Got that Mid-May "meh" feeling again? Does it seem like something of a yearly occurrence? Do you think it may have something to do with the way the Yardcocks deliver - or, more accurately, fail to deliver - at the SEC Baseball Tournament at Hoover, Alabama around this team each year? If so, then you're not alone.
Call in the Hoover Blues, as our Chickens got smoked once again in the Yellowhammer State, losing to Florida 7-2 yesterday afternoon in the SEC Baseball Tournament.
Over at Gamecock Central, David Cloninger says the "Hoover swoon" is an eight-year thing.
In reality, though, our SEC tourney woes date all the way back to1998, when the league selected Regions Park (formerly Hoover Metropolitan Stadium and home of the Birmingham Barons minor league team) as the permanent host for the SEC's post-season showcase.
Over the ensuing fifteen years, the Diamond Cocks' annual pilgrimage to Central Alabama has mostly been a tale of recurrent misery punctuated by occasional flashes of mediocrity - with only a couple of exceptions (2002 and 2004) where we actually played well throughout. If you can stomach it, check out the [abbreviated] history of our Hoover Horrors after The Jump!
1998: Regular season: 2nd Eastern Div.; Seed 3; Record 0-2 (1st Rnd.); Lost to MSU 9-8 & LSU 6-0.
1999: Regular season: East Champions; Seed 3; Record 0-2 (1st Rnd.); Lost to MSU 7-5 & Ole Miss 2-0.
2000 Regular Season: SEC Champs (25-5); Seed: 1; Record: 2-2 (Semis); Lost to Auburn 11-4 in 1st round.
2001 Regular Season: 3rd Eastern Div. (17-13); Seed: 4; Record: 2-2 (Semis); Lost to MSU 2-1 in 1st round.
2002: Regular Season: SEC Champs (21-8); Seed: 1; Record: 3-2 (Finals); Lost to Alabama 6-2 in championship.
2003: Regular Season: East Champs (19-11); Seed: 2; Record: 1-2 (2nd Rnd); Eliminated by Alabama 9-7.
2004: Regular Season: 2rd Eastern Div. (17-13); Seed: 5; Record: 4-0 (Finals); Beat Vandy 3-2 for championship.
2005: Regular Season: 3rd Eastern Div. (16-14); Seed: 6; Record: 1-2 (2nd Rnd); Eliminated by Tennessee 2-1.
2006: Regular Season: 4th Eastern Div. (15-15); Seed: 7; Record: 1-2 (2nd Rnd); Eliminated by Georgia 16-10.
2007: Regular Season: 2rd Eastern Div. (17-13); Seed: 3; Record: 2-2 (Semis); Eliminated by Arkansas 3-2.
2008: Regular Season: 5th Eastern Div. (15-15); Seed: 7; Record: 1-2 (2nd Rnd); Lost to LSU 5-4 in 1st round.
2009: Regular Season: 2rd Eastern Div. (17-13); Seed: 5; Record: 1-2 (2nd Rnd); Eliminated by LSU 4-1.
2010: Regular Season: 2rd Eastern Div. (21-9); Seed: 3; Record: 0-2 (1st Rnd); Lost to Miss 3-0 & Auburn 3-1.
2011: Regular Season: SEC Champs (22-8); Seed: 1; Record: 1-2 (2nd Rnd); Eliminated by Georgia 4-2.
2012: Regular Season: East Champs. (11-11); Seed: 2; Record: 1-2 (2nd Rnd); Eliminated by Florida 7-2.
For those of you scoring at home, that is a combined record of 18-26 (.409) at Hoover and only two appearances in the SEC Tournament Championship game. In 15 trips to Regions Park, we've been eliminated ten times in either the first or second round (i.e., we left with a losing record for the Tourney).
By contrast, in the same period, we've amassed a NCAA post-season record of 70-28 (.714) and appeared in three CWS Finals. Yes - that is one more World Series final than SEC Tournament final. Isn't that crazy?
In Hoover, we've lost the first game at least seven times. On our current NCAA appearance streak (2000-present), however, we've always made it to at least the final regional game, with 11 Super-Regional appearances and five trips to the College World Series.
It's like Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Except in this case, it's better to be Hyde - since we play like monsters in the NCAA post-season, but caspar-milquetoast in the Alabama foothills.
So what gives? Honestly, who knows?
I've heard all sorts of excuses over the years (e.g., it's a hitter's park), but none make sense over the long haul. In the last fifteen years, we've brought long-ball teams and small-ball teams to Hoover. We've brought hurlers with blazing speed and corner- painters with microscopic ERAs. We've been a top seed and a bottom seed; we've come with squads full of All-Americans and MLB prosects, and squads full of youngsters. We've tried it all, seen it all, and done it all - and for whatever reason none of it seems to work for us, The best thing we can say is that our chronic under-achieving in Hoover doesn't seem to have much corollary with our NCAA post-season performance either in the aggregate or on a year-to-year basis. Thank heaven for that. Still, our 2012 showing may have just cost us a national seed depending on how Stanford does this weekend.
That being said, it'd be nice to stop singing the Hoover Blues. Unfortunately for us, however, the SEC is under contract with Regions Park through 2016 so we'll have that to look forward to in years to come. Oh well. Now it's time to stop worrying about Hoover and start thinking about Omaha,
Hoover, we hardly knew 'ye!