Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer

Matt Baker

Matt Baker joined the Times as a sports reporter in 2011. In 2014, he started covering the Bucs, Rays and Lightning. He previously covered high school and college sports for the Tulsa World and minor league baseball for the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. His work has been honored by the Best American Sports Writing series and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is a Hoosier native and graduated from Northwestern University in 2008.

Phone: (727) 420-9087


Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

  1. FSU got their challenges but still won


    TALLAHASSEE — After rolling through the 2013 regular season with a dozen double-digit victories, No. 1 Florida State wanted to face some challenges in its quest to repeat as national champions.

    "That's one of the things we worked on and wanted to do was face adversity and overcome it," defensive tackle Eddie Goldman said.

    The Seminoles faced plenty — some self-inflicted, some not — during Saturday's 23-17 overtime win over Clemson....

    Jameis Winston, suspended for Saturday’s game, provided guidance to his replacment, Sean Maguire. [Getty Images]
  2. FSU survives, beats Clemson in overtime


    TALLAHASSEE — After relying on star quarterback Jameis Winston for most of an 18-game win streak, No. 1 Florida State showed Saturday night it can survive without him, too.

    With the suspended Winston watching from the sideline, quarterback Sean Maguire and the Seminoles made up for early struggles with big plays late.

    They rallied from their first deficit in almost a year to force overtime, where Karlos' Williams 12-yard touchdown run gave them a 23-17 victory over No. 22 Clemson at Doak Campbell Stadium....

    Deshaun Watson, right, celebrates his 2-yard touchdown run, which puts Clemson up 17-10, with Stanton Seckinger.
  3. Suspended Jameis Winston dresses up, sits down for FSU


    TALLAHASSEE — Even when suspended, Jameis Winston couldn't escape the spotlight of the college football world Saturday night.

    The pregame story centered on the Florida State quarterback, starting with the signs at ESPN's College GameDay and extending to his full-uniform entrance for pregame warmups.

    On Wednesday, FSU benched the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, who led it to the national title last season, for the first half of Saturday's prime-time game for what administrators deemed "offensive and vulgar" remarks he made on campus regarding a sexually explicit meme. ...

    New Florida State starting quarterback Sean Maguire, left, shakes hands with suspended quarterback Jameis Winston before the game against Clemson.
  4. Scouting the NFC South



    If history is any judge, New Orleans' 0-2 start isn't a good sign. It has missed the playoffs the past six times it began that poorly. New Orleans doesn't have to deal with Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, but it's without its top rusher, Mark Ingram (broken hand). Some of Ingram's carries will go to Khiry Robinson, a second-year back out of Division II West Texas A&M who has 283 yards and two touchdowns for his career. "He's a physical runner with really good balance," coach Sean Payton told of the undrafted free agent. "He'll be fired up for the opportunity, and he has already been a really big part of our plan."...

  5. Key NFL injuries


    QB Joe Flacco, Baltimore: He missed practices due to illness and was pulled from a scheduled conference call with Cleveland reporters. But Flacco is expected to recover in time to play.

    RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Oakland: Thursday, he practiced for the first time since Sept. 8 hand surgery. He likely will share carries with Darren McFadden.

    RB Arian Foster, Houston: The league's No. 2 rusher was limited in practice by a hamstring injury but isn't expected to be sidelined....

    BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 07: Quarterback Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens looks on against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on September 7, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
  6. NFL instagram of the week



    Former Florida State running backs James Wilder Jr. (Plant High) and Devonta Freeman swap jerseys after last week's Bengals-Falcons game.

  7. NFL seems to treat arrested stars different from arrested scrubs


    As media coverage regarding the NFL's handling of domestic violence cases swelled, one complaint continued to sound among critics: The league treats its stars better than its scrubs.

    High-powered attorney Gloria Allred blasted the league and commissioner Roger Goodell for, she believes, ignoring a case involving Bears star receiver Brandon Marshall. Sports Illustrated writer Robert Klemko questioned if the Vikings handled All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson differently than undrafted, no-name players....

    Ray Rice
  8. Rays: Praise for Zobrist; another Maddon Potato Head

    The Heater

    Rays vs. White Sox

    When/where: 7:10 tonight; Tropicana Field

    Radio: 620-AM (no TV)

    Tickets: $18-$275, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster,, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within 5 hours of game time.

    Promotion: Joe Maddon Mr. Potato Head

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Chris Archer (9-8, 3.54)...

    NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16:  Hector Noesi #45 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Seattle Mariners during their game on May 16, 2013 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Hector Noesi
  9. Rays lose to White Sox, eliminated from playoffs

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — After the Rays officially eliminated themselves from playoff contention with Friday's 4-3 loss to the White Sox, manager Joe Maddon said it was time to start thinking about gassing up his RV.

    His plan seems fitting after the Rays (74-80) have looked like they have nothing left in the tank from the push to come back from 18 games under .500 in early June. They have led in each of their past 13 games but have won only seven. Friday they gave away a three-run lead in front of an announced crowd of 17,540 at Tropicana Field....

    White Sox catcher Josh Phegley tags out the Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier, who tries to score from first base on an error by second baseman Marcus Semien during the seventh inning at Tropicana Field.
  10. Ben Zobrist named Rays MVP

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Don Zimmer spent his life preaching the importance of the little things in baseball, with INF/OF Ben Zobrist among those soaking up the details.

    Those little things added up to a big team award for Zobrist, who was named the club's MVP by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The award is now named after Zimmer, the former team senior baseball adviser who died in June....

    Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) runs to first in the fourth inning during the MLB game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida on Wednesday, September 17, 2014.
  11. For starters, Rays vs. White Sox



  12. Florida State will bench Jameis Winston for first half over remarks


    Jameis Winston, Florida State's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, will miss the first half of Saturday's prime-time game against No. 22 Clemson for making "offensive and vulgar" remarks on campus, the school announced Wednesday.

    "Student-athletes are expected to act in a way that reflects dignity and respect for others," FSU athletic director Stan Wilcox and interim president Garnett Stokes said in a statement. "As a result of his comments (Tuesday), which were offensive and vulgar, Jameis Winston will undergo internal discipline and will be withheld from competition for the first half of the Clemson game."...

    “I just want to apologize to my university, my coaches and my teammates,” said Jameis Winston, who won’t start Saturday.
  13. Falcons coach wary of Bucs' Bobby Rainey


    TAMPA — Falcons coach Mike Smith didn't need to see RB Bobby Rainey's 144-yard game Sunday to know the Bucs backup's potential. Smith saw it last year, when Rainey ran for 163 yards in a 41-28 win over Atlanta.

    "That was kind of his coming-out party," Smith said. "… There's not a whole lot of area to hit. You've got shoulder pads and knees — that's about it. He's very compact."...

    Bobby Rainey’ 144 rushing yards Sunday were second-most in his brief NFL career — the most was 163 against Thursday’s foe, Atlanta.
  14. Lovie Smith on NFL problems: 'I believe in the shield'


    TAMPA - The off-the-field problems continue to swirl in the NFL, with high-profile stars like Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy drawing scorn from fans and some sponsors for legal trouble....