Ask Gary: Which league has evolved the most?

by Gary Shelton on April 30, 2016 · 4 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Rays

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Saturday, 6 a.m.

In the years that you have been a sports writer, which professional game has changed the most - NBA, NHL, MLB, or NFL?

Scott Myers

Interesting question. My quick answer would be college basketball, which has changed the game with the three-point line and with early NBA departures. But that wasn't one of your choices, was it?

So I'm going to go with the NFL, where the game is so much more in the hands of the quarterback. Running backs rarely go in the first round anymore because every change seems to favor quarterbacks. They can throw the ball out of bounds now to avoid a sack. Offensive linemen can use their hands.

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Also changing: No one knows what a legal catch is anymore, and kickers are endangered.

Baseball almost never changes. Even the DH has been around since 1973, which is 43 years. Only those cookie-cutter domes have changed.

The NBA has changed its style of play from the center to the point guard. I wonder how a Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain would affect the game these days.

Will the Lightning sign Vinny to a one-day contract so he can retire as a Bolt, and so we can see him one more time in a TB Lightning jersey?

Cecil DeBald

I hope so. Most of the time, I don't like the one-day contract deal. It can be staged and contrived.

But I like Vinny Lecavalier, although I gave him an awful time early in his career. I never thought he got the most out of his ability. If you gathered all the all-stars in the league, and told them to figure out who sat at the head of the table, he never would have wanted it. But he had that kind of talent.

Look, Lecavalier left Tampa Bay because he priced himself off of the roster. But he never asked for that money. That was Oren Koules trying to make a p.r. statement.

Lecavalier was a caring guy. His charity work was especially impressive. Yeah, I'd clap one last time in appreciation.

Fifteen percent through the Rays' season. It's never too early for a Most Valuable Player and a Most Improved Player. Your choices?

Cecil DeBald

Already? Hah.

Let's see. I'd vote for Logan Forsythe as MVP so far, but I'd keep an eye on Kevin Kiermaier and, surprisingly, on Steven Souza.

The most improved player, I think, would be Alex Colome. He's saved all five of his opportunities.

I think Chris Archer would be the most disappointing, but that may have started to turn with his last start.

Ok, so the Bucs opened voluntary minicamp Tuesday. How "voluntary" is voluntary minicamp?

Cecil DeBald

What did Indigo Montoya say in the Princess Bride? "I don't think that word means what you think it means?"

There is very little voluntary about minicamps. Sometimes it's team pressure, and sometimes it's peer pressure. But if the team is sweating, everyone expects you to be there. Look at the reaction Sammy Watkins got when he missed workouts to go to a casino. Or when Ndamukong Suh missed the Dolphins camp.

A lot of it is control. A lot of it is the fear of a late-night phone call. For the most part, a team is in charge when a player is on the field.

What is the buzz around Lightning HQ? Is the team still talking to Stamkos about a new deal or are we just waiting for the official word that he is leaving?

Jim Willson

The defining characteristic about the Lightning is this: There is no buzz. There hasn't been all year.

Add in that Stamkos has spent less time at the facility -- he just started skating this week -- and Steve Yzerman is worried about the playffs, so it's understandable.

I've said it before. I spent the first half of the year confident he would be back, and the second half certain he would go. I haven't heard anything more about the team's offer. But it sure sounds like they're willing to let him go.

I like Stamkos. I admire that he's rushing as hard as he can to get in some more games with this team. But I think the Lightning undervalues him.

If you were a G.M., would you have taken a chance on Laremy Tunsil?
Jim Willson
It depends. What team? What pick?
I'm not eaten up with accusations of reefer madness. Most kids in college these days try pot. It isn't even like he tested positive at the combine, which would have shown an awful lack of judgment.
I have always had the formula that a team can't afford more than one or two guys who might make your phone ring late at night. You aren't running a halfway house. But if I had a team of decent guys, I'm not above taking a chance. With Tunsil, the problem is that no one had time to check him out.
Then there is this: If I ran the Bucs, no, I wouldn't have taken a chance on him. Because I don't need an offensive lineman. Some critics don't like Donovan Smith, but you know what? The Bucs do. I've had several conversations with Dirk Koetter about it. I think ninth in the draft is awfully high to address the position of right tackle.
Again, my problem with Tunsil isn't a two-year old video. Heck, how many players in the first round have smoked pot? A lot, I'd bet.
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Cecil DeBald May 1, 2016 at 7:20 am

Regarding the Rays MVP, Most Improved, I had in mind Erasmus as MVP and Souza and most improved just based on the first 20 games or so, but certainly love how Logan and Alex are playing great, can see those picks. Was at the game last night, great walk-off, Chris battled without his best control. Fun game to watch.

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Gary Shelton May 1, 2016 at 9:03 am

I couldn’t go against Forsythe for MVP. As far as improvement, well, Ramirez was pretty darn good last year. But you’re right. He’s played well.

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Rick Martin April 30, 2016 at 7:25 am

The popularity of the leagues is so dependent on the sports networks. I tuned in to ESPN Sportcenter the other evening to see what the NHL playoff news was and they lead off with highlights of some MLB game. Pretty disrespectful to NHL and its fans. Can you imagine ESPN hiding NFL playoff highlights in the back of their broadcasts? Wouldn’t happen.

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Gary Shelton April 30, 2016 at 9:27 am

You’re right. ESPN doesn’t have the rights to hockey, so they have never treated on par with the NFL or baseball or college football. I wonder how much better off the NHL would be if it had taken less money and stayed on ESPN. It’s a shame that affects ESPN’s journalistic values, but with those guys, it’s all about ratings.

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