Jeff: Alright Abram. I think this is the third or fourth year we've kicked off our coverage with just the two of us chatting. And each year we've begun with you finishing this sentence. The state of Texas baseball is __________________?
Abram: Ascendant. After a run of disappointing seasons significant enough to have Augie Garrido on the hot seat, his squad put together the most fun postseason run I've ever seen that didn't end in a national title. Expectations are back where they belong, with what should be a strong team to try and return to Omaha or at least have a good shot at doing so when the regular season ends. Of course, as every Texas coach in a major sport knows, high expectations can be a double edged sword. The kind of finish we would have been perfectly fine with in 2014 would be a disappointment in 2015. So as long as we're starting from a big picture perspective: how do you see this season playing out and ultimately ending?
Jeff: I think last year your answer to the question was just a frownie face emoticon so this is a huge upgrade. My assumption is that it ends with your son learning what a real dogpile looks like. What could go wrong, right? The team certainly has the talent and the offense should be even better than last year's mediocrity. More realistically, I guess I'm just hoping for a similar Omaha run this year. Postseason baseball is stressful and whatnot, but most of all it's fun and I like fun.
I guess the main emotion I feel regarding the 2015 baseball team is worry. Last year was such a roller coaster that ended with such a pleasant surprise. Actually, I have four worries:
What if last year's Omaha run was just a fluke?
What if all the loss of so many talented pitchers is overwhelming?
What if the new hitters don't make a difference?
What if the Horns can't overcome the tough non-conference and conference schedules?
I know we'll hit on each of these topics in individual previews, but which of those issues worry you the most?
Abram: Well hell, Jeff. Now that you laid them all out, each one of them worries me. The first and last of your questions are global concerns that, to me, can both be rephrased as "what if Texas just isn't that good?" That's always a worry in the preseason, but it's not a specific enough worry for it to be my main concern. If your other two concerns come true--i.e., we can't hit and we can't pitch--then those global questions get obvious negative answers as well. I think my biggest concern of the four, then, is the third: what if the new hitters don't make a difference? And the reason for that is history: we've seen this coaching staff reload on the mound time and time again, replacing talented departed hurlers with yet more dominant arms. But we've also seen, time and time again, talented hitters come through the program and see their production disappoint. So I'm worried that this crop of young batsmen will be a new verse in the same song of Texas getting very little offensive production where there's potential for more.
And then there's the region as a whole. Let's say Texas performs up to snuff and hosts a regional and super regional. There they might see any number of really quality teams that could be paired with due to geographical convenience. A&M should be improved, Houston is really good, Rice is good, and there any number of smaller regional schools who could be this year's Sam Houston State.
I don't see the Horns winning the Big 12 simply because they haven't been good enough in recent years and I think the conference has gotten better. But last year proved that Texas doesn't really need to win the conference to hit its real goals. A strong second place finish in a strong conference would be fine by me and would be good enough to at least host a regional. I'm going to agree with you on all accounts (which means we will be way off). I see a second or third place Big 12 finish, regional host victory, super regional upset and two or three wins in Omaha. Great season, maybe not great enough for a title.