Ask Gary? Does the loss of Hickey hurt the Rays?

by Gary Shelton on October 7, 2017 · 0 comments

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

Hickey's departure from the Rays was sudden./JEFFREY S. KING

Hickey's departure from the Rays was sudden./JEFFREY S. KING

Each week, the readers take over 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

Saturday, 4 a.m.

So the Rays are willing to part with one of the best pitching coaches in baseball because he can’t get on board with their wacky idea about how to use the bullpen next year. How much confidence do you have that management is on the right track? Does this move improve or weaken the team?

Larry Beller

Larry, right now, it can't help but weaken the Rays. I thought a lot of Hickey, and he did some great work while he was here. I don't think just any minor league pitching coach can take his place. Now, I don't know Kyle Snyder. But I have to think that Hickey is better than most coaches working in AAA. To me, Hickey has been the Monte Kiffin of the Rays' organization.

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That said, sure, the same guy's voice can get old after a while. I'm not sure that happened with Hickey. If it was a matter of whether the Rays want to use so many relievers that no one gets a look at the starters for a third time, I'm not sure I'm aboard. I'd like to think that the Rays are onto something full-time. But after four losing seasons, it's hard to say the organization is outsmarting anyone.

I wish the Rays well. But is Snider going to make Chris Archer a better pitcher? Is he going to allow Blake Snell to grow up? We'll see. After all, there are only balls and strikes. It's a pretty easy choice.

The last MLB pitcher to log 300 innings or more was Steve Carlton in 1980.   That year 56 starting pitchers logged 200 or more innings — an average of 2.15 per team.  For the just completed 2017 season, just 15 starting pitchers reached the 200 inning plateau — and average of 0.50 per team, with Chris Sale leading the MLB with 214 1/3 innings.  ‘Premier’ starting pitchers command the highest salaries — the 15 with contracts of $100 million or more averaged $25 million this year and this group averaged just under 6 innings per start, 26 games started, and 153 innings pitched.  Pitchers are getting paid more and more to do less and less.  Where do I sign up for such a deal?

Scott Myers

Your parents should have forced you to be a left-handed pitcher. You could make you, me and a lot of our friends millionaires.

The softening of major league pitchers used to drive Don Zimmer crazy. There are too many pitchers who think they've had a fine night if they give up three earned runs in six  innings. Sure, that's a quality start, but it's not a good start. A run every half-inning?

What has happened is that pitchers are such a multi-million dollar investment that teams baby them. Almost no one goes 200 innings anymore. Heck, how many big-league pitchers never saw the eighth inning? Or even the seventh? Still, pitchers have arm injuries all the time. I'm not sure you can protect them from that no matter how few innings they throw.

Think about it. If you have a starter and four relievers, which isn't a lot anymore, you're counting on five guys to do their jobs. That's kind of risky, isn't it?

Do you think the jury is still out on Jameis as to whether he can lead the Bucs to the promised land? If so, when do you think a verdict might come in​, end of this year or next year? I know you've mentioned before how other great QB's took awhile to polish but, I just don't see how, despite his positives, that he can be a top 10 quarterback with his accuracy issues.

Barry McDowell

Of course it is, Barry. Until you prove you can do something, the jury is always out. We've lived in a world where no one thought Tom Landry could win the big one. Or Don Shula. Or Tony Dungy.

Naturally, that goes for quarterbacks, too. Dan Marino was a great quarterback. Dan Fouts, too. But neither ever won a Super Bowl, and so the notion persisted that they couldn't lead their team that far. Coming close doesn't do it.

In the case of Winston, don't forget that he inherited a team that won two games the year before he came. It isn't like Marino, whose team was in the Super Bowl the year before he arrived.

I think Winston is close to being a Top 10 quarterback right now. I'd put him right outside of it. He didn't play well for most of Thursday night, I know, but he's had three 300-yard games and three no-interception games. That'll do.

To me, Winston is in the top half of quarterbacks, certainly. A guy doesn't throw for 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons by accident. Maybe he'll be a Favre - who would always throw a few to the other team. But I think he'll play a long time and make a lot of money. But will he win a championship? I think that depends on the players around him.

Even Thursday night, as bad as Winston played, he was one pass away from pulling that game out. So, yeah, I think he can win. He has to be a little smarter with the ball, agreed. He has to be better in the first halves. But which quarterback who is 23 or yonger are you going to trade him for? Sure, there are other choices. But Winston's not bad.

For many sports fans, sports represent an escape from the turmoil we see in the world every day. Now, we see the divisiveness that exists in our political and social culture spilling over into professional (and beyond, possibly) sports. Do you think this may have a lasting, negative impact on the passion and emotional (and financial) investment of the average sports fan?​ Of course, I think I heard that NFL attendance has been trending downward anyway.

Barry McDowell
Barry, we've always had divisiveness. Look at the way politics has invaded the Olympis, for instance. Sports exists not in a different world, but in a parallel one. It has had racism and politics and nation's rights, too.
At the end of the day, however, sports represents that escape you talked about. I stood on the beach and watched as the first Israeli athlete won a gold. I saw the first black quarterback (Doug Williams) win a Super Bowl. I saw the first black coach (Tony Dungy) win a Super Bowl. I saw Muhammad Ali light the Olympic torch. There were politics attached to them all. I saw a Russian athlete refuse to wrestle an Israeli athlete. I saw tensions at,of all things, beach volleyball.
There always are going to be politics. And unless cooler heads prevail, I think it always will invade our escapes. Here's an idea: Why not move the anthem back to the time when the athletes are in the locker rooms? That way, no one is looking to see who is kneeling. Why not let all the players march on Washington on their Tuesday's off? There are ways.
As for the NFL declining in attendance,  personally, I think it's oversaturated.Let's start by killing Thursday night football.
I'm serious. In my father's day, boxing was on TV all the time. Do you really want to see that much boxing?
Then there is this: Watching an NFL game at home on TV is a vastly better product. It's more affordable, too. You can make a sandwich. You don't have to stand in line for the bathroom. You get to see up-close views and replays. That's a battle the NFL is fighting, too. Oh, I like being there. But not enough to spend hundreds of dollars.
Unless the NFL can lower ticket prices, lower concession prices, make parking easier and be fan friendlier, I think attendance has more dwindling to do. I think Roger Goodell knows that, and it scares him enough to turn on the night light.


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