Probably nothing would make Mike Martin and the Florida State Seminoles happier than hear the name J.J. Schwarz called out when the first round of the annual Major League Draft is announced today. There’s just one problem. The one-man wrecking crew named Schwarz is just a freshman, which means he’s not eligible for the draft and will not only be a thorn in the Seminoles’ side for two more years, but in all of college baseball.
Take a moment and look at what Schwarz did to the Seminoles and then take a look at the last three weeks as he has helped propel the #4 seed Gators (49-16) into the College World Series in Omaha where they will open up against Miami on Saturday. Against FSU in the Gainesville NCAA Super Regional, Schwartz was 5-7 with three homers and five RBI as the Gators outscored the Seminoles 24-9 in two games. A week earlier in the Gainesville Regional, Schwarz went 7-13 with two doubles, one homer and six RBI. That was on the heels of an MVP performance at the SEC Tournament where Schwarz went 10-19 with three doubles and six RBI to lead the Gators to the championship.
So here are the Schwarz numbers for the last three weeks: 22-39 for a .564 batting average, five doubles, four homers and 17 RBI, raising his season totals to .332, 16 doubles, three triples, 18 homers and 71 RBI.
Here are the most important numbers of all for the past three weeks: Florida is 9-1 and is considered the hottest and most feared team in the entire country, good enough to bring home a national championship despite the fact they nation. Consider the fact the Gators start one senior (Josh Tobias), two juniors (Richie Martin and Harrison Bader), two sophomores (Buddy Reed and Peter Alonso) and four freshmen (Schwarz, Mike Rivera, Dalton Guthrie and Mike Vasquez). The starting pitching consists of three sophomores (Logan Shore, A.J. Puk and Dane Dunning) and one freshman (Alex Faedo).
It’s said that hitting is contagious, that one hot bat can turn an entire team into a raging fire that consumes everything in its path. With Schwarz leading the way, the Gators have outscored opponents 89-20 in the last 10 games. The 89 runs is an impressive total, but so is the 20 runs allowed. When opponents average only two a game, you don’t lose too many.
When the season began, general consensus was the Gators were going to be very good but probably a year away. With Schwarz lighting the fire that has the Gators burning up everything in their path, next year is now. And considering Schwarz will be back for two more years as will a good portion of this Florida team, the Gators are going to be really, really good for the foreseeable future.
DRAFT NOTES: Florida signee Kyle Tucker, younger brother of Gator great Preston, should be one of the first 10 picks in the first round … Shortstop Richie Martin, considered the #31 prospect in the country by Baseball America, should go in the latter stages of round one … Baseball America rates the following Florida players and signees among its top 100 prospects: Jacob Woodford (49), Brady Singer (54), Jonathan India (82), Harrison Bader (85) and Thomas Szapucki (92) … Third baseman Josh Tobias and reliever Taylor Lewis should go in the first six rounds.
SEC NOTE: Both LSU and Arkansas won their Super Regionals so the SEC will be represented by at least three teams in Omaha. That number could swell to five today if Vanderbilt wraps up its regional with Illinois and Texas A&M wins game three with TCU.
It’s June, all the football magazines are out and everyone is predicting Georgia to win the SEC East. Again. And once again, it seems that everyone is making excuses for Georgia. CBSSports.com is the latest to talk about how Georgia was “better than their record” last year. Is it my imagination or do we have this discussion just about every year?
Now, there is no doubt Mark Richt is a very good football coach. He’s been at Georgia 14 years and he’s 136-48 while playing in the Southeastern Conference. If you win that much in the SEC even in the last six years when the SEC East has been down, you’re a very good football coach. Very good, for sure but great? Hardly. Georgia hasn’t won the SEC since 2005 and the greatest accomplishment – if you listen to UGa fans – is that “almost” national championship in 2007 and “almost” beating Alabama in 2012. When your greatest accomplishments are a couple of almosts and Alabama (3 national championships), Florida (2), LSU (2) and Auburn (1) have combined for eight national titles over the same span it’s safe to say that greatness has eluded you.
When he was the head Gator, Steve Spurrier used to joke about Georgia winning the recruiting championship nearly every year. Somehow, championships on the field eluded the Bulldogs in those days – they were 0-12 in getting to Atlanta during Stevie Wonder’s 12 years on the job at UF while the Gators won six SEC titles, one national title and played for another. Richt has gotten Georgia to Atlanta six times but has come away with only two championships despite the fact that his recruiting classes are regularly the best in the SEC East and top five nationally. Sounds a lot like the good old days when Spurrier roamed the sidelines.
So spare me if I gag when the annual Georgia bandwagon rolls around complete with the annual they were “better than their record” last year excuse. If they had been better than their record last year they wouldn’t have lost three games and wouldn’t have taken a woodshed beating by a just above average Florida team.
Remember back in 2010 when Steve Spurrier proposed that all the coaches in the SEC donate a portion of their salaries so that football players could have some spending money? Spurrier was dead serious although there were folks nationwide who thought it was a publicity stunt. Spurrier saw no reason why coaches who make millions can’t pitch in to help out their athletes and their athletic departments. Now, fast forward to 2015 and Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill is deferring the $100,000 raise that is part of his contract to help defer cost of attendance. There are assistant coaches in the SEC who make more than Stockstill’s $721,000, but let’s face it -- $721,000 a year is still a lot of money. It’s a nice gesture by Stockstill and he should be commended but it’s not like his lifestyle is going to take a hit because he deferred a $100,000 raise.
Only 22 of the Division I football playing schools turned a profit with their athletic departments last year. By the time August 1 arrives and cost of attendance kicks in, a bunch of athletic departments are going to whine and moan about the high cost of doing business including quite a few who belong to the power 65 group. Maybe these schools should take a look at what they’re paying their coaches to understand why (a) they aren’t making any money and (b) why they need to find the cash to pay for cost of attendance.
I’m all for coaches making as much as they can make, but not at the expense of balancing the budget. If you can balance the budget and even turn a profit while still paying your coach $4 million a year, fine, but don’t complain if you’re paying a ridiculous amount of money to your coach and you struggle to make ends meet.
At the Memorial Tournament in Ohio this weekend, the golfer formerly known as Tiger Woods closed out with an 85-74 to finish dead last (by a full eight shots) on a course that played so soft two players shot 15 below par to send it into a playoff. Eldrick (his real name; he can be Tiger again when he starts playing well) Woods finished 14 over par and 29 strokes behind the winner, without a doubt his worst finish as a professional and perhaps the worst back-to-back rounds he’s played since he was a teenager.
Woods’ finishes only adds fuel to the discussion that his days as a championship threat have come and gone. The reasons/excuses offered up for the demise range from physical (several knee surgeries and back surgery) to the lack of character (see the $500 million divorce and girlfriend Lindsay Vonn breaking up because he can’t stay faithful), but probably the most authoritative answer came from Jack Nicklaus, sponsor of the Memorial and owner of the record (18 wins in majors) that Eldrick Woods is chasing. Jack thinks Tiger has listened to too many coaches – his latest is someone called Chris Como – that there is no wonder why he has trouble hitting the ball straight for protracted periods of time anymore. Jack’s advice, go back to the coach he trusts the most, work the kinks out of his game and then stick with it instead of constantly looking for a coach with a better idea.
Eldrick still drew a big crowd Sunday even though he was playing alone and in last place. Bob Harig of ESPN.com says that it’s because the memory of the golfer who once was Tiger still matters and will matter long into the future, citing the fact that Arnold Palmer still drew huge crowds long after he was no longer a contender. There is a difference. Palmer was (a) likable, (b) cared about fans and (c) actually gave his time and money to support charities. There was and still is a lot to like about Arnie. There isn’t much to like about Eldrick Woods these days, whether we’re talking about golf or anything else.
As a side note, Phil Mickelson, who struggled to go 78-75 the last two days of The Memorial, stopped at a lemonade stand run by an 8-year-old and her 6-year-old brother on his way to the airport. He bought a $1 cup and gave the kids a $100 bill, leaving without the change. That wasn’t a mistake. That’s Phil. Win or lose, he’s a nice guy, which is far more than we can say about the golfer formerly known as Tiger.
Is Mark Richt a great coach or simply one who recruits well enough to win a lot of games?
One of the better studio sessions you will ever hear is Duane Allman’s “Muscle Shoals 1969” recording. This is the pre-Allman Brothers days when Duane was on everybody who was recording an album wanted him to play with them. This is 50 minutes of extraordinary blues and guitar.