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Calling Out Cole Figueroa

They have lost 3 of 4 games and 8 of their last 12. They have been outscored 68-53 in those last 12, including losses of 10-2 and 4-2 to Florida State.

Every baseball team slumps, so it's not surprising that after a ferocious start, the Gators (24-13, 9-6 SEC) have started playing like a middle division team. The problem is that rarely are the Gators able to win these games. It's one thing to be close and lose; sometimes one at-bat can mean the difference between a win and a loss. But it's more serious when it seems like the team has lost its way.

Baseball, like basketball, depends on rhythm. Just as a point guard can lose his stroke, a batter can lose his swing. But that point guard can keep shooting and right himself. Only in games does a batter face game pitching, and four at-bats per game is not enough to climb out of a slump. It's times like this when the pressure of a season can grind everyone down. It happens every year in baseball. There are always teams looking to make a pennant charge in July who die in September. The difference between them and the playoff teams is one player.

That's why Cole `Clemente' Figueroa needs to be The Man.

It is a dangerous thing calling out the best player on the team. But I'm also a member of a fan base that booed Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, so it's easy for me. The point I'm making is that just being the best isn't good enough. Figueroa has flashes of greatness (I want to rename him `Clemente' for good reason) but it takes an extra level. Jeter has it Rodriguez doesn't. Does Figueroa have it? Maybe. From the FSU box score on April 15.

Florida 4th - Figueroa walked (3-1). Figueroa stole second. Adams struck out looking (3-2). Figueroa out at third c to 3b, caught stealing. Barber singled to left field (3-1). Townsend struck out swinging (2-2). 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 LOB.

He reached base with a walk, stole his way into scoring position, then was caught stealing. Obviously, he (or whoever gave the steal sign, running from 2nd on a 3-2 pitch is not always suggested) didn't know Barber would single. And he's 14 of 17 on stolen base attempts. The kid can hit for average (.343), power (.543 SLG%), and get on base (.413 OB%). He's getting better defensively too. (He still needs to square to the ball and set his feet though.) But he needs an inning like that in every inning. Florida does not have the horses to hang with FSU or Miami. But they got a Triple Crown winner (that's a horse not a baseball analogy) playing shortstop. Figueroa needs to be at his best all the time if Florida wants to clinch a NCAA bid.