EAST: Mainieri’s selection brings perspective

By LES EAST

Advocate sportswriter

Saturday’s news brought some useful perspective.

We learned LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri was selected for induction into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

The Tigers begin preseason practice Friday and the goal — as it is every year — will be to get to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., and preferably win it.

LSU fell one victory short of Omaha, Neb., last season and the Tigers haven’t been to the CWS since they last won it way back in 2009. This program, given what fellow Hall of Famer Skip Bertman built it into and what Mainieri has rebuilt it into, should aspire to the loftiest of goals and be disappointed when it doesn’t achieve them.

But, as Maineiri’s selection and Athletic Director Joe Alleva’s decision to extend Mainieri’s contract through 2017 show, it helps to see the forest and the trees.

In six seasons at LSU, Mainieri has twice taken the Tigers to the CWS, led them to three NCAA regional titles, two Southeastern Conference championships, three SEC tournament titles and three SEC West titles.

His record of 258-122-2 at LSU is second only to Bertman’s 18-year mark of 870-330-3.

The announcement of Mainieri’s election came on the day it became official that 11 LSU football underclassmen were entering the NFL draft.

The unprecedented number of early departures in the wake of a 10-3 season that ended with a last-second loss to Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl has caused panic among some Tigers football followers.

Never mind that most of the early departures were thought to be capable of — and likely to — enter the draft early when they signed with the Tigers. Never mind that LSU signs players each year in anticipation that the best underclassmen won’t stick around for their senior seasons. Never mind that the Tigers are poised to bring in another standout class next month.

It’s a matter of perspective, understanding when disappointments are short-term and not long-term shortcomings.

For the baseball team, the immediate goal is to get back to Omaha, and the Tigers appear capable of doing so, as do a lot of teams.

But another story Saturday brought more perspective. On the day LSU announced Mainieri would be going into the college hall, a manager in the Major Leagues’ Hall of Fame died.

Former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, a 1996 inductee into Cooperstown, died at age 82 while on a Caribbean cruise.

He was one of the most successful managers of all-time, and his winning percentage of .583 ranks fifth among managers who served 10 or more seasons in the 20th century.

But in Weaver’s 17 seasons, his six American League East Division titles, five seasons with 100 victories and four AL pennants yielded just one World Series title (1970).

A narrow focus on Weaver’s single World Series title could diminish his Hall of Fame credentials.

But that would require a lack of perspective.