Thursday Thoughts, The George Carlin edition

George Carlin had his "Seven Things You Can't Say On Television." And in fact, at the risk of getting canned from CSTV, I can't really write them here either. But most of you probably have an idea of what they are. Now I've got my own seven to unvail.

With a tip of the cap to the brilliant Mr. Carlin (possibly the most intelligent comedian alive), I'd like to introduce to all you baseball fans the "Seven Things You Will Never Read From Me." They're more phrases that single words, but you'll get the gist I'm sure...

I've decided that there are a handful of bad or inane phrases that sports writers use when they write about baseball, and they are - unfortunately - becoming second nature to us fans. I have come up with the seven most egregious phrases of all. I vow never to use these phrases in anything I write this year.

In fact, I'll make a contest out of it. I will give a free six pack of your favorite liquid to anyone who happens to catch me writing any of them in any blog entry, column, feature, side note, etc. after tonight. Anyone catching this faux pas will get their reward in Omaha during the CWS (Friends and family members and those associated with CSTV, their holding companies and their parent company, CBS, are not eligible to win the grand prize. Sorry. I just love disclaimers.)

So here they are - Seven Things You'll Never Read From Me this season:

1- "no-no"
That's a word you use to teach your toddler not to stick fingers into light sockets, not something to describe a no-hitter in baseball. Give that one a wimp factor of 98.

2- "It is what it is"
A lazy man's way to describe anything they have a hard time describing.

3- "body of work"
This phrase comes into vogue more during NCAA tournament time when discussing a bubble teams at-large chances, but it should only be used to describe another in a long line of Lee Haney's "Mr. Universe" titles.

4- "swagger"
It's more of a football term (over-used by GameDay) as in a "team has lost its swagger," and I've seen it used for baseball too. But really people. Like a team really walks different when they're not winning, as if they're about to trip over their bottom lip or something.

5- "pitcher's dual"
You won't believe how often I see this misspelling of "duel" in baseball columns.

6- "walk-off home run"
Don't know where this came from but I have yet to see a player hit a game-ending homer and walk around the bases. Who walks? Nope, it will always be a "jog-off home run" to me and should only be referred to in that way.

7- "That RPI system of evaluating teams sure is great"
No explanation necessary.


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Now on to some of the things to look for this weekend.


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The reason I like living in Southern California in February---
Here are the top 10 series of the weekend:

10- No. 16 Oklahoma State (5-1) at Cal State Northridge (8-6).
In Okie State's only other test this year, the Pokes lost to Florida Atlantic and struck out 12 times to Mickey Storey. The Matadors could pose a problem, having beaten some good teams already. But CSUN has been a little too inconsistent to win this series.

9- Fresno State (5-6) at No. 15 Pepperdine (7-3).
The Bulldogs were in danger of getting left in the rubbish bin but got a good sweep of LMU last weekend (where Steven Susdorf went 4-for-9 with nine RBI) and re-energized the campaign. The Waves have gotten a 3-0, 0.83 effort from Friday starter Barry Enright so far. He's not a big power K type of guy, but he's legit.

8- Elon (4-2) at No. 14 Miami (4-4).
The Phoenix have looked better after big losses to Virginia and Coastal Carolina to open the season. And don't be shocked by a win or two here, Elon has won a series in Coral Gables before and are used to playing the big boys. Plus you never know which Miami team will show up, right? But if Jemile Weeks and hammering Yonder Alonso keep their bats up, the party could be over quickly.

7- Washington State (2-1) at No. 17 Texas (7-5)
UT has shaken the fleas off and are now on a 5-1 spree. Wazzu doesn't look too bad, winning two of three at Northridge, including a combo 3-hitter in Sunday's 6-1 win (Nick Ison went 5.0 innings and Steve Kost went 4.0).

6- Wake Forest (3-1) at San Diego (9-4).
See? Not all ACC teams are afraid to go on the road and test themselves. A tough loss to Appalachian State on Tuesday is a concern, but Arizona State transfer Willy Fox is hitting .385 so far. The NCBWA and Rivals still don't see fit to rank the Toreros. What's WRONG with college baseball writers these days?

5- Baseball at the Beach, Conway, South Carolina.
No. 30 Coastal Carolina (7-0), TCU (6-1), UNC-Wilmington (3-5) and Notre Dame (1-2).
The Friday matchup of CCU and TCU should be wicked-good. These two teams have some good-quality wins to their ledger already and will be fighting for RPI points. UNC-W and the Irish have looked pretty bad so far, particularly that ND offense. But it's early and they are a snowbelt team. Give them time.

4- No. 24 Wichita State (5-2) at Hawaii (9-3).
The Shockers looked pretty good in their Sunday win at Pepperdine (even though Gene Stephenson was visibly distraught over a few brain cramps by his team) and now have won five straight. Ahhhh, the soothing voice of Don Robbs will be emanating from my computer 'til late in the night. On second thought, I'll just go ahead a book a flight to the islands for this one. CSTV's accounting department will get my expense report for it.

3- No. 20 Tulane (4-2) at USC (7-6).
Hmmm. Losing two of three from Southeastern Louisiana? That gets the Jim Belushi crooked eyebrow look. I'll be interested to see how the Green Wave respond with this stern roadie. Frosh SS Grant Green is hitting .340 with three triples already this season for the Trojans.

2- No. 5 Cal State Fullerton (7-3) vs./at No. 27 UCLA (6-5).
Great Friday matchup at Goodwin Field. The rest of the series will take place at the Veteran's Administration grounds in Westwood. The Titans have just plugged in a whole new lineup and are still clicking along. The Bruins could use a confidence-boosting win or two after falling short against their last ranked opponent - Miami.

1- The Rice Invitational.
No. 8 Rice (6-4), No. 12 Nebraska (3-1), No. 28 Florida Atlantic (9-0) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (9-1).
Who would've thought that the Owls would have the worst record of any of these teams? Everyone comes in with a laundry list of interesting questions. After winning four of five, has Rice left its struggles behind? Just emerging from its hibernation, will the winter blues be shucked off by the Cornhuskers? Can Florida Atlantic beat a trio of good teams or be that proverbial flash in the pan? And will TA&M-CC ever shorten its name?

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As you see above, there are a few nice examples of why this is the time of year where the great non-conference games get played out west. And sadly, it's unlike any other part of the country (okay Texas schools, you DO have an argument).Top matchups abound here in SoCal, making for great college baseball viewing.

I am now crossing my fingers that there are no Sig Alerts on the freeways this weekend. (That's local speak for major traffic jams).


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Most anticipated debut---
Ohio State.
After zero outdoor practices this pre-season, it's time for OSU to finally strap it up. The Bucks return their entire weekend rotation which includes all lefties and expected draftees like Dan DeLucia, J.B. Shuck and Corey Luebke. As a team, OSU had a Big 10-best 3.46 ERA. They'll face James Madison on Friday (gotta love the DeLucia-Kellen Kulbacki showdown, especially since they were teammates for Cotuit in the Cape League last summer), Kansas State on Saturday and Seton Hall on Sunday down in Tampa. Kind of like the way Notre Dame holds its own tournament each year in San Antonio, this Buckeye Classic will be held where the Yankees training camp is located. I like how the fans are encouraged to bring lawn chairs to make up for a lack of permanent seating. Hell, bring your dog and a frisbee too.


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Best pitching matchup---
UCLA's Tyson Brummett vs. Cal State Fullerton's Wes Roemer, Friday.
These two are pretty good. That's tantamount to me saying that yes indeed, a bear squats in the woods. Because I defy you to find two pitchers that have faced better batting orders so far this season. And yet Brummett's numbers are 2-1, 1.09, 23Ks and five walks, and Roemer's numbers currently stand at 2-1, 3.27, 24Ks and one walk. I give a slight offensive edge to the Titan 1-through-9, but this should be a good showdown. So good in fact, I might just have to put on my shoulder pads and brass knuckles to fight Friday afternoon L.A. freeway traffic and join my boy Kendall Rogers for this one.


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Best under the radar series---
Miami Univ. (0-0) at No.22 Winthrop (7-2)
The Red Hawks had all their games with Western Kentucky snowed out as the terrible winter of '07 rages on. But don't be surprised if MU comes down to Rock Hill ready to pull a few Ws. Baseball America projects pitchers John Ely (8-2, 3.57 in a "down" year) and Connor Graham (3-2, 4.70) to be high round draftees this coming June. Plus, the Hawks are looking to make amends from last year's disappointing 33-24 record, with no post-season. Of course, Alex Wilson will probably throw the Eagles to a win on Friday night, especially with this being the first live action Miami has seen this year. What a wake up call that will be. Yikes!


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Best Midweek Win---
Florida State - 14
Florida - 4
Who knows what the hell is going on in the Sunshine State. When you figure it out, let me know. Just when you thought Florida had righted the ship with a series win over Miami, they lay this egg on Tuesday. Sure, it's just a mid-week game, but it was a woodshed job too. Another good win for FSU, which will need all the good Ws it can get considering most of the non-conference slate is Michelin Man soft. (Keep in mind my 28-3 start I predicted).


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Anchors aweigh on this two-way threat---
Last year, I voted for Navy's Mitch Harris on our Player of the Year weekly rankings on a number of occasions, mostly for his mound work. But he did end last season with a .333 batting average, hitting mostly on the days he didn't pitch. So far in '07, the strapping Midshipman is up to his usual on the mound, 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 16Ks in 11 innings. But he's also hitting .259, which may not sound like much until you consider in six games so far he's also hit two yard calls with a team-leading nine RBI. And by no strange coincidence, Navy is off to a 6-1 start, it's best start in 18 years. They'll play in the Service Academies classic this weekend in Millington, Tennessee against Air Force and Missouri.


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Okay, okay, I'll give them props---
I didn't give TCU team of the week honors in the West last week, but definitely could have. The Frogs took on a very representative Oral Roberts team in Ft. Worth and swept them in three, 2-1, 10-8 and 8-4. Player of the Year candidate Jake Arrieta got down with his bad self, holding the Eagles to just four hits, striking out eight and walking one in 6.0 innings to improve to 2-0. It also marked Coach Jim Schlossnagle his 200th win as a coach. Don't worry purple ones, I'm keeping an eye on you. I'd also love to get by and see your (relatively) new digs there on campus. The last time I was there was way back in 1995, when Nolan Ryan was an assistant coach.

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And people complain about aluminum bats in baseball?---
I'm not a golfer. And I won't be until I'm nearly 70, can't play hockey anymore and still have a few marbles rolling around in my head. But yesterday I got to see a pair of new drivers put out by Adidas/Taylor Made, the Burner and the Super-Quad. And good night! Those things weighed about as much as my hair, they had more bend in them than a fishing rod with a 70-pound swordfish on it and the tagline for them was "Our longest driver ever. Pick one." First thing that came to my mind was "and they say that aluminum bats are a black mark on baseball. What about these freaks of nature?" Again, it's golf, so I don't know much about the game. But these things have to be giving pro players an extra 100 yards or so off the tee box.


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Bendable handles vs. stiff bats
Having seen these golf clubs brings me to the argument between Easton and Louisville Slugger over whether "bend" in the shaft of a bat is good or not. Easton bats bend when swung, giving it a whip-like reaction when striking the ball and Louisville Slugger proudly claims in its advertising that their bats are stiff, with no bend. As witnessed by these high-tech golf clubs, evidently, having a bendable shaft that adds the "whip" factor to the drive IS good. So, Louisville Slugger, the onus is on you to come up with better advertising. Because as I see it, advantage Easton.


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Okay, that's about it for tonight. Be sure to go out and catch a game near you this weekend. Especially if you're here in the SoCal area. Too many good games to pass up, I tells ya'.

G'night.

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert