The past year has not been easy here in Tampa Bay. Think about it. We have lost three of the most iconic, three of the best, three of the most popular athletes in Tampa Bay sports history. It started last summer, when the Lightning bought out the contract of captain Vinny Lecavalier, the face of the franchise. Then came the spring, when the man who replaced Lecavalier as captain, Marty St. Louis, demanded a trade and ended up going to the Rangers. Then came Thursday, when David Price, certainly the best pitcher and, arguably, the greatest player in Rays history, was shipped to the Tigers in a trade-deadline deal. In these parts, we know them by nicknames and initials: Vinny. Marty. DP. But they no longer belong to us. Our superstars are now somebody else's — Vinny in Philadelphia, Marty in New York and DP in Detroit. Who is left?
Each team has a face, a player we most identify with that franchise. The Rays have Evan Longoria. The Bucs have Gerald McCoy. The Lightning has Steven Stamkos.
All are superb athletes, hard workers and good guys. But none of them, as of yet, holds that special place in our hearts. Not quite yet.
Lecavalier, St. Louis and Price were special — in the sporting arena and in the community.
And they were beloved for it.
Just look at the emotions that came from their departures.
Fans are still a little bummed that Lecavalier had to leave. They are furious that St. Louis asked for a trade. And they are depressed, frustrated and angry that the Rays' financial woes forced the trade of Price.
This weekend, Derrick Brooks goes into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He might be Tampa Bay's greatest athlete and finest citizen. He was ours from the beginning of his professional career until the end.
It's sad that we will never be able to say the same about Vinny, Marty and DP.
Many Rays fans are still griping about the David Price trade, saying the Rays didn't get enough. Maybe someday we will learn that is true. But already, irrational fans have determined Drew Smyly (below), the main piece coming Tampa Bay's way, is nothing more than a mediocre pitcher.
Yeesh! Give the guy a minute, would you? He's 25 years old. You've already determined he has topped out and won't get any better?
So far, in nearly three big-league seasons, Smyly has a record of 16-12 with a 3.53 ERA and a WHIP (walks and hits per inning) of 1.236.
Now look at these numbers: 10-13, 4.48 ERA, a WHIP of 1.463. Know who those numbers belong to? Randy Johnson at age 25. He went on to win 303 games and five Cy Young Awards.
How about these numbers: 27-30, 4.14 ERA and a WHIP of 1.433. That's Sandy Koufax during the ages of 22, 23 and 24. He's maybe the most talented lefty pitcher of all time.
Ron Guidry? Here you go: He was 16-8 with a 3.05 ERA and a 1.184 WHIP. That's what he did during his first three major-league seasons. He went on to win a Cy Young and have three 20-win seasons.
Does all this mean Smyly is going to be as good as Johnson, Koufax or Guidry? Of course not.
This is the point: Let's not judge Smyly too soon. Looking at the numbers posted by Johnson, Koufax and Guidry at similar points in their careers, you might not have thought much of them either.
Smyly is still young. He is still climbing to his peak. It would be foolish to base your entire opinion of his future based on a very short past.
Might be more prudent to wait a little while before declaring the guy is a mediocre pitcher.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is getting blasted, and rightfully so, for his pitiful two-game suspension of Ravens RB Ray Rice for domestic violence assault against his then-fiance and now wife, Janay Palmer, in February. Security cameras at an Atlantic City hotel and casino show Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of an elevator. Rice, who was charged in March with felony assault but had the charges dropped in favor of counseling, has apologized for striking her.
Goodell handed down the suspension last week, and it was immediately met with widespread disapproval.
"Our policy is clear," Goodell told reporters at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Friday. "We have a very firm policy that domestic violence is not acceptable in the NFL."
Yeah, but it would appear to be a little more acceptable than smoking pot or popping Adderall, which will get you a four-game suspension.
What happened to the big, bad sheriff who used to kick in the NFL's saloon doors and look to serve his own severe brand of punishment?
I don't want to hear about collective bargaining agreements and first-time offenses and all that. A professional football player striking a woman is unacceptable, and if you think differently, then you weren't raised properly. The NFL's two-game suspension wasn't nearly strong enough to truly show it finds domestic violence unacceptable.
The worst part of Goodell's decision-making process was interviewing Palmer in front of her attacker, Rice. Are you kidding me? Does Goodell not know anything about domestic violence? Is he not intelligent enough to consult with others, such as authorities, on how to go about looking into matters such as this?
Any reasonably intelligent person knows you would never interview a victim in front of her attacker.
Instead of digging a deeper hole by trying to explain and defend his awful decision, perhaps Goodell should do the right thing and admit he completely bungled this and revisit the suspension.
Until then, it leaves the impression players are penalized less for smacking around women than smoking pot.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Now that David Price is gone, the Rays really need someone to step up and be a leader on the field and in the clubhouse. Yeah, I'm looking your way, Evan Longoria.
2. Man, it's strange how quickly Rays fans jumped all over Andrew Friedman (above) in the wake of the Price trade, even though the executive vice president has been in charge of a team that has won at least 90 games in five of the past six seasons with a small payroll and stiff competition in the rich American League East.
3. Headline you will never read: Cash-strapped Yankees send star to Rays.
tom jones' two cents