Burnt Orange Glasses: Enough, Already

In his political and pop-culture infused off-beat commentary, Jeff Connor looks at the Texas baseball team's struggles as his spring baseball fervor "has turned to disbelief, which grew to frustration, which evolved to anger, which is in danger of warping to apathy."

It's not my fault, dang it. I did my part. Friday after work, I hung my burnt orange flag with the white longhorn head outside Casa de Lubbock Horn, where it stayed all weekend. I wore the gray game day ball cap I bought in Omaha – you know, the one with the Burnt Orange bill, big block "T" and Texas flag on the side. During the games, I checked the live scoreboard on Texas Sports so often the battery on my iPhone was as depleted as Hayden Christensen's acting career.

And in the end it didn't make a damn bit of difference. To quote Muddy Waters, I got my mojo workin', but it sure don't work on you. My beloved, mighty, fighting Texas Longhorns were swept. We lost three baseball games. In three consecutive days. To Oklahoma State. At home. In our home diamond refurbished at a cost of $25 million. When we had a chance to really make a move in the Big XII standings. After a coach-imposed lineup change. After a motivational speech by firebrand Freshman pitcher Chance Ruffin.

The Texas Longhorn baseball team was swept at home.

I don't know what else to do. I love my Horns, but my spring baseball fervor has turned to disbelief, which grew to frustration, which evolved to anger, which is in danger of warping to apathy.

What's going on here? Fielding and error problems are all over the board, and directly contributed to Sunday's loss. Texas is dead last worst in the Big XII with 20 errors and are 8th out of ten teams (Colorado and Iowa State do not field baseball teams) in fielding percentage. In Sunday's loss, Texas committed four errors, including two critical screw-ups in OSU's five run 8th, blowing an early 8-2 5th inning lead.

Offense doesn't consistently seem to be the central problem. The Horns are second in the conference in runs scored, hits, RBI and home runs, trailing only the surprisingly potent A&M offense. But Texas wasted an amazing pitching effort by Ruffin on Friday, scoring only one run in 11 innings. Otherwise, we swung our bats well against Okie Lite, plating seven runs on Saturday and ten on Sunday. Under ordinary circumstances, that's more than enough offense, but, at the risk of beating a dead Jessica Sarah Parker, we allowed the Cowboys to come from behind and lost both games.

What about pitching? The biggest issue by far in college baseball is the mound. Saturday's game against Oklahoma State passed without a single error, so our fielding was good, but our bullpen combination gave up three runs in the top of the 9th. Kenn Kasparek, the huge (6'10") right-hander coming off elbow surgery, was believed at the beginning of the season to have returned to his pre-surgical condition. But Ken has struggled to a 1-3 record and a 5.70 E.R.A. The collective Longhorn staff, inflated from the comic book sized numbers from the disastrous Missouri series, is next to last in the Big XII with a team 5.14 ERA.

Are we not getting the upperclass leadership we need? Are there team chemistry problems? Languishing in mediocrity in the middle of the conference, Coach Augie Garrido took the unusual step last week of meeting with four team representatives and dividing the team into participating and non-participating squads. The input from the four player representatives seems to have been a determining factor into which players made the suiting-up "A" team (George Peppard made the cut, but Mr. T did not, fueling speculation that the selection process was racially motivated) and the non-suiting up "B" team. Evidently, this is a motivational tool similar to basketball coach Rick Barnes benching a player for poor performance. The whole bizarre situation is described in some detail in an informative Inside Texas story: Big Changes, But Texas Still Loses.

Coach Garrido has always been hard for me to read. As a writer, musician and Longhorn, I have a pretty high tolerance for weird, but Coach Augie's Phil Jackson, Zen-master gobbledygook often goes right over my head. On the other hand, Garrido seems to effectively communicate to his players. Career success speaks for itself, and winning two national championships buys you more leeway than Halle Barry's Oscar did with the awful "Catwoman." Referring to his lineup shakeup as a "new beginning" (as opposed, I suppose, to an "old beginning"), Garrido saw the roster changes as the chance to develop the "nucleus" of the team. Kudos to Coach Augie for at least having the stones to try to shake things up.

But will the players respond? So far, the answer is a deafening thud. When our bats are hot, our pitching stinks. When a Freshman gives one earned run in ten terrific innings, our aluminum goes limp and needs a little blue pill. When we're hitting and pitching, our fielding errors bury our winning chances. We're buried in the middle of the pack in the Big XII and, absent sweeping a terrible Kansas State team next weekend, have few prospects of changing our status.

At this point, Omaha seems farther away than Gary Busey's sanity. Hosting a super-regional is out of the question and even hosting a sub-regional could be construed as an act of charity, based more on past glory than current merit.

Like Harrison Ford's sex life.

Hook ‘em.


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