While watching the College World Series, watching one mind-numbing ground ball after one futile fly ball out, I was reminded of Dean Wormer’s words about Delta House’s GPA in “Animal House.”
“It stinks! It’s the lowest on campus. It’s the lowest in Faber history!”
I’d like to think if actor John Vernon, who played Wormer, were still around, he would boom out the same thing about the 2013 CWS.
The offense, or lack of it, was offensive. UCLA hit .227, the lowest average by a CWS winning team in the metal bat era, which dates to 1974. The Bruins only got “up” to .227 because they banged out 12 hits in Tuesday’s 8-0 championship-series clinching win over Mississippi State. Before that, UCLA was hitting an even more anemic .183.
UCLA didn’t hit a home run, the first CWS champion not to do so since Ohio State in 1966.
The Bruins allowed four runs in five games, posting a stunning earned run average of 0.80, a CWS record. Overall, UCLA scored only 19 runs, another all-time low by a CWS champion.
A 19-4 scoring ratio is what you want to see — in the World Cup. But this is baseball, where offense — and the home run — is supposed to be part of the show.
Speaking of home runs, there were only three in this year’s CWS. I covered only LSU’s two games but I saw two of them, one by Mason Katz and another by North Carolina’s Brian Holberton. Mississippi State’s Hunter Renfroe hit the other against Oregon State on Friday.
There were 212 hits in this year’s CWS. Of them, only 34 were extra base hits with one triple and 30 doubles. I’m surprised there were that many.
Of course you don’t need cold statistics to know college baseball and it’s premier event are in need of a change, an overhaul, an offensive infusion.
I was also in Omaha in 1998 when Southern California clubbed Arizona State 21-14 in the CWS final. While it was impressive when the Trojans marched through the Rosenblatt Stadium outfield to score that game-winning touchdown, but no one wants to see that again.
It’s not football, the American or the rest-of-the-world version. It’s baseball. And baseball is supposed to include a decent number of extra-base hits, not just pitching and defense and sacrifice bunts.
What should be done? One quick solution is to bring in the fences five or 10 feet at the College World Series’ new home, TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. But that’s only part of the solution. Offense sportwide is down since the NCAA’s new weaker bats were introduced in 2011, which coincided with the move from Rosenblatt to TD Ameritrade.
Some say beef up the bats again. Some say go to a flatter seam ball, similar to the one that is used in the minor leagues.
Something has to be done, maybe some combination of fences, bats and balls. And something will be done, right?
Not so fast, my friend.
The NCAA’s incoming head of championships and alliances on Tuesday was basically quoting another line from “Animal House.”
“Remain calm. All is well!”
“All of that costs money,” Damani Leech told The Associated Press in regard to bringing in the CWS fences. “So there would be a few more home runs. Is it worth it? We only had three home runs, yet we’ve had the highest average attendance in the history of the College World Series.”
Of that there is no debate. This year’s CWS, even without the championship series going to a third game as it did when LSU beat Texas in 2009, drew a record 341,483 fans.
But, hello Damani, if you’re talking about doing what’s best for your sport and its premier event, attendance doesn’t tell the entire tale.
LSU was there this year for the first time in four years, even if just for two games, but they swarmed the CWS by the thousands with folks starving for Omaha beef. Mississippi State made its first-ever CWS final, drawing legions of cowbell-clanging Bulldogs backers.
Those people would come by the thousands to Omaha if every game was 1-0 or 2-1. That’s not the point. The point is trying to grow the game with casual fans who only tune in to college baseball to watch the CWS.
Unless those casual fans were the type of baseball purists who have taken over the direction and soul of college baseball, they were bored by what they saw. And those fans may or may not be back.
The bet here is the NCAA won’t change the bats in the name of player safety. It may liven up the ball a smidge, though apparently that couldn’t happen until 2015 at the earliest because of a moratorium on rule changes. It probably won’t alter TD Ameritrade Park even though bringing in the fences could allow them to squeeze in a few more seats.
In other words, as far as yet another issue is concerned, don’t expect to see the NCAA make a proactive, practical move.
“Generally people don’t want to see us go back to the days of 21-run games,” Leech said.
No kidding. But how about 5-4? How about 6-5? How about a championship that is decided by a gap-splitting extra-base hit to score a runner from second instead of a ground out?
I don’t know exactly what the answer is, but I do know this:
Twenty years from now, people are still going to be talking more about LSU winning the 1996 CWS on Warren Morris’ home run than they will be talking about all the sacrifice bunts that led UCLA to the title this year.