Nobody Likes College Baseball

Originally posted on “Is It Sports?” by Steve. I still agree with all of the points I made today. There have been some good college players that have gone pro, but the vast majority are still straight to professional ball players. Ironically, I now live in a place where people sorta care about college baseball (Arizona State).

The more college baseball I see on TV, the angrier I get.

Don’t get me wrong, I love baseball. I even went to a Shreveport Sports Independent League game when I worked down there one summer. My memory is short on how much college baseball has been on the air in past years compared to this year, but I’m praying that the NHL lockout is to blame for this fiasco. It’s gone beyond the realm of just being shown on TV, its even discussed with other fun to watch sports on sports talk shows. ESPN constantly shoving college baseball down our throats is making me sick for the simple fact that it’s a totally worthless sport. Don’t believe me? I have plenty of reasons…and here they are:

Reason #1: All of the best young talent is already pro
I had to do some stat checking on this, but I was even more astounded when I found this out. Baseball has never been a high interest college sport (especially compared to football and basketball) mostly because players were allowed to go pro right out of high school and get paid for playing in the minors against similar competition that they would see in college. This differs from football and basketball because in football, most 18 year old boys’ bodies aren’t developed enough to play with the pros, and basketball existed as a prestigious college sport long before the NBA ever existed. Baseball on the other hand, was a pro sport before it even existed in college, so going pro early is a long standing tradition.

Nobody Likes College BaseballSince the best of the best are getting drafted right out of high school or coming from another country to play in the minors (a point I’ll hit later), ESPN has no good argument with “come watch the future stars” play in college. Sure back in the 1980s, plenty of great players went to college: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Randy Johnson, Mark McGwire, etc. but much less of today’s big stars went to college. Here are some stats to back it up using the colleges of the top 10 MLB leaders in a few categories as of today, June 13.

Batting Average: Derek Lee-none; Brian Roberts-South Carolina; Rob Mackowiak-JC; Johnny Damon-none; Miguel Cabrera-none; Nick Johnson-none; Clint Barmes-Indiana State; Pat Burrell-Miami; Albert Pujols-CC; Carlos Delgado-none. Total: 3 out of 10 went to big schools, 2 to community or junior, 5 not at all

Home Runs: Alex Rodriguez-none; Derek Lee-none; Miguel Tejada-none; Bobby Abreu-none; David Ortiz-none; Carlos Lee-none; Adam Dunn-none; Mark Teixeira-Georgia Tech; Cliff Floyd-none; Andruw Jones-none; Paul Konerko-none; Alfonso Soriano-none; Albert Pujols-CC. Total: 1 out of 13 went to big schools, 1 to community college, 11 not at all

RBI: Alex Rodriguez-none; Carlos Lee-none; Pat Burrell-Miami; Derek Lee-none; Miguel Tejada-none; Jeff Kent-California; David Ortiz-none; Richie Sexson-none; Albert Pujols-CC; Garret Anderson-none; Mark Teixeira-Georgia Tech. 2 out of 10 went to big schools, 1 to community, 7 not at all.

Wins (8 or more): Jon Garland, Dontrelle Willis, Livan Hernandez, Roy Halladay, Adam Eaton, Kenny Rogers, Bartolo Colon, Chris Carpenter, Jason Marquis-all none; Jon Leiber-South Alabama; Doug Davis-JC. 0 out of 11 went to big schools, 1 to a small school, 1 to junior, 9 not at all.

ERA: Roger Clemens-Texas; Kenny Rogers, Dontrelle Willis, Brett Myers, Roy Halladay, Pedro Martinez, Glendon Rusch, Jake Peavy, Victor Santos-all none; Mark Redman-Oklahoma. 2 out of 10 went to big schools, 8 not at all.

Have I made my point here yet? When you look at all the top stars in the majors right now, only about 10-20% went to a college large enough to be shown all day and all night long on ESPN. A large (almost all in the NFL) portion of stars in the NFL and NBA went to large colleges that are televised frequently. In fact, I have a lot of fun in both of those leagues identifying with pros from their college guys (something like, “oh yeah, that guy was awesome at Florida State”) which you can’t get in baseball.

Reason #2: Basketball and Football don’t have minor leagues
Baseball has an entire system where they sign players at young ages and develop their skills in rookie league, A, AA, and AAA, all while being paid and playing against players of their own caliber until they make it to the big leagues. The NFL has NFL Europe and the NBA has the NBDL, but those are much different because the teams are mostly composed of castoffs from pro teams that couldn’t keep a roster spot. A recently drafted player in the NFL and NBA can come in and make a huge impact immediately to the pro team, and if they don’t, they wind up on the bench or get cut. In baseball, drafted players go into the minor leagues, probably AA at the highest if the kid is a phenom. They usually spend at least 2 or 3 years in minor league obscurity, which further kills any college to pro identification among the fans. Face it, when was the last time you knew a lot about a rookie on your favorite baseball team?

Nobody Likes College BaseballReason #3: Foreign Born players
Baseball is filled with players from all over the world, but there are a large amount of Caribbean-born players that come from impoverished backgrounds. If they work hard as kids to become excellent baseball players, they can be signed as young as age 15 by a major league team and developed in an American minor league system while making money to help their families back at home. So are they going to turn this down and stick it out for 3 years to get a college scholarship? Of course not, and can you blame them? This happens in the NBA as well with players that come out early or go straight from high school to the draft. Many of these foreign-born players become huge stars in the majors; just look at the list of guys I typed above and think of any other player not listed that isn’t from America.

Reason #4: The aluminum bat
Now let’s switch to the actual college game itself. The Aluminum bat does for college baseball exactly what it does for drunken community softball games, produce a lot of runs. Also the speed that the ball travels at after it makes contact with the bat is very dangerous for pitchers, another reason why many opt for the minors over college. The offensive numbers that result from these bats make college players look much better than they actually are. For example, I remember how impressive Joe Borchard looked during his days at Stanford, and I was excited about the Sox drafting him, but now he is pretty much stuck on the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox AAA team, because he’s just not good enough to be in the majors.

Reason #5: Lack of strong programs
I happened to notice that every year it seems like the same teams are in the college world series. Basically, southern schools have good teams, northern schools do not. Therefore, there is basically zero interest in the north, which still controls the power and money and this country. I remember going to a game at Purdue one time, and the seating at the “stadium” probably reaches capacity around 300 people. Keep in mind this is a Big Ten school. Our football team has a stadium that sits 65,000 and our basketball stadium probably holds around 10,000. Purdue isn’t the only school like this of course, since most northern schools won’t shell out the cash for the players to train extensively indoors in cold weather that southern schools don’t have to worry about. These leads to a huge edge for the south, and alienates half of the nation.

Reason #6: Lack of interest even at schools with strong programs
The North doesn’t have good teams…so what? At least the South can get excited about watching this crap on TV, right? WRONG. You would think with the success that southern schools have in baseball, there would be a lot more excitement around it and it would be almost equal to basketball and football at those schools in level of interest among the students and alumni. Through my jobs I have met tons of students from southern schools, and they definitely hold football (especially) and basketball in much higher regard than any other sport at their school. They are proud of their baseball team but they are nothing more than casual supporters of them, similar in the way that I was proud of the Chicago Fire when they won the MLS title, but I couldn’t care less about watching the team or any of its players play.

So the moral of the story here is please, please NHL come to your senses and get back on the ice so America doesn’t have to suffer through crappy college baseball for another year. If ESPN would like to show sub-par baseball talent in place of hockey they might as well show AAA minor league baseball, because that’s where the future stars are. – Steve

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