LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri

USA Today Sports

Is LSU skipper Paul Mainieri really on the hot seat?

Is time running out on the Mainieri Era?

Seth Dunlap
May 06, 2019 - 7:35 pm

If it wasn’t clear before, LSU fans hate a loser.  A Loser?  Forget losing, there’s not even a place for marginal winners here.  Conference regular season or tournament championships don’t really move the needle anymore.  Competing for a national title might buy a coach a few years of relative job security.  Maybe.

Whether absurd or logical, given the resources thrown towards athletics at LSU, if you’re coaching the football or baseball programs in Baton Rouge you better win early and often. 

Les Miles was run out of town after ceding ground to Alabama as the SEC’s dominant football power, and now Ed Orgeron faces continuous calls to actually win something besides the recruiting wars. 

Paul Mainieri, skipper of the baseball program, won a national title in 2009 and played for another one in Omaha just two seasons ago. But two years is an eternity in the gotta-win-now world of major college athletics – and yes, baseball in Baton Rouge classifies as a “major” sport.  One day removed from the Tigers losing a home series to Ole Miss for the first time since the Reagan administration, and Mainieri has become perhaps the most endangered coach on LSU’s campus.  Even Will Wade must realize the irony of this all.

Speaking of Wade, fans have built up a nearly-impenetrable social media fortress around the embattled basketball coach while at the same time ushering Mainieri closer to inevitable demise.  Apparently, consistent national contention (seven-straight tournament berths and three College World Series trips in six years) are no match for one NCAA basketball tournament appearance and a tidal wave of recruiting improprieties.  Because, hey, this is baseball in Baton Rouge remember?  Of all the perplexing oddities around current politics of coaching any sport at LSU, the discrepancy between fan and booster treatment of Wade and Mainieri is truly mind boggling. 

Doesn’t this just feel eerily similar to Les Miles’ swan song that dragged out over an excruciatingly long couple of years?  It’s not always fair, nor is often right, but when powerful boosters and alumni decide that it’s time for a coach to go, then it’s usually only a matter of time before that coach is unceremoniously plucked out root-and-stem in favor of another who is often hand-picked by those same boosters. 

There’s no doubt that the LSU baseball team is falling considerably below their preseason expectations, when the Tigers were the consensus #1 ranked team in the nation and a sure-fire bet to be playing at the College World Series in Omaha.  The reasons for the Tigers’ struggles aren’t a secret.  LSU has been besieged by an incredible rash of injuries that has decimated their pitching staff and, at times, their lineup. 

“I’ve never seen so many people get hurt in one season before,” Mainieri said in mid-April.  It hasn’t gotten any better for the Tigers since then.

Starting pitchers Zack Hess, Jaden Hill, Landon Marceaux, Cole Henry, Chase Costello and Erik Walker have all missed some amount of time this season due to various ailments.   That doesn’t even count Nick Storz who has spent nearly the entirety of his two seasons in Baton Rouge out of action.  Meanwhile Zach Watson, Chris Reid, Daniel Cabrera, Hal Hughes, and Gavin Dugas are some of the LSU hitters who have suffered injuries, some missing a significant amount of time.

There’s no baseball team in America, not in Little League nor college nor MLB, that could brush off a rash of injuries that brutal without set-backs in the loss column.  LSU, even with their prestigious history in tow, aren’t immune.  For some reason, fans seem to simply not care for the excuses, even when they are as legitimate as this.

New LSU Athletic Director Scott Woodward currently enjoys as much political capital as anybody overseeing Tiger athletics has had in the past two decades.  Woodward is a smart, savvy leader who is surely aware that coaches like Paul Mainieri aren’t in abundant supply.   The reality is, however, that some of the same cash-rich boosters who helped Woodward land the LSU job could have soured on the Mainieri to the point where anything short of another trip to the College World Series could doom the Tigers’ skipper.

It’s not fair, and it surely isn’t right.  That won’t stop the wheels of change from churning towards what seems like an inevitable end to the Paul Mainieri Era in Baton Rouge.

Comments ()