I spent the week of March 13 in and near Sarasota, Florida. I saw my Orioles win a couple of games but I'm don't get carried away by victories in exhibition games because no manager makes moves to win those games. Usually late inning pitchers are prospects (or suspects) just getting some exposure.
I am looking forward to the first full season of switch-hitting catcher Adley Rutschman, the top prospect from Oregon State U. who in his mid-twenties may be emerging as a team leader. After a slow start this spring due to a minor wrist injury, young Gunnar Henderson, another top prospect signed after high school in Alabama, looked like he was finding his batting stroke. He seems ticketed for third base but can also play a good shortstop.
I'm rooting for RHP Dean Kremer, the last player in the organization from the Manny Machado trade a few seasons ago. Kremer is the first dual Israeli-American in MLB history. He pitched well for Israel in the World Baseball Classic and is proud of his long hair that occasionally becomes a man-bun.
I am prouder of his desire to pitch deep into games. At least into the sixth or seventh inning to not only save the bullpen from over-usage, but also to defy the analytic shibboleth that pitchers cannot deal with a lineup a third time through. Puhleeze, let's get more pitchers wanting to extend themselves, learning to pitch while a little tired.
Kremer becomes more important - as does another RHP Kyle Bradish who came over from the Angels some years ago in a trade for faded prospect Dylan Bunday - became word just came that DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez, two projected top starters, will need more seasoning at Triple A Norfolk.
Sarasota and nearby Bradenton have wonderful spring training baseball history. Sarasota also has some great museums. If you have a chance, the Tiffany exhibit at the Selby Gardens near downtown Sarasota runs through Su Jun 25. Charles Tiffany loved exploring nature as well as working with glass and Selby's mainly outdoor exhibit does great honor to his memory.
A less well-known Sarasota attraction is the Marietta (Lee) Museum of Art and Whimsy open only three afternoons a week, Th thru Sat from 1-4p. Located less than two miles south of the famous Ringling Museum, it features an astonishing array of offbeat paintings and sculptures that extend into the bathrooms.
There is also a piano that anyone can sit down and play. Somehow my romantic realist self managed to render an at-least melodically correct version of the Jimmy Van Heusen-Johnny Burke 1940s classic "Polka Dots and Moonbeams."
I didn't see the Yankees and Mets play, but kudos to the Yankees for giving young Anthony Volpe, a Jersey guy, the shortstop job, at least in the early going. Nothing like young blood to push and invigorate the veterans.
On the other hand, the Mets have sent back to the minors their top prospects, third baseman Brett Baty and catcher Francisco Alvarez. One of manager Buck Showalter's fortes has always been developing youngsters.
He made Bernie Williams feel comfortable as a young Yankee center fielder and did the same in Baltimore for infielders Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop. One wonders if these decisions were
truly approved by him.
The baseball season is so loooooong! I wish it were shorter but nobody listens to me on the macro
issues. So let me conclude this post with paeans to how well the Columbia women cagers and surprisingly the Wisconsin men are playing.
Columbia's women under 7th-year coach Megan Griffith narrowly missed the NCAA tournament.
Selfishly, I was glad because I could see the games at increasingly rocking Levien Gym, now
easily accessible at Broadway and 120th Street. (No longer does one have to negotiate a lot of
steps on the campus.)
"Creating a winning culture" is one of the great cliches of today's sports, but it is ever hard to achieve.
Coach Griffith, an especially youthful 37, played for so-so Columbia teams under 4 different coaches. She became a 1000-point scorer in her career.
After pro ball in Finland, she started a coaching career in the USA, spending several years at Princeton where she learned a lot about winning. She is never afraid to talk about the W word.
So much of any winning philosophy comes from realizing that there are no such things as "small things". Big things don't happen unless the small things are executed.
Two examples from Columbia's recent NIT run have stood out. First, when senior Duke transfer Jaida
Patrick fouled out of a stirring comeback 88-82 win over Syracuse - a rare occurrence by the
way because Columbia players know how to play in foul trouble - I noticed Jaida taking a clipboard on the bench and helping out with stats.
My second observation came just before the second half of Sunday Mar 26's quarter-final win over Harvard, the 3rd Columbia W over a big Ivy rival in 4 games this season. I noticed junior sharpshooter Abby Hsu and senior forward Kaitlin Davis quietly talking to each other as they slowly headed to the bench.
Normally consistent scorers, they were out of sync in the first half, maybe not surprising because when you play a team four times, there are no secrets. I had the sense though that they knew what to do in the second half. Sure enough, Columbia opened up a 20-point lead and then held on to beat the Crimson 77-71.
On Wed Mar 29 at 6p EDT, Columbia squares off against the Bowling Green Falcons on their home court in Ohio. The game will be televised on the extra-pay ESPN3 channel. A matchup between 27-5 Lions and 31-6 Palcons should be a doozy.
The winner will face the winner of the Washington at Kansas game. We won't know definitely until after the Wed games where the final will be held but that game will be televised at 530p Sa April 1 on CBSSN which is channel 315 on Spectrum.
It has been a great joy to watch Griffith's five over the last few seasons, slowly but surely getting near the pinnacle of a championship. It had to be a special treat for her to coach two more member of the 1000-point club, senior forwards Kaitlyn Davis and Sienna Durr.
As for the Wisconsin Badgers' surprise run to the NIT Final Four, they are playing N. Texas State in Las Vegas at 7p Tu Mar 28 on ESPN. The winner will face either Ohio Valley or UAB (U of Alabama Birmingham) at 940p on Th Mar 31 on ESPN.
It took a disappointing year and only the second failure to make the Big Dance since 1998 for the
Badgers to re-awaken. With Michigan State's loss to Kansas State in the Elite Eight at Madison
Square Garden, Wisconsin is the last Big Ten team standing even if it is "just" the NIT.
The emergence of junior transfer Max Klesmit as a clutch scorer as well as a gritty defender has given Wisconsin a huge boost. So has the occasional offensive eruptions of junior 7-foot center
Steven Crowl. Enigmatic sophomore point guard Chucky Hepburn doesn't have to be the only
big game shooter now. First year guard Connor Essegian has a shooting touch reminiscent of Columbia's Abby Hsu and maybe the ankle of versatile veteran Tyler Wahl has finally healed.
That's all for now. Next time more on the short but intense college basseball season in the NYC
area with such solid teams as Columbia, Fordham, Rutgers, and St. John's are in regular action.
Of special interest to me is the rare visit of UConn to Columbia on Tu aft Apr 4 at 330P.
Always remember - Take it easy but take it, and these days, stay positive, test negative.