Beavers baseball leadership up in the air
Knocking it around on a few sporting subjects ...
• The situation regarding the future of the Oregon State baseball coaching position is a bit of a mess.
Last September, when Pat Casey stepped aside for "retirement" and associate head coach Pat Bailey was promoted on an interim basis, it was announced by the administration that Casey must "request re-assignment" as head baseball coach by June 1 if he wants his old job back.
OSU athletic director Scott Barnes has said in the event Casey does not request a return, the school will begin a "national search" at the conclusion of the season. When Casey retired, Barnes said he put the "interim" tag on Bailey because of "timing ... it's so late in the year."
Now, the June 1 deadline is approaching, and Casey — who hasn't decided if he wants to return, or at least isn't saying if he has — does not intend to meet the deadline.
"I have nothing to say, and I won't say anything until the season is over," Casey told me this week. "It's not fair to me, to 'Bailes' or to anybody."
I understand where Casey is coming from. The Beavers' regular season ends with a three-game home series with Southern Cal, May 23-25. Almost certainly, they'll then begin NCAA tournament play the following weekend (May 31-June 3), a four-team, double-elimination regional they hope to host. If the Beavers win that, there will be a best-of-three Super Regional the following weekend. Surviving that, they'll advance to the College World Series in Omaha, June 15-26.
So it's possible there's a lot of baseball by the Beavers to be played after June 1, and Casey doesn't want to distract the team or undermine what Bailey is trying to do on the job.
Bailey is on record as saying that if Casey wants the job back, he's on board with it, and will return as his right-hand man.
"'Case' has been the head coach for 24 years," Bailey told me in December. "He has won three national championships. If he decides to come back, I'm 100 percent supportive of it."
Bailey told me this week that he hasn't changed his mind, though he hasn't spoken with Casey on the subject, or with Barnes.
"I'm focusing right now on getting us ready for our series at Oregon (Friday through Sunday)," Bailey says. "That's truly all I'm thinking about."
It's been a strange season for Oregon State, at 17-4 tied with Stanford for the Pac-12 lead, with UCLA a game back at 16-5 and nine games remaining. The Beavers are 31-14-1 overall, but since midweek nonconference games began on March 26, they are 1-8 against out-of-league competition, including a three-game sweep at home by Oklahoma State last weekend.
The Beavers knew offense would be a struggle after losing six position starters from their national championship squad of a year ago, but they had a terrific pitching corps returning. The mound crew has been thinned by the loss of two of the team's top five hurlers. No. 1 starter Kevin Abel has been out for most of the season with Tommy John elbow surgery. Now top set-up man Mitchell Verburg, 1-0 with a 1.40 ERA and a .165 opponents' batting average in 25 2/3 innings, is consulting with the same elbow specialist that Abel went to in Dallas this week and may be facing Tommy John surgery as well.
Last week, No. 3 starter Grant Gambrell was held out against Oklahoma State because of a "tired arm." Gambrell is expected to pitch Sunday in Eugene, but the "tired arm" stuff sounds ominous to me.
With Abel, Bryce Fehmel and Gambrell available, pitching coach Nate Yeskie had plenty of options to use in midweek games. As a result of the thinned-out staff, Yeskie has been forced to use lower-end starters, and the results have suffered.
Throw in the loss of OSU's second-best hitter — junior shortstop Beau Philip — for three weeks due to a hamstring injury and it's been a challenging season for the Beavers' coaching staff. For them to have their team in the thick of the race for the Pac-12 title with three weeks remaining has been impressive.
Barnes turned down my request for an interview this week.
"Out of respect for our interim head coach, Pat Bailey, Pat Casey and our process, I won't be commenting on the search at this time," he said in a statement forwarded by sports information director Steve Fenk.
It's a complicated situation that could be made easier if Casey would just announce now that he intends to return for the 2020 campaign. Bailey would be OK with that. Casey's not going to do that, however, and I respect that decision.
Under these circumstances, Barnes' mission is simple.
Instead of a "no comment," he should have said this:
"We'll extend our June 1 deadline for Pat Casey's request for reassignment until a week after the season ends. If he decides not to return, I'll remove the 'interim' from Pat Bailey's title and make him permanent head coach. He deserves that."
Beginning Friday, the Beavers will go up against a Duck club that yielded 54 runs in a three-game sweep by Arizona last weekend, including a four-touchdown 28-7 rout on Sunday. After that, Oregon State has a three-game showdown at Stanford before the regular season-ending series against SC.
So there is work to be done. But Bailey has proved himself worthy of continuing the legacy of his close friend Casey, if Casey isn't back in the dugout next season.
• It will be interesting to see what Oregon does with its baseball coaching situation.
In his 11th season at the UO helm, George Horton has never gotten a team to Omaha. The Ducks (24-22 overall and 8-13 in Pac-12 play), seem unlikely to make the NCAA tournament this season. Horton has a mutual option on the final season of his contract in 2019-20, meaning the school could terminate his deal at season's end.
• Oregon State basketball coach Wayne Tinkle's program took a blow with the defection of 6-11 forward/center Warren Washington, who placed his named in the NCAA transfer portal.
Washington was promising as a freshman and was expected to share playing time at power forward and center next season with senior Kylor Kelley and junior Payton Dastrup. Tinkle felt Washington could develop into an all-Pac-12 type of player by his senior year. Evidently, Washington envisions himself as more of a small forward/power forward type, which impacted his decision to leave and find another program where he can fit that role.
It's the third player from Tinkle's 2018 recruiting class to leave. Center Jack Wilson is now at Idaho; guard Jordan Campbell is at Fresno State.
This is becoming more and more of a trend. A grass-is-greener approach has been contagious — players deciding quickly that they'd like to play elsewhere. One report said there are nearly 300 players in this year's transfer portal. Oregon has two — guard Victor Bailey Jr., and forward Miles Norris. One Division I program, Missouri-Kansas City, has 11.
Tinkle's incoming class of freshmen features four perimeter players: 6-5 swing man Sean Miller-Moore from Toronto (and Moberly, Missouri JC); 6-7 forward Julien Franklin of Villa Park, California; 6-3 guard Jarod Lucas of Hacienda Heights, California, and 6-2 guard Gianni Hunt of Torrance, California.
The Beavers' outlook for next season is complicated by the situation involving their best player — Tres Tinkle, the coach's son. The two-time all-Pac-12 player and a redshirt junior last season, is going through the pre-draft process but can return to play his senior year if he chooses. Within a week, he'll have worked out for nine NBA clubs, and has made a good impression on several.
Still, Tinkle is not showing up on any mock drafts, even in the second round. He's certainly not going to go out as a free agent, and second round would be gray area, at the least. Tinkle is an alternate for the G League Elite Camp and is not on the list for the NBA Draft Combine, in part because most pro officials believe he'll return to Corvallis for his season year. Odds are he'll be back along with Ethan Thompson and Kelley as the team leaders.
The senior Tinkle, meanwhile, has two scholarships, and he intends to use them, mostly likely from among a group of foreign big men currently playing professionally, whom he'll bring in for official visits in early June.
• The headline in a recent edition of the four-times-weekly local newspaper was of shock value: "Stadium site: Pay up or move on."
The article said "the clock is ticking" for the Portland Diamond Project to begin paying to reserve Terminal 2, the site on which the major league-baseball-to-Portland group has an option to build a new stadium.
By the end of May, it said, PDP "could" have to start paying the Port of Portland for exclusive negotiating rights to the site in Northwest Portland along the Willamette River. The bill for the first three months, it said, is $375,000, then $125,000 per quarter-year for the next three quarters, then $187,000 per quarter for the next year.
This shouldn't put panic in the minds of MLB-to-Portland advocates. The PDP isn't buying the land, merely seeking a lease through the Port of Portland through a option it has exercised. The group is finding some difficulty in dealing with the city in the process of re-zoning and the infrastructure that would be necessary should an agreement be reached.
My source says this isn't unexpected, that the process is moving along, that the money in proposed majority ownership (still a secret) is solid. Also, while the Terminal 2 (and 1, if it can be had) area is desirable and the No. 1 target, PDP is looking at other potential sites — one of them as yet undisclosed and not far from where the Terminal 2 site is located.
I'm still thinking it's going to happen. What I read this week hasn't changed that.