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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Pro/Con: Should the Arizona baseball team be ranked in the preseason top-25 polls?

    Pro: Youth has helped ‘Cats in past

    By Bobby Stover

    What a difference a draft makes.

    Last season Arizona entered the first week of spring practice as the No. 1 team in the country according to multiple polls, and pegged as a top-five contender by nearly everyone.

    For the most part, the Wildcats did not disappoint with a Super Regional berth, and came within two-fewer stranded base runners from making it to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. But with those results comes some sort of cost and Arizona sure paid the price of their strong young squad.

    With 11 draft picks, nine skipped town for the cash – six of whom were juniors whose contributions to last year’s performance were huge.

    After speaking to Arizona head coach Andy Lopez, one thing is clear: the Wildcats “”cannot”” replace those players.

    But despite the loss of his top veterans and the unmistakable youth of his 2009 squad, the eight-year UA skipper countered his previous statement with one more pleasing to the Wildcat faithful.

    Said Lopez, “”Nobody knew who (first-round draft picks Ryan) Perry and (Daniel) Schlereth were three years ago.””

    His point: youth means nothing more than perceived inexperience.

    On a team full of underclassmen, it’s easy to make the assumption that Arizona has entered into a rebuilding year. But in a sport where high school seniors can even be deemed Major League ready, to think that just because a kid is in his first year playing collegiate baseball he will suffer is na’ve.

    If you look at Arizona’s team over the past couple of seasons – in which the Wildcats posted back-to-back 40-win seasons for the first time since 1985-86 – underclassmen have made a major impact.

    In 2007 freshman shortstop Robert Abel came in and won the starting job early in the season and went on to hold onto the spot until 2008 when another freshman, Bryce Ortega, stole the position in a similar manner and finished the year with a .326 batting average.

    Also in 2007 sophomore pitcher Preston Guilmet threw his way to a 12-2 record and a 1.87 ERA.

    There were several other freshmen last season as well who went on to play major roles in big games and did not disappoint.

    So before anyone goes so far as to leave this year’s Arizona squad out of their poll, they might want to reconsider what exactly “”rebuilding”” in college baseball means.

    Con:Preseason rankings are meaningless

    By Tim Kosch

    Being ranked in the preseason polls does not guarantee a championship. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t even guarantee a trip to Omaha. Just ask last year’s team.

    The preseason No. 1 Wildcats had a good season. They eclipsed the 40-win mark for the second straight season and breezed through the Ann Arbor Regional until they were clipped by Miami in the Super Regional.

    Going that deep into the season is grounds for celebration, but given the preseason ranking there were shades of disappointment.

    Fast-forward 11 draft picks later to 2009. Arizona still has a core of ultra-talented players – pitchers Preston Guilmet and Jason Stoffel and third baseman Brad Glenn, to name a few – but there is no denying that the unprecedented number of drafted players left behind some holes this year’s UA squad needs to fill.

    It’s those question marks that kept the Wildcats out of this season’s preseason polls and landed them in the fifth spot in the preseason Pacific 10 Conference poll.

    That might seem like a slight to the program after last year, but you’d never be able to tell from head coach Andy Lopez.

    “”If we lost 11 players to the draft and were still No. 1 then something would be wrong,”” laughed Lopez when asked about this years polls.

    Whether or not being left out of the poll was justified won’t be decided until the season is over, but the bottom line is that as of today the Wildcats are not ranked and that is a good thing.

    In addition to the usual goals of conference and even national championships, the respect of those around the nation is something that teams crave and work for. Since the team is not ranked, national recognition is just another motivational tool that team can use to find success on the field.

    If there is a blueprint out there for an unranked team “”going all the way,”” look no further than last year’s national champion.

    “”Rankings are overrated,”” said catcher Dwight Childs. “”Look at Fresno State. They started with nothing and by the end of it they got rings on their fingers. Hopefully we can go out and do the same thing.””

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