In a serious tone, the first 10 words uttered by LSU senior shortstop Kramer Robertson before he boarded a bus for Alabama summarized what the next five minutes would be all about.
“I’m not going to sit here and sugar coat anything,” Robertson said.
Robertson, hitting .248 in 18 Southeastern Conference games, delved into a biting criticism of his play, how it is not where it should be and why that is the reason for his team’s inconsistent performance to this point in the season.
The senior shortstop laid it bare.
“Let’s call a spade a spade,” Robertson said. “I haven’t performed in conference the way that I should. I think that’s having a lot to do with us struggling. I understand it’s a team sport, but when you see your senior leader, when he sucks, it rubs off on the whole team.
“Put this on me. I need to play better and get my act together. When I do that, I think it’s going to rub off on the whole team.”
In a grander sense, this is where LSU currently finds itself: Four weekends remain in the regular season, and the Tigers are searching for the right person to flip the on switch.
Robertson is not the only key player who has grappled with disappointment as the Tigers have gone 10-8 and lost as many series as they have won in the SEC.
Cole Freeman, hitting .444 before the start of conference play, has hit .258 against SEC pitching. Jared Poché carried an 0.25 ERA into his second SEC start, but has given up 21 earned runs in 24.1 innings since that point. Nearly everyone has taken their turn with struggle on the dance floor.
Robertson understands he is not solely responsible for LSU’s up-and-down season. Several times he stated that he knew baseball “is a team sport.” But he also has an idea about what LSU has lacked so far.
“It’s time for the leaders on this team to get together,” Robertson said. “It’s kind of a reality check. Realize that it’s coming to an end and it’s not just going to happen, we have to make it happen.”
Said LSU coach Paul Mainieri, “There’s got to be a sense of urgency. There’s only 14 games left in the regular season. We’ve got a lot of older players on the team. I would hope that the leadership portion of our team would kind of take the bull by the horns.
“Talk is one thing, but going out and doing it and getting the job done is another thing. We need guys to rise up.”
Mainieri was not explicitly referring to Robertson when he made that statement, but the senior shortstop has put the burden on his shoulders regardless.
“We need to play with swagger and stop waiting for it to turn on and expect it to turn on,” Robertson said. “We need to make it happen, we need to will it to happen. You can’t change what has happened, but we’ve got to get it out of cruise control, put the foot on the gas and get things going. Now is the time to do that.”
Last season, Robertson was that player for LSU. Whenever it needed a shot of swagger, Robertson always seemed to be the man to deliver it, clutch hits followed by demonstrative celebration.
This year’s been a different case. At times, Robertson has been visibly frustrated at the plate. Mainieri said his shortstop is hard on himself, and when he’s not coming through, it’s frustrating for everyone involved. At least at the plate, the swagger has been in short supply.
“We’ve got to get Kramer going, that’s the big one,” Mainieri said. “He’s so vital to our offense. When he’s not coming through with big hits for us, it just has an impact. That’s the reality of things.
“Last year, he was such a clutch hitter. He came through so many times for us. We’re hoping he’s going to get into that hot streak down the stretch here for us like he did last year.”
Robertson is demanding that out of himself.
He’s his own sharpest critic because he feels he has to if LSU has any shot of achieving its goals this season.
“I need to be a better leader, I need to be more vocal, I need to be more energetic; all of the above,” Robertson said. “I’m going to make sure that happens. I’m going to will it to happen if I have to.
“I’m going to be better. I have to. If we want to be the team we have to be, then I have to be a better player.”