That was weird.
For him. For them. For us. For everyone.
David Price stepped on the mound at Tropicana Field on Thursday and, just like always, the crowd gave him a long, rousing ovation as his walk-up music — Shawty Lo's Feels Good to Be Here — was played on the P.A. system. He was wearing that familiar No. 14 and his pant legs were hiked up high, just like always....
We constantly get letters and phone calls here at the Tampa Bay Times, asking, "Why don't you guys print some good news once in a while?''
It's true that, quite often, we're telling stories — very important stories — about wars and political corruption and shady citizens. Even in the Sports pages, it's hard to go a day or two without reading about some sports star punching his girlfriend or cheating on his exams or walking out of Publix without paying for crab legs....
TAMPA — Get the ball into his hands.
Let him run. Let him dodge and dive, juke and jive.
Throw it to him. Hand it to him. Pitch it to him. Do whatever you have to do. But get him the ball.
Give him the ball any way you can, point him toward the end zone and let him do his thing.
Running back Doug Martin is still the best offensive weapon the Bucs have, and Saturday night against the Dolphins, offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford not only remembered that, but reminded all of us of that....
08/14/14 The Heater
Major League Baseball has named a new commissioner to replace Bud Selig, who will step down in five months after a 22-year tenure.
In the end, Rob Manfred has some serious work to do, including keeping peace with the players' union.
But here are the (first) five things the new commissioner needs to do.
1. Get rid of steroids
Is the problem of PEDs in baseball better than the Wild West days when players such as Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were hitting moon shots at the rate of 70 homers a season? Yes. But let's not kid ourselves. The game has not totally rid itself of the problem. As recently as last season, star players such as Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and Nelson Cruz were linked to steroids....
USF athletic director Mark Harlan says he's a glass-half-full kind of guy. He might want to fill the other half of that glass with something stiffer than club soda. Last week, the NCAA board of directors voted to approve a bunch of changes that allow schools from the biggest and richest five football conferences — the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 — to have more autonomy, especially when it comes to scholarships. If things go as expected, it will soon become the law of the land. And bad news for schools such as USF. In a nutshell: The Big Five (plus Notre Dame) will take over college sports and do things the way they want to do them. That means guaranteeing scholarships for four years, giving players stipends to cover costs beyond the usual tuition, books, room and board. It might include better health benefits and paying for parents to attend games. And you don't have to squint to see that this is a major step in eventually paying players....
08/08/14 The Heater
So, it's a week later, and it would appear that Rays fans are no closer to getting over the David Price trade. On July 31, the Rays shipped the All-Star pitcher — and perhaps the best player in team history — to the Tigers for (as of now) a middle-of-the-rotation lefty, Drew Smyly; middle infielder Nick Franklin, and 18-year-old prospect Willy Adames. What's surprising isn't so much the disappointment or frustration of the fans but the outright anger, not just at major-league baseball and the economics of the game but seemingly toward Rays ownership and management. Certainly not all fans feel this way, but over the past week I've been flooded with emails and phone calls that not only have criticized the trade but have questioned the way the organization is being run. One email said the trade is just the latest example of how Rays ownership shows no respect for the fans. No respect? Are you serious?...
He is probably the only guy in Tampa Bay who was upset to see Greg Schiano fired as coach of the Bucs.
Mike Glennon. What a bummer.
Schiano might have rubbed most everyone the wrong way, but he was the one coach absolutely convinced Glennon was not only the Bucs' franchise quarterback of the future, but the present.
Schiano was Glennon's biggest fan, and you want your biggest fan wearing a headset on an NFL sideline, not a headset behind a desk at NFL Network....
TAMPA — When a professional football team goes on the road, know who typically sits in first class?
The offensive linemen.
Got to take care of the big fellas. Everyone knows that an offense is only as good as its offensive line.
"Critical,'' Bucs tackle Anthony Collins said. "Very critical.''
Collins is spot on. NFL teams might be able to get away with having an okay quarterback or so-so receivers. You don't always need an elite running back or even a good defense....
08/01/14 The Heater
The past year has not been easy here in Tampa Bay. Think about it. We have lost three of the most iconic, three of the best, three of the most popular athletes in Tampa Bay sports history. It started last summer, when the Lightning bought out the contract of captain Vinny Lecavalier, the face of the franchise. Then came the spring, when the man who replaced Lecavalier as captain, Marty St. Louis, demanded a trade and ended up going to the Rangers. Then came Thursday, when David Price, certainly the best pitcher and, arguably, the greatest player in Rays history, was shipped to the Tigers in a trade-deadline deal. In these parts, we know them by nicknames and initials: Vinny. Marty. DP. But they no longer belong to us. Our superstars are now somebody else's — Vinny in Philadelphia, Marty in New York and DP in Detroit. Who is left?...
07/31/14 The Heater
That's it? That's all? Bet that's what you're thinking right now. I'm guessing that was your immediate reaction when you heard the Rays traded their best pitcher — the best pitcher they have ever had, maybe the best player they have ever had — to the Tigers just before Thursday's Major League Baseball nonwaiver trade deadline. At first glance, the return for All-Star pitcher David Price seems rather light. The Rays got a mediocre major-league pitcher, a middle infielder who has yet to really stick in the majors and an 18-year-old prospect still down in Class A ball. Egads. They got more for Matt Garza, didn't they? They got a better haul when they traded James Shields, wouldn't you say? So what the heck happened? The Rays just got fleeced, right? Well, to everyone looking to burn down the Trop, calm down. Take a deep breath. Put away those pitchforks and torches. It's not the end of the world. It's not the end of the Rays....
07/30/14 The Heater
You have to do it, and you have to do it now. Trade David Price. I know. If you're a Rays fan, that stinks. When you draw up blueprints to build championship ball clubs, you look to get pitchers such as Price, not get rid of them. He's the ace of the Rays staff, a leader in the clubhouse and one heck of a good guy. Price broke in as a Tampa Bay Ray, and if life was fair and baseball was just, he would go out as a Ray — about 10 years from now. And, yeah, you figure if the Rays are going to finish off what could be an amazing comeback this season, they need one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. But it's time to say goodbye. Before today's 4 p.m. trade deadline. As hard as it is to admit, it really is best for the Rays. No, not for today or tomorrow, and maybe not for two months from now. But it's the right thing for the future. It's the right thing when you're a small-market team that has payroll constraints and plays in an outdated stadium in front of embarrassingly small crowds. Franchises like that do what they can to maximize any and all assets. Franchises like that have to get creative to get the best returns on their investments....
TAMPA — The Fastest Man in Pads.
Quite the title, isn't it?
But that's what Jeff Demps is called. Just ask him.
"I think there's no doubt,'' Demps said.
He isn't bragging. He's just saying.
No one, he will tell you, is faster on a football field. Come to think of it, there aren't many faster away from the football field, either.
"Olympic-type speed,'' Bucs coach Lovie Smith said....
07/25/14 The Heater
Big game. Big series.
Rays vs. Red Sox. Even normally sleepy Tropicana Field had a bit of buzz to it Friday night. Okay, so it wasn't Fenway Park, and it didn't quite feel like October, but it did feel like a game that mattered.
And right now, the Rays are suddenly a team that matters playing games that matter.
Opening night of this key three-game series against those hated Red Sox, and David Price was throwing peas and Evan Longoria was hitting seeds. The Rays' two stars led the way to keep the winning streak going. It's now eight and counting after the 6-4 win....
First day of Bucs camp, and if you're looking for controversy, all we can offer is Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy showing up in a robe and slippers.
There you go. That's pretty much it. There's your TMZ moment. Big guy rolls out of bed and goes to work. Film at 11.
No one stayed away demanding a new contract. No one showed up two hours late with booze on his breath. No one left his brain at home and said something stupid....
Tony Dungy has long been the conscience of the National Football League.
He is thoughtful and kind and smart. He is a pioneer, the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl.
His words have meaning. His opinions carry weight. We seek his advice.
We listen to him. We like him.
Most of all, we trust him.
Which is why it was so disappointing to hear his comments — and his rather convoluted and contradictory explanation of those comments — about the first openly gay player in NFL history....