Thursday Thoughts - The pumpkin bounces in Silicone Valley

From the land of silicone implants to Silicone Valley, I've made the drive up from L.A. to San Jose to cover the NCAA basketball West Regionals this weekend.

I've gotta admit, this is one of the worst weekends to be traipsing around following the post-season bouncing ball. Oh I'm fine with covering the NCAA tournament. I love it. I'm into it. And the best part is that my bracket is waxing arse right now (I'm in 2nd place, thank you VCU, USC, Butler and Southern Illinois).

But by doing the basketball thing up here, look what I miss out on:

- Baseball games like Vandy-Arkansas, Arizona State-USC, Texas A&M-Oklahoma and the best rivalry in college baseball, Fullerton-Long Beach.
- Other great basketball action from other regionals. For instance, that Texas A&M-Memphis and Tennessee-Ohio State doubleheader from San Antonio must've been awesome.
- And the NCAA hockey tournament. You see stitch-heads, hockey is the game played on a sheet of ice with a hard rubber disc. And this weekend marks the opening of the Field of 24. Even though baseball rules, I'm still a big hockey honk (I've got Minnesota winning my hockey bracket).

None-the-less, I'll try to hit a baseball game on Friday up in the Bay Area and will be back in SoCal on Sunday for the getaway game of either USC-ASU or CSUF-LB. So I'll still get my fix.

In the meantime, if you want to see some of the garb I wrote for today's basketball Regional in San Jose, go here:

http://slog.cstv.com/hangtime/ncaa_tournament/san_jose/


On to other things.

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Jerks in baseball---
You could fill up one of those new, 8-story tall, double-deck A380 Airbus jet planes with as many of them as we've seen in the history of baseball. Hell you could fill two, and still have a bunch more listening to pleasant muzak while waiting their turn to board.

In light of the recent news regarding Pete Rose and his un-reignable gambling and lying addiction, I thought about who has been the biggest jerks in the sport of baseball over the years. There are a lot, I know.

But here's my rendition of the worst of the worst.

The five worst people in baseball history:
1- Scott Boras.
If anyone in baseball is more responsible for, A - skyrocketing salaries and B - lengthy holdouts, it's this super-agent greed-monger. He's the reason people roll their eyes whenever they hear a certain stud player has hired Scott Boras as his agent. Also one of the main reasons I don't give a rat's arse about pro ball anymore.

2- Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
Not only did this moron blindly kick every member of the 1919 Black Sox out of baseball (some of whom didn't merit it - Joe Jackson for example), but did you notice that the minute he left his commissioners post, black players finally got to play in the majors again? The bigot.

3- Pete Rose.
"No, I never bet on baseball." - 1989
"Well, I never bet on my team."- 2002
"Well, I never bet on my team to lose."- 2007
"Well, I never bet on my team to lose by more than three runs." - 2010
"Well, I never bet my first born on losing a World Series. - 2013
And don't forget, "Yes, I was stupid enough to run over and injure a catcher in a meaningless all-star game."

4- Ty Cobb.
The greatest player to ever play the game, in my opinion. But as Ray Liotta said in Field of Dreams, "We would've asked Ty Cobb to play but nobody liked the sumbitch when he was alive so we told him to 'stick it!' heh-heh-heh-heh!"

5- Ben Christensen.
Yes, a college player made the list. The Wichita State phenom once beaned Anthony Molina of Evansville while he stood on-deck during warm-ups. And I mean beaned him in the face, causing Molina to miss the remainder of the season. Good thing karma stepped in and Christensen never made the majors.

Dishonorable Mentions;
- Barry Bonds. Please tell me he won't break the classy Hank Aaron's record.
- Donald Fehr. Thanks for killing the '94 World Series and skyrocketing salaries.
- Marge Schott. This Hitler apologist once wanted a game played despite an umpires on-field death.
- John McGraw. He was the antithesis of Christy Mathewson in his day. Irascible. Cantankerous. Angry. Mean.
- Rafael Palmeiro. Wish he would've been more like fellow 'Dog Will Clark. You know, not a liar.
- Jose Canseco. He outed people like McGwire and Palmeiro, but he still looks seedy.


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They weren't mentioned above, but should make a "Dumbest" list somewhere---
Lonnie Chisenhall and Nick Fuller of South Carolina.
We all know that college-aged athletes fall into the same pitfalls of temptation faced by every 18-to-23 year old. But there are always those who go beyond bonehead status and can be labeled, in the words of Deacon Jones, bona-fide idiots. Both were charged with stealing a big screen TV, some laptop computers and meal money from the athletic offices at South Carolina. How brilliant do you have to be to think you'll get away with something like this? Hell, Chisenhall was an 11th-round pick last June and Fuller was a 3rd-rounder. Don't they know they're going to be rich bastards soon and won't need to steal? Then again, watch Donald Fehr come around and get them a settlement and claim they're victims of college exploitation.


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The Clunkers of 2007---
Last week we looked at the pleasant surprise teams around the country. This week we look at the teams that are having the toughest time so far, falling short of expectations. (Sorry, guess I'm in more of a piss and vinegar mood.) In no particular order:

- Winthrop (13-13)
You knew something was wrong when Miami (Ohio) went down and won a series in Rock Hill. And here I was thinking that playing two close games with UCLA meant something.

- UCLA (8-14)
The Bruins were picked by Baseball America to go to the College World Series, but have gone a limp-fish 2-8 since a sweep of East Carolina early on. Could be a victim of its own rugged scheduling.

- McNeese State (3-21)
Man, this is weird. First, the Cowboys were pre-season picks to win the Southland Conference title. But MSU lost its first nine games. Then, their coach, Chad Clement, decided he didn't have the fire in him any longer and resigned. The struggles continue now too.

- Georgia Tech (11-10)
Not even an easy schedule could salvage Tech from its weakened pitching staff and still suspect defense. Opponents are hitting a wealthy .297 so far.

- Kent State (4-13)
After opening the season with three close losses at Wake Forest and winning a series at Florida, the Flashes have circled the drain. Capped off by a loss to Duquesne on Tuesday where they could muster just three hits.

- Notre Dame (10-9)
Look, I know Paul Maineiri hit the bricks and I really do think Dave Schrage is a good coach. But you don't lose a game to someone called Florida Memorial!

- James Madison (6-13)
Since they are so bad, it appears as if National Player of the Year candidate Kellen Kulbacki will once again toil in anonymity. Even moreso.

- Kent State (6-12)
After playing well early, including a series win at Florida, the Flashes have floundered. With Emanuel Burriss gone to the play-for-pay boys, the offense is hitting just .249 and has just five steals all year. Five.

- Stanford (11-8)
Not a good mark at the mid-term break. The opponents are hitting (hold on to your hats here) .311 on the year. Good god! This is still a Mark Marquess team, right?


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The Top Ten Series of the Weekend---
You know the drill... if I had the company lear jet, yada yada, blabber, blabber.

1- No. 1 Vanderbilt at No. 10 Arkansas (17-6)
That David Price vs. Nick Schmidt face-off on Friday night will match two team USA starters from last summer and is going to be more tasty than Homer Simpson's gummy Venus DeMilo. I would give the edge to Vandy the remainder of the series based on their deeper pitching, but this is VU's first true road games of the season, so you never know how they'll react.

2- No. 12 Cal State Fullerton at No. 19 Long Beach State
I'm sure there are plenty of teams that could make arguments, but this is the best rivalry in the country (with the possible exception of Oklahoma State-OU). Wes Roemer is getting hit so hard lately, he's dropped from No. 1 in CSTV's Player of the Year voting to out of the Top 10. This is one of those weird non-conference series' that somehow hurts each teams' RPI (refer to Boyd Nation's FAQ).

3- No. 13 Texas A&M (21-3) at No. 29 Oklahoma (18-6)
I'm going to quit calling A&M a surprise because the Aggies just keep on winning and refuse to swoon like last year. Especially after Tuesday night's 11-inning win over Rice, its second victory over the Owls this season. OU ain't doin' so bad either, especially considering the losses they absorbed off last year's team. Anthony Reza has cooled off a bit, now hitting .344. But Aaron Baker has been similar to his bodybuilding namesake: strong. He's hitting .396 so far.

4- No. 14 Arizona State (19-7) at Southern California (16-10)
It's ASU's battering ram offense (.364) against the young arms of USC. What a great series to open Pac 10 play. Every time it appears as if the Devils are playing some good teams and their team average looks legit, they'll play a team like Maine last week and go on another bludgeoning spree. SC's gotta be hacked off, going 3-3 in its last six and losing on Tuesday to Pepperdine. I can't wait to see what Freshman Grant Green does next.

5- No. 7 Rice (17-9) at No. 28 Southern Mississippi (16-6)
Rice is vulnerable. Here's your chance USM. No pressure. The Owls are still on an emotional roller-coaster ride. The offense hits at .287, but has only three players over .300. For what it's worth, the pitching is still there as opponents are hitting just .232. Should be a good matchup with USM pitching at a 3.29 ERA. Ace Ryan Belanger is a witch at 4-1 and 1.49.

6- No. 26 Miami (14-10) at No. 8 Virginia
The Canes are still hard to figure out. Beyond Yonder Alonso (.376-6-25), nobody has asserted themselves consistently enough at the dish. Canes need Dennis Raben (.241) and Jemile Weeks (.280) to get their stuff together to make this a special season. UVa has to have a wicked amount of confidence after going to UNC and pulling out a pair of wins. Jacob Thompson getting notice for Player of the Year voting is pretty exciting. After seeing him pitch pretty well vs. Wake two weeks ago, I won't argue it.

7- No. 3 South Carolina (19-3) at Mississippi State (13-4)
Carolina probably doesn't mind getting out and playing some games to keep its mind off the off-the-field troubles. MSU comes off a good series win at Florida and a squeaker vs. Samford.

8- Missouri (18-5) at No. 24 Nebraska (12-7)
I know they haven't played the best schedule (albeit better than some of the stiffs in the rankings), but the Tigers have quietly put together an 18-5 mark and deserve to be ranked. They'll face a Husker squad that can't seem to get off the roller coaster (losing to Iowa, Notre Dame, beating Alabama twice in Tuscaloosa, losing to Texas Tech).

9- TCU (17-6) at BYU (13-9)
The letter-based teams should be at the top of Mountain West standings all season long. TCU rallies to win game one in Provo, 6-5. BYU has more to prove here after getting held to just five hits in tonight's loss. Frog hurler Jake Arrieta struck out 10 in 6.0 innings of work.

10- No. 4 Oregon State(21-3) at Cal Poly (13-13)
Dare I say, San Luis Obispo could be the toughest locale in the country to get to. No major airports within three and a half hours and just isolated as hell. OSU will have its hands full in what will be their toughest road trip of the season so far. Poly is better than their mark, as witnessed by last week's two one-run losses at Rice.


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Best off-the-radar series---
Mercer at Stetson.
You guys remember the Bears, right? The team that beat Miami in the first weekend of the season... well, they're still playing pretty well, racing out to a 17-8 mark. The series at Stetson should've happened the last weekend of the regular season because these two look like the tops of the A-Sun now.


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Second-best off-the-radar series---
VMI at Winthrop.
The Keydets couldn't be happier with the way things are going so far, a 17-4 start, including a series win at Florida, a win at Auburn and sweeping Charleston Southern to start Big South play last week. Winthrop, as you read above, is laboring right now, going 6-11 since a 7-2 start. Strangely, the pitching hasn't come together (.285 opponents average) and the team is hitting just .279 itself.


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Okay, I was going to write some more stuff, but I've got to do some basketball stuff now before I hit the hay. My hope is to get out to Berkeley tomorrow to see game two between Oral Roberts and Cal. ORU won today's game 2-1.

More from Hippie-town tomorrow.

G'night.

Comments

Contrary to your belief cal state-fullerton is not the best rivalry in college.South Carolina vs. Clemson is the paragon of college rivalry. This rivalry exists in all sports! Not just baseball.Because of the excellence that both programs have shown in the last 10 yrs it is phenomenal.They have hated each others guts for decades, but now it has gone to another level. Jack Leggett and Ray Tanner are cordial at best.My only wish is the stadiums were larger.

Not a good list for me: my cousin Ben makes the worst people in baseball list and two of my schoolmates at Carolina made the dumbest list. The only thing that could have made it worse is if Nebraska made the biggest disappointments list (which I am surprised they didn't). Thanks, Eric!

You're right, Winthrop has been coming up short, not scoring alot of runs and Alex has struggled in some unfriendly ball parks with extremely small strike zones, which happens in non-conference matchups, you must overcome those things as a competitor. On the other hand, Winthrop has just taken the first two games from VMI. Alex fanned 14 in game one to win. So maybe there's hope for a comeback this season.

Mike, Jeremy and Jim. Thanks all for writin' and even moreso for readin'. Mike, as I stated above, you're right, there are plenty of teams that could argue the "best rivalry" moniker. SoCar-Clemson is awesome too. Not gonna argue a thing here. Jeremy, sounds like you've had a bad week. Bummer 'bout your cousins beaning. Just don't tell me that Scott Boras was his agent, okay? Jim, thanks for the note. Saw Alex pitch at UCLA. His fastball would hit the mitt so hard I felt a thud in MY chest! Loved Winthrop at the time. Competitive as hell. Looks like the turnaround may have started with the VMI series. Thanks again, all. Yours in the stitched-ball. - E.

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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