Sunday, December 17, 2017

Shooting from the lip: the weekend in sports on TV and radio

Best analyst

Rays TV analyst Brian Anderson, top, spent Saturday working for Fox as an analyst on the Rays-Red Sox game and got to show a regional audience what the rest of us know: He's a heck of a broadcaster. Working with Dick Stockton, bottom, Anderson not only was his usual relaxed, funny and insightful self, he seemed especially at ease.

Anderson also maneuvered his way through Friday night's Rays-Red Sox bean-ball battle without coming off as a Rays homer, though he clearly sided with the Rays during the broadcast on Sun Sports. Anderson knew he was speaking to Rays and Red Sox fans, and did not want to alienate anyone — in this case, Red Sox Nation.

The only nit is that Saturday, no one on the Fox game or pregame broadcast opined on who was right or wrong Friday. Fox recapped the bad-blood events by showing Boston's Dustin Pedroia getting hit and the Tampa Bay's Luke Scott getting hit. If you hadn't seen Friday's game, you would have assumed the Rays had it coming.

But if you watched the game and know anything about baseball, you knew the Rays didn't mean to hit Pedroia. It made no sense to hit Pedroia. It would have been nice if someone on Fox had addressed that.

Because Anderson could not say that without looking biased, maybe Stockton should've said something.

Biggest gripe

There were several borderline pitches in Saturday's Rays-Red Sox game on Fox, but all the replays were from an angle that was offcenter of home plate. What's the point of showing a close pitch if it's from a camera angle that doesn't give viewers a straight-on angle?

Three things that popped into my head

1. Sunday's Rays-Red Sox game confirmed something: Angel Hernandez is the worst umpire in baseball.

2. Lots of people watch it because it's on TV every weekend, but for the life of me, I just don't see the appeal of senior golf.

3. Teams I want to see less of on national TV: Cardinals, Braves, Red Sox. Teams I want to see more of: Nationals, Orioles, Indians.

tom jones' two cents

Tampa Bay Times staff writer Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

Worst loss

The Devils absolutely deserve to be in the Stanley Cup final, but their elimination of the Rangers was bad for the NHL overall. Sorry, New Jersey, but the Devils are a boring story, especially after you get done talking about goalie Martin Brodeur.

With coach John Tortorella and stars Henrik Lundqvist and Brad Richards, the Rangers have more personalities and are just a better story. And it would have been fun to watch Stanley Cup final games in Madison Square Garden. Too bad the Rangers weren't as good as the Devils.

Best analysis

ABC NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy was his usual top-shelf self calling Saturday night's Game 7 of the Celtics-Sixers series. I love it when Van Gundy watches the replay of an iffy foul call and blurts out things like, "Come on! Are you serious? That's not a foul.''

It's even better when he rips into the league. He really is like the guy next to you in a sports bar except he knows more basketball than you do.

His most interesting comments Saturday night were about Sixers coach Doug Collins, who is known for his no-nonsense approach and organization. In other words, Collins is a coach who is constantly coaching. Van Gundy, who was the same way, said that's what players ultimately want.

"Great players want to be coached,'' Van Gundy said. "In the playoffs especially, everyone is receptive.''

Best special guest

Did you happen to catch Rays pitcher James Shields wearing a headset and microphone for a half-inning during Saturday night's game with the Red Sox on Fox? The dude has a future in broadcasting if he wants it.

Best postgame

All season I haven't been sure how to feel about the Rays' postgame television show for road games. Postgame shows for home games come from Tropicana Field; road game shows originate from a studio in South Florida. The latter shows feel detached from everything and just, well, weird. I admit there is no difference whether the studio is in St. Petersburg, Tampa or South Florida, but for some reason it feels odd that the show is coming from neither the site of the game nor where the Rays call home.

Todd Kalas does a splendid job on the home games and running the interviews from road games. It's great to see replays and hear the postgame comments from manager Joe Maddon and the players, and the thoughts of announcers Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson. But many nights the analysis and work of road postgame hosts Barry LeBrock and Orestes Destrade is either scratch-the-surface stuff or way too "inside baseball.'' Overall, the road postgame shows have been, oh, about a B-minus.

But they definitely earned some extra credit Friday night for the work after the Rays-Red Sox game at Fenway Park and have bumped the grade up to a B-plus. The show was helped by the near-brawl stemming from a hit batsman late in the game and strong comments by Maddon. The show took full advantage of it all. Credit for that goes to LeBrock, who wasted no time diving into the dustup. Instead of talking about the details of the Rays' victory, LeBrock zeroed in on the controversy, and that was absolutely the right call. Destrade was strong in his opinions.

The momentum from that outstanding show carried into Sunday, and former Rays slugger Cliff Floyd joined the set and was very impressive. So after two months of not being sure of the road postgame show, I now am ready to give it a thumbs up.

Best moments

ABC's coverage of Sunday's Indianapolis 500 was highlighted by an emotional tribute to Dan Wheldon, who lived in St. Petersburg and was killed in a crash in October in IndyCar's season finale. Wheldon was last year's Indy 500 champ. As far as the race coverage, ABC always does a solid job with the Indy 500, and Sunday was no different. However, nothing in racing beats Fox's NASCAR coverage, and Sunday evening's Coca-Cola 600 was the best race broadcast of the day.

Worst egomaniac

Let's make this clear: I don't like or dislike the Rays. I don't like or dislike the Red Sox. And I don't like or dislike the Yankees. Having said all that, I will say this: Doesn't Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, right, seem like a bit of a weasel? Seems as if he has to be the center of attention. Not only does he do a radio show in Boston, he does a radio show for a New York station. What the heck? If I was a Red Sox player or fan, that would really bug me. Earlier this season he thrust himself into the spotlight by taking a shot at Boston's Kevin Youkilis, saying he didn't think Youkilis was "as physically or emotionally into the game'' as normal. Then Friday he turned a bean-ball showdown with the Rays into something all about him. Of course he ordered Red Sox pitcher Franklin Morales to hit a Rays player, who turned out to be Luke Scott. Why do I think he did it? To get his players to rally around him, to get his players to believe in him, to get his players to side with him. In other words, get your players to start a fight and then come out backing your players, and voila, maybe all the guys will be on your side again. It is so obvious. It's also kind of pathetic. The sad thing is, a guy like Valentine is putting a black mark on an organization full of classy players who play the game the right way, players such as Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. You'd never see Terry Francona pulling this stuff.

Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Warren Sapp pointed to the sky. And then he dropped Kurt Warner to the ground.The Bucs had just intercepted Warner for the fourth time. Sapp’s block cleared the way for Derrick Brooks to cross the goal line and clinch the win.Before Tampa Bay p...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

DENVER — The Lightning left for Las Vegas Saturday for the first of four nights in Sin City.But Tampa Bay’s first regret came before it boarded the charter flight; the Lighting lamented making Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Avalanche much more thrilling...
Published: 12/16/17
Updated: 12/17/17

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Lightning-Avalanche

Could tell just how much Ryan Callahan meant in the Lightning dressing room by hearing teammates talk about his latest injury. Steven Stamkos said he was "sick to my stomach." Brayden Point called him a "heart and soul player." Teammates all saw how ...
Published: 12/16/17
Lightning journal: No easy answers on replacing injured Ryan Callahan

Lightning journal: No easy answers on replacing injured Ryan Callahan

The good news for the Lightning is that GM Steve Yzerman is hopeful RW Ryan Callahan will be ready to go in 3-4 weeks when his upper body injury is re-evaluated. The hard part, however, is finding someone to replace the veteran wing. "I don’t know if...
Published: 12/16/17
Melo cheered, then booed as Knicks spoil his return

Melo cheered, then booed as Knicks spoil his return

NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony got the cheers but the Knicks got the win, shutting out their former All-Star in the second half and beating the Thunder 111-96 Saturday night for their fourth straight victory. Michael Beasley tied his season high with 30 ...
Published: 12/16/17
Rangers stay hot against a favorite opponent, the Bruins

Rangers stay hot against a favorite opponent, the Bruins

BOSTON — Mats Zuccarello scored a power-play goal 1:56 into overtime to lift the Rangers to a 3-2 victory over the Bruins on Saturday. Michael Grabner and J.T. Miller also scored for the Rangers, who won for the ninth time in 13 games (9-3-1) overall...
Published: 12/16/17

Sports in brief

MLBTRADE SENDS KEMP BACK TO L.A.OF Matt Kemp was reacquired by the Dodgers on Saturday as part of a five-player trade with the Braves. The Dodgers sent 1B Adrian Gonzalez, LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Brandon McCarthy, INF Charlie Culberson and cash to Atla...
Published: 12/16/17
Mistakes doom Ducks in new coach’s debut

Mistakes doom Ducks in new coach’s debut

LAS VEGAS — Cedrick Wilson caught 10 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown, safety Kekaula Kaniho returned an interception 53 yards for a score and No. 25 Boise State beat Oregon 38-28 in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday. Brett Rypien threw for 362 yard...
Published: 12/16/17

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Published: 12/16/17

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballWomen: Florida State at Texas12:30 p.m.FS1Women: Georgia Tech at Georgia1 p.m.SECStony Brook at Providence2:30 p.m.FS1North Carolina at Tennessee3 p.m.ESPNSavannah State at Baylor3 p.m.Fox SunWomen: USF at Florida International...
Published: 12/16/17