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Tom Jones' Two Cents: Melrose, Ben Johnson and more

Times staff writer Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

Worst performance

Ever since Barry Melrose was fired as Lightning coach last week, he has made the rounds on national TV in Canada and the United States, talking about how the players revolted and got him fired. Certainly he has the right to say whatever he wants. And maybe what he is saying is true. But if you are going to blame it on the players, then the upright thing to do is to actually name the players who did you in. By making broad accusations, every player comes under suspicion, especially high-profile ones such as Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis. In his most damning interview so far, Melrose went on the highly-viewed Hockey Night in Canada and blasted away: "Yeah, I think the players didn't want to play for me,'' Melrose said. "You don't have to be Kreskin to figure that out. … Obviously, a lot of guys didn't like to be held accountable with this team. And obviously they went to (management) and said they don't like this style of coaching and would you get rid of him? I don't think there's any secret about that.''

Actually, it is a secret if Melrose isn't naming names.

The interview was conducted by Ron MacLean, one of the best in the business and one of hockey's most-respected voices. But in an ill-timed off moment, MacLean clearly let Melrose off the hook by not pressing him on these accusations and demanding that he name names — first to make his accusations more believable and, second, point the finger solely at the players who deserved to have the finger pointed at them.

It's a question Times hockey writer Damian Cristodero asked Melrose on Tuesday. Would he name names?

"No, I don't think so,'' Melrose said. "I'm done with it now. It's water under the bridge. I'm going to move on.''

So you drop bombs, make accusations against players who cannot defend themselves, then walk away and say it's over? That's neither fair nor honorable.

Players like Lecavalier and St. Louis always have held themselves accountable and played for a coach (John Tortorella) who was one of the most demanding hockey has ever seen. And because of that, their names are on the Stanley Cup — something Melrose can't say. Yet their names and reputations are now in question because of Melrose's sweeping generalization that the "players'' got him fired.

That seems wrong.

Who's next?

An official announcement is not expected until today, but as Times baseball writer Marc Topkin reported Tuesday, look for longtime Rays TV analyst Joe Magrane to join the new MLB Network. Magrane, the Rays TV analyst for all 11 seasons, polarized viewers. Some liked his off-beat humor and analysis, while others didn't. I find him to be among the top analysts in the game and Rays broadcasts will not be the same without him.

But the broadcasts will go on. So who will fill Magrane's rather large shoes?

Former major-league pitcher Brian Anderson filled in for Magrane when Magrane called the Olympics for NBC. Anderson, who has done some TV work with the Indians, seemed okay, but it was hard to evaluate him because he was there for a short stretch. Plus, he has spent time as a coach, and it's unclear what his coaching duties could be.

Sideline reporter Todd Kalas deserves to be sitting in someone's broadcast booth as a full-time announcer, but if he replaced Magrane, the Rays would not have a former major-leaguer in either the TV or radio booth, and that could be a concern. Local baseball stars Fred McGriff and Wade Boggs, you would think, would get a chance to make their cases if they are interested.

But the Rays really need to do a national search before making a decision. There aren't many of these gigs out there, making this already a coveted job that some high-profile names would probably want. Throw in the fact that the Rays now appear to be a good team with a growing local following and it's an even better job.

ESPN finalizes BCS contract

Don't you get the feeling that, someday, every single sporting event will be on ESPN?

As expected, the World Wide Leader made a major move Tuesday, locking up a four-year deal to broadcast all the BCS college football games starting in January 2011. In a separate deal, ABC (ESPN's broadcast partner) agreed to show the Rose Bowl through 2014.

It's believed ESPN outbid Fox by offering $125-million a year.

"You're talking about a situation where we're seeing more and more sporting events go to cable," BCS coordinator John Swofford said. "And certainly I think that the college football community, people who truly follow college football, are extremely well tuned into ESPN and see ESPN as in essence for television the home of college football."

Know what this deal means, other than the games being on ESPN? There is not going to be a college football playoff anytime soon. That's not official, but do you think ESPN would put up that kind of money for these games and then allow college football to go to a playoff? Not going to happen.

Check it out

Interesting interview on tonight's Sports Connection (11 p.m. on BayNews 9 and Bright House Sports Network). Host Rock Riley sits down with Ben Johnson, the former sprinter who set the world record in the 100 meters at the 1988 Olympics but tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug and was stripped of his gold.

Riley taped the interview Monday and word is Johnson goes into detail about his now-admitted doping and talks about how it has damaged his life.

Relive the summer

It's hard to believe that it has been only three weeks since the Rays' season.

For those Rays fans who already miss the team after their amazing season, however, FSN will take care of you.

Tonight at 6:30, it will air a 2008 postseason special hosted by Todd Kalas and it will include the highlights from the season.

Meantime, starting today and running every other Wednesday, FSN will show a classic game from the season at noon. (The games will repeat at various times on Sun Sports.)

Today's game will be James Shields’ two-hitter against the Red Sox on April 27.

Tom Jones' Two Cents: Melrose, Ben Johnson and more 11/18/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 18, 2008 9:02pm]
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