Stingray suing Barstool for negligence and invasion of privacy

By Brett Hudson

Former Mississippi State superfan Steven “Stingray” Ray has filed a civil lawsuit against Barstool for negligence, invasion of privacy and wantonness, defined as a disposition to willingly inflict pain and suffering on others. The suit was filed in Tuscaloosa Circuit Court on Feb. 15. No lawyer is listed as representing Ray.

The suit also lists WorldStarHipHop as a defendant.

Ray became an internet figure in the Mississippi State athletics community for his opinions and rants on the teams, to the point that he was invited on an episode of the Comedy Central show Tosh.0 for what it called a Web Redemption. The Twitter account, @stevenray28, has since been suspended, but only after Ray publicly denounced his MSU fandom, crediting treatment by the fan base at large. He was photographed in Southern Miss and Ole Miss apparel in the fall.

The suit acknowledges that role gave Ray, “a modest online presence.” The suit uses one example of Ray sharing a photo of himself on a birthday lunch at Hooters with a waitress. Barstool, according to the lawsuit, took the picture and added the words, “how can someone look like a child and a child molester at the same time.” The lawsuit alleges Barstool did such without Ray’s consent and, “in a willful, wanton and malicious manner..”

Later, in the intentional infliction of emotional distress portion of the lawsuit, it states Barstool, “did so only with hopes of gain in mind, that the publication of this altered photo have damaged the reputation of the Plaintiff (Ray).”

The lawsuit also states Ray is, “entitled to recover against the defendants for injuries, damages and losses proximately caused by their publication as set forth in the Complaint.” It states Ray is entitled to Punitive Damages that are not exactly defined in the complaint.

MSU catchers benefitting from a college baseball rarity

By Brett Hudson

Chris Lemonis sees the most value in Kyle Cheesebrough when he looks over and sees Cheesebrough fuming mad about something that isn’t immediately clear.

It’s happened more than once, and it’s exactly what Lemonis wants from Cheesebrough. Lemonis wants that specific set of eyes trained on the craft that he honed for years as a player and spent more years teaching others to practice: catching.

Cheesebrough may be listed as Mississippi State’s baseball camps coordinator/volunteer assistant coach, but in the practical sense, he is MSU’s catching coach. It’s a rare commodity to have — colleges can only have two full-time assistants and one volunteer, and with one assistant coach dedicated to pitching, it’s unlikely to have a former catcher on staff. But Cheesebrough is just that, and all involved expect that experience to pay off for MSU catchers.

“There’s not many staffs in the country that have catching coaches. I’ve been on staffs where I’ve had to coach catchers, even though I never caught,” Lemonis said. “I’m watching the hitters or the fielders, but he’s locked in on the catcher and it’s nice to have those eyes working with them. Our catchers have had a pretty good fall.”

The same can be said for the weeks leading up to Friday’s season opener against Youngstown State.

Not only does Cheesebrough know catching, but he knows catching for Lemonis, having played for him when he was an assistant at Louisville. Coaching was always Cheesebrough’s goal — he’s the son of a high school football coach — and all of his coaches at Louisville knew it. He landed a spot on the Louisville staff for three years, alongside Lemonis, and then followed Lemonis to Indiana. Cheesebrough was an assistant for Lemonis for all four years at Indiana and followed him to take the same set of responsibilities at MSU.

This is Cheesebrough’s calling: using all of his catching experience to develop young catchers.

“Catching is what I’ve done my entire life,” Cheesebrough told Matt Wyatt Media. “I’ve done it. I have the experiences of what they’ve gone through. I’m not some guy just throwing balls at you or throwing dirt balls at you, I’ve been there, I know what you’re going through.

“If I was a driver’s ed teacher and I’ve never driven a car, you’re not going to trust me. It’s the same thing. I try to give them as much experience as I can.”

All told, Cheesebrough wants to develop his catchers to become good professional prospects. They won’t be asked to do so at MSU, but he’d like for them to develop mentally to the point that they can call their own games. If any one player takes over and becomes the all-knowing veteran, Cheesebrough is not above incorporating that player into the pitch calling conversation.

Therein lies Cheesebrough’s ultimate goal for his catchers. He wants them to have a mental command of the game, then develop the confidence to let that command be known.

“I want to see our guys see the game as I see it. There are so many things — when a guy’s going to steal, when there might be a bunt — they have to see those things coming,” Cheesebrough said. “I guess expecting the game and what’s about to happen. When you have a mature guy and they understand that, they can put on their own bunt defense or they know the call I’m about to be making.

“For me, I could always tell when I was warming a guy up what he had: was his breaking ball sharp, was his fastball a little faster, if he’s not trusting it. The trust factor they have in each other and the trust they have to relay it to us. There’s a lot of things we all as a staff and as a unit, there has to be a high level of trust. Whether it’s (Dustin) Skelton, (Marshall) Gilbert, (Luke) Hancock or (Hayden) Jones, those guys have to trust what they see to tell us, ‘This guy’s not right,’ or, ‘This guy’s great today, let’s ride him out.’”

Skelton recognizes he was not an excellent defensive catcher early in his career, but feels much better about that part of his game going into this season and credits Cheesebrough for that. Skelton thinks he is a better thrower to all three bags and notices the blocking and receiving work Cheesebrough gets them while maintaining their bodies.

Cheesebrough’s subjects will need to feel good physically in order to live under his microscope.

As MSU’s practical catching coach, he sees the game through that lens. If a catcher doesn’t block a ball that allows a runner to go to second, then the pitcher throws a bad fastball hit for a RBI single, many would blame the pitcher; Cheesebrough will blame the catcher. In his mind, if his catcher had blocked that ball and stopped the scoring runner at third, maybe the pitcher gets back on track and retires the inning, preventing the run.

It’s a high standard, but it’s the one Lemonis wants Cheesebrough to hold. Cheesebrough said they like to call themselves Catching U with their run of success at the position, and Cheesebrough was brought to MSU to make that more than internal tagline.

MSU Mailbag

Facebook Mailbag-01.png

By Brett Hudson

This week’s Mailbag is going to follow a pretty straightforward trajectory. Two serious sports questions, one sports question that I found fun and then usual nonsense. I think y’all will enjoy it.

Let’s get started with TJ Hand (@wh0dathunkit) — Is Teaira McCowan the No. 1 pick in the draft?

This is going to come down to the age-old question that has plagued professional franchises for years. What to do with a premium draft pick: best available or biggest need?

The Las Vegas Aces — the owner of the first pick — had to lean on A’ja Wilson more or less exclusively for their rebounding. She averaged 8 per game as a rookie and no other Ace had as many as 5.5. The Aces could also use more defense (fourth-worst field goal percentage allowed last year) and we all know McCowan can provide that.

But when I look around the WNBA mock draft world, I see people drooling over Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, her run of triple doubles and her ability to do so many things. Of course if she chooses to return to Oregon for her senior season, all of this is different and the decision gets a lot easier.

But even if Ionescu isn’t on the board, there is the volume scorer at Louisville, Asia Durr, that is also highly rated. The good news for McCowan is this projects to be a good draft for post players and she is undoubtedly the best of them, so if a big goes first it will be her. Now beauty is in the eye of the Las Vegas Aces.

Daniel Montgomery (@dalemo830), as always, is bringing heat. More of a dynasty — Bama or the Patriots?

The tale of the tape: Patriots have 6 titles in 18 years, Alabama has 5 in 10. Yes, at the moment the Patriots are running 3 out of 5 and are the reigning champs, combined with Alabama potentially having a reckoning named Clemson, but give Alabama credit for also going 3 out of 4 in 2009, 2011 and ’12.

I’m picking Alabama, and here’s why. It’s worth noting that Alabama has not had the dry spell that the Patriots had — Alabama has never gone more than two years in this run without winning it, and in that two-year span one of them was the Kick 6 team that I still believe would have won it all if not for that game. The Patriots, however, went from 2005 to 2013 with no Super Bowl wins and only two appearances. (I realize that sounds ridiculous to knock a team for that, but this is a conversation based on dynasties, after all.)

But the real reason I’m taking Alabama is because I think it’s harder to do this in college football than it is in the NFL. The Patriots have benefitted from having Bill Belichick and Tom Brady heavily involved in every bit of their success. In the NFL you can keep players for 10+ years and win several titles with them; in college you lose 20 percent of your roster every year, plus there’s more coaching changes in the college game than there are in the NFL. So not only has Nick Saban managed that turnover and stayed on top, he’s done it in a sport that’s radically changing. For a solid decade or two now, football innovation has occurred at the college level, and Saban has solved it as he went.

That’s more impressive than the Patriots winning a much more static league with the same group of key people, to me. Now watch Clemson go win two of the next three national titles and make all of that invalid.

This is interesting, from Rob Montgomery (@10RobertWilliam) — Based on my recent memory, it feels like State plays Ole Miss in men’s basketball far more often on Saturdays than on weekdays. I’m sure there are outliers, but both of this year’s matchups were on Saturdays. Is this something the SEC seeks to do to draw bigger crowds? Or is it pure coincidence?

So I went into the schedules expecting this theory to hold up, that the SEC grants weekend slots to games it anticipates could draw big crowds. And yet, I was wrong. It seems the recent run of Ole Miss-Mississippi State Saturday games (four in a row now) is a coincidence.

I looked at the Alabama-Auburn games, and there is no weekend bias with those — both of last year’s games were midweek games. I did the same for Tennessee-Vanderbilt and found the same thing.

While it would make sense to manufacture some weekend games here and there for capacity crowds, I can also see how setting such parameters might make it more difficult to have the relatively random scheduling model that’s currently used in the divisionless SEC men’s basketball.

As we move into nonsense, there are three straight questions that get into food, and I’m writing this while my wife goes to Chick Fil A for breakfast, so I’m clearly in the mood. @Wesley_Johnson — What’s on your Mount Rushmore of Left Field Lounge foods?

(My favorite part of this question is I’m going to get some fantastic suggestions out there, and here’s the rule — only suggest a food you’re willing to let me come to your lounge and try for myself. If you’re not going to let me have some then don’t even tell me it exists.)

In no particular order. 1) A well-cooked sausage dog. Or really any kind of hot dog that is not actually a hot dog: braut, sausage dog, chicken sausage dog, whatever. 2) A good smoked meats BBQ sandwich. Brisket, pulled pork, chicken, whatever. You do you, friend. 3) Can’t go wrong with a good bacon cheeseburger. 4) I’m a sucker for a good queso. It may not be traditional baseball food, but if you’ve got a crock pot situation in your lounge and you’ve got a good queso going, guarantee I’m going to partake.

@flintstone_94 — What is truly the best thing since sliced bread? I need to know.

On-demand entertainment. Remember when we were slaves to the content of the TV guide? Or for audio content, slaves to how our schedule combined with that of the radio host’s? I don’t want to live in those days, friends.

I love listening to podcasts, where I can get my college football, college basketball, golf, baseball or whatever fix exactly when I want it, not when I get lucky in my daily commute. I love getting to watch my favorite shows when I have the time, not when the TV folks say I have to watch them. And don’t get my started on Netflix.

A multi-parter from @ReeceMonroe1226. 1) What would be your baseball/wrestling walkout song? 2) Best sauce to put on wings? 3) I have a history exam Thursday at 8 a.m. and the men plays LSU at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Advice?

1) I’m not a wrestling guy anymore, so I’m going to take this as a baseball player. And here’s my problem — I would definitely be that guy that changes his walkup song every couple of weeks or so. There isn’t a superstitious bone in my body, so I would have no problem changing my walkup song in a hit streak and no slump would make me change one that I’m vibing with. I would probably cycle through a good bit of J. Cole and G-Eazy and go from there.

2) A well-done BBQ is hard to beat, for me. My wife recently made a maple buffalo wing that was quite good, but a good honey BBQ is always going to sing to my soul.

3) Well I hope you went, because it was a fun environment. (The overtime doesn’t help, though. I feel like the University should give a free coffee to every student that stayed to the end of that game and made it a 9 a.m. or earlier class.

@CalebGarnerMSU If one GIF could sum up your life, what would it be?

“Nothing to see here. Please disperse.” (exploding building in the background)

Is any explanation really needed?

Mississippi State hits the road, and that's been bad news for its shooters

By Brett Hudson

A theme of Mississippi State’s drop from 2-2 to 3-4 in Southeastern Conference play has been the inability to shoot well away from Humphrey Coliseum. To a certain extent, that is an occupational hazard — shooting well on the road is more difficult than shooting at home, and that combined with other perils of the road is the reason most Power 5 teams avoid more than one true road game before league play.

The reasons for shooting woes on the road are obvious — hostile and uncomfortable environment, unfamiliar backdrop for shooters, etc. — but MSU’s recent woes have come with even more nuance. Joel Coleman of The Starkville Daily News found MSU is shooting 23.1 percent from 3-point range when forced to play with a Nike basketball on the road, but 41.5 percent when at home with its usual Wilson ball.

MSU coach Ben Howland played down the impact of the ball.

“I sure don’t want our players to think that. It’s still round,” Howland said. “We practice with them, and when I think about some of our games, I think we played with the Nike ball at Vanderbilt and won there.”

One thing that cannot be downplayed, however, is MSU’s shooting penalty by playing away from Humphrey Coliseum is more severe than that of its SEC brethren.

That shows in the below data. This is the difference in each SEC’s team shooting percentage when they play at home and when they play a true road game. (I filtered out neutral-site games given the drastic difference from neutral site to neutral site, whereas most true road games are all the same in that they’re all a tough spot to be in. All road games are hard but each neutral site game is its own adventure.)

Diff. between home shooting % and road shooting %

As you can see, most of the conference is worse at shooting when it plays on the road, but the conference median is around 1.5 to 3 percent worse. Mississippi State is far worse than that at 8.68 percent. Here’s the full list of numbers:

  1. Texas A&M, +1.42 percent

  2. Missouri, +0.57

  3. Tennessee, +0.01

  4. South Carolina, -0.16

  5. Kentucky, -0.59

  6. Arkansas, -0.61

  7. Alabama, -1.46

  8. Ole Miss, -2.99

  9. Georgia -4.78

  10. Auburn -5.56

  11. Mississippi State -8.68

  12. LSU -8.76

  13. Florida -9.3

  14. Vanderbilt -11.96

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, focusing the numbers on 3-point shooting makes it even worse.

Difference in 3-point shooting when on the road compared to when at home

No team in the SEC struggles to shoot the 3-pointer away in road games like MSU does.

  1. Texas A&M +5.91 percent

  2. Arkansas +2.6

  3. Missouri -0.26

  4. South Carolina -0.85

  5. Tennessee -1.41

  6. Kentucky -1.41

  7. LSU -2.3

  8. Alabama -2.95

  9. Ole Miss -3.96

  10. Georgia -5.49

  11. Auburn -7.93

  12. Florida -8.83

  13. Vanderbilt -9.13

  14. Mississippi State -12.61

(I feel good about using true home game v. true road game splits in this situation because, as stated above, Power 5 teams tend to not go on the road unless it’s conference play or unless it can really do something for its NCAA Tournament resume. Basically, it’s unlikely that a team is going on the road to a bad team and boost the numbers that way.)

A closer look at MSU’s road schedule reveals the Bulldogs have had as good a chance as any to shoot the 3-pointer well on the road. MSU’s road games have been against Dayton (170th in 3-point shooting defense), South Carolina (262nd), Vanderbilt (73rd), Kentucky (267th) and Alabama (119th).

Getting right against the Rebels is certainly possible — they rank 238th in 3-point defense and have just the 10th-best defense in the SEC according to KenPom. But the time to do it is now.

KenPom currently projects MSU to lose at Ole Miss and ultimately go 9-9 in league play, but that projection comes with a catch: two of those projected wins are on the road, at Arkansas on Feb. 16 and at Georgia on Feb. 20. Road shooting performances like this one could make one of those feasible road wins slip away, a loss that could cost MSU a seed line come Selection Sunday, or even worse.

“I think that, on the road, you’re playing a team on their home floor and you have to be even more efficient in your execution to get good shots,” Howland said. “We missed good shots, some open shots in our last game, but we also took some tough shots, too. Everything with shooting has to do with quality of shot, in my mind.”

MSU MAILBAG

By Brett Hudson:

The mailbag is back: #FreedBrettHudson

The mailbag is back: #FreedBrettHudson

Folks, I am absolutely thrilled to have this back. I love it because y’all are generally good at giving me some nonsense to have some fun with, but sometimes y’all ask legitimate sports questions that I’m not thinking of in that exact way.

But let’s be real with one another: the Mailbag is known for its nonsense, and that’s where we’ll start.

 - And we’ll start with the king of Mississippi State-related nonsense: @cristilmethod. How much of Nick Saban do you believe Alabama has already replaced with advanced synthetic technology and do you think they have a long-term strategy to make him immortal?

See, I think of this the other way around. I think Nick Saban is already a form of highly advanced technology and he is getting Alabama to turn those around him into similarly incredible technology.

Look at all the coaching turnover recently. Alabama has lost both coordinators in each of the last two seasons and countless assistants in that time, too. Why? Programming errors. Alabama didn’t quite calibrate it right, which is why Alabama got blown out in the championship game and why those coaches have since been replaced. Now think back to the early part of this decade, when the University of Alabama started making bigger investments in its engineering department, creating better facilities for those folks. Coincidence? I think not!

As to Saban’s potential immortality: the man is 67, looks like he’s 55, works like he’s 25 and does it all with at least one grandchild running around. Frankly, I can’t prove that he isn’t immortal already.

 - We actually have a lot of sports questions to get to, but we have another Alabama-related question so let’s do that now. Heath (@Dhmorrison7) asks — Is it true that Alabama has hired Bully to be their new mascot and will play Don’t Stop Believin’ at the beginning of the fourth quarter?

Yes, Alabama has taken a lot from Mississippi State recently, but they won’t take Bully, and here’s why.

Allow me to quote Alabama’s fight song: “Go teach the Bulldogs to behave, send the Yellow Jackets to a watery grave.” This puts the Crimson Tide squarely in the market of dog obedience training that includes an aquatic element. Bully doesn’t need either, because he’s obviously a good boy who has mastered walking on an underwater treadmill. Alabama will be taking their Bulldog business elsewhere.

 - Alright, let’s do some real sports talk here. Patrick Bell (@PBell97) — After Coach Huff’s leaving, you think we have any chance at all of landing Jerrion Ealy?

As much as I’m not a fan of it, departing position coaches do make an impact on recruiting decisions. It’s just the reality of it. But I will say this: coaches and programs are very good at selling what they have and making recruits forget about what they don’t have. So I’m sure when MSU is putting the full court press on Ealy, they make sure his mind isn’t on Huff and is on his replacement (Terry Richardson).

But, this isn’t the usual departing assistant coach. This is an assistant coach leaving for a conference foe and a conference foe that just so happens to be recruiting Ealy. Yet, there’s another catch with his recruitment, and this one benefits MSU: baseball.

I’m not going to pretend to have any inside information on how baseball — college or pro — is factoring into his decision, and I imagine almost everyone that is trying to make people think they have that information is misleading you. I believe it to be this simple: pro baseball hurts everyone at the college level, college baseball helps schools such as MSU and not so much on college baseball helps schools such as Alabama. This puts MSU fans in kind of a tough place where you’re rooting for baseball with Ealy but not so much so that he gets the big MLB Draft money, but that’s the situation you’re in.

That’s why I think however baseball ultimately plays into this is far more important than any one assistant coach.

 - A brief note on a similar subject before we go forward, in the form of a question from @PrestonCoats — With 4 position coaches leaving after year 1 of the Joe Moorhead era, what kind of message do you think this sends recruits/current players?

I think the hires Moorhead makes and how they perform will send the real message.

First of all, I think time will be kind to these departures. Let’s break these down one by one. Mark Hudspeth — a man with 14 seasons of head-coaching experience — left to be a head coach. Luke Getsy, having spent the last four years in the NFL, returned to it and to the franchise he spent those four years working for. Brian Baker and Charles Huff joined one of two programs that has had a shot at the national title every single year over the last five years, and specifically for Huff, a school that generates head-coaching candidates like crazy.

Everything in there makes complete sense, right? Of course there are underlying details that paint a less flattering picture, but those details are just as plausible as the explanations above. It’s possible that those things prove to be the reality in the years ahead.

Ultimately, Moorhead put the standard on himself of taking the program from good to great. He’s going to have to do that with the people he hires, and therein lies the real message to recruits and players.

 - We’ll come back to a couple of Mississippi State questions after a couple of bigger sports ones. First, from @Wesley_Johnson — As sports commissioner, how would you change the rules to let athletes celebrate or taunt opponents?

Maybe this says more about my athletic demeanor than anything else, but for the most part, I believe if you want the person to not celebrate then you should not give the person something to celebrate. If somebody does an annoying home run trot, well, you can save yourself from seeing it in person by not allowing a home run.

With that in mind, here’s the proposal: all celebrations are allowed as long as they don’t involve the celebrating team making contact with the opponent. So you can say or do whatever you want, you just can’t shove an opponent or do something dangerous, etc. Ultimately this thing will normalize because all these players want to do is have fun, anyway, and if they do anything in their celebration that negatively impacts winning, their coaches will take care of it. This environment seems pretty conducive to fun celebrations to me.

 - And another from Rob Montgomery, @10RobertWilliam — Who’s your pick for the Super Bowl? What’s the first Super Bowl you remember watching?

Root for these bunch of Patriots? Never. Plus the Rams are one of very few teams in this league actually attempting to do unique things, and we need to encourage all forms of innovation that we can get from the NFL. Go Rams.

The first Super Bowl I remember is Super Bowl XXXVI (Feb. 2002), the Patriots against the Rams. The upstart, rag-tag bunch of Patriots up against The Greatest Show on Turf. I remember thinking the game would be a blowout. If only I knew what the ensuing 15 years would hold.

 - What we’re doing from here: One MSU sports question and two about me. @cnb0745 has a simple but brutally difficult question— Best Football player in Mississippi State history?

Jace Christmann. Need I go further?

I went to Matt about this — few others would be more qualified on this subject, right? — and got a list to start the conversation that should just about do it: Dak Prescott, Johnie Cooks, Eric Moulds and Fred Smoot. I might add Johnathan Banks of my own accord, but I think that’s a pretty good place to start it. (I’m sure this will inspire an incredible amount of debate, which I’m fine with. Bring it.)

I’m going to give Dak a slight edge over Johnie Cooks. Maybe it’s recency bias, maybe it’s quarterback bias, who knows. I just feel like Dak accomplished more than Cooks did.

 - Alright, two on the personal note. First from @BearionLedger — Are you a fan of any school?

Sad but true, you kind of have to give that up in this profession. Unless you’re in a position like this one as a North Dakota State grad, thus it’s almost certain your favorite school and the school you cover won’t intertwine, you have to give that up. Especially for me — I’m an Alabama grad. I do maintain my fanhood in Atlanta United, the Oakland A’s and the Nashville Predators, and I’m starting to get into Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle.

I do, however, find myself following along teams that I find incredibly fun, so there’s an element of fanhood there. I loved following Hawaii early in the football season, and who didn’t root for Purdue after they trounced Ohio State?

 - And finally, from @Bryce_Bean — What’s next for Matt Wyatt Media? Will we get film review for other sports?

That last part is certainly an option, actually something Matt and I have been discussing some over the last couple of days.

This that you’re reading is a little glimpse into the future of Matt Wyatt Media — the written word. It’s not something Matt has had before and it’s something that we will have. What we’re going for is high-impact when we do write, and we’ve got some stuff in the works that will be just that.

Many of you have also noticed the new podcast — Praise The Lord & Talk ‘Dogs — on the women’s basketball team, and more podcasting stuff is on the way.

And yes, the video thing is where more manpower can be really helpful. Matt’s a busy man of his own accord, and the video projects that he is known for are not easy. They take a lot of time and energy, and it’s a lot for one man to handle. Now he has two on it, and one that is in Starkville — thus close to Mississippi State — and can create opportunities that way.

In the immediate future, it means more in-depth coverage of the women’s basketball team through Praise The Lord & Talk ‘Dogs. Going a little beyond that, there’s a baseball season and football spring practice to handle. And Matt Wyatt Media currently has double the workforce it has ever had, so you can expect a workload that reflects that.