Not to go all summer-camp, everybody-gets-a trophy cheerful on you, but ...You’re ALL winners.
It just happens to be true for today’s exercise.
There are no losers.
Yet I probably can’t win.
Still, we will undertake a daunting task here, probably thankless too, that of taking a hard look at LSU’s six national championship baseball teams and ranking them 1-6.
It’s a fool-hardy venture that will take courage and stamina, possibly esprit de corps, maybe even joie de vivre.
We choose to do it not because its easy, but because it’s hard.
And around here we’re used to flying by seat of our pants, usually with a “kick me” sign on it.
Five-time champion coach Skip Bertman was no help.
I sat in on all five of his post-national championship game press conferences, and each and every time he seemingly found something that made that latest team his all-time favorite.
I consulted some other experts who know far more than me about it, and promptly ignored them.
The numbers were crunched and analyzed. Many are on the big chart on B2.
I kind of ignored them, too.
Statistics, the heart of baseball, are notorious liars. Never trusted them, never will.
In the end I worked on memory and hunches and still failed to come up with a way not to offend any national championship baseball teams.
Anyway, feel free to disagree, but let’s get started:
1 — 2009: Paul Mainieri had only one entry on the list, but in my mind LSU saved the best for last.
All had some gaudy offensive numbers and varying degrees of dominant pitching.
But the 2009 outfit was by far the most complete team — which is to say it was all that and LSU’s best-ever defensive team. And a rare Mainieri team that ran the bases well.
It was Mainieri at his best, always tinkering and fiddling, and it became the most complete team when he fixed something that wasn’t broke. LSU was cruising in midseason when he moved DJ LeMaieu from shortstop to second and light-hitting Austin Nola into the lineup at short. It gave them a double-play combination, which might have been the final piece of the puzzle.
They also had to win two games in the championship round and the Texas team they beat was one of the two best teams LSU faced in the finals, along with 1996 Miami.
2 — 2000: Skip Bertman also saved his best for last with a team that would eventually send seven players to the Major Leagues.
The No. 3 pitcher, Trey Hodges, was named the CWS MVP. The heart of the team was Blair Barbier, who wasn’t even drafted.
The 6-5 win over Stanford in the championship was probably an even better comeback than the Warren Morris home run in 1996.
LSU was dead in the water, floundering for five innings before a pair of home runs by Barbier and Jeremy Witten tied it in the eighth and setting the stage for an almost anti-climatic walk-off on Brad Cresse’s single in the bottom of the ninth.
3 — 1991: A lot of people would have this team No. 1, and I’d have a hard time arguing.
It was uncharted territory for LSU’s first national champions, and yet no team ever played with more confidence than this veteran bunch while fairly well waltzing through Omaha.
You start with a weekend rotation that would all pitch many years in the Major Leagues — Chad Ogea of Lake Charles, Paul Byrd and Mike Sirotka — along with an All-American closer in Rick Greene.
At the time, its 85 home runs was considered astounding. Lyle Mouton hit the longest bomb I ever saw at old Rosenblatt Stadium. Assuming it ever came down, it may have landed in Canada somewhere.
The only knock was that 2001 was only average defensively in an age where Gorilla Ball hadn’t really taken over the game yet.
4 — 1997: Hello, Gorilla Ball. These guys were the poster team and their never-to-be-broken-NCAA-record 188 home runs was probably the final straw in getting the nuclear bats toned down two years later.
But swinging for the fences was fun while it lasted.
They didn’t worry much about defense, but that’s not what they were recruited to LSU for, and they rarely disappointed.
Brandon Larson hit 40 dingers and somebody hit at least one in every game of the season, another record not likely ever to be sniffed at.
The championship game assault on Alabama, 13-6, was kind of the opposite of what happened when the Tigers met the Tide for the football title many years later — LSU domination from start to finish.
So there’s that for the anti-Bama crowd.
But oddly, this team only sent two players to the Major Leagues, Larson and Kurt Ainsworth.
5 — 1996: Remember, this ranking is the best teams in LSU history, not the greatest championship game or the most memorable moment in NCAA college baseball history.
The Warren Morris home run is all most remember.
But that would have been a great game even if Morris had struck out, two really good teams punching and counter-punching all afternoon.
Miami of 1996 was probably the best team LSU had to face in the championship, too.
6 — 1993: No offense and not fair, but some team had to be No. 6.
And there were six future Major Leaguers on the team.
It just seemed 1993 was more resourceful than dominant, as when it had to score three runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat Long Beach State the day before the easy national championship game victory over Wichita State.
There were two other comeback wins en route to Brett Laxton pitching maybe the single best game in LSU history in the championship game.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org