"Doubt [...] is an illness that comes from knowledge and leads to madness."
-Gustav Flaubert, Memoirs of a Madman
"Arthur felt happy. He was terribly pleased that the day was for once working out so much according to plan. Only twenty minutes ago he had decided he would go mad, and now here he was already chasing a Chesterfield sofa across the fields of prehistoric Earth."
-Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe, and Everything
Column V, Week VI: "Madness."
Vanderbilt: 19-3 (2-1 SEC), #3 USA Today, #6 Baseball America
v. Mississippi State: 15-8 (2-1 SEC), #19 USA Today, #21 Baseball America
I must be mad to think anyone will be able to tear themselves away from their televisions and/or computer screens streaming college basketball from 11:30am-midnight CT to read this column. They're certainly not able to do this for work. According to a study referenced but not cited in Wednesday's NY Post, "companies stand to lose a collective $1.2 billion for every unproductive work hour during the first week of the tournament." Though this may explain why my start-up, "Unproductive Work Hours, LLC." didn't get off the ground floor-though I still blame Janet from HR, primarily-I think we need to delve further into this phenomenon.
According to the many studies cribbed in "theweek.com" (http://theweek.com/article/index/225506/how-march-madness-distracts-workers-by-the-numbers), 86% of employees will check their brackets, scores, and watch games during work; 56% plan to spend at least an hour a day doing this; 11% admit they'll spend five hours or more at work doing this; approximately 10.3 million hours will be spent streaming these games at work; 14% admit they've called in sick during the tournament, and 6% take the first two days off from work entirely.
Full disclosure: In high school, I managed to convince the school nurse to let me walk home around noon on at least one Thursday or Friday in March every year. In my freshman year at Vanderbilt, I and three friends missed an Econ test in a building that was no more than a block from our dorm because we were crowded around my 12" TV/VCR combo trying to will Hampton to upset Stanford. Like the aforementioned test, we failed. Currently, I have turned my house into a de facto sports bar, with two TVs playing live games, and am exhibiting an irrational amount of pride in having called North Dakota State over Oklahoma.
Needless to say, I am in the early stages of full blown Basketballum Spongiform Encephalitis (call back to an article I wrote in The Slant in '03). Regardless, like so many others huddled close to their computer screens at work, keeping one eye on the screen and one in constant periscopic search for a roaming boss, I have commitments and responsibilities I must adhere to... while watching the tourney. So, as Tenacious D might say in this situation, "This is not the greatest [column] in the world. This is just a [series preview]."
I must admit, I haven't seen Mississippi State play yet this year, but they're ranked #19 in the USA Today poll and #21 in Baseball America, and their Saturday starter, lefty Ross Mitchell was just named SEC Pitcher of the Week. This doesn't concern me. In every series we play this year, our pitching will be better. Read that again and commit it to memory. Are Brown and Mitchell dangerous? Possibly, but other than a decidedly mediocre UGA team last weekend, they've faced competition similar to what LSU's starters faced in the non-conference schedule, so it's quite tough to judge just how inflated those numbers are with respect to their talent. Will they be talented? Surely. Will they be 0.75 and 1.50 ERAs respectively talented? I'm going with no. Or, more accurately, I fully expect those ERAs to jump a few ticks this weekend.
Mitchell, when interviewed about his most recent SEC Pitcher of the Week award (http://www.hailstate.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=16800&ATCLID=209437691) spoke in Crash Davis-coached platitudes and made me hate him immediately: ""I am thankful to represent Mississippi State University and most importantly my savior Jesus Christ," Mitchell said.
This is the 2nd win in three weeks for the junior lefty, and I can't help but think Beede would have taken the honor if not for bad luck and a poor performance by Brian Miller in relief on Friday. C'est la vie. Mitchell's a ground ball pitcher (19 ground ball outs in his complete game win over Georgia this past Saturday) who's holding hitters to a .138 batting average. To be fair, the best competition he's faced thus far are the 13-8 (1-2 SEC) Georgia Bulldogs, who, let's face it, aren't going to compete for a division crown any time soon. His previous wins are a 6-1 beating of Western Carolina, an 8-4 victory over Holy Cross, and I've already lost interest in these cupcake non-conference match-ups, so I'm not going to look any further. All right, I'll finish it off. His remaining two contests were a 4-2 win over Michigan State in the "Diamond Classic Presented by Polk's Meat Products" (seriously) and a 7-6 loss at the hands of UC Santa Barbara.
At the plate, the only MSU Cowbell Ringers we'll have to worry about are speedsters Demarcus Henderson (.319 BA and 9-9 on stolen base attempts), C.T. Bradford (.323 BA and 4 3Bs), and an offensive lineman in a baseball hat named Wes Rea (.288 BA and 3 HRs). As a team, they're batting .269 to our .288 and pitching a 2.96 ERA to our 1.50 ERA.
Again, they're a solid team, and their Friday and Saturday starters are nothing to sneeze at. They'll more than likely make the tournament, and it wouldn't be surprising for them to make a bit of a run in it.
Still, we've got this.
Friday: Tyler Beede (4-1, 0.84 ERA) v. Preston Brown (2-0, 0.75 ERA) *6:30pm CT [ESPN3]
Prediction: Vandy 3 - MSU 1
Saturday: Jared Miller (5-0, 0.57 ERA) v. Ross Mitchell (3-1, 1.50 ERA) *7:30pm CT [ESPNU]
Prediction: Vandy 4 - MSU 0
Sunday: Tyler Ferguson (3-0, 1.63 ERA) v. Trevor Fitts (2-0, 3.55 ERA) *1:30pm CT [commodore all access streaming video]
Prediction: Vandy 8 - MSU 3
Whisky to pair with watching us repeatedly tell the people of Starkville that they need more cowbell: Rebel Yell. Just as it's always fun to yell, "Star Trek sucks!" to the coterie of nerds waiting in a movie line for the most recent Star Wars film, it's important to infuriate our friends at Mississippi State by confusing them for the giant debutante ball that is Ole Miss.
*Author's note: "Baseball, Bourbon, and Bad Decisions" will be a weekly column throughout the 2014 baseball season. Andrew VU '04 is a writer, educator, and ne-er-do-well living in the whirlpool of despair (Baton Rouge, LA) and is writing this column based largely on the fact that VandyTigerPhD is a large Italian man threatening his life if he doesn't hold up his end of the bargain. Throughout the season, the writer will use no advanced statistics, whatsoever, and will go purely on what he sees, instinct, and bourbon-fueled bluster. Check in Sunday nights (or whenever I damn well feel like writing it) for "Scouting Report: Something Something, Burt Ward" in which the writer will provide a recap, 2nd guess at least one key decision made by Coach Corbin, and provide a full scouting report on one pitcher and one position player.