Hey, wow. Don't I feel stupid for, um, not watching the baseball game last night. Evidently I missed a game worthy of Kirk Gibson hyperbole, with extra-innings home runs from pinch hitters and threatening hitters lacing balls into the outfield that get snatched out of the air just before they clear the wall and well, just... dammit, man. That's not something you really want to miss.
Sam from BC&RS goes "squee":
Michigan baseball! They won Regionals!
I know nobody who reads this cares, but eeeeeeee! First time since 1989! They had to beat NUMBER ONE RANKED Vanderbilt.... twice!
"Squee" is literally deployed later. Meanwhile, the Vandy official site goes anti-squee; if they were to accidentally meet up with Sam they would annihilate each other and release enormous quantities of energy:
One second you think you are watching the best baseball player in school history in the midst of his most heroic performance and then you are watching a .188 freshman pinch hitter circle the bases with an improbable home run.
You hold your breath as the most feared hitter in college baseball launches a bomb to left center and you blink in disbelief when a 6-foot 5-inch left fielder steals that dream 380-feet away.
They also have a photo gallery up. The Daily's blog also has some pictures up. ESPN has an article that focuses exclusively on the Commies; we still gets no respects; Rivals also has an article.
Next weekend Michigan will travel to either Oregon State or Virginia to participate in a best two-of-three super-regional; victory there and it's the College World Series.
Baseball of import. So Michigan beat Memphis, then Vandy, then lost to Vandy, and now plays Vandy. This is the sometimes weirdness of NCAA baseball tournaments. Anyway, tonight is a winner-take-all for the Vanderbilt Regional. I would put together a preview, but Colin has already done so with aplomb. Since Vandy is entering its fifth game in four days and Michigan managed to avoid a doubleheader yesterday, they should have a slight advantage in the pitching matchups. Vandy's starter is little-used Tyler Rhoden, who has only one start so far this year. Michigan will send out 6-8 Chris Fetter, who has had a tough year after his stellar 2.22 ERA in 2006. Sounds like both teams will try to get five or six innings out of the starters; Colin threatens the re-appearance of David ace and a half David Price, who went nine innings and 128 pitches Friday. Say it ain't so!
More youtubey stuff. Some video on secondary savior Donovan Warren:
Also there is this McGuffie highlight that hasn't been posted in this space before:
Ok, ok, Harbaugh and such. Interesting response to all the flaming Jim Harbaugh has been doing from recently graduated tackle Reuben Riley, one of the many general studies majors on the team:
"The main thing that went into my decision is that majoring in general studies allowed my schedule to be a lot more flexible," said Riley, a former Creston High School star. "There were more class options, which meant there were fewer constraints as I went between classes and practices." ...
"I don't get Harbaugh's comments," Riley said. "I value his opinion, and he was a great Michigan football player. But if you're going to four years of classes, and doing four years of study, there is no easy way out of the University of Michigan."
The Bachelor of General Studies degree, administered by the College of Literature, Science and Arts, differs from the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in one significant way: In lieu of a foreign language, graduates must complete 60 hours of junior and senior-level classes, though no more than 20 within any single field of study, as part of the 120-hour minimum for graduation.
The broad spectrum of electives and lack of language requirement both appeal to many football players, said Riley, who took French in high school.
"A lot of guys are two or three years removed from the last time they took a foreign language, in 11th or 12th grades, and they just don't want to get involved in it again," he said. "That probably enters into a lot of guys' decisions in taking general studies."
Few other students have a major block of every weekday occupied with something they have to do, and since a lot of majors have key classes that are offered once a year at a particular time, often certain majors become not an option.
Etc.: The first edition of this made the sidebar; the second has been posted; I don't know what to do with either of them. Michigan + LOTR + Photoshop. You have been warned. Dodd had a piece on Michigan that wasn't his usual useless snark about the Aussie thing. There is also a follow-up.
Update 6/4: Linked to articles on MO TE Spencer Ladner, PA RB Cameron Saddler, TX S Keanon Cooper, NJ LB Marcus Witherspoon, TX DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (downgraded to red; no M mention), TX CB Adrian Bushell, OH OL Zebrie Sanders, MI RB Jonas Gray, OR DE Ethan Johnson, OH LB Brandon Beachum. Added AZ RB Ray Polk, CA DE (DT?) Jamaar Jarrett, LA CB Robby Green. Linked to a trio of articles on some PA recruits: WR Jonathan Baldwin, LB Shayne Hale, and QB Terrelle Pryor, OL Lucas Nix, RB/WR/KR Cameron Saddler.
Removed PA LB Shariff Blake (no M interest), CA OL Khaled Holmes, PA OL RJ Dill, TX LB Joseph Ibiloye (dropped us). Linked to the Pittsburgh Sports Report's PA Top 50. OH RB Michael Shaw now has an offer. Linked to articles on WA DE Kavario Middleton, MI OL Rocko Koury, LA CB Robby Green. Moved NJ LB Marcus Witherspoon to committed.
Editorial Opinion: Bad news first: OH OL Zebrie Sanders has four official visits set and Michigan isn't one of them. They are: FSU, Clemson, Georgia, and USC (if he gets offered... questionable). Now, sometimes local guys who have been to nearby schools will schedule visits to places they haven't been just to get out and see the world, but instances of players taking official visits and then committing to a school they haven't officially visited are rare. He keeps naming top threes that have Clemson and UGA in them; half of the time Michigan is the third team and half the time it isn't. I am not optimistic.
High profile OR DE Ethan Johnson appears to be favoring USC and Notre Dame. Michigan gets some mention, but that ain't good.
We put out an offer to a Louisiana cornerback, Robby Green, who says we're in his "top seven" but not his top five. Specific! There is also a Scout article in which Green says we will get an unofficial this summer, but as per usual getting kids out of the south is tough.
...and, surprisingly, the buzz on GA DT Omar Hunter is that he's going to pick Notre Dame, not Michigan, after visiting both campuses. Obviously this is not so good. Evidently Hunter's longtime fandom was not particularly deep. Though losing a guy who Michigan was supposed to lead heavily for is a downer, it doesn't have much in the way of long term implications with Carr likely on the way out. If Michigan picks up a commit from instater Mike Martin, who's being ranked at about the same level as Hunter, the net impact on the final class won't be much. Still: frowns.
Anyway, on to other stuff: I'm beginning to develop a distinct fondness for atom-sized PA RB/WR/KR/PR Cameron Saddler. Part of it is the same reason I was more excited about last year's unfortunately unconsummated Marquis Maze commitment than would normally be warranted by his rankings and offers. I love tiny, electric kick return guys and love them even more when it signals that Michigan has been awakened by the Steve Breaston experience and is actively seeking anti-Walter Cross types to return various special teams thingies. Saddler doesn't quite have the awesome name potential of a guy named "Maze" -- the multifariousness of it all! -- but, yeah, I'd still be happy to get the little bugger. Especially when said little bugger announces to anyone and everyone stuff like this:
GSN: Are you and your cousin still thinking of going as a package deal?
Saddler: We're going to have to make the best choice for each of us, but, with the situation we're in right now, it looks like the best situation will be at the same school.
The default skepticism about package deals goes here, especially when the higher-rated player (Hale, by, like, a lot) hasn't said anything about one, but Saddler is really pushing this thing. Both have announced initial top ten lists. This is the intersection of the two: Michigan, Virginia, and WVU. Come on package deal... Daddy needs a new pair of recruits. (It should be noted that Saddler made an allowance for the Florida schools entering his top ten should they offer, which would add Florida and Miami to the set union and make the climb more difficult.)
Hale, for his part:
Where Hale and teammate Cameron Saddler had discussed going to college together, their respective lists include only a handful of the same schools.
"We still have Michigan and Virginia and West Virginia," Hale said. "We're definitely going to keep those ones around. We'll see what's best and what we should do."
Saddler may be favoring a panting UVA team...
Virginia appears to be the leader, as the Cavaliers are recruiting Saddler the hardest. Every member of UVa's staff send Saddler a handwritten letter and the coaches followed him around at the Nike Training Camp.
You can throw Brandon Beachum on the Inexplicable Lack Of Offer pile along with Jonas Gray:
One offer Beachum is still yet to receive is from Michigan. "I don't know why they haven't offered," he said. "I know they're interested. I talk to them a lot and they tell me how much they like me and want me to come to their camp coming up this summer.
"I like Michigan because they are a big program that is close to me. I have offers from b
ig-time schools that are eight, ten hours away, but Michigan is just three hours from me. I don't think I'm going to their camp though. I'm pretty much done with that. I think I've done enough.
Beachum's lack may be even more inexplicable than Gray's, as he is both a top-100 prospect to the recruiting services and in possession of a wide array of impressive offers: FSU, LSU, Oklahoma, and 22 others. He also plays linebacker, a position at which depth chart concerns are much less important than running back because there are three starting positions. It sounds like Beachum would seriously consider Michigan if he got an offer, but he's not going to beg for one. (This is another situation in which Ohio State and, apparently, Michigan have overlooked a highly touted local prospect. I wonder what's the deal.)
Speaking of Gray, he will camp in an effort to get offered:
In addition to Notre Dame, Gray wants offers from Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.
"I'd like to camp for a day at those schools too," Gray said. "I think for sure I'll go to Minnesota and Colorado. I've got to see how recruiting plays out for everybody else. I might commit in October if my schools start filling up."
That ship has not quite sailed yet, but if he doesn't get offered at camp he's very probably gone.
New people of serious interest. A couple Texans are looking northward with Michigan in mind. Safety Keanon Cooper "favors Wisconsin slightly" over a bunch of midlevel schools and Michigan -- his dad lives in the Cheese State:
The other school that Cooper says he always liked is Michigan. "My favorite player was Charles Woodson," he said. "My brother is also an Ohio State fan, so it was always fun to watch the big rivalry game. They have great players every year and get great exposure. They are always on TV and I like the coaches a lot too. They know what they are doing."
Cooper's probably a three star given his offers and preliminary rankings. I think I mentioned CB/S Adrian Bushell last week, but he has Texas Tech -- a school '07 LB signee Brandon Herron described as "a box surrounded by dirt" -- offering-everyone Florida, and Michigan as a seemingly solid top three:
Although Bushell is still trying to determine his summer workout schedule, he is planning on visiting Michigan, Florida, and Texas Tech. "I want to be patient and take some official visits to some of the schools for their big games. I want to tour the campus and see the game day environment for the Notre Dame or Ohio State games."
Missouri TE Spencer Ladner has a top three of Cal, Wisconsin, and Michigan. No idea if he's leaning anywhere, but his offer is obvious proof Michigan's looking for a second tight end in the class.
Tailbacks? Michigan now has offers out to two more runningbacks, Arizonan Ray Polk and Ohioan Michael Shaw. It's possible Michigan's recruiting one or both as athletes with a possible role in the secondary; if not it's more indication that Gray is way down the list.
Back from the dead. Big time Washington prospect Kavorio Middleton was downgraded to red after a Scout article in which he said he really wanted to stay close to home. He is now back to yellow with this GBW article in which Middleton's coach addresses the earlier piece:
"As far as location goes, Kavario is going to realize that he needs to go to the best school that can develop him as a player and get him to where he needs to be."
There are more positive quotes. They're trying to set up an early October visit and M is "definitely" in their top five.
New Jersey linebacker Marcus Witherspoon has committed to Michigan. This is good for both Tick enthusiasts and people who prefer Michigan's linebackers to not suck. Approximate star qualifications: mid-four star, Rivals 250 type who had offers from Notre Dame, Clemson, Florida, Boston College, and Georgia and, as of like a month ago, like 25 others. Last year he set a school record with 17 sacks (though many articles and sites will claim 18 for him -- and, hey, this one is all like "20"; do I hear 25?) as a junior. Hey, here's an article claiming 18 with some quotes and such:
Absecon Holy Spirit linebacker Marcus Witherspoon, who has narrowed his choices to Florida or Michigan, is supposed to be at the Elite. Witherspoon, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound recruit who is a member of the Rivals 250 to watch, finished with 90 tackles, 18 sacks and five interceptions last season. He played the whole time with a separated shoulder.
"We still consider him raw, so this (season) is going to be interesting," Holy Spirit coach Bill Walsh said. "At the high school level, he has the ability to take things into his own hands. We're looking forward to see what's going to happen this season. He's one of the special ones that make everyone else better.
"His first three steps are explosive and for a kid that big to run a legit 4.5 (seconds in the 40-yard dash), there are not too many kids who have his weight and size that run that legit speed. When you watch him on tape, he gets after it. But he still has a lot of growth."
Separated shoulder: tough mofo. Five interceptions: borrowing James Laurinatis' paranormal football magnets. Explosive! Big! Runs fast! Yeah, what's up now? I do kind of wish that Florida was being selective in their offers instead of tossing one out to every kid on varsity taller than 5'10", as then ripping him away from Urban Meyers filthy blood-and-nut-strewn fingers would be even sweeter, but any way you slice it Witherspoon is an excellent prospect with the proverbial upside. ESPN has him on their Rivals 150 watch list($) and makes him seem Crable-esque:
Witherspoon possesses good size with the frame to add more bulk. He actually plays with the range of a taller athlete. ... Excellent blitzer, with his ability to bend and burst to the quarterback. Flashes the mobility and range to cover a lot of area in zone coverage and close on underneath routes. This athletic mobility is also seen in his ability to quickly redirect and chase ball carriers in open space. Natural pass rusher, who possesses the quick first step and lean to effectively get by offensive lineman. This excellent, vertical attacking ability is also evident in the run game. Very difficult to block him when trying to get the edge.
Questions are raised as to whether 'Spoon (Spoon!) is "a product of an attack-style defense," permitted to freelance without responsibility and wreak havoc but in desperate need of some intensive technique work. Again: Crable.
There is this article here from a local newspaper; not particularly enlightening. Does imply a Miami offer, though.
In sum: good pickup that should be the first of three linebacker recruits this year. Given the edge-rushing thing, may be a defensive end if he can put on the appropriate weight. Likely four years of Tick references. Yeah.
It occurs to me that I'm watching this and few others have the ability to, so... Michigan leads Memphis 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth with runners at the corners and two outs. Pickens just blooped in a run after Recknagel blasted an RBI triple of his own; inning now over. Four innings to go.
Side note: I don't watch a lot of baseball, but when I do it's invariably a Tigers game. So Memphis' nickname is giving me all sorts of cognitive dissonance.
Top 6th. Putnam strikes out his sixth to open the inning; weak grounder is an easy out; high chopper fielded at the edge of the outfield turns into an infield single. Fortunate for Memphis. Next batter... dammit, blasts one off the foul pole for another home run. 5-4 Michigan. Grounded back to the pitcher to end the inning. "Tigers" back in the game.
Bottom 6th. New pitcher in for Memphis. Good control, gives up lots of homers. Cislo strikes out after a long at bat. Routine grounder for a second out. Christian walks. WTF is a guy who hits .300 doing showing bunt here? College baseball is weird sometimes. Rose strikes out. Still 5-4 M.
Top 7th. Grounder to second for one out. "If anyone has a homefield advantage, it's definitely Vanderbilt"... what a weird sentence. Putnam probably doesn't have much longer, now at 95 pitches. Second at bat taking forever, now into double-digit pitches. Lost him; walk. "When he's got that splitter working he's darn near hard to hit." Let's hear it for faint praise. Long fly for a second out. Interesting note: Putnam is both the pitcher and the DH so that he can still bat if and when he's removed from the game. Putnam picks off Chalmers! Inning over, 5-4 M.
Bottom 7th. Recknagel reaches on an error from the third baseman. Putnam goes down swinging; one down. Abraham walks on four pitches. Pickens blasts one off the wall! Reck, Abraham both score, Pickens has a double. 7-4 M. Van Buskirk flies out; Pickens tags and is at third. Dang! Squeeze play ends up with a beauty bunt laid down; attempted barehand by the third baseman fails, M scores with a bunt base hit. 8-4 M. Cislo steals second. Base hit, Cislo scores! 9-4 M! Roblin steals second; Christian strikes out, Michigan up 9-4 after a huge inning. Five stolen bases for Michigan today; this catcher is getting waaaasted.
Top 8th. Putnam still in. Leadoff hitter blasts one to the wall but it's a short wall in left -- they've got a monster -- and M holds him to a single. Next batter hits a home run. Bleah. 9-6 M. Putnam chased? Nope. Ooookay. Putnam had given up two home runs all year; three today. Next batter pops out; one down.
East Carolina leads West Carolina 9-8! Feel the fictional-Carolina rivalry!
Putnam strikes out the next guy; two down. Weak grounder ends the inning, M 9-6.
Bottom 8th. New pitcher for Memphis w/ a 7.50 era(!). Rose hits a hard grounder to third for the first out. UC-Irvine wasted Wake Forest 13-0, which would have been a realistic football score until this year. Recknagel is killin' it, blasting a solo home run: 10-6 M. Putnam puts one in the gap; single. Abraham flies out, two down. Wild pitch moves Putnam to second. Groundout; inning over. 10-6 M, three outs to go.
Top 9th. Jebus: still Putnam, starting the inning with 122 pitches. Single into center field, and Putnam is gonzo. 8 IP 6 ER. Powers now in, strikes his the first batter. Now batting is KK Chalmers... isn't "KK" a bad thing to call yourself when you play baseball? If I'm a quarterback, please don't call me Intentional Grounding Jones. Powers strikes out another guy looking, one out left. Single from Murray just under Recknagel's glove; runners at the corners. Jeez... little slap single into the outfield scores a run. First and second, 10-7 M. And the guy at the plate has 2 HR today. Todd Jones lives.
This Memphis guy totally has a mustache that screams "SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY AT THE SILVERDOME." He loops one into centerfield (ack!)... Rose flags it down. Final 10-7, Michigan. Michigan plays the Vandy-Austin Peay winner tomorrow.
5/31/2006 - Pistons 107-109 Cavaliers - Down 3-2, ECF
We've been here before. Last year, when Dwyane Wade was suffered to run free:
I only just resisted titling this post "Is Flip Saunders An Idiot?" because it seems clear that a man who is paid more money than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes can't be all 'tard, but... there's a strong chance Flip Saunders is an idiot in some sense. If you did a Family Feud-style survey with the question "Who Is Going To Defend Dwyane Wade in the conference finals?" survey would say:
- What are you talking about? You want a mango? I am from France. (37)
- Um... I don't know his name, but probably the guy who looks like a heavily abused Stretch Armstrong doll? (34)
- Tayshaun Prince, you idiot. (31)
The third opinion would be given to you by anyone with even a smattering of NBA knowledge all the way up to, say, Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant, players of Wade's bionic shooting guard ilk who have run up against Stretch and who -- if not exactly stopped -- have been decently contained. Tayshaun is popularly regarded as the Kobe-Lebron-McGrady-Wade stopper, one of the few players in the league with both the size and the quickness to stop the NBA's unstoppable. Only an idiot or an expert would do anything other than stick Tayshaun on Wade and forget about it.
As you can see, I did not escape titling this post with something raw, possibly unfair, but JESUS CHRIST SO VERY TRUE IN ALL WAYS EVERY WAY ALL WAYS FOREVER AAAAAARGH.
The world is Lebron agog this day and not without reason, but can we get some condemnation up in here? Flip Saunders displayed the same sort of miraculous ignorance football coaches do when they screw up game-ending clock situations during nearly the entirety of Lebronfest. He was complicit in Birth of a Superstar, inexplicably refusing to double for much of the fourth quarter and overtimes. When he did bring a double, Lebron would pass out of it and the Cavs, being the non-Bron Cavs, would turn the ball over. There are mice that can figure out that when there are two buttons, one of which dispenses a shock and the other a tasty treat, you press the treat button. If there was any justice, Saunders' incompetence would be just as legendary as Lebron's performance.
Consider this: on the last Cleveland possession, Ilgauskas, Gooden, and Daniel Gibson had fouled out. Larry Hughes' foot had held him out the entire second half. On the floor with Lebron were Donyell Marshall, Anderson Varejao, Sasha Pavlovic, and Eric Snow (or Damon Jones? I forget, does it matter?). Saunders' brilliant idea: put a point guard on the guy who had scored the last 23 points and give him no help whatsoever. This was also his brilliant idea -- except it was Tayshaun Prince left alone -- on the final two Cavs possessions of regulation, both of which ended in thunderous Lebron dunks.
I mean... what can you say? I decided to repress the sputtering rage by sleeping on it and then writing about the game, but here it is. Sputtering Rage says "hi, honey, I'm home," takes off its hat, talks about what a hard day he had -- lot of work in Detroit today, lot of work -- and settles in for a nice long rest that is 75-80% likely to start in the next few days and last for the summer. It's back, and I can only delete so many sentences that contain elaborate punishments for Saunders and his Charlie Weis-like ability to get far too clever for his own good. A sampler:
- Forced to eat own organs.
- Locked into party chit-chat with tools who came up with Heineken ad campaign that runs incessantly all hours of the night and day on TNT.
- Elaborate scenario staged wherein he is drugged, and carefully made up to look and sound like Bill Walton -- sort of "The Hot Chick" except "The Worst Person On The Planet" -- until on the verge of self-immolation, say, 10-15 minutes
- Forced to watch his favorite basketball team coached by Flip Saunders.
It is inexplicable how this guy and his lip-chewing inability to do anything right in the playoffs is a respected NBA coach. Don't even get me started on Rasheed's substitution pattern.
Dammit, too late: what the #&$! was with Rasheed's substitution pattern? During the first eight minutes of the game he had played great defense and was 3/4 from the floor. He was in rhythm, on a roll. Chris Webber picks up a second foul with eight minutes gone, Saunders yanks both starters and leaves Rasheed on the bench until there are four minutes left in the half. He rested his best post player, a guy who was in rhythm, for an entire quarter when his second best post player had been ejected at the end of the first. Then the Pistons start going well and Rasheed gets yanked six minutes into the second half. Inexplicable. After the first removal, Rasheed would hit one shot the rest of the night. There isn't a basketball fan on the planet who would do something that stupid.
So, yeah, Lebron was pretty freakin' impressive. Yes. He's kind of good at the basketball. But even Lebron has trouble dealing with traps and doubles and can be dealt with unless you are too busy chewing your lip to think.
Last year, when it finally clattered to a halt:
Riley watched the tape, devised a plan, and obliterated the Piston offense. There was not much of a riposte from Saunders other than to look on grimly.
The Heat were a soft team when they struggled through the opening portion of the season, but Pat Riley is a hard man. The Pistons were a hard team under Carlisle and Brown, but Flip Saunders is a soft man. And thus goes a series.
Since I can only burble aggravated nonsense this morning, I guess that has to stand.
FLABMOJAN! GRUNDLEFLOX THE AXERAOJ. ZING ZING ZING!