06/08/13 The Heater
Finally, Jeremy Hellickson slammed the door in someone's face.
Finally, he stepped on someone's neck.
It was the fifth inning, and as often happens, Hellickson seemed as if he were standing on shaky ground. It was one of those "here we go again" moments, when a perfectly safe lead is threatened, when Hellickson goes from a pitcher who is cruising in a game to one where he is against the ropes....
It is all about him, of course. Isn't it always?
His teammates are fading, and the opposition is admirable, and the stage is huge. The lights are on, and the pressure is mounting, and the world is watching. And so, once again, the eyes turn to LeBron James. Where else would you look?
This is James' time, and this is his legacy, and more than anyone else, this has to be his NBA Finals....
06/03/13 The Heater
As miracles go, even Lazarus had to be impressed. It wasn't loaves-and-fishes stuff, and it wasn't walking across the water. All in all, however, it probably beat the locusts.
Dioner Navarro hit a home run.
And a third.
For a night, he was Thor. He was Babe. He was the hammer. After a career spent plinking and plopping, Navarro was unleashed.
I know what you are thinking. A lot of players have hit three home runs in a game. Heck, 16 players have hit four. But this is Navvy we're talking about. Navvy hitting three home runs in a game is like Reggie Jackson hitting nine, or Johnny Mize hitting 13....
06/01/13 Lightning Strikes
Now that he is unemployed, will you shed a tear for Torts?
After all, John Tortorella is the finest hockey coach Tampa Bay has ever had. He lifted the Cup. He raised the standards. He shut the yaps. As much as anyone, he made this an essential hockey market.
Or now that the Rangers have had their fill of him, do you cheer that Tortorella is gone?
After all, Tortorella was a constant case of bad mood. Always he was a bully in search of a target. He stepped on toes. He rattled cages. He hurt feelings. There were times he was the smartest man in the room and times when he was the only smart man in the room....
This was his state, and these were his friends, and so this was his pain, too. And Gerald McCoy could not turn away.
Hour after hour, the Bucs defensive tackle watched as the television showed the horrifying images of the tornado that ripped up Oklahoma last week. After all, the city of Moore is five minutes from where McCoy grew up, and as he watched, he recognized this building, and that school. Something inside of McCoy felt hollow....
05/27/13 The Heater
They found him in the discount rack, buried there with the old beepers and the used Bananarama CDs. He was, as they say, priced to move.
There was a little wear to him, to be honest, a couple of dents. He was coming off a dreadful season. By trade, he was a second baseman, and the Rays were looking more for a utility player. His numbers weren't much to look at, but to be fair, the Rays didn't have a lot of numbers themselves. Why be picky?...
05/25/13 The Heater
It is time to put away the imaginary bow.
It is time to put away the suddenly blunt arrow.
It is time, pretty much, to put away Fernando Rodney.
Rodney has lost his ownership of the ninth inning. Another blown save, and another squandered lead, has turned him into just another struggling relief pitcher on just another fourth-place team. These days, he throws doubles. These days, he surrenders leads....
Here in the shadowlands, the field is short. It is only the journey that is long.
For a decade, Adrian McPherson has chased a season such as this one. From league to league, from team to team, across the border and back, McPherson kept chasing football one end zone at a time. He went from scandal and headlines to the fringes of the game, watching, waiting for his opportunity.
Finally, when the world was prepared to forget his name, McPherson has caught up to the potential....
The heat of the afternoon beat down on the Tampa Bay Bucs Monday, no doubt a by-product of the warm and fuzzy feelings between a football coach and his quarterback.
It was the start of the spring practices, and Greg loved Josh and Josh loved Greg and all was good in the land of the Bucs, where every drop of sweat cascaded like a heart drawn on a window pane.
Yes sir, they are quite the couple, coach Greg Schiano and Josh Freeman, his quarterback. Their initials are carved in the nearest oak....
05/18/13 The Heater
If the disappointment had come from the usual suspects, perhaps you could better understand it.
For instance, if the betrayal had come from the offense, if the bats were as small and powerless as they were in the old days, you would simply shake your head and sigh. Frustrating times at the plate are familiar to Rays fans, after all. You have taken that ride before.
If the failure had come defensively, you might even understand that. Over the past half-dozen seasons, the Rays have been pretty good defensively in most years. But last year, the gloves became leaden and the throws became wild. You have seen spotty play in the field, too....
05/15/13 The Heater
More than anything, maybe what David Price is allergic to is the 2013 season.
And opposing bats.
And third innings.
And two-strike pitches.
In Wednesday night's edition of The Price is Off, it was an injury that, at first glance, seems relatively minor. Price lasted seven whole outs before leaving the game against the Red Sox with tightness in his left triceps....
They traded for an island in Darrelle Revis. They brought in a heat-seeking safety in Dashon Goldson. They drafted a corner they like in Johnthan Banks.
Whee, says Danny Sheridan.
Sheridan, a nationally known sports handicapper, was so impressed that he expects the Bucs to win … seven games.
Seven? Last year, when their secondary consisted of men chasing after buses, they won seven games. Last year, when they were historically bad in the secondary, bad beyond belief, they won seven times....
05/11/13 The Heater
Even today, it is not as simple as mother and son. Even on Mother's Day, there are different forms of caring beyond childbirth, different ways of making a difference in the life of a child.
Consider, for instance, the women who own a piece of Matt Joyce's heart.
Today, Joyce will start his day by sending a text to his older sister, Danielle. After all, Danielle was always his fiercest defender. Today of all days, she deserves to hear a kind thought from Joyce....
In the collective memory of Tampa Bay sports, he is running still. A decade gone, and Ronde Barber is gaining on forever.
Even now, Barber is racing down the sideline of Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. The yard markers blur in front of him, and the Eagles disappear behind him. The stadium has fallen deathly silent, as if Barber's interception hit the mute button on an entire city.
It has been 10 years since The Pick, 10 years since Barber snuffed out the Eagles' last chance by intercepting Donovan McNabb and returning it 92 yards to the end zone, slaying demons every 10 yards along the way....
05/08/13 The Heater
As he lay on the ground, deathly still, he was unsure what had happened to him. Blood was flowing from his left ear, and he felt pressure on that side of his skull. For a moment, J.A. Happ was as uncertain as anyone of just how seriously he was injured.
A day later, and he cannot wait to get back to get to the mound.
This is the insanity of the position. A batted ball had caromed off his skull, and already, Happ was talking about his return. The Blue Jays left-hander had collapsed in a ghastly image, and he wants his next chance. It is not an exaggeration to say that an inch here or there, and Happ could have died....