January is flying by and so far the New Year’s Resolutions are still intact—keep exercising, learn to be more patient and make sure to not watch any of the following: Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Honey Boo Boo and the Pro Bowl. What do all of the above have in common—many don’t want to participate??? Hope your New Year is off to a good start where in the wide world of sports things were a bit tamer this week with Lance and Oprah biking off the radar. Here we go…..
RAYS RELOCATION: I don’t usually side with Owners in sports. Many are arrogant, reckless with their words and their money and often don’t think of the average Joe. Here in Tampa Bay we have a few exceptions to the rule. Lightning owner Jeffery Vinik was a stabilizing force in the crazy NHL Lockout and has been outstanding to his players and employees not to mention the community. The other exception is Rays Owners Stu Sternberg. What more can this man do to make baseball more appealing in the Tampa Bay area? I certainly feel his pain and hope somebody or somebodies can reduce it in the not so distant future.
Sternberg and his team erased the memory of Vince Namoli, took the Devil out, put a winner in, have been outstanding ambassadors in the community and have treated the fans with reduced ticket prices and for years free parking for crying out loud. They inherited a mess and have exceeded every expectation and deserve much more in return. I realize the economy is bad but its bad many places around the country—-Sternberg and the Rays have done more than their fair share and have every right to leave if this continues. Boy I hope that doesn’t happen though—-its clear through the TV ratings this community loves the team—-we just need to see more love at the gate.
I’m in the minority in that I really don’t hate Tropicana Field—-the AC it provides in the summer months is great when I take my family to games and yes I take them to many where its also nice to never suffer thorough a rainout. With that said, this franchise deserves a catwalk free ballpark and everyone knows it will work better in downtown Tampa. Pinellas County has had its shot and seems to like playing the waiting game instead of being proactive—-this area can’t afford to take that stance. I remember when the Tampa Bay Storm who play in Tampa would outdraw the Rays some nights—location, location, location.
I know Atlanta and Miami are awful sports cities—I thought Tampa Bay was better—time to step up to the plate and prove it.
SAINT LEAVITT? Sean Payton didn’t waste anytime on his first day back from his year long suspension–firing a man he didn’t even work with the past year in Saints Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. First off, I have never met a nicer NFL Coach than Spags who certainly deserved better but was a victim of bad personnel and bad timing. The results were ugly though as Spags’ unit was statistically the worst defense…..ever?!
Payton says a big reason for the move is the team’s new switch to a 3-4 scheme which better fits the Saints personnel of young athletic defensive lineman and linebackers. The candidates I have heard include Lovie Smith and Romeo Crennel. I have heard Alabama’s Kirby Smart and LSU’s John Chavis. Here’s my offering—how about San Francisco Linebacker coach Jim Leavitt.
I covered Leavitt for years when he built the USF program out of a trailer. Sure he left unceremoniously after an alleged altercation with a player in which he still claims his innocence. There is no question that he is in much better shape than the USF program which has deteriorated in his absence. Leavitt has proven to be a developer of talent where he recruited the likes of Jason Pierre Paul in Tampa and his made his mark in the Niners 3-4 scheme which has taken them to the Super Bowl.
At one point in his life Leavitt was one of the hottest coaches in the country—turning down job offers from the likes of Alabama and Kansas State. He has made some mistakes, learned from them and subsequently landed on his feet in a big way. I believe he now needs to land in New Orleans where his proven track record of building physical defenses with a variety of blitz packages is exactly what the Saints need.
OH BROTHER?? What are the odds you have two brothers growing up and both head coaching against the other in the Super Bowl ?? Pretty long odds—how long? According to my friend Kathy Ensor at the American Statistical Association (ASA) and the stats department at Rice University—the odds are 1 in 255 when brothers are head coaches in different conferences of the NFL.
The odds get longer when the field of candidates is expanded to encompass all NFL head coaches, the 64 offensive and defensive coordinators, six former NFL head coaches, 68 coaches at major college football programs who have the potential to become an NFL coach and 12 other position coaches who could become head coach of a team, says Ensor. With these factors at play and only one set of brothers in the pool, the odds jump to 1 in 11,175.
SALUTING STAN: Mickey Mantle may have gotten more publicity. So did Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams but while those baseball legends received more headlines the recent passing of Stan Musial shows us he had a better and certainly much more unheralded career.
Did you know Musial is 4th all time in hits (3630) 5th in RBI’s (1951) and how about a lifetime average of .331! All of the above are better numbers than Mantle, Mays, DiMaggio The only area where Williams was better was lifetime batting average. Yes DiMaggio’s and Teddy Ballgame’s numbers would have been better if they hadn’t missed some prime years serving our country but still you gotta wonder how big Stan the Man would have been if he would have played in a bigger market than St Louis?
His most amazing stat to me was his consistency–he had 1815 hits at home and on the road—pretty amazing. Did I mention he also had 475 home runs?!
CAN’T FORGET ABOUT EARL: Amazing the passing of Musial coincided with the death of another baseball legend in Earl Weaver. There was never a manager like him then and now even though Joe Maddon has a few creative similarities. Weaver hated bunting where he claimed you only get 27 outs, “why give one away.” He would famously yell at his pitchers who wouldn’t throw strikes when the other team bunted as he would claim. “they are giving you an out, take it!” He was never shy with the umpires or with his love of the three run homer but his biggest legacy was winning. A true one of a kind you would like to see more of in today’s game—Earl Weaver you will certainly be missed.
MANTI MADNESS: I don’t know about you but I’ve read and watched a lot from Notre Dame’s embattled linebacker Manti Te’o and I still don’t know what the hell is going on?? Just let the kid move on—we may never know…..
EXTRA POINT: I was so close to predicting the unlikely Super Bowl as I had the Falcons vs the Ravens—–damn you DIrty Birds! I won’t see you in New Orleans but I will be in the Big Easy all Super Bowl week—where the Naborhood will be blogging away.
UNTIL NEXT BLOG,