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5.08.2007

Auburn baseball

Hey everyone. I'm back from the beach, and feeling quite sprite.

It's clear to me now that Auburn baseball coach Tom Slater won't be fired at season's end. The school's athletic administration is sold on Slater as a competent program-building coach, and they're fearful (perhaps unreasonably so) of another messy coaching search.

If you recall, several high-profile coaches rejected Auburn's advances last time around. The school was in a different place then, though, because SACS still was an issue and Jetgate aftershocks were all around. Auburn is much more stable now.

Is Slater the man for the job? The answer depends on what you emphasize.

He's almost though his third season at Auburn. Slater is 85-82 overall with a 29-55 record in the SEC. Those are disappointing numbers relative to Auburn's position in terms of tradition, facilities and recruiting base.

To see him work, though, is another matter. The kids like him, which was a major problem in the years before Slater's arrival. The program is sound. I think the program's talent level has risen each year, and Slater usually gets the best (available) players in the state.

I take occasional issue with his recruiting philosophy. Slater loves offering scholarships to kids whose draft stock will preclude them from playing college ball. Auburn "signed" Colby Rasmus two years ago. He was a first-round pick, and now is one of the 10 best OF prospects in the minors.

Same for Will Inman, who "signed" with Auburn, went in the third round and now is one of the Brewers' best prospects.

I know Slater wasn't banking on those guys coming to Auburn. Why bother?

With that said, Slater is bringing in some talent. He's not failing there.

Auburn's starters aren't ready. Paul Burnside is aching, Taylor Thompson is taking his lumps as you'd expect from a freshman and, well, there isn't much else.

It's reasonable to give Slater another year. Wrap it up if he fails to make the SECs next season. There's no excuse for Auburn failing to miss the SECs (top 8 teams) for five consecutive seasons. That's a terminal slide.

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