Portal Problems – Upset?

At the start of the 2022 season we did a pre-season podcast on our Everything Fastpitch Podcast. During that podcast we discussed the upcoming season and made some predictions. Our good friend, Justin McCleod, from Extra Innings, joined us and added his opinion, as well. There were a bunch of topics discussed but one thing was crystal clear. There were a few teams that we agreed we would bet our lives on making it to Oklahoma City for World Series; Oklahoma, Florida State and Alabama.

Alabama was a prohibitive favorite to make a run at the national championship. They entered their NCAA tournament this spring with a 15 year long winning streak in the Regional round. Their last loss was in the first game of the 2007 Regionals and I was there because it was our Tennessee Tech team that pulled off that huge upset that year. Part of me is very sad that Stanford ended that streak this year because now our spot in history will fade into oblivion but I’m way off track now.

Many people were shocked to see Stanford win the Regional in Tuscaloosa this year. Unfortunately too many people will give too little credit to Stanford and, just like I am doing, question more about what went wrong with Alabama. So to be fair, give credit to Stanford, they have a great program and, where our 2007 Tech team came up short, the 2022 Stanford team really was up to the challenge.

BUT, as you know the point of this series is why I dislike the transfer portal and, here is one of the biggest reasons why.

We can all agree that Alabama didn’t play their best brand of softball down the stretch and into the Regional. Then within hours of the end of their season, players from Alabama started to announce their intentions to enter the transfer portal and leave Alabama. Now, I’m not here to judge the players and why they want to transfer and I absolutely am not saying that any of them purposely played anything less than their best. BUT…

So we can all agree that it is likely that all these players were already considering the idea of and planning for the reality of leaving the Alabama program whenever the season ended. Now no one expected it to be this early but I’m not naive enough to believe that they woke up the morning after the season ended and decided to leave out of the blue. Which leads to the conclusion that while they were playing for Alabama they were all thinking about where they would play next. Did this mean they played less than their very best softball? No one will ever know for sure but common sense tells me that they probably didn’t play their very best.

And this is why I struggle with the portal. When we find ourselves in a must win game, we want our players to all have the laser focus that comes with being totally committed to our team. Sort of like what we all got used to seeing from Alabama. We know that the margin for error is very small when we face off in the post season. When push comes to shove we need our players to be willing to do whatever it takes to get the win when our season hangs in the balance. Sort of like what we all got used to from Alabama. And no one can tell me that a player who is already planning her exit from the program is capable of making that effort and commitment. So did Alabama lose or did Stanford win? I’d say both things can be true at the same time!

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?