But, it's the subtleties and nuances like the eight inches that separate the game winning, RBI double from another foul ball or the fraction of an inch on the bat barrel that means the difference between a 400-foot homerun and a warning track fly ball that often spell the fate of a win or a loss.
For ousted LSU Baseball Coach Smoke Laval, the distances this past season that ultimately led to his dismissal June 4 became a lot less subtle. The distance between the pitching talent LSU brought to the field in 2006 and the talent of its opponents widened as the season progressed until it reached the point where one Tiger pitcher could be counted on to maybe give his team a chance to win. Just one.
The distance between LSU's offensive prowess and that of its opponent was apparent as well as SEC team after SEC team pounded out double-digit hit totals while LSU lagged behind, lacking the ability to drive in runs and gather timely hits. Outfielder Quinn Stewart led the team with 56 RBI's, which is pretty good for a guy who struggled to find a role at LSU for three previous seasons. But not quite that good when one considers he accounted for nearly half that total after hitting a league-high 23 homers, often with nobody on base.
The walk, bloop and blast days of
LSU baseball were after thoughts with this year's squad. And, if not for a
batting surge by senior catcher Matt Liuzza in early April that raised his
batting average 25 points in two weeks, LSU was in danger of exiting its series
The 2006 LSU Baseball team was not very good. The sentiment early in the year floating around the Alex Box Stadium Press Box was that this team may bare the brunt of 20 years of pent up frustration by other conference teams against the Tiger behemoth. That sentiment proved itself in all but four of the 10 conference series.
Still, it wasn't the lack of talent
that spelled the end of
Sadly, Laval's fate was predicted
the day he stepped away from a head coaching position at UL-Monroe and stepped
into the role of cross bearer for LSU baseball in Bertman's wake.
Had Laval been calling the shots at Georgia, Vanderbilt , Kentucky, Arkansas, Ole Miss or almost every other school in the country aside from LSU, Texas, Miami or Cal State-Fullerton, the fact that he had lost the four College World Series games he coached during his five year stint would have been lost on the idea that his team had been there in the first place.
Now, Bertman the athletic director has pledged to rebuild the fortress built by Bertman the baseball coach by hiring the right man to lead what is supposed to be the best college baseball program in the country. The short list of names of those worthy of the task includes two former Bertman pupils, Alabama's Jim Wells and Ole Miss' Mike Bianco, both of whom managed to take their teams deep into this year's NCAA Tournament, neither of whom had a winning record against Laval-coached teams until Ole Miss swept a three-game set against LSU in late April of this season.
Other possible candidates have been bantered about as well, the most intriguing and, perhaps unusual, being Bertman himself, who seems a bit perturbed about populating the SEC with coaching talent only to have it belittle his former team.
Truth is, Bertman may be the only choice that can satisfy a community that will settle for nothing but Bertman. How does one really find a contemporary to further the legacy of a man who has no contemporaries? And, if Bertman chooses himself, one hopes he's done so after carefully contemplating the status of Mississippi State's Ron Polk, who decided the only way to preserve his winning heritage in Starkville was to return to coaching the Bulldogs in 2002 after retiring from that same university in 1997 and serving a brief, yet successful two-year term at Georgia. His fate, legacy and potential replacements are being debated with nearly the same fervor as the conversations concerning LSU baseball's next move.
LSU Basketball Coach John Brady was
asked by a small group of reporters a few days after
The fact that Brady landed a job in which he wears a sports coat and loafers to work at LSU instead of a pinstriped jersey and spikes might be his greatest accomplishment to date.