The Back Nine: Alonso put in the work at UF, O’Sullivan says

New York Mets' Pete Alonso in action during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Back Nine comes at you after a few days of vacation where you got up in the morning and didn’t start sweating until, well, until you sat in the sun with a jacket on and even then it wasn’t much. Sigh. I already miss the mountains.

10. I can’t imagine what life is like right now for Peter Alonso. The former UF slugger — and current Met — is on an incredible roll, already breaking the team rookie record for homers. And we thought it was going to be Tim Tebow who would take the Big Apple by storm. Alonso was a great player at Florida, but injuries (broken hand, broken foot, broken nose) slowed him down just a little. As good as he was, who could have seen this coming? “I don’t know if anybody could see this coming,” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “I don’t think the Mets could have seen it coming or anyone in the baseball world because if they did, he would have been the first player taken overall in the draft.” Alonso hit 23 homers in 157 games as a Gator and already had 27 in 77 games with the Mets going into Monday night. “Our season is shorter and you get into a three-week rut and that’s a big part of the season,” O’Sullivan said. “And the hitting tool comes before the power tool. I’ll say this about Pete, he was one of those hitters where everybody stopped what they were doing to watch when he came to the plate. He and Mike Zunino were the naturally strongest guys I ever coached and Pete was one of the hardest workers I ever coached. He was always in full-body sweat.”

11. O’Sullivan is hard at work getting ready for next season with what will likely be the No. 2-ranked recruiting class (even after losing some players to the MLB draft) behind Vanderbilt. The Florida coach has mixed emotions watching this College World Series because he was on the same staff at Clemson with Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin and Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “I’m intrigued by it and happy for both of those guys,” he said. “But it’s not easy watching it at home with my little guy (6-year-old Finn) wanting to know why we aren’t out there. It’s painful. After regionals, he wanted to know why the season was so short. I had to tell him we didn’t play well enough.” Both coaches still alive in Omaha in the finals gave impassioned pleas for a third assistant coach after it was struck down by the NCAA (thanks to the Big Ten and Big 12) earlier this year. The issue has been front and center and the hope is that by shedding more light on it there could be a vote again before the two-year wait. “It’s an embarrassing moment for our sport,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s nonsense.”

12. It’s a dead week for football recruiting, which means you may see your favorite coach water skiing or drinking a fruity cocktail by a pool. Many of them are taking a rare week off. But before it started, Florida built some more momentum on the recruiting front with some commitments over the weekend, and according to 24/7 Sports, the Gators right now have the eighth best class, for what it’s worth. But that only puts them fourth in this crazy conference, mainly because the three schools ahead of UF — Alabama, LSU and Georgia — have a combined six players with five-star rankings and Dan Mullen is still waiting for his first. There are 13 five-stars who have committed and five of them are Clemson’s. According to that site, there are 29 five-stars, if you believe in those rankings. I just know Florida feels really good about what is going on with recruiting and I’ve not felt this confident in a decade that this staff and Nick Savage can develop those players no matter how many stars they have.

13. Those of you who felt Jimbo Fisher sold his soul with his constant defense and coddling of Jameis Winston and that it would eventually come back to bite him should read the story Matt Hayes wrote about that very thing. You may have been right all along. I wasn’t very impressed with the job Willie Taggart did in his first season and especially the lack of discipline his team showed on the field. But it’s pretty clear he inherited a mess.

14. Oh, did I mention my Braves are playing at a high level, even though it feels inevitable that they will have playoff failure if they don’t do something about their bullpen? It’s a fun lineup to watch, which seems to be the way teams are being structured these days. Everyone throws 95 mph and the good teams have six or seven guys who can turn that heater around and launch it into the stands. For example, take the Marlins. Please. They have given up 41 fewer runs than the Braves and trail Atlanta by 15 games. Pitching almost feels like a luxury these days.

15. There is nothing quite as confusing as watching the NBA draft with the sound off at a microbrewery. So says I. Because I did. And I don’t understand why the NBA sends young men up to the podium sporting the hats of the teams that drafted them for another team because of a trade or trades. Did you get drafted by the Lakers? Not really. Then why is your picture in the paper with a Lakers hat on? Just dummy. And because we are in the total dregs of the summer sports-wise (and this is embarrassing), I also watched the third round of the NHL draft in a tavern with the sound off. But I knew what was going on because the players actually wore the jersey of the team they were going to play for. What a novel idea. Here’s another idea — quit spending so much time in bars.

16. One thing that stood out to me about the NBA draft was that it showed how much better the talent is in the SEC. There were 12 players taken and you could probably take a roster of the players who declared and weren’t drafted and win a lot of Power Five conference titles. Just three years ago, there were only six players taken in the draft and two years ago there were only four players selected. The conference just keeps getting better and it will be brutal next year.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from SEC Network budding star Brandon Zimmerman (A Gainesville Sun alumn) — “With the dismissal of WR Jeremiah Holloman on Friday, Georgia will now enter the 2019 season having lost its top five pass catchers from last season — Ridley, Hardman, Nauta, Holloman, Godwin.” That was a stunner last week when Holloman — who killed Florida with two TD catches last year including the eventual game-winner — was booted from the team for an incident that occurred in spring 2018.

18. We spent four days in Asheville, N.C., which was different to say the least of only for their love of craft beer (try the Cloud Nine at Pack’s Tavern) for the wedding of my wife’s brother’s stepdaughter (congrats to Robbie and Carly). It was a blast, especially the weather, and I got a song out of it for this week’s playlist. There is no truth to the rumor that I did the “Robot” on the dance floor to a Jackson Five song:

• “Until I Get There” by Lucius, which was the first song of the ceremony and made me seek out the groom to get it for my playlist.

• “Bored and Razed” by The Raconteurs (so cool that they got together for another album).

• Molly Parden’s version of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” with Hollow Hum.

• “Right As Rain” by Collective Soul.

• And for an old one, the last song of the wedding (not including the dueling alma maters of North Carolina and Florida), “Carolina In My Mind” by James Taylor.

— Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at


  1. After reading Matt Hayes story on the FSU program, I couldn’t help but see the similarities to when Meyer left UF. Here’s hoping that the Noles missed on the coaching hire as much as we did. Another 10-50 years of mediocrity from them would be a great thing 😁

  2. After watching Winston make an A$$ of himself in Tallacrappy, it pi$$ed me off when the Bucs drafted him because I knew he would repeat his behavior in Tampa, and he did. At 21 – 33 for wins and losses, he has come short of winning the division. Bucs should have traded the #1 pick or should have taken Mariotta. I wanted the pick traded. What a waste.

  3. Strange the semis are trying to blame all their academic problems on Jivazz and Jimbo considering the “just keep them eligible” mentality goes back to Bowden, under whom the program was repeatedly caught in academic scandals and put on probation. Let’s not forget, either, that Jimbo was brought in as “coach in waiting” to train under Booby and learn the Way of the Boob– and that Bowden alway treated the players like mercenaries who existed only to serve him.

    Blobby cared so little for the players he never even bothered to learn most of their names, just calling them by their numbers. When this was revealed along with suggestions that maybe he was going senile, he bragged that he actually bragged that never bothered to learn player names throughout his tainted career.

    Nah. The corruption at FSU goes much deeper than Jimbo. The biggest crook in Tallahasse is Thrasher.

  4. The similarities between how Meyer left the Gator program and how Fisher left the Semi program are spooky. Both ran away from dumpster fires of their own making after bringing NCs to both programs (Meyer brought us two!)

    There will also be similarities between the patience the Gators showed the Chump and the patience the Semis WILL HAVE TO show Taggart. Putting out a dumpster fire will take more than a couple of seasons, even when recruiting well, which Taggart has, sort of.

    Taggart reminds me of the Chump in SOOO many ways. He recruits well all positions except OL and QB (what’s with that?) And he hires assistants who have no clue of how to teach disciplined play on the field. Remember all the stupid personal foul and false start penalties Chump’s Gators used to draw? Ditto for Taggart’s Semis last season!

    So, CDM will most likely get at least three more seasons to lock the Gators’ iron grip on the title of #1 football program in the State of Florida. After that, look for the Semis to go shopping for a new HBC.

    GO GATORS!!!

    • Good analysis between you and Sparky — I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

      I’m just glad FSU didn’t hire Charley Strong, who I consider one of the best coaches on the block. Nothing against Willie Taggart personally, but he was a curious choice in my book.

      • Amen to that 6! Coach Strong is BOTH a great recruiter and disciplinarian. He wouldn’t have tolerated the nonsense that went on all last season in Tally.

        And here’s the thing, discipline starts at the top. Spurrier’s teams were barely disciplined, but they overwhelmed defenses with a very organized Fun-and-Gun O. The Zooker’s teams had neither discipline nor organized offense. Meyers’ teams were both disciplined and organized. The Chump’s teams were neither disciplined nor organized. Ditto for McElwhiner’s. There’s a pattern there.

        So, I don’t expect discipline to improve in Tally as long as Taggart is there. He just doesn’t have it in him. That won’t match up well against CDM’s very disciplined and organized squads.

        The Noles owe us a few wins, so revenge will be very sweet.

        • On paper, Taggart is a very average head coach. Yes, I know all the stuff about him being a “rebuilder” and all, and yes, on paper Orgeron at LSU was of the same profile as far on W-L records…..but damn, if it came down between choosing between the two of them, I’d choose that crazy cajun every day and twice on Sunday. Given the talent available to LSU, it’s hard to say he didn’t have it in him all along. Again, nothing against Taggart personally but I would be hard pressed to say the same about his prospects at FSU. I don’t hope at all that I’m wrong about that, given that we’re talking about FSU here.

          But the fact still remains that Strong would have done great at FSU and either he was offered the job and turned it down because he’s too smart to take it, or else FSU is dumber than even I think and didn’t offer in the first place based on him being fired at Texas. He actually IS a disciplinarian, as you pointed out, for which he simply wasn’t given enough time to right the ship there, and also despite Austin being the San Francisco of Texas it really didn’t go over with the Longhorn boosters that he’s married to a white woman. I don’t always call ’em right, but I sure as hell predicted that one from jump street.