The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Tourney Time

Pairings for the 64-team NCAA regionals were announced over the long weekend. As always, there were a few surprises, but for the most part things went as expected. Miami was awarded an at large berth. This marks the 33rd straight trip to college baseball's post-season. That's the longest current NCAA post-season streak in any sport (and Florida State fans are quick to note that the Noles are right behind the Canes, having appeared in 28 straight regionals).

Miami and FSU were amongst the 16 teams who were awarded number one seeds and who will host their regionals this coming weekend (oddly, no number one seeds will travel to other schools this weekend, as has been the case in recent years). Neither Miami nor FSU received a national seed though. The top 8 seeds are:
  1. Tulane
  2. Georgia Tech
  3. Nebraska
  4. Baylor
  5. Mississippi
  6. Cal-State Fullerton
  7. Florida
  8. Oregon State

Don't feel too badly if some of those schools surprise you. There have been a lot of twists and turns throughout this year. Traditional powers like LSU and Stanford have been down. North Carolina didn't live up to expectations. Miami faltered badly at the end of the year.

I'm going to go the easy route with my prognostications for the regionals and take all of the #1 seeds, with a few exceptions. I'll take NC State to take out Nebraska (maybe I'm just hoping for that as it would allow Miami, should they win this weekend, to host a Super Regional).

I also like North Carolina to come out of the Florida regional. Go ahead and accuse me of being ACC-biased, but UNC has a lot of pitching and pitching wins this time of year. The Gainesville regional is a tough one though - Notre Dame and Stetson are no slouches.

I'll also take Southern California to come out of Long Beach State's regional.

I also like Winthrop to take the Tennessee regional. The Vols have no business being a number one seed. Winthrop does.

So that leaves me with 12 number ones plus NC State, UNC, Southern Cal, and Winthrop in the Super Regionals.

Random thoughts:

  • I'm not sure why Nebraska was rewarded with a national seed, let alone #3 overall. Should things play out as the Canes hope this weekend, that should set up about as favorable of a Super Regional as the Canes, mired in a six-game losing streak, could expect - even if they do have to travel for it.
  • Florida and Florida State are set for a Super Regional matchup. That could be a classic. I'm just glad that Miami didn't get paired with Florida. I would have hated to see the Canes season end against the Gators - although with all the pain the Canes have inflicted upon the Gators in recent years, I suppose Miami is due to find themselves on the short end of things.
  • Auburn will make things tough for the Noles this weekend.
  • No one did Rice any favors. They travel to LSU this weekend. Alex Box Stadium is about as tough of a college venue to win in as there is. If they survive, they'll likely face Tulane in the super regionals. It sure feels like that bracket was set up to guarantee a favorable Super Regional for television, as it will most likely feature Tulane versus LSU or Rice. It might not seem like a marquee matchup to some folks, but in college baseball those are three premier teams, especially when they play each other.
  • Clemson also didn't catch a break with their regional. They likely deserved a national seed - certainly above Nebraska. To make matters worse, they get the College of Charleston in their regional, which is a legit top ten club. The one bright spot for Clemson is that CoC might be knocked into the loser's bracket early by Oral Roberts, which features some good pitching.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Canes Drop Game 1

Miami lost their opener in the ACC tournament, which puts them into the loser's bracket early in this double elimination tournament. The loss marked Cesar Carillo's second in as many starts, as well as it was his second career loss. With the loss the Canes have now lost 5 consecutive games, which is an unpleasant first in the Jim Morris era.

For a baseball fan, yesterday's game was a good one. The final score was 2 - 1, and the game was highlighted by strong pitching from both clubs, both of which were led by their aces. Unfortunately for Canes fans, it was just that NC State's Andrew Brackman outdueled Miami's Cesar Carillo yesterday.

NC State also deserves credit for turning to their outstanding closer, Joey Devine, in the 8th inning - instead of waiting for the "traditional" closer's time of the 9th. This was particualrly important as the Canes had their 3, 4, and 5 hitters due to the plate (All-Americans Ryan Braun and Jon Jay, plus Danny Valencia). Devine came in and did his job. Had the Wolfpack used another arm from their bullpen in the 8th, yesterday's outcome could have been different.

What's interesting for the Canes is the unusual lineup they used yesterday. Walter Diaz, normally the team's second baseman, played shortstop, while Roger Tomas, who is normally the shortstop, played second. The Figueroa brothers also swapped roles at the top of the batting order, with Paco leading off and Danny dropping from his customary spot to the second hole. It's usually not the mark of a championship team to change such things up during the post-season. With the way the Canes have been playing of late, I suppose that's stating the obvious.

Other Tournament News:
  • Wake Forest was eliminated, after a 9-8 loss to top seeded Georgia Tech last night. The Terps, along with Duke, Maryland, and Va Tech, can now enjoy the scenes and sites of Jacksonville at their leisure. We'll see more teams go the 0-2 and a barbeque route today.
  • Miami faces Clemson this morning at 10 am. One of these top teams will be eliminated quickly (Miami is the #3 seed, Clemson is #2).
  • #1 Georgia Tech faces #4 Florida State tonight in the late game. The winner here will likely be playing late into the weekend. Both teams won close games yesterday (with FSU needing extra innings).

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Follow the ACC Baseball Tournament

While it doesn't come with the cachet of the ACC basketball tournament, the ACC baseball tournament is a very exciting event. Things technically kicked off yesterday, but the higher seeded teams begin play today.

The Canes face NC State at 10 am, with Cesar Carillo taking the hill for Miami. He'll attempt to return to his winning ways for the first time since suffering his first career defeat last Thursday.

Keep up with the tournament here. There are brackets, access to webcasts, and loads of other information available at the official ACC site. As with all NCAA post-season baseball tournaments, this is a double elimination tournament.

As a long-time Canes fan, I was originally disappointed that the Canes baseball team would have to join the ACC. But for this week, at least, I'm glad to see them a part of it. These tournaments are always fun.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Carillo Loses

It had to happen eventually, I suppose. Miami's Cesar Carillo, who had never participated in a game the Canes lost, took his undefeated career to the hill on Thursday night against the Clemson Tigers. Now, Clemson is no slouch of a ball club, but Cesar has beaten better. Cesar has beaten better in bigger games with more on the line. It didn't happen on Thursday though.

Carillo took the loss in a 15 - 5 debacle at the hands of Tigers. Cesar gave up 11 earned runs in 3.2 innings; at least he didn't lose a 1 - 0 heartbreaker. This game was decided early.

Football fans will remember that Clemson has not been kind to the Canes this academic year. That held up all weekend, in fact. The Canes were swept in South Carolina, losing all three games. This marks the first time since 2002 that the Canes were swept in a multi-game series.

This past weekend's outcome really lessens my hopes for the post-season for the Canes. The ACC tournament begins tomorrow (with a 10 am matchup against NC State). That will quickly be followed by regionals, and then hopefully super regionals and the College World Series.

It's tough to look too far ahead for the Canes though. Carillo was dominant for most of the year, as he was last season. In three recent outings though, he has looked extremely hittable. The results alone prove that out. I have no insight into what the cause of that is. Maybe he's tired. Maybe he's tipping his pitches. It has likely influenced his draft status. What's more concerning, at least in the short term, is the impact this has on the Canes.

Putting Cesar on the hill for the Canes was a guaranteed win for the Canes. That's not a given anymore. After seeing him struggle against the likes of North Carolina in mid-April, that seemed possible. Now that it has actually happened, we know it to be true. That's a grim reality to face for the Canes, as they're not even sure at this point who they can count on as a second starter.

College baseball championships are won with pitching - particularly depth of quality pitching. At this point, and I sure hope I'm wrong, the Canes seem to have neither.

As much as it pains me to pick them, I'm guessing Florida State will win the ACC tournament.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Sox - Cubs

Interleague play starts today and it features all sorts of natural rivalries. Normally this is when I start to whine about how much pub the Mets and Yankees are getting, and how wrong that is, and how much more attention the White Sox and Cubs should be getting.

This year though, I can't make that complaint. Even if it's nowhere else, the Windy City Series has pretty much dominated Sports Illustrated online - even if it is only for today. Sure, much of the coverage focuses on how long it has been since either club won a World Series, but I'm not in a position to be picky.

There's even a great quote from Ozzie included:
"I think it's great when the game starts, but besides that I hate Wrigley Field," Guillen said this week." It's not about the Cubs fans, the players or the organization, it's about Wrigley Field."

While I've never been to Wrigley, I think that sums up my take on the rivalry and everything else related pretty well.

So, all is well in my simple world today. The Sox are playing the Cubs in a game that counts and the Sox enter the series favored. Well, things are only great as long as the Sox sweep, I suppose.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

I agree with Dusty Baker on something, what's next?

First of all, even when Dusty was managing the Giants, I found issue with him at times. Over the years, he's said some pretty whacked out things. This week though he said something about interleague play that I agree with:
"It's great for the fans, it's great for everybody, but that's a lot of games to decide who goes [to the playoffs] and who doesn't -- and they're not even in the same league," Baker said Tuesday. "I would like to see them go to three at their park one year and three at our park the next year."
While my initial reaction is to want to jump all over Dusty for being afraid to play the White Sox, he's got a point here. Yes, interleague play can be a great thing when the matchups are right. Series like Yankees - Mets, A's - Giants, and of course, White Sox - Cubs can be thrilling and meaningful (at least to the fans).

But the impact that these series can have on the playoff chase is also equally meaningful. This weekend while the Mets take on the Yankees and the Braves take on the Red Sox, the Marlins will play the first of two three-game sets against the lowly Devil Rays. Sure, the Marlins lost four of six to the Rays last year, but any team would rather play six against the Rays instead of six against the Yankees or Red Sox.

The interleague schedule is not equitable. At the end of the year this imbalance can impact who makes the playoffs and who makes tee times. I'd like to see more done about fixing that than I'd like to hear about imbalance in payrolls and the financial prospects of a team.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Julio Franco - Subject Him to Special Testing

It's 2005 and Julio Franco is still going strong. It's completely amazing. Back in 1985, most folks probably didn't see Franco as a major leaguer as far into the future as 1995. But now it's 10 years past then and Franco is still going strong.

On what probably seems like an unrelated note, I'm tired of all the steroid talk. Just ban everything that should be banned and be done with it. To make it up to the players though, they should take a blood sample from Julio Franco and inject every major leaguer with whatever special stuff is flowing through his veins.

Heck, the rest of us would probably buy whatever it is too. Franco seems to have some anti-aging (maybe reversing) something-or-other in his body. At age 46, Franco is simply ripped - more so than most 26-year olds could ever hope to be.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Down the Stretch they Come...

College baseball's regular season is quickly winding to a close. In the ACC there are two weeks of regular season games left and the race at the top of the standings is very close. Georgia Tech, Miami, and North Carolina enter the week with six conference losses a piece. Georgia Tech holds the overall lead though, as they have the most wins (as Miami and UNC tied in one game, and UNC was rained out of two others). The winner of the regular season championship will probably come down to the wire.

Keep in mind though that the regular season champ doesn't really get anything, as the automatic berth in the NCAA tournament (which all three of those teams will find their way into anyway, even if it's as at large teams) goes to the conference tournament champion.

As always, I will take the opportunity here to pimp some Miami players: Starting pitcher Cesar Carillo continues to impress. He's now 11-0 on the season and 23-0 for his career (which is the 4th longest win streak in NCAA history). In games in which he has appeared (last year he started as a reliever), Miami is 33-0.

Third baseman Ryan Braun, who you'll see in the pros as an outfielder, also continues to impress. The junior, who is hitting .417, already has 15 home runs and 21 stolen bases - making him a legitimate candidate for 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases, which in the college game (despite the aluminum bats) is about the equivalent of a 40-40 season in the majors. You just don't see it happen very often.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

This Week's College World Series Forecast

Last week we posted our first picks for the College World Series. Here are this week's:
  1. Texas
  2. Tulane
  3. Florida
  4. Baylor
  5. Oregon State
  6. Miami
  7. Louisana-Lafayette
  8. Cal-State Fullerton

The list hasn't changed much from last week, except that I omitted Fullerton last week somehow. The top two spots are pretty much locks.

Not that it would bother me any, but Florida may have peaked too early this year. While it's just a mid-week game, and it's always tough to get a read on those because of the lineups that are typically used, the Gators lost to Florida State, again, this week. It may be a timing thing, and it may be a mid-week thing, but the Gators might not be as good, and the Noles might be a little better than most of us are giving them credit for right now.

Louisiana-Lafayette is still my wild card pick. They haven't played any top 25 competition, which could hurt them come the post-season (especially when you consider that Baseball America's top 5 teams have each played at least 10 games against top 25 opponents; Texas has faced 19 coming into the week). It's never the top 8 teams in the country that make it to Omaha though. You've got to have some luck, good timing, and, of course, strong pitching. So I'll stick with Lafayette until they stumble.

As always, this list was heavily influenced by the pseudo-RPIs found at Boyd's World.

Monday, May 02, 2005

So I saw "Fever Pitch" Finally...

I saw “Fever Pitch” the other day and it hit me in a way that most comedies don’t - or at least in a way that they’re not intended to.

Part of me is hesitant to post any my take on the film here because if I do it any justice I’ll probably have to reveal more about myself than I’m comfortable doing. Because of that, I'll probably short change the review and the impact the movie made on me.

But at the same time I’ll admit that I haven’t quite figured this whole thing out. Sometimes when I post something that I think is really good – or at least that I’ve put some thought into – there’s absolutely zero readership or reaction. Then at other times, when I just whip something together off the top of my head – it gets read, and read a lot. Sometimes a college course even incorporates it into their curriculum, or it generates a following of its own that generates emails for me that still trickle in a year later. So maybe this is one of those little pieces that will sit on the Internet anonymously. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t – but I’ll feel better for getting it out of my head and out somewhere.

I’ve read a number of reviews of “Fever Pitch” by other folks who blog about baseball. Many of them said that they felt like they really related to Jimmy Fallon’s character in the movie. In some ways I did, but in other ways I didn’t. Most of all, despite the fact that I have two blogs dedicated to baseball, I’m not nearly as obsessed with the game – or one team (not even the two or three teams I follow the closest combined) – as the movie’s character.

There were many obvious times in the movie when Jimmy put his relationship with Drew Barrymore in jeopardy for reasons that I can’t come close to relating to (no, I don’t remember their characters names and I’m not looking them up, so deal with it). The actions that he sometimes took, the things that he said, and the decisions that he made were just laughably pathetic. They were so plain for me to see that I know I couldn’t make those same sorts of mistakes

Well, I’d like to think that, but really I can’t. I’ve made those same types of mistakes – or worse. Repeatedly. Unfortunately, unlike the character in the movie, I’m never able to see those mistakes until the situation is irreversible and it’s far too late.

One of the initial scenes in movie showed Jimmy going to Fenway Park for the first time with his uncle. That scene was almost like a flashback for me, as I remember doing almost the same exact thing when I was about the same age, but with my father at Old Comiskey park. The tunnel we came up was at about the same place relative to home as what’s shown in the movie. I was overwhelmed by the size of the field and the green of the grass (even though I’m red/green color blind). To this day, although it was at least twenty years ago, I can vividly remember that scene. I don’t remember who the Sox played that day or where we sat, but I remember first walking up that ramp and first seeing the field live in person. I’d followed the Sox on television and in the newspaper by then, but I’d never seen them live. I suppose that first glimpse inside Comiskey Park is where the my fascination with baseball, the White Sox, and old Comiskey Park began.

Another scene that struck me was when Drew Barrymore asked Jimmy if baseball had ever loved him back. Like Jimmy said, obviously I’d have to say that no, of course it never has. But while baseball doesn’t ever love you back, unlike “real life” or relationships with people, baseball doesn’t walk away or leave you either - at least not permanently. When the game goes away in late October, you know that pitchers and catchers will report in February and that Opening Day will be in April. There’s never a case of someone leaving for a pack of cigarettes or an evening run and never coming back (neither of those specific things ever happened to me).

At least there’s not supposed to be. I suppose it happens in baseball sometimes – like when the Expos are taken from Montreal, or a strike cancels the World Series, or when the White Sox move across the street to a new park and continue to call the new place Comiskey Park. So sometimes the game does more to you than merely passively failing to love you back. The game can even reach out and hurt you – or at least take away something that you thought was a given. People do get attached and people do take these things as if they were family or “real.” I suppose it’s why I vowed way back when to never attend a Sox game at the “new” Comiskey Park and why I empathize with the fans in Montreal who are still sad about losing the Expos. Sure, there may not be a lot of them, but they’re hurt by the whole thing just as much as true Yankee or Dodgers fans would be/were if/when the same thing happened to them.

But for the most part, the game doesn’t love you back. But it’s always there. The players may change, but the nickname and uniforms remain recognizable. The outcome might not always be what you want (a pennant or a World Series), but there are limits on the downside too. You can only finish in last place. There is no divorce or loss of visitation with your kids (neither of which applies to me).

Well, this hasn’t come together at all like I thought/hoped it would when it was just rolling around in my head. To summarize, “Fever Pitch” is a very interesting movie and parts of it are laugh out loud funny. Some of the visuals leave something to be desired, particularly when you can tell what’s a live baseball shot and what was inserted from film. My point in writing this was that in a lot of ways I related to this movie, but not in the ways I thought I would.