The Mississippi State Bulldogs continued to confuse the fans of its program again last night. After winning an SEC series in convincing fashion over the South Carolina Gamecocks, the Bulldogs traveled to Memphis and AutoZone Park on Tuesday and laid an egg. The Bulldogs lost to the Memphis Tigers 7-1.
Since opening the season with 13 consecutive wins, the Bulldogs have won only 8 of their last 21 games and have now lost 2 of their past 7 midweek nonconference games. Despite what happened in 2013, each disappointing loss is making more and more of the fan base lose faith in what John Cohen is trying to accomplish.
I am in no way trying to suggest that we should fire John Cohen. He does have a track record of success, and to cast him to the side after one vastly disappointing season would be questionable. But the fact remains that we are even having this conversation speaks to how far the program has fallen in just two years. And as there are more fans who continue to lose faith, the ones who still staunchly support Cohen dig their heels in further. At the rate things are going, John Cohen is going to divide the fans in the same way Rick Stansbury did before he was let go.
I am not trying to compare the careers of Stansbury and Cohen. There are some similarities and some differences. The point of this post is to show the road we are headed down if Cohen can’t get this team to start clicking once again. The pinnacle of the Stansbury era was the 2004 season. The Bulldogs were one of the best teams in the country throughout the entire year. The Bulldogs entered the NCAA Tournament with fans believing they had a legitimate national championship contender. After the two previous years of watching the Bulldogs get bounced from the Big Dance early, the Bulldog fans were ready for a deep run with a talented squad. What happened was a second round loss to Xavier. It was after this season and the subsequent disappointing 2005 season that the doubters of Stansbury began to raise their voices.
Stansbury would not be fired for another 8 years, but the backlash against him grew stronger every year. He reached his pinnacle in 2004, and there were some who believed we would never accomplish that again under the leadership of Stansbury. The complaints of not getting past the first weekend in the tournament got louder, and the head scratching regular season losses to cripple the team’s RPI began to mount. By the time the 2012 season was over, Mississippi State fans were divided almost half and half on whether we should have gotten rid of Rick Stansbury.
So far, the pinnacle of the John Cohen era of Mississippi State baseball has been the 2013 season. To find critics of Cohen after 2013 season was almost impossible. But when the highly ranked squad from last season underwhelmed on the field, and this year’s team is on the verge of surpassing that disappointment by a landslide, the critics are starting to surface. Most people are on the side of Cohen, but his critics are getting more bold.
It doesn’t matter what you thought about Rick Stansbury, but I think it is pretty safe to say the interactions of the fans was ugly at times when discussing him. I’ve been down that road, and I don’t want to go through it with Cohen and the baseball team. If we want to avoid that same iceberg, Cohen needs to right the ship this weekend against Texas A&M.