Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lions Losing Streaks Falling

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When the Detroit Lions snapped their 26-game road losing streak to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on December 19, it marked the second straight week that they ended a futile drought.

On December 12 at Ford Field, a 7-3 win over the Green Bay Packers halted a 19-game losing streak to NFC North opponents.

During the Lions Post-Game Press Conference in Tampa at Raymond James Stadium after Detroit removed a Gorilla off it's back against the Bucs, Head Coach Jim Schwartz candidly told the Media that We'll find another streak to create.

So out of respect to Schwartz, I found three streaks for the coach that would either continue or also come to an end.

1) The Miami Dolphins are 7-2 in the all-time series, but have won five straight games dating back to 1994. On November 23, 2006, former quarterback Joey Harrington led the Dolphins to a 27-10 win on Thanksgiving Day.

2) The Miami Dolphins are 4-0 at home in two stadiums starting with the now demolished Orange Bowl and their current home Joe Robbie Stadium.

3) In this series, the month of December hasn't been kind to the Lions.

Miami rolled to a 34-7 win on December 15, 1973 at the Orange Bowl.

Six years later, the Dolphins whipped the Lions 28-10 on December 9, 1979 at the Pontiac Silverdome.

On December 25, 1994, Miami came away with a Christmas Night Prime-Time 27-20 victory at Joe Robbie Stadium.

Finally, the Dolphins improved to 4-0 in December as they defeated the Lions 33-30, on 12-7-97 at Joe Robbie Stadium.

So what was going to give as the Lions made another Christmas time appearance on December 26, 2010 wearing their blue home jerseys facing former U-M Wolverines QB Chad Henne and Left Tackle Jake Long?

The Dolphins (7-7) were 1-6 at home going into their Joe Robbie Stadium Finale. Their lone win occurred on November 14 as they defeated the Tennessee Titans 29-17.

When the contest was over, the Lions received a belated Christmas Gift from Henne. Going into the contest, the former Wolverines signal caller was 266-430 for 2,952 yards with 14 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. By the end of the afternoon, went 29-44 for 278 yards with two more interceptions and one touchdown.

Both interceptions occurred in the fourth quarter. The first was picked off by Nathan Vasher at the 3:48 mark and four plays later led to a 47-yard field goal by Dave Rayner which tied the game at 27-27 with 2:44 remaining in the game.

With 2:25 left, Henne's pass short in the middle that was intended for Davone Bess was intercepted by DeAndre Levy at the Miami 30-yard line and returned for a touchdown. Demonstrating a little showmanship, Levy took a 30-yard run and worked his way to the middle of the field and it looked like a 50-yard run. Yet the end result turned out to be Detroit 34-27 win over the Dolphins. As the clock read 2:11, the Dolphins fans were totally stunned. The only word you'd hear in the Press Box was "Wow."

Levy said the team scouted Henne's tendencies and knew he has a history of making mistakes late in games.

"We knew he had some shaky numbers," Levy said. "A lot of people from the outside look at that and say that's the reason they struggle with so many play makers. But we never want to underestimate a guy. We've had second, third string quarterbacks that, you know, people may not expect much out of come in and win games. We never overlook anybody. We want to come in and execute and do what we're supposed to do."

After both interceptions, 66,731 fans were booing Henne out of the stadium.

Yet when the contest was over, Lions Coach Jim Schwartz didn't know about the three streaks written here in Miami. Just the three-game winning streak the team has and winning a pair in Florida in consecutive weeks against teams that were playoff contenders leading Detroit's development throughout the year.

"Going back if you look at our losses, I don't know if there was a common vein in any of them in any of them," Schwartz said. Each one was a little different. It is a credit to the team. We learned from those. We have not gotten beaten the same way twice. We are used to playing in close games. We are playing with quarterbacks like Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton even though they are second and third stringers this year that have a lot of experience this year. So it is not new for any of these guys."

Now the Miami Dolphins find themselves 7-8 and finished the season 1-7 at home.

The Lions improved to 5-10 and 2-6 on the road. There is no doubt that the next opponent they scout will be live as the Minnesota Vikings contest against the Philadelphia Eagles has been postponed to Tuesday night at 8 pm due to a Snow Storm in Pennsylvania.

It's not hard to figure out which team will be tired as they Lions now have a built in advantage with the extra rest as they look hope to finish the season with a 6-10 record and four-game winning streak.

In addition to the three historical notes listed above, Lions Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh racked up his ninth sack of the season which tied Jerry Ball for the third most at his position in Detroit history.

Suh said the team is playing with heart not being a playoff contender and, "It's more of an understanding in the locker room we all understand that we're not going to the playoffs. We have our own schedule we need to work on for and work at, finish the season out and get ready for next year."

Before Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson injured his ankle, he had four receptions for 52 yards. Johnson endured the Lions 0-16, 2-14 seasons and has watched the team progress to five victories with one more game to go.

Was a pleased at the outcome of the contest?

"Three wins-in-a-row man, we hadn't really seen that since I've been here. I might have seen it in my first year, I'm not positive," Johnson said. "I don't really remember. But we put some good things together, good December. And these things will carry over. I think it's guys just focused in and we're not killing ourselves with mistakes. That's what we were doing most of the season. We'd been in all the games, the games were close and draw some penalties and stuff like that. These last few weeks, it hasn't been the same thing."

Hill was 14-26 222 yards and two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns was a 53-yard strike to Running Back Jahvid Best in the fourth quarter which saw Miami's lead shrink to 27-24.

What did Hill see in the Dolphins coverage which enabled his running back shock the crowd at Joe Robbie Stadium?

"They were playing two man, he came out on the weak side of the formation and they were pre-occupied with Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettegrew, " Hill said. "He just came out there free and took off."

When the Lions airplane took off from South Florida, it did with the team improving to 7-3 all-time against the Dolphins. There was no more five game losing streak to Miami. In the eyes of the late Ernie Harwell it was "Long Gone."

Detroit did it despite yielding the second highest rushing total to the Dolphins with 154 yards.

They left the Sunshine State with a 2-0 record in successive weeks.

In this very building on November 27, I watched the Miami Hurricanes lose 23-20 in overtime to the University of South Florida. Later that night, the Hurricanes fired Head Coach Randy Shannon.

For some reason, I have a feeling that Dolphins Head Coach Tony Sparano will experience the same fate. The team's final game is Sunday January 2nd in New England against the 13-2 Patriots. The Patriots currently have a seven game winning streak.

If the Dolphins lose, Miami will finish with a 7-9 season. On October 4, the Patriots drilled the Dolphins 41-14 in a Nationally Televised contest on ESPN.

Miami's only chance at an 8-8 season is if the Patriots rest some of their players now that they have clinched home field advantage in the AFC throughout the playoffs.

Miami experienced another National Embarrassment when the Chicago Bears blanked the Dolphins 16-0 in Prime-Time on the NFL Network on Thursday November 18.

When the NFL schedule was released in April, who would have thought that when the 2010 season was over that the records of these two teams could be potentially so close? But should Detroit conclude its season 6-10 and Miami 7-9, that's what we're potentially looking at.

Regardless, there are no more Ghosts in the Lions closet in South Florida.

Yet before the game, since 1970, the Miami Dolphins still owned the second best record in the NFL with a 379-249-2 mark, yet that seems like a distant reality since they have two Super Bowl titles to show for their efforts. The Pittsburgh Steelers were the best team with a 382-246-2 mark and six Super Bowl titles.

Judging by the Lions recent futility and Miami's overall success, one would think these two teams didn't need to be mentioned in the same sentence. Miami was 7-9 in 2009 and Detroit 2-14. Now they're much closer to one another in the standings.

On December 26, 2010, none of the streaks or records mattered. Three were snapped.

The only things that mattered was Detroit's win total is 2 1/2 times more than last year and with a Sunday win against the Vikings, there could be an improvement of three times last years totals.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

NBA's Christmas Grinch

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When it comes to athletes and coaches whom are earning millions of dollars whining, please accept my decision that I'm not going to feel sorry for them.

When I heard that Los Angeles Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra and Heat forward LeBron James were complaining about playing games on Christmas and were disappointed that they couldn't spend time with their families, I nearly gagged!

For years, every sport plays on a major holiday. These fans pay lots of money so these players and coaches, etc... can make an Exceptional Living.

In baseball, long before James was ever born, fans have watched games on Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day.

I've seen the NHL have games on Christmas and Jan 1st and if a team is lucky enough to make the playoffs, they'll play on Memorial Day. The NHL has even smartened up that the league has started a new tradition by staging "The Winter Classic" and showcases its marquee teams playing an outdoor game in snowy, wintery conditions. Please tell me a player that ever complained about entertaining fans at Chicago's Wrigley Field or Boston's Fenway Park.

For years, the NFL has played games on Labor Day, occasionally on Christmas, and thanks to the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, there is the annual Thanksgiving Game. The Lions took the game when nobody wanted it in the 1930's and should keep the game until the end of time. I've been very fortunate enough to cover several Lions Games at the Pontiac Silverdome. I never saw Hall of Fame Running Back Barry Sanders complain about eating his meal later in the day. The Cowboys do a nice job with the second contest.

I'm glad that the NFL Network has added the third prime time game. This will enable other cities to host the event and allow fans to enjoy the tradition that those in Detroit and Dallas have for years.

The NFL can at least claim that it owns Thanksgiving Day.

When people think of Memorial Day Weekend, they think of Motor Sports.

I've been to two Indianapolis 500's in Indiana and to see 250,000-300,000 fans tailgate, wear their favorite drivers numbers, outside the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a blast in the morning.

NASCAR's longest race of the year in Charlotte, NC., is the Coca Cola 600 and it starts in late afternoon and carries over into prime time as races could last until 11-Midnight depending on accidents.

I don't see John Andretti, Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon complaining about racing on Memorial Day Weekend. These drivers put their lives on the line and have had the guts to race in both events.

We all know that the NBA plays its playoff games on Memorial Day Weekend, but is there a person that really cares about the sport in the months of October, November and early December? If there is, please let me know who that individual is and I'll shake their hand.

The NBA's coming out party is on Christmas Day. Several years ago, I covered a Detroit Pistons vs Orlando Magic contest at the Amway Arena. It was a blast. I ate lunch with my broadcasting idol Brent Musberger and enjoyed speaking with Hall of Fame player Rick Barry, whose son Jon played for the Pistons.

When I was with the Hallandale Digest back in the 1980's, I wrote a story on Barry, who was interested in becoming a head basketball coach for Barry University, a private school in Miami.

But the national attention in downtown Orlando surrounding the event was enjoyable and the electricity in the building was memorable.

When James was in diapers, and Spoelstra was in grade school, NBA Commissioner David Stern inherited a league that was practically bankrupt. The NBA Finals Games were on tape delay on CBS and the NBA consisted of the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76'ers and Los Angeles Lakers.

When Larry Bird joined the Boston Celtics, and Magic Johnson landed in Los Angeles for the 1979-80 season, these two players made the league worthwhile entertainment.

I have no desire to take any shots at Jackson because, I can't see him coaching in many more holiday games. My gut feeling is when he wins the NBA title next spring, he'll retire in Montana with 12 NBA Championships under his belt.

Jackson's teams in Chicago with Michael Jordan and the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant which resulted in 11 championships, have continued to add to the legacy that Bird and Johnson created.

Back to James. This hasn't been a good year for the Akron, Ohio native from a public relations standpoint.

It started with his television show "The Decision" where he embarrassed himself and the League by making a Clown out of himself by announcing his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and "Taking his talents to South Beach to play for the Miami Heat."

Now he's complaining about playing on Christmas Day and not spending time with his family. To make matters worse, he has the nerve to say that the NBA should contract/eliminate financially troubled teams.

Listen LeBron, we'll let Stern handle The League's business matters. Who knows, maybe next year at this time, if The League proceeds to lock you overpaid players out, you'll get your wish and can forfeit millions of dollars then spend Christmas Day with your family.

There will be sports on Christmas Day whether you're on television or not.

The NHL could step-up and take advantage of an opportunity and snatch a game or two. The networks can always turn to college basketball and perhaps one or two of the bowl games could schedule a game.

These outlets would be glad to play on Christmas and showcase their respective sports. I can't imagine the television networks having much trouble selling advertising since it is a big sports viewing day and has been for years.

My best advice to you Mr. LeBron James is to take your shoe and insert it directly into your mouth so no other stupid comments come out and spare us the public from listening to them! Despite the fact that you're an exceptionally talented player, you do now live in the same city of another title-less Miami legend, Dan Marino.

When you win a title, you'll have my respect. In the meantime, lace up the sneakers and be thankful you have a job the pays real well and you can make a living. Keep your mouth shut! Your shoes should be on the floor, not in your mouth!

The people that work these games at the arenas on Christmas and all of the other holidays which host events can at least make money to support themselves.

Today's NBA games will be held in New York, Orlando, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City and Golden State. The cities visiting for the holidays are Chicago, Boston, Miami, Denver and Portland. Five teams apiece from each conference and a lot of people that will benefit economically.

That's what we should be looking forward to today. Not some title-less Clown who always seems to make "The Wrong Decisions" when he talks.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Jewish Heritage Night

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

I've seen a lot of interesting pre-game festivities and national anthem singers, but what I saw on Wednesday Dec 1, 2010 was a first.

This was the first time that I've seen a Rabbi sing the national anthem before any sporting event. But there was a good reason for this.

The Detroit Pistons vs Miami Heat contest at the American Airlines Arena (AAA) was the first day of Hanukkah. Being Jewish myself, it's a strange way to find out about this holiday and with my busy schedule lately, it slipped my mind and I never gave it much thought.

So now here in the year 2010, I'll know where I spent the 1st Day of Hanukkah, at an NBA Basketball Game in Downtown Miami.

To this day though, Karen Newman of the Detroit Red Wings is still the best national anthem singer I've ever seen having been to many arenas around the country and a few in Canada! Hands down!

During the pre-game shoot-around at the AAA Rabbi Yossi Lebovics was rehearsing and I admit, the Cantor was pretty good. He was even better when it mattered just before tip-off.

But I have to give the Miami Heat credit, they played up this night quite well. To honor the Jewish faith on this night was a Class Act!

They handed out 1st Day of Hanukkah T-Shirts to their fans. There was a Menorah Lighting Ceremony at the East Plaza Outside, the only part of the building where the fans can re-enter the building where there are special events.

This night made me realize some things.

1) There is a large Jewish Population in South Florida and on one occasion, I went to South Beach to a place to pay tribute to my late Grandma Dorothy Caplan with a cousin.

2) It was the first time that I was at the AAA since April of 2009 and that was the last time that I saw my good friend, former Pistons Vice President of Public Relations Matt Dobek. The more I reminisced with former Miami Heat & Washington Bullets Public Relations Director Mark Pray, I continued to think about the great memories with Matt!

Pray and everyone that knew Matt realized that his death has left a tremendous void in all of our lives. Dobek came down to see former Pistons Coach Chuck Daly, who died on May 9, 2009 at the age of 78 due to Cancer.

3) Sitting in the Upper Press gave me a good overview on the Heat's Big Three of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James and what they did for attendance. There were a lot of empty seats and even though Detroit entered the game with a 6-12 mark, therefore, the odds of the Pistons winning let alone being competitive seemed remote, I still thought we'd see a sellout. I was wrong. One thing will always remain consistent. If you don't win in South Florida, the fans won't show up. The Heat were 10-8 going into the game but 1-7 against teams above .500.

4) I had as much desire to interview Wade, Bosh and James as I did Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants after the 2003 NLDS when the Marlins went on to win the World Series. No Desire!

When these three clowns win an NBA Championship, "I'll take My Digital Tape Recorder To South Beach." To this day, I get sick to my stomach when I think of what James said, though if he was smart, he should trademark the absurd saying, "I'll take My Talents To South Beach." I didn't care that he left the Cleveland Cavaliers because an old fashioned press conference has always been the way things are done. Not some stupid staged circus. I was concerned that I couldn't refrain myself from telling himself this, though he's heard it zillions of times, therefore, the Pistons locker room was my safest place.

What I will take from the first day of Hanukkah is the Miami Heat Media Guide with these three clowns is a good collectors item.

Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars may have finally made a good decision by drafting Georgetown Center Greg Monroe (6-11, 250). The rookie played nearly 31 minutes and scored 15 points and added eight rebounds in the Detroit's 97-72 loss.

I realize that it will take some time for the three clowns to develop some team chemistry. But I will admit that this trip to the AAA didn't compare to those days when the Pistons/Heat were battling to be the best in the Eastern Conference. This arena was rocking when Shaq O' Neill was in the building and the Heat played like a real team with less hype.

But Mozel Tov to the Heat and Rabbi Lebovics for a job well done on Jewish Heritage Night, the first day of Hanukkah.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Worth The Drive

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

There would be very few games which would cause me to cut short a Thanksgiving Weekend in Detroit with My Aunt Tina Caplan.

But the one which did was on Saturday November 27, when the Miami Hurricanes hosted My Alma-mater the University of South Florida Bulls scheduled at noon at Joe Robbie Stadium.

I drove directly for 28 hours including the normal gas, food, cat nap and regular rest area stops to see a team I used to cover in Miami during the Howard Schnellenberger era in 1982-83, facing a university that never had football in the 1980's.

Football for USF was a mere pipe dream and homecoming would occur at the Sun Dome during college basketball season. Back then, USF was a member of the Sun Belt Conference. Miami was a National Independent. Today, USF plays in the Hurricanes former conference the Big East as Miami moved to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

On this Saturday afternoon, USF trailed the series 2-0, losing to Miami in 2005 at the Orange Bowl 27-7. In 2009, the Hurricanes stormed past the Bulls 31-10 at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium.

The first half of Saturday's contest set football back to the Stone Ages as USF led 3-0 at halftime.

I substituted Diet Pepsi and loaded up big time on Mountain Dew to stay awake. I wish Joe Robbie Stadium had Vault or Sun Drop. In the Carolina's, where Sun Drop is made, this drink is so potent it would give Jolt or Red Bull a run for its money. Vault and Sun Drop would give a person a blood pressure reading off the charts.

In the second half, the 26,369 fans saw a football game.

Both teams switched quarterbacks as walk on freshman Bobby Eveld took over for injured B.J. Daniels. He sparked the Bulls by rushing for a touchdown and completing 8-15 for 120 yards and zero interceptions. Despite not throwing for any touchdowns, Eveld made clutch completions when he had to.

USF running back Moise Plancher had 24 carries for 103 yards while Demetris Murray had 13 rushes for 42 yards and two touchdowns.

Wide receiver Joel Miller, who is known as the player former USF Coach Jim Leavitt made physical contact with that led to the coaches firing, made a nice contribution with four receptions for 60 yards. Dotavia Bogan added three catches for 56 yards.

Hurricanes quarterback Jacory Harris entered the game in the third quarter by going 12-18-110 yards and one interception along with getting sacked once.

Leonard Hankerson had nine receptions for 127 yards.

The big story in this contest for Miami came by true freshman running back Storm Johnson, whose third carry of the season resulted in an impressive 71-yard touchdown run. Johnson would have five carries this afternoon for 75-yards and Hurricanes fans are going to love this kid!

Miami would take a 17-10 lead until USF discovered its vertical passing game led by Eveld, who would tie the game 17-17 with a nine play, 81-yard drive that took 2:54 capped by a one-yard run by Eveld with two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

This sent the game into overtime where Miami would kick a 38-yard field goal, but Murray scored the decisive touchdown earning USF a huge monumental in state victory.

Little would anyone know what transpired a couple hours later.

The Hurricanes fired Coach Randy Shannon after he compiled a 28-22 record in four seasons. He was 0-2 in bowl games and 16-16 in ACC Conference Contests, with zero conference titles. Since the start of the 2007 season, 47 teams have more wins than Miami including four from the State of Florida.

Miami's largest winning streak under Shannon was five games during 2008. Three of those wins occurred against teams that finished with losing records. The Hurricanes went 1-7 away from home against ranked teams since the start of 2007.

The only win over a Top-10 team was last season when Miami defeated Oklahoma 21-20 at Joe Robbie Stadium, a game where the Sooners played without their Heisman Trophy Quarterback Sam Bradford, who sat out with a shoulder injury. Bradford was selected as the top pick of the 2010 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams.

Meanwhile, USF has had to overcome a coaching change of its own by terminating the fiery Leavitt and replacing him with the mild-mannered, upbeat Skip Holtz. This move has paid dividends for USF as Holtz has made the Bulls bowl eligible in his first year and the program is headed in the right direction with a 7-4 mark.

The Hurricanes are awaiting their bowl invitation but currently own a 7-5 record. But I do have a feeling that Miami's next hire could give the team a jolt especially if the Hurricanes regain their tenacious air attack that led them to five national championships beginning with Schnellenberger's run.

As I write this story, I just wonder why Bobby Eveld (6-5, 200) wasn't recruited by anyone and made the Bulls roster as a "Preferred Walk On."

Even Schnellenberger and his FAU Owls, which do a good job recruiting in Tampa, missed out on this kid. I know FAU does have other quarterbacks that will compete for the job in the next couple years, but this is one position where its good to have an abundance of depth.

After seeing Eveld, he reminds me of Schnellenberger's former Owls Quarterback Rusty Smith, now with the Tennessee Titans. Eveld is smart, is a book rat and studies hard. He seems committed to becoming the cornerstone of USF's future success. He couldn't have started off in a better manner than beating the highly touted Hurricanes.

I drove 28 hours to see:

1) A future Star QB Is Born.

2) A coach got his $1.5 Million Buyout Pink Slip.

While the 26,369 fans drove fewer than 28 hours to see a Thanksgiving Weekend Match up with two programs heading in different directions, it was interesting to see how many USF followers live in the South Florida area while others took the trek down I-75 South to see historical events for each university.

I certainly enjoyed taking the drive down I-75 several hours to see a game that ultimately turned out to be a classic.

It will be interesting to see how this new rivalry develops with Holtz and the next Miami Hurricanes coach.

The only real similarities between these schools now is they play their home games in NFL Stadiums.

For Miami, Saturday's game was the smallest home crowd since Larry Coker's last home game in 2006. Joe Robbie Stadium holds 76,000 and on this day, there was no shortage of good seats. For Shannon, with banners flying over the stadium calling for his termination, the lackluster attendance certainly attributed to the end of his first head coaching position.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Home Sweet Home?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Are there any lakes in Los Angeles, let alone in California?

Do people really sing much Jazz in Utah?

What makes a good rivalry? Is it when a pair of teams win for many years, an inter-city or inter-state match-up? What about when they return to their old stomping grounds?

Franchise relocation has been a part of the American Sports Scene for years. Owners take teams in Smaller Markets and move them to Major Metro Areas. They also move them to play in State Of The Art Arenas.

In recent weeks, there has been talk about Los Angeles building a stadium downtown. With Denver Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen having health issues, Stan Kroenke, who owns the St. Louis Rams, in addition to the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche, would swap franchises with Bowlen, thus allowing Bowlen to move the Rams back to Los Angeles.

Time will tell if this happens.

But today, I'm going to list some of the most interesting Franchise Moves and I welcome your feedback.

1) Los Angeles Lakers (Minneapolis Lakers) returning to the Twin Cities to face the Minnesota Timberwolves.

2) Atlanta Braves (Milwaukee Braves) return to the Beer City to face the Brewers. Former All-Time Home Run King Hank Aaron retired with the Brewers.

3) Calgary Flames (Atlanta Flames) return to Atlanta to face the Thrashers. As a kid growing up in the 1970's, I remember when the Detroit Red Wings swept the Atlanta Flames out of the 1977-78 playoffs and Bill Lochead was the hero in this series by scoring a pair of goals in a 3-2 victory at Olympia Stadium.

4) Dallas Stars (Minnesota North Stars) return to the land of 10,000 lakes and face the Wild. I once told a Wild PR Guy when he asked me if there was anything missing in his media guide to add the franchises first victory over the Stars. The following year, the result was in the book.

5) Arizona Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cardinals) returning to face the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears.

6) Baltimore Ravens (Original Cleveland Browns) returning to Ohio to face the new Browns. Former Owner Art Modell never made this trip back to Cleveland, but in reality, to build the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame ahead of a new Browns Stadium, was a bad decision and I don't blame Modell for moving the team, which would eventually win a Super Bowl.

7) Tennessee Titans (Houston Oilers) facing the Houston Texans.

8) Atlanta Braves (Boston Braves) returning to Beantown to face the Red Sox during inter- league play.

9) Texas Rangers (Washington Senators 1961-1971) returning to the Nations Capital to face the Washington Nationals. It doesn't happen much but when it does, now that the Rangers are a good team, historians will mention it. The first manager in the history of the Rangers was Hall of Famer Ted Williams.

10) San Francisco Giants (New York Giants) last World Series title was in the Big Apple. But they return to New York to face the Mets every year and once in a great while will face the Yankees. My late Friend/Uncle Ernie Harwell called Bobby Thomson's the "Shot Heard 'Round The World" in 1951. The Giants last won a World Series in 1954. During the year Harwell dies, the Giants are champions again. Ernie must be smiling in heaven.

11) Los Angeles Dodgers (Brooklyn Dodgers) return to New York to face the Mets every year and have had some great battles with the Yankees in the World Series since there move out west. Does anybody remember the late Billy Martin versus Tom Lasorda? Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in the sixth game of the 1977 World Series on Oct 18 enabling the Yankees to win 8-4 and win the championship.

12) New Jersey Devils (Colorado Rockies) return to Denver to face the Avalanche periodically.

13) Minnesota Twins (Washington Senators 1901-1960) when they face the Washington Nationals. The Twins have three World Series Championships and their business model for a small market franchise is one many teams copy with their commitment to using their farm system. This season, they moved into a brand new outdoor stadium.

14) Oakland A's (Philadelphia A's & Kansas City A's) return to face the Phillies periodically during inter-league play and see the Royals every year.

15) Utah Jazz (New Orleans Jazz) face the New Orleans Hornets.

16) New Orleans Hornets (Charlotte Hornets) return to North Carolina once a year and face the Charlotte Bobcats.

17) Golden State Warriors (Philadelphia Warriors) return to Philadelphia to play the 76'ers every year. Hall of Fame Center Wilt Chamberlain played for the the Philadelphia Warriors and 76'ers. On March 2, 1962, Chamberlain became the only player in NBA History to score 100 points in a game with the Philadelphia Warriors, a 169-147 win over the NY Knicks. He also grabbed 25 rebounds.

18) Indianapolis Colts (Baltimore Colts) return to face the Baltimore Ravens. Thanks to late Colts Owner Robert Irsay, who moved the team in the middle of the night to Indiana, there is no love loss between these two cities. Their battles in the NFL playoffs get real emotional for the fans in Maryland.

19) Oklahoma City Thunder (Seattle Super Sonics) return to the Pacific Northwest to face the Portland Trail Blazers. Seattle may be two hours north but there are some Sonics diehards that take this commute to see their one-time championship franchise. In 1979, the Sonics were indeed Super.

20) Carolina Hurricanes (Hartford Whalers) when they return to New England and face the Boston Bruins. The Whalers were the one-time home of NHL legend and Hall of Famer Gordie Howe. These two New England teams had a nice rivalry but a new stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina sent this franchise south. Boston's last Stanley Cup Championship was in 1971-72 while the Hurricanes won their first title in 2005-2006.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Good Riddance Lockhart Stadium

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

It takes six games to become bowl eligible and in a few weeks we'll know if the FAU Owls make it to a sanctioned one this Holiday Season with the benefits being more exposure to enhance the recruiting of this 10-year old football program.

But no matter what, FAU will have played in two Unofficial Bowls.

FAU won it's rivalry game titled "The Shula Bowl" defeating Florida International University (FIU) 21-9 at Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium on Oct 30.

The next Unofficial Bowl Game will be held on Dec 4 at 2 PM when the Troy Trojans face the Owls in "The Good Riddance Bowl."

This will be the Final Game played at Lockhart Stadium, a facility which has been the home of high school football and professional soccer back in the 1970's and 1980's primarily for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. At full capacity, Lockhart Stadium holds close to 20,000 fans.

I doubt if there will be even 10,000 for the Troy contest which could determine if FAU even has a chance to become bowl eligible.

"The Good Riddance Bowl" is an event that everyone is looking forward to.

The players will no longer have to take showers and change at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. There will be no more post-game interviews by the batting cages.

The press box never had a consistent wireless connection and was too small to accommodate all members of the media and coaching staffs.

There were no TV Monitors for replays in the press box. The outside scoreboards never showed replays and were adequate for high school and soccer games but not major college football.

Access to the press box was limited to old steel stairs.

I won't miss the paltry crowds of 7-10,000 and watching Football Bowl Subdivision games in a half empty stadium.

FAU's on-campus stadium is due to open up in October of 2011 and it couldn't come soon enough!

According to Athletic Director Craig Angelos, the school will have to pay a $1 Million per-year mortgage payment to Regions Bank. That's a payment that Angelos knows he'll gladly make because the future guarantee games to bigger schools should pay out that amount and reach seven figures. If a team is going to get blown out by a BCS Conference School while developing it's own tradition, at least that institution should profit greatly.

Good exposure is priceless but now the Owls have a 30,000 seat on-campus stadium to look forward to. It will bolster recruiting and Angelos is shrewd enough that knowing him, he'll take advantage of Boca Raton's Central Location in Palm Beach County, that he'll be able to schedule concerts along with other events. Boca Raton is 20-25 minutes each way from West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale and about 45-60 from Miami Dade County depending on traffic.

More importantly, future schedules will be able to accommodate 6-7 home games instead of 4-5. The fifth game was usually played at an NFL size stadium either Joe Robbie Stadium or this year, Detroit's Ford Field against the Michigan State Spartans.

The on-campus stadium will eliminate neutral site games excluding bowl games.

In FAU's 30-17 loss to the Spartans on Sept 11 at Ford Field, the Owls cleared $500,000 and that went towards financing the stadium. Angelos was hoping that he would earn much more since there is a large alumni base in Detroit. During a Fall Game in East Lansing a couple years ago, 70,321 fans showed up on a rainy day on September 13, 2008 at Spartan Stadium to watch MSU shutout FAU 17-0.

But now there is relief that Boca Raton will finally and officially be considered a college town. The city does have a Hooters in the area and many of their road football games are shown in the restaurant, in addition to Coach Howard Schnellenberger's weekly radio show which does draw a good crowd.

In the meantime, there will be no emotional farewells when FAU faces Troy in "The Good Riddance Bowl."

I've enjoyed many good times at Lockhart Stadium dating back to the 1980's when the Fort Lauderdale Strikers played there in front of nice crowds in the old North American Soccer League. Back then, South Florida's only major sports teams were Schnellenberger's Miami Hurricanes, the Miami Dolphins and the Strikers.

There have been some exciting FAU Games at Lockhart Stadium including one against my Alma-mater USF when the Bulls brought a No. 6 National Ranking to Fort Lauderdale and escaped with a 35-23 win on October 6, 2007.

Saturday's 24-23 win over Louisiana-Lafayette saw the visitors fail on a two-point conversion which could have tied the contest late. Schnellenberger would joke around with the media afterwards that it reminded him of his Miami Hurricanes National Championship win over Nebraska in the 1984, 50th Orange Bowl Game.

Cornhuskers Coach Tom Osborne elected to go for the win but lost the 1983 National title dropping a 31-30 decision by not converting the two-point attempt.

But as "The Good Riddance Bowl" draws closer, if the wrecking ball hits Lockhart Stadium, there will be no tears, just cheers.

It will be nice to work in a First Class Facility on campus the way it's suppose to be.

Nobody will be more grateful to the change than Owls Sports Information Director Katrina McCormack, who has done a nice job under the circumstances with what she's had to work with.

Good Bye and Good Riddance Lockhart Stadium!

You won't be missed!

May the wrecking ball hit you ASAP!

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Monday, November 15, 2010

New Pistons Owner?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

What could be the Detroit Pistons answer to New Jersey Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov?

It's not Mike Illitch, the Red Wings & Tigers owner. As much as I admire Illitch and everything he stands for, my instincts tell me that for some reason I don't believe adding the Pistons as his third team is a good fit.

If Illitch were running for Mayor of Detroit or Governor of Michigan, there would be no reason to hold an election because he'd win in a landslide. He'd get my vote in a New York second.

His ideas of building a new stadium in Detroit for the Red Wings and Pistons are good but I'm curious as to how he'd drum up the financing to get this project done with the economy a mess.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. If he wants to reach the hearts & emotion of Metro Detroiters, he should move swiftly and build a new Olympia Stadium on the former Tiger Stadium site.

Also, are his assets and pockets deep enough to field three competitive and winning franchises? Baseball doesn't have a salary cap while hockey seems to be raising its salaries gradually without a real money making television contract. The NBA is facing labor problems in the coming year with it's collective bargaining agreement.

For years, Illitch struggled with two teams and the Tigers 43-119 mark in 2003 was the third worst team in major league history and they set the American League record for losses. They finished 47 games behind division winner Minnesota.

The Illitches originally bid in excess of $400 million, higher than expected for an NBA franchise in a season before expected labor issues in a state with a rough economy. I've heard that Illitch Holdings Incorporated lowered it's bid in recent days.

The only way I'd give my full endorsement for the Illitches to own the Pistons is if the fear existed that the team would move out of Michigan.

The Pistons play in a beautiful stadium and belong in Metro Detroit!

Now that the bidding has re-opened, the ownership group that makes the most sense is Beverly Hills billionaire and financier Tom Gores, who has a successful track record of taking unsuccessful companies, changing their business model and making them successful again. Aside from a couple tough years since Owner William Davidson died, Gores transformation shouldn't be as bad since all of the pieces are in place, namely the stadium, airplane, practice facility and venues connected with the purchase.

Gores grew up in Flint, attended Michigan State University and has been active in NBA circles for several years. Since he is a Michigan Man, loves the Pistons, it would appear to be a good fit.

What I like about Gores is the Pistons can continue to play at the Palace of Auburn Hills. There is no reason to move to a better arena. The Palace of Auburn Hills is a gem and they have found a home.

Keeping the Pistons at the Palace would allow Davidson to rest in peace, not turn over in his grave.

I've seen sporting events at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, America West Arena in Phoenix, Chicago's United Center, Milwaukee's Bradley Center, Minnesota's Target Center, Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla, St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla, Amway Arena in Orlando, Fla and the American Airlines Arena in Miami. The Palace compares favorably to these venues.

The addition of Gores would provide Detroit with a new face on the ownership scene since he's only 46-years old. His deep pockets will give the Pistons all the financial resources they will need. At least being a Pistons fan gives him the passion to move the team forward.

If Illitch wants to keep the Red Wings downtown then more power to him. With former Pistons Executive Tom Wilson in charge of getting that stadium, the deal should eventually get done. Wilson is the best hire Iliitch has made in a long time.

But two facilities in one area has worked well for years and will continue to do so.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. We can only hope that the Pistons have the answer to Prokhorov with Gores and this formula leads the Pistons back to championship status. When the Nets play the Pistons with these two men in charge, we'll call their meeting the "Billionaire Bowl."

As long as the Pistons remain in Detroit, this is all that really matters. Seeing the Pistons not a tenant in the Palace is criminal.

In Gores, We Trust? Stay tuned to see if this is another Beverly Hills/Detroit connection, referring to the hit movie sequel Beverly Hills Cop I, II & III.

Maybe the Pistons will hold a few practices at Detroit Mumford High School and comedian Eddie Murphy will have a court-side seat at the Palace with scenes from Beverly Hills Cop showing Murphy and Gil Hill on the scoreboard between timeouts.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com


Sunday, November 14, 2010

America's Thankless Job

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

There is an adage which says that you never know how good you have it until it's gone.

I'll bet Dallas Cowboys Owner/General Manager Jerry Jones could use his former Super Bowl winning coach Jimmy Johnson.

Johnson is the reason that Jones owns three Super Bowl Rings. The FOX Analyst is the mastermind who engineered the big Herschel Walker trade that landed Hall of Fame Running Back Emmitt Smith and several players.

The former Miami Hurricanes National Championship winning pilot also turned wide receiver Michael Irvin and quarterback Troy Aikman into Hall of Famers. Johnson's Dallas record of 44-36 mark may lack in winning percentage but not in accomplishments. He endured a 1989 season which saw Dallas finish 1-15, 1990 where he had a 7-9 mark and then the Cowboys fortunes began to turn.

In 1991 he was 11-5 and lost to the Detroit Lions in the playoffs. The 1992 and 1993 seasons were his final years in Dallas as 13-3 and 12-4 marks were good enough to lead the Cowboys to back-to-back Super Bowl titles against the Buffalo Bills.

Jones proceeded to run Johnson out of town and hired former Oklahoma Sooners Coach Barry Switzer. Inheriting Johnson's players, Switzer would lead the Cowboys to their fifth Super Bowl title over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1995.

Otherwise, Johnson would have three rings.

I have a hard time understanding why a coach would be ousted after winning a pair of Super Bowl titles, only to gift wrap the last one to his successor. Johnson should have three Super Bowl rings to go along with his college national championship that he earned with the Miami Hurricanes in 1987.

But now I wonder if Johnson's phone number is on Jones speed dial list as the beleaguered owner seeks advice on how to climb out of his 1-7 mess.

As good as legendary coach Bill Parcells was, the Cowboys never made it to a Super Bowl during his regime. From 2003-2006, Parcells was 34-30 and 0-2 in the playoffs.

Then again, quarterback Tony Romo doesn't belong in the same sentence as Aikman as his personal life with Jessica Simpson overshadowed his accomplishments on the field.

His botched snaps on special teams and other untimely mistakes could never lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl. On October 25, his broken clavicle has virtually ended his season.

I believe that Romo is the most overrated signal caller in the league and until he proves he can win in the playoffs consistently, that opinion won't change. It figures to be awhile before he gets back to the playoffs. Romo can't blame former wide receiver Terrell Owens for the Cowboys recent struggles this season.

Jones was in a giving mood when he traded multiple draft picks to the Detroit Lions for former Texas Longhorns wide receiver Roy Williams on October 14, 2008. Detroit landed tight-end Brandon Pettigrew, wide receiver Derrick Williams and running back Aaron Brown, all of whom are still with the team. Roy Williams signed a six-year contract for $54 million and $26 million guaranteed.

Now Williams is catching passes from his former Lions teammate Jon Kitna, who was on Detroit's 0-16 season team in 2008.

But the Cowboys problems go deeper than there current record. They began in the pre-season when the team finished 3-2. One of their losses was down in Houston where the Texans blasted Dallas 23-7 as the team continued to make all kinds of mistakes, the offensive line struggled and they sustained injuries and were not a shadow of the squad which made last years playoffs.

All the talk about last years playoff run, winning a playoff game, the first for Romo and now deposed Coach Wade Phillips was premature. The dreams of playing in the Super Bowl in their own stadium really ended in August.

It's hard to imagine the head coach doubling as the defensive coordinator. But Jones allowed it to happen as the Cowboys would continue to commit foolish penalties and lost five games by seven points and under then were blown out the past two weeks leading to the hiring of Jason Garrett.

Now Garrett has the most thankless audition of an interim head coaching job in America. The coach in waiting has the challenge of a lifetime. Good Luck Jason. You're the man in charge of making sure Jones $1.3 billion stadium which has a capacity of 80,000 but is expandable to seat up to 100,000, doesn't become half empty.

I've never felt sorry for an NFL head coach as much as I do for Phillips. The man has an overall record of 82-59 and 34-20 with the Cowboys. His overall playoff mark was 1-5. He handled Owens as well as anyone could by addressing him by his first name. Unlike Parcell's, who addressed Owens by referring to him as "The Player" which is a sign of disrespect.

The demise of the Dallas Cowboys squarely falls on Jerry Jones!

He runs strong football minds out of town and now he'll have the ultimate challenge of fixing this Texas size earthquake which is 10 on the Richter Scale. There is no doubt that 60-70% of the players wearing the star on the helmet will be gone after 2010.

If there is no football in 2011 because of a lockout, Cowboys fans will agonize over the 2010 season much longer!

Instead of looking at the post-season, they may end up drafting a quarterback with next years No.1 pick in the 2011 Draft, hoping to find another Aikman. That would be a good start with either Garrett or the next coach.

Johnson and Aikman worked well through the growing pains and the results speak for themselves.

There won't be another Walker trade because there isn't a team dumb enough to trade lots of draft choices and players for a marquee player. The Cowboys don't have a player a team wants to get swindled.

It's hard to believe that if the Detroit Lions don't end their record 24-game road losing streak against the Buffalo Bills today, they'll have an opportunity to do it against a 1-8 Cowboys team which is destined to lose in New York against the Giants.

But to think the Detroit Lions could end that losing streak in Dallas on November 21, is something that nobody saw coming. By then, a 25-game losing streak against a team that was predicted to reach the Super Bowl is mind boggling. Yet, it's quite possible.

On Thanksgiving, Detroit and Dallas will have such poor records that the announcers on both FOX and CBS will have to do lots of homework to explain the rise and fall of both franchises.

If Garrett doesn't get hired, who would be the best fit for "America's Thankless Job?"

Former Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Bill Cowher won't want the job because he'll want the freedom to make his moves. Should John Fox get fired from the Carolina Panthers, he could be the next Jones "Yes Man."

Fox's Brian Billick has won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens and Jones does like to go after these former championship winning coaches either at the college or pro levels with the hiring of Johnson, Switzer and Parcells.

Watching Billick the past couple years at FOX, this guy is knowledgeable and has worked with all kinds of personalities over the years. He'd handle this Texas size challenge well.

Jones could go to the UFL and snap up Las Vegas Locomotive's Coach Jim Fassel, who lost to Billick in the Super Bowl while he was the New York Giants Coach. Being a former coach in the division, Fassel should be able to have an understanding of how to prepare for those teams.

As General Manager and Head Coach, Fassel led the Locomotives to the 2009 UFL championship and has a good track record of working with quarterbacks. He'd have a lot of work to do in Dallas either with Romo or a prospect. Building any franchise from scratch looks good on a person's resume and Fassel is doing a fine job in Nevada.

Finally, Jon Gruden has worked for Al Davis and built the nucleus of a an Oakland Raiders team that he defeated with Tony Dungy's Tampa Bay Buc's players.

But Gruden has a Super Bowl ring more recently than Jones and his fiery personality would be a good fit in Dallas. He survived under Davis and now Jones is in a desperate situation.

I believe Jerry would give him space to do his job. Gruden could be the closest thing to bringing Jimmy Johnson back. If Gruden is a great salesman, he might be able to entice Irvin and Smith to join his coaching staff.

Regardless, for those who underestimate Johnson's impact and blueprint on the franchise, it's been 15 years since the Cowboys won the Super Bowl. It figures to be much longer with the team in bad shape.

Dallas mediocre pre-season is a good lesson that those games mean more than we think since a team has to work on developing chemistry together and get the mistakes out of the way early. That's why the mini camps and off-season programs are in place so these disasters get averted.

Jones should take a page from the New York Yankees and that's when the late George Steinbrenner hired General Manager Brian Cashman to run the team, the Yankees won five championships.

The right move for Jones is to hire Johnson back as General Manager, stay in his suite and let Johnson run the franchise and bring in the players. Jones can handle the business side.

At the college level, Johnson had an 81-34-3 record and won the national championship with Miami. Including his time with the Miami Dolphins, Johnson compiled an 80-64 mark and was 9-4 in the playoffs including his two titles. Time will tell if his record ever gets him elected into Pro Football's Hall of Fame, but he should be there if for no other reason, "It's Quality, Not Quantity." Johnson knows college talent and the Cowboys need him to call the shots having won at both levels.

The only thing Johnson didn't accomplish was watching Dan Marino win a title. But he's not a miracle worker trying to coach a player who is the most one-dimensional player on the planet. That's for another day.

Johnson's phrase, "How About Those Cowboys" is now the punch line of all the comedy shows and it's not funny anymore.

You never know how good you have it until it's gone and I'm sure that Johnson is classy enough to help Jones out of this jackpot. But Johnson will have to be smart enough to make sure that Jones stays out of way and make sure his meddling is in the next contract.

Otherwise, saying no to "America's Thankless Job" will be an easy decision.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Lions Best Friend

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

During the past 2 1/2 years, the Detroit Lions haven't had many good friends.

With records of 0-16, 2-14 and now 2-5, there have been blackouts at Ford Field as a result of an abundance of bad football.

Since the addition of former Georgia Bulldogs QB Matthew Stafford with the top pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, "The Motown Gunslinger" has caused plenty of aggravation for one team.

Stafford is 2-0 against the Washington Redskins and in each Lions victory, he sent shock waves back to the Nations Capital.

How embarrassing was it for Redskins Nation to lose 19-14 to Detroit on September 27, 2009 which enabled the Lions to snap a 19-game losing streak? Detroit's last win occurred on Dec 23, 2007.

It was so bad that Head Coach Jim Zorn lost his job at season's end following a 4-12 campaign. His QB Jason Campbell, who threw for 340 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, is now with the Oakland Raiders.

Stafford, "The Motown Gunslinger" threw for 241 yards, a touchdown and zero interceptions in the victory in front of 40,896 relieved fans, and the fewest to watch a Lions home game in 20 years.

On Sunday, "The Motown Gunslinger" struck again in his first game back after missing five contests with a separated right shoulder, leading Detroit to a 37-25 win in front of 46,329.

He completed 26-of-45 attempts for 212 yards and four touchdowns, three to receiver Calvin Johnson, plus one to tight-end Brandon Pettigrew.

In addition to Stafford's performance, Detroit's defense had seven sacks, two each from rookie Ndamukong Suh, and veterans Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Busch. Suh now has 6 1/2 sacks this season and when the Redskins benched starting QB Donovan McNabb, havoc occurred again as Vanden Busch forced a fumble on back-up QB Rex Grossman, Suh picked up the football and rambled 17-yards for a touchdown to seal the win.

The Redskins left Detroit with a 4-3 record and even though Head Coach Mike Shanahan won't have to worry about job security, he'll have another headache.

What lies ahead in his working relationship with McNabb? Time will tell.

But meanwhile, despite the fact that the Redskins lead the all-time series with the Lions 27-11 which dates back to 1932, wins No. 10 and 11 were huge for Detroit. Snapping that long losing streak and matching last years win total are building blocks and baby steps to get the team back to respectability.

At least the Lions know what franchise has become their best friend recently and the Redskins were there when they needed them. It won't erase the memories of Detroit's lone NFC Championship Game when the Redskins blasted the Lions 41-10 in 1991 at RFK Stadium leaving Detroit Super Bowl-less.

That's part of the past. It will be interesting to see what happens to the Lions the rest of this season as well as the Redskins.

But for one week, the Redskins had to get hammered by the local media for another embarrassing loss to a struggling but promising franchise led by "The Motown Gunslinger."

The flight from Detroit to Washington D.C. was a long and quiet one for the second straight year.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

A TRUE CHAMPION

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

The dreaded "C" and "D" words have reared their ugly heads again.
Esophagus (throat) Cancer has led to the stunning and untimely "Death" of a former colleague of mine from 1978-81 when my first job was as a "Salad Maker" at the Highland House in Highland, MI.
Thirty two days ago on Sept 28, Gregory Nicholas died early that morning after spending a month at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI. He was diagnosed with the disease in July and now at the age of 49, his life is over.
His older brother Elia told me that Greg's Funeral was packed and he was buried at a Golf Course Cemetery.
Unfortunately for Greg's family consisting of his widow Daena, sons Elia & Zachary and daughter Katina, there will be no Halloween with their father.
As I reflect back on the life of Greg Nicholas, I had a lot of great memories with Greg, whose brother Elia remains one of my best friends.
But the one that stands out was when I decided to wear a Detroit Tigers Baseball Hat over my hair net in the kitchen which had to be worn due to health department regulations.
Elia and his late father Thomas would give me grief over wearing the hat.
However, Greg would tell them to relax and not make a big deal over the Tigers Hat. They eased up and the trend caught on with the rest of the kitchen staff whom began wearing hats of their own. I knew at that point it would be hard to fire all of us.
Greg knew me as "Duke" because I once wore a t-shirt from my fathers sporting goods store called "All Pro Sporting Goods" that had the name "Duke" on the back. The whole restaurant including the waitresses called me "Duke." Despite busy rushes in the back, Elia, Greg and I still used to talk about sports.
When I wasn't at the Highland House, I was working in radio with My best friend George Eichorn for WXYZ Sports Talk as an assistant producer.
Greg and I always talked about the guests that appeared on the show. What stood out about Greg was not only the way he handled the "Tigers Hat Situation" but the way he treated his colleagues in the kitchen. If they had interests outside of the restaurant, he wanted to know the side of that individual away from work.
The cooks were only allowed to make us pizza and burgers and I ate a lot of Greek Salads. Greg didn't care what Elia and the rest of the owners said. He would make us slabs of ribs from time to time as well as other items. We worked hard for it and he was very "Unselfish."
On Saturday Nights, Greg would organize a group after work and we'd go bowling to chill out. Greg and I would also hang out at the Highland House's bar and talk sports. We'd have such spirited debates that when Elia was done with his work, the three of us talked all night about how bad the Detroit teams were during this era and what they had to do to improve. I would even draw ideas from Elia and Greg, talk about them on future radio shows and write periodic stories for the Detroit Monitor.
I'll never forget the time when Greg won a bet with former hostess Lori Anderson and she had to clock in wearing a bikini as the entire kitchen's eyes rolled.
As I look back at Greg Nicholas, there were more similarities than I ever imagined.
Greg was a behind the scenes guy who did the cooking while he quietly gave credit to Elia and the rest of the owners for the success of the Highland House. Greg would learn his lessons well and proceeded to own a pair of restaurants not forgetting the behind the scenes lessons, but now at the forefront of the operation.
My early tenure in radio was a behind the scenes role as an assistant producer. When I learned the trade, I'd eventually become a field reporter, frequent guest on other shows to co-hosting my own program.
As much as Greg enjoyed socializing with his customers, I enjoyed my listeners and readers as a writer and broadcaster.
I'll never forget in 1981, the Highland House gave me a "Going Away Party" when I decided to move to Florida and go to school to be a "Journalist."
Greg said, "Good luck Duke, I know you'll do well and don't forget us when you make it to the top because I know you'll do well. You know your subject real well." He gave me a big hug!
I enjoyed working at the Highland House and they all treated me like family and they still do when I return to Michigan. In addition to Greg and Elia, Gene Ryeson is another class act!
When I returned to Detroit from school usually during the holidays, it was fun telling Greg, Elia and Gene, whom I always viewed as an adopted uncle, about all of the big interviews & sports events I have covered working for the Hallandale Digest, Tampa Tribune in addition to my role as Sports Editor of the Broward Community College Newspaper "The New Horizons."
Greg and Elia were the older brothers I never had.
Elia and I have remained close for 33 years.
Even after Greg left the Highland House to work at his own restaurants, we stayed in touch from time to time. We had our own special bond. Then again, anyone that knew Greg had a special bond. Once in awhile, I'd see him at the Highland House and occasionally made it to his other restaurants.
When I knew Greg was coming down to see another close friend Gus Pantelides in Clearwater Beach, Florida, I'd take the 5-6 hour drive from Ft. Lauderdale to see them. Back in the 1980's I-75 North wasn't completed for a drive which now only takes just a little over four hours to finish.
Pantelides scrapped my nickname "Duke" and replaced it with "Scoop." Greg adapted to it quickly as the tape recorder replaced the salad bowl.
Greg came down on a trip when Pantelides won the Tom Selleck look-alike contest at the Clearwater Mall wearing that same old "English D" Tigers hat that I proudly wore in the Highland House kitchen. That Tigers hat was magical just like Greg was in his own way.
What really bothers me about Greg's death was that he never smoked, did drugs and was a non-drinker. He somehow got "Cancer" second hand and I'm puzzled as to how he obtained this silent killer.
There are three good things about living in Florida.
1) It's a Clean-Air Act State where there is no smoking in restaurants.
2) No State income tax.
3) Weather
Greg didn't miss anything with the scams and phony people in this transient area.
But I do know that Michigan recently passed the Clean-Air Act and one thing I'm sick of hearing is all the complaining and whining going on with the restaurant and bar owners. I know they're feeling the financial crunch because of the law. However, in the long run, they'll better off healthy and avoid an early trip to the casket.
Now Greg Nicholas won't be able to watch his kids grow up and will not be a grandfather. I'm sure he's missing a lot of rounds of golf. He died way too young!
But for all of mankind, I hope the Clean Air-Act is adopted in all 50 states. We'll never know whether this would have saved Greg's life but we do know it will save many others.
I am extremely proud to have known Greg. Thanks to the new information age, more people will know about him. I hope Greg does rest in peace and he comes across a Detroit Tigers Hat in Heaven.
Please say hello to My Uncle Ernie Harwell and I'm sure that you'll enjoy his broadcasting from above and he'll talk a lot of baseball with you. Thanks for the memories Greg. All of us are better people because of you and you are "A TRUE CHAMPION."
Even though I was 1,200 miles away from Greg's Funeral, I did post a message on the Lynch & Son's web-site which read, " am deeply shocked and saddened at the loss of Greg! I worked with him in the late 1970's and early 1980's at the Highland House. Back then I was known as Duke, not as I'm known now as Scoop, and he was one of the nicest people I've ever worked with! I knew he had the potential to do great things in the restaurant business, and he became a legend! Greg's death proves that the adage is true, That It Isn't Quantity, But Quality. Morris Had 9 Lives, We Have To Make The Most Of The 1 We Have! My thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Nicholas family and I hope you rest in peace Greg! You will be missed by all, especially myself!."

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.








Pistons, Devil's Nights

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When I was a child living in Southfield, MI a few decades ago, the evening of Oct 30 was a night many of us youngsters looked forward to as we loaded up on soap and eggs to have fun on Devils Night.

It was an evening that homeowners disliked because they were not looking forward to cleaning their windows after they were soaped and hit by an egg, or in other extremes broken windows had to be fixed as a result of rocks.

Myself and other friends never went past soap and eggs because these were the same people we would see with costumes the next night wanting candy for Halloween.

When I moved to Highland, MI., there was no Devils Night because this was the country and there were major distances to cause havoc. By the same token, there was no Halloween and all of my friends lived in Southfield so this wasn't fun anymore.

Devils Night doesn't figure to be fun for the Detroit Pistons this year as this franchise takes an 0-2 record to Chicago to face the Bulls (0-1).

But there is more to this situation than meets the eye.

Detroit lost it's opening game Wednesday Night to the New Jersey Nets 101-98 in Newark. What made this loss more painful was the fact that Detroit lost to a coach it could have hired in Avery Johnson when the two sides couldn't agree to contract terms a couple years ago. Johnson felt he needed some job security to get this franchise back on track and Vice President Joe Dumars couldn't close the deal to lure him to the Palace.

Now Johnson is working for Russian Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov who met Johnson's price and has deep pockets to land the coach the talent he needs to be successful as they prepare to move to Brooklyn, NY in a couple years.

Detroit hired John Kuester instead and in his first season the team finished with a 27-55 record although the team had to deal with 155 games lost to injury and was 7-4 when his squad was totally healthy.

Nevertheless, Detroit's problems go beyond last season. When Kuester was hired he became the 27th coach in franchise history. He's followed in the shadows of Hall of Famers the late Chuck Daly, Larry Brown, Doug Collins and Rick Carlisle, whom elevated this franchise to elite levels.

In addition to not hiring Johnson which in my opinion, this move will haunt the Pistons for years to come, Dumars knows he'll always regret not drafting Carmelo Anthony and taking Darko Milicic instead with the second pick of the 2003 NBA Draft.

While most franchises would be thrilled to reach their respective conference finals every year, Dumars wasn't. He dismantled the team by trading his quarterback Chauncey Billups to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson on November 3, 2008 and he would become Anthony's teammate in Colorado.

An inexperienced head coach like Michael Curry had to deal with a disgruntled guard in Iverson which proved to be a big mistake.

While Brown did make a mistake by wanting the New York Knicks job while he was employed by the Pistons, it still boggles my mind that Dumars and late Owner Bill Davidson couldn't work out their differences to co-exist. Davidson gave Brown millions of dollars to leave.

Instead, this once proud franchise is in such disarray because it's just a matter of time before Owner Karen Davidson does sell it. If Red Wings/Tigers Owner Mike Illitch does buy the franchise, will Dumars be a part of the new management team? Despite three championship rings, will the what have you done for me lately theme lead to Dumars becoming a paid season ticket holder?

Will Dumars become a season ticket holder at the Palace of Auburn Hills or a new arena in downtown Detroit?

He certainly won't be credentialed by late Vice President of Public Relations Matt Dobek.

I doubt he'll be working with Tom Wilson, who has his hands full trying to get Illitch a new stadium.

Perhaps Dumars could reunited with John Hammond who learned his lessons well and has turned the Milwaukee Bucks into a playoff team last season.

As all of these mistakes have compounded themselves, in recent years, the Pistons fans have faced more tricks than they have treats. There losses on and off the court will only lead to more empty seats at the Palace.

While I do feel bad that Kuester has inherited this mess, is he the guy that can turn around this team which has an aging Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton plus hope that Tracy McGrady can make a comeback with Arnie Kander as his strength and conditioning coach?

Time will tell whether Ben Gordon (5 year/$55 Million) and Charlie Villanueva (5 year/$35 Million) are worth their contracts. I do believe that selecting 6-11, 250 Georgetown Center Greg Monroe as the seventh pick overall in this years draft was a good move, but the problem is there haven't been many good decisions lately.

So how many more Devils Nights will there be for Pistons fans? In an economically depressed city, I'd think that taking money from customers for an unsatisfactory product is worse than soaping and throwing eggs at windows. The fans are getting eggs thrown in their face.

I can't imagine a happy fan after the Pistons lost their home opener 105-104 to the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday night.

These questions remain.

What will the Pistons record be with a healthy 2010-2011 roster?

Will Kuester be around to finish the rebuilding job?

What big name coach will be brought in to finish what Kuester started?

When will the team be sold?

How much patience will the new owner have with Dumars?

How small will the crowds shrink to?

What will become of the Palace of Auburn Hills?

One thing is for certain, Avery Johnson is glad that he won't have to answer these questions at any of his press conferences in New Jersey.

His team is 2-0 and last year's Nets squad became only the fifth team in NBA History to lose 70 games by finishing with a 12-70 mark. Johnson's team has only one way to go and that's up.

Will we say that about the Pistons? They can still regress at 27 wins.

Time will tell but in a matter of time, Karen Davidson won't care that she was unable to keep her late husband's legacy alive.

In the meantime while Devil's night antics have been replaced by cable, satellite television, video games and the Internet, Pistons fans can only hope their are less tricks, soap and eggs in the future and there are more Halloween evenings instead.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Athletes, Swim Or Sink

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

After hearing Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick's interview with ESPN's Hannah Storm, there is no question he is maturing.

During the interview, Vick accepted his back-up role to Kevin Kolb graciously despite outstanding performances against the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. In an opening week 27-20 loss to Green Bay in Philadelphia, Vick threw for 175 yards and ran for 103.

In a 35-32 win against Detroit at Ford Field Sunday, he passed for 284 yards and two touchdowns. He has completed 63.8 % of his passes and posted consecutive games with a passer rating above 100% for the second time in his career.

As it turns out 24 hours later, instead of having to accept his back-up role and wait down the road for the opportunity to start in the NFL with the Eagles or another team, Eagles Coach Andy Reid made a bold decision to name Vick the team's starting quarterback beginning with this week's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday in Northern Florida.

Although Eagles Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg failed as head coach of the Detroit Lions from 2001-02 by compiling a 5-27-0 mark for a .156 winning percentage in a pair of seasons, he's done an outstanding job transforming an athletic quarterback into a complete player. Mornhinweg has a great reputation as an excellent offensive mind.

At 30-years old, Vick still has the speed to take a dead play and keep it alive. Against the Lions, he added 37-yards rushing, running for his life most of the afternoon. His passing numbers weren't statistics that Atlanta Falcons fans were accustomed to seeing.

Yet, the 37 rushing yards against Detroit are deceiving because that doesn't count how many yards Vick gained scrambling out of the pocket locating receivers and wearing out defenders. Vick was sacked six times by Detroit and without his mobility who knows how many more sacks the Lions would have amassed.

Thanks to Reid and Mornhinweg, Vick has become a smarter player.

Thanks to prison, Vick has become a humbled man.

He realized that after being in jail on dog fighting charges that he had an excellent career and squandered it. More importantly, he lost his freedom!

But now he has it back and everybody is better for it. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can use Vick as an example that by giving a player a second chance that's paid his debt to society, this can result in numerous positive messages.

Having Tony Dungy as a mentor to Vick was a brilliant move by Goodell.

Do you think No.7 Jerseys are selling in Philadelphia? I'd say so.

After Vick's opening week performance against the Packers, did the local radio sports talk shows seize the opportunity to create buzz, excitement and benefit by booming ratings to create a quarterback controversy? You bet.

I admire Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie and his organization for taking the chance on Vick despite the opposition of animal cruelty groups. Lurie made Vick do lots of Community Service work to bring awareness to Animal Cruelty.

Now Lurie's decision to keep Vick will put money in the owners pocket and fill seats at Lincoln Financial Field.

I wouldn't be surprised if Lurie played a role in having Vick as the new starting quarterback even if Reid looked at the film and knew his best chance to win was with Michael at the helm.

I admire the Philadelphia fans for finally accepting him into the community. We all know that Philadelphia fans can be tough because former QB Donovan McNabb was booed on draft day and heard many more during his long tenure with the Eagles. We're talking about fans that also booed Santa Claus in 1968, but thus far, they've handled the Vick situation fairly well.

But while Vick's story has turned out nicely, will we see similar endings to Baltimore Ravens WR Daunte Stallworth, who was involved in a fatal drinking and driving accident in Miami Beach, Florida as he killed a walking pedestrian?

How about Plaxico Burress, who shot himself outside of a New York night club and is in jail? Since being in jail, Burress has been denied early work release twice, plus the incident has cost him millions of dollars along with a couple of NFL seasons. Giants signal caller Eli Manning enjoyed having Burress as his tall target and could use him now. I hope Burress his paying attention to Vick's revitalized NFL career.

My good friend Jillian Ricard posted on Facebook that "New York Jets WR Braylon Edwards was arrested at 5:15 am for blowing a 0.16-double the legal limit! DWI, another Edwards arrest!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOW!"

This is the first time that I heard about the incident.

Yet, what's amazing about the situation is the NFL has a policy that if a player needs a "Free Ride" after he's been drinking, all he has to do is just make a phone call and he'll receive it without having to give an explanation. He bypassed this, but what was worse, he had a pair of teammates in the vehicle with him.

It's a "Player Protect" benefit that the player will be transported home in a luxury vehicle with a police officer that acts as a Chauffeur, who is fully armed and protected for their safety. NFL players have this available to them through the end of the Super Bowl.

My response on Jillian's wall was, "These overpaid clowns never learn! He better start taking the Subways, Find himself a Cab Driver, or a Personal Driver! Otherwise, he'll join Plaxico Burress in the slammer. A Michigan Wolverine and Michigan State Spartan, teammates in the same Jail System. One for the ages."

When Jillian's friend Jeffery A Cross asked me, "What does pay have to do with anything?"

I responded, "Everything. He thinks because he has money that he can buy his way out of trouble by hiring the best lawyers and beat the legal system. What he doesn't realize is no lawyer can appeal Goodell's right to suspend him under the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy. Once a player can't play, he loses paychecks, you can only hope that he'll get the message and not embarrass ' The Shield.' Edwards poor track record only makes things tougher to fight his case since he was charged with disorderly conduct in Cleveland. Goodell has a reputation of coming down harder than the authorities. Just ask Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, who was suspended six games but did get it reduced to four games by complying with Goodell's conditions for straightening out his life. There is no question that Roethlisberger's actions in Georgia, and Lake Tahoe, Nevada factored into his decision. Roethlisberger did get injured in a motorcycle accident and Goodell had to have mentioned this to him when they met." Stallworth was suspended for an entire NFL season!

Ricard reminded all of her friends about the "NFL's Personal Conduct Policy" and was prepared to re-post it on her website Dolfanjill.com.

One can only hope that more athletes would turn out to be a "Vick Feel Good Story."

But I highly doubt it will happen because as long as these athletes have money, they'll think they're a step above us all, a step above the law, therefore, the off the field incidents will unfortunately continue.

As Goodell says, don't put yourself in a position of being where you shouldn't be.

Athletes, bars, night clubs, strip clubs and money are a bad combination. They create problems!

It gets very tiring that in a poor economy we have to talk about highly paid athletes constantly getting into trouble. Besides television and radio, the emergence of Facebook, Twitter, and Blogging on the Internet have created zillions of ways to get news.

The money these athletes squander is more than the average household makes in a year(s) or lifetime.

A lot of these athletes don't manage their money properly. Their earnings power will never be as high in retirement as it is now.

Therefore, don't expect the general pubic to show these athletes any sympathy as foreclosures, bankruptcies, mounting credit problems as a result of continued financial hardships lead to more individuals who voluntarily decide to go to sleep permanently.

So in the end, will these Athletes continue to Swim or Sink?

Now we have zillions of ways to find out to see if there is another Vick story to look forward or another sad commentary in Edwards.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

MLB'S Medicare Managers

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When Joe Torre (70) decided to retire as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday, the 2010 MLB season has watched three of the greatest skippers step aside. This marks a changing of the guard for the Grand Old Game.

There could be more managers that find themselves filing for Medicare as well, as they're all over 60-years old. This means that the landscape of managers will show an entirely different look in 2011.

Torre has been replaced by Don Mattingly (49) but will leave the game with four World Series Titles and to date, has 2,318 wins which is fifth all-time.

Managing under the late George Steinbrenner from 1996-2007 may have added years to his life, therefore in retrospect, Torre could pass for 80, but there is no doubt that his accomplishments in the Bronx have him labeled as a Future Hall of Fame Manager with his next stop, Cooperstown, NY.

Have we seen the last of Torre?

I'd like to believe we have but for some reason, as good as he looks, I have a gut feeling if the Chicago Cubs call, Joe's cell phone will be on and he'll be listening. While it appears as though he's accomplished everything in baseball, winning a World Series with the Cubs would be the equivalent to multiple titles anywhere else because of the 102-year championship drought.

Speaking of the Cubs, Lou Piniella (67) retired in August to be with his ailing mother but his 1,835 wins and one World Series (1990) title with the Cincinnati Reds, will certainly earn him consideration for Cooperstown. Here is another guy that worked with Steinbrenner and had success with the New York Yankees, Reds, Seattle Mariners and Cubs. He also did the dirty work for Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon.

I think Piniella needs a couple years to recharge, but between himself and Torre, I believe that Joe would likely manage again and Lou lands behind the microphone as a color analyst. Piniella leaves the game as the 14th winningest manager.

In a perfect world, it would be great to see the Atlanta Braves send Bobby Cox (69) into retirement with his third World Series title. But I have a feeling that the man who is the fourth winningest manager with 2,496 to date, plus holds the All-Time record with ejections (158) will come up short.

I predict that the Philadelphia Phillies will be back in the Fall Classic for the third year in a row.

But nobody can take away the his major league record of 15 division titles, 14 with Atlanta and one with the Toronto Blue Jays. I'll bet few people realize that Cox won a World Series ring in 1977 when he served as the late Billy Martin's first base coach for the New York Yankees before his managerial career.

Martin taught Piniella and Cox and they have all put on animated shows when they're tossed out by the umpires and all three won the World Series as a manager.

When Cox retires after the end of the season, he has agreed to stay on as an advisor for team baseball operations for the next five years.

Toronto Blue Jays Manager Cito Gaston (66) reaped the benefits from Cox's work in Canada winning two World Series Titles in 1992-93. The baseball strike in 1994 prevented Gaston from winning three championships in a row, but to date, Gaston is the Blue Jays winningest manager with 809 triumphs. There is talk that he might retire but nothing is official as of yet.

St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa (65) may still have a lot of piloting left though his future in Missouri is up in the air. He is currently the third winningest skipper with 2,626 victories. He trails John McGraw (2,763) and Connie Mack (3,731). It's hard to believe that Mack's career record was 3,731-3948-76 with a .486 Pct.

LaRussa is only one of two managers to ever win a World Series title in both leagues leading the Oakland A's in 1989 and the Cardinals in 2006. The other was Sparky Anderson who won with the Cincinnati Reds in 1975, 76 and Detroit Tigers in 1984.

LaRussa is second all-time for games managed with 4,773 trailing only Mack who had 7,755. Even though I doubt he'll break Mack's win total, he definitely won't eclipse his losses mark.

The baby of this group is Cincinnati Reds Manager Dusty Baker (61). He is the first African American Manager is Reds history.

He ranks 26th in all-time wins with 1,397 and has had successful stints with the San Francisco Giants, Cubs and now the Reds. Although he recently turned down a contract extension and is in the final year of his three-year contract, I have a feeling that since the Dodgers managerial position has been filled by Mattingly, Baker will be managing off of I-75 in Southern Ohio if he doesn't retire.

The Reds currently lead the NL Central with an 83-65 record, six games ahead of LaRussa's Cardinals.

So now the question remains, what men will be filling out line-up cards in the future?

I will toss out some names of managers that could be good fits in certain places.

Former Tigers Manager Alan Trammell (52) has been under the tutelage of Piniella working with the Cubs since 2007. Learning from Piniella and Anderson should be enough for Trammell to resurface again, but this time with a much more competitive team. There is no way that Trammell would accept another rebuilding job as he did with Detroit where he posted a 186-300 mark and a .383 winning percentage.

A good spot for Trammell would be Toronto and Blue Jays fans know him well during their AL Eastern Division battles back in the 1980's. If Alan doesn't land there, he could end up rejoining Kirk Gibson's staff in Arizona as a bench coach until a more enticing position opens up.

I do believe that the interim tag will be lifted and Gibson (53) becomes the permanent manager of the Diamondbacks. Gibson is an intense person, lets his players know where they stand, has learned under Anderson and Tommy Lasorda. His fiery demeanor and two historic home runs in a pair of World Series wins for Detroit in (1984) and Los Angeles in (1988) lend plenty of credibility.

Now that Gibson has mellowed over the years with the media, he'll know how to sell his team. He will be an excellent manager with the right talent and the Diamondbacks have been playing well and not quitting against contenders down the stretch.

Over the years, Mattingly has learned from Torre, Martin, Piniella and Dallas Green. With Lasorda in the organization, I'm sure that he'll draw off the Artful Dodger and hire an experienced bench coach. Larry Bowa is still on the Dodgers staff and they've worked together for a few years. I think Mattingly will be fine because he's a blue collar worker and student of the game, in addition to the fact that he's a lifetime .307 hitter, six-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove Winner.

Since Cox is remaining with the Braves, this is the reason why former Florida Marlins Manager Fredi Gonzalez (46) turned down the opportunity to interview with the Cubs.

He is the Marlins winningest manager with 276 victories. In 555 games, he led Florida to a 276-279 mark, a .497 winning percentage. He led Florida to winning seasons in 2008 and 2009 despite having the lowest payroll in the major leagues. He is a natural choice to return to the Braves where he served as Cox's third base coach for four years.

Gonzalez succeeded Joe Girardi (45) as Marlins manager on October 3, 2006. Girardi won a World Series with the Yankees in 2009 and if history repeats itself, another former Marlins manager could have huge success with a team that has much more resources to give him tools to win in the postseason.

When Girardi piloted the Marlins in 2006, he was named the Sporting News Manager of the Year for the National League, leading a team with the lowest payroll in the Major Leagues, at $14 million to a 78-84 record which stayed in wild-card contention. This payroll was lower than the salaries of several MLB players. He was fired after the 2006 season because of his tense relationship with Owner Jeffrey Loria.

If the Cubs entice Girardi to leave the Yankees and pay him more money to return to his hometown, then look for the Bronx Bombers to turn to Willie Randolph (56), currently with the Milwaukee Brewers. Randolph is a link to the glory days of the 1970's and his World Series titles under Martin and Bob Lemon would be a good fit. He also won four championships with the Yankees as a coach under Torre to give him six rings with the Yankees. If current Brewers Manager Ken Macha is fired, Randolph could take over since he was a finalist for the position.

If Girardi stays in New York, then it would make sense for the Cubs to either retain Mike Quade (53) as manager for a couple years and move legend Ryne Sandberg (51) up from the farm system to serve as bench coach until he's ready to manage in the major leagues.

Otherwise, just hire Sandberg as the new manager if there isn't a suitable experienced manager available to handle the burden of a 102-year drought.

Sandberg was named the 2010 Pacific Coast League's Manager of the Year for the AAA Iowa Cubs leading them to an 80-60 mark.

With the amount of vacancies that could be open, my instincts tell me that Bob Brenly (56) will be back in the dugout. The current Cubs announcer would be a logical candidate to be their skipper or he can take his 303-262 record and one World Series Title in 2001 in 3 1/2 seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks somewhere else.

All of the managers I've mentioned have solid credentials and I would be curious to see how they perform with their next opportunities. Meanwhile, the six skippers in the over 60 club certainly have made great contributions to the grand old game.

Regardless of where these managers wind-up, they can only hope not to land with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have posted 18 straight losing seasons, the longest in North American Professional Sports. These guys may be good, but they're not miracle workers.
The Pirates are the AAA affiliate for the rest of MLB.

This is a sad commentary because the loyal Pittsburgh fans deserve much more than they've been given, especially from a franchise which has a proud tradition that includes five World Series titles and now a new stadium.

But one thing is for certain, you haven't heard the last of these six men that are going to be getting Medicare. I have a feeling they'll continue to be around the game which is a benefit to all connected with the "Great American Past Time."

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.






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