Monday, April 21, 2008

Good for Tulane

As LSU and Tulane prepare to resume their rivalry at Tulane's rebuilt Turchin Stadium (sorry, Richie, I can't bring myself to call it Greer Field at Turchin Stadium), several thoughts come to mind.

The first is to be happy for Wave head coach Rick Jones and his team. They finally have a home again. A real home. A home they don't have to share with a Triple-A team.

And, to top it off, their home has been rebuilt. See Turchin was going to be renovated following the 2005 college baseball season -- a season that ended with Tulane playing in the College World Series. Well, some two months after Baylor eliminated the Wave from college baseball's marquee event, we all know what happened.

Katrina hit and New Orleans never was the same.

Ditto for Tulane. It spent that fall working out and living in Lubbock, Texas. Then it came back to New Orleans and spent two seasons playing in cavernous Zephyr Field, home of the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs. It was a marriage of convenience, but, according to Jones, not of happiness on both sides.

Regardless, Tulane has a new ballpark -- a sparkling one at that. So as LSU makes its maiden voyage to the redone yard in New Orleans, it's time to be happy for Jones and a Tulane program that, hopefully, is home for good.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Weekend wrap

We're another weekend closer to the end of college baseball season. What did we learn?

* We learned LSU's wacky season just gets wackier. The Tigers had a chance to salvage one game from their series with East-leading Georgia. Then the bullpen blows a late lead and extra innings are rendered meaningless by the SEC travel curfew. Wow.

* We learned there's heart in Natchitoches and on Kings Highway. Northwestern State and Centenary both needed sweeps this weekend on the road and both delivered.

* We learned Louisiana Tech looks like a team that has given up. Tech finally gets the starting pitching that it thought it would have all year and suddenly the Bulldogs can't hit or hold a lead.

* Finally, we learned Grambling is a legitimate SWAC title contender. The Tigers were one out away from a weekend sweep of Arkansas-Pine Bluff before a walkoff grand slam ended their hopes of a sweep. Still, the Tigers own a .667 winning percentage in conference. That's good enough for me.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I-20 blues

For a pair of baseball teams wearing red, white and blue along I-20, Saturday night was particularly dreadful.

On the college level, Louisiana Tech FINALLY got a good start out of slumping junior Luke Burnett at San Jose State -- and the bullpen blows it.

On the opposite coast, the Texas Rangers FINALLY got a good start from slumping free-agent signee Jason Jennings -- and the bullpen blows it.

Tech already has had a long season and it looks like the Rangers are following the lead of the Bulldogs.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Missed my predictions

Here we are three weeks into the Major League Baseball and I still haven't made any predictions.

You could say I learned my lesson with my gawd-awful attempts the last couple of years, but the truth is I forgot. I got so busy doing something else that I didn't post the predictions you all have come to love -- and, I'm sure, mock.

So, without further ado, here goes another edition of Pugh's Picks for the Major League Baseball season:

American League
East champion -- Boston. I know it's not always a chic pick to go with a team that either A) won a World Series or B) went deep into the playoffs. But I can't see the Yankees coming up with enough pitching to overtake the Red Sox.

Central champion -- Detroit. Slow start or not, this offense will hit and the pitchers will pitch. And the Tigers will overcome their early deficit.

West champion -- Los Angeles. The return of John Lackey, and prudent planning by the front office, will keep them a step ahead of Seattle.

Wild-card -- New York. Why not? The Yankees still have enough money to fill the holes that will appear during the season.

National League

East champion -- New York. The Mets appear to have shaken the hangover from last season and have gotten the Phillies out of their heads.

Central champion -- St. Louis. The Cardinals appear to be for real. Dave Duncan is a certifiable miracle worker.

West champion -- Arizona. They added Danny Haren to their rotation and they learned to hit. Look out NL.

Wild card -- Chicago. Despite having Ted Lilly as a No. 2 starter, the Cubs should beat up on the Central enough to win the wild card.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Belated congratulations

When I leave the office for my two days off, I try to get as far away from work-related things as I can.

So, to Louisiana-Lafayette baseball coach Tony Robichaux, a belated congratulations on career win No. 500 as the Ragin' Cajuns skipper.

I worked with and for "Coach Robe" for three years in college, covering him for the student newspaper then serving as his sports information director for a year.

I can't believe it's been seven years since I attended a game at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field, but it's good to see Robichaux rolling along.

It's been seven years since his name was bandied about for the LSU opening when Skip Bertman left and Robe was always a candidate for the perpetually on-the-h0t-seat Rod Delmonico at Tennessee.

Time flies, but Robichaux stays consistent. That's a rarity in today's college baseball world and another reason why Robe remains one of my favorite people in the business.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Morgan shows his ignorance

Just one day after Major League Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day, Joe Morgan put his foot in his mouth.

During Wednesday's Red Sox-Yankees telecast on ESPN, Morgan was talking about the decline in black players in Major League Baseball. He proceded to talk about how a Red Sox player should be described as a "black Red Sox player" or a "Caucasian Red Sox player" et al.

That point would have been well-taken had Morgan, in his recent past, not blasted the Houston Astros for employing a lack of black players.

In his attempt to do the right thing -- for the record I agree with his concept -- Morgan shed light on his past shortcomings.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Welcome back, B.J.

Looks like the Toronto Blue Jays have 'em a closer again.

Former Airline High standout B.J. Ryan returned from Tommy John Surgery on Sunday, picking up his first save of the season. And he did it in style.

Ryan moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Westlake about a year-and-a-half ago. He made his return to a major league mound just miles away at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington.

Ryan may not pitch on back-to-back days for some time, but it appears he's well ahead of a normal Tommy John rehab patient's schedule.

That's good news for the Blue Jays, who are counting on a healthy year to see what they truly have.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Optimistic soul

Our good friend Larry Wade has posted his thoughts on the Houston Astros on the Free For All blog.

I like Larry, but he may be the most optimistic soul I know. He certainly is when it comes to anyone in this department.

That optimism was rewarded in 2004 and 2005 when the Astros put together two of the best finishing kicks this side of the Colorado Rockies to earn playoff berths.

Somehow, I'm less than convinced that will happen this season.

But, life would be better if we were all a little more optimistic -- like Mr. Wade.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fantasy woes

It's fantasy season here at The Times and we're in "grind it" mode.

If our work clothes were uniforms, we'd be covered in dirt.

Before the season, I swore to myself -- and friends who would listen -- that I wouldn't grind every day like I did last year.

That lasted about 6 hours.

Ah, the love-hate relationship of a fantasy baseball fan.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

New rivalry emerges

During one of the Chicago Cubs' broadcast in the season's first week, there was a poll asking who the Cubs' biggest "new" rival is.

The majority said the Milwaukee Brewers.

Now that we have that established, there is another big-stage-worthy rivalry in the making in the Senior Circuit -- the Mets and Phillies.

While this one dates back further than the Brewers-Cubs battles, it's has recently grown in stature.

Given the Mets' epic collapse a year ago and players like Jimmy Rollins, David Wright and Carlos Beltran, the spotlight was sure to be on Shea Stadium this week. Throw in the alleged quote about the Phillies wanting a brawl and it's clear to see these teams will porbably be in the mix down to the last days of September again. Throw in the Atlanta Braves and we may see the best race in baseball come out of the NL East.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Early returns strong for Astros

It's early still.

That's the statement we must remind ourselves of whenever we start to talk about Major League Baseball right now.

So when you look at Houston's Miguel Tejada, one of the Astros' priciest acquistions of a busy offseason, it's tough right now to be anything but giddy.

Tejada hit the game-winning home run Monday night then added a two-run double Tuesday night in a losing effort.

It's early still, but after his first two games as a Minute Maid Park home player, it look as though Miggy never left that perfect summer night in 2004 when he won the All-Star Home Run Derby crown.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Weekend wrap

It's been a couple of weeks since I did one of these as last weekend I was returning from Memphis and the Civil Rights Game. So with another weekend of college baseball in the books, what did we learn?

* We learned LSU is what we thought it was. The Tigers still haven't swept an SEC series, but winning series, like they did against Alabama, is always a good thing.

* We learned Louisiana Tech's struggles will continue in the WAC. Tech became the first WAC team to be swept at home in a conference series this year. Something is very badly wrong in Ruston.

* We learned Northwestern State has plenty of heart. After being no-hit for eight innings Friday night, the Demons put together a three-run ninth to nearly knock off McNeese. They did just that Saturday, sweeping a doubleheader from the Cowboys to move within a half-game of the Southland Conference lead.

* We learned Centenary's no fan of Omaha. The Gents' series with South Dakota State was moved to Omaha -- home of the College World Series. Apparently, it did not agree with the Gents, as they dropped all four games to start Summit League play.

* Finally, we learned Grambling remains a strong, under-the-radar team in the SWAC. If you're counting at home, GSU's sweep of Texas Southern makes it 11-4 in the conference.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Weird time for Wells

Alabama coach Jim Wells nearly left the Capstone this summer before deciding to stay on as the Crimson Tide baseball coach.

He's probably wondering why right about now.

His team just split a day-night doubleheader with a scuffling LSU outfit -- then again the entire SEC West is scuffling.

This is not the Alabama team -- or program -- we're accustomed to seeing. Maybe Wells had it right the first time. Maybe he should have stayed gone.

Or, maybe, he sees promise in the current Tide and doesn't want to leave the cupboard bare for former NSU head coach Mitch Gaspard, who seems to be in line to succeed Wells whenever the Bossier City native calls it quits for good.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Good times for local guys

It's been a whirlwind couple of days for some local baseball products.

First, Centenary's Dakota Robinson, who prepped at Airline, will pitch in the Cape Cod League for the Harwich Mariners. He found out Thursday he made the roster after initially being offered a two-week tryout.

Secondly, former Captain Shreve standout Scott Baker picked up a win in his first start of the season for Minnesota, settling down after a rough first inning to hand the Kansas City Royals their first loss of the season.

Also on Friday, former LSU star Aaron Hill signed a lucrative four-year extension with Toronto.

On the minor league front, former Southwood High standout Michael Aubrey rang in baseball's new year with a home run for Double-A Akron in the Cleveland Indians chain.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tough times at Tech

This was going to be THE year for Louisiana Tech's baseball team.

The year the Bulldogs broke their nearly two-decade-long regional drought.

If that's going to happen, the Pups better get on the stick.

Tech dropped a 17-2 heartbreaker (as only Bob Uecker in "Major League" could call it) to Sacramento State on Thursday night, falling to 2-6 in the Western Athletic Conference.

In previous seasons, 2-6 would not be a death sentence. However, with the WAC switching to four-game conference series this year, it may be.

The Bulldogs are a struggling outfit right now and there is no salve in beating up on the Tennessee-Martins or McNeese States of the world that will make the Dawgs feel better about themselves.

With the WAC Tournament less than two months away from its first appearance in Ruston, Tech has precious little time to make things right. It's either that or a weekend full of empty seats at J.C. Love Field.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Interesting start

One of our favorite GMs here at 222 Lake Street is Toronto's J.P. Ricciardi.

And if you believe that, I'm gonna go to George Strait's classic and tell you I have some ocean frotn property in Arizona for you.

Ricciardi refused to speak to me about a story I did a few years ago on the lack of minority general managers. He's also the same guy who misled reporters about former Airline High star B.J. Ryan's injury in spring training a year ago.

So how does this guy still have a job after seven years in Toronto?

Well take a listen to what Dan O'Brien of ESPN said during Wednesday night's Blue Jays-Yankees broadcast: "The Blue Jays think, with a healthy lineup and a healthy rotation, they can compete with the Red Sox and Yankees."

We all know the saying about nice guys and where they finish. If the Blue Jays have a good season, we'll see how the other half lives.