Friday, October 28, 2011

9 things to like about Big Ten Baseball

Don't panic: we're not
really joining the
 Big Ten.

In honor of the crazy jump-the-gun MU to the SEC post last night, I thought I'd share this post that I've had queued up in the bullpen for over a year.  But look quickly - I'm liable to take it back down any moment and blame Blogger for this:

Anyone who's been reading this blog for long knows I was not in favor of MU going to the Big Ten. But now it's happened and here we are. So I've been learning everything I can about Big Ten Baseball. Surely, I thought, there's got to be some upsides to this for MU Baseball.

So let's shift gears and find 9 things to like about Big Ten (now popularly being referred to as B1G) Baseball.
  1. The Big Ten Network produced over 100 Big Ten Baseball and Softball games for TV broadcast and for streaming at in 2011. Also, archived broadcasts of Big Ten Baseball games are available online. A lot of that content is not free, but it's more than the Big 12 ever provided for Baseball and Softball.

  2. History: As a student of MU Baseball History, I know all about the storied history of the Big 12:
    From the 1907 formation of the original Missouri Valley Conference (MU, KU, NU and Washington U (StL), to the Big 6, Big 7, Big 8 and finally the Big 12 - with Missouri a member of the conference from the very beginning through to the end of the Big 12. Baseball was one of the original sports played by the conference, along with Football.
    It saddens me to see the end of that history.

    But the Big Ten has an equally impressive and storied lineage:
    Founded in 1895 by the presidents of 7 universities (Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin, Chicago) as the "Intercollegiate conference of Faculty Representatives". Indiana and Iowa were added in 1899, Ohio State in 1912, Michigan State in 1949. U of Chicago dropped out in 1945. Penn State became the 11th member in 1990.

    Football and baseball were the popular sports prior to 1900. Wisconsin won the first two football championships and Chicago claimed the first three baseball titles.
  3. The fan experience at a B1G baseball game is very similar to a typical Mizzou game, according to Ten Reasons Why I like College Baseball (and the Illini), at
    Just try to show me a better time!

    For my money, there’s not a better time. Whether I’m hanging with my buddies, taking my family or just taking in a game by myself, it’s a lot of fun. The baseball program at the University of Illinois have done a fantastic job putting a quality product on the field not to mention a fun time all round (yes, they do promotions… the days when the players play wiffleball with the kids after a game are a big hit, so to speak).
  4. There are a lot of good people in B1G Baseball who believe in their sport and their conference, and are working hard to increase the level of competition and even the national playing field. People like Michigan Coach Rich Maloney (
    So I’ll start with what you would probably think is a dumb question, can you win a national championship at Michigan?

    Coach Maloney: Here’s how big of a feat I think it would be, I think it would be a Sports Illustrated cover. (laughs). I believe in possibilities, not impossibilities. And I’m a dreamer.

    But if you would’ve asked me a couple of years ago, I would’ve just talked about making regionals and maybe going to Omaha. But then, when we went down and played Vanderbilt at their place and beat them fair and square, that changed everything. Then on top of that we went out to play Oregon State and quite honestly, if we win game one there (a 1-0, 10-inning loss), we probably would’ve gone to Omaha. And of course, OSU won it all that year. So in my mind, all the sudden my thought process went from dreaming of Omaha to ‘Hey we CAN win this thing.’

    So to answer your question, the answer is yes, I do believe it can happen. I’ve been close enough to realize we’ve beaten some teams that are of that caliber.
    . . .
    There are a lot of new coaches in the Big 10 and a lot of new energy and guys that really want to be on the national level. Our goal is to see more teams getting into the NCAA tournament.
  5. The annual Big Ten/Big East Challenge: Hosted by the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, 2012 will be the 5th year for this tournament matching teams from the Big Wast and the Big Ten at sites in the St. Petersburg, Florida area during the final weekend of February. What form this tournament will take with the new conference realignments is anyone's guess. But it sounds like a great early challenge on the annual schedule.
  6. If you're one of those Mizzou fans who nurtures a Rodney Dangerfield "We Don't Get No Respect" complex, you're gonna love B1G Baseball.

    Big Ten Baseball Proves its Worth (
    And just in case the Wolverines needed further proof the Big Ten is lightly regarded in baseball, also criticized Michigan's seeding before this weekend's play.

    "CSTV said that they didn't send a real No. 2 (seed) to the Vanderbilt Regional," Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. "All the guys knew. We did read it to the team and we did talk about it, but in the actual playing of the game, it's all about making pitches and getting the timely hits. If you play the No. 1 team, you're always going to have a tighter focus, especially in front of a hostile crowd."
    . . .
    The strong showing from the three Big Ten teams in this weekend's Regionals justifies the selection of the two at-large bids, though it will probably have little immediate impact on the Southern perception of Midwestern baseball as largely inferior - a fact Ohio State coach Bob Todd said effected the number of Big Ten teams that make the NCAA Tournament.

    "There is too much negativism from the warm-weather schools," Todd said. "They still believe, which I do not, that the sixth-place team in some of the warm-weather conferences is better than the third- or fourth-place team in the Big Ten. And I truly disagree with that, especially when you look at how successful some of our programs have been when we play those people in May (in the NCAA Tournament)."
  7. For those parents of recruits who e-mail me every year complaining that Tim Jamieson and his staff over-recruit and end up cutting players and pulling the scholarships of some upperclassmen (a practice that happens at nearly all schools in the elite conferences), here's something you'll love about the Big Ten:

    Q&A with Indiana’s Coach Tracy Smith (College
    Now, I do believe the Big Ten recognized this as a huge disadvantage for our league and instituted a rule change this year that allows schools to over sign up to one scholarship spread over two players.

    It does help, but when other schools are over signing by 6-8 scholarships, the playing field is not even close to being even. The part that drives me nuts is nobody talks about this issue. Everyone wants to talk about weather, and huge stadiums, etc., as being the things the hold our conference back, but it’s not. The issue of over-signing is the real problem.

    My friends who coach at southern schools laugh when I tell them that we can’t over-sign kids until our underclassmen physically sign a contact. They are like, “how in the heck do you guys recruit?” I have my response down to a science now, I put my hands behind my back and say, “like this.”

    That said, I am not saying I agree with over-signing to the level most southern do it, because it can create some ugly scenarios where kids are “run off.” Again, too many reasons and not enough time to respond. But what I would like to see is some consistency with regard to the issue of over-signing.

    I like the limits our conference has put on over-signing. Now, if we could get the rest of the country to buy into the Big Ten Conference’s rules, wouldn’t if be great? However, I say again, why would they? They are at too much of a competitive advantage under the current system to want to change.

    As someone who is trying win every game I play, I guess I understand their position. But if the NCAA wants to do what is “right,” it will address the issue of over-signing, and adopt legislation that truly benefits our student-athletes all the while creating a more competitive environment for all of college baseball, not just some of it.
    Also check out this analysis by Michigan Coach Rich Maloney

    While recruiting elite athletes as a Big Ten school will be tougher than recruiting as a Big 12 school, this limit on over-recruiting can actually help the process in attracting certain players who are looking for a more certain guarantee of actually playing for the team they've signed with.
  8. Natural rivalries
    ♦ MU vs. Nebraska: There have been a lot of great matchups between the Tigers and Huskers over the years, and now that both are in the Big Ten, that tradition will continue. And as a bonus, it will continue without Mike Anderson.

    ♦ MU vs. Illinois: We've matched up with the Illini on a sporadic basis over the years, sometimes at neutral sites like Busch Stadium or at T.R. Hughes in O'Fallon. Now there will be an annual weekend matchup between the two teams.

    ♦ MU vs. Iowa: Another natural geographic rivalry, although the Hawkeyes have not been a major force in baseball. The Joplin Relief series October 8-9 gives us all preview of this inter-state rivalry.
  9. 5 or 10 years from now, when people think of B1G Baseball, they should immediately think of Missouri.

    OK, so it's a given that Big Ten Baseball is not at the same level competitively as the Big 12 or the other top baseball conferences. Yes, occasionally a Big 10 team rises up and competes on a national level, but the conference as a whole is just not at that level.

    This program can easily settle into being one of the better teams in the B1G, sharing the upper levels of the conference with teams like Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio State.

    Or Mizzou can take a cue from a school like Wichita State during its glory days, and put the money and effort into dominating a mid-major conference (which, in baseball, describes the Big 10), win conference championships more often than not, and be a perennial participant in the NCAA Tournament. That puts the Tigers into position to be ready to catch lightning in a bottle when that exceptional set of recruits pans out and the luck is with us.

    Two things are necessary to make that happen:

    First, Mike Alden needs to recognize that moving to the B1G is potentially most damaging to Baseball among all the Mizzou sports. And he should compensate for that undeniable fact by sending some of that fabled B1G revenue windfall toward making Mizzou Baseball the most most attractive baseball program in the B1G.

    Second, Tim Jamieson and his staff need to rely on their experience competing in an elite baseball conference and put that hard-earned knowledge to use in out-recruiting, out-scheduling, and out-playing the rest of the B1G.

    Some of that new money should go to the baseball travel budget, so Evan Pratte can afford to schedule the Tigers to play more Top 25 teams in the non-conference schedule. This will be necessary to build the RPI, to prepare for the B1G schedule by playing against teams that are better than the in-conference rivals, and to be able to entice recruits with opportunity to still play against top teams.

    Missouri will have one built-in recruiting advantage in the B1G. The Tigers will be among the southernmost of the B1G schools. Ironically, Mizzou is now the "warm weather" option for recruits considering the B1G Conference.


  1. Man, at first I thought this was going to be a joke article and I thought it was a really clever premise. But it looks quite real... Which is, I guess, even more entertaining.

  2. It's totally real. I worked on it to have ready just in case. Kind of like that MU-to-SEC story was something they had worked up and sitting in the queue.