Abysmal season may lead to search for ‘new people’

Coach John Anderson said his team has had time to improve; now it’s time for results.

Trevor Born

For anyone interested in walking on to the Gophers baseball team, next year might be the time to do it.

At 18-29, and 8-16 in the Big Ten, the team will finish with its worst record in head coach John Anderson’s 27-year career, and one of the worst records in program history.

Beyond that, Anderson has lost a great deal of confidence in the current players, and hinted at an overhaul of the roster if his team’s play doesn’t turn around soon.

“We’re 47 games into the season and some of these guys have to decide whether or not they want to be a Division I baseball player or not,” he said. “They’ve had plenty of opportunities to work on their games and improve themselves, and I keep seeing the same things over and over again. That’s the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over when it’s not working.”

The comments came Sunday after one of the ugliest games of the year, in which the Gophers blew a nine-run, sixth-inning lead before winning in extra innings, 17-14.

In the seventh inning of that game, Gophers pitchers gave up five walks, hit one batter and threw three wild pitches as Iowa scored seven runs on just one hit.

“That inning was unacceptable,” Anderson said. “I can’t accept that. It has to change or we have to get new people, I guess.”

It was one of several times that he used the phrase “get new people” after the game.

Anderson has long said that he doesn’t judge his teams by wins and losses, but by how well they prepare and play. Recently, he said, he’s been more disappointed in how the Gophers have approached the game than the fact that they’ve lost nine out of their last 11.

It’s time for the team to grow up, he said.

“Growing up is going out there on the field and catch the ball and throw the ball instead of playing scared,” he said. “If you want to play Division I baseball, then OK, here it is. If you want to play, then it takes some courage.

“What are you afraid of? It’s just a game. We’re not doing surgery on the operating table trying to save someone’s life. It’s just a game. Enjoy the competition, the moment, and playing at this level instead of being scared of losing. My goodness.”

Catcher Jeff DeSmidt, one of seven seniors on the team, conveyed similar frustration after the game.

DeSmidt caught the entire four-hour and 36-minute game, and got a firsthand glimpse at the bullpen’s meltdown. At one point he had to chase down three wild pitches in the same at-bat from freshman reliever Phil Isaksson, two of which allowed runs to score.

“Enough’s enough,” he said.

“I don’t even know how to explain it,” added reliever Scott Matyas, whose three and two-thirds innings of scoreless work in the game earned in Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors.

Part of the problem is that the team graduated several key seniors last season, and freshmen make up nearly half of this year’s roster.

Anderson said the coaches have had to change their methods to accommodate the young team, but that it shouldn’t be an excuse this far into the season.

“I can understand there’s a process you have to go through, but we’re beyond that,” he said. “They’ve had plenty of opportunities. You practice and practice and practice, and at some point you have to apply that stuff. That or they’re not the right guys.”