Whatever that was at TD Ameritrade Park the past 12 days, it wasn’t the College World Series I’ve grown to love. It looked more like Wiffle Ball.
A few facts to digest from our 2013 Summer Classic:
>> Over its first four games, the eventual champion hit .183 with just three extra-base hits (all doubles). Its record: 4-0. For the CWS, UCLA hit .226 with a whopping five extra-base hits. Even Mike Moustakas thinks that’s bad.
>> In 43 CWS games at TDAPO since 2011, the losing team has scored 0 or 1 run 26 times. These are run totals for the losing teams in ‘13: 4, 0, 1, 1, 4, 4, 2, 1, 0, 0, 1, 1, 1, 0. In three years at TDAPO, no team has ever scored five runs and lost.
>> The average ERA in the CWS (2.54) was the lowest in 40 years, when teams still used wood bats.
>> In 2013, there wasn’t a single extra-inning game or ninth-inning rally.
>> And of course, there were three home runs.
I mention that number last because I don’t need balls bouncing off the funnel cakes in left field. I don’t need Warren Morris or Gorilla Ball. What I need is some sort of reason to watch a 3-1 game in the eighth inning. What I need is a ball or two going over somebody’s head — outfielders were playing so shallow, they could write their names in the dirt.
I admit, I’m no baseball purist. I love the history and traditions of the game, but I don’t keep score in a book. I don’t get misty-eyed at a sacrifice fly. I don’t remember the last time I sat and watched nine regular-season innings on TV. But I’m not the only one raising a fuss.
During the latter stages of last night’s clincher, the debate reached the broadcast booth. Well, it wasn’t much of a debate at all. Three baseball experts, two of whom were pitchers (Kyle Peterson and Orel Hershiser), agreed there’s a problem in Omaha.
“My point has always been, when you get big strong guys out here, people who are proven home run hitters during the year, during their career, and they square up a hanging curve and it dies short of the warning track, then you gotta make a change,” said play-by-play man Mike Patrick, who’s called dozens of games in Omaha over the past decade.
Said Peterson: “The threat of the home run has to come back in this ballpark.” And then he offered the money quote.
“If you gotta change the style of baseball you play when you show up, you gotta take a look at altering something.”
The NCAA folks in charge will be reluctant to complain. Total attendance of 341,483 topped the record of 336,076 in 2009 (the last year at the ‘Blatt). The average of 24,392 beat the old mark of 23,952 set in 2005.
People love the College World Series. And most appear to love it even more downtown. But that doesn’t mean the NCAA shouldn’t be proactive.
“Generally people don’t want to see us go back to the days of 21-run games,” Damani Leech, the NCAA’s director of championships and alliances, told the AP.
Well, I suppose he’s right. But that’s the equivalent of Husker fans defending Bo Pelini’s struggles by saying, “We don’t want to go back to Callahan.” It’s not the only alternative.
Nobody wants 14-11 games in Omaha. But if you haven’t seen enough to realize things are out of balance at the CWS, then you must be a pitcher.
The rules committee isn’t scheduled to change anything until next summer. But the NCAA shouldn’t wait. Modify the baseball this summer. Go to a pro ball, with flatter seams. It’s supposed to carry about 15 feet farther on a deep fly ball.
Maybe it makes a difference for home run totals, maybe it doesn’t. But at least pitchers might think twice before throwing a fastball down the middle.
* * *
>> A Vegas sportsbook set Nebraska’s over/under win total at 9.5. That’s about right. With a bowl game, I lean toward the over. There just isn’t enough firepower on the schedule to hand NU four losses again.
>> Oregon’s slap on the wrist from the NCAA — actually, it was probably more of a momentary squeeze of the arm — is the latest example of a successful head coach skating free from NCAA harm. The goofiest “sanction”: Chip Kelly’s 18-month ban from college coaching.
>> College football’s new trend is assistant coaches using coded tweets to celebrate recruiting commitments. Nebraska — with its frequent “Boom” tweets — isn’t alone.
>> ESPN profiles 15-year-old Dylan Moses, who already has an LSU scholarship offer.
>> What has gotten into Pat Fitzgerald on the recruiting trail? SI.com looks into the Wildcats’ surge.
>> Andy Staples says Kansas’ new Longhorn Network-type deal with ESPN3 may open the doors for a new round of realignment.
>> Greatest tennis player of all-time? John McEnroe boldly leans toward Rafa Nadal.
>> Colin Montgomerie is coming to Omaha for the U.S. Senior Open. Golf Digest talks to Monty about his career rebirth.
>> The honeymoon is over for Theo Epstein in Chicago.
>> Renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrews says there’s been a spike in youth sports injuries because of specialization and professionalism. An excerpt:
“Specialization leads to playing the sport year-round. That means not only an increase in risk factors for traumatic injuries but a sky-high increase in overuse injuries. Almost half of sports injuries in adolescents stem from overuse.
“Professionalism is taking these kids at a young age and trying to work them as if they are pro athletes, in terms of training and year-round activity. Some can do it, like Tiger Woods. He was treated like a professional golfer when he was 4, 5, 6 years old. But you’ve got to realize that Tiger Woods is a special case. A lot of these kids don’t have the ability to withstand that type of training and that type of parental/coach pressure.
“Now parents are hiring ex-pro baseball players as hitting and pitching instructors when their kid is 12. They’re thinking, ‘What’s more is better,’ and they’re ending up getting the kids hurt.”
>> Which NBA fan base most deserves a championship? (Hint: It ain’t Miami.)
>> If you missed it Monday night — I imagine you didn’t — the Blackhawks pulled off a Stanley Cup miracle, writes Joe Posnanski.
>> Finally, the two funniest Aaron Hernandez tweets I’ve seen today:
From Every Day Should Be Saturday (@edsbs): “Also, Rob Gronkowski just woke up in handcuffs, but that’s like a totally different scenario”
And from Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel): If there is one truism in the world it’s this: if Roger Cossack is talking about you on TV, you’re having a bad day