Baseball: Cajuns getting little respect in preseason baseball polls
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Jan. 30, 2019
College baseball has so many polls, few of which are giving coach Tony Robichaux's Ragin’ Cajuns much respect heading into the 2019 season.
While the National College Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) doesn’t have its preseason poll out yet, the Cajuns are mentioned in a couple of expanded polls, coming in at No. 38 according to Collegiate Baseball back in December and No. 40 according to lesser-recognized College Sports Madness.
But the USA TODAY coaches’ preseason poll released last week has Coastal Carolina at No. 22, and South Alabama was the only other Sun Belt Conference team receiving a vote in it.
Moreover, Coastal Carolina is No. 21 in D1Baseball’s preseason Top 25 and No. 23 in Baseball America’s — neither of which ranked UL when their widely respected polls were released earlier this month.
The Cajuns aren’t ranked either in the Top 25 of Perfect Game, which has Coastal Carolina at No. 25.
With so many opinions and so little certainty to any of it, Robichaux must borrow a couple extra body parts to juggle all his thoughts when it comes to preseason prognostication.
On one hand, none of that matters to him.
“We work with the end in mind, not the beginning,” said Robichaux, whose Cajuns — a frequent fixture in preseason and in-season national polls during years gone by — begin their 2019 season with a three-game series against No. 16 Texas that opens Feb. 15 on M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park.
“On the other hand, the way I’ve always looked at it is it’s somebody else’s perception of us. And I’ve always told the players that somebody else’s perception doesn’t need to become our reality — unless maybe you’re ranked No. 1 in the country.”
So a part of Robichaux wants his program to be noticed and respected, and a part wants his players to prove naysayers wrong.
“On the other hand, I don’t like always being at the top,” he said. “I like laying in the weeds.”
Just not too deep in.
“On the other hand,” Robichaux said, “you’d like to always be relevant too, though, you know?
“So I guess it’s hard to satisfy everything. But, at the end of the day, I don’t really pay attention to it.”
Until somebody brings it up, and he’s forced to for a moment or two.
The bottom line is Robichaux knows how these preseason polls work.
The coaches of course have their input in USA TODAY's (if they don’t have an underling submit their ballot for them), and a few of the rankings — like D1 Baseball — are compiled by folks who conscientiously do their homework.
But others are guesses based mostly off of how last season ended, statistics that may or may not matter, who appears to be returning and who is not.
“Usually a lot of this is what you have coming back,” the Cajuns coach said.
But Robichaux cringes when thinking about how little most outsiders know about what truly has been going throughout the offseason inside of any individual program, particularly his own.
In UL’s case, assumptions about pitching — some accurate, some not — may have played a large part in the low regard.
Ditto for the Cajuns’ hitting woes in 2018, when they finished 34-25 and failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament after going each year from 2013-16.
UL really did lose a handful on the mound, with Hogan Harris, Nick Lee, Logn Stoelke and Colten Schmidt all drafted and senior career saves leader Dylan Moore having graduated as the Sun Belt Conference’s top baseball scholar.
At the plate, UL hit just .242 last season — .020 below opponents.
With all that in mind, Robichaux won’t necessarily use the lack of respect this year as a tool to light a fire under his club.
“I’ve always said … if you need outside motivation then evidently we’re gonna be in trouble,” he said.
On the other hand …
“But, having said that,” Robichaux said, “there are times as coaches we use things about what somebody’s printed or somebody’s said … to get extra motivation, if you will.
“So we’ll use it however we need to use it. But, at the end of the day, I think polls are polls. I think they’re good for the fans. But … I don’t think coaches mess with polls too much.”
Perhaps because they don’t have enough hands, and in some cases arms, to deal with all the implications.