USA Today ranked the next Hall of Famer for every team. The Rays' representative was Evan Longoria, although the website said he needed “four or five” more productive seasons. Still, the website pointed out the considerable distance between Longoria and the next guy.

– Maybe it's just me, but I'd have Fred McGriff first. But while steroid abusers return to favor (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens), it casts a larger shadow over Fred's career.

– My hero, Miami Herald sports columnist Edwin Pope, died Friday at age 88. Loved the guy, and loved our moments on the road. One of them? In Buffalo one year, Edwin grinned conspiratorially at me. "I got 12 tall boys under my feet," he said, "And one of them's for you!" Not being a drinker, I just watched Edwin get happier. I'll miss you, buddy.

– According to USA Today, the No. 1 landing spot for Adrian Peterson is Tampa Bay. Kind of makes you sad it isn't 2007 anymore, huh?

–  If you want a way to think of the Lighting's loss to Phoenix Saturday night, it was as if the team lost to the Cleveland Browns of the NHL. I think Johnny Manziel scored twice.

– If there was such a thing as a voting do-over, how many would vote for Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich over Donald Trump?

– Gaylord Perry, who cheated, has no problem with Barry Bonds in the Hall of Fame. He does have a problem with Pete Rose. Which I find interesting.

– Randy Moss says he could have averaged 20 points per game if he had played in the NBA. Not even with Tom Brady throwing you the ball, Randy.

– I see where NFL.com is calling Aaron Rodgers "the Magic Man." I thought that was Don Majkowski, which is a terrible thing to say about Rodgers.

– The new Spring League wants Johnny Manziel, Ray Rice and Vince Young. But they draw the line at Josh Freeman.

– Cris Carter, provin he might have taken too many blows to the helmet, says the Cowboys should trade aging backup quarterback Tony Romo for J.J. Watt. For crying out loud. You couldn't get former Oklahoma quarterback J.C. Watts for Romo. While the Cowboys are at it, perhaps they should try to trade Don Meredith for Khalil Mack.

– Ranking the “whew!” factor of the Tampa Bay Bucs, of guys they tried to obtain but failed. 1. Albert Haynesworth (although he ended up playing here anyway, albeit without the millions), 2. Jay Cutler, 3. Chip Kelly, 4. Jeff Fisher, 5. Socrates Babacas.

– Hey, the Cowboys lost. Isn't it time for Fox to hit the mute button on Skip Bayless?

– I know Jerry “Dirty” Rice is getting grief for endorsing Popeyes, including wearing a helmet with a rotating chicken wing on the face mask. On the other hand, I'll take a three-piece right now. Extra spicy.

– I don't know about you, but I'm really looking forward to see the nothing that the Rays got for Mike Mahtook play.

– One of the prop bets available for today's NFC title game: It will be 2:21 when Phil Simms first says “...we talked about” on the broadcast. I'm betting the under.

– A reason that Tom Coughlin, about to turn 71, should keep Monte Kiffin, 76, on his staff. Someone has to join him for the early-bird special.

– Ricky Williams was stopped while walking in Dallas by police and patted down. The surprise? He didn't have any pot on him.

– Before you debate whether Penny Hardaway deserves to be in the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame, address this: There's an Orlando Magic Hall of Fame?

– If you want to point to a single dunderhead move that doomed Colts' general manager Ryan Grigson, think back to the trade for Trent Richardson. Richardson had already proven he was a bust with Cleveland, but Grigson sent a No. 1 pick to Cleveland for him. It was the kind of I'm-smarter-than-you-move that wrecks careers, and it wrecked Grigson's.

– Hey, not even Mark Dominik wanted Richardson.

– If Barry Bonds does get into the Hall of Fame, isn't the guy who carves the faces on the plaques going to need more time to whittle that skull?

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(Each week, the readers take over GarySheltonsports.com and play Ask Gary. They send in a question, or a couple, on Thursday night or Friday morning and we all talk about the world of sports.  Think of it as a radio show where you don't have to be on hold. Join us and ask a question, make a comment or be funny. Send the questions to GarySheltonsports@gmail.com.)

Saturday, 4 a.m.

The Rays trade of Mikie Mahtook this week puts on exclamation point on the epic fail of their 2011 draft when they had 10 of the first 60 picks and apparently whiffed on the entire draft. A financially challenged franchise like the Rays, that has no hope of competing for top free agents, has to be better at drafting and developing their own talent. The St. Louis Cardinals are well known for their great farm system and they are one of the most successful franchises in baseball year after year. Shouldn’t the Rays copy some of their techniques or hire away some of their personnel? This franchise will never be competitive if they continue to fail at developing young players other than pitchers. Have they made any significant changes to address this obvious weakness?

Larry Beller

The Rays have done a lot of shuffling with their front office, but who knows how effective it will be?

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Memories of the best conference championships

by Gary Shelton on January 20, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

Start with this: There are twice as many conference championship games as Super Bowls.

Naturally, there are twice as many golden memories.

Keep that in mind as you watch this weekend's Conference Title Games. Often, these are the games you are going to remember as much as that dance in the confetti. The Super Bowl, until recently, has been without drama.

But the conference title games? They're often classics, a drama played out beneath the goalposts.

And the best memories?

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Harding-Kerrigan was the best scandal ever

by Gary Shelton on January 19, 2017 · 1 comment

in general

Thursday, 4 a.m.

It was just supposed to a long weekend away from the sports that mattered. That's all.

No deadlines. No headaches. No football.

No news.

Okay, okay. It wasn't the geographic holiday you might have imagined. It was snowing, and it was in Detroit and it was, for crying out loud, figure skating. You could empty out a small snow globe, and you could put everything I knew about figure skating inside it, and you'd still have room for the Detroit skyline.

To be honest, I was here because of a threat. In those days, there was a list of criteria for writers covering the Olympics – I covered my first Winter Games that year -- and one of the items on the list was covering the Nationals. So the USOC held it over our heads to cover events like these. Besides, the Bucs didn't make the playoffs that year. Or any year in recent memory. It was a lot like, well, now.

So I meandered into Detroit slowly. I wasn't down to write the next day. The office wanted a couple of soft feature stories, just to show I was there. I remember I stopped at a book store on the way in.

I got to Cobo Arena, and I grinned at a couple of friends. Five minutes later — no more, I don't even think I had pulled my laptop from the backpack, when a reporter rushed breathlessly into the arena.

“There has been an attack,” she said.

And all hell broke loose.

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Where do the Bucs need to get better this off-season?

January 18, 2017 general

Wednesday, 4 a.m. For a team on the cusp of playing extra games, the Tampa Bay Bucs need to put out a sign. Help wanted. Despite the presence of Jameis Winston and Mike Evans, Kwon Alexander and Brent Grimes, this is not a team that will make it with just a little age. There are […]

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Lightning again dares you to believe. Should you?

January 17, 2017 general

Tuesday, 4 a.m. They teased you again Monday afternoon. Once again, they looked like a hockey team. For the briefest of time, they made you think the season was not yet over. As a holiday special, they beat the Kings on Martin Luther King Day, and in so doing, they looked good enough for the […]

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Bucs hope for a dynamic duo with Koetter-Smith

January 16, 2017 general

Monday, 4 a.m. The best heroes have sidekicks. The Lone Ranger had Tonto. Batman had Robin. Sherlock Holmes had Watson. Laurel had Hardy. And so it goes. Coaches are like that, too. Oh, the head guy gets most of the credit, because that’s the way we are. We like to throw confetti on one guy. […]

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Random thoughts: Who are these NFL coaches?

January 15, 2017 general

Sunday, 4 a.m. Anthony Lynn? Doug Marrone? Vance Johnson? Sean McVay? That settles it. The NFL has run out of coaches. – If you think there are too many NFL teams in the playoffs, be reminded. When I was a boy and loved the Baltimore Colts, the team was undefeated going into the last game […]

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Ask Gary: Can Los Angeles support two NFL teams?

January 14, 2017 general

(Each week, the readers take over GarySheltonsports.com and play Ask Gary. They send in a question, or a couple, on Thursday night or Friday morning and we all talk about the world of sports.  Think of it as a radio show where you don’t have to be on hold. Join us and ask a question, make a comment […]

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Lightning cannot maintain success once again

January 14, 2017 general

Saturday, 3 a.m. One step up, a few steps back. Again. The Tampa Bay Lightning continued their season-long disappointment Friday night, losing a 3-1 game to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Bolts found some early energy because of the jersey retirement of Marty St. Louis. But St. Louis might have helped the team more if […]

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