Friday, March 21, 2008

What's wrong with the Diamond 'Dogs?

Remember the last time the Fresno State baseball team got off to a hot start? If you do, you'll agree it's been a while. If you don't, it's been a while. So most of the Diamond 'Dog fans likely expected it once again this season, or at least knew not to panic when it happened, again.

Those of you still waiting to panic, you can start now. Fresno State has eight wins, with the only one of significance coming against San Diego State, because they were ranked at the time. Now, we're into the WAC season now and getting complete-gamed shutout by a sub-.500 team. With one-third of the season gone and a win/loss S-curve that rivals the 1906 San Francisco earthquake on the Richter scale (sorry, I've been studying for a California Earth Science exam and it's fresh in the mind), there could not be a better time to put a lot of Ws on the board, unless we go back in time.

I don't like to focus on the negative, but there are so many people confused as to why this has happened, that I'm going to focus on it. So far this year, I've attended every home game and followed every road game via radio or gametracker:

  • Tom Mendonca is striking out in nearly half of his at-bats, a number that is in the 30s. He's also batting under .200. Reason number one for this is that he has been a complete guess hitter all year, not good considering he's only been right 17 times in more than 70 at-bats. Couple that with him trying to be a leader by example on the field and feeling like he needs to carry the team out of the gutter, and poof, you get his current stat line. That's all there is to it on his end, but it's nothing that is easy to fix at this point.
  • Mendonca hasn't been the only one struggling to make contact. The Bulldogs as a team have struck out more than twice the amount they have taken a walk this year. In college baseball, contact is a must. I don't think I need to get too deep into this, but you then have no chance for sac bunts, hit and runs, steals, a pitcher working out of the stretch, pitchers on the mound from mostly weak bullpens, it goes on and on. Last night against Hawaii: four hits and 10 strikeouts. They never had a chance.
  • On-field leadership: Danny Grubb is your main leader on this club, but it's hard to have that role when the catching job is split three ways and when he himself is struggling terribly at the plate. Coach Batesole is a tough, hard-nosed guy, but at the same time, he trusts his players to take care of their business and get their work in, therefore keeping his distance at times. I will never say that this team doesn't go out and play hard, because I think they go all out on the field, but the demeanor of this team and apparent (apparent being the key word) lack of visual competitiveness (if that makes sense), is noticeably different from the Bob Bennett teams of the past. That goes for every Batesole team since he arrived.
  • Lineup juggling: Even this deep into the season, there is no everyday lineup. You would think this is a small deal, but it's not, because each spot in the lineup has a different role. It has a bigger impact than you would think.
  • Preseason expectations: This team made no secrets before the season that it was Omaha or bust. The slow start only adds to this pressure. For all we know, maybe our guys just don't handle that pressure too well. It's entirely possible.
These are just five reasons for the early struggles, and there are plenty more, maybe even ones that are more telling. There is no quick fix, although I know this team responds to personal challenges. When they are called out, they respond. Problem is, it shouldn't get to that point. Baseball should no doubt be fun for these guys, but they'll agree that it's never fun when you are losing.

Maybe it's time to bear down a little bit more and show some visible intensity and focus. That kind of emotion can change things in a hurry. Or maybe this team can't play that way.

But, for me at least, as long as they continue to play all out and represent Fresno State with pride, I'll be out there supporting them.

But I just get the feeling that they need to support themselves too.



  1. Very well said good sir. This team needs to take a cue from Major League and sack up!

    Two straight shutouts to Hawaii...are you kiddin' me!? This team should never ever ever get shut down offensively.

  2. I'm so frustrated with this stinking team. Fresno State Baseball should be a top twenty team EVERY YEAR. Except, EVERY Batesole year is a disappointment.

    Time for a new coach.


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