Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dirty Thoughts

A few random tidbits that I couldn't manage to fit anywhere else....

The first “series preview” of the season will be up soon. In it I include a segment titled “what’s at stake” where I had intended to describe the significance of the opening series for the Dirtbags. When writing it I instead myself going on a long digression about the state of the program and what 2013 means as a whole. So, I finally decided to simply make the tangent its own post. Forgive me for the trite, platitude-filled rant that follows.

It's been nearly five years since Long Beach State has been to the Regionals; the longest drought the program has seen since becoming the “Dirtbags” back in the ‘80s. Between the original Omaha-bound team of 1989 and the 2009 Regional-less squad, Long Beach State hadn’t so much as gone consecutive seasons without a post-season trip. The frustration in Long Beach in certainly starting to set in, and I’ve even seen some (of our notoriously cynical) LBSU fans commenting online that the team should surrender the title of “Dirtbags”, one even claiming “Not sure we have really seen an honest to goodness Dirtbag team in at least the last 5 years.”

Well, I’m not re-naming the blog, so screw you guys (although I have to admit, I think “Dirty Thoughts” is a catchy blog title).

The disappointment is undeniable, though. As a fan, one of the worst parts of last year’s so-close-yet-so-far conclusion was seeing the seniors, like four-year starter and prototypical-Dirtbag Brennen Metzger, bid farewell to their college careers without a chance to play June baseball. Perfect Game’s Kendall Rogers even recently wrote, “LBSU's continued struggles surprises me ... I really thought Coach (Troy) Buckley would have a very quick fix.”

The team has been on the rise since Buckley took over the program and, of course, one more win last season and we wouldn’t be having this discussion; but it wasn’t to be. The Dirtbags were a day later and a dollar short and now we enter 2013 with a clean slate, an improving Big West, and a team that appears no closer to taking that next big step forward.

So what will be done? Or rather, what can be done? The recent recruiting classes haven’t cracked any major rankings, and they may not in the near future either, unless the current crop of players we have can find post-season success.

The planned $20 million-worth of renovations to enhance Blair Field could potentially entice some prospects. The plans were to include improved offices and suites, additional batting cages, and a brand new practice infield adjacent to the playing field. However, the weight of those originally under-estimated production costs seem to have left the renovation plans in ballpark purgatory. Once again it seems safe to assume the best way remedy the problem, and get the boosters to put up the necessary finances, is to have winning baseball now.

But then, simply saying “we need to win more” isn’t exactly innovative. So for now it seems we’re stuck with a not-so-star-studded program, playing in an aging ballpark, which lacks a desirable practice facility for the infielders. Where have we seen this before?

For a program that’s recently had results more similar to the ‘80s 49ers than the ‘90s Dirtbags, maybe looking back to those trying, pre-Dave Snow years is the answer. As pretentious and unspecific as it sounds, perhaps the key to success for this team really is as simple as re-inventing itself the way that 1989 club did, and to become what these 2013 players signed up to be in the first place: Dirtbags.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest let me cleanse this feeling of tawdry douche-baggary with some additional notes…

Lineupology 2.0
Long Beach State announced their “probable” starting lineup yesterday and offered a few surprises.

C-Royce Murai
1B-Jeff Yamaguchi
2B-Jeff McNeil
3B-Juan Avila
SS-Michael Hill
LF-Josh Guerra
CF-Colby Brenner
RF-Richard Prigatano
DH-Ino Patron

So I got six of the nine starting positions wrong, but check it out you guys, I totally nailed the entire outfield! (that sounds strange).

Without devoting another 1,700 words to the subject, let’s take another crack at the batting order.

CF Colby Brenner (LH)
3B Juan Avila (RH)
DH Ino Patron (LH)
RF Richard Prigatano (RH)
SS Michael Hill (LH)
1B Jeff Yamaguchi (RH)
2B Jeff McNeil (LH)
LF Josh Guerra (RH)
C Royce Murai (RH)

I’m probably still putting too much of a premium on the whole L-R-L balance, but it’s important to keep that top part of the lineup from getting too-lefty heavy and other than Avila and Prigatano there’s no obvious righty option to bat in those first four spots. The lower half of the lineup isn’t all that dissimilar from a lineup we saw frequently last year. Yamaguchi still hasn’t shown signs of a breakthrough season, but he has the experience factor over Guerra and greater power than McNeil (plus he maintains the ever important L-R-L balance). The Murai/Homie combo hit ninth for most of last year and while Murai has put on a few pounds in advance of his junior season, the .185 career hitter will need to prove a little more before being moved up.

This weekend’s rotation will be the not entirely surprising slate of Shane Carle, Jon Maciel, and Landon Hunt.

Ryan Millison, who presumably will be pitching next week versus Arizona, was also listed by the Dirtbags as a starting pitcher. That second mid-week spot will likely be filled by Nick Sabo (although probably not anymore, now that I’ve projected it).

Dirty Talk Sneak-Peak
The soon-to-be-published Vanderbilt series preivew will include a few words on Vandy from twitter’s VUHawkTalk, author of the blog When[It]StrikesMe. Below are some remarks from VUHawkTalk that I omitted from the preview post for brevity’s sake but are still worth a read. Enjoy…

Dirtbag Blues: Any thoughts on how Dave Serrano’s doing for the Volunteers?

VUHawkTalkYou won't see me say nice things about anyone in the Tennessee baseball program; however, Dave Serrano is following a really tough period for UT baseball during the end of the Rod Delmonico tenure (when UT functionally ceded recruiting in the state to Corbin) and the tenure of Todd Raleigh (who didn't make up any ground). Serrano has rested heavily on JuCo recruiting to try to turn things around at UT.  It's not worked so far and this year also looks bleak out east.  So long as UT has patience, the kids he's bringing in in 2014 and 2015 look like they could help stem the tide of several sub-par seasons in a row.  

Some notes on a few highly-touted freshmen Commodores…

Walker Buehler, RHP
VUHT“Likely to be the midweek starter and is a big armed righty from Kentucky with elite feel for pitching.”

Carson Fulmer, RHP
VUHT“A Sonny Gray-like RHP from Florida with a mid-90s fastball and a wipeout curveball who many expect to compete for the closer job."

Dansby Swanson, SS
VUHT: “One of the nations top incoming position players per Aaron Fitt and Kendall Rogers.  A 'do everything' kind of guy with a plus glove, plus speed and budding leadership potential.  Could hit second behind Kemp, but more likely to be a turn the order guy at 8th or 9th.  Singles and doubles guy who's expected to steal bases.”

Xavier Turner, 3B
VUHT: “One of the top freshman bats in the nation…. capable glove and has been billed as a potential middle of the order hitter.  Expected to hit for average with more doubles power than HR power this year.”

And a couple more notes, all courtesy of VUHawkTalk

"(Head Coach Tim Corbin) loves to steal and has his most athletic team ever.  He will bunt, hit and run, straight steal and, during last year's SEC tournament, pulled off the rare triple steal in the 9th inning against Florida's Austin Maddox.  Every player in the lineup, with the exception of (Chris) Harvey, is a threat to run... The Dores were not a good team until the last month or so of last year.  The high national rankings are based on the team's potential, but of all the players on the team, only (Conrad) Gregor, (Tony) Kemp, (Spencer) Navin and (relievers Jared and Brian Miller) came close to playing to their potential last year."

We'll touch base with VUHawkTalk again for the series preview, but you can also check out his blog When[It]StrikesMe for a very extensive look at Vandy Baseball.

Up Next: The Vandy series preview… for real this time…