Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Coach: Greg Beals

Ohio State has hired Greg Beals to replace Bob Todd as head baseball coach. Beals is a forty-year old 1995 graduate of Kent State and spent three years (1991-93) in the Mets system as a poor hitting catcher (.250/.334/.311, all in A ball). He became an assistant at his alma mater and obtained a master's degree before taking the head coaching position at Ball State in 2004, where he replaced Rich Maloney. Maloney had left BSU for a certain school of questionable repute in Ann Arbor.

Beals led Ball State to its first NCAA appearance since 1969 in 2006, and his program has produced a number of high draft picks including Red Sox 2010 first rounder Kolbrin Vitek. He will now inherit a Buckeye programming coming off a disappointing season, and losing a lot of talent to boot. Of course, he also inherits the support of one of the wealthiest athletic departments in the country, and one which is as committed to baseball as any northern program.

Since Beals began his coaching tenure in 2004, it might be worthwhile to examine the record of his BSU program as compared to those of the Big Ten schools and the MAC's top dog, Kent State. Here are the team's places in the ISR rankings, published by Boyd's World, for those twelve schools over Beals' tenure:

And the average rankings:

A couple points based on these figures:

1. OSU has ceded its top dog status in the Big Ten to the forces of evil over this period, but contrary to the belief of some critics of Bob Todd, the program clearly stands in the conference elite. Minnesota may have won more conference titles over this span (the Buckeyes took just one regular season title in 2009), but OSU's overall annual record is quite comparable with that of the Gophers. None of the other seven baseball-playing Big Ten schools (sorry Nebraska, you don't count yet) come close to OSU, MIN, and those other guys.

2. Some other people seem to think that Kent State is the state's premiere baseball program. That's not the case either. KSU did compile a better ranking in three of the seven seasons, but OSU had three seasons with a higher ranking then KSU's best (sure, one was by only two spots, not a significant amount, but then OSU's fourth-best performance was only two spots behind KSU's best). KSU has produced more pro players, but that is an inappropriate measuring stick for a college program.

3. Beals' record at Ball State is solid but unspectacular. Ball State has not challenged Kent for MAC superiority, but their overall performance is comparable to that of an average Big Ten program. While the gap between resources available to Big Ten and MAC programs in baseball is relatively small, it's still encouraging that Beals could assemble the same quality of teams at OSU that he did at BSU and hold his own. However, it is discouraging that his two best seasons came shortly after inheriting the program from Maloney.

Obviously, it is not my intent to evaluate the hire based solely on a crude ranking comparison of twelve programs. However, the comparison does nothing to move me off my gut reaction when I read last night that Beals' appointment was imminent: solid, safe, underwhelming. Underwhelming is not meant to be a negative reaction, just to convey my lack of excitement beyond what I usually exhibit for Buckeye baseball--which is fairly substantial. I wish Coach Beals nothing but the best, as there is no baseball team on the planet that I have more emotional investment in than that of The Ohio State University.

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