Where have you gone, Zach Putnam? [Via Roar of the Tigers.]
Michigan fired baseball coach Rich Maloney yesterday, a precipitous fall for a guy who was being heavily courted by SEC schools a couple years ago. Tennessee interviewed him five years back, whereupon Maloney signed the contract that just expired. Back then there were a number of future major-leaguers on the roster. Now not so much.
What happened? I have a little inside baseball (HAIKM) on this one: when his assistant Jake Boss was hired at Eastern Michigan this crippled his recruiting. Reports from guys being recruited at the time say it was Boss who was the face of the program and that Maloney did not have a boots-on-the-ground approach to recruiting. It's kind of like what would happen to Red if he lost both of his assistants, played in a mid-major league, and was not Red Berenson.
Boss was boss enough for Michigan State to pick him up after just one year and the turnaround in their fortunes has been obvious:
|2005||42-19, NCAA bid||22-31|
|2006||43-21, Big Ten double, NCAA bid||24-29|
|2007||42-19, Big Ten title, reach super-regionals||25-26|
|Boss leaves for EMU|
|2008||46-14, Big Ten tourney title, NCAA bid||26-30|
|Boss joins MSU|
|2011||17-37||36-21, Big Ten champs|
MSU's coach before Boss left to be the pitching coach at LSU. They weren't going to get rid of the guy just for going .500. They loved that. The year before he arrived they were ninth in the league. That's the kind of program we're dealing with. Boss's title year was the sixth-most wins in the history of the program. Their 2011 title was their first since 1979. This is not quite as impressive as Purdue breaking its streak of not winning since 1909(!!!), but it's still pretty impressive.
Meanwhile Michigan cratered a year after Boss left, finishing tenth in the league the last two years. Wisconsin doesn't have a program, so that's last and second from last. It was time to let the guy go.
I won't pretend to have my pulse on the beating heart of college baseball, but it's doubtful Michigan can recapture the magic they had in the middle of the last decade when a couple of local stars who both pitched and hit (Putnam, Abraham) decided to stay local. Their impact on the program was huge, especially Putnam. Unless the balance of college baseball recruiting changes drastically for no good reason, that's the kind of thing that has to happen for Michigan to be the kind of team that can host the charity northern regional.
Failing that, being one of the two or three or four (now that Nebraska is around) Big Ten teams in contention for the league's autobid year-in and year-out is something to shoot for. I doubt they'll make a run at Boss—that might ruin Brandon and Hollis's golf outing—but they probably should.
If they don't latch on to Boss they should hire someone who can make it warm in February. Nothing else is going to help the Big Ten other than leaving the NCAA entirely.
It may be in the 20s and snowing this week in Ann Arbor, but baseball's opening day is just 10 days away. And with baseball comes great hope that perhaps this last year of pain in Michigan sports may be washed away. The team comes in off a disappointing season plagued with depth issues, injuries, and just a few too many strikeouts but looks to be vastly improved in depth on both the mound and field.
As the first in a series of seasons previews, I've interviewed Michigan's coach Rich Maloney. Some highlights:
- Freshman Derek Dennis will be starting at shortstop and batting ninth. The hope is he'll be our #3 hole hitter in the next two years.
- Freshman Patrick Biondi will be starting in left field and leading off. The kid has "special speed." The kid ran a 6.44 – 60 yard dash. The average MLB player is between 6.7-6.9. Biondi will be laying down plenty of bunts looking to get on base.
- The rotation as set up today would be Oaks, Burgoon, Matt Miller, and Brandon Sinnery. Coach sees Sinnery making a huge jump this year. Katzman is coming off surgery and won't be available to start games to start the season. He may be ready for the bullpen by season's start.
- At closer, we're going by committee from the sound of it. Sinnery may be used as closer if he doesn't get a weekend spot. Bobby Brosnahan is fully healed from Tommy John surgery and could be a left handed closer. He also has a shot at a starting spot. Kolby Wood also has a chance. Woo depth!
- Coach really would love a football player to try out for the baseball team. They were co-recruiting a player last year with football, but the recruit chose elsewhere.
- We're hosting Texas Tech for a midweek series in 2011. That's… like huge for Northern baseball.
- It's somewhat disappointing that the Big Ten Tournament is going to be in Columbus every year for the next three. Coach says they have to treat it like any other road games, just like Vanderbilt or any other tournaments.
- Kevin Krantz and freshman Cam Luther may be getting considerable time on the field.
More good stuff inside the podcast, so give it a listen. You too can catch up with the team Wednesday February 10th at the Junge Champions Center (between Crisler and Michigan Stadium) at "Meet the Wolverines Night." There will be photo and autograph opportunities as well as snacks and beverages for all of you broke college kids looking for free food and entertainment.