AO is on his honeymoon so to sum up the '09 season I (JA) will be writing in the first person singular. I know, it's revolutionary. We all know how the season ended (6-7, 5-1, 11-4), so I figured I'd go big picture with this one.
As a New Orleanian, the fall of 2005 was a tough time for me. My senior year at UT started and I was facing Hurricane Katrina and the toughest tragedy of my life when Texas traveled to Columbus, Ohio to play Ohio State. It was at that point that I made a decision that I had never made before as a sports fan. As a sports obsessed southerner (like many of you), I lived and died every time my team played, rejoicing with the victories and despairing with the losses. Before that game, though, I decided that I would rejoice and celebrate if Texas won, but there was too much crap going on in the world to get depressed if Texas lost. So if they lost, I decided, I would simply ignore it. It may seem stupid, but it was revolutionary for me at the time to simply choose not let sport get me down. Since then, with rare exception, that has been my reaction to every loss, big or small, by all of my favorites teams. Why put myself through misery if there isn't a positive emotional jolt to be gained by following the game?
It won't be for at least a year that we can truly put the 2009 baseball team into perspective, just as the 2004 baseball team is defined as much by the team that followed it as it is by anything that squad accomplished during the year. Despite that it is through an optimist's optic that I choose to perceive this magically flawed baseball team that dropped 2 of 3 to LSU.
We can question Augie's decisions that failed against LSU: to pinch hit certain players, bring in defensive substitutions, pull pitchers at certain times, moves that have been made successfully throughout the season. But what does that accomplish other than to prove the power of hindsight and the human frailty of even the most immortal of managers?
We can despair the poor results of Austin Wood, Austin Dicharry and the rest of the bullpen's efforts during games one and three. But why detract from previous phenomenal efforts by some of the team's most talented veterans and youngsters without whom this season would have ended in May?
We can say LSU got lucky, that Texas wins a title if Preston Clark's long foul ball in game one goes fair, or one of three HBP's aren't quite as close, or any other break that went LSU's way had gone for Texas. But good fortune is an essential part of winning in every sport. Good fortune is the reason Texas beat ASU and USM, good fortune is why a 2-loss LSU team won a national title in football, and it is good fortune when a Heisman Winner decides to try the hook 'n ladder without notifying the ladder. Titles are won on good fortune and it's never made sense to me why a champion should apologize for it.
We can say that tournaments do not always reveal the best team. But the goal every year is not to be the best team, it is to win a championship. A champion should not have to deal with questions over whether it was the better team. LSU won 2 of 3. That's enough.
Instead, I choose to percieve the 2009 baseball team only in a positive light. This is a team that returned Texas to Omaha for the first time since 2005. This is a team that won the Big XII taking 5 of 6 from Aggy and OU. This is a team that won a 25-inning game, had two walk off homers, a walk off walk, a complete game shutdown, and a miraculous comeback against the best pitcher in all the land. This is a team that added a month of excitement to the worst part of football season (the offseason).
Finally, and most importantly, this is a team that returns all of its starters and a large part of its bullpen in 2010. Key players like Travis Tucker, Brandon Belt, Michael Torres and Austin Wood will have to be replaced, but a talented group of reserves and incoming freshman should fill the gaps nicely. And Brandon Loy, Kevin Keyes, Connor Rowe and Cameron Rupp will all be back, with another year of growth under their belts.
The Kiddie Corps from 2008 were runners up in 2009 and could be very well favored to win it all in 2010. We won't be truly able to put the 2009 effort into perspective until the 2010 season sees its end.
To close the 2009 baseball season and truly begin the gruling offseason I'd like to use the words of Douglass Southall Freeman in his biography of Robert E Lee. Freeman writes:
When the story of a soldier is completed, and the biographer is about to leave the last camp-fire of a man he has learned to respect and to love, he is tempted to a last word of admiring estimate. May he not, by doing some fine phrase, fan into enduring flame the spark of greatness he thinks he has discovered in the leader whose councils he has in spirit shared? May he not claim for him a place in the company of the mighty captains of the past? Yet who that reverences historical verities can presume to say of any soldier who rises above the low shoulders of mediocrity, "In this he outshone or in that he rivaled another who fought under dissimilar conditions for a different cause in another age?" Circumstance is incommensurable: let none essay to measure men who are its creatures. Lee’s record is written in positive terms; why invoke comparitives? The reader who can appraise the conditions under which he fought can appraise the man.
The 2009 Longhorns were a brilliant, fun, gutsy, magical team who fell one win shy of the pinnacle of college baseball. Their record should be written (and spoken and blogged) in positive terms. That should be enough.
Congratulations are in order for LSU, they are the 2009 champions. As for the 2009 Longhorns, we should appreciate all they accomplished and look forward to just one more win in 2010.