Arkansas mailbag: Apathy or disgust — which is worse? Plus, Diamond Hogs pitching

Welcome to SEC Country’s weekly Arkansas sports mailbag with reporter Eric W. Bolin. In this edition, we discuss why Arkansas could be a dynasty with the right coach (but it isn’t likely), apathy vs. disgust with the Razorbacks football program, and a few music and Arkansas baseball questions. It’s a good time.

Just how bad are things, really?

Is the fanbase more in a place of apathy or dislike? Not sure which one is worse either… – Michael Robertson

Definitely dislike.

In my lifetime, I have never seen the Arkansas fan base become apathetic about Razorbacks football. Now, there have been some years when, certainly, the “care factor” has gone down markedly. But never once has it gotten to the level of apathy. When it goes there, things are finito. Done. Cooked.

The Razorbacks are the biggest thing in the state, by far. No pro teams to divert attention, and the only other sport that comes halfway close to having the impact of football — basketball — isn’t in a place where its fervor matches football.

The biggest tipoff to me that fans are more upset than non-caring came Thursday, when the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published a story about the Bret Bielema buyout numbers. Those numbers have existed for a long time. They were discovered, almost assuredly, because someone somewhere (the working theory is someone inside the athletic department because, frankly, not a ton of people have the contract handy) gave a wink and a nudge that an attorney should probably take a closer look at the contract’s language.

If it worked that way, and I’d bet a hefty sum it did, it means they care. Fans care. Boosters care. The administration cares. At the heart of it all, that’s a good thing. Even if it yields sketchy scenarios.

What if Nick Saban…?

Do you think if Nick Saban would have came to Arkansas instead of Alabama, hypothetically, could he have built the same dynasty? Can it be done at Arkansas? – Kyle Abram

Absolutely.

As my friend Nick Mason put it on Twitter last night, legacy is overrated — if not irrelevant — in the making of good teams. But not completely. Most Power 5 teams, and those not in the Power 5, are going to have a supremely difficult time breaking into the hallowed ground on a consistent basis. Boise State came close for a couple years, but could not sustain success.

Alabama was garbage the few years before Nick Saban arrived. Oklahoma was worse than mediocre in the decade before Bob Stoops got there. Pete Carroll made USC a powerhouse after years of inadequecy in Los Angeles. The right coach can turn any place into a dynasty.

Of course, those are three examples in the last 20 years. There are, what, 60ish teams in Power 5 football? Take that total by the number of years and it isn’t like the odds are good.

What is Tom Petty?

Tom Petty: overrated, underrated, properly rated? – David

The same as U2: It depends on the decade.

Tom Petty from the 1970s is properly rated as outstanding. Tom Petty from the 1980s is underrated. Tom Petty from the 1990s is overrated.

It’s important to note, by the way, that Petty is one of the greatest in the history of rock.

Am I a masochist?

Why do I invest in sports teams that only let me down? – Jason Goodwin

Human nature. Can’t always pick winners. My recommendation: quit caring. I gave up giving a hoot about six or seven years ago and it’s like a burden was lifted. Still, I “root” for two teams, but even then, not really. Much more fun to view the sport as a whole and enjoy it for it is.

Isaiah Campbell’s projection?

Haven’t paid as much attention as I should, but what’s Isaiah Campbell’s projection with the baseball team coming off last season’s injury? – Alan Gasaway

Hard to say. Arm injuries for pitchers can go either way. Odds are, though, Campbell will return and be fine and dandy. If he is, his upside is weekend starter and future pro.

I wouldn’t count on it immediately, though. We’re still talking about a guy with only several collegiate innings under his belt. Most of what Campbell can be is projection. Still, it projects awfully well.

What does loss of Kevin Kopps mean?

How does losing Kevin Kopps affect our pitching staff? Also, is Jack Kenley going to be much improved this season, based off his fall ball performance? – Riley McFerran

Kopps may have contended for a weekend rotation spot if he were healthy. May have. His strikeout totals left a bit to be desired, which led to a higher-than-wanted .254 batting average against. But he had the third-best bullpen ERA on the staff last season. For his sake, at least he was hurt in the fall and not the spring. Should be back and fully healthy by the 2018 season.

If Kenley’s bat develops to even average levels, he will platoon — at worst — at third base. My bet is with Jared Gates. Kenley is a far better defender than Gates, but Gates’ bat is more advanced. If Kenley makes a huge jump, he might take that job himself without Gates, who would then get most of his duty at first base (where he probably spends more time this season, anyway).

What happens if Arkansas – gasp – beats Alabama?

If by some miracle we beat Alabama, how much would that change fans’ outlook on Bielema? – Jordan Harding

Only a tiny bit. They will instead be like the Randy Quaid character in Major League II who refuses to believe things are getting better.

“They’ll blow it in the ninth!”

Does KISS, in fact, stink?

True or False: Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons aren’t good at playing instruments or singing. – Jarrin Paryzek

Absolutely, positively, 100 percent true.

KISS is not a good band.

The post Arkansas mailbag: Apathy or disgust — which is worse? Plus, Diamond Hogs pitching appeared first on SEC Country.

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