For a team that began the season a year away, Florida baseball served notice that 2016 might be that breakthrough year we’ve all been waiting for. When the season began back in February, we knew Kevin O’Sullivan had put together an amazing collection of talent but there were way too many questions that had to be answered and way too many freshmen and sophomores filling too many spots in the lineup. Well, the kids grew up in a hurry and got the Gators within a hit here or a hit there of playing Vanderbilt for the College World Series championship Saturday night.
Sure, it’s disappointing that the Gators couldn’t get past Virginia in that second and decisive game to get to the championship round but the disappointment should turn quickly into anticipation when you take a look at what the Gators return next year and the players O’Sullivan has recruited. The Gators will return six starters in the field and all their starting pitching next year. In J.J. Schwarz and Peter Alonso, they’ve got the makings of The Bash Brothers II and Buddy Reed is so fast he should run himself into no worse than the second round of next year’s draft. Scouts think pitchers A.J. Puk and Logan Shore will be first rounders next year and some think Puk could be the first player selected overall.
The 2016 Gators will probably be the most talented team O’Sullivan has put together and that’s saying something considering he’s taken four of the eight teams he’s coached at Florida to the College World Series. He’s got the Gators past the rebuild mode and into one of perpetual reload. As long as he recruits the way he is now, there is no reason to think the Gators are going to be a threat to win it all year after year.
Consider 2015 a year the Gators knocked on the door of a national championship. Figure in 2016 or sometime soon after they’re going to kick the door down.
December 8, 1928
Tennessee 13, FLORIDA 12: Legend has it that there was a drought in eastern Tennessee but when the unbeaten Gators arrived at the stadium in Knoxville there had been this miraculous rainstorm that turned the field into a quagmire. The Volunteers had long mud cleats, but unfortunately, Major Bob Neyland, (he became General Neyland during World War II) the Tennessee coach, didn’t have any extras and because it was a game day in Knoxville, all the sporting good stores that might carry them were closed. The Gators were considered the fastest team in the country and they leading the nation in scoring (324 points coming into the game). Florida slipped and slid throughout the game and Bobby Dodd blocked an extra point that would have tied it. Had the Gators won they would have tied Georgia Tech for the Southern Conference championship. As it was, it would be another 63 years before Florida could call itself a conference champ.
When the Mitchell Report came out in 2007, it blew the cover off the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. Among those named in the report were Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, David Justice, Andy Petite, Mike Stanton, Miguel Tejada, Jose Canseco, Troy Glaus, Matt Williams Wally Joyner and Juan Gonzalez. Figure for every one named in the report there were five or ten others who managed to escape detection.
Since then baseball has suspended its share of players for PED use including Alex Rodriguez for an entire season after he became the polarizing figure in the Biogenesis scandal. There is plenty of speculation that Biogenesis was not A-Rod’s first close encounter with PEDs since there have been whispers that go all the way back to his high school days that he juiced. Whispers, but not any proof.
The way A-Rod fought the Biogenesis investigation and his threats to sue baseball to overturn his one-year ban in 2014 have only made him look like someone with plenty to hide, so the assumption is that he perhaps was a long time juicer who was afraid further investigation might prove all the skeptics correct.
But other than Biogenesis, there is no proof. And the way A-Rod has come back at age 39 (he’s 40 in July) without any juice – 14 homers, 40 RBI, .282 batting average – offers perfect cover for his contention that other than to recover from arthroscopic surgery. He’s playing excellent baseball, he passes regular tests for PEDs and he’s moving up the record charts. He has joined Hank Aaron as the only Major Leaguer ever with more than 600 home runs (668), 2,000 RBI (2,009) and 3,000 hits (3,002). The numbers say he’s one of the very best players ever to suit up.
Baseball purists say A-Rod will never get in the Hall of Fame just as they say Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Roger Clemens will never get there. At the same time those guys were allegedly juicing, how many players were putting up Hall of Fame numbers with the help of PEDs but never failed a drug test? If PED use was as widespread as the Mitchell Report and former players such as Jose Canseco say it was, then you know there are players who used but slipped through the cracks.
So is it fair to exclude the juicers from the Hall of Fame when you know there are users who either avoided detection by sheer luck or had good chemists who masked their PEDs?
And, since players continue to be suspended for PED use, we know players haven’t stopped using. We have to figure there are chemists determined to stay one step ahead of detection, designing the newest wave of PEDs. Can we know for sure that players aren’t juicing simply because they passed a drug test?
Hats off to 21-year-old Jordan Speith, who is halfway to golf’s grand slam after he sunk a birdie on the 18th hole Sunday to claim the 115th US Open. Give Speith high marks for finishing 5-under par at this horrendous Chambers Bay course in University Place, Washington.
If you watched the Open, then you saw an ugly course that was once a rock quarry. If you watched some of the closeups of putts, you might have thought the ball was rolling on concrete the way it bounced unevenly. We saw great putters who couldn’t come close. We saw players with incredible short games whose blasts out of the sand traps kept rolling and rolling and rolling.
Ian Poulter called Chambers Bay a disgrace. Billy Horschel said he lost respect for the USGA. Even mild-mannered Gary Player, who has rarely said anything critical in a hall of fame career that spanned decades, said this was the worst course he had ever seen for a US Open.
It should come as no surprise that the designer of the course was Robert Trent Jones. The same Robert Trent Jones who designed the Hazeltine course in Chaksa, Minnesota that was the host for the 1970 US Open.
“What it lacks is 80 acres and a few cows,” said 1970 runner-up Dave Hill. “They ruined a good farm by building this golf course on it.”
Jack Nicklaus called Hazeltine “Blindman’s Bluff” since you couldn’t see the landing area for numerous tee shots.
To its credit, Hazeltine brought in someone new and re-designed the course, which hosted the 1991 Open.
Someone at Chambers Bay needs to do the same thing.
Shame on the USGA for staging a premier event on a course this rotten. The only thing worse than the course was Fox Sports’ coverage. The course was disgraceful. Fox Sports’ coverage made you want to give the course a mulligan.
Since we really don’t know for sure who juiced and who didn’t in Major League Baseball, should we go easier on the guys who got caught?
The Revivalists are a seven-piece New Orleans rock and soul band that has made a name for itself on the music festival circuit in the south the past six or seven years. Their “City of Sound” album in 2014 was an hour or so of live music and it was extraordinarily well received. Their first album was “Vital Signs” which came out in 2010. It’s a nice 12-sound collection featuring a terrific song in “Souls Too Loud.”