Sports

Taking stock of an FSU baseball program that continues to struggle under Mike Martin Jr.

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I want to start this off by saying, emphatically, that I have not given up on Mike Martin Jr. as the head baseball coach at Florida State.

I know this year was a disappointment. Just like last year was. I know we all expect more from this program. And I know he does, too.

But it wouldn’t be fair to make a final judgment on his tenure after just two seasons, especially considering he took over a program that was limping along near the end of Mike Martin Sr.’s finish.

So, no, this isn’t a Meat-needs-to-be-gone column. That would be premature, in my opinion. Plus, unless something completely unexpected happens, he’s not going to be fired after Year 2. So, what’s the point of even discussing it?

Here’s what I do want to discuss, though: What are we to do of the direction of this program?

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That’s my biggest concern. And I’m not even focusing on this weekend in Auburn and that humiliating 21-7 loss to the host Tigers on Saturday night. Because that’s one game. It’s baseball. Crazy, awful, weird things happen all the time in that sport.

What concerns me are the 56 games that were played before the Seminoles arrived in Auburn. The ones that made Florida State a No. 3 seeds. For the THIRD straight NCAA Tournament.

I know Martin Sr. went out with one final trip to Omaha in 2019, but that team was one of the last selected to the tournament field. It had a magical run, but that was also a mediocre season until June began.

Here we are three years later, and FSU was once again listed as one of the “Last Four In” the tournament field. This is what is troubling. Not a bad weekend in Auburn. But another mediocre season.

That’s where my focus is, because once again, the reasons for the mediocrity were the same as they were before Martin Jr. took over: Bad fielding, bad baserunning, (un) timely hitting.

They were all on display this weekend, of course. Because the Seminoles, as they always seem to do, got thrown out on the bases in every way imaginable. Getting caught too far off a bag … trying to take extra bases when it’s too risky … being careless and overly aggressive.

This has been going on for far too long. And the question is this: Why?

Why is bad baserunning such a staple of this program? And is Meat ever going to change it?

The same question can be asked about the always below-average defense. Why can’t that be fixed? Is that just part of the program, too?

It makes no sense how it happens year after year after year. The players change, but the mistakes remain.

And now, making matters even more confounding, the offense has arguably become the worst in the ACC. No power. No real speed. Strikes out a ton. And doesn’t get on base anymore, either.

Other than all that, though, I think this program is in great shape!

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In all seriousness, I am not at all ready to say Meat isn’t the guy for this job. Because, despite that 2019 College World Series run, this program wasn’t in very good shape when he took over. And I truly do appreciate how he helped hold it together – sometimes it seemed like with duct tape – during the tail end of his dad’s career to keep the Seminoles winning and relevant.

He deserves some time to turn this around.

But let’s be real. He’s also about to start Year 4 (well, 3 1/2 because of COVID) and he’s coming off another 1-2 showing at an SEC regional.

He doesn’t have much time left to prove he’s going to build this thing back up.

He certainly doesn’t have any more time to keep rolling out lineups like this, with a defense like this, and a team that treats baserunning like it’s a game of musical chairs.

Let’s go back to this lineup real quick: In the season-ending game on Sunday, the Seminoles played the majority of the contest with five guys in the lineup – Tyler Martin, Reese Albert, Jordan Carrion, Treyton Rank and Colton Vincent – that combined for a grand total of four home runs this season. Four.

You can’t win in college baseball like that.

You can’t win with zero power. Especially when you don’t get on base at a high rate, and you don’t steal bases.

Did you guys see the scores around the country this weekend? They were like football games. Heck, Auburn scored three touchdowns on what had been a pretty darn good FSU pitching staff (though not foreseeing Bryce Hubbart struggling in that moment was another Martin Jr. misstep, in my opinion).

But more than anything, the FSU head coach has to fix this lineup. He said after the game on Sunday that he and his staff need to go recruit their tails off. No one is disagreeing. And they better make sure the ENTIRE country knows the transfer portal is wide open and there are plenty of good spots available in the FSU lineup.

He needs to reshape this roster and figure out – somehow, some way – why his teams struggle so mightily in the field and on the bases. And then, you know, go fix it.

What happened this weekend in Auburn was not a surprise because it happened most of the season. This team wasn’t mentally tough, and it wasn’t fundamentally sound. Those have to be serious concerns for Mike Martin Jr.

He knows a lot about baseball. And despite the hiccups he’s had in his first two full years as head coach, he has won a ton of baseball games. So, it’s not like he doesn’t know what good baseball looks like. It’s not like he doesn’t know how to coach good baseball players.

But, boy, he sure needs to go find some quick.

Or the noise is about to get a whole lot louder.

Contact senior writer Corey Clark at corey@warchant.com and follow @Corey_Clark on Twitter.

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