Texas A&M baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle just put a twist on one of the most famous quotes in baseball history – “Let’s play two,” uttered by Chicago Cub great Ernie Banks in 1969, exemplifying his love of the game no matter the circumstances.
Schlossnagle basically said “Let’s play none” on Thursday with regard to his scheduled game against Incarnate Word on Tuesday, May 17. He and Incarnate Word coach Ryan Shotzberger, who used to coach under Schlossnagle at TCU, decided to cancel that game because neither wants to come out and play.
No. 10 Texas A&M (30-16, 14-10 SEC) is on the bubble as far as hosting one of the 16 NCAA Regionals on June 3-6, and Schlossnagle does not want to risk his Rating Percentage Index (RPI) dropping from No. 19. And in college baseball, RPIs can drop even with victories over teams with very poor RPIs.
Incarnate Word (17-28, 7-14 Southland Conference) is No. 194 in the RPI rankings out of 301 teams ranked. Alcorn State (2-32, 2-21 Southwestern Athletic Conference) is No. 301 and not coming to a bubble team’s schedule near you. The Braves have not played outside the SWAC since March.
The Aggies also have had pitching depth issues throughout the season and recently lost freshman mid-week starter Khristian Curtis (2-0, 1.42 ERA) for the year due to injury.
So, Schlossnagle did not want to use some pitchers against Incarnate Word that he might need in the regular season finale series at Ole Miss (28-19, 10-14) on May 19-21. The Aggies host Mississippi State (25-24, 9-15) this weekend, and every win is important at this time of year while on the host bubble. The SEC Tournament will be May 24-29 in Hoover, Alabama.
Shotzberger was also not gung ho about his team playing either as Incarnate Word – located in San Antonio – just played three extra-inning games over the last five days and ends its regular season this weekend against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi with the Southland Conference Tournament set for May 19-22.
“I don’t like canceling the game,” Schlossnagle said to reporters on Thursday. “But, given where we are in the season and where they are, honestly, it didn’t make sense to play the game. And part of me really hates it.”
But he is absolutely right, and he should be commended for his honesty. What is amazing is that this doesn’t happen more often.
Baseball is different than football and basketball. On any given day, any team really does have a better chance of winning in baseball as each game is much more dependent on the pitchers than any football or basketball game is dependent on the quarterback or the point guard, or other positions.
Usually mid-week games mean almost nothing – unless you’re on a bubble. A loss by A&M to Incarnate Word would put the word out on the Aggies. (Sorry.) Their RPI would plummet, and even with an impressive win, that RPI would likely fall a few or even several spots.
“I’m not going to hide it,” Schlossnagle said. “When the NCAA (selection) committee puts such an emphasis on RPI, and conference games mean so much, when you get to this time of year, you have to manage that.”
Incarnate Word will not receive any money for the game not being played. In college football, athletic departments have had to pay off scheduled visiting opponents when they replace them with a more attractive opponent for major television, for example. Incarnate Word will be scheduled at Texas A&M next season – but earlier in the season when the RPIs have plenty of time to change and erase such games.
“I like it,” A&M starting pitcher Nathan Dettmer said Thursday. “Just because we’ll have some more arms out of the bullpen to focus on the SEC.”
Perhaps if Texas A&M does get to host one of the NCAA Regionals, the Aggies can invite Incarnate Word over to watch and maybe take its coaches and players out to eat. By then, such RPI guilt by association will not matter.