FEINSWOG: Can Bertman come back?

In 2003, the Florida Marlins were 16-22. The season was almost a quarter over and sports fans in Miami were already looking ahead to football season. So the Marlins fired manager Jeff Torborg and got a baseball veteran, Jack McKeon, to come out of retirement.

He went 3-7 in his first 10 games, but then things turned around and the Marlins went on to win the World Series.


And McKeon, who hadn't managed in three years, was 72.


Seventy-freakin' two!


So after he didn't rule himself out as a candidate to be LSU's next baseball coach, I emailed Skip Bertman the other day to see if he had contact info for the now-retired McKeon.


Nah, he replied, and anyway, McKeon's "an old guy and I'm a young buck."




Bertman's a full four years younger now than when McKeon took over the Marlins.

He's got two hips he wasn't born with that are state of the art. He's had the energy these past five years to hire a football coach, spar with LSU fans on everything from stadium renovation to ticket prices to his suffering baseball program and survive a house fire that sent his wife shopping to replace all her clothes.


Going back into the dugout would be a piece of cake compared to being athletic director. And he'd get paid more!


Bertman would be nuts to do it, of course, and he's heard exactly that from plenty of his friends. But he also knows he might just be the best man for the job.


Bertman was magical as a baseball coach. Five national titles in 10 years speak for themselves, but there were so many times when luck or good fortune or his intuition turned things LSU's way it was scary.


He didn't always have the best collection of players, but he fielded the best teams that played as if winning titles was a birthright. Bertman simply demanded it and got it from his players.


He had a system that worked, guided by a man who could be as mean and tough on his players as any coach who ever walked on LSU's campus.


Does he still have it? Does he still have what he himself called "The Mojo?"


The truth is, he shouldn't want to find out. The world is full of great baseball guys, ranging from the obvious ones with LSU and SEC ties to ones the average person hasn't even considered.


Hopefully Bertman and one of those guys will come to terms and get hired as the right fit and someone who can handle the job. It won't be easy, because even the best fit will never do was well as Bertman did.


It simply won't happen, not at LSU and not at any other school. If you think it will, you're simply fooling yourself.


But LSU can contend for the national title again. And if the right person isn't out there, Bertman won't have to look far for "a young buck" to go back to the dugout.




Lee Feinswog is a Baton Rouge sportswriter and host of the television show Sports Monday. Reach him at (225) 926-3256 or lee@sportsbatonrouge.com.

His newest book, "HoopDaddy" is available at www.HoopDaddy.net.

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