Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bring on the Sooners...again

Vanderbilt lived to play another day, beating Stony Brook 9-4 in the elimination game of the NCAA Tempe Regional Saturday afternoon.

The Commodores will most likely play Oklahoma for the second time Sunday at 3 p.m. CT. The Sooners are currently trailing Arizona State 10-2 in the seventh.

Also, make sure to check out this terrific New York Times feature on Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez. It's great stories like these that make it so easy (and enjoyable) to be a Commodore fan.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Commodore Banter (5/30)

No. 2 Vanderbilt takes on No. 3 Oklahoma this afternoon in the first game of the Arizona State Regional and you can watch the game live for free on

This could be the end of an era for the Commodores, as Maurice Patton notes.

Next year, Vanderbilt will be without seniors Alex Feinberg, Dominic de la Osa, Shea Robin and David Macias, as well as juniors Pedro Alvarez and Ryan Flaherty, who will be selected early in the 2008 MLB Draft. Redshirt junior Jonathan White, and junior pitchers Brett Jacobson, Nick Christiani and Steven Schwartz also could be gone. The same goes for redshirt sophomore Andrew Giobbi, who is draft eligible.

The good news for Commodore fans? "Now it's just all about reloading," said coach Tim Corbin. "It's not all about rebuilding."

One player that is definitely coming back is outfielder Steven Liddle, who was destined to be a baseball player.

Vanderbilt has an unreal recruiting class coming in and the star of it, Smyrna's Sonny Gray, followed in the footsteps of David Pricee, asking major league teams not to draft him.

As NYDore of The College Baseball Blog put it, the score is now Vanderbilt 1, MLB Draft 0. Within that story, NYDore reports that several future Commodores are receiving attention, including Connecticut SS Anthony Hewitt, New Jersey OF Matt Marquis, Rhode Island OF Ryan Westmoreland and Walters CC OF Adam Milligan.

Assuming most of these guys wind up in school, it looks Vandy is going to be a national powerhouse for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, Arizona State is taking a gamble by starting freshman Matt Newman against Stony Brook tonight. The former outfielder has made just four appearances all season, but coach Pat Murphy wants to save his top two pitchers, Mike Leake and Josh Satow, for games on Saturday and Sunday. Murphy better hope that the Sun Devils continue to rake so that this plan doesn't backfire...

Rivals' Kendall Rogers has a Tempe Regional Preview and likes the Sun Devils to advance, but lists the Dores as a dark-horse candidate.

The Orlando pre-draft camp is in full swing and Vanderbilt's Shan Foster is struggling to find his stroke.

We're only in May and people are already saying "Maybe Next Year" for the Vanderbilt football team.

Finally, Brandon Barca is an animal.

SEC to create own TV network?

A year after the Big Ten Network was launched, the Southeastern Conference is interested in creating its own television network after its current deals with CBS, ESPN and Raycom expire next spring, the AJC first reported Wednesday.

Negotiations on new deals should be in place by this fall, but the SEC wants the option to create its own network as part of the negotiations. The league has toyed with this idea for a while but now it is time to decide.

"The charge we have received from our institutions is to explore two models when it comes to the future of TV in our conference," said commissioner Mike Slive. "One is the traditional route that we have now. The second is to incorporate an SEC network that gives us a greater opportunity for exposure for all of our sports."

The Big Ten Network received criticism due to the fact that since the league did not have a deal with a major cable TV provider, only a third of the people in Big Ten markets could see the games. The Big Ten will soon sign a deal with Comcast.

The SEC won't have that problem. It will probably require "100 percent distribution from day one" to make sure that games would be available in most of the SEC markets. Imagine what would happen if an SEC fan couldn't watch their team on television.

"In the Big Ten something like that would make people mad," one TV executive told the AJC. "In the SEC there would have been bodily injury."

Point taken.

Officials from Fox Sports Net/SportSouth and CSS both told the AJC they are interested in having discussions with the SEC about carrying a conference network.

Additionally, even if an SEC network is created, CBS and ESPN would still get the first two picks for conference football games. The SEC network would take priority for the next pick to which Raycom currently owns the rights.

QUESTION: Would you guys approve of an SEC network? What downsides do you see to it? Do you think it'd be successful?

Here's my quick take: SEC fans are unhealthily obsessed with their teams. 78,200 people showed for Alabama's spring game. If Tim Tebow could run for governor of Florida, he'd win easily. Grown men wear jerseys of their favorite players and cry after losses. College students send hateful Facebook messages to opposing teams and have resorted to "poking" the star quarterback with the hope of distracting him.

My point? Of course the network is going to work. What SEC diehard would not watch it? And as long as the SEC guarantees that the games will be showed in nearly every home across the region, I don't see many significant drawbacks.

If the SEC does go ahead with the network, David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel has some compelling programming ideas.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Vandy baseball was somewhat of a hot topic in the Keith Law chat today, mostly because of our monster recruiting class. There was one particular question however that caught my eye:

Tony, Chicago:
Given the baseball renaissance at Vandy recently, for a non-big state school to do the same, in what order of importance do you put the following factors: weather/conference/coach/facilities/academics?

SportsNation Keith Law: That's a cool question. Totally my opinion, but I'd say academics, coach, conference, weather, facilities. Corbin and whoever does his recruiting deserve credit for scouring cold-weather states for kids like Flaherty, Hewitt, Marquis, Loftus, etc.

I find that answer both extremely interesting and somewhat hard to believe. Law must be talking about how important those are for non-big state schools, but even at that I find calling academics the top reason for going to Vandy to play baseball a little questionable. Baseball, unlike basketball and football has many private universities that do extremely well and many of these are very good academic schools as well. However are academics an important factor in their success on the field?

Six schools from the 2008 USA Today's top 20 colleges play Division I baseball (non-ivy's). Three of those six are either #1 of #2 seeds in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. This seemingly suggests some kind of correlation between academics and college baseball success. However there is a clear difference between the three that made it (Stanford, Rice, and Vandy) and two of the three that didn't (Northwestern and Notre Dame, Duke was the sixth). Conference and weather, in college baseball they're pretty much the same with only the Big 12 being a top 10 conference not primarily in the southeast or on the west coast, are better indicators for success than academics for these non-big state schools.

In college baseball trying to be a successful program in a cold weather location outside of a major conference is almost impossible on a year in year out basis. Location and conference are an even bigger predictor for success for private schools, going further down USA Today's rankings, except for Duke and Wake Forest, every southern or west coast school in the top 75 is either a traditional power or enjoying recent success like Vandy. Although most northern academic schools do not play baseball, the ones that do are all terrible, despite their high academic status.

Academics seem to be more of a cherry on top than the real determining factor of a team success. However if a school has favorable location and conference affiliation than academics can almost guarantee success. Again it is amazing to look at the college rankings, every school in the top 50 of the rankings that has location and conference on their side made the NCAA tournament except Duke and Wake and UCSB. Over 80% of schools that have all three made it.

The question is why is this. Why do academics seem to put teams in good situations over the top? In other sports kids choose schools based on things that matter more like the other reasons mentioned in the question as well as fan bases, traditions, and numerous other factors that are more important than academics. My guess is the format of the MLB draft is to blame. Anybody not interested in taking college seriously can go pro straight out of high school. What's left are kids interested in a good education. However getting smarter will always be secondary to getting better which is why weather matters more.

I'm not trying to take credit away from Coach Corbin and his staff, they have done a great job the last few years and it looks this will continue into the foreseeable future, but with a great combination of conference, academics and weather it was seemingly only a matter of time until our baseball program began to dominate.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Price gets rave reviews from future Hall of Famer

David Price got the best of a future Hall of Famer tonight, pitching six shutout innings to lead Class A Vero Beach past Pedro Martinez's St. Lucie Mets 2-0.

The 2007 No. 1 overall pick gave up just two hits while striking out nine and walking none in his second professional start. Price has now pitched 11 scoreless innings to begin his career.

Martinez, meanwhile, gave up two runs on four hits, striking out six and walking none in six innings. Price said he found out he'd be going against Martinez the day before.

"You always have butterflies," Price said. "You're throwing against a former Cy Young winner. It's fun. It's a challenge. It makes you want to compete a little more. You know you can't give up one or two runs and get the win because he's that good.

"I want him to go home and one day tell his grandchildren about me. That's the impression I want to leave on everyone."

The way Price is pitching, there's no doubt that he will.

UPDATE: Afterwards, Martinez gave Price quite the compliment.

"He's amazing, that kid. He's amazing," Martinez said. "That kid is very mature for his time in [the pros], and very talented. Oh my God. God bless him and keep him healthy."

Martinez could not believe that Price was making just his second career start.

"Wow," Martinez said. "He's a big lefty with superb talent. At that age, I don't think I was like that. He seems far superior."

Wow is right. To be called "far superior" to Pedro Martinez?! It doesn't get much better than that.

"That kid did a hell of a job of throwing first-pitch strikes and pounding the strike zone and jamming hitters," Martinez said. "I was watching that. He did it like a big leaguer. He had such a command. Right there, I'm challenging you. I'm going to do what I gotta do without any fear. That's the kind of talent you love to see."

And the kind of talent that makes Vanderbilt fans proud.

Commodore Banter (5/28)

A few links to pass along as we wait for Vanderbilt to take on Oklahoma Friday at 4 p.m. CT. Life sure is boring without sports...

The Commodores received a pep talk from Terry Crisp, the Nashville Predators’ radio and television color analyst, about winning championships and teamwork before heading for Tempe, Ariz. Within that notebook, Brett Hait mentions an interesting wager between Shea Robin and baseball media relations director Thomas Samuel.

The Tulsa World has a preview of the Tempe Regional.

Baseball America's Aaron Fitt wonders how Oklahoma even got into the tournament. Even the Sooners' coach didn't expect his team, which went 9-17 in the Big 12 and finished in eighth place during the regular season, to be playing.

Here's a cool story: Tonight David Price will take on a future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez when the St. Lucie Mets host the Vero Beach Rays. Martinez is expected to make one rehab start before rejoining the Mets.

The Pirates are considering Georgia High School shortstop, Tim Beckham, Florida State catcher Buster Posey or Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez with their No. 2 pick, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

And in this notebook, the Pirates say that Alvarez's agent (Scott Boras) and high contract demands will not deter them from drafting him. Pittsburgh maintains it has increased its signing budget by 50 percent, and said they will go over it if necessary.

Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith loves the SEC, especially the Commodores.

Bobby Johnson is the 11th best (or second worst) coach in the SEC, according to this list. Back in April, I put together my own rankings and had Johnson 10th.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Commodore Banter (5/27)

When Vanderbilt takes on Oklahoma Friday afternoon (4 p.m. CT) in the NCAA Tournament, it will not have the home-field advantage, nor will it have the pressure.

In 2007, the Commodores were the nation's top-ranked team for 15 weeks and as the No. 1 overall seed, hosted their first-ever Regional. Led by National Player of the Year David Price, the Commodores were a lock for the College World Series in Omaha. And then Michigan's Alan Oaks hits an improbable home run off Price in the top of the 10th and just like that, it was over.

The point? No one is expecting anything of Vanderbilt, seeded second in host Arizona State's Regional, this time around, which suits the players just fine.

Coach Tim Corbin says that playing in Tempe earlier this season should make playing on the road easier for the Commodores, writes Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper.

The way former Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler has dealt with his April diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes has been quite impressive, writes the USA Today's Jim Corbett.

Shan Foster's shooting ability, along with his humility, has scouts impressed. In Foster's workout evaluation, he compares favorably to NBA shooters Kyle Korver and Jason Kapono.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Dores earn No. 2 seed, headed to Tempe

The Commodores' road to Omaha will not be an easy one as they head to Tempe as a No. 2 seed in host Arionza State's Regional.

Vanderbilt will play No. 3 Oklahoma on Friday. No. 1 Arizona State will play No. 4 Stony Brook. The winner of this regional will play the winner of the Long Beach Regional, hosted by Long Beach State, next weekend in a three-game Super Regional.

The Sun Devils, led by Brett Wallace and Ike Davis, can absolutely rake and beat the Commodores 18-6 back in February. Check back later for a full recap; I'm off to Memorial Day BBQ.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pedro #1?

With the Commodores recently getting knocked out of the SEC tournament, unlikely to make a deep run into the NCAA tournament, and me having nothing else to do, I thought now might be a good time to take a look at Pedro Alvarez's draft status. Before the season he was considered by most to be the likely top pick in the 2008 draft. However an injury-plagued junior season combined with the hiring of Scott Boras as his "adviser" have put his status as number one in jeopardy.

There are two questions to be answered here: is Pedro the best talent in the draft and should the Rays take him first overall? In baseball more than any other sport the best available player mentality should win out almost every time, especially with the first pick, but there can be circumstances where that isn't the case.

Firstly though, is Pedro the best player in this years draft? Probably not.

Yes, Pedro can mash. His ability to hit has never been in question, his two full healthy years of college baseball show that. Last years .385/.463/.684 to go along with 18 hrs and 68 RBIs was a complete domination of the competition. However, his strikeouts are a concern.

Through his sophomore year he struck out more than once a game, and although that has changed this year, he has only played half the season. A pro who strikes out 160 times a year is going to really struggle to hit .300. As somebody expected to hit third or fourth this puts tremendous pressure on his ability to take walks. Pedro has had good walk totals so far, but it is hard to know how much of those are intentional or ab's where he was pitched around. In what is basically just an educated guess, I think Pedro will peak at around.280/.380/.500 for his prime 26-30 years.

Which brings me to his defense. Those numbers are great for a 3rd baseman. That .880 ops would have ranked 5th in baseball last year at 3b. However, Pedro is not a 3rd baseman. Although fielding percentage is a little simplistic in trying to identify what a good fielder looks like, it can easily point out a crappy fielder. In his freshman and sophomore seasons, he posted fielding percentages of .910 and .917, this year he is down to .905. To put those in perspective only twice in the last five years has a 3rd baseman had a % under .917. Last year three guys were under .950, two have been moved off 3rd base (Ryan Braun, who at .895 was historically awful, and Miguel Cabrera) and one should be (Kevin Kouzmanoff). So we must look at Pedro for what he is, a 1st baseman.

Being a 1st baseman instead of a 3rd baseman really hurts Pedro. Since 1980 only one player was drafted first overall that was a full time 1st baseman before he turned 30, Adrian Gonzalez in 2000 by the Marlins in what was both a signability pick and an awful draft. That .880 ops knocks him down to barely being top 10 in his position at 1b. Also moving across the diamond would lump him in with other outstanding prospects Justin Smoak, Yonder Alonso, and my personal favorite, Eric Hosmer.

So now that it is at least debatable whether or not Pedro is the top talent in the draft, we come to the real reasons he has no chance at being drafted #1. Firstly is Boras. Early rumors are that Pedro is demanding $8-$10 million and with Boras as his agent, he'll get it from somebody. As a player who has not distinguished himself from other top players it makes no sense to pay 2-3 times as much as the other guys would potentially cost. Secondly is that the Rays have little use for him. Carlos Pena had an absolutely huge 2007 which Tampa responded to by locking him up long term. This could be said for almost anybody they would be likely to pick however, because Tampa is pretty much loaded everywhere right now which puts even more of an emphasis on signability.

So what would I do if I were the Rays this year? It sounds like they are down to FSU catcher Buster Posey and Georgia HS SS Tim Beckham. This has been proven as a mistake, but I'd go with whatever guy would sign for the least and use that money in later rounds to pick players that have dropped for whatever reason and give them above slot deals. With no player separating himself from the pack the potential is there to get multiple impact players for the cost of one.

As for Pedro, I don't see him slipping past the Orioles at #4, with the Pirates at #2 also a very likely landing spot. Both of these teams are willing to pay the extra money that the pr boost of taking what the public perceives as the best player will bring.

*Image from

** Also ESPN Insiders should check out Keith Law's latest blog entry, lots of good info on potential Vandy guys. A quick summary is that we should get almost all of our recruits to campus, including rhp's Sonny Gray and Navery Moore as well as catcher/of Matt Marquis. The news isn't as good on likely first round SS Anthony Hewitt and Rhode Island OF Ryan Westmoreland, who has apparently been targeted by the Red Sox despite high bonus demands.