If we lived in San Francisco or San Antonio, we would be talking about Giants and Spurs and dynasties. If we were in Los Angeles, we would be talking about the Kings winning the Stanley Cup. If we were in Seattle, we would be talking Super Bowl. But here in Tampa Bay, our sports stories are more about what happened away from the arena than in it. Firings, departures, hirings and trades. That's the focus for our look back at the local year in sports, including the loss of some of our most beloved sports figures....
12/17/14 The Heater
Surely Matt Silverman has lost his mind. That's your first thought.
Why in the world would the Rays' boss trade a young slugger, a potential superstar who was the American League rookie of the year just two seasons ago? Especially when that slugger is only 24 years old. Especially when you have a team that always seems to be in search of a big bat. Especially when you gave up big-game pitcher James Shields to get him. And especially when that slugger is still pretty cheap for a franchise that's always counting pennies....
12/15/14 The Heater
ST. PETERSBURG — Emily Cash was sitting in her car at stoplight in Avon Lake, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland. Her daughters, 8-year-old Camden and 6-year-old Ella, were in the backseat, fresh from a trip to the dentist.
Her husband, Kevin, called to say he was on his way home. Great, she thought, he could pay the babysitter, who was watching their 1-year-old son, J.D.
"What else is going on?" Emily asked....
Whew. That was a little too close. But the Bucs woke up in time to go back to sleep.
The dream of a No. 1 pick is still alive thanks to a much-closer-than-it-really-was 19-17 loss at Carolina on Sunday. With that, the Bucs are all set to limp to a finish with a 2-14 record and end up with a great pick in the 2015 NFL draft, maybe even the first pick overall.
The Bucs tried to win Sunday. Really, they did. Who could blame them? They're professionals. Some are fighting for jobs. Most, if not all, have pride. You can't blame them for trying, but really, the organization is better off with a loss....
12/10/14 Lightning Strikes
It's the end of an era.
For nearly every Lightning season, Bobby "The Chief'' Taylor has come into our living rooms, using a Telestrator to teach us hockey and his engaging personality to entertain us on countless winter nights.
On television, he is part professor and part fan, passing along need-to-know information while occasionally grading the performance of a numbskull referee by yelling, "What a joke!''...
12/10/14 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — The end of an era is coming.
Bobby "The Chief" Taylor, who has been calling Lightning games on television since the team's second season in 1993-94, is walking away from the booth. Taylor announced Wednesday that this will be his last season as a color commentator on Lightning broadcasts.
But Taylor isn't going away completely. He is expected to still appear on Lightning broadcasts during the pre- and post-game shows, as well as intermissions. The idea of switching roles first came up over the summer and Taylor made the decision this week to move to a spot where he can do more teaching with the Telestrator and analysis....
The first-ever college football playoff is set. On Jan. 1, FSU will play Oregon in the Rose Bowl and Alabama will face Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. Meantime, Baylor and TCU are back in Texas and spittin' mad over being left out of the party. Here's a Two Cents look at the committee's decision and what it means.
Did the committee get it right?
The answer likely depends on where you are from....
Each week the Bucs offense finds a new way to embarrass itself.
Last week it was the 12-men-on-the-field penalty that wiped out any chance for a winning field goal in the final seconds against the Bengals.
Sunday's play in the 34-17 loss to the Lions didn't cost the Bucs the game, but it was just about as embarrassing: They needed to call timeout before the first play from scrimmage in the second half. Seriously, how does that happen? After a halftime to get ready, how can you be so unprepared and confused that you have to burn a timeout before you even run a play?...
12/05/14 The Heater
Say this for Matt Silverman: The guy has guts.
Not many baseball executives would have had the nerve to do what he did Friday. In his first big hire since taking over baseball operations for the Rays, he is swinging for the fences.
After losing, arguably, the best manager in baseball, Silverman is handing the keys of the franchise over to a kid who has never filled out a lineup card before....
He is not a member of coaching royalty and unless you follow college football pretty closely, you don't know much about him.
He doesn't have a familiar and hip coach's name such as Urban or Jimbo or Chip. He hasn't done enough in this business to get a cool nickname such as the Mad Hatter or the Head Ball Coach. He doesn't have the pedigree of his old boss, Nick Saban. The highlight of his head-coaching career was a victory in something called the New Mexico Bowl....
TAMPA — They don't line up right. They don't know the snap count. They don't know the rules.
For crying out loud, they don't even know how many players you're allowed to have on the field.
The Bucs are the dumbest, most undisciplined team in the NFL, and there is one man to blame for that: Lovie Smith — you know, the head coach.
This is his team, his responsibility. He's the one in charge....
Biggest fall guy
Bucs coach Lovie Smith stood behind the podium after Sunday's loss to the Bengals and took all the responsibility, accepted all the blame. Hey, you don't have to tell us twice. Most already are blaming this 2-10 mess on the coach, and the angriest of Bucs Nation want to see Smith fired. Like, right away.
Of course, that's silly. Smith's seat isn't even lukewarm, let alone hot. And it shouldn't be. He inherited a bad team and it can't be fixed in one season....
TALLAHASSEE — They should have lost. When you break it all down and dissect the pieces, there's no way they should have won this game.
Their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback threw four interceptions, including three in his own territory. They had a punt blocked, deep in their own territory. They committed dumb penalties on offense and costly penalties on defense.
They spent nearly half the game falling behind and the other half barely hanging on....
11/25/14 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — You could boo him. That's certainly your right.
You could bring his old jersey to the game and use it to clean the nacho cheese off your fingers. That, too, is your right.
You could bring a sign telling him to go back to New York and take his no-good, stinkin' Rangers buddies with him. All of that is fair game.
But here's what you should do tonight when Marty St. Louis takes the ice at Amalie Arena for the first time since being traded in March from the Lightning to the Rangers:...
It was 10 years ago, almost to the day. • The date was Nov. 20, 2004, and the Florida Gators had absolutely no business — and seemingly no chance — of going to Tallahassee and knocking off Florida State. • The Gators were 6-4, their worst season in more than 15 years. They had already decided to fire coach Ron Zook. In fact, taking on rival FSU was going to be Zook's swan song with Florida. • The Seminoles, meantime, were ranked 10th in the country and heavy favorites to send Zook out a loser. • But the Gators went to FSU and, behind a stingy defense and some of that win-one-for-the-Gipper emotion for their lame-duck coach, stunned the 'Noles, 20-13. • No way that should have happened. • Now get ready for it to happen again. • Florida State? You are officially on upset alert. • The Gators head to Tallahassee again this weekend, and the similarities to 2004 are eerie. • Again, the Gators are heavy underdogs. Again, they are 6-4. And again, they have a coach on his way out. This is Will Muschamp's last game as Florida's head coach. • All the signs are there for an FSU romp. That also means all the stars are aligned for another Florida upset. • The Seminoles might be walking into a Gator trap. • Let's start with Florida. If you do some digging, you'll find that the Gators have been disappointing but not outright awful this season. • There was a blowout loss at Alabama and the embarrassing 29-point loss at the Swamp to Missouri — the game that really started the groundswell to get rid of Muschamp....