The Back Nine: Tebow still big deal in minors

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Tim Tebow, playing for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, signs autographs for fans before the team's Class AA baseball game against the Erie SeaWolves on Friday, April 27, 2018, in Erie, Pa. (Jack Hanrahan/Erie Times-News via AP)

The Back Nine comes at you after a long, hot weekend where we had our air conditioning go down for four days, my car die for the weekend and the refrigerator forming glaciers in the freezer. It always happens all at once, does it not?

10. Among the many things in sports that happened on a humid weekend (did I mention the AC going out?) was Tim Tebow blasting a pair of home runs for his Double A team. He has his average up to .241, which doesn’t seem that great, but it is for him. And now he is in a series between the Binghamton Rumble Ponies and Hartford Yard Goats. I want to cover that series just to get a couple of T-shirts. Tebow continues to get better, but you don’t see too many .241 hitters in AA who cannot be interviewed after games and have two security guards at his locker. He’s still that big a deal and throughout his short minor league career fans have been flocking to these minor league parks in case he does something. He’s Elvis. Except Elvis couldn’t hit a slider. Anyway, reading about Tebow made me go and look up Florida’s offensive numbers from the national championship in 2008 just to make sure it really happened. That team was ranked in the top 20 nationally in:

• Scoring offense (4th).

• Total offense (15th)

• Turnover margin (2nd).

• Third-down conversions (8th).

• Red zone offense (9th).

I swear I’m not making this up. But after the last decade of offensive futility, a lot of you may be wondering if you dreamed of the days when the Gators were an offensive juggernaut. And the 2008 team did not even finish in the top 10 for Florida all-time in total offense. Those spots are occupied by eight Steve Spurrier teams and two other Urban Meyer teams. Sigh.

11. OK, so what’s your point, Cheetos breath? The point is that we are entering the talking season and a day will not go by without someone talking about, writing about, blogging about or tweeting about Florida and whether or not Dan Mullen can get the Gators back where they used to be. And one reason it is a bigger deal than it would be at some places is because a vast majority of Gator fans saw it, smelled it, heard it and digested it when it was happening for a really long stretch of time. And so did the media boys and girls. So it is going to be the dominant theme until SEC Media Days at the Omni in Atlanta. Then we’ll spend four days writing about all 14 coaches and then go back to wondering if Florida can be any good on offense. I have these targets. Let’s see if they can reach them:

• Total offense — top 50 (is that really asking a lot?).

• Total points — top 40 (defense, you have to help out here).

• Explosive plays (20 or more yards) — top 30.

12. Florida’s baseball team won another series this weekend, beating Texas A&M two of three which makes it 18 series in a row, a remarkable number. But let’s brush away the non-conference series wins earlier this year against bad teams such as Siena (14-28), Rhode Island (19-25) and Miami (21-25, hee-hee). Think about how difficult it is to win one series in the SEC and then come to grips with this team winning 14 of them in a row over two seasons. That’s the streak. And seven straight series wins on the road in the best conference in baseball. During that stretch of SEC games, Florida has outscored its opponents 299-173. According to my calculator, that means the average score of Florida’s last 42 regular season SEC games is 7.1 to 4.1. The Gators have their final midweek game tonight against USF before taking on Georgia this weekend. If UF makes it 15 straight SEC series win, they will clinch at least a tie for the SEC title. (By the way, the last team to beat UF in an SEC series was Tennessee last year and the Vols needed two 10-inning wins to do it).

13. Meanwhile, in the other sports of bats and balls, UF won a fourth straight SEC title in Columbia, Missouri, and then tacked on two more wins for the heck of it. Now, maybe I am the only person fascinated by this and my wife has already told me I am. Kelly Barnhill is now 25-1 and has given up more homers than the entire pitching staff did last year. The key for Barnhill — they are almost always solo homers and they rarely affect the outcome of a game. The only time she lost was when Georgia hit three in a row. So far this year, Barnhill has allowed 16 homers (Florida gave up 11 last year, five of them by Barnhill) and 13 of those homers have been solo shots. The other three were two-run homers. I don’t know. I find it amazing.

“It has been kind of weird,” Florida coach Tim Walton told The Back Nine. “I think she’s given up as many as we did in 2008 and 2009 combined (true, those two staffs allowed a total of 14). People are seeing her for the third, fourth, fifth time and there have been a lot of late-inning homers. They know they’re going to see her twice in a weekend so they are gearing up for her. She’s 25-1. Amanda Lorenz has been on base in every game we’ve played. Maybe that has something to do with it.” Or there is this UF softball stat — Florida has a pitcher who has 146 strikeouts and 14 walks this season. That would be Aleshia Ocasio. One thing for sure — Florida didn’t waste any time getting that “2018” (for another conference title) up on the wall back at the stadium. It’s already been installed.

14. The Gators, as you probably know, are stuck in Columbia awaiting their Thursday night game in the SEC Tournament, a tournament that may set records for lack of attendance. UF’s comeback win Sunday eliminated Mizzou from the 12-team field. I’m not sure why the SEC has been so Missouri-centric (SEC hoops, gymnastics and softball all staged in the state), but maybe it’s trying to get it’s obligations out of the way. I would think the conference will at least consider not going to campus sites if this turns out to be a box office disaster, but let’s at least wait until Florida gets to host in its new digs (likely 2020 for the tourney).

15. Let’s see, Thursday at The Players, who do you follow? Well, there’s this group of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler. How’s that sound? Or you could literally follow anybody else and have plenty of room to move around. Or you could do what so many fans do at this tournament and hang out on a chalet and never see a live shot (yes, I am talking about you). I’m heading over today and it feels almost like a major. But just almost. It is moving back to March because the whole concept of having a major a month never really caught on. But it is still a great event and a chance to see a ton of friends.

16. We know that the South has a major advantage in baseball, softball, golf and, well, football and beaches and weather. But women’s lacrosse is definitely a northern thing. Of the top eight seeds, seven are from North Carolina up. Then there is Florida, which is a bit of an outlier (although all eight national seeds are in the East). Mandee O’Leary has done an amazing job with a program built from scratch winning eighth straight conference titles. The Gators will try to advance in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday here in Gainesville.

17. The Tweet of the Week goes to the great columnist Dan Wolken of USA Today. To set this up, high schooler Romeo Langford’s commitment ceremony lasted longer than most sitcoms and one speaker compared the basketball player to the man who freed the slaves. So Wolken Tweeted — “One difference between Romeo Langford and Abraham Lincoln: Honest Abe was a none-and-done. No college at all. Went straight to the pros.” Langford went to Indiana.

18. So if a golfer has to have complete silence while standing over a shot, why is the trend nowadays in casual golf to have you iPhone belting out tunes while you’re lining up a wedge over a bunker? Just curious because I am guilty, too. Just the other day, I slammed this playlist:

• “Mansion Door” by Shakey Graves.

• “Mistake” by Middle Kids.

• “Good Kisser” by Lake Street Drive.

• “Thank God For Ireland” by Tyrone Wells.

• And for an old one, I went all the way back to Red Rose Speedway to find “Get On The Right Thing” by Paul McCartney and Wings.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

22 COMMENTS

  1. I keep pulling for Tebow to hit .280 to .300 with power in the lower minors. Pulling and pulling and pulling………….

    • Well at least that’s something we can agree on. Too bad you have to be the other side of “we” in this case….I keep better company than that.

        • Don’t have to, even with my limited education I know what it means.
          Do you know what the word “hypocrite” means? And by the way, this not not trolling; rather, it is giving you back some of your own medicine. For the countless times you have born false accusations against me, dragging my screen name through the mud. A screen name by the way that has more meaning to me than a piece of trash like you could understand. You’re wrong, hypocrite, and now you’re whining because I insulted you? Give me a break, little man.

          • I posted for you to stop insulting and doing what you doing if you are not a troll and carry on intelligent conversation on here. But you have consistently refused to do so and continue to insult and troll. Just getting more and more bitter and insulting instead. No collusion. No collusion. Pretense.

          • TampaGator, you are truly laughable. I will be more than happy to cease all comms with you, but you need to do one thing first: Issue a retraction.

            Do you honestly think you bear no culpability is this matter, that your’s is somehow the “high road”? Come on now, be a man. Or are you so used to getting away with it that you think you can always do it with impunity? My God, I actually feel sorry for you.

  2. Gang: I trashed Alfred Rose’s rant on UF’s graduation Saturday and race relations in this country in general. Also trashed were the replies from some on here. Not because the replies were bad, I just didn’t want to confuse others who came to read the comments later. This is a Gators sports site, a place you can express thoughts, opinions and analysis of UF sports. Other discussion not based on UF sports or content produced by our staff on this site, take it to the Lizard Lounge in our Forum page. But keep it clean and civil.
    Please follow our posted policy. As a reminder:

    At Gatorsports.com, we seek to provide visitors with a community to post questions, comments or concerns related to Florida athletics. We’re excited you’re here for the ride and we hope to provide you with a positive experience going forward.
    But we won’t tolerate malicious posts, and request all users behave in a civil and responsible manner.
    Please avoid creating any inappropriate usernames or using imagery that other users may find explicit or offensive.
    Personal attacks on members of the community will not be tolerated – remember to be respectful even in disagreement.
    Gatorsports.com reserves the right to ban, suspend or restrict access to any members believed to be in violation of this policy.

    Thanks!

    – Arnold Feliciano
    Gainesville Sun sports editor

    • Thanks. I hope your post puts an end to the personal attacks. I really get upset when people post insulting personal attacks on Franks about his intelligence and such. I have met Feliepe several times and talked to him. He is a very personable and intelligent young man with a lot of personal responsibility and respect for others. He does not deserve the insults he gets on here. But TROLLING should be a focus as well, as it ruins the civility, intelligence, and fun of posting on here.

      • Yes, and the same troll posting under 11 different screen names, holding conversations among his various personalities. Really bizarre stuff.

  3. Thanks Arnold – Mr. Rose’s rant yesterday was shocking and bizarre – now…if we can just do something about those darn trolls on here!

  4. Arnold, I believe you are, at least in part, referring to my on-going “feud” c TampaGator occasioned by his persistence in calling me a troll (TebowCurse, Mikey, Mike Winter, et al.). I have offered my actual identity for him to research if he so desires, and pointed out that as a registered member I can only have one screen name–all to no avail. And yes, finally I have become very antagonistic in my responses. Truth is, I don’t like being “that guy”, even to try to make a point. It is not in my character structure.

    Nevertheless, one would wonder why I would become so upset over something as silly and mundane as a screen name. It’s quite simple: Gator-6 was my call sign through 30+ years of active duty in the US Army, at each one of four different commands. It has a history, it has meaning, and a lot of good men have made sacrifices under it; most of all, it is personally relevant and I won’t have it continually spat upon. I am willing to end this should TampaGator ever acknowledge that he is wrong. No apology required, though it would certainly be a nice touch. Beyond that, I had a stroke 14 Feb 18 and couldn’t type for about 5-6 weeks. Still in recovery, this site has meant an awful lot to me recently…..I literally hate having that joy spoiled by persistent attacks on my name.

    • I have never attacked your name. I have consistently asked you to stop trolling on here and carry on intelligent conversation about sports. It is what I try to do. But I simply got fed up with all the trolling and personal insults on here. Hopefully, the trolling and insults will now end. Thank you.

      • You’re kidding, right? You most certainly did attack my name, buster, and continued to do it by referring to me as an alias of TebowCurse or whatever other FSU troll you can think of…..none of which is true. I think what you’re fed up with is the fact that I won’t let you get away with it, or the impunity you have enjoyed thus far. Issue a retraction, and you and I can stay out of each other’s way for eternity. Your choice, you don’t even have to apologize because I know that would be a bridge too far for your ego. Out here.

  5. Gator-6, Gatorsports enjoys what you bring to the discussion of UF sports. And, no, my reply has nothing to do with anything you have done. It was just Alfred Rose going off on a race rant. He’s correct about this site not being the platform for it.
    And as far as the “trolls” go, they have been informed about our policy. It won’t take much more to get removed.
    We appreciate all coming to the site and sharing info, ideas, thoughts and just being fans about Gator sports. Keep the discussions moving forward. But keep name-calling, racist or other improper comments off here.
    And thank you for your service, Gator-6.

  6. No doubt we are all passionate about sports, especially for the Gators. However, commentary should never lead to attacks. It happens way too often. Thank you Arnold for reiterating the policy. It is sad that you have to but some feel empowered behind a screen. Hopefully everyone self assesses and cleans things up. Otherwise get rid of the comments section.

  7. Hey Dooley the band’s name is Lake Street DIVE not Drive, a common mistake but you should get it right if you really like them. I do.
    Hey TampaGator I have dealt with Gator-6 in the past on this forum and I can tell you he ain’t no troll he is Orange and Blue to the core and seems like a really nice fellow. For sure he’s not Mike Winter or any of his multiple personalities, that should be obvious, don’t know what you read that mad you say so,
    but just move on man.

  8. Haven’t seen much discussion of lacrosse success, but glad Pat brought it up. Almost odd that Florida has a successful lacrosse team. There is no local pipeline of talent at all. High school lacrosse across the state was very scarce, although do understand that Coach O’Leary and supporters have been reversing this, supporting local coaching talent as well as local players, both of which were very hard to find before she got here. Still very odd that she has had so much success. Many of the best teams in the country rely on the local talent that they have in their backyard. This explains why so many top lacrosse teams are in the northeast, schools like Stony Brook, Towson, Navy, Maryland, and other schools whose athletic programs may or may not ring a bell. Really amazing job that she did building the program in what had been a lacrosse desert. Does seem like she’s following in the tracks of Coach Burleigh, who built a national program in a league that just didn’t get soccer, in a state that didn’t play much high level soccer at the high school level at the time the UF soccer program started back in the 90s. Very amazing job considering that she has to do so much to represent the sport itself around the state, and go out to find the best kids to play here.

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