Kopps Starting, Hogs not hitting, Who was the Best Razorback Baseball Player & More on This Week’s Ask Mike

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Q. Our first question is from T.L Slaten who asks: Did DVH make a mistake starting Kopps? Did he leave him in the game too long?

A. N.C. State is one of the hottest hitting teams in the NCAA Tournament. They averaged 10 runs a game in regional play. They can flat hit the long ball. Giving up just three runs in eight innings on 118 pitches was a great effort by Kopps. He did his job. Arkansas lost that game because it had just four hits against three pitchers who came in with E-R-A’s of 4.73, 4.35 and 4.09. This team picked the wrong time to go into a hitting slump. Christian Franklin, Brady Slavens, Robert Moore and Matt Goodheart….those are your home run guys.

If you had told me beforehand that NC State was going to score just three runs, I would have said the Hogs are going to Omaha.

To me this team peaked in Hoover. They won four games in five days against some of the best teams in college baseball. That tournament should have been tougher than the Fayetteville regional and Super regional. But it wasn’t. The Hogs pitched better and hit better in Hoover than they did in those seven games at Baum-Walker.

Q. eddylynn on Facebook asks: DVH is known for having a quick trigger on pitchers. What was up with him leaving Ryan Costeiu on the mound after he had given up two home runs in the same inning? I’m not sure I’ve seen him give a kid a chance to allow three of them in an inning.

A. It may have happened in a game where the score was out of control. But in a game that big where the score was close I can’t remember it happening. DVH said that not all of the home runs came off of bad pitches. I looked and at least two of them were right in the middle of the zone. But look, coaches have to make dozens of decisions in each game. Inevitably they will go with instinct and sometimes it backfires. That’s baseball. I’m sure if he could go back and change that decision he would but hindsight is not possible in real time.

Q. Razorback Redneck wants to know: Is the curse of the top national baseball seed a real thing?

A. I don’t think there’s a curse. I do think the path to a national championship in baseball is tougher than any other sport. You have to win 10 tournament games. It’s two in football. Six in basketball. The top seed has a huge target on its chest and in each step the pressure mounts.

Baseball is also more unpredictable and more competitive than other sports. There are good teams all over the country capable of knocking off a number one team. Six of Arkansas 13 losses were one run games. The only blowout loss came to Alabama which finished 11th in the SEC.

DVH said there was no pressure to stay number one this season but I think there was. I think those players felt it. Think about what it’s like winning every series in the regular season. Ten SEC series, fourteen overall in the regular season. You do that, plus you win four straight games in the SEC tournament and you win a series in your own regional against the Big 10 champion but you have a bad game at the plate in game three of a super regional series and it’s over. I’m telling you college baseball, especially if you play in the SEC, is brutal.

So, no curse. It’s all about the extra pressure of being number one and you are supposed to win every time out.

Q. HatManHog says: While it’s hard to argue that Kevin Kopps is having the best year a Razorback pitcher has ever had, in your opinion what Razorback baseball player – regardless of position – has had the best overall college career?

A. I have to go with Jeff King. If you go to the record books his name pops up in multiple categories. Let’s take a look.

He has the third highest career batting average at .372.
He’s 9th in total hits. 8th in doubles. Tied for 3rd in career home runs. Number one in career slugging percentage.

9th in runs scored. 3rd in runs batted in. 3rd in extra base hits. 3rd in total bases and 2nd in sac flies.

Guess what top 10 list he’s not on? Strikeouts.

No other Razorback is top 10 in all these hitting categories. Plus he’s the only Razorback to ever go number one overall in the MLB draft. That was in 1986, to the Pirates.

That’s a great three-year college career.

Q. LZH says: Give us your assessment/opinion on the job HY has done so far as our AD? And considering the big upswing we’re seeing in all of our sports teams, what is he doing differently than you may have seen in the past….including football.

A. He has reversed some of the disastrous policies of Jeff Long. Under Frank Broyles Razorback athletics was open to the fans and open to the media. You could walk in the Broyles Center and get a tour. If you wanted to see a particular coach, if he wasn’t busy with something, he’d see you.

Jeff Long locked down the Broyles Center. Even the media could not get in there without an appointment. Plus for fans and boosters athletic department policies turned into a, “This is the way we do things now and that’s that.”

A guy who leased one of the skyboxes told me that Long had a directive out that any decorating inside a skybox had to be approved by the athletic department. That had never been a requirement before. You could not bring your own food and drink into a skybox. You had to purchase that stuff from approved athletic department vendors.

Yurachek is much more fan friendly. Access to the Broyles Center is not what it was under Frank but it’s a lot better than it was under Long.

To me the best thing about Yurachek is his policy on hiring coaches. He doesn’t want somebody who is just looking for a better job. Somebody that would use Arkansas as a stepping stone. Both Eric Musselman and Sam Pittman were hired because they convinced Yurachek that they wanted specifically to coach at Arkansas.

You also have to love the way the coaches in various sports now all pull for each other. I think Yurachek has encouraged it and it’s a great idea.

Finally I don’t know of any AD in the country who handled COVID better than Yurachek. Arkansas won nine conference championships during the current academic year and football was greatly improved. From what I understand season ticket sales are way up for this fall.

Any way you look at it Hunter Yurachek was a great hire. And by the way, it was LPGA and former Arkansas all America golfer Stacy Lewis who got the ball rolling on hiring him. Kudos to her.

Q. pg hawg1 says: I’ve heard different stories over the years, did Coach McDonnell retire on his own or did Long push him out the door?

A. John did retire on his own. He was not pushed out the door by Long but he was not happy with the way Long treated him. After Long took over from Frank Broyles John tried for several days to get into see him. He wanted to get a feel for the way Long was going to manage the various sports and specifically track. Long finally spoke with him but I think John basically decided that the great relationship he’d had with Frank was not going to continue under Long. He was 70 years old and that made his decision to retire a lot easier.

The one thing he asked when he left was that his longtime assistant Dick Booth be made his successor. Long ignored that request. The man won 40 national titles. If he told me who the best person was to replace him I would have listened. Not Jeff Long.

Q. littlewheezy says: In recent years why has Arkansas continued to have success winning SEC track and field championships but not NCAA championships? Was the introduction of the preliminary rounds an effort to stymie Arkansas’ dominance?

A. You must mean the men because the women have continued to win national titles. The men have won one men’s national championship under Chris Bucknam and finished second three times. Trying to continue what John did was an impossible task. Regional competition may have made things more difficult but basically they just don’t have enough guys to score enough points at the national meet to win it all in outdoor track. John had a formula that worked. Great distance runners and lots of them with a some top field events guys like Mike Conley and Eric Walder. John had individual national champions with solid depth behind them in multiple events.

Q. razorback rams fan asks: Have you ever just completely made up one of these stories out of thin air?

A. I don’t know of any other way to answer that question. No. I would not do that. I do try to have fun on this program but not to the point of making up stories.

But the truth is, I don’t have to make stuff up. Things happen to me all the time where I just say, wow! What a story that is and I usually remember it, sometimes decades later.

Q. Patboat says: Michael Washington vs Portis vs Gafford, could you rank them one through three?

Q. Well, let’s see. I’ll do this by the numbers.

  1. Portis. I liked his versatility. He could go inside but also hit the three and was a good short range shooter too. He was a two and done guy. His sophomore year he averaged 17.5 points per game and 7.9 boards per game.
  2. Gafford was more of a true center even though he was always listed as a forward. He was also a two and out player. His last season at Arkansas he averaged 16.9 points a game and 7.4 rebounds.
  3. Washington played all four years but did not start much until his junior year. That was his best year. He was a better rebounder that year than the other two in their best seasons averaging 9.8 rebounds per game but his scoring was below them at 15. 5 points per game. Those numbers dropped some his senior year.

Q. BloodRedHog asks: What are your thoughts on the new proposal being considered to expand the CFB playoffs to 12 teams?

A. I absolutely love it. I figured the next move would be to eight teams and we’d be stuck with that forever. Twelve puts us closer to my goal all along, which is 16 teams. I now think that will happen in a few years. The problem with four teams is it’s too predeictable. Few upsets. I think if it goes to 12 you will start to see more upsets. Plus I love playoff games in all sports. Some fans see to think this is going to be bad. How can it be bad when they’re going to eliminate several meaningless bowl games?

Q. hobhog wants to know: Is there any word on the new freshmen reporting to campus and how the “voluntary” football workouts are going?

A. These days all of that stuff is closed to the media and its a shame. I remember a time when you could go over and watch guys like Matt Jones doing 7 on 7 against the defense. We’d video that stuff and put it on the air. If was a fun thing to do in the dead of summer when nothing else was going on. Those days are over. At SEC media days in July Sam Pittman will get asked about some of the freshman and transfers. Get back with me in about a month and maybe I’ll have something.

Q. The_Bionic_Pig says: The baseball season has reached its conclusion, fall camp isn’t until Mid-September. Do you plan on enjoying any part of the summer break?

A. I’ll probably take a week in early July to go to Texas and see my mom and some of the guys I grew up with in the Lubbock area. I usually spend at least one day in my hometown.

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