Picking on college baseball for the “ping” of its bats was a longtime tradition for baseball purists.
But that went out of style with PalmPilots and Subway sandwich artists cutting the top of the bread in the shape of a U.
Nowadays, it’s the age-old debate about pitch counts that has taken center stage.
The College World Series opens Saturday in Omaha, Neb., and in between ESPN’s obscure references to Pete Incaviglia and shameless plugs for Zesto ice cream, there figures to be plenty of discussion about how coaches are handling their starting pitchers.
Nearly two weeks ago, North Carolina coach Mike Fox came under heavy criticism for his use of ace Kent Emanuel during the NCAA regional.
After throwing 124 pitches in a start against Towson on June 1, Emanuel came back two days later and threw 51 pitches in 1 2/3 innings of relief against Florida Atlantic. He allowed five runs in each outing.
Last weekend, Emanuel was tagged for four runs and seven hits in 2 1/3 innings against South Carolina, but he told the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer he isn’t suffering from arm fatigue despite throwing 238 pitches in seven days.
ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson questioned whether Emanuel, a third-round pick of the Houston Astros, should have been used against Florida Atlantic and suggested during the broadcast that the time has come for pitch counts to be instituted in college baseball.
Fox certainly isn’t the only coach pushing the limits of his pitching staff during the NCAA Tournament.
Oregon State’s Matt Boyd was used in a save situation against Kansas State on Monday in the super regional, two days after he threw 123 pitches. Boyd took over for Ben Wetzler, who left after 131 pitches.
Then there’s North Carolina State’s Carlos Rodon. The left-hander, who is projected as a top-five pick in the 2014 draft, threw 133 pitches Saturday against Rice.
It was the fourth time this season Rodon has thrown more than 130 pitches, according to boydsworld.com, a website that lists every “questionable” (120 actual pitches or 130 estimated) start in Division I college baseball.
Now, we aren’t suggesting the NCAA limit its pitchers the way Little League does, but someone needs to rein in college coaches who have obviously put winning ahead of the health of their student-athletes.
Of course, somewhere in Cincinnati, Dusty Baker can’t figure out what all the fuss is about.
■ WAYBACK MACHINE — Don’t worry, it’s still 2013. Tuesday night’s bench-clearing brawl between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers only felt like 1988.
Some of the game’s biggest stars from the ’80s — Don Mattingly, Mark McGwire, Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell and Don Baylor — were involved in the dust-up, which sort of resembled an episode of the old WWF’s “Saturday Night Main Event.”
The only thing missing was Koko B. Ware jumping off the top of the dugout and hitting The Honky Tonk Man over the head with a guitar.
COMPILED BY DAVID SCHOEN
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL