Surprise Friday starter. Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido announced on Wednesday that Kenn Kasparek will start Friday against St. John's. Why not Chance Ruffin? "St. John’s has a predominantly right-handed lineup. I think that seven of their nine hitters are right-handed."
I have no particular disagreement with the decision for a number of reasons, most notably because I trust Augie Garrido. But I sure wish college baseball had a good site of split stats I could handily access, because whatever Augie's real reason for starting Big Bird this Friday, Chance Ruffin was so far and away the most statistically dominant pitcher for Texas this year that there's no possible way the explanation given to the media is what's on Augie's mind.
Like I said, whatever Augie's real reason is fine by me, but I do wish I knew what it actually was. I'd bet it's far more interesting and revealing than the quote he decided to give reporters.
First his Dad, now the media? Who's next to embarrass AJ Abrams? I'd nominate myself, but I'm not sure I ever let go of the baton after the Abrams' unbecoming surprise announcement the evening before DJ's momentous day. If you missed it in the FanShots, I was annoyed enough to take a snarky shot in a Mock Draft link one week ago; two days later, I played the same song to a different tune, this time after it was the reported Abrams said he had received one of the 64 invites for the Orland NBA workouts.
Go ahead and add the Statesman to the list of indulging parties. After running the above-linked Bevo Beat blurb last Friday, the paper was forced to note in the same space today that Monday's actual release of the Orlando invites did not include AJ Abrams. Mark Rosner writes:
Abrams thought last week that he was going. Others, in the media, predicted that Abrams would make the list of players competing there. But when the list was released by the NBA Monday night, Abrams was not one of the 64 players included.
What's so sad about this whole affair is that it's not what would have been an otherwise perfectly acceptable charade:
AJ Abrams declares quite separately from DJ Augustin that he's going to test the professional waters. With a wink. The undersized junior will take advantage of the summer after his junior season to get a feel for the NBA process he'll be gunning for next year when he graduates. Playing professional basketball is his dream.
Under those circumstances - or, heck, even if Abrams' Dad hadn't acted so blatantly exploitative but the family still believed he had a real shot at the NBA this year - I would at least be cheering on Abrams, consistent with my default position as a burnt orange super fan. As is, today's correction in the Statesman looks more like a bad punch line from a scripted reality show whose ending we all foresaw.
By contrast... Long time reader and valued commenter Cyrus decried what he has seen as too much antagonism towards Rashad Bobino, particularly from yours truly:
He played waaaaaaaaay better than PB and you give him credit for.
A response is merited. Not only is the content on this website is as open to criticism as are the players on the 40 Acres, but the preceding Abrams story and Cyrus' objections combine as a convenient catalyst for a related, worthwhile point.
Readers who have been around for at least a year will remember some of my preseason aspirations for talking Texas in 2007 . Among them:
2. I will do a better job of making separate my criticisms of coaches and my support of the players. It's easy to be critical of the team we follow most closely, and goodness knows there's always room for improvement.
While I'll never shy away from being appropriately critical of the team's weaknesses, I vow to do a better job of showing my support for the kids who are out there doing this stuff. We all want conference and national titles, and we all want to point out what went wrong when they don't come to pass... but I need to do a better job of noting my unadulterated support for the kids out there, win or lose.
Looking back, that seems both a worthy goal and a bit simplistic, given my generally cynical view of amateur athletics. And I'm hardly out on a limb on the latter front: In a sport wherein the mile-long march to a playoff is going to take all 5,280 baby steps to get there, we've hit something like mile marker 4,250, in which one of the university presidents actually talks on record about the 800-pound gorilla in the room - as always, money.
Getting home to my computer for the first time today, reading Cyrus' comment for me again brought to a head the interconnectedness of it all. And at least in one way, I was probably too harsh on Bobino last year.
But not because his on-field play was superior than I or others gave him credit. More like because Bobino's one of the overwhelming majority of NCAA athletes who make fans proud, whatever their contributions. Not only that, but he's a leader on the team, well-respected and highly valued by teammates. As much of our criticism was coach-directed last season, it's a good reason to remember that for most of the players, nearly all of it should be.
The coaches are the ones who make exorbitant salaries. The Texas athletics department is at the forefront of an arms race which profits enormously on the backs of these kids. Asked about whether there was such thing as excess in college athletics spending, the UT AD's chief financial administrator sidestepped the point: "We eat what we kill." (Translation: the fans don't seem to mind.)
All told, among the relatively innocent should be Rashad Bobino, who did everything he could to try and help Texas win last year. His case is a lot stronger than those on the Texas staff, who had to throw out their entire '07 game plans after the loss to A&M. This, just to get to where most fans were after Arkansas State.
In modern college sports, there are good and bad coaches, players, universities, and future interests all mingled together. Sometimes, the kid deserves some heat. Like AJ Abrams, for how he and his family are handling this draft stuff. Sometimes, whether the kid is the starring player or just on the practice squad, they're doing all they can and giving fans precisely what it is we want.
I'm not sure if Cyrus was getting at that point or if he thinks Bobino's on-field contributions are just vastly underrated. I'm glad he raised it either way.
Housekeeping. With a summer clerkship starting yesterday and a move to my summer lease this weekend, I'll be sporadic for a bit, but I'm around. If anyone comes across TV notes on the CWS, please post. I'll be taking breaks to watch that as its available.