With school out and summer here, it's one of the best times of the year. For me and lots of other folks, it means the R.O.T. (Republic of Texas) Rally is coming to Austin and the college baseball playoffs are starting.
How many times have you been at Disch-Faulk for the Regional and heard the motorcycles roaring down I-35 and MLK? How many times did you curse the noise and then walk over to marvel at the sheer number of bikes rolling past?
It seems like the R.O.T. Rally and college baseball post-season go together like Peaches & Herb, or Kid N' Play, or whatever musical duo you like.
Except that isn't happening this year. The R.O.T. Rally will go on as planned, but there will be no post-season baseball in Austin because the Texas Longhorns didn't make it.
For the first time since 1998, there will be no Texas Longhorns in the NCAA Tournament. The last time Texas was not playing in June, Bill Clinton was the President, gas was $1.06, Mack Brown and Rick Barnes had yet to coach their first games at Texas, Ricky Williams was about to change to No.34 and Bob Stoops was the defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators.
What I'm saying is it a lot of things have happened since Texas last missed the post-season: Texas basketball went from a laughing stock to a destination — 15-year-old TJ Ford and soon-to-be-10-year-old Kevin Durant would see to that; a couple of quarterbacks from Houston and West Texas would take the Longhorns to new places in football; the Buffaloes, Aggies, Huskers and Missouri Tigers would leave us; and Mike Leach, Dennis Francione, Mike Sherman, Les Miles, Jeff Capel and many others would come and go.
Remember Miles at Oklahoma State? That seems like a million years ago.
Another thing that happened in that span was the Texas baseball team's absolute dominance of college baseball. The Horns went to the College World Series seven times and won it twice in that time and now have former players all over Major League Baseball.
The Longhorns are so successful and expect to be so successful that the team will not allow a dogpile for anything short of a National Championship. You'll see it happen when a team wins a conference title, or tournament to get into the NCAA Dance, or the Regional or Super Regional, but at Texas you've only seen this twice since 1998.
And for the first time since 1998, Texas didn't deserve to be in the post-season. At 30-22, Texas went 6-8 down the stretch, including a 2 and Barbecue at the Big 12 Tournament to eventual Tourney Champ Missouri and an attrocious Kansas team.
With injuries knocking out two starting pitchers, the staff ERA was 3.43, which was fifth in the Big 12. With a team batting average of .263 (9th in as league of 10) and the league's worst fielding percentage (.966) it was a recipe for "meh," and a 30-22/14-10 record is as "meh" as it gets.
In 2010, the Texas football team had their struggles ( you think?) and rebounded with a solid year and a bowl berth last season, seemingly poised to take another step forward this fall. I expect the same thing from the Texas baseball team.
Augie Garrido is not going anywhere, and he's done this before. He's been really good, really bad and everywhere in between. Look for Texas to add some power at the plate and restock the pitching pool. And a little extra infield practice won't hurt, right?
I'm a fan of college baseball, so I'll be watching, but it will definitely be weird to not see Texas out there. Hopefully the Horns get this thing turned around so I can complain about the motorcycles next year and see this dogpile one more time.