Friday, August 17, 2018

Tampa Bay sports year in review: Commemorating the biggest, best of 2016

Many argue that 2016 will go down as the most memorable year in sports history.

We had two historic championships with the Cubs and Cavs. Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl, Michael Phelps made Olympic history and we had the deaths of legends Muhammad Ali, Pat Summitt, Arnold Palmer and Gordie Howe.

Meantime, 2016 was also a huge year in Tampa Bay sports. We had our share of highlights and lowlights, thrills and disappointments, inspirations and tragedies.

Here's a look back at the year in sports in Tampa Bay.

Newsmaker of the year

No one had his name in bigger and bolder headlines than Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. From free agency talk to his sudden blood clot that might have cost the Lightning a Stanley Cup to his eight-year, $68 million contract to remain in Tampa Bay to a knee injury that will sideline him for at least three months. Any one of these stories could have been the story of the year. All happened to the same guy.

Biggest news

After two seasons, Lovie Smith was surprisingly fired as Bucs head coach late on the night of Jan. 7. He was replaced by offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. The jury remains out.

Best comeback

Rays slugger Evan Longoria was on a steady downhill slide, but he had one of the best seasons of his career, highlighted by a career-high 36 homers. Longo isn't done yet.


South Florida Bulls head coach Willie Taggart smiles while singing the school song with his team after the game at Raymond James in Tampa on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016.

Best team

USF football won a school record 10 regular-season games and was so good it lost its coach, Willie Taggart, to Oregon. But it did a nice job finding a replacement in Charlie Strong.

Best and worst trip

The Rays visiting Cuba was the best. The worst was the Gators being forced to travel to LSU because LSU wouldn't work with the Gators in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. The Gators won that game. So take that, LSU.


Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) in the dugout in the seventh inning of the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016.

Biggest fall

In April, we proclaimed Rays pitcher Chris Archer as the "newest face of baseball.'' By September, he was flirting with 20 losses.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (87) scores in the fourth quarter of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tennessee Titans in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015.

Biggest going

After a suspicion of DUI arrest, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was cut loose by the Bucs.

Biggest not going

USF was not invited to join the Big 12.

Biggest slump

On June 16, the Rays were 31-32 and 51/2 games out of first. Then they lost 19 of 22 to drop to 171/2 games out of first. Season over in a span of 25 days. That will be slump of the year unless the Bucs lose Sunday to end on a three-game slide that cost them their first postseason appearance since 2007.

Most inspirational moment

Bucs defensive back Alterraun Verner made a key interception in Tampa Bay's victory against the Seahawks, which came only two days after the death of his father.

Biggest loss

The Tampa Bay Times and the outdoors community lost a legend when Times outdoors editor Terry Tomalin died in May at the age of 55. Known to many as a fearless adventurer, he was known by many more as a kind human being who always put others ahead of himself. A loving husband and father to two beautiful children, Terry is sorely missed, but the memory of him remains strong.

Best trophy

The Rays didn't have much go right in 2016, but they still have the best defensive player in baseball. Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier ran down another Gold Glove.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) and quarterback Jameis Winston (3) observe the national anthem before a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016.

Biggest controversy

Bucs receiver Mike Evans made admirers and enemies when he didn't stand for the national anthem prior to a game against the Bears to protest the election of Donald Trump as president. Evans ended his anthem protest after one game but said he would continue to find other ways to protest. His game remained great.

Biggest surprise

That we wrote an entire column about the year in Tampa Bay sports and have not mentioned Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston. That's because we're still not sure what to make of his season. Someday, he will be a Tampa Bay Sports Person Of The Year. Not this year.

And now for Tampa Bay's 2016 Sports Person of the Year …

Tampa Bay's quietest superstar: Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov. The young Russian forward took over for the sidelined Steven Stamkos in last spring's playoffs and nearly single-handedly willed Tampa Bay to a Stanley Cup final. He scored huge goal after huge goal. Despite not even playing in the final, Kucherov finished second in the 2016 NHL playoffs in goals (11), sixth in points (19) and second in plus-minus (+13).

Full disclosure: My preseason AP Top 25 ballot

Full disclosure: My preseason AP Top 25 ballot

We'll find out where Miami, Florida State and the rest of Florida's teams start the season Monday when the AP releases its preseason Top 25 rankings.Until then, here's a sneak peek, in the form of the AP ballot I submitted last week.Clemson starts at...
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Preseason football: Berkeley Prep passing game on point in weather-shortened win

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Updated: 8 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from the Rays’ win over the Yankees

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from the Rays’ win over the Yankees

NEW YORK — Here's Marc Topkin's takeaways from the Rays' 3-1 victory over the Yankees Thursday:1. Give mild-mannered 29-year-old rookie Adam Kolarek credit for handling the pressure of a bases loaded no-outs in the ninth situation and clos...
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The Rays finally won a series in Yankee Stadium. Now for some perspective.

The Rays finally won a series in Yankee Stadium. Now for some perspective.

NEW YORK — After the Rays exhaled following Thursday's tense-as-they come 3-1 win, they were able to appreciate the significance of what they'd done.For now.And, more importantly, for the future.Really, it shouldn't be that hard. They make thre...
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Rays journal: Rookie Adam Kolarek picks good time for first career save

Rays journal: Rookie Adam Kolarek picks good time for first career save

NEW YORK — There was a lot that went into the Rays hanging on to their 3-1, series-clinching win over the Yankees Thursday.Including the conversation  reliever Adam Kolarek had with himself jogging in from the bullpen with the bases loaded...
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Preseason football: Springstead rolls over Hudson 55-0

Preseason football: Springstead rolls over Hudson 55-0

SPRING HILL — Preseason games are usually a good gauge of where teams stand entering the season. But even after Springstead's 55-0 win over Hudson on Thursday night, Eagles coach Mike Garofano was cautiously optimistic.He thought dept...
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Catching up with the guy who’s been on both sides of Winston-Mariota

Catching up with the guy who’s been on both sides of Winston-Mariota

NASHVILLE — Jon Robinson knew being the general manager of the Titans meant almost every decision would pass by his desk."I got into this for football,'' Robinson said. "And now I'm trying to buy vacuum cleaners.''The Titans' kicker is Ryan Suc...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Sports on TV/radio for Friday, August 17

TODAYAutosXfinity: Food City 300 qualifying3:30 p.m.NBCSNXfinity: Food City 3007:30 p.m.NBCSNBaseballMets at Phillies6 p.m.MLBRays at Red Sox7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMMarlins at Nationals7 p.m.FSFAstros at A’s10 p.m.MLBBaseball, Little League World Series...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Bucs sign former Panthers DT Drew Iddings, waived Stevie Tu’ikolovatu injured

Bucs sign former Panthers DT Drew Iddings, waived Stevie Tu’ikolovatu injured

One Bucs player will be departing Nashville before the team does.Defensive tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, a seventh-round pick from Southern Cal in 2017, was waived injured Thursday. Tu'ikolovatu suffered what is believed to be a triceps injury.The Bucs...
Published: 08/16/18
Rays hang on for 3-1 victory, win first series at Yankee Stadium since 2014

Rays hang on for 3-1 victory, win first series at Yankee Stadium since 2014

NEW YORK – Once they got done exhaling, the Rays had reason to celebrate Thursday.In hanging on for a 3-1 win and taking two of the three games, they won their first series at Yankee Stadium since the middle of the 2014 season.Twelve times sinc...
Published: 08/16/18