A handful of random reflections on college baseball during this super regional weekend:
I don’t care for in-game interviews with coaches, of the sort conducted by ESPN. If you want to talk to him beforehand or afterward, fine, but the guy’s supposed to be doing his job during the game itself. Should Court TV be interviewing lawyers between witnesses during a trial? Of course not, so leave the coaches alone between innings.
The college rule that a player sliding into second base must slide directly toward the bag, but neither to the left nor to the right of it, is asinine. They may be amateur athletes and college students, but they’re also grown men playing what, arguably, is the hardest sport to play. (Anyone who contests that contention would do well to remember that probably the best defensive back in N.F.L. history was only the third- or fourth-best Atlanta Braves center fielder of the 1990s and that the greatest player in N.B.A. history washed out with the Birmingham Barons.)
Sliding hard into second base with the intention of breaking up a double play is an integral part of the game. If the runner coming from first knows the infielder has the force out at second, the only thing left for him to do for his team is to disrupt the fielder’s timing to prevent the double-play ball. The rules should let the guy do his dadgum job. I can’t stand rules like this one, or like the infield fly rule, that deprive a player of the power to act strategically in an effort to aid his team.
Is there any particularly good reason why the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament doesn’t follow the same format as the N.C.A.A. baseball tournament? Both feature 64-team fields containing automatic qualifiers and at-large teams selected and seeded by a committee using such factors as the R.P.I. to set up the brackets. (Oh, all right, March Madness now features a 65-team field, but drop the "play-in" game and you’re dealing with the same basic starting point.)
The single-elimination format used in basketball creates much intrigue and many upsets, but the "one and done" nature of the Big Dance and the inevitability of a 12 seed upending a five seed produce some fluky outcomes, as evidenced by the fact that the 2008 tourney was the first ever in which all four No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four.
Why not abandon the existing format (with its odd "pod" system) and adopt the system used in baseball? Split the 64 teams into 16 four-team double-elimination regionals, have the regional winners advance to eight best-of-three super regionals, and have those winners make up the eight-team double-elimination field with a best-of-three series in the finals. Would that arrangement be less compelling or more likely to produce a dubious champion?
You shouldn’t bother formulating a theory. It will only be fouled up by subsequent developments. After Georgia lost to Lipscomb, James Quinn criticized the S.E.C., adding at the end: "Of course, SEC teams could go on a tear starting today and make me look like a complete idiot by next week." While nothing that extreme occurred, of course, the Diamond Dogs rebounded to justify their national seeding. Later, I wondered whether the A.C.C. was overrated. In the ensuing 24 hours or so, Florida State won, Miami won, North Carolina won, and, of course, N.C. State won. The lesson is that all generalizations are wrong, including this one.
A little over a year ago, I wrote:
In response to this sentiment, reipar remarked:
Reipar is right. While I certainly hope, and have every confidence, that the Diamond Dogs’ remarkable record in postseason elimination games at Foley Field will continue uninterrupted this afternoon, the quality of the Classic City Canines’ 2008 season cannot seriously be questioned. Coach Perno is the man for the job, and, irrespective of whether the Red and Black find themselves playing in Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium next weekend, the direction of the Georgia baseball program still is the right one.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I want to win.