With the College World Series finals set to begin tomorrow, there’s just no getting around the fact that the top three teams in the SEC East also were the top three teams in the country. Naturally, this has provoked the expected level of crybaby whining from Big Ten country, because the NCAA only made a mammoth concession to Midwestern baseball already by imposing the appalling uniform start date on the rest of us. As noted by SB Nation Atlanta’s Steven Godfrey, the Conference Counting Forgot is once again in take-its-ball-and-go-home mode:
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany . . . "warned" the media last week that unless special concessions were made for cold-weather baseball programs, Sun Belt (the region, not the conference) teams would continue to unfairly dominate the sport of college baseball, which relies on a specific type of weather to be played but, Delany assures, is totally not like a regionalized sport like college hockey.
Without a special bracket allowing cold-weather programs a direct route to Omaha, Delany has considered advocating the Big Ten to form its own postseason baseball tournament.
Oh? Delany was finished? Well, allow me to retort:
- Why is Delany demanding a new NCAA concession to the Big Ten just two years after the previous NCAA concession to the Big Ten? Because the last such concession didn’t work. This year’s College World Series field consisted of teams from California, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, perpetuating the same patterns that were evident prior to the advent of the accursed uniform start date. The Big Ten’s last self-serving regulation failed, and now Delany wants the NCAA to implement another of the Big Ten’s self-serving regulations? At some point, shouldn’t being wrong last time count against you this time?
- My grandfather was a St. Louis Cardinals fan. You know why? Because, prior to the mid-’60s, there were no major league baseball teams in the South; until then, Missouri was the only state with both a star on the Confederate battle flag and a National or American League baseball franchise. One of the reasons the major leagues were so slow to arrive in the region was the widespread belief that it was too hot to play baseball in the South in the summer. Summers in the South are hotter now than they were then, but the Atlanta Braves, formerly of Boston and Milwaukee, appear to have overcome this impediment. If we can handle the seasonal extremes of playing baseball in the summer in the South, maybe they can handle the seasonal extremes of playing the same sport in the winter in the Midwest. If not, well, that sounds like a Big Ten problem, not an NCAA issue.
- Remember how I mentioned that summers in the South were getting hotter? Well, winters here are getting colder, too, so quit your whining, you bunch of Midwestern pansies. It snowed here on Christmas Day last year, for the first time in 100 years or so. This winter, we lost an entire week of snow days. The winter before last, my house looked like this:
There’s winter weather everywhere. Cope. The Big Ten manages to play other sports in the winter; the league just does it indoors. If you want more competitive college baseball teams, don’t try to handicap the rest of us; build arenas with roofs. It sure seemed to work for the Minnesota Twins, whose 1987 and 1991 World Series appearances saw them go undefeated at home and winless on the road.
- If Jim Delany says this is a problem, to which he has an extreme solution, fine; I’d deal with this difficulty the way I’d have dealt with Rankin Smith’s threat to move the Atlanta Falcons; namely, by calling his bluff, and by hoping he wasn’t bluffing. Fleetwood Mac said (well, sang) it best: "You can go your own way." Jim Delany wants "the Big Ten to form its own postseason baseball tournament"? Go right ahead, Jimbo. It’s not like it would make much difference if Big Ten teams were unavailable for the College World Series, now, would it? Maybe if the Big Ten teams spend the postseason facing only one another, they’ll quit crying about the officiating 98 years after the fact.
In sum, it isn’t our fault that the Big Ten stinks at baseball, or that the Big Ten was dumb enough to set up shop in a region where the weather is fit neither for man nor for beast. The rest of us shouldn’t be saddled with a national "solution" to a purely regional problem. The NCAA has bent over backwards for the Big Ten a few too many times already; I say it’s time to tell Jim Delany to take his ball and go home, so the rest of us can go back to playing baseball whenever we want and watching teams from our neck of the woods duke it out in Omaha . . . a city, coincidentally, that now is located in a Big Ten state. Hey, if you can’t bring Mohammed to the mountain . . .