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Shooting from the lip

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

Best point

During Thursday's Rays-Tigers game, announcers Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson brought up an interesting point. After a ball was bunted foul, Rays first baseman Casey Kotchman flipped it back to pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, who then tossed the ball out of play because it presumably had a scuff mark on it.

"There was a time,'' Staats said, "when pitchers would do whatever they could to keep that ball in the game.''

Anderson chimed in with, "Or took things out to the mound to make balls like that.''

They're right. Scuff marks used to be a good thing for pitchers. Maybe they still are and pitchers just don't know it.

Oh, thumbs-up, too, for Staats, Anderson and the Sun Sports crew for putting a clock on Tigers reliever Jose Valverde, who was taking between 25 and 35 seconds between pitches with nobody on base. And we wonder why baseball games have grown so long.

Worst point

Rays TV announcers Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson are always a joy to listen to, and they rarely need to be scolded or corrected. But Thursday, the two jumped on Tigers pitcher Brad Penny for getting into a shouting match Tuesday with Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez after Rodriguez popped out.

Somehow the story was twisted into Penny being upset that Rodriguez was hustling too much, which would have been ridiculous. As it turns out, it was ridiculous — and, Penny said, not true. Staats and Anderson criticized Penny, but Penny said he was not barking at Rodriguez for hustling. He said he did it because Rodriguez was cussing and yelling as he ran around the bases.

Penny's point was Rodriguez could be heard by kids, though I'm not sure I'm buying that was the reason Penny was lecturing Rodriguez. It's more likely Penny was put off that Rodriguez was so upset for not being able to hit Penny.

Regardless, the dustup had nothing to do with Rodriguez hustling, and the broadcast sort of painted Penny in a bad light. To be fair, however, quotes from Rays manager Joe Maddon in Thursday's St. Petersburg Times also suggested Penny was upset about Rodriguez hustling. But Penny did address his issue with Rodriguez before Thursday's game and the TV broadcast.

Tournament of the day

Tennis' U.S. Open gets under way Monday, but it doesn't have much of a buzz. Based on television numbers, tennis is in a drought, at least in this country. Some blame it on the lack of Americans among the elite male players. As far as the females go, there is no great rivalry.

Just ask Chris Evert, left, who will call the U.S. Open on ESPN and was part of the greatest rivalry in the history of women's tennis when she battled Martina Navratilova in the 1980s.

"I personally think rivalries do enhance the game and do bring more fans out to watch, especially people that maybe aren't tennis purists,'' Evert said. "The last one was the Williams sisters. Even when they played, everybody felt uncomfortable. I felt uncomfortable, anyway. I think everybody did. They didn't know who to root for. They felt the emotion and sort of the tenseness between the sisters. … I think when you had that Monica (Seles) and Steffi (Graf) or Chris-Martina, I think that still made it more interesting.''

Team of the day

Sports Illustrated college football writer Stewart Mandel had USF at the top of his list of potential sleeper teams in 2011, a team that could break through to a BCS bowl game.

Mandel wrote, "The Bulls don't necessarily need to win double-digit games to reach the BCS; they just need to win the Big East, which Connecticut did at 8-4 last season. And while USF will be an underdog in its opener against Skip Holtz's alma mater, Notre Dame, the Bulls are fully capable of winning their mediocre but closely bunched conference.''

Other potential sleeper teams on Mandel's list: Washington, Arizona State, San Diego State and Houston.

Broadcaster of the day

Bad news for ESPN. One of the good guys, anchor Brian Kenny, is leaving after 13 years. He will host his final SportsCenter in September. But he will be especially missed as host of ESPN's Friday Night Fights. No on-air personality at ESPN is more connected to boxing than Kenny.

There already are rumors Kenny is leaving to join the MLB Network, but that hasn't been confirmed. As far as Friday Night Fights, Jonathan Coachman has filled in occasionally when Kenny has been out and probably would be a smooth replacement.

Your two cents

Subject: Miami stories

Normally a reader can go months and not see anything about the University of Miami sports program, one of the finest of Florida universities, or anything about the U of M. But let something negative come out and it's front-page news and ad infinitum afterward. Great newspaper. A pox on you all!

Art Roset, Palm Harbor

Three things that popped into my head

1. The Dodgers sent out surveys to season ticket holders that included a request to evaluate announcer Vin Scully. Uh, really? Scully, 83, and in his 62nd year of broadcasting, might be the only reason to watch the Dodgers these days.

2. Here's hoping the Penguins' Sidney Crosby, left, returns to the NHL, but there is no timetable for his return from concussion problems. He's only 24, but he has already won a Stanley Cup, an Olympic gold medal and a league MVP award. Would you blame him if he decided to retire?

3. Everyone talks about how better off the Rays would be in the American League Central, but you have to wonder if that's true this year with how the Tigers have pounded them.

Strange controversy of the day

This Shaun King-Gerald McCoy dustup is bizarre. Apparently King, right, a former Bucs quarterback who now co-hosts an afternoon sports talk show on WQYK-AM 1010, is bugged because he thinks the current Bucs defensive tackle talks a little too much based on his production on the field. King's diatribe stretched over a couple of days and came in the wake of McCoy's comments after the Bucs' preseason loss to the Patriots on Aug. 18. Talking about the quick pace set by the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady, McCoy's joking comments included, "Um Mr. Brady, can we line up?"

The comment was obviously meant to be light and funny, and those who heard it knew McCoy was simply being entertaining. And isn't that what the media wants from athletes? So why is King riled up?

Certainly, King has the right to his opinion, but it seems odd that anyone in the media — and that includes King — would ever want to put a gag order on any athlete who is being cooperative, personable and humorous. McCoy even showed a great deal of class by going on Twitter and defending King's right to his opinion.

Overall, I like King. I like that he has strong opinions. I think ESPN was wrong to cut ties with him. I don't even mind that he has criticized McCoy. It's King's job to criticize. This criticism, however, just seems, well, odd. If one didn't know better, one would think King was just trying to drum up interest in his show.

Shooting from the lip 08/25/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 25, 2011 10:57pm]

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