Sunday, May 25, 2008

Big Changes On the Horizon

GeauxTuscaloosa is moving on to bigger and better things. Thanks to what I think has been our true commitment to bringing interesting and informative content, I have been invited to take over as site administrator over at And the Valley Shook, which had been perhaps the premier LSU sports blog on the internet until it went dormant recently.

As a result, this will be the last blog post on GeauxTuscaloosa. Some time very soon, I will begin blogging over at And The Valley Shook, which is a part of SBNation, a network of blogs of all sorts of sports fans, with blogs dedicated to each of the Major League Baseball teams, each of the NBA teams, each of the NFL teams, many of the BCS-conference college teams, a few NHL teams, and some for sports such as cycling and auto racing. It's a big network, and it's well-connected.

The new And The Valley Shook will essentially be a continuation of this blog, but we will be sure to take advantage of the extra bells and whistles that comes with being affiliated with SportsBlog Nation. We will also be officially a part of a larger community of college sports writers, fans, etc.

This is a big step up for us, and we (Poseur and I) are very excited about it. Having looked around the network a little, we hope we can live up to the high standards for blogging that are currently in place. The first task we have is to learn how to use all the extras that come with it. It makes no sense to move over to a more advanced platform and continue to settle for text and pictures. But we promise also to not let the better technology overwhelm the content. We take pride in being insightful and informative, and that will not change.

We hope to see you when we get started.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The LSU Baseball Team is No Longer Jailbait

They've reached 18! The pitching was good. The hitting was timely. The fielding was reportedly outstanding.

I say "reportedly" because, once again, I had no way of keeping up with the game by any traditional means. My cable system does not get CSS, and I do not believe it was broadcast on local radio (I tried to find it). I wanted to listen to it on internet radio, but the only sites I was able to find either required registration (I avoid registering for things) or strictly used Windows Media Player.

I have a Mac. It doesn't have Windows Media Player. Usually something also uses RealPlayer or QuickTime. This didn't.

Instead, I followed the game using the "Live" function at It was sort of like following a football game using ESPN's graphical interface. Nice, but no substitute for television or radio coverage. I blame the SEC. It appears they licensed their radio rights to XM Satellite Radio, which the vast majority of people do not get. Because they also licensed the television rights of the early games to a station that many people also do not get, a lot of people have been shut out of following the games in the most useful formats. Unless you're willing to take off work and go, you can't take part.

Starting today, Fox Sports starts carrying the games. This will be nice because at least I'll be able to see the Kentucky-Bama game, which will decide our opponent at 1:30pm on Saturday. The Tigers get the day off today by virtue of staying in the Winner's Bracket. If we win that game, we advance to the championship game. If we lose against Bama/Kentucky, we play again later that night, and for some reason, the "if necessary" game will be broadcast on CSS instead of FSN, which means I'd be right back to not getting television access.

At least, if it's Bama we play, it will be on radio and perhaps local TV. Yay channel 23!

But back to last night's game. On the written play-by-play provided by, the game came down to two things: a) we got the big hit when we needed it, and b) we got the big out when we needed that. After doing next to nothing for 4 innings, getting only one runner in scoring position during that time, and not getting a run, we broke through for two big innings in the 5th and 6th by getting big hits with runners on, including a 3-run home run in the 6th. We were also aided by poor defense on Vandy's part, using two throwing errors and a hit-by-pitch in the 5th inning to score 4 runs.

After that, we were on cruise control. Vandy's big threat came in the 7th when they used a walk, a hit, and an error to load the bases with only one out, but couldn't make a big inning out of it. A big inning would have made it a whole new game, but they settled for one run on a sacrifice fly and the rally quietly petered out. They didn't get a runner past 2nd base again for the rest of the night.

We got the big hit when we had the chance. They didn't. We made good defensive plays. They committed 3 errors (to our 1). We won. Bring on the next opponent. I'm into this now.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Who's the MVP?

Another ho-hum win for the Tigers. Down 4-0 in the 9th inning, the Tigers drew two walks to lead off the inning (a difficult task since you could have driven a Buick through the umpire’s strike zone), setting up Matt Clark’s three-run bomb. Not to be outdone, Ryan Schimpf doubled home the tying run with two outs and two strikes. No pressure or anything. By the time Blake Dean hit a solo shot to win it in the 10th, the whole thing seemed pre-ordained. Here’s the highlights:

Win #17. No biggee. So, let’s answer the unanswered question from yesterday: who is the Tigers MVP? Well, let’s look at the contenders:

It could be this guy. Blake Dean leads the team with a 339 batting average, though I’m not really a batting average kind of guy. Let’s get used to the trilogy stats right now: AVG/OBP/SLG. It gives an idea of how a guy hits, how often he gets on, and with how much power. Dean hit 339/421/610. He had 14 HR and 49 RBI. He even steals the occasional base (4 of 6). He plays decent defense, and his been a rock in the middle of the order all season, batting third in 45 games and never batting lower than 5th. He’s the guy the team relies on, he’s the star player, he’s the obvious choice.

But it could be this guy. On a team that relies so heavily on freshmen and sophomores, Michael Hollander is the senior leader that holds the team together. As the times got harder, Hollander played better. He hit 296/380/466 overall, but 308/379/519 in SEC play. He stole 4 of his 6 bases in SEC play, and only made 4 of his 15 errors in conference play. He’s been a stellar defensive third baseman, and he’s added the sock.

It could be this guy. Jared Bradford was a preseason All-American, but he was moved to the pen not because of poor pitching, but because Mainieri could use him in more games. He pitched in almost half of LSU’s games, and was a valuable swingman to get from the starters to the pen. But come on, he wasn’t as valuable of a pitcher as…

… this guy. Ryan Verdugo’s gonna make a lot of money next year. Mainly because lefties who throw a biting curveball are in high demand. Especially ones who go 8-2 with a 3.61 ERA, averaging almost a strikeout per inning. He’s given LSU the ace they have lacked for so long, and the team is no longer just giving away the Friday game.

It could be this guy. Ryan Schimpf has helped anchor the infield along with freshman DJ LeMahieu. I’m a firm believer that teams are built from the middle of the defensive spectrum out, so middle infielders are dear to my heart. Schimpf is probably the most well-rounded player on the team. He hits 301/407/550. He hit 10 homers, but also stole 13 bases. He also only made 2 errors all season, at one of the most demanding defensive positions. I hate to say he is without flaw, but he is pretty good at everything.

Or it could be this guy. Matt Clark is a force of nature at the plate. He’s actually a pretty good defensive 1st baseman, but he’s not here for his glove. He’s here because he hit 332/428/717. That’s right, he slugged 717. He hit 20 home runs in 52 games, an absurd total which harkens back to Gorilla Ball and aluminum bats. He hit slightly better in SEC play: 344/439/760. They say he can’t lefties, but that just means he doesn’t absolutely humiliate them the way he does righties.

Heck, you decide.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Letter To the Bandwagon

Dear Richard,

First off, welcome to the bandwagon. You’re not REALLY a bandwagon fan since you are, first and foremost, an LSU fan. It’s not like you’ve spent the last few years rooting for Rice’s baseball team and are suddenly switching loyalties. You’re not switching teams, you’re just reacquainting yourself with a team you are already inclined to root for.

That said, I’m here to help you get up to speed with the team. I’m always willing to help. Who’s the star? A good question, actually. According to the SEC, no one. Not a single LSU player was named either first or second team All-SEC. Not one. And only Micah Gibbs was named to the All-Freshman team. I’m not asking for the world here. But you would think at least one player from the West Division champions, owners of the 2nd best record, and possible national seed would at least made 2nd team. And you’d think a successful, freshman dominated team like LSU would have someone other than Gibbs make the All-Freshman team.

OK, we’ll get into that. Let’s start with the basics: why is LSU winning? Well, a cynic would point out the winning streak has not exactly come against the powers of the SEC. South Carolina and Kentucky were both ranked when they played LSU, but they finished the season a combined two games above .500 in conference play. USC will be the seventh seed in the SEC tournament. Auburn and Mississippi State battled for the cellar, a combined 20 games below .500 in conference play. But 16 wins in a row is 16 wins in a row (and Tulane and UNO are both hovering around the rankings, so its not all chumps). Winning 12 straight games in a conference schedule that is only 30 games goes beyond a mere streak. That’s almost half a season without a loss.

LSU has the best offense in the SEC. Remember last year when I called the offense historically pitiful? Well, things have turned around. LSU has scored 220 runs, tops in the SEC. And scoring runs is what offenses should be judged on. LSU gets a lot of hits (tied for 1st with Alabama) and hits for a lot of power (tied for 1st in total bases, 2nd in slugging). Bama’s component stats are a little better, but LSU wins the bottom line: they score runs.

LSU’s got good pitching, too. They rank third overall in conference ERA. So they prevent runs. Pittman, you were right. Like any good team, they score runs and don’t let up very many. It’s more the offense than the defense, but the defense is pretty darn good. Relief pitching? How did you know? Bradford’s become sort of a swingman uber-reliever, pitching in relief so he can get in more games. Mainieri’s been comfortable getting saves from Coleman, Bertuccini, Ross, or the nominal closer Bradshaw. Why not? All of them have ERA’s 3.50 or lower.

This is running a bit long, so I’ll try to help you identify the best player tomorrow, which is a tougher task than you might think. Besides, it’ll give you a chance to meet most of the team. Right now, just enjoy the bandwagon.


In Defense of the Bandwagon

A lot of people speak or write derisively of the bandwagon. If you pick up a team just as they are starting to have success, you are considered not just less of a fan, but you are considered to be not a fan at all.

There's some truth to this, but I believe the attitude should not be taken too far. I think Poseur has it right in the comments to the last post that the bandwagon jumpers just have to "know their place at the back of the line".

You see, the simple fact is most fans are "bandwagon" fans at least in the mildest sense of the word. Most of us, even if we have affection and admiration for the baseball or basketball teams, will not actually pay much attention if the team is not doing well. Heck, if we were a losing football team like we were back in the '90s, I would still be paying attention, but I doubt I'd be blogging. If the basketball team is losing, I am still rooting for them, but I'm probably not watching the games on television, because I will have more enjoyable things to do. The baseball team is the same way, except that when they aren't doing well, they never appear on television.

So yes, when the baseball team started winning some games, I started paying more attention. Am I claiming expertise on the topic of LSU baseball? Absolutely not. I have nothing intelligent to say in answer to the question, "Why is LSU baseball suddenly so successful?" Knowing what I know about baseball, my guess is that the answer is at least partly "pitching", and knowing what I know about college baseball, I further guess that it could be "relief pitching". However, those are just guesses.

Honestly, I can't name the team's best players, in part because living here in Tuscaloosa, I don't ever actually see them play. Unlike Poseur, I choose not to listen to the games on internet radio. Does that make me less of a fan than Poseur?

Yes, I suppose it does.

Now don't get me wrongly here. Bandwagon fans can be thoroughly obnoxious and irritating. If you were wearing a Detroit Red Wings jersey in Baton Rouge in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you were probably insufferable. The same can be said if you were one of the many people wearing Miami Hurricanes material 10-20 years ago.

I can't think of any big bandwagons today, at least in that sense. Maybe USC, though I don't really think their bandwagon extends beyond the West Coast, and from what I understand their fan base is really not that passionate, although I did get into an argument a couple years ago with a USC fan who made me want to tear my hair out because of his ignorance. But I digress.

Yes, if you jump on the bandwagon and then act obnoxious, or act like you know more than you do, or act like you have been there all along, you deserve the enmity of others. If you simply decide that you are not going to pay all that much attention unless the team starts going somewhere, you are not a bad person. You are, like most people, making choices about how you spend your valuable time. Some people choose one thing. Some choose another. I simply do not love baseball or basketball enough to spend my time following a losing team. It does not mean I do not care how they are doing, or that it does not pain me to see the teams struggling these last few years.

All that said, the team will be playing less than an hour from where I live this week. On Thursday, they start in the morning, and I will be working. After that, we will see. If they're still playing on Saturday, I will definitely be going to that. I may even get to see games I do not attend on television.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Handling the Ignorant Naysayers

Lately, we seem to have been bombarded with bloggers and minor journalists saying inane and critical things about the state of the LSU football program. "Critical" probably isn't the right word, because some may take it to to be used pursuant to its 3rd definition at, "involving skillful judgment as to truth, merit, etc."

I won't link to them, because the purpose of this entry is to encourage LSU fans to ignore those guys, but I am sure you can easily find multiple examples of some minor commentator saying terrible things about the state of the football program. Just go on the message boards and look for the LSU fans calling it to your attention. I think 3 were brought up this weekend alone.

If it's a blogger making bizarre statements like LSU's recruiting is sub-par, or that LSU's program is currently on a steady decline, you know they're just trying to generate traffic. Look, I'm a blogger. I know how this works. The easiest way to generate traffic and interest is to find something a lot of people love and then stridently, viciously insult it. I know it gives a blog a big shot in the arm as far as readership goes.

If you write that entry, the fans will link to it at message boards, your traffic will increase 50-fold or more, comments will go through the roof, and you will make a name for yourself. It's the simplest, most direct, most reliable way to generate readership for a blog. Recognize that that is its purpose. So when you go to his blog and try to tell the guy what a fool he is, you're giving him exactly what he wants.

Don't do it. Don't play into his hands. Ignore it. Treat him like you would treat any obnoxious fan at the stadium by obscenities about how much his team is going to beat you. That's exactly what he is. He's one of those obnoxious and difficult fans who has discovered that the internet gives him another outlet AND that his obnoxiousness is actually rewarded here.

I am here to encourage all LSU fans, and fans of other teams for that matter, to just ignore trolls like that. By linking and by commenting, you are just encouraging them to do it more. If they get a lot of comments, then they become known for being able to bother the fans of other teams. Don't let the attention whores win.

Now if it's not a blogger, I think you need to do something a little different. If it's a "respected" journalist, like for example, Gregg Doyel of, who said before the BCSNCG a few months ago:
LSU coach Les Miles is lucky the BCS national championship game isn't a board game between the coaches. If they were playing checkers, Ohio State's Jim Tressel would quadruple-jump Miles into submission. If they were playing chess, Miles would ask to play checkers.

I don't think Les Miles is very smart. Sorry, I don't. He doesn't look smart, for one thing. He could have been the lead character in Sling Blade. His eyes are too close together. I bet I could jam a thumb over the bridge of his nose and poke both pupils.

Looks can be deceiving, of course. Despite looking dumb, Les Miles could actually be smart. Except he doesn't act smart. And this is why he cannot beat Jim Tressel on Monday night in the BCS title game.
We all remember how that turned out. I think, the way to treat these guys is to just take their number. Remember them, and when they say something else, use it against them. "Say, aren't you the guy who said that Les Miles could not possibly beat Jim Tressel? Why should we listen to you?" The last thing in the world these guys want is for you to remember their predictions that went horribly wrong.

Edit: I realized I let Monday pass without one word about our baseball team getting their 14th, 15th, and 16th wins in a row this weekend and winning the SEC West. I will have more on this tomorrow, but don't let it be said that I am ignoring this today. Congratulations on an incredible streak that no one could have seen coming.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Medical Scholarships

Jordon Corbin, the tight end and defensive end from Lakeland, Florida, profiled here by me a little less than a year ago, has given up football due to a lingering knee injury. He was the most heralded of the 3 tight end recruits from last year. He had moved from tight end to defensive end during the Spring, but decided that his knee, which he injured in high school, just wouldn't let him go at full speed and he would have to give up his dream of playing football.

It's very sad, and you hate to see a kid have to leave a football team before he ever really became a part of it. He got injured in high school, but LSU honored his commitment and gave him a chance to come in and heal. He never played for us despite being a 4-star recruit. He becomes the second player to leave the team from the Class of 2007 after Delvin Breaux decided his neck injury would not let him play either.

Mark Snyder from the Class of 2006 is also on medical scholarship due to multiple knee injuries, and there was some talk in the past that Kirston Pittman would be placed on a medical scholarship, but thankfully that did not happen. Cousin Kirston is awesome.

The good news for Mr. Corbin is that he still gets a free education. He remains on what is called a "medical scholarship." With a medical scholarship, a player is removed from the roster and no longer counts against the 85 player maximum, but retains his scholarship.

I once read the details of how it works, but I cannot find any of the specific information any longer. I know certain safeguards are in place to make sure that the medical scholarship system isn't abused. Otherwise, a coach can simply place any player who isn't cutting it on the field onto the medical scholarship list and get the person off the 85-man list without actually kicking him out of school.

I know that the medical scholarship is reversible, but the process of reversing it is arduous. I believe the player, in order to return from a medical scholarship list to the team proper has to go before a committee of medical experts, and the committee must vote as to whether it is a good idea. As I recall, the vote must be 2/3 in favor of the player returning, or the player does not return. I believe the player may also need clearance to by the committee in order to go ON a medical scholarship, but I'm not sure and I can't find the information.

The upshot is that the medical scholarship program is very good for the athlete and the team. Players who are too injured to play can stay in school and finish their education on scholarship, and the teams are free to seek out a player to replace him on the roster. It also removes one of the incentives a coach has to cut an injured recruit loose, and that's a good thing.

I do think that the system is potentially subject to abuse, in that a creative coach can probably get roster numbers down by making questionable moves to put players into the medical scholarship program who may not really be seriously injured, but haven't developed enough to be contributing players. I hope it's an issue the NCAA is at least looking out for, but so far no one has ever been accused of abusing this particular system. But any system that allows a coach to jimmy up his roster numbers has to be monitored closely for abuse.

Good luck to Jordon. I was looking forward to seeing him play, but now I hope he gets a good education and gets on with his life.