baker has pitched well at Triple-A Rochester, posting a 3.16 ERA and avoiding home runs, his biggest problem from last season.

Should Walker decide to call it quits, Baker is the area's best hope to carry the flag through the rest of the major league season.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Weekend wrap

One more weekend of play is all we have left in college baseball's 2007 regular season. Here's what we learned from the second-to-last weekend of conference play:

We learned LSU isn't dead in the water, despite its own best efforts. Former Haughton star T.J. Forrest saved the Tigers' postseason hopes for at least one more weekend with four scoreless innings of relief Sunday. LSU still needs an inspired effort next weekend at Vanderbilt or help from a couple of teams if the Tigers plan on being more than spectators at the Hoover Met.

We learned NSU isn't quite ready to give up on the season. The Demons took two of three from Lamar in a place that hasn't exactly been kind to them over the years. Still NSU is in desperate need of help to make the Southland Conference Tournament, which, oh by the way, the Demons will host.

We learned Louisiana Tech still has some bug-a-boos in California. The Bulldogs need to shake those and hope an open weekend before the WAC Tournment is the restful tonic that equals a tourney title and an NCAA regional bid.

We learned Tulane has fallen a couple of pegs in the Conference USA pecking order. Two years ago, the Wave dropped Rice in the New Orleans Super Regional after losing the first game. This year, in Houston, Tulane dropped all three games, continuing its late-season swoon.

Finally, we learned Centenary is still struggling on the road. Granted the Gents' four straight road losses came to the class of the Mid-Con -- Oral Roberts. Still, until Sunday's 3-2 finale, none of the games were close. It's time for the Gents to start making some progress in the standings or start looking in a different direction philosophically.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Bad day for Walker

Todd Walker fits the definition of well-traveled baseball player.

After Saturday, he is the position of having to make a decision whether to find another baseball home or call it quits after parts of 12 seasons in the big leagues.

On Saturday, the Oakland A's designated Walker for assignment, ending his six-week tenure with baseball's version of Animal House. On the surface, it doesn't seem to be a personal move. Few in baseball these days are.

It appears Walker was the victim of a numbers crunch. When he caught on with the A's in late March, after being cut loose by San Diego, Oakland was not expecting first baseman Dan Johnson to return from an injury until around June 1.

That didn't happen. Johnson's back and is off to a fast start, hitting better than .400. The A's have been nicked by injuries and, now that some of the players are returning to action, someone had to be the odd man out. Apparently, that was Walker.

Who knows what Walker will do? If he stays in the game, he has plenty to offer in a clubhouse leader position and as either a pinch-hitter or a left-handed platoon option. If he retires, he can look back on his major league career with a smile, 1,300-plus hits and one heck of a postseason run in 2003.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Just when you think it's safe ...

A couple of weeks ago I thought I had seen everything when FSN Southwest announcers Tom Grieve and Josh Lewin went shirtless for the seventh inning stretch in chilly Cleveland.

I stand, make that sit, corrected.

Everyone who knows baseball knows how bad the Milwaukee Brewers have been over the past 10-15 years. The losing seasons. The lack of playoff berths. Yada, yada, yada.

Now, one intrepid fan is riding as high as his Brewers and he has taken his fandom to the Internet. Just remember as you view this site, the word fan is short for fanatic. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ryan goes down

Bad karma, bad luck, bad break? Take your pick, but they're all happening in Toronto this year.

The latest bit of bad news to hit north of the border came Thursday, when the Jays announced B.J. Ryan, a former Airline standout, would miss the rest of the season because of Tommy John surgery.

Remember, the Jays lied about Ryan's injury during spring training and it was clear something wasn't right about the All-Star closer.

While nothing good usually comes from an injury, there are slivers of hope for Ryan.

The recovery time for Tommy John patients is getting smaller and smaller. Combined with his usually light, in pitch count anyway, workload, Ryan should be back to his old self by early next season.

That's about the only good news Toronto has heard in a while.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Death, taxes and Rangers losing to Yankees

Wow, good to see the Texas Rangers show up against the New York Yankees.

Man, do the Rangers lay down for that team or what.

I realize these guys weren't around in the 1990s for the playoff carnage, but it makes you wonder if there isn't some kind of leftover mental scars.

Whatever the reason, you can just pencil in a Yankee win when you see the Rangers coming up on the New York schedule.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Century mark

For my story in Wednesday's Times, I interviewed several coaches, parents and pitchers about pitch counts for high school pitchers.

And something kept coming up. The number 100.

It's a round number. It's even. Easy to relate something to or against.

But why 100? Why not something like, oh I don't know, 50?

I guess it's just another in the litany of figures that make up the numerically enjoyable game of baseball.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Lawrence to the Mets?

Looks like Brian Lawrence, Northwestern State product, could be a New Orleans Zephyr if all goes well in a physical.

Lawrence is close to signing a minor league contract with the New York Mets, less than one month after his release by the Colorado Rockies. Should Lawrence find his sinker and a little more velocity on his fastball, he could be a nice fit in the back end of the Mets rotation.

Given the Mets play in a pitcher's park, Lawrence is worth the gamble. The Mets already have started such luminaries as Chan Ho Park, Jorge Sosa and Mike Pelphrey this season. Granted Pelphrey should be much better than the other two. After all, he's a rookie.

Still, nice gamble by the Mets, who have nothing left to lose and just about nothing left at the end of their rotation.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Weekend wrap

Another weekend of college baseball is complete. Here's what we learned as we draw ever closer to conference tournament time.

We learned Paul Mainieri has a magic rabbit in his hat. His name is Jared Bradford and he has won or saved 10 of LSU's 11 SEC victories. LSU has a good chance of reaching the SEC Tournament if Bradford's right arm stays connected to his lanky body.

We learned Louisiana Tech is looking at another fade if its not careful. The Bulldogs scraped out one win in Nevada over the weekend, but Tech probably needs a sweep at Fresno State to carry any kind of momentum into the WAC Tournament.

We learned NSU is in serious trouble. The Demons, who host the SLC Tournament later this month, have two weeks left to shake off their funk and make the tournament enjoyable for anyone who lives in Natchtioches.

We learned home is sweeter than the road for Centenary. The Gents took 3 of 4 from Southern Utah, but are still looking for a way to notch a Mid-Con sweep. Still, their first series win in conference play couldn't have come at a better time.

Finally we learned Omaha is considering a new stadium that would replace Rosenblatt Stadium, home of the College World Series. What price progress? Sure I love the new wave of minor league parks as much as anyone. Took in a game at Round Rock last summer and loved it, but taking the CWS out of Rosenblatt Stadium, smacks of corporate America and for college athletics that's a shame.

Reflecting on Clemens

Well at least we don't have to spend the month of May hearing over and over again where Roger Clemens may end up. We now know he will be pitching for the New York Yankees.

Good or bad, you ask? Well if you're a Yankees fan you have to hope Clemens can once again stave off Father Time. And, even if he does, is your team's problems solved by adding one starting pitcher.

You have to remember this is a guy who less than two seasons ago threw 100-plus pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in a playoff game and got exactly three swing-and-misses. Clemens doesn't last past the sixth inning much any more, which makes him a perfect fit for the floundering Yankees rotation.

Now for the teams who lost out on Clemens. The Astros know it's waaaaaaay too early to throw in the towel and the Red Sox have no reason to mess with their chemistry right now.

In hindsight we shouldn't be surprised at this move for Clemens. First, Andy Pettitte returned to the Bronx, so it was probably better than a 50-50 shot Clemens would follow. Just remember in 2004 it was Clemens who followed Pettitte to Houston. So far Pettitte has been the Yankees' only reliable pitcher. Now only (Father) time will tell if Clemens makes it two.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Why am I not surprised?

So Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi lied about B.J. Ryan's arm injury in spring training. Are we really surprised?

Ricciardi has a team that was expected to contend for the American League East title. He is in the process of seeing a payroll that is increasing each year. He shelled out $47 million for Ryan after the 2005 season.

So why lie? Toronto has a few prospects that are ready to contribute at the major league level. My guess is Ricciardi didn't want to show any signs of weakness when he and the Blue Jays brass said Ryan, a former Airline High standout, was dealing with a back problem in spring training.

Instead, Ryan was battling an elbow injury that has him currently on the 60-day disabled list and the Blue Jays suffering the karmic retribution for lying about Ryan's malady.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Tech has to to "watch"

Louisiana Tech put two players on the latest Brooks Wallace Award Watch List -- Brandon Hudson of Benton and Brian Rike.

The Wallace Award is the College Baseball Foundation's Player of the Year Award and the first three awards have gone to players who have become high-round draft picks (Kurt Suzuki in 2004; Alex Gordon, 2005 and Brad Lincoln, 2006). While it seems a long shot for either Tech player to grab the award, Hudson and Rike have proven their seasons have been worthy of national attention.

Rike is among the nation's top home run hitters and Hudson has been a two-way threat who has earned WAC Player and Pitcher of the Week honors this season.

What is most impressive is they're drawing the attention at Tech, which is battling to raise its profile and its NCAA Regional hopes. The Bulldogs' pair of nominees equal the total for the rest of the state. Tulane's Brad Emaus and LSU's Blake Dean are the only other Pelican staters on the list.

For what it's worth (and I have no official say in this), my top three would be: Kyle Russell, OF, Texas; David Price, LHP, Vanderbilt and Brian Matusz, RHP, San Diego.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Funny how things work out

The Oakland A's have been ravaged by injuries in the first month and a few days of the 2007 season. Therefore, erstwhile genius GM Billy Beane has turned into Monty Hall and played "Let's Make a Deal" with his minor league rosters.

About the only surprise is Todd Walker remains an Oakland Athletic. Nothing against Todd or what he's done, but it seems whenever someone is moving from team to team, there is a good chance it involves the former Airline High and LSU star.

One of the negatives when it comes to Walker, however, is who the A's are acquiring. When Mike Piazza injured his shoulder and was deemed to be out for 4-to-6 weeks, Beane acquired Jack Cust, the quintessential "4A" player. Simply put, Cust rakes at Triple-A then rusts in the big leagues.

Sure Walker's .250 average isn't setting the world on fire, but given his sporadic playing time, that's understandable. Given the spate of injuries on the A's, it would make sense for Bob Geren and the A's management to give Walker a shot as Oakland's DH while Piazza recovers.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

SEC + RPI = Strength

Back in the not-so-distant day, there usually was a dominant team or two in SEC baseball. Whether it was LSU or South Carolina or Alabama, year in and year out, you could count on some team separating itself from the pack.

The standings this season bear that out somewhat. Arkansas is emerging as the dominant team in the West, same for Vanderbilt in the East.

But where the SEC is showing its real strength is in the offical RPI rankings which can be found here. Sure the RPI can be manipulated, just ask the Missouri Valley Conference basketball schedulers.

The most important number, however, is 7. That's how many years it has been since LSU brought the conference its last national championship.

For all its talk about being the best college baseball conference in the country -- and, for what it's worth, I agree -- the SEC needs to end its title drought sometime in the next two or three seasons. Otherwise, all that talk will lead to another label for the conference in the postseason -0 chokers.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Long year ahead?

Jayson Stark, MLB writer over at, has an interesting column today about the importance of April in the MLB season.

So many times you hear teams say "You can't win a divsion in April." That may be true, but Stark's research proves you can lose one.

And among those teams who are in dire need of a quick turnaround in May are the two closest to here -- Texas and Houston.

And neither of them started May off on a good note, as each gave up double-digit runs and lost at home. It's not over for either the Rangers or the Astros, but they have put themselves in a deeper hole than they want to be in.