A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:
GATORS GET JUST ENOUGH OFFENSE TO KNOCK OFF UK, ADVANCE IN HOOVER
Florida pitchers Tommy Mace, Trey Van Der Weide and Jack Leftwich spent much of the day Tuesday pitching from the stretch. Kentucky touched them for 11 hits but the Wildcats (29-23) could only produce one run in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover, Alabama. Florida (36-19) managed only five hits off four Kentucky pitchers, but that’s all they needed to take a 4-1 win over the Wildcats to advance to the second round.
Mace (6-1, 4.32 ERA) went five innings to pick up the win, giving up seven hits and one run while striking out eight, walking two and hitting two batters. He allowed at least two baserunners in four of the five innings he pitched. Van Der Weide went 2-2/3 innings, giving up two hits and a walk while uncorking a wild pitch. Leftwich got his fifth save with 1-1/3 innings in which he allowed two hits and pitched his way out of a second and third with one out jam in the ninth.
Jacob Young staked the Gators to a 1-0 lead when he hit the first pitch of the game over the left field wall. Sterlin Thompson delivered a run-scoring single later in the inning. In the fifth, the Gators answered Kentucky’s only run, scoring two on a Cory Acton single and a fielder’s choice grounder by Mac Guscete.
Now that the Gators have advanced to the second round, the tournament goes to double elimination. Florida faces 3rd-seeded Mississippi State (40-13) at 9:30 a.m. today with lefty Hunter Barco (9-2, 4.04 ERA) getting the start for the Gators. If they win, they face the winner of Alabama-Tennessee Thursday. If the Gators lose tomorrow, they face the loser of the Alabama-Tennessee game Thursday morning.
A COUPLE OF THINGS THAT MAKE ME GO HMMM …
1. At some point during the summer, the Supreme Court of the United States will issue its ruling that will determine if scholarship athletes are employees of the university they attend. When the Supreme Court heard arguments back in March, attorneys for a group of athletes held that by the NCAA limiting them to a scholarship that includes tuition, room and board and cost or attendance, the NCAA is illegally capping the money schools can spend on athletes, therefore eliminating competition for their particular skills. Previously, there was a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board that called scholarship athletes at Northwestern employees of the school.
At the hearing in March, it seemed that the Supreme Court was leaning toward agreeing with the NLRB. Should they rule this way, it would seem that scholarships and cost of attendance stipends are taxable income. If that’s the case, an athlete whose scholarship is valued at $75,000 would be responsible for something in the neighborhood of $19,000 in taxes
If athletes are ruled to be employees and they are given tax exempt status, I can only imagine the lawsuits that will follow.
2. The new transfer legislation that has basically made college athletes free agents and name, image, likeness (NLI) have the potential to be a real Pandora’s Box for the NCAA in more ways than one. Already a number of coaches are of the opinion that the transfer legislation has opened the door for tampering and this is before NLI goes into effect where athletes can negotiate deals and be compensated for endorsements. Once NLI becomes universal, what will stop boosters or unscrupulous coaches from approaching a kid on scholarship at another school and offering cash, cars or whatever if the athlete will transfer?
Is it my imagination or has NCAA president Mark Emmert been biting his tongue about this possibility?
3. In 2019, Major League Baseball players hit for a .252 average. At their current rate, they will average less than .240 in 2021 and for the 13th consecutive season they will set a record for strikeouts. A couple of weeks ago I asked 11-year Major Leaguer and Gainesville resident Rick Reichardt why there are so many strikeouts. He theorized that it has everything to do with velocity. The Washington Post reports the average Major League fast ball for 2019 was an 93.1 miles per hour.
“When I played you may have three or four pitchers on a team who could routinely throw in the 90s,” Reichardt said. “Nowadays, you have entire pitching staffs where everyone can throw in the 90s. And, you don’t see complete games anymore. Managers pay attention to the radar gun and as soon as they see the velocity slowing down, they bring in a guy who can throw in the 90s and they might bring in five or six guys just about every night.
“It’s even that way in college. You go to a college game and everyone is throwing in the 90s. Strikeouts are up, batting averages are down.”
At least one minor league is experimenting with moving the pitcher’s mound back one foot as a way to cut down on strikeouts and get more offense in the game. I think a better idea would be to reduce the strike zone a few inches. It’s been done before and each time the change has resulted in more runs scored.
STEVE SPURRIER ON FACILITIES
Back when Steve Spurrier was the football coach at Florida, the higher ups told him he didn’t need an indoor practice field or good facilities. It’s Florida, they argued. When he got to South Carolina, Spurrier was a driving force in the upgrading of football facilities, going so far as donating a chunk of money to the indoor practice field named after Steve and Jerri Spurrier. Speaking to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic, Spurrier talked about the importance of upgraded facilities:
“I think it’s just the way it is for college football because schools bring in so much money from the sport of football. I heard someone say that South Carolina’s building is about the fifth-best in the nation. My son Steve Jr. was up there about two weeks ago, and when he was there he toured the building and he said, ‘Man, you can’t believe this place they’ve got at South Carolina.” I said, “Oh, I’ve been up there.’ He was really bragging on how facility-wise they are right up there with the best in the nation. There’s no excuse on facilities now, that’s for sure. When I got there, I think (then athletics director) Eric Hyman said the only school we are ahead of is Vanderbilt in facilities. It’s not everything, but I think it is important. Down here at Florida, we’re building a big, big building similar to the one at South Carolina now. You’ve got to keep up.”
BOBBY BOWDEN ON FSU TURNING DOWN THE SEC
Back in 1991, Florida State was being courted by SEC commissioner Roy Kramer, who had the go-ahead from the 10 presidents and athletic directors of the Southeastern Conference to expand. FSU turned the SEC down, which led to South Carolina joining Arkansas to expand the league to 12 teams. Speaking to Brandon Marcello of 247Sports, Bowden explained the decision to say no.
“They did want us, they did invite us to join the SEC. Everybody thought we would join. In fact, I thought we would but our administration – the president and others – wanted the ACC, which really was better for us. It would have been hard wading through that SEC. Too many good teams in there, boy. Oh, gosh, Oh that would have been some great ball.”
From the standpoint of winning conference championships and being in the yearly hunt for the national championship, the move to the ACC was a good one for FSU. From a financial standpoint, it’s a disaster. The ACC just distributed $30 million for the first time to its member schools. The SEC will be distributing between $46-50 million the next two years before the new ESPN contract kicks in, which will increase the yearly distribution by at least $20 million per team.
OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC Alabama: The Crimson Tide (30-22) got a first round win over South Carolina at the SEC Baseball Tournament. They face 4th-seeded Tennessee (42-14) today in a game that could determine if Alabama makes it to the NCAA Tournament. As of Monday, D1Baseball.com had Alabama among its first five out.
Arkansas: Arkansas will throw lefty Lael Lockhart when the No. 1 seeded Razorbacks face Georgia today in Hoover. Lockhart hasn’t pitched since May 16.
Auburn: Auburn (27-30) saw its season come to an end with a 7-4 loss to Ole Miss.
Georgia: Georgia (31-23) solidified its chances to make the NCAA field with a 4-1 win over No. 9 LSU Tuesday. Georgia is currently projected the No. 3 in the Charlotte regional.
Kentucky: Barring something unfathomable, Kentucky’s baseball season has come to an end after the Wildcats (29-23) lost in the first round in Hoover to Florida.
LSU: Despite the loss to Georgia in Hoover Tuesday afternoon, the Tigers (34-22) are expected to make the NCAA field easily. D1Baseball.com projects LSU the No. 3 seed in the South Bend Regional.
Mississippi State: Lefty Christian McLeod (5-3, 3.14 ERA) is the likely starter for the 2nd-seeded Bulldogs (40-13) when they face Florida at 9:30 a.m.
Missouri: Jalen Knox, who caught 77 passes for 1,031 yards and four touchdowns in his career, is no longer with the Mizzou program. Defensive back Chris Mills and offensive lineman Mike Ruth, both career backups, are also no longer on the roster.
Ole Miss: Ole Miss (39-17) ended Auburn’s season, XX, Tuesday evening in Hoover. The Rebels will face Vanderbilt this evening on day two. Just a couple of weeks ago, Ole Miss took two out of three from the Commodores. Currently, Ole Miss is projected to be a No. 13 national seed.
South Carolina: South Carolina (33-21) is solidly in the NCAA field despite the loss to Alabama Tuesday. D1Baseball.com projects the Gamecocks the No. 2 seed in the Greenville (East Carolina) regional ... Small forward Trey Anderson is transferring to San Jose State.
Tennessee: So far, 23 football players have transferred out and four freshmen have been released from their national letters of intent.
Texas A&M: Now that Texas Tech baseball coach Tim Tadlock has been given a lifetime contract, the Aggies will be turning elsewhere to find a replacement for Rob Childress. The leading candidate at this time appears to be Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello, who has ties to the state of Texas from his days as an assistant at TCU.
Vanderbilt: Seventeen freshman football signees arrive on campus to begin classes next week.
ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: Big bad Brooks is back to his old self once again, which means he’s once again feuding with Bryson DeChambeau. Koepka was caught on video rolling his eyes and cursing DeChambeau during an interview at the PGA Championship, just the latest in their ongoing catscratch. To say Koepka and DeChambeau don’t like each other would be quite the understatement. To say it’s bad for golf would also be an understatement, particularly since Tiger Woods’ career is probably as good as over and Phil isn’t likely to go on a winning tear even after his feel good PGA win. The game needs something to spark the imagination of its fan base and there is nothing like a good old fashioned feud between two young guys who could win big and win often in the future. I know it’s supposed to be a gentleman’s game, but a little hate isn’t going to hurt.