Lest you wonder if politics and the lack of objectivity stays with high school once you move one, consider some of the Big Ten honors and the All-American teams that were announced this week.
Greenville, NC – For years I’ve marveled over the Associated Press All-Ohio football, basketball, and baseball teams that were picked by the writers, representing the respective regions of the state.
The reason? Because a lot of those papers who voted never actually saw some of those players. If a player had a good reputation, and there was a writer in Cleveland that knew a writer in Cincinnati, that’s how it got done. I’ll vote for your guy if you vote for mine. How else would someone from Steubenville know anything about a tight end from Ironton, and vice versa.
About ten years ago there was a kicker from northwest Ohio who got first team All-State for kicking one field goal and 24 extra points. He also happened to play defensive back, and because there was so much competition at that position he was given All-State honors in another, different position. That’s how the game works, or worked.
It’s no longer done that way; the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Associated vote on the honors now, but again, how does a writer from Portsmouth get an objective opinion about a player from Ashtabula?
Apparently, it works in a similar fashion for Division I college baseball, and heads were shaking in North Carolina Wednesday as the Buckeyes prepare for their regional game on Friday with #2 seed South Carolina.
It was announced last week that reliever Seth Kinker (1.49 ERA and 15 saves in 28 appearances, and the recognized ‘stud’ among Big Ten relievers) had been selected for 2nd Team All-Big Ten. 1st Team honors went to Minnesota freshman reliever Max Meyer, who had one more save (16), but was far behind Kinker in nearly every other pitching statistic. The only Buckeye to garner 1st Team honors was third baseman Noah McGowan
Part of the issue, I suspect, is the fact that all the Big Ten teams don’t play each other every year. They’re scheduled in a rotation. Ohio State played Michigan State this year, but not Michigan. They didn’t play Northwestern, or Maryland, or Rutgers. So everyone didn’t see everyone. And some teams get more media attention than other…Minnesota, for instance.
But by acknowledgment, every Big Ten coach that I talked with throughout the season dreaded seeing Seth Kinker come into the game, 7th, 8th, or 9th inning. He was that good. Opposing teams only hit .213 against the Huntington, West Virginia right-hander, and you just don’t beat him when he enters the game with a lead.
So he’s 2nd Team in the Big Ten, but yesterday it was announced that Seth Kinker had been selected 2nd team All-American…on the second team amongst ALL Division I teams in America, about 270 of them! Obviously, someone took the time to look at his innings pitched, ERA, batting average against, strikeouts per inning, and walks (Kinker walked 5 hitters in 60 innings) and put two and two together. Someone did the math.
Surprisingly, no one even did simple arithmetic in the Big Ten!
Here’s another example of overlooking the obvious.
Minnesota coach John Anderson was selected as Big Ten Coach of The Year. Which is acceptable when you consider that the Gophers swept both the regular season title and the post-season conference tournament.
But, Minnesota was the pre-season pick to win the league and the tournament. And from that standpoint you can also make the point that Anderson did his work with pat hand.
Conversely, Ohio State’s Greg Beals took a team that finished 24-32 in 2017, didn’t even make the conference tournament, and flipped that team to a 36-22 record this year and a first round berth in the NCAA tournament, along with Minnesota, Indiana, and Purdue.
Now it doesn’t detract from the reputation of John Anderson and Minnesota baseball. He’s been there for 37 years, and with few exceptions they’re been good in every one of them.
But it doesn’t take a genius to know that what Greg Beals (Ohio State) or Mark Wasikowski (Purdue) did amounted to doing more with what others perceived as less. I’m just saying.
And finally, there are some rumblings over the first-round pairings in the NCAA tournament – why some teams traveled across country, and some other teams from the West Coast didn’t.
Wednesday it was being questioned as to whether some west coast state-supported teams from California and Washington were not permitted to come east and play in states like Texas and North Carolina because of those state’s well-publicized transgender policies. So, some of the regional pairings are the same as they were last year, and were teams from some states allowed to stay home and host, which grouped a lot of West Coast teams together?
Condolences to poor Wright State, by the way, who had to fly all the way to Stanford (Palo Alto) just to play a kid’s game. Politics are alive and well…even with baseball.