Chad Arnold was simply a stud for WSU last season, taking over the Friday night responsibilities from Matt Way. The Cougars get an unexpected gift when he can't reach terms with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who drafted him in the 18th round. (Photo via the WSU Sports Information Department)
If you're in the Seattle area and you've become nauseated by all of the plaudits thrown the Huskies' way for earning a commit from a recruit, take heart. Yesterday was a better day to be a Coug.
Quite frankly, I don't have enough superlatives for just how good yesterday was for Cougar baseball.
First, head coach Donnie Marbut officially signed the extension we all had been told was in the works:
Marbut's contract calls for a base salary of $170,000 for each of the three years, and includes a rollover option that by mutual agreement at the end of each season extends the contract an additional year. Additionally, Marbut will receive incentive compensation based upon conference finish, postseason play and Pacific-10 and National Coach of the Year honors.
It's a three-year rollover contract, which seems a little short -- four- and five-year rollovers are more the norm in basketball and football -- but maybe that's the norm in baseball. Locking up the guy who has rebuilt the program into a legitimate Pac-10 power was paramount.
His assistants get a raise, too, which is a good deal. If you've ever spent any time close to a college program, you know how important and valuable those guys are. Gregg Swenson has been singled out on multiple occasions for his superior work with the pitching staff.
However, it's a lot easier to look good when you've got great pitchers, and the Cougs "acquired" a great one last night when Chad Arnold failed to sign a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers before yesterday's deadline.
It was a forgone conclusion at the end of the year that the WSU Friday-night ace had pitched his final game for WSU and would be taking his wares to the professional ranks. The school even went through the trouble of sending him off with a senior day ceremony.
But, for whatever reason, Arnold was unable to reach an agreement with the Dodgers, who drafted him in the 18th round. It's now presumed that he'll be heading back to Pullman for his senior year.
While I'm disappointed for Arnold, who obviously was ready to move on, this is amazing news for the Cougs. They will have one heck of a duo at the front end of the rotation with Arnold and Adam Conley, who figures to move to the rotation permanently. Neither one is generally going to overwhelm batters with their stuff, but they both have superb command and specialize in inducing weak contact that can be tracked down by the exceptional defense behind them.
With Arnold back in the fold and all recruits making their way to campus, WSU has to be considered a legitimate contender to host an NCAA Regional next spring. Replacing the glove of Shea Vucinich and bats of Michael Weber and Matt Fanelli won't be easy, but it's reasonable to project that the strides made by underclassmen ought to be able to more than offset their losses. The powder keg, Cody Bartlett, returns, as does Derek Jones, who I would consider a dark-horse candidate for Pac-10 player of the year.
And while the pitching staff does lose a couple of reliable relievers in Connor Lambert and Seth Harvey, the rest of the staff returns intact, including Paris Shewey (the best non-Conley reliever last year) and starter James Wise, who was a workhorse at the end of the season.
Honestly, with all the talent returning -- and all the talent that figures to be departing immediately afterward -- next season is shaping up to be a potentially watershed year for the WSU baseball program.
So forget about a all that talk of a tight end who might or might not be any good someday. WSU just locked up two known quantities to bolster our proud baseball program, which now has its eyes set directly on Omaha.
I'll take that any day. Go Cougs!