Ask Gary: Who succeeds first? Rays or Bucs?

by Gary Shelton on July 28, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Lightning

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

A year ago at this time, the Bucs fortunes looked to be on the upswing as they were being touted by Hard Knocks as a playoff team in waiting. The future looked bright. Meanwhile the Rays were beginning a long losing streak that dropped them out of the playoff race and the resulting dismantling of the team in the off season turned off may fans. Their future looked bleak.

Now a year later the Rays are turning things around with some good young players, a new attitude and a couple of potentially good trades that could have a positive impact in the short term instead of years down the road. They expect to be one or two years away from being a contending team again. The Bucs, on the other hand, are experiencing more turmoil after missing the playoffs badly last year and now dealing with the impact of the Jameis Winston suspension. Another disappointing season could lead to a coaching / GM change and starting over, again.

Does it seem like there has been a reversal in fortunes for our local baseball and football teams? Which franchise would you expect will have the most success in the next 2-4 years?

Larry Beller

Larry, if you're asking for to-the-core honesty, neither team looks to be to be in position to make the playoffs in two-four years. But I agree with you, right now the Rays have a lot more momentum than the Bucs.

If the Bucs end up replacing their coach and/or general manager (as many analysts expect), it would be natural to expect a backslide.

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That doesn't always happen (see: Jon Gruden's first year) but you can usually expect it. A new coach isn't going to believe in this player or agree with the ratings of that one. That's part of the problem with the Bucs; they are forever changing coaches. Logic tells you that whoever turns this team around will need more than 2-3 years to do it. Yet the Bucs keep missing on their hirings.

It's easier to believe in the Rays right now. I love Jake Bauers. I like Willy Adames. The bullpen has promise. And the team wins more than it loses. It's easy to project that the Rays will get better sooner.

But will they improve enough? Remember, they play in a division with a lot of crazy spenders. This Rays team is almost even with where they were last year, but they're a lot farther back in the race because Boston and New York are better.

By and large, it's easier to get better in the NFL. There are more playoff spots. There is a salary cap. There are rotating schedules. It's easier for a team to have a fluke season. That said, TV was still in black-and-white when the Bucs made the playoffs, wasn't it?

I think you have the makings of a pretty good wager, Larry, between Bucs' fans and Rays' fans. And a lot of it depends on Jameis Winston, the troubled quarterback you mentioned. If Winston is indeed the long-range answer for Tampa Bay (and it's hard to bet on him), then he can influence games more than anyone the Rays have on a game-to-game basis. But if he continues to turn the ball over and wrestle with immaturity, the Bucs are going to turn into the next Cleveland.

Rays or Bucs? I think I'd bet on the Rays to be decent first, but I don't think any of us are going to be buying playoff tickets for a couple of years.

Was Jameis Winston's lack of forthcoming at the Bucs' 7/26/2018 press conference because his lawyer(s) have advised him to share nothing because of a potential lawsuit from the Uber driver?  Or is he just incapable of admitting he did wrong?
Scott Myers
I suppose anything is possible, but I would suspect it was the second item (incapability of admitting wrongdoing) more so than the first.
I'll be honest. If it was my client, I wouldn't want him saying a peep.  He can only get himself in trouble by saying something offensive. That said, there is plenty of room to talk about the incident in a manner that would admit less guilt than agreeing to the NFL's deal. He could have blamed alcohol, for instance. He could have blamed amnesia. He could have said he didn't do it (as he evidently has said to friends) and that he made a deal to get back onto the field earlier.
But I've been around Jameis a lot, back to his days at FSU, and he admits wrongdoing only in the most widespread manner available. He'll say he's got to learn and move forward, but there is no hint at what he has to learn or how he's going to move forward.
I was disappointed with Winston's press conference. He could have been talking about a fumble at the goal line, and more details would have been forthcoming. Then again, Winston never did say he was in the wrong -- even slightly -- over the allegations against him at FSU.
I suspect this is part of the immaturity that has plagued Winston for so long.
I also suspect this. The team had something to do with his approach, too. Don't give a lot of details, and no one will ever be able to bring them up. It isn't the most forthright franchise, you know? Winston went a long time without saying anything, and now he can always dodge by saying 'I talked about that at my press conference," even though, in fact, he did not.
To me, it was a designed plan to say as little as possible, and then say it over and over again.
You know I'm a "glass half-empty" kind of guy. I like the way the Rays are beginning to build more for next year than for a distant future (like usual). But, even if they improve by, say 8-10 wins, there best hopes will still be a wild-card spot. I just don't see them beating both the Yankees and Red Sox except once or twice a decade. Do you see any possibility of MLB re-aligning or rebalancing the divisions? Come on Gary, fill my glass up!

Barry McDowell

Barry, do writers count? If so, there has been some rhetoric about realignment recently. The Athletic's Jayson Stark has written that after the Rays and As get their stadiums straightened out, expansion will come and there will be 32 major league teams.

That could lead to realignment talk. Stark sees it happening on geographical terms. He sees the Rays slotting into a place in the National League South with Atlanta, Miami and a new Charlotte team. Atlanta has some good young players, but it certainly isn't the AL East, is it?

Baseball America had a similar article recently, but they ended up with only four divisions in their 32-team league. Tampa Bay would be in with Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington.

Want one more? says the Rays would go into the American League South with  the Texas Rangers, Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals.

Of course, we know this: In the case of realignment, baseball will want to move as few teams as possible. That means the likely scenario is that the Rays don't get away from the Yankees or Red Sox. The other thing is that if there is a redrawing of lines, it won't be with Tampa Bay's best interests in mind.

This bears repeating. The Rays are 17 1/2 games out of the AL East as I write this. They'd be three games back in the AL Central, 13 1/2 back in the AL West, 5 1/2 back in the NL east, 7 1/2 back in the NL Central and 4 games back in the NL West.  Their record would be much more impressive.

Realignment would conquer a lot of ills for the Rays. It would put them among teams that don't bludgeon them with their wallets. It would hurt the gate without as many games against the Yankees or Red Sox, but being in a playoff race might offset much of that.

I'm with you, man. Let's change things around so teams can pick on others who are more their size.

Tiger Woods found himself leading on the back nine of a major at the Open Championship last week. But in un-Tiger-like fashion, he gave up the lead and the tournament with consecutive bad holes of double bogey and bogey and he finished tied for sixth. His driver is still unreliable, his putting stroke comes and goes and he can’t seem to finish off rounds very often, but still he was leading on a Sunday in a major. Does this prove that Tiger is all the way back or are there just too many good, young players now and at 42 we shouldn’t expect Tiger to ever win another major? Is the glass half full or half empty for Tiger?

Larry Beller

I think the glass is half-full, but it's a dirty glass and the rim is chipped.

All the way back? No, he's not even close. There for a while, Tiger was the most dominating golfer in the history of history. From 1999-2003, he won seven majors. Throw in 2005-2008, and he won six more.

At his age, after his injuries, after his scandals, he'll never match that run again. So "all the way back" is a standard he shouldn't be expected to reach. No one else has reached it, either.

That said, Tiger has come further than I ever thought he would. I didn't see him back in contention in a major this soon. I didn't see him with eight top 12 finishes in 10 events. He's back as far as being a player you have to watch, and that's not a small deal.

Remember, we're talking about a guy who hasn't won in five years.

But I'm in the middle ground on Tiger. I think he'll win again. There will come a PGA or a British Open, and he'll put four rounds together. He's an incredible shot-maker, and that will get him to the finish.

He will not, however. own the Tour the way he once did. And let's be honest; he doesn't have to. When Tiger is on, he's a mesmerizing athlete. You cannot look away.

I will say that Tiger has won this back. He's won the good wishes of his fans. There for a while, it was very easy to pull against Tiger. Now, the fans are there for him once again. They want to like him, and they'd like to see him succeed.

I think we'll see him win again. Just not as often as his die-hard fans want to see.

Pinellas County is having to come up with something close to $80 million to keep the Phillies from leaving their spring training site in Clearwater. You know that Dunedin and Tampa are paying similar amounts to keep the Blue Jays and Yankees happy and staying put at their respective spring training locations. With all these local drains on tax payers dollars is it no wonder that there is no money to build a stadium for the Rays? Even though this is a top 15 TV market, is the weakness of this area that we are too fractionalized to develop the necessary resources for a costly project like building a new major league baseball stadium?

 Larry Beller

That's a great point, Larry. We are indeed  fractionalized, and it's not getting better. There isn't one group, for instance, that is working to find a way to save the Rays for the entire area. For years, it was "it's St. Petersburg's problem." Now, you hear that "it's Tampa's problem." It strikes me that if there is a way to make a new stadium work, it would help if everyone contributed something.

The main reason we were attractive enough to get a franchise to begin with was the population of the entire area. If it's going to succeed, it's going to have to draw from everywhere. But no one wants to act like they should share in the cost.

Personally, I don't think baseball would have come if St. Petersburg didn't have Tampa. And I don't think it would stay if Tampa didn't have St. Pete.

Perhaps there should be a strong organization that includes those two, and Clearwater, and Sarasota, etc. Our strength is in our numbers. Isn't it?




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