It was another unsuccessful weekend on the diamond for Mississippi State baseball after dropping two games to Auburn. After failing to score a single run Friday or Saturday, a solo homerun by John Holland in game three ended a streak of 29 straight scoreless innings and led the Dogs to a 3-1 victory.
The Bulldogs' record fell to 19-11 overall and 3-6 in the SEC. Their RPI has dipped down to 122 according to warrennolan.com.
This won't be our usual recap this week. After all, it's hard to pick categories like hitters of the week and mvp's when you lose a series and didn't score a run until the last game.
Where do I start? MSU baseball is on a collision course for hitting an all-time low under John Cohen, or well, a collision course for the type of seasons we saw his first two years here.
It's nothing new to our fans to see the team struggle for consistency in the regular season and in the SEC. After all, even the 2013 national runner-up team started off terribly in the league. The 2011 and 2012 teams that came one game short of Omaha and won the SEC tournament, respectively, were middle of the pack SEC teams that got hot at the right time.
For whatever reason, John Cohen's teams have been late bloomers and have clearly played better in the postseason. There's nothing wrong with that. It goes without saying, that's when you want to be playing your best baseball. BUT, isn't it starting to become obvious that Cohen has underperformed in the regular season given the talent he's had to work with?
Cohen and his staff have put together several great recruiting classes in a row. We're not talking about top 25 classes. We're talking about top 10 and top 5 classes here. They have brought in some of the best baseball players from not only Mississippi, but all over the country.
What has there been to show for it? Only one regional host is what. When it comes to the regular season, Cohen's players sleep walk through it as long as possible then turn it on when it matters most.
The SEC is without a doubt the toughest conference to play in, but Cohen's teams have been slightly above average in conference play at best. The 2011-2013 teams that saw some form of postseason success every year finished 14-16, 16-14, and 16-14 respectively in the SEC. Their best conference record was last season when they finished 18-12, but that was against the easiest schedule State has faced in several years. Inconsistent is the only word to describe MSU baseball in the regular season.
There's something wrong with that. Something HAS to change. Maybe it's Cohen's over analyzing of the game and over coaching that has finally caught up to him. Maybe it's taking the bat out of the best hitters' hands and making them bunt, and ruining the chance for a big inning. Maybe it's taking pitchers out at the most unusual and inopportune time. Maybe it's the 1,000 different lineups we see during one season, putting the players at a mental disadvantage because they come to the ballpark not knowing where or if they'll play.
At some point, Cohen has to loosen up, stop thinking so much, stick with a lineup, stop trying to outsmart the other coach, and just let his guys play. Stop trying to play the left/right matchups with the pitcher and leave your best players in. Stop doing unconventional things like pulling a pitcher with two strikes or putting a speed player with no power in the four-hole. Stop bunting with a runner on third with less than two outs. Enough is enough. Let your guys play the game like it's always been played, how the teams that are beating you are playing it. Just play baseball!
There's talent on this team, enough talent to make another postseason run, just like there has been for the last four seasons. Those teams had some success and this year's team may very well surprise us at the end as well, but these coaches HAVE to start placing more emphasis on the regular season. It's hard to win championships when you're forced to start that journey on somebody else's home field.
Maybe the 2013 season brought us unrealistic expectations, or maybe we just know the great tradition of this program and know they are capable of so much more than they are showing right now.
By no means am I saying John Cohen is on any kind of hot seat, but at some point he has to change his approach and realize what he's doing just isn't working. It's not only producing losses but it's wearing mentally on himself, the players, and the fans.
There's a lot of season left and ample opportunity to turn this thing around. The next three series are against highly ranked opponents, two of which are at home. The toughest portion of the schedule has arrived. That can be a good thing but it can also be a bad thing. It all depends on Cohen's willingness to change his approach.
I may be proved absolutely wrong, and this team may not have the talent to compete in the SEC. Cohen's coaching style may not make a difference in how far this team can go. For the sake of our heads not exploding, hopefully he does change his ways and we will get to find out.