Golden Bear baseball nears extinction

Here’s a list of people you may have heard of:

Les Claypool – the God of Bass – is from the band Primus, Julia Morgan was the architect of the Hearst Castle, Aaron Rodgers is a Superbowl MVP quarterback, Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert, Gregory Peck won the Academy Award for his portrayal of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Jeff Cohen played Chunk in the awesome and unforgettable film The Goonies and Tom Anderson is the co-founder and president of MySpace – though whether or not such an internet destination still exists is unknown to me.

What do they have in common? I’ll tell you, but not just yet. First, know they also have something in common with a handful of others…

Men like Jeff Kent who, according to FanGraphs, produced 61.9 over his career. He won the National League MVP in 2000 and has more home runs than any second baseman ever (377). For these reasons and others, I recently advocated his worthiness of Cooperstown while also admitting he may not be a slam dunk.

There’s also Xavier Nady. He netted the Padres Mike Cameron in a 2005 trade. The Mets received Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez (back when he was promising) for him back in 2006. He netted Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, Daniel McCutchen and Jeff Karstens for Pittsburgh from the Yankees in 2008. So he may not be Lance Berkman, but he’s fetched a decent prospect or two in his day as a major leaguer. That’s worth something.

Conor Jackson nearly hit for the cycle in 2008, would have in his final at bat with a double off Greg Maddux. Instead, he motored to third for his second triple of the day. You don’t see that too often. He then got Valley Fever in 2009 which wiped out his season. He’s now playing for the A’s, until Billy Beane decides he is not—hey, it seems to happen pretty often.

Darren Lewis won a Gold Glove as a San Francisco Giant in 1994. That same season, his major league record was finally set at 392 straight games without an error when he let a Cliff Floyd hit slip under his glove after 938 consecutive chances of avoiding such a blunder. Heck, Dusty Baker even named his son—the same that owes his life to J.T. Snow—after him.

Brandon Morrow, Geoff Blum, Mike Epstein, Brian Horwitz, Jackie Jensen, Kevin Maas, Tyler Walker and Baseball America Top-100 player Brett Jackson are all professional ballplayers in their own right and of varying success. Given that, I suppose Jensen’s 1958 AL MVP is worthy of note and perhaps more so than Horwitz’s two career home runs over 42 plate appearances, one of which came versus Ollie Perez (who I mentioned earlier). But there it is.

What they all have in common, though, is that these fine people, ballplayers and otherwise, went to University of California, Berkeley, aka Cal. Let’s be honest for a second. The city is known for its hippies and runaway liberalism. In addition to that, it’s a great American city for no less than its many stark contrasts to America’s heartland. Though not to the degree of the protests, one is such thing it’s known for is its athletics programs, baseball among them.

Cal stands to have many more musicians, architects, actors, cartoonists, football players, brilliant minds and future millionaires spawn from their halls. It’ll also likely they’ll thrust upon us scientists, advocates & activists, writers, mayors, judges, astronauts, astronomers, mathematicians and Olympic athletes. As for the baseball players…

The University of California announced today it will not reinstate its baseball program despite vigorous fundraising efforts to save it from the chopping block…

Cal chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau issued a statement Friday saying that enough funds were raised to reinstate men’s rugby, women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse, but not baseball and men’s gymnastics…

Cal baseball has a long history that dates back to 1892. The Golden Bears won the first College World Series in 1947, then won another national title in 1957… The Bears have been to regionals in two of the last three seasons and head into 2011 ranked No. 17 in Baseball America’s Top 25…

The Golden Bears figure to be a force in the Pacific-10 Conference one final time in 2011, and then their players will have to find new homes.

Sadly, it’s currently unknown whether or not they’ll ever again send our way (read: MLBs way) another Jeff Kent or even a Brian Horwitz or two. Who knows, maybe one or several of the alums will save the day with a nice donation. It just really smarts someone like Barry Zito was a Trojan instead of Golden Bear. He’d fit right in, I suspect, and it seems his current salary might allow such a handout.

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  1. Karlo said...

    It’s just wrong and a real shame for all the college baseball programs across the country that are getting the axe. I can’t believe that football is a positive revenue sport. If I had a zillion dollars, I’d do something about it…sadly, itks not going to be me to the rescue. :-(

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