One of the biggest influences Nick Saban* has had at Alabama is not just on the football team, but his insistence that the athletic department commit to winning at all sports. Bama, in the past decade, has gone from more of a one note "football school" to a football school with an all-around sports program that competes for titles in just about everything. It's really quite admirable, the way that they have transformed themselves into title contenders in virtually every sport.
*Ed. Note - Obligatory Saban reference! Drink!
Except baseball. I don't get it. Alabama has a pretty solid baseball history, but they are lagging behind the other western powers on the diamond. They've made a commitment to winning titles, it's just that the titles haven't come, though they are a solid tournament team right now. Bama isn't a bad program by any means, they just aren't a great one. And you need to be great in the SEC.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Record: 23-16 (8-7), tied for 3rd in the SEC West
What is that elephant holding? Is that an ice cream cone? Seriously. I'm genuinely curious. Maybe he wanted a treat after stepping on the football.
Richard Pittman (ATVS blogfather, and graduate of the Law School)
Winston Groom (author, Forrest Gump)
Harper Lee (author, To Kill a Mockingbird)
Robert Horry (Big Shot Bob)
Ozzie Newsome (GM of the Baltimore Ravens)
Mel Allen (This Week in Baseball)
Bear Bryant (former head coach of Kentucky and Maryland)
Bernie Madoff (securities fraud)
Jim Nabors ("Surprise, surprise, surprise...")
Hugo Black (Supreme Court Justice)
Howell Raines (Pulitzer Prize for feature reporting)
Timothy Leary (Harvard Psilocybin Project)
Robert van de Graaff (scientist, inventor of the generator of the same name)
Jimmy Wales (co-founder of Wikipedia)
I would like to thank Mr. Wales for Wikipedia, which makes writing this notable alumni section about a billion times easier than looking on the universities' respective home pages. Pittman is the greatest person on earth to hold an Alabama degree, primarily because he is an LSU fan and alum.
Pretentious Music Video:
Words truly do fail me regarding the tragic events in Boston. I'm trying to imagine what would possess someone to attack a marathon, but I never much understand terrorist attacks. What I do understand is the hundreds of runners who crossed the finish line an kept running to the hospital to donate blood. I do understand the thousands of people there who tried to help the injured or even the lost and confused. Millions have donated money, time, or effort to Boston (and West, which is right down the road from me, and has a terrific bakery which is right off I-35). Anyway, the good people outnumber the bad people in this world. It's a good thing, too, because as anyone who has played with Legos can tell you: it's easier to destroy than it is to build. But it's the act of building that's more rewarding.
We are all Boston. We are West. So, in that spirit, this week's pretentious music is one of my all-time favorite bands from anywhere, much less from Boston. What could be more Boston than the Pixies - UMass?
OK, maybe one more Boston band. A band that I just missed out on when I was a kid was Mission of Burma. They broke up before I ever got to see them, mainly because I was a little kid when they were together. But 20 years after the fact, they got back together and they rock harder than all you kids out there. Boston is resilient, y'all. Mission of Burma - 2wice:
And one last one. I grew up going to punk rock shows in DC. I love me my old school hardcore. But let me tell you, Boston was the most hardcore of the hardcore. They didn't have bands so much as organized street gangs who would beat the snot out of you if you looked at them funny. I'm just saying. Dear terrorists, these are the people you have chosen to mess with. I think that's a pretty bad call. SS Decontrol - Boiling Point
RHP Charley Sullivan (3-3, 3.06 ERA, 53.0 IP, 48/13 K/BB)
LHP Justin Kamplain (0-0, 4.07 ERA, 24.1 IP, 20/10 K/BB)
RHP Spencer Turnbull (4-1, 2.30 ERA, 54.2 IP, 29/21 K/BB)
Alabama's pitching is pretty middle of the pack by just about every measure. Sullivan is a legit ace, so the Friday game should be a terrific pitcher's duel (which means we'll get a 9-8 slugfest). Turnbull's got that tiny ERA but his peripherals really don't support those numbers. I think he's rife to fall back to earth, as guys with close to a 1:1 K:BB ratio do not usually post an ERA below three. But just because it's not likely to continue doesn't mean it will not continue. He could keep bucking the odds. The Tide does boast one of the SEC's top closers in Ray Castillo, so they have the ability to close the door on close leads. LSU has to get to the starters because Bama is one of the few teams that can match pens with the Tigers. Let's sum it up like this: Alabama has won every game in which it was leading after seven innings, and lost every one in which they were trailing after seven. They know how to shorten a game, both good and bad.
CF Georgie Salem 289/372/308
RF Ben Moore 278/371/424
1B Austen Smith 267/329/374
Bama's offense is near average in runs scored, but I'm not sure how. They are doing it with mirrors to just achieve a mediocre offense. They only have one starter slugging 400 and not a single hitter batting over 300. They steal bases, but not at a great clip (but not a bad one either), and they get on at .315 rate. There's nothing about their lineup that looks remotely intimidating, but here they are, at 500. The offense is somehow working despite looking pretty bad when reduced to the statsheet. I don't know if its individuals underachieving or a whole team overachieving, but the offense keeps finding runs when they need it. I don't really know how.
Well, there's the usual caveat of how tough it is to go on the road, but Alabama looks like a team that LSU should not just beat, but beat soundly. Then again, Bama has been outplaying their expectations and their underlying numbers all season long. The baseball gods have smiled upon them so far this year. Then again, it's a pretty bad sign I'm talking about how Bama is overachieving, yet they are only 8-7 in conference. Part of that is a scheduling mirage, as Bama is 1-5 in the past two weekends against Ole Miss and Arkansas. They also got swept by Louisville. However, they have been competitive in most of those games, losing three in extra innings. Given the questions with LSU's Sunday starter and the nagging doubt that maybe Ryan Eades is turning into a pumpkin again, I think that the Tide will scratch out at least one game this weekend. Still, I'm confident the LSU machine just keeps on rolling. Let's enjoy it.