Texas to face LSU in 2009 College World Series

Thanks to Connor Rowe’s game-winning solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat Arizona State 4-3 on Friday night, the Texas Longhorns are going to the Finals of the 2009 College World Series to face LSU. The Tigers hammered Arkansas 14-5 to eliminate the Razorbacks and head to the Finals.

The best of three Championship Series between LSU (54-16) and Texas (49-14-1) will start Monday, June 22 at 7:00 p.m. ET. Game 2 will be at 7:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday and Game 3 (if necessary) will be played at 7:00 p.m. ET Wednesday, June 24.

No team has as many CWS wins than Texas, who has 81. LSU is tied for 10th on the all-time wins list with 33. The last time the Long Horns were in the Finals was 2005, when they beat Florida 4-2 and 6-2. The Tigers won the CWS the last time they were in the Finals as well, beating Stanford in 2000.

One player to keep an eye on this series is LSU outfielder Jared Mitchell, who was selected with the 23rd overall pick in the first round of June’s MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox. Mitchell is hitting .400 (4 for 10) so far in this CWS, with two RBI, a run scored and three walks.

Mitchell was highly considered the best college athlete in the MLB draft as he was also a receiver for the LSU football team. He’s a solid hitter who could eventually find his power stroke and he’s got great speed. The downside is that he’s extremely raw, but he’ll be fun to watch next week in the CWS.

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The MLB draft will never be popular

Joe Posnanski of SI.com wrote an interesting piece about why the MLB draft doesn’t work as a popular television event.

1. The vast majority of players drafted will never get close to the big leagues. Take the 1994 draft … 15 years ago. There were 287 players taken in the first 10 rounds, and 190 of them — two thirds — did not get a single at-bat or throw a single pitch in the big leagues.

2. Even the players who DO make it will not make it for years. If the NFL Draft is, as the cliché goes, like getting presents on Christmas morning, well, the baseball draft is like getting a savings bond from your grandmother that will mature when you turn 18.

I love the analogy Posnanski used in his second point.

Yesterday I DVR’d the MLB draft and was actually looking forward to watching it. The MLB Network had hyped the event up for a couple of weeks and being a Giants fan, I was excited to see who’d they take at pick No. 6.

But once Bud Selig (who was awful, by the way) read Zack Wheeler’s name at pick six, I realized that I could care less about the rest of the first round. Unless you’ve lived under a rock the past couple weeks, you knew that the Nationals were going to take San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg with the top pick and there was a good chance the Mariners would select North Carolina’s Dustin Ackley (arguably the best position player in the draft) at No. 2. So outside of hearing whom your favorite team picked, there wasn’t much excitement to the draft.

Posnanski is right – the MLB draft as a televised event doesn’t work. I applaud MLB for trying to make the event even a smidgen as popular as the NFL draft, but there just isn’t enough quality substance in the end. As Posnanski points out, most (and that’s not an exaggeration) of the players drafted in the first couple of rounds will never see the big leagues and even if they do, as a fan you have to wait three to four years before that happens. By that time, most casual fans have forgotten where those players came from.

Again, I think it’s great that baseball has embraced the idea of making the draft more of an event. But the reality is that I would rather watch the entire third round of the NFL draft than just one pick in the first round of the MLB draft. And I think others feel the same way.

Team by team MLB draft rankings: Best drafts of the last 10 years

With the 2009 MLB Draft set to kickoff at 6:00 ET tonight on the MLB Network, SI.com did a cool feature in which they rated how each club has fared over the past 10 years when it comes to the draft.

The Brewers were rated number one and it’s hard to argue with the ranking after looking at the names Milwaukee has drafted over the years: Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, J.J. Hardy, Manny Parra, Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo. Amazingly, this club also drafted Hunter Pence (Astros), but couldn’t sign him.

The Red Sox were rated No. 2, with Kevin Youkilis, Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and Manny Delcarmen leading the way, but the site left off a glaring omission: Jacoby Ellsbury. The Rays actually drafted Ellsbury in the 2002 draft, but never signed him. The Sox then nabbed him with the 23rd overall pick in 2005 and he’s currently their starting centerfielder.

Speaking of the Rays, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tampa ranked higher than No. 4 in the next couple of years. Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, James Shields, Andy Sonnanstine and David Price are just some of the names they’ve drafted in the past 10 years. Don’t forget that they were the team that also drafted Josh Hamilton before he got injured and then became the poster child of what not to do when you’re an inspiring ballplayer with loads of free time on your hands.

You look at a club like the Nationals ranked No. 8 and you wonder why they’ve been so awful over the years despite drafting so well. Then you realized they dealt Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips all in the same trade for Bartolo Colon and it all starts to make sense.

If you’re wondering whom SI had ranked last, it was the Astros; only Hunter Pence was worth noting of the players Houston drafted the past 10 years. The White Sox were second to last, although if Josh Fields, Chris Getz, Clayton Richard and Gordon Beckham develop like the club hopes, I highly doubt Chicago will be ranked that low again if SI does another ranking like this in the next couple of years.

Will Scott Boras ruin the Major League Baseball Draft?


Well, Michael Rosenberg from Fox Sports thinks so. When the MLB Draft kicks off tomorrow, the Washington Nationals are expected to take top pitching prospect Stephen Strasburg from San Diego State University as the No. 1 pick. Unfortunately, his agent is evil mastermind Scott Boras who is already throwing out a ludicrous asking price.

Boras has floated a $50 million signing-bonus demand for Strasburg to the media. The number is absurd, of course, and Boras knows it, but he doesn’t care. By leaking the $50-million figure, Boras has created an artificially high starting point for negotiations — and keeps the Nationals from claiming they did not know Strasburg would be so expensive. Boras has already built public pressure on the Nationals to pay Stephen Strasburg a ton of money.

Major League Baseball needs a true slotting system — not just a ridiculous, unenforceable commissioner’s recommendation. It needs a system like the NBA, where the top pick is locked into a certain figure and the contract values diminish with each subsequent pick. The only way to get one is to negotiate it into the next collective bargaining agreement.

The draft is just the first domino. Consider: in recent years, the Detroit Tigers paid above the commissioner’s recommendation for draftees Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and Rick Porcello. Not long after, they sent Maybin and Miller to the Florida Marlins for a package that included Miguel Cabrera. If the Tigers had not paid above their slot, they probably would not have acquired one of the best hitters in the game.

The NFL Draft has a similar problem — signing bonuses for the top players have gotten so huge that nobody wants the top three or four picks. Those picks are supposed to be the most valuable commodity that any losing team has. Instead, they often become anchors.

The problem is worse in baseball, because at least bad NFL teams get some marketing juice out of the draft. Most baseball prospects don’t play in the majors for at least two years.

This should be a rare chance to give losing teams an advantage, but it isn’t. Teams routinely pass on superior talent because of signability concerns, and with the economy in the toilet, that may be worse than ever this year.

It is past time to take the draft out of Scott Boras’s hands.

Rosenberg couldn’t be more dead on. Baseball does need a slotting system like the NBA. It’s truly ridiculous for a college phenom to be offered a multi-year or multi-million dollar contract. Baseball players seem to be the most fickle of athletes. They can have an amazing year in their early twenties, then teeter off, then come back and perform amazingly in their late 30s. This is why the Rays and Dodgers deserve some respect for the way they’ve cultivated their teams. Neither organization offered their prospects big money out of the draft and instead monitored them closely in their farm system. The Nationals offering Strasburg a huge contract would be idiotic despite the current problems with their organization. Pitchers, more than any position, are more prone to career-ending injuries and young guns aren’t often able to continue pitching at a top level. Tim Lincecum is an exception while Fausto Carmona is not.

The Nationals should make the correct decision and give Strasburg a decent two-year contract that lets him develop in their farm system. If he performs well there against older players, then see how he does in the bigs. Young pitchers should have two successful consecutive seasons in the majors before they’re expected any significant arbitration. If the Nationals don’t want to follow this plan, then they should let another team take Strasburg’s (supposedly) huge contract.

Strasburg throws 17-strikeout no-hitter in final home start

San Diego State junior and future Washington National Stephen Strasburg threw a 17-strikeout no-hitter against Air Force in his final home start over the weekend.

The 20-year-old is now 11-0 for the Aztecs, with an obscene 164 Ks in 87.1 innings. He leads all amateur pitchers in hype, earning potential, and 103 mph fastballs. Strasburg has a 23-strikeout game to his credit, too.

Washington Nationals’ acting general manager Mike Rizzo was reportedly in attendance at the no-no, scouting Strasburg in advance of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft. The Nats have the top overall pick, and there’s just no way they’ll pass on Strasburg at any price. If former Washington GM Jim Bowden can be believed, the decision was made long ago.

Somewhere, agent/advisor Scott Boras is grinning one of these smug little grins.

Bowden has said of Strasburg, “This is the best amateur pitcher since I was born.” (That would be May 18, 1961). He’s also said that the right-hander will be pitching in the big leagues in September. Position yourself for the waiver claim now, dynasty owners.

If this kid winds up pitching for the Nationals in September, that would be freaking unbelievable. Hopefully Washington doesn’t rush him, because major league hitters have a tendency to humble hot young prospects. Still, what an amazing college career – he has a bright future ahead of him.

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