It would be unfair to say that the Star-Advertiser Baseball Top 10 panel of voters is biased.
It would be more fair to note that they have been consistent. The votes are in and the booths are closed, so to speak, for today’s latest poll. In Week 5, Mid-Pacific is atop the rankings once again, vaulting from No. 4 right over Punahou, Pearl City and last week’s No. 1 team, Saint Louis.
Mar. 29, 2016
1. Mid-Pacific (7-3) (8 first-place votes), 124 points
2. Pearl City (6-0) (4), 114
3. Kamehameha (7-3) (1), 95
4. Saint Louis (6-3), 87
5. Kalani (7-0), 81
6. Mililani (6-1), 69
7. Baldwin (7-0), 49
8. Punahou (5-4), 38
9. Waiakea (7-1), 17
10. Maui (6-0), 15
Also receiving votes: Kamehameha-Hawaii 12, ‘Iolani 7, Moanalua 6, St. Francis 1.
This is MPI’s first time back on the throne since Week 1. The rollicking nature of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu has created both league dominance of the Top 10, as well as a distinguishable pattern since the opening week.
>> Week 1: No. 1 (MPI), No. 3 (STL), No. 4 (PUN), No. 7 (KS), No. 9 (IOL)
>> Week 2: No. 1 (STL), No. 3 (MPI), No. 5 (PUN), No. 8 (IOL)
>> Week 3: No. 1 (STL), No. 3 (PUN), No. 4 (MPI), No. 6 (KS), No. 10 (IOL)
>> Week 4: No. 1 (STL), No. 3 (PUN), No. 4 (MPI), No. 7 (KS)
>> Week 5 (this week): No. 1 (MPI), No. 3 (KS), No. 4 (STL), No. 8 (PUN)
So, this is what we can gather on the psychology of our voters:
1. Repelling the Charge
No matter that Pearl City has been unbeaten for FIVE weeks. In the eyes of panelists, it’s in the ILH they trust, more so than the OIA West where Pearl City currently rules. Panelists insist on placing an ILH team at No. 1, and this week that meant bumping Mid-Pacific from No. 4 to No. 1 after two huge wins over ILH rivals.
2. The ILH moat
Voters also insist on putting the ILH’s second-best (by record) team at No. 3, above remaining unbeaten teams from any other league.
3. Kalani’s glass ceiling
Even Kalani, which edged bubble team Moanalua 2-1, is now locked at No. 5 despite an unbeaten record. Glass ceiling? Quite possibly, especially in an OIA East that has no other ranked teams. A “quality” win might not come until Kailua returns to the rankings, or when Kalani faces one of the OIA West’s best during the playoffs.
4. Neighbor-island box
No neighbor-island team has risen higher than No. 8 so far. A large part of that, my guess, is the dearth of competition between Oahu’s powerhouses and neighbor-island teams during preseason. And when they did meet, there weren’t any stunning results. That could change in the state tourney. As of right now, though MIL fans are harping about the underrated status of Maui High, there’s is clearly a sandbox of Oahu frenemies that the neighbor islanders are simply not invited to play in when it comes to the Top 10
5. Common illogic
Kamehameha-Hawaii is unbeaten in the BIIF, and that includes a close win over No. 9 Waiakea last Thursday. That’s Waiakea’s first loss, and still, voters kept Waiakea in the poll and wouldn’t push KS-Hawaii in. That could change next week; there have been many occasions when voters didn’t really pay attention until the following week. That’s on the voters, who are, after all, human.
As for the ILH…
This is a league that has just two of the state’s 12 state-tournament berths, strictly on a ratio of number of teams per league. That’s not what this post is about though; what the ILH has created (a blend of insanely high standards in academics and athletics) is a monster. A good monster. Sometimes, seemingly too good for its own good come state-tourney time in most sports.
The skew toward ILH teams by coaches and media in the baseball poll isn’t a surprise. If this were a Sagarin-based formula system, the Strength of Schedule numbers would heavily tilt toward the ILH, where every Division I program is a state-tourney level operation and has been ranked (or could eventually be ranked) if it hasn’t already been a Top 10 squad previously. A system based largely on SOS would also tilt away from viable and occasional state-title favorites (and near-favorites) from the neighbor islands.
Does the ILH deserve to have four or five teams in the Top 10 every week? Hard to argue against that case. ‘Iolani is clearly a quality team after nearly upsetting then-No. 1 Saint Louis (losing 1-0) last week. In a different league, the Raiders may well be unbeaten. But the same machinery that drives every ILH D-I squad to play elite baseball is the same one that creates this conundrum. If ‘Iolani or any other borderline ILH Top 10 program were in another league, maybe the drive isn’t quite as strong. Maybe the hunger isn’t as lasting.
As it was during the boys basketball season, for fans thirsting to see more ILH entries compete in the state tourney, my answer is this: enjoy all the ILH regular-season baseball you can. Most of the time, you’ll get a great game, which isn’t always the case at the state tourney. The ILH remains, at least in boys hoops and baseball this season — and football, for that matter — easily worth the price of admission. I still would love to have an ILH League Pass on the telly.
As for the whims of Top 10 voters, it has always been the same: statewide prep polls have the nutritional value of whipped cream. But it sure can be fun making comparisons — sometimes in highly debatable fashion — with family, friends and frenemies alike.