MEET THE NEW BOSS

John Granato: Aggies pay steep price for Jimbo Fisher, and he is saying all the right things. Will it pay off?

Jimbo Fisher is well liked in College Station right now, but he will need to perform. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Jimbo Fisher was in Houston this week at the Touchdown Club annual luncheon. Some 300 Ags filled the hall with howdies and whoops. For most of them it was the first time they got to see their new leader of men up close and personal.

Jimbo did not disappoint. He was at his Jimbo best schmoozing the crowd with stories and enthusiasm for his new football team. The honeymoon is in full bloom. There are only a few coaches out there that have won a national championship and the Aggies have one of them.

Sure there’s a tinge of hesitation. He was 5 and 6 last year and it’s five years now since he won it all. Make no mistake that’s the job here: to win it all. $75 million is a lot of money and that will be a major point of contention if he’s not successful. By the end of 10 years they’ll either build a statue of him or run him out on a railcar.

The latter is more likely. There’s only one national champion every season and it hasn’t been the Aggies in almost 80 years. That’s a long time ago and by the looks of things on the football field they’re still a long ways away from being champs in the SEC West let alone the nation.

No one wants to hear it but it’s going to take baby steps. They’ve got to upgrade the players first. He’s been in this division as the offensive coordinator at LSU. He knows what it’s going to take to win football games here. He skirted the issue when I asked him whether or not this team is talented enough to compete in it.

“I don’t know where everyone else is. We’ve got work to do but we’ve got good players that we can win with and be successful with. There’s no doubt. And the biggest thing is realizing who we are as a team. I think that’s one of the biggest things that we have to realize. Play to our strengths, minimize our weaknesses and develop an identity and continue to recruit and put things in place for the future of the program. There’s a one year plan. There’s a three year plan. There’s a five year plan and there’s a ten year plan. You have to have those in mind to go about what you’re doing.”

In other words be patient. That’s going to be the most difficult part for this fan base. Jimbo joked about not having to worry about looking for a job for ten years but a 10-year $75 million contract is not something you joke about. That’s serious money. It won’t be funny if he’s not making huge strides by year three.

To get there he needs players. They haven’t been good enough to compete with the Bamas and the LSU’s year in and year out. That starts with the big guys. His key to winning is the guys with their hands on the ground. You can’t win in the SEC without them and he’s working tirelessly to get the right ones here. Behind the scenes they say he’s a dogged recruiter and taskmaster.

It’s different in College Station these days. There’s more accountability. He’s installed a unity group of 12 players who will be the go-to guys for any problems that arise. If a guy isn’t playing hard or doing some undesirable things off the field he’ll have his teammates to deal with.

He’s not big on social media.

“I text guys and communicate that way but I don’t need everybody knowing what I think. It’s none of their business. Why you gonna put your life on it? Why you gonna put your thoughts on it? We’ve communicated with the kids quite well. We’ve done quite well everywhere I’ve been recruiting and I’ve explained just be careful what you say and how you handle yourself. And still at the end of the day it’s going to come down to personal relationships.”

One thing you take away from him is that there’s no wasted motion. He’s a fast talker. You better keep up or you’ll miss something. I’m not sure how that’ll play in these parts if he’s not winning 10 games a year. We don’t take kindly to fast talkers.

He’s got a tough job ahead of him but it won’t take much to get the fan base behind him. Beating LSU and Alabama would be a good start. One Bama win got Kevin Sumlin multiple extensions and sparkling new facilities, something Florida St. wouldn’t give Jimbo even after a national championship.

On the other hand if he doesn’t take advantage of the facilities and bring in big time recruits and start beating Bama and LSU it won’t take long for the fan base to turn on him and that 10 year deal will look like an eternity.

Jimbo pumped ‘em up yesterday and left a nice impression for those that had never heard him before. It’s a great start but there’s a long, long way to go.





 

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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