Something is broken with Vanderbilt baseball, and it's on Tim Corbin to fix it | Estes

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

It’s time for a tough talk about Vanderbilt baseball, and as with most difficult discussions, it’s hard to know where to begin.

I suppose, you’d say, we start with hitting, as that has been a glaring problem for years.

To focus there, though, might excuse the pitching or defense. Can’t do that. Not after a nightmarish NCAA regional at Clemson in which Vanderbilt never faced top-seeded Clemson and would have needed to score 25 runs to win the games it lost to Coastal Carolina (13-3) and High Point (10-9).

When you don’t throw strikes and hit too many batters and pair that with defensive ineptitude and a still-mediocre offense, you end up watching an opponent from the Big South Conference celebrate your walk-off extinction, your own blue blood having turned cold while blowing a 5-0 lead in the sixth inning.

An embarrassing exit, to be sure. While it’s instinctive to say these Commodores (38-23) were capable of far better, little about them ever suggested they were. They were fortunate to get to an NCAA regional, and once there, woefully underachieving was on brand. Usually on the road, and at times at home, Vanderbilt couldn’t hit or pitch at a level anywhere near what was expected.

This regional wasn’t a good Vanderbilt team wilting in the spotlight. It was never a good team.

And that, we’re not used to around here.

Glory is fleeting and certainty rare for any sports fan, which is why in our corner of the world, Vanderbilt baseball carries the respect it does. While the fortunes of Nashville’s pro teams have fluctuated for years, ending sooner or later in annual disappointment, Tim Corbin’s Commodores did what those others never could. They won it all. Twice. Nearly did it again just three years ago, too, reaching the season’s final game in Omaha.

Since that 2021 drubbing by Mississippi State, though, Vanderbilt’s program hasn’t been the same.

This season was the third in a row in which Corbin’s club failed to make it past the opening regional in an NCAA Tournament. Those who’d be shocked by an elimination defeat to diminutive High Point haven’t been paying attention to Vanderbilt’s gradual decline in talent and performance, the culmination of which was Corbin sitting in Clemson on Saturday and glumly admitting:

“We didn’t deserve to win that game.”

He wasn’t wrong. But the day that mighty Vanderbilt doesn’t “deserve” to win a regional game against High Point, which until Saturday had never won one its history, is a day we must view the Commodores as no longer mighty.

“You've got to look in the mirror and say, ‘It's not good enough,’” Corbin said of this season, “at least from the standard that we've created.”

True, Vanderbilt fans have been spoiled over the years by their baseball program’s success.

But shouldn’t Vanderbilt fans get to be spoiled by something? Their football program struggles to even compete in the SEC, and their men’s basketball program has become a shell of its former self.

Baseball isn’t just a source of pride for Commodores fans. It’s dignity. If that’s being lost after all these years, it's potentially devastating for Vanderbilt athletics at a time when the university is pulling out all the fundraising stops, like never before, to upgrade facilities and NIL and fund everything it takes just to keep up in today’s SEC.

The demands for more and more money will be unending. No expiration date.

Corbin, however, turns 63 later this year. He’s part of a dwindling group of highly respected and successful college coaches, many of whom – like Nick Saban, for example – have decided they’ve had enough of this NIL and transfer portal and a profession that’s becoming less about coaching and shaping young minds and more about appeasing and compensating them.

I don’t know if Corbin, too, has tired of the changing climate. But when he stands in front of that mirror, he’s going to have to examine everything: From the coaching staff to the development of a roster that habitually can’t stay healthy to how incoming talent has been evaluated and prioritized. Corbin will have to adapt in ways he hasn’t had to before to get the talent level back to where this program has been accustomed.

WHAT HAPPENED?: Tim Corbin had a flawed Vanderbilt baseball team in 2024. Nothing changed in quick regional exit

I’d trust Corbin, as much as anyone, to figure out what’s broken and fix it.

But something is broken, and it does need fixing.

We still expect much more from Vanderbilt baseball than this disappointing season. The worst will be when we don't anymore.

Reach Tennessean sports columnist Gentry Estes at gestes@tennessean.com and on the X platform (formerly known as Twitter) @Gentry_Estes.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Vanderbilt baseball is broken, and it's on Tim Corbin to fix it