Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Diamond Reflections

The NCAA softball tournament has been on television a lot lately.

It seems to get good ratings. Oh, and speaking of TV, Princeton men's hockey was featured on the show "Billions" last weekend.

TigerBlog has never watched "Billions." He's almost done with "Nurse Jackie" and will need a new show, so maybe he'll try to get into "Billions."

He certainly likes three of the main characters - Paul Giamatti, the guy who was Brody on "Homeland" and the woman who was Jax's wife on "Sons of Anarchy."

This is Season 3 for "Billions;" maybe TB will get there some day. TB isn't sure how Princeton hockey ended up playing the New York Islanders (acted as, not competed against) in the most recent episode of the show.

Maybe the producers of the show said they'd reach out to whichever team won the ECAC championship this year, and that, of course, was Princeton.

Anyway, back at the NCAA softball tournament, the most recent games on TV were those from the Super Regional, which is a great idea, by the way. There are four-team regionals to start the NCAA tournament in softball (and baseball), and that plays down to 16 teams. Those 16 teams then play a best-of-three series called the Super Regional, and that leaves the eight teams who advance to the College World Series for both.

Of the 16 teams that made it to the Super Regional in softball, the breakdown by conference was this: nine from the SEC and five from the Pac 12. And Florida State and Oklahoma.

That means that all 16 were Southern or Western teams and that two conferences were dominant. Is that good for the sport or not?

TigerBlog hasn't watched much of the NCAA softball tournament. He hasn't watched much Major League Baseball this year either. What baseball he has watched has been the Philadelphia Phillies, mostly to listen to Tom McCarthy.

Princeton has two alums in Major League Baseball right now, both of whom are pitchers.

There's Matt Bowman, of the St. Louis Cardinals, who basically can pitch every day. This is Year 3 for him in the Majors, all with St. Louis, and he's already made 151 appearances, with 143 innings pitched.

And there's Danny Barnes of the Toronto Blue Jays, who was recently recalled to the Majors. He also can pitch a lot and he's also done so as well in his three years in the Majors, with 91 appearances and 97 innings pitched.

Neither Bowman nor Barnes has ever started a Major League game, but hey, as analytics move along, maybe they will. Reliever Sergio Romo of the Tampa Bay Rays started Saturday and Sunday, pitching one inning Saturday and two Sunday.

TigerBlog has long believed that the strategy of having designated pitchers for the seventh, eighth and ninth innings is ridiculous, because it requires all of them to have a good day for the team to win. And he's always thought the closer was the most overrated position in sports - and the only one where strategy is dictated by stats.

The big news about Princeton baseball recently, though, was about a former pitcher, Chris Young, who was hired for a front office position with Major League Baseball. His title is impressive: Vice President, On-Field Operations, Initiatives and Strategy.

From the release:
"Young will work with MLB's Baseball Operations and Umpiring Operations Departments on issues affecting play on the field, including the application of playing rules and regulations, on-field standards and discipline, pace of play and other special projects. Among his duties will be ensuring that ballpark and field alterations meet MLB standards; working on MLB's pace of play and game presentation initiatives; advising on on-field disciplinary issues; assisting with negotiations with umpires, players and Minor League Baseball; participating in issues regarding player safety, on-field equipment and wearable technology; and having a role in official scoring reviews submitted to MLB."

Essentially, he'll be giving the former player's perspective on rules and other issues while also working on discipline matters.

Young, of course, was a basketball and baseball player at Princeton, one whose Tiger career ended after just two years when he signed a professional baseball contract. Young went on to pitch for 13 seasons and had a great career whose highlights included an All-Star game appearance, a Comeback Player of the Year Award and, of course, a World Series championship in 2015 with the Royals in which he was the winning pitcher in Game 1 after a phenomenal relief appearance in extra innings.

If you did some polling, you'd find that fewer people anywhere would have a higher approval rating than Chris Young would among Princeton fans. He was a fan favorite from Day 1, and the fact that his career ended after two years only enhanced that, with its "what might have happened" feel to it.

Certainly TigerBlog is a big fan. He still remembers how dominant a basketball player he was, what a big show all of his starts on Clarke Field were - and the day that the 6-10 Young lifted up a three-year-old TigerBlog so he could toss a basketball ball into a one of the side hoops at Jadwin.

Now that he's no longer a player, Young is entering the next phase of his career. Where will it go from there?

Well, it could be Commissioner Young. Governor Young. Something like that.

What? You didn't get the reference? 

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