The Silver Lining: “Failure” is not a dirty word

By Adam Silverstein
June 19, 2012

It appears to be difficult for some to say these words but considering they are neither profane nor mendacious, they will be published right here: Florida baseball failed.

It really is as simple as that.

“Failure” is not a dirty word or an insult to effort. It is a factual result.

When someone or something does not meet a set objective – in the Gators’ case that was bringing home the program’s first national championship (read: title or bust) – they failed in their mission. That’s what happened on Monday – whether you like it or not.

“Failure” a word you use to describe a circumstance such as when the most talented and consensus No. 1-ranked team in the country for the preseason, much of the regular season and heading into the postseason not only gets swept out of the College World Series in two games but also falls short of capturing either their conference regular season or tournament crowns in the same year.

It is how you characterize a season that was supposed to change the shape of the program forever (making national titles an expectation, not an aspiration) but instead provided yet another depressing memory on the sport’s biggest stage.

Florida’s junior class has done a lot of great things for the program, but it did not transform it. UF had advanced to the CWS and lost on numerous occasions before they ever committed to the team. Their challenge was to win the program’s first national championship. That’s not a challenge conquered, it is one that remains unobtained.

None of this is to say the Gators did not have a nice season but since when is success determined in Gainesville, FL by anything other than conference and national titles?

Florida won 47 games this year, swept Florida State and Miami, and was dominant both through their first 21 games (20-1) as well as in Gainesville Regional and Super Regional action (5-0) to earn a spot in the CWS.

But UF also concluded the regular season on a 20-15 stretch, lost the SEC Tournament by imploding in the ninth inning (giving up five runs with a 4-3 lead against Vanderbilt) and had the rug pulled out from under them in their first two CWS games.

Gators fans have seen other teams fail at the mountaintop this athletic season. Florida gymnastics came within 0.075 points of a national title and lacrosse came within two stick checks of one as well. That’s what happens sometimes. One team wins; the rest lose. One succeeds; the rest fail. There are no participation medals at this level.

UF baseball never got the chance to suffer a heartbreaking loss like those two programs. South Carolina owned them in the CWS opener Saturday, and Kent State capitalized on every single opportunity that was presented to them on Monday.

Question head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s decisions over the two games all you want. Would the Gators have maintained their lead against South Carolina if he pulled junior left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson before he imploded in the fifth inning on Saturday? If he left Johnson in to bat in the top of the ninth with two on and no one out on Monday, would he have hit into a double play or tied/won the game for Florida? What if he went with his ace all season long, junior righty Hudson Randall, in the opening contest – a 9 p.m. night game that he would not have left early due to heat-related symptoms?

Decisions have to be made in sports – in the dugout, on the bench, on the field and on the court. You never know if they’re right or wrong until after you make them and by then it is too late to go back and change your mind.

Give this team credit though: The Gators fought hard until the final pitch of the game.

Florida had their opportunities to save their season on Monday. The Gators had six of nine lead-off hitters get on base including three-straight to end the game but struggled mightily both with runners on the bags and those in scoring position.

UF committed early errors, lost their starter due to a health issue and saw his replacement give up eight hits and throw two wild pitches, the latter of which scored what wound up being the game-deciding run in the fourth inning. Yet Florida’s bullpen was stellar down the stretch and gave the Gators a chance to get back in the game.

Florida was also dealt their share of bad luck in addition to the aforementioned issue with Randall. UF may have been the top-ranked team, but they also found themselves in the toughest bracket and opened the CWS against the two-time defending national champions. The Gators saw home runs fall as fly outs, line drives get caught by diving Golden Flashes and obvious balls get called as strikes at home plate.

But that’s how it goes. Them’s the breaks

Sometimes the ball rockets out of the park; sometimes the wind forces it back a foot. Sometimes the umpire sees a call as clear as day; sometimes you wonder if he’s watching another game entirely. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose.

Sometimes you succeed; sometimes you fail.

That’s how baseball works.

That’s how sports goes.

That’s life.


  1. John S says:

    I’m very proud of our baseball team. I do believe we were the most talented team, but baseball is not a sport that always rewards the most talented team. If it did the damn Yankee’s would win every series, and my beloved Cardinals would have stayed home last October. I know we all got our hopes up with the hype, but sweeping FSU and Miami is a rare thing. FSU has been to this event what 28 times? Never won a championship. Everything needs to go your way, and coaching decisions are just gambles at this level.

    Let’s look forward to next year, and love baseball for the mystery it can sometimes be.

  2. Gary says:

    I can’t quite put my finger on it but, all year long, this team seemed flawed somehow. Time after time they had the chance to put their collective boot on the other team’s neck and finish them only to have what happened in the SEC tourney with Vandy and the melt down by Ramjet and Johnson against South Carolina in the CWS.

    They were the better team all year long but time and again just seemed unable to seal the deal when push came to shove (#platitudes)

    My only hope is a situation in the coming years of addition by subtraction and a grittier bunch that can break through. I love this team, these guys and am sad to see them go but, Florida needs a baseball championship desperately.

  3. Ken (CA) says:

    I didn’t think it was title or bust, just because of the flukes in baseball that can happen on any given day, although i thought that the field and the brackets did sit up very well for them. It was the 0-2 exit and the way they exited that got me so angry. For a team that mostly had been there before getting to the title game last year, it seems like the freshmen and Zunino were about the only ones that actually showed up in Omaha to play.

  4. Bob says:

    As I’ve said in my Twitter posts, my take on the whole CWS was the culmination of the guys simply putting too much pressure on themselves in order to live up to the pre-season, season and post-season hype by the media and the expectations of the fans….myself included. All of our errors were merely a result of being either over-anxious, over-zealous or over-exposed. We still (and always will) love our Gators. It’s just hard to watch other teams give US the chomp. And…… year, please Coach Sullivan and Mr. Trainer: HYDRATE THE BOYS “BEFORE” the H2O deficit occurs….by then, it’s too late. Being from Florida…this should be a known fact. It’s really way too ironic that the birthplace of GatorAde watched one of its own become dehydrated !!! omg

  5. Mr2Bits says:

    It all comes down to coaching and player management. I have heard from many people that Sully has put ridiculous amounts of pressures on these players that has driven the team apart. Many of these players do not agree with his managing scared tactics and the lack of cohesiveness has been clearly translated to the field. It is also well known that many of the players are glad the season is over because of this. While I think coaching has allot to do with our failure, I also blame the administration for this situation. They have laced his contract with incentive bonuses for getting to and wining CWS games. With such large sums of money (his salary is not that big) on the line, he manages scared. He leaves players in too long and pulls players too soon when they are pitching well. So while its the players job at the end of the day to get the W, it certainly is a hard thing to do knowing the world will come crashing down on them if they fail.

    • Gatorgrad79 says:

      I love our team and respect our coaches, but the Sully tirades are legend, and words have an impact and color subsequent behavior. A team that is supported in every way while at the same time are demanded to give their best and play unselfishly will often have a chemistry and dynamic that produces results greater than their talent would portend. An underachieving team usually has issues that ripple just below the surface, no matter what it appears to be outwardly.

      • Mr2Bits says:

        This is not an off the cuff rant post loss. If you look at my past post in regards to baseball, I warned everyone of these coach and player divides and was not even expecting to get past supers. It was evident when we started getting injured the 1st third of the season and players started to struggle. I have heard that a pep-talk from Sully is him asking a player what the F*&^ they are thinking while he continues to belittle them mid-game and in front of other players. End of story is he is a great recruiter but terrible game manager and even worse players coach.

        Baseball, unlike football is much more mental. You can’t encourage players to perform well in baseball by yelling at them and getting in their faces like football. Sully has yet to remember he is in McKethan and not Ben Hill!

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