A wise baseball man once told me that it’s never as good as it seems, and it’s never as bad as it seems.
Boy, did that idea ever ring true during LSU’s three-game series with Texas A&M.
The perception of LSU as a baseball team shifted wildly between “utter failure” and “hashtag Omaha” so rapidly, there was hardly a moment to remember which extreme the team was resting in at a given time.
LSU looked like it hit the lowest point of the 2017 season’s first half when it was shut out Thursday. It seemed like the Tigers didn't have a chance that night, even with Alex Lange pitching like a man possessed by the spirit of a young Nolan Ryan.
Fast-forward 24 hours, and LSU was crushing homers into the bleachers and getting another ridiculously good outing by Jared Poché and reminding everyone that, yeah, the Tigers aren't going away any time soon.
Then, on Saturday — spend enough time around a passionate fan base, and you’ll realize the cup is never half-empty or half-full — both the “cup runneth over” people and the “cup is bone dry” people were served.
For eight innings, LSU played flawless defense, pitched like a championship club and generated enough offense against a tough pitcher to put itself in position to win a series against a good Aggies team. Check in the box for #TeamGood.
You know what happened next. All that feel-good left the yard along with LSU’s three-run, ninth-inning lead after A&M’s Walker Pennington clobbered a 1-0 pitch from Caleb Gilbert for a home run that handed LSU its fifth loss in seven tries. Check in the box for #TeamBad.
So, where does LSU stand? Is it a championship-caliber team that is mired in a rough patch, or did everyone simply drink the Kool-Aid and was blinded to the possibility that LSU, in fact, isn’t very good?
It’s never as good as it seems, and it’s never as bad as it seems.
LSU entered the season looking, on paper, as good as any team in the country. The Tigers brought back their No. 1 and 2 pitchers, their closer and a lineup that lost only one player from a team that won 45 games a year ago.
LSU added to that its usual talented influx of freshmen, many of whom made an immediate impact in their first few games to really set the hype train in motion.
Only a few games into the season, the Omaha-or-bust mantra that frequently echoes around the Alex Box Stadium grandstands was already in full throat.
It’s never as good as it seems. A week before LSU was set to begin what was supposed to be a months-long coronation, it lost its designated hitter, Bryce Jordan, for the season. A few weeks after that, it lost a key part of its bullpen, Doug Norman, also for the season. And then those talented freshmen started to do what freshmen do: They started going through growing pains.
Jake Slaughter, Todd Peterson, Rankin Woley, Zack Hess, Josh Smith, Zach Watson — all players who likely have a bright future — all have gone through rough patches, some longer than others, because that’s often what happens when someone advances a level in competition.
Everyone was thrust into the realization that the team wasn’t as good as it seemed. LSU was going to have to figure out some things, because it couldn’t just walk on the field and out-class every team it came across.
Here’s where the flip side comes in. LSU is in the midst of its worst stretch of baseball this season. It has lost five of seven and hasn’t looked particularly good in any of those losses.
Make no mistake: LSU needs to get its act together. Everyone from coach Paul Mainieri to the last man on the roster would agree with that. But those who are ready to jump off the bus might want to hang on for a minute.
LSU fans don’t have to go too far back to remember the last time the Tigers lost five of seven. It was late last year, when they sandwiched a midweek loss to Tulane between series losses to Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
The cup was bone dry and showing signs of cracking. Then, because it’s never as bad as it seems, it was overflowing and nobody even saw the pour.
The first game after that 2-5 stretch, LSU beat Arkansas in a one-run game. The next game was the famed "Rally Possum" game. The Tigers closed the regular season by winning 11 of 12 and finished with 19 Southeastern Conference wins and a national seed.
The point is that you should never look at baseball through a slit in the cloth and determine that segment in time to be gospel. It’s important to zoom out, whether it’s going well or not, and look at the complete picture and understand there is a reason this sport needs 56 games in the regular season alone.
It’s not like football, where two bad weekends in a row can ruin your year. It may seem bad now, but it’s not likely to stay that way — because it never really does.