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Another Dumb Tiger Team
Sunday, March 29 5:00 PM
I'm scheduled to go to the Wally Pontiff Classic, LSU-ULL, Tuesday night at Zephyr Field courtesy of a friend.
  • My reaction after watching the absymal third game of the Kentucky series is, "Do I have to?"
  • Just as I couldn't stomach the LSU basketball team's last two games against Auburn and N. C. State, turning both off before the inevitable sad finish, I didn't make it to the end of Sunday's baseball game either. JUST AS AUBURN AND N. C. STATE DIDN'T EVEN PLAY WELL AND YET BEAT LSU IN THE LAST TWO BASKETBALL GAMES, KENTUCKY DIDN'T PLAY WELL AND STILL WON THE WEEKEND SERIES.
  • Where to start dissecting Sunday's mistakes? Let's start with the second play of the weekend that directly cost LSU a victory (the first being Breg­man running into the game-winning hit Friday night).
  • Top of the 9th. LSU leading 10-9. Two outs and nobody on. Batter hits a pop fly into short LF. Jared Foster decides to try for a diving catch. The ball goes past him. Watching on the Internet through my computer, I threw down my headphones and yelled, "What are you doing????" Then when he and Bregman went after the ball, I yelled, "Hurry up or he's going to get an inside-the-park HR!" But Bregman falls down and doesn't seem to realize that there's a man circling the bases. So his throw home is woefully late. That was the second game of the series that Bregman helped his team lose.
  • Maybe you think I'm being too hard on these youngsters. But if I, a 73­year-old man sitting at home, can realize immediately that trying for a diving catch at that point was STUPID, why didn't Foster already have figured out - as all fielders should do before each pitch - that it's best to let the ball drop and concede a single.
  • Foster would have been the hero because of his earlier two-run HR, his second in two games. But he squandered that opportunity with his bone­head play in the ninth.
  • Bregman had a terrible series: 2-14, 0 runs, 1 RBI, 2 walks. He hit into some bad luck, drilling several at'em balls. But add his baserunning gaffe Friday night and his poor judgment on the inside-the-park HR Sunday and you have undoubtedly his worst series since he's been at LSU.

And Manieri refused to bunt in a crucial situation again.

  • Bottom of the 8th, game tied 9-9.
  • Sciambra and Foster lead off with singles. First and second, no outs.
  • Exactly the same scenario as Friday night. Adding to the similarity, the batter is a weak hitter, in this case Tyler Robertson. BUNT, BUNT, BUNT!
  • No, let him hit away. Fortunately, he didn't hit into a double play but he did hit a short fly to LF - unproductive out.
  • Laird singled up the middle to score the tying run. BUT IF THE RUNNERS HAD BEEN SACRIFICED TO 2ND AND 3RD, THE SINGLE WOULD HAVE SCORED TWO RUNS.
  • Bregman bailed Manieri out with a sacrifice fly to bring in the go-ahead run.
  • That should have been enough except for Foster's misplay that squan­dered the lead.

The Kentucky series may have revealed an enduring problem - weakness in the bullpen.

  • Southpaw Zac Person, counted on to be the 8th inning "hold" man, had his second straight poor outing. He came on in the top of the 8th with runners on 2nd and 3rd and LSU holding a three-run lead. He threw gasoline on the fire by hitting a batter (an LSU bullpen specialty these days) and allowing a hit. He lasted only 1/3 of an inning as UK scored 4 to take a one-run lead, which LSU wiped out in the bottom of the inning. Zac gave up the tying run on three hits in the 8th inning of the 2nd game of the series. He's not getting out the lefthanded batters he's called in to face.
  • The bullpen didn't acquit itself well Sunday, although it was called on for extra duty because of the poor performance of starter Jake Godfrey. It takes a collective effort to allow 12 runs, the most by five that LSU has surrendered in any game this season.

I can abide pitchers having control problems or hitters being in a slump. But what I can't stand is mental errors by players and, especially, the coach.

Maybe I'll go Tuesday night just to boo Manieri, Foster, and even Bregman.

Startling Stat
Batting average of Texas A&M's hitters leading off an inning this season.
Quick Quiz

Identify the three Power Five conference schools that do not play baseball.

Manieri Has a Johnny Jones Attack

I thought I'd seen my fill during basketball season of nauseating games in which a poorly-coached Tiger team played dumb and lost to an inferior opponent.

  • Then came Friday night's LSU-Kentucky baseball game.
  • Paul Manieri is a fine coach. His record speaks for itself. But the opener of the weekend series against the Wildcats was one of his worst perform­ances since he came to Baton Rouge.
  • Add two boneheaded base running plays by veteran players who should know better and you have a 5-4 Kentucky win in 12 innings.

Let's start in the top of the 7th.

  • Jared Poche is coasting along with a one-hitter.
  • LSU leads only 2-0 thanks to some bad luck and a base-running blunder.
  • The bad luck came from numerous line drives right at defensive players.
  • The blunder occurred in the 2nd when the Tigers had men on 1st and 2nd. Chris Sciambra hit a liner to the warning track in RCF that bounced over the fence for a ground rule double.
  • The runner on 2nd scored. However, the man on 1st, Jared Foster, decided the ball would be caught. So he returned to 1B to tag up. Meanwhile, Sciambra, watching the flight of the ball, passed Foster as he rounded first. So the hitter is out, and Foster moves to 3B. Instead of 2nd and 3rd and one out, LSU has a runner on 3B and two outs. The next batter, Mark Laird flew out.
  • Returning to the 7th, Poche gives up a one-out double, then a single to plate UK's first run of the evening. No one gets up in the bullpen.
  • After a line shot to 3B, two more singles send the tying run home.
  • Finally, some bullpen action. But too late. Another single puts UK in the lead 3-2.
  • Manieri belatedly decides to pull Poche and bring in Parker Bugg.
  • The Tigers tie the game in the 8th thanks to a two-out throwing error.

The 11th inning produced the most puzzling decision by Manieri and the other instance of brainless baserunning - and from an unexpected source.

  • The first two Tigers single - runners at 1st and 2nd.
  • Up comes Greg Deichmann, a freshman who has been injured and is ma­king his fourth plate appearance of the season. No brainer. Bunt, right? No, Deichmann swings away and hits into a 4-6-3 DP.
  • I understand the radio broadcast (I was watching the game on the Internet via SEC+) raised the issue of whether Manieri didn't trust Deichmann to bunt. Then why not put up a pinch-hitter?
  • After two intentional walks to Laird and Alex Bregman, the bases are loaced with two outs. Connor Hale smacks a grass cutter that's headed between 1B and 2B into RF. All Bregman has to do is stay where he is and let the ball go in front of him into the outfield to win the game. Instead, he decides to run. It isn't so much that he was hit by the ball as that he ran into the ball.

In the meantime, the nation's top closer, Jesse Stallings, came in to start the top of the 9th.

  • He shuts down the Wildcats. So Manieri sends him back out for the 10th. Another goose egg.
  • Despite the fact that Stallings has not pitched more than an inning in a game all season, Manieri sends him out for the 11th and then the 12th.
  • Did that indicate a lack of faith in the LSU bullpen? It seemed like Manieri was determined to keep pitching Stallings until he cracked, and Kentucky broke through.
  • And that's what they did in the 12th, scoring two runs.
  • The Tigers got a run in the bottom of the 12th, thanks to two more UK errors, but fell a run short.

They bounced back from an opening defeat at Arkansas last weekend to take the series. They'll have to do that again.

Does March Madness Glory Help Financially?

Mina Kimes investigated the question above in her column in the March 30th ESPN the Magazine.

  • When George Mason made its Cinderella run to the Final Four in 2006, "the Patriots' success 'resulted in a whopping windfall' from merchandise and donations ... Others touted a 21 percent surge in applications."
  • Five years later, with a different coach, George Mason returned to the NCAA Tournament as an 8th seed and advaced to the third round. But "appli­cations barely budged." In 2012, the Patriots didn't make the tournament. Yet applications rose a whopping 42% the next year.
  • So what happened? It's hard to say, because college applications, like donations and ticket sales, are influenced by complex forces ranging from costs to mar­keting. But complexity often falls by the wayside in stories about the transformative power of sports. ... The trend dates back to 1984 when Doug Flutie's Hail Mary led Boston College to a last-second upset of Miami. Over the next two years, BC reported a 30 percent increase in applications.
  • Since then, the "Flutie factor" has been cited widely. It's a nice theory, says Michael Malec, a professor of sports sociology at BC since the 1960s, but it has a major flaw: It fails to account for history. "Applications had been in­creasing rather steadily since Doug Flutie was in kindergarten," he says. Indeed, interest in the school started growing in the 1970s, when the college opened its doors to women and built more dorms.
  • A study by two professors found that "a trip to the Sweet 16 prompts, on average, a 3.8 increase" in applications to the school. "It's a temporary bump for two or three years." That might explain what happened at Butler, which saw a 41 percent increase in applications after the college made it to the NCAA championship game in 2010 but only a 2 percent jump after it returned to the final in 2011 as an even bigger underdog.
  • When Davidson made a run to the Elite Eight in 2008, as a 10-seed led by Steph Curry, several stories trumpeted a surge in applications to the tiny college. The actual bump? Eighty-two more students applied the next year.
  • Schools also occasionally see a rise in donations. Butler, for example, says gifts jumped 18 percent after its 2010 run. (After its second trip, donations rose only 3 percent.)
  • At Wichita State, bequests skyrocketed in 2013 and '14, right after the school reached its first Final Four since 1965. It's tempting to presume cause and effect ... but the biggest gift actually came from the estate of a donor who died in 2012, months before the Shockers upset Gonzaga. .... a vice president at the WSU Foundation says the benefactor was a patron of the school's engi­neering program. "That had nothing to do with athletics."
  • Still, the narrative persists. It might be because we believe that fairy tales de­serve happy endings ... BC's Malek, a college basketball fan, offers a simpler explanation: "I think sports fans tend to think that everyone else in the world cares as much about sports as we do."

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About This Site
This site is devoted primarily but not exclusively to college and pro football. The unique feature of this site is the publication each fall of the author's rankings of all FBS college football teams and similar rankings for the NFL. I live in New Orleans and am a graduate of LSU and FSU. So I present a Southern and particularly an SEC point of view but one that is reasonably objective. I also publish a monthly Football Magazine with stories from the past and a monthly Baseball Magazine with a similar format. During the winter and spring, there's a monthly Basketball Magazine.

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