I must admit I was fuming a bit last week after reading a story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
First off, let me say that I think the AJC does a terrific job of covering high school sports. That is easily my favorite part of their paper. However, I was floored after reading a recent piece by Kurt Ascherman Jr. He compiled a list of the top 10 baseball players in Georgia.
This was not the top 10 players in Atlanta alone, and the list included underclassmen. I quickly skimmed over the story looking for three names: Brandon Cumpton, Jeff Rowland and Nolan Belcher. To my astonishment, there was no Cumpton and no Belcher. Rowland, however, did make the list.
Had Rowland also been excluded I could have chalked this up as another story that focused on metro Atlanta players and overlooked the talent in this area. That was not the case, obviously, because Jeff Rowland was among Ascherman's top 10.
The more I thought about the story the angrier I got. I understand that it is difficult to cover high school sports (much tougher than college or pros), but if you are going to compile a list like this, at least come close to getting the top 10.
To be as polite as possible, Ascherman's list was laughable. So I decided to do something I have done fewer than five times in the 12 years I have been covering local sports. I sent an e-mail to Ascherman calling him out on his ridiculous story.
Below is his list of the so-called top 10. I included a synopsis of some of the top stats he listed with each player to compare them to the accomplishments of Belcher and Cumpton. Also, I included a copy of the e-mail I sent to him.
Kurt Ascherman's Top 10 baseball players in Georgia
Navarro Hall (Sr. OF, Kennesaw Mountain) Hit .480 with 18 stolen bases last season, great leadoff man
Evan Tieles (Sr. 3B, Blessed Trinity) .459, seven homers and 47 RBI, also 11-0 on the mound, has signed with UGA
Jason Heyward (Sr, OF/P, Henry Co.) .427 with 23 stolen bases, a big-time pro prospect
Jon White (Sr. 3B, Sequoyah) .506, 12 homers last season
Jeff Rowland (Sr. OF, Greenbrier) Hit .411 a year ago with seven homers and 54 runs scored. Signed with Georgia Tech
Michael Palazzone (Jr. P, Lassiter) 11-1 with a 2.43 ERA leading Lassiter to the Class AAAAA state title, 87 strikeouts in 72 innings.
Josh Means (Sr. P, Kennesaw Mountain) 1-0 with three saves and just 16 innings pitched 20 strikeouts.
T.J. Rich (Jr. P/1B, Sprayberry) - 10-4 with a 2.79 ERA; As hitter, .457 with 5 homers and 35 RBI
Sam Allen (Sr. P/OF, Roswell) - 8 wins and 66 strikeouts in 60.1 innings, has signed with Duke.
Anthony Green (Sr. P, North Cobb) - 6-4, 1.97 Era and 57 strikeouts in 67 innings.
After looking over the accomplishments of the pitchers on the list I sent Ascherman the following e-mail:
How can you possibly not include the following players from Greenbrier? Keep in mind I am no parent or Greenbrier fan. I host a radio show and write a sports column in Columbia County. Please look at the numbers below. I actually think this is worth a rewrite of some kind.
Nolan Belcher (Jr. LHP Greenbrier)
- Belcher was 15-0 as a sophomore playing in one of the toughest regions in Georgia.
- He also posted a 0.73 ERA and struck out 156 batters in 91 innings (compare that to Palazzone)
- He also hit over .395 with 32 RBI
- Led Greenbrier to a 35-1 record, AAAA State Title, and a Top 20 National Ranking
- He is 25-0 with two state titles in two seasons of high school baseball
- Rated the 48th best Junior Prospect in the Nation
Brandon Cumpton (Sr. RHP Greenbrier)
- He was 14-1 last season with an ERA of 1.89
- Struck out 87 batters in 55.2 innings
- Batted .359 with 40 RBI
- Signed at Georgia Tech (like teammate Jeff Rowland)
- Once again led the 'Pack to 35-1 record, State Title in AAAA, and a Top 20 national ranking
- Is considered one of the Top 100 HS Players in the Nation
By the way, Greenbrier's No. 9 hitter last season was drafted by the Houston Astros.
Also, you left out one of the Top 20 players in the nation: Josh Smoker of Calhoun (likely drafted in the top three rounds).
I hate to sound like a jerk, but if you are going to do this kind of story, you should actually attempt to get the info in the vicinity of correct. If you had also left out Rowland I would have written this off as you simply favoring the Atlanta area, but that is not the case.
These kids deserve the recognition far more than all but two or three of the kids on your list.
Now, take a moment to compare the numbers of Cumpton and Belcher to the pitchers who made the list. It is laughable that he excluded them from his list. The ERA and strikeout numbers are not even close.
Also, Greenbrier won a state title. I realize that in the grand scheme of things, this may seem like a minor thing. However, I'm sure it is important to these kids. Also, if you are going to do this type of list in the first place it should at least be remotely close to correct.
Any list of top players that does not include Cumpton and Belcher can be ignored as rubbish in my opinion. At least Ascherman did include a very deserving Jeff Rowland. I also have no problem with several other players on his list. But the numbers of Cumpton and Belcher blow those other pitchers off the map. Ascherman also did not include four or five other players from around the state that are regarded by college and pro scouts as the best.
These kids obviously deserved to be on this list. It is a shame that Ascherman didn't make a few phone calls and find this out before the story ran.
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