(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.
Talk about down to the wire. When I was finally able to breathe at the end of the World Series I could not have been happier if the Rays had won. Of course, I have read about the curse and jinxes finally being banished. For me it was about the win for Maddon. After all it was he who gave us all the excitement and hope and belief that maybe just maybe we could bring it home. I hated to see him leave us but was happy for the move to Chicago and the legal cleverness that allowed him to do so was amazing.
I cheered, I cried, I wished for that moment and those moments that would come in the next few days that I was in Chicago. Once again one of ours goes elsewhere for the big celebration.
Maddon gave most of Tampa Bay something to cheer about during the series. So did Ben Zobrist and Brandon Guyer and Mike Montgomery. Rays' fans have long accepted that their big-money players are going to go elsewhere.
Content beyond this point is for members only.
Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the GarySheltonSports.com blog (its at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!
Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on GarySheltonSports.com.
Joe was good to a lot of people around here. He helped turn the culture around. I don't think most people resent him for leaving, I really don't. If you can make a lot more money and have better tools to do your job, I think most of us would have left.
Baseball is a game that invites you to guess along with the manager. So we can debate if he should have used Aroldis Chapman too much in Game Six or if he used Kyle Hendricks too little in Game Seven. That's fair.
I counted the other day. According to baseball reference, the Cubs had 65 managers since winning their last World Series. Want to bet any of them get a statue? I'll bet Joe will.
In 1960 Minnesota played 10 games to become the #1 rated college football team. In 2015 Alabama played 15 games to become the #1 rated college football team.
In 1960 Philadelphia played 13 games to become the NFL champion. In 2015 Denver played 19 games to become the NFL champion.
So do you think college and NFL football is better or worse with the 50% increase in games played?
I think football is better these days, but it isn't because of the length of the season. That's gotten far too long, hasn't it? You can't convince me that constantly expanding the schedule is good for the game. For the wallet of the programs, yes, but not for the game. Are you telling me that the original Green Bay Packers didn't play enough games to prove themselves? The '72 Dolphins?
I think football is better now because of integration, because athletes are bigger and better, because more teams take it seriously. I like the college playoffs better than the old system of yelling it out.
But were the Steelers of '78-'79 better than those of '74-'75 because they played two more games? That's silly. If they were better, it's because their teams were older and more experienced.
I do think adding more playoff games has made it harder to win in the post-season, but that's merely a matter of attrition.
Again, if Alabama was better than the Minnesota team of 1960, it isn't because they played more games. It's because college football is a bigger business now, and developing players is a science.
Are running backs better than Jim Brown? Are quarterbacks better than Johnny Unitas. Of course not. Bigger isn't always better.
I asked Ron Jaworski once about the evolution of quarterbacks. He said it was child's play even when he played. There were only a few coverages to learn. Now, every play is a Rubik's Cube. Jim Bouton once told me that modern baseball players wouldn't just beat the players of his era; they'd destroy them.
What do you think? Is the season too long?
It's hard not to feel both pride and pain for our Rays' alums who found success on both World Series teams. Speaking of our local farm team: No WS starting pitcher went past 5 innings and some of that was due to the magnitude of the games but do you think it makes any sense for the Rays to spend more resources developing middle relievers rather than on starting pitchers (which didn't work so well for half of last season)? If you're going to burn up the bullpen, why not just carry another middle guy?
Absolutely. I'm sure Joe liked his contract, and he cashed every check. But, to me, going to a job where he could keep his Prices and Zobrists was the ultimate appeal. I think most managers are driven by winning. Now Joe is sitting at a table where money isn't the crying issue.
It had to eat at him to keep trading parts for pieces of the future. Who cares what the team has in 2021 when you compare it to winning now. Look at the Cubs and imagine how many players they wouldn't have had if they operate like the Rays. This guy makes too much money. That guy is wanted on the open market. And so forth.
Where are we finding these running backs?
Seriously: This OL line, how do you grade it overall? On the run? On the pass?
I don't know where the Bucs are finding them, but someone has to go back to the store. The Bucs lost their fourth running back in Antone Smith Thursday. Sheesh.
I have a theory. Since the devaluation of running backs, I think there are more of them than ever walking the street. A team keeps a starter and maybe a backup. It keeps a kid and special teamers. That means there are guys like Jacquizz Rodgers walking the streets, believing all they needed was a chance. A lot of times, they're right. The difference between a backup running back and an unemployed one isn't great.
The offensive line? Let's be honest, Nick. Most fans feel about their offensive line the way they feel about their team. There are no stats, so when the team is struggling, it's easy to get frustrated.
That's true of the Bucs' line, too. It still allows too many hits on Winston. It doesn't open enough gaping holes. But I think it battles. I think the guards are better than the tackles.
In the run game? I like Marpet, and Hawley is a tough guy guy. Against the pass? The tackles manage to keep the big names at bay most weeks. Too many penalties, though. And when a tackle is grabbing, it's usually because he's been beat. How about a B in the run game (a lot of backs have had success) and a C in pass protection?