Can Rays figure out a way to get offensive?

by Gary Shelton on February 6, 2023

in general

Monday, 4 a.m.

This is true about the Tampa Bay Rays.

They can't hit. Not a lick. If a cow escaped from its pen and made it as far as Tropicana Field, and if it slowly ambled from the pitcher's mound to home plate, the Rays couldn't hit it.

This, too, is true about the Rays.

They're run by fairly smart people.




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Oh, the Rays aren't foolproof. There are too many Yoshi Tatsugo's for that. But by and large, the Rays are a brainy bunch. Granted, it's hard to hit a fastball with your cerebrum, but over the years, the Rays have outsmarted the big money boys often enough to impress.

So remember this: No matter how many times you scream that the Rays need a hitter, there is this: They know it. Of course they know it. They study this roster more than anyone. They are perfectly aware that they cannot hit, that they won't hit, that there is no chance of them hitting.

That's why it has been so surprising that the Rays never brought in even an average bat to add to their lineup this off-season. Remember how desperately awful the Rays were last year? Well, take Ji-Man Choi, David Peralta, Kevin Kiermaier and Mike Zunino away from that bunch.

Sheesh. This lineup couldn't score on a pinball machine.

Certainly, then, the Rays have something up their sleeves. Don't they? They're going to make a trade in spring training, right? Or they secretly think more of their farm produce are more ready than we thought. Yeah? Or they're going to hope to stay close and find a thumper by the trading deadline. Or maybe they think new pitcher Zach Elfin can pitch in with 40 home runs?

Do you follow the Zips numbers from Fangraphics.com? They see Wander Franco hitting .280, Yandy Diaz hitting .273 and Randy Arozarena hitting .262. But no one else is as high as .250. It doesn't see anyone with more than 25 homers. Arozarena is projected to lead the Rays with 83 RBI.

In other words, there will be a lot of one-run outings for the Rays.

Again, the Rays have convinced me they're pretty shrewd. They're bound to find a better hitter somewhere.

Aren't they?

NFL succeeds in making Pro Bowl sillier

by Gary Shelton on February 5, 2023

in general

Sunday, 4 a.m.

In a late development, the NFC All-Stars pulled off an upset Saturday evening with a victory in the Pie-Eating Contest at the Pro Bowl.

Defensive tackle Brian Burns of Carolina ate 24 pies, easily beating Aaron Donald of the Rams, who had 16.

Donald is favored to get his revenge in today's Pin-The-Tail-on-the-Donkey competition.




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Yeah, they did it. All of us who were certain the NFL's Pro Bowl game couldn't get any sillier than it was were wrong. A bad, laughable football game, it seems, has been replaced by a six-year-old kids' birthday party.

This is rich. We've had the water-balloon toss. We've had dodgeball. We've had a rousing game of Kick-Tac-Toe and something called "move the chains," where evidently, teams take turns measuring for first downs.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait for the grand Capture the Flag competition. Suddenly, pro football is summer camp.

In the immortal words of Raiders' running back Josh Johnson, "This s--- is stupid."

I've said it before. All-Star games work only when they can approximate the sport at hand. No one expects the NHL all-star game to resemble a Stanley Cup playoff, but at least no one is trying to dunk the clown. No one thinks the baseball all-star game is the World Series, but no one is playing the Longest Frisbee Toss.

Football hasn't worked as an all-star game for a lot of years. Understandably, no one wants to get hurt, so we would get to see wide receivers playing quarterback and running backs playing linebackers. It was a farce wrapped in a con and presenting itself as a punchline.

Instead, the league made it worse.

Oh, I understand the fascination with seeing the silly side of pro athletes. By and large, that's what's the broadcast booth is for.

But I'll be honest. I don't want to see Bruce Springsteen juggle. I don't want to see Robert De Niro get dunked with Gatorade. These are pros, the best in the world. If I see them, I want to see their gifts as they play their sport.

It's always going to be hard with football. So why not just name the team and introduce it at the Super Bowl? I'm not crazy about other all-star games, either, but at least in baseball the pitcher is trying to throw a strike and the batter is trying to hit it. In hockey, at least a skater is trying to get the puck into the net.

Look, I'm no grouch. I like skills' competitions -- as long as they're linked to the sport. I like touchdowns and home runs and power plays.

But don't take party games and tell me it's sport.

It isn't.

Now, if you want to add Roger Goodell to the dunk tank, you're talking.

Bucs’ future depends on the Glazers

by Gary Shelton on February 4, 2023

in general

Saturday, 4 a.m.

Most of the time, it's great to be an NFL owner.

You sit in the nice seats, and you can always walk down to the dressing room. You get free t-shirts, and you park where you darn well please. You try to hire the right guy and step out of the way (unless you're Danny Snyder, then you listen to all the jokes about you).

But, yeah, it can be an important job.




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Like now, when Tom Brady is disappearing in the distance.

Let's face it. As owners, the Glazer clan has always come with mixed reviews. There have been times they didn't pony up in free agency, and there was that time they sued their own fans.

On the other hand, the Glazers paid the price, literally, for Jon Gruden once, and it paid off in a Super Bowl. They went full tilt after Tom Brady and the gang, and it paid off in another Super Bowl. They spent more than anyone would suspect to give Brady what he wanted.

Ah, you ask. But what about now?

It's a good question, because it is the Glazers who will determine how gung ho this team is in pursuit of next season's playoffs with a roster that has some talent, has some age, has some flaws and has a huge price tag on it. Do they try to push their cap hit forward another year and try to win a lousy NFC South? Or do they blow it up, lick their wounds and wait for another "right guy" to push them over the top.

On this side of free agency, who knows?

Yeah, you can argue that the veterans of this team -- Mike Evans and Lavonte David and Ryan Jensen and Chris Godwin -- deserve another shot. You can bring in a Derek Carr or a Baker Mayfield and try to patch your holes.

Or, you can argue that accepting a mediocre season makes sense. You can get out of Cap Hell and see just what you have in Kyle Trask. You can draft another kid, or bring one in in free agency, and limp along to a three- or four-win season and call it payment for the Brady years.

Here's the thing. You don't decide. The Glazers decide. Ownership will dictate just how far this team falls next season.

It isn't always the case. For all of Jerry Jones' love of a microphone, he hasn't done much since Jimmy left the building. I remember telling a San Francisco writer that I thought Eddie DeBartolo deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. He said, no, all Eddie did was hire the right guy. (Which, I think, is part of the point.)

I never wanted an owner to call a play. I never wanted him to give a speech. I wanted him to hire the right guys, follow the right plan, and shake the hands of the team when it wins. Staying out of the way is a lot of the skill of owning a team. That, and having an asbestos Visa card.

Here, however. and now, things are different. We await the white smoke coming from the luxury box.

Your turn, team Glazer.

Would you trust the Bucs to Kyle Trask?

by Gary Shelton on February 3, 2023

in general

Can the Bucs win with Trask?/TIM WIRT

Friday, 4 a.m.

He has been in mothballs, stuffed into the back of a storage locker. He has been another face in the team photo, but only way in the back.

He is Kyle Trask.

And he's going to need more time.




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The retirement of Tom Brady, the quarterback who mattered more than anyone in the history the game, has left the Tampa Bay Bucs with Trask and a fistful of fishing lines. If they are to matter at all, even in the woeful NFC South division, it is vital they have a quarterback. Yet, what they have is Trask.

Not to shovel dirt on Trask's shoes, but have you seen enough to trust a franchise to him? In his time with the Bucs, he has thrown nine passes, and completed three of them, for 23 yards. He has a rating of 42.4. At this point, it takes a lot of faith -- and a little Orange and Blue -- to find faith in him.

By the time the NFL season gets going, it will be 1,317 days between starts for Trask. If he wins the starting job, he will be supported by the worst running game in the NFL and a ramshackle offensive line.

The thought of it would make Dracula scream.

Perhaps that's why, already, there are dots being connected to the Bucs and other quarterbacks. Baker Mayfield, maybe. Jameis Winston, again. Geno Smith. Derek Carr. (Both Daniel Jones and Lamar Jackson will be mentioned, but they'll both re-sign with their teams).

Me? I say the Bucs should pursue them all. Whether it's by trade, by draft or by free agency, the Bucs need at least two quarterbacks. And that's true no matter what you think of Trask.

Don't get me wrong. When Trask was at Florida, he was a fine quarterback. No one thought he was can't-miss, but he threw a good ball and he won some big games.

But potential burns off fairly quickly in the NFL. If there is no buzz, no other teams sniffing around asking about his availability, fans seem to forget about you. No one is saying he should have challenged Brady for playing time, but making a run at Blaine Gabbert didn't seem like heavy lifting.

Might the Bucs know something we don't? Aaron Rodgers pretty much watched games during his first three years, and he became a great quarterback.

Philip Rivers sat out two years -- throwing just 30 passes -- after being drafted by the Chargers.

Kurt Warner was 28 when he got his shot with the Rams after kicking round the minor leagues. He threw just 11 balls his rookie year.

Colin Kaepernick sat out his first season and played in his second only when Alex Smith was hurt.

So, yeah, it happens. Players surprise you.

From here, however, Trask needs some help.

Brady leaves Bucs in limbo with retirement

February 2, 2023 general

Thursday, 4 a.m. In the end, his career outlasted the adjectives used to describe it. What finer legacy can there be? Goodnight, Tom Brady. Thanks for stopping by. 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 […]

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Will Payton be worth the price for Broncos?

February 1, 2023 general

Wednesday, 4 a.m. For all the money, for all the draft picks, maybe the Denver Broncos got a bargain. Maybe this ends in confetti. Maybe he turns around Russell Wilson’s slide, and the franchise along with it, and chases down Kansas City and Cincinnati and Buffalo and the rest. This is the NFL, after all, […]

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Remembering Brad Johnson and the Bucs

January 31, 2023 general

Tuesday, 4 a.m. I remember Simeon Rice, his breath on Rich Gannon. Rice should have. been the MVP of that Super Bowl, if you want to know the truth. I remember Jon Gruden, pumping his fist as ran down the sideline. Gruden’s era would unravel in Tampa Bay, but on that night, I honestly felt […]

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Johnson’s journey led him to the title game

January 30, 2023 general

Monday, 4 a.m. If this was Hollywood, he would have walked off in confetti. If this was a story book, he would have thrown the winning touchdown pass. If this was fiction, a long-term contract would have awaited him. Instead, it was just another disappointing chapter in the story of the guy who hangs on […]

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Bolts finish big week with another win

January 29, 2023 general

Sunday, 4 a.m. Okay, guys. Take a rest. You’ve earned it. The Tampa Bay Lightning completed a superb week Saturday night, bouncing the Pacific Division-leading L.A. Kings, 5-3. It came during a week when the Bolts had also beaten the Minnesota Wild and the the best team in the NHL, the Boston Bruins. The Bolts […]

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Looking at the Conference title games

January 28, 2023 general

Saturday, 4 a.m. The Super Bowl has the hype. The Super Bowl has the half glitz. The Super Bowl comes with confetti. The Conference Championship games? That’s where you find the football. It has always been that way, The whole world takes Monday off after the Super Bowl. But if you care about Content beyond […]

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