"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
"Never ever stop in the middle of a hoedown."
It’s understandable if you have a bit of Vanderbilt sports related malaise. The football team was unwatchable. The coaching staff was worse. Then came the trial, and if you’re anything like me (or like VandyImport), it stirred up a sickness so palpable, you questioned whether the three previous seasons of unprecedented success was a Faustian bargain you’d not make twice. With the basketball team, though it’s clear the future is bright, the present is filled with rookie mistakes. I find them easy to root for, as there’s tangible reasons for optimism. Others still want Stallings’ head in the Shine-O-Ball-O. Again, all of this is understandable.
Understandable, but wrong. Let me bring you back into the fold:
On Friday, your National Champion Vanderbilt Commodores Baseball team takes the field. Ladies and gentlemen… welcome back.
Grab yourself a glass of bourbon. Baseball’s back. Feel the weather get warmer. Baseball’s back. Take Jobu out of storage. Baseball’s back. Unburden your mind. Baseball’s back. Go ahead and scroll up again. I won’t blame you if you don’t read one more word of this article, and instead, watch that moment on loop until Friday at around 4pm CT. It’s okay. I’ll write your boss a note.
In last year’s season preview, I said: "This is our year." I had an inkling it was our year in ’07. I had a strong feeling we’d be the last team standing in ’11. Last year, though, I saw the best rotation I’d ever seen on a college baseball team. This year, it’s stronger.
We lost CWS Hero John Norwood’s power stroke and Vince Conde’s defense and leadership. This year, our lineup is stronger.
I’ll have position breakdowns later this week, but for now, all you need to know is we are in better shape to contend for a 2nd National Title than we were for our first. We’ve got the consensus #1 recruiting class locked up. This team is not going anywhere for a long while. For the people who have been here all along: this is your reward. For the band-wagoners, there’s a lot of room on this party bus, but you’ve got to bring snacks.
Or buy me a bottle of Wild Turkey Rare Breed.
For those new to this: Baseball is a multi-variable game of chance. The season will ebb and flow. Players will get into their own heads and go into slumps. A guy you’d never given much thought to will get hot and improbably win us a few games. A tactical surgeon on the mound will lose his feel for his change-up and walk three straight. Injuries will happen. This happens to the best teams. Our goal is to make the tournament. Survive and advance. Search for every strategic advantage. In the end, however, a batter will guess right, and all that will be thrown out of the window. Go ahead and scroll back up to remind yourself of that.
We have the best chance to repeat since the ’10 and ’11 South Cackalacky Game Penises won two straight. We’re a better team than they were. We’re a better team than we were last year.
But all of this is on paper. It takes sustained excellence, a lot of luck, and getting hot at the right time to repeat.
I say we’ll do it.
Just like last year, I will provide thoughtful analysis, ridiculous nicknames, and I will cite no advanced statistics, whatsoever. There will be bourbon-fueled bluster. There will be second guessing of strategic moves. I will demonstrate no respect for our opponents. None. I will ruin the day of any and all fedora-clad Texas douchers. I will get Vicki Lawrence songs stuck in your head when we play Georgia. I will make thinly veiled aTm puns when we play aTm. I will refuse to name THOSE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED.
I will let AOG’s estimable statistician VandyTigerPhD explain why I will not be citing the WAR, fWar, WOBA, or any other Sabermetric/Bill James/Moneyball style advanced statistics in my analysis (cough, write this article soon, VandyTigerPhD, cough). Prior to that, all you really need to know is that no one keeps such statistics for college baseball, and attempting to do so would be a Sisyphean ordeal requiring ball tracking technology for defensive range metrics. Second, anyone shouting "SMALL SAMPLE SIZE!!!" when I bemoan the slump of a guy hitting .125 who has made no hard contact will be immediately taken outside and shot. Short of that, I invite you, the commentariat, to mock any such person with the zeal of an Arthurian age French John Cleese. There will not be enough at bats all year to sate the "SMALL SAMPLE SIZE!!!" shouters. So cram it with walnuts and change your argumentative tactics from "It’s the best kind of correct… technically correct" to "apt analysis and inductive reasoning." You will get the slash line, ERA, K/BB numbers, and similar such traditional statistics, and con sarn it, you’ll like it. Good? Good.
Coming This Week…
Thursday: Catchers and Bullpen
Friday: Starting Pitchers and Season Opening Weekend Preview (vs. Santa Clara)
Or not. I might miss a day or two, depending on work. Occasionally, I will implore VandyTigerPhD to write statistical analysis or fill in for me when I’m swamped.
Last But Not Least…
SEC Network + will be streaming the majority of games this year, so you have no excuse not to follow the best team in college baseball. Be happy now. Baseball’s back. And you don’t have to buy a premium streaming service to follow them.