For the second consecutive year, the Bryant Bulldogs are in the field of 64 teams trying to make Omaha with a trip to the College World Series at stake.
Think about that for a second. Three years ago, in 2011, Bryant wasn't even a full member of Division I. They were a transitional team on the verge of becoming a full member. They were a D2 program elevating through its athletic department.
But all doubts about a program's elevation were belied by results. In 2012, Bryant won 33 games in its first year as a full Division I program, winning 20-plus games in the Northeast Conference. The next year, they won 45 games, hanging with some of the nation's best. They won the team's first conference tournament, defeated Arkansas in the NCAA Regionals, and destroyed the local radar of squads like Boston College. This year, the team won another 42 games, once again the best team in the region. They'll be a #3 seed for the second straight year, playing this year in Baton Rouge with national seed LSU, taking on Houston in the first round when the NCAA's first round drops.
A team no longer "happy to be here," Bryant's done all of this in the same amount of time as the Mike Gambino era. Over that same four-year period (starting with Bryant's transition in 2011), Boston College hasn't won 80 games combined. They've never made a conference tournament. And they've battled the perception that they're a fish out of water playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They've never finished higher than fifth in their division, never finished over .500.
As a result, we really have to ask ourselves if Mike Gambino is the man who should be leading the Boston College baseball program. And to do that, we have to look at some major categories that every coach is normally evaluated under: 1) on-field statistic success, 2) in-game management, 3) off-field player management, and 4) growth of the program in relation to common opponents.
We begin with the success, or lack thereof, of the team on the field.
This is probably the biggest indictment of any coach, not just Gambino. Heading into this season, the Eagles had won just 51 games. Two years after making the national tournament and on the heels of two conference playoff appearances, BC finished fifth, sixth (tied), and sixth (outright) in the Atlantic Division when there were only six teams. They finished sixth out of seven in a clearly-weaker division this year.
I understand that success cannot always be measured by wins and losses. I've said that myself. I wasn't asking the team to go out and 45 games this year. But those who've read me all year know that I base performance off of Pythagorean Win-Loss. That's a better indicator of how well a team has played by removing weird hops and funky losses. For example, a team losing seven or eight one-run ballgames against top-seeded teams would probably have "played well enough" to have a certain amount of wins. That's what the measure looks at - greater, season-long body of work. It minimizes outliers.
Pythagorean Win-Loss for this year's Eagles team measures out to 34.7%. That means, based on overall performance, BC should have finished with a record of 19-38. So even though the team won 22 games, there's a deficiency in overall performance that the team didn't play up to what their record would indicate. Whether or not that's based on the players or manager needs to be analyzed further later on.
There are three major indictments on the team's performance this year. The first is the overall weak year the ACC put together. Last year, four ACC teams ranked in the top 10 alone. This year, only three teams were ranked - Virginia, Miami, and Florida State. All three ranked in or near the top five in the nation, leaving a major discrepancy between the top of the league and everyone else. They did get seven teams into the NCAA Tournament, but there's no doubting the league this year isn't as strong as last year. So we have to ask if BC really was a 22-win team or if they were the same old, same old in a weaker year.
And then there's the stated goal of Gambino from before the year: "...we know that we have a lot of work in order to get to that first rung, which is qualifying for the ACC Tournament." They still aren't hitting that first rung. For the fourth consecutive year they didn't make the conference tournament. In the ACC, doing well in the league tournament is all but inviting a shot at the NCAA Tournament. And this team didn't even get a chance to do that.
On top of it all, if you go back to how close they were to the first rung - think of three games BC could've won but lost this year since three games would've gotten them into the ACC Tournament. They blew a 7-2 lead in the ninth inning against Florida State. They blew a lead against Virginia. They lost twice to the league's worst team out at Notre Dame. Teams sometimes find ways to lose games, but when it's more than once, it's a disturbing trend.
And then there's the last piece, the one that's probably the most painful - the Eagles are no longer the premier program in New England. In fact, they're not even on the radar. Bryant is the undisputed champion of that category right now, and they've only been a Division I program for three years. BC didn't play the Bulldogs this year, but they got absolutely creamed in their last meeting. They lost to Harvard, Northeastern (twice), and Dartmouth. They required a walkoff to beat UMass-Lowell, a team in its first year in the America East Conference. They barely beat both Connecticut and Massachusetts. And they got absolutely shellacked, 12-3, by Maine. That's not including a split against Binghamton.
Absolutely none of those games should be in doubt for an ACC program. Okay - you lose one or two here or there because you're going deep into your roster and not using the weekend starters (or at least you're not supposed to). But to not even register votes in polls for local teams is something that shouldn't be happening.
Again, are the players absolved from any of this? No. But if you go back to those games, and something we'll discuss later on, there are curious decisions made that maybe make this happen. If we're grading out Mike Gambino's performance as a manager, this is one of those that he unequivocally fails. The team hasn't had any success, except maybe in short spurts, and that's going to be the biggest indictment of all as we wrap up the 2014 season.