Saturday, December 27, 2014

Lions No Stranger To Droughts

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
RACINE, WI

By the time I compile the following Stats and Streaks, one would wonder why the Detroit Lions (11-4) should face the Green Bay Packers (11-4) in a contest that will decide the NFC North/Norris Division Title?

It's no secret that since the 2000 season, the Lions have struggled immensely.

There have been numerous coaches and the franchise suffered from the post Barry Sanders hangover.

Even the move to Ford Field didn't produce enough wins to sellout and avoid local blackouts.

Anyways, let's get started and you be the judge as to which ones are the worst.

* On September 12, 2004, Detroit ended a 24-game NFL record road losing streak with a win over the Chicago Bears, much to the relief of Coach Steve Mariucci and QB Joey Harrington. Chicago's coach was Lovie Smith, who is currently with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

* There is no question that the Worst Moment in Lions History was the Imperfect 0-16 season of 2008 that led to a 19-game franchise record losing streak. It was snapped on September 27, 2009 at Ford Field against the Washington Redskins as Detroit won 19-14. This was the second longest losing streak in NFL History behind the 1976-77 Tampa Bays, who lost 26 consecutive contests.

* On December 12, 2010, Lions Coach Jim Schwartz had another fire to put out and he did it against the beloved Green Bay Packers. Detroit won 7-3. It was the first time the Lions defeated Green Bay in 10 tries since 2005. It was the first division win since 2007, snapping a 19-game losing streak.

* I had the good fortune of attending the Detroit Lions vs Tampa Bay Bucs contest on December 18, 2010. Thanks to Dave Raymer's 34-yard FG with 9:51 remaining in OT, Detroit snapped it's own 26-game NFL Record Road Losing Streak, giving Schwartz one less set of questions to answer. A week later, on December 26, 2010, I saw the Lions win their second straight road game in Florida by defeating the Miami Dolphins 34-27. The Lions out scored the Dolphins 17-3 in the fourth quarter. Detroit finished the season with a three-game winning streak and a 6-10 mark.

* On September 23, 2013, Schwartz and company faced a task that had never happened in Lions History. They defeated the Washington Redskins 27-20 for the first time ever in Washington D.C. This streak covered 21 road meetings against the Redskins. They last beat the Redskins on the road in 1935 when the team resided in Boston.

Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell wasn't born then, but by defeating the Chicago Bears on Sunday 20-16 in the Windy City, he became the first Detroit coach in his first season with the club to win 11 games. Potsy Clark led the Portsmouth Spartans to an 11-3 record in 1931. By reaching 11 wins, Caldwell has tied Clark for the most wins by a head coach in his first year with the Lions.

Here are some More Insights as we approach Sunday's Winner Take All Divisional Showdown.

* If the Detroit Lions beat the Green Bay Packers, they'll clinch their first divisional title in 21-years, and receive a first round-bye before opening the playoffs at home.

* A loss and Detroit is the Wild Card Team and they'll likely face the Dallas Cowboys on the road.

* The last time the Lions won in Green Bay was on December 15, 1991--8,412 Days Ago. The Lions won 21-17 in below-zero, wind-chill temperatures on the Frozen Tundra at Lambeau Field. The turning point was Mel Gray's 78-yard punt return for a touchdown.

* One day earlier, Michigan wide receiver Desmond Howard won the Heisman Trophy.

* Less than two months later, the Packers acquired Brett Favre from the Atlanta Falcons in a trade, which turned out to be a franchise move for both organizations. Undoubtedly, a costly one for the Falcons.

*The Lions have lost 23 consecutive road games to the Packers.

Caldwell, from Beloit, Wisconsin., will try to do what eight others have failed to do; win a game in Wisconsin. It started with Wayne Fontes (0-6), to Bobby Ross (0-3), Gary Moeller (0-1), Marty Mornhinweg (0-2), Steve Mariucci (0-2), Dick Jauron (0-1), Rod Marinelli (0-3) and Jim Schwartz (0-5).

Stafford was four years old when the Lions last victory in Green Bay occurred.

* The last time the Lions faced the Packers on December 28, was back in 2008 and it was a 1 PM EST start. Unfortunately for Detroit, the Lions lost 31-21 and finished 0-16. The following day on My Birthday, Marinelli was fired.

This years game was scheduled for the same time, however, the NFL used it's Flex Scheduling to move it to 4:25 PM EST because of it's Massive Playoff Implications.

* There will be some heavy hearts for Packers fans as on December 26, 2014, it marked the 10th Anniversary of Reggie White's Death.

The Packers are 7-0 at Home.

* The 288 points scored in seven games is already the sixth-highest total for a season in NFL History. Green Bay needs 42 points to break the record of 329 held by the 2011 New Orleans Saints.

* Green Bay has scored at least 40-points four times.

* In the last six, Green Bay has outscored opponents, 86-7 in the first quarter, and 175-23 in the first half.

* Aaron Rodgers has passed for 23 touchdowns and no interceptions, along with a league-best 132.6 passer rating. His last interception at home came nearly 400 pass attempts ago on December 23, 2012.

* Three weeks ago, however, the Packers allowed 37 points at Lambeau Field to the Atlanta Falcons.

As We Approach the Winner Take All, the Lions nearly had an opportunity to end their Lambeau Drought at the end of the 2011 season on January 1, 2012. This game, like Sunday's had Playoff Implications, but Green Bay had already won the division and Detroit was looking to secure a Higher Wild Card Seeding.

This contest was considered The Matt Bowl as Stafford faced Flynn. Flynn won this duel as he passed for Packers single game records of 480 yards and six TD's as the Packers prevailed 45-41. Green Bay finished 15-1 while Detroit had to travel to New Orleans with a 10-6 mark.

Flynn cashed in on his record setting day by signing a three-year $20.5 Million Deal with Seattle, with $9 Million Guaranteed. He would later lose the job to Russell Wilson.

Detroit would eventually get even with Flynn as the Lions revenge occurred on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 2013 in a 40-10 thrashing at Ford Field. Detroit snapped a nine-game Thanksgiving losing streak to their beloved rivals.

Meanwhile, Flynn got hammered as he was 10-20, 139 yards, one interception, two fumbles, plus he was sacked seven times including one in the end zone for a safety.

With Rodgers nursing injuries all week, we'll see how effective he'll be against a Hungry Lions Team, looking to end their Lambeau Demons.

Or will the Lions knockout Rodgers and force Flynn to win the division title?

One thing is for certain is the Lions are definitely Playing the Biggest Game Ever in Green Bay in Franchise History with what's at stake.

Can they end any more droughts?

We'll see. I'm looking forward to taking the three hour drive to Green Bay and getting a Birds Eye View in The Press Box.

It's going to be one incredible atmosphere at the Frozen Tundra for this contest!

Who would have dreamed of this seven years ago when the Lions concluded their 0-16 season on this field the Vince Lombardi, Curly Lambeau and many other legends did battle?

But seven years later, Marinelli is a distant memory and it's safe to say that Caldwell won't be a part of the Infamous Black Monday December 29, as Head Coaches Get their Pink Slips on My 52 Birthday.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Basketball Thoughts

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

On December 5, 2014, My father celebrated his 74th birthday.

On this same day, The US Postal Service released The Wilt Chamberlain Forever Stamp. It was dedicated in a halftime ceremony during the Philadelphia 76'ers 103-91 home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The stamps are just over two inches tall.

Chamberlain died in 1999 at the age of 63. Chamberlain has two NBA records which are amazing that still stand. He never fouled out in 1,205 regular season and playoff games.

He also holds the rebounding record with 23,924 and is the only NBA player to ever score 100 points in a game.

There are two stamps. One has Chamberlain in a Philadelphia Warriors uniform while the other is in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform. Chamberlain scored 31,419 points in his career, but the record was broken in 1984 by Lakers Center Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Chamberlain starred in the NBA from 1959-1973 when he played for the Philadelphia (later San Francisco) Warriors, 76'ers and Lakers.

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Speaking of the Lakers, it was interesting to hear the reaction of Coach Byron Scott's answer to a question following a 118-111 loss On October 31, 2014, to the LA Clippers as to whether this was a true rivalry. At the time, the Clippers improved to 2-0 while the Lakers dropped to 0-3.

Scott responded, "It's just another game. The Lakers biggest rivalry has been the Boston Celtics. They've got 17 Championship Banners while we have 16. That's a rivalry."

I couldn't agree more. The Clippers have Never won a Conference Title and Never appeared in the NBA Finals. The only two division titles were in 2013 and 2014. This dates back to when the franchise was founded as the Buffalo Braves (1970-78), San Diego Clippers (1978-84) and LA Clippers (1984-Present).

Ironically, Scott was drafted fourth overall by the San Diego Clippers, who traded his rights to the Lakers in October of 1983 as part of a multi-player deal that send Norm Nixon a couple hours south near the Mexican Border. Scott went on to win three NBA titles with the Lakers.

Meanwhile, the Clippers have been one of the worst run franchises under former disgraced Owner Donald Sterling. As of this post, the Clippers are in second place in the Western Conference Pacific Division with a 15-5 mark. The Lakers are last with a 5-16 record and are in a transition period. I do believe they'll eventually turn things around.

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Finally, ESPN recently extended Dick Vitale's contract three years until 2017.

The 75-year old Hall of Fame Broadcaster will no longer do the networks prime-time contest on Saturday Nights.

I'm sure Vitale will have no problem with this since he can fly back to the Sarasota/Bradenton Airport early without having to take Red Eye Flights.

His routine on Sundays is to go to church, sign autographs at The Broken Egg Restaurant in Lakewood Ranch's Sarasota location. This is just minutes from his home.

He raises money through the " Jimmy V Foundation" for Cancer Research which is named after his late friend Jim Valvano.

Give me some of your Energy Dickie V, I can use it these days. I hope I live to 75 let alone have your energy at that age.

My colleague George Eichorn and I have a history with Dick that dates back to our days of working together at WXYZ Radio in
Detroit.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33.com.

Stan's Huge Challenge

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

I've never felt as bad for a coach or front office executive as I do for Stan Van Gundy.

Prior to accepting the challenge of turning the Detroit Pistons around, he had successful tenures with the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic compiling a 371-208 record.

The 55-year old was hired as President of Basketball Operations and Coach on May 14, 2014.

Unfortunately for Stan, he inherited a situation where past Pistons President Joe Dumars made a trade that cost Detroit a lottery pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

He's had the dilemma of dealing with Greg Monroe's free agency at the conclusion of the season. 

Monroe was waiting to see if the Pistons would turn the corner to see if the team was headed towards being a contender. He's never made the playoffs in Detroit and the way things are going, it's apparent that he won't see the postseason playing in Auburn Hills, MI. 

It doesn't help that Monroe has played for numerous head coaches.

When you think of the moves that Dumars made in recent years, here are some of the players that have been productive elsewhere. 

It's hard to believe that back in the 2005 Draft, the Pistons selected Point Forward Amir Johnson out of high school in the second round, 56th overall. 

The 6-9, 240 pound native from LA has found a role with the Toronto Raptors. In his ninth year, Johnson is averaging 10.3 points-per game (PPG) and 5.2 rebounds-per-game (RPG). 

Toronto is currently 22-7.

All the kid needed in Detroit was a coach that believed in him and gave him a chance, which he's earned North Of The Border. At 27-years old, he's still in his prime.
Who got the best of the Brandon Jennings for Brandon Knight/Khris Middleton trade with the Milwaukee Bucks?

The way things are looking now, the Milwaukee Bucks are looking like winners. 

In 2011, Detroit selected Knight with the eighth pick in the first round out of Kentucky, and he's performing well under Bucks Coach Jason Kidd. 

I wonder how Knight's 17.6 PPG, 5.8 assists-per-game (APG) and 4.7 RPG would look in the Pistons line-up. 

The 6-3, 189 pound point guard now gets to develop with Bucks rookie Jabari Parker, the second overall selection in the first round from Duke. 

They're the foundation of a franchise that has new owners, whom are trying to get a new stadium built to keep the franchise in Milwaukee. Last year the Bucks were 15-67 and already have 15 wins.

The departure of Point Forward Middleton has to sting Pistons fans because here is yet another second round pick that never got a chance. Like Knight, he's playing for a division rival. Middleton was the 39th pick overall from Texas A&M. He is 6-7, 225 pounds.

Under the Bucks first year coach Kidd, Middleton, is averaging 9.1 PPG, and 3.5 RPG.

Both of these kids are 23 years old.

I never did understand the benefit of trading Tayshaun Prince to the Memphis Grizzles on January 30, 2013 which landed Jose Calderon. 

The Grizzles have been to the playoffs twice with Prince while Calderon left Detroit that summer via free agency and signed with the Dallas Mavericks.

Add other mistakes like not selecting Carmelo Anthony in favor of Darko Milicic, trading Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson, the 2009 free agent signings of Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon, to five year contracts worth $35 and $55 Million respectively. 

Gordon would get traded to the Charlotte Bobcats on June 26, 2012 for Corey Maggette and what turned out to be this years first round lottery pick for the renamed Charlotte Hornets. 

Villanueva is currently playing for former Pistons Coach Rick Carlisle in Dallas, Gordon is with the Orlando Magic while Maggette is a free agent.

After these moves, it's easy to understand why the Pistons are currently 3-18 and have lost 12-straight. I wonder how many hairs Van Gundy has pulled out of his head. 

Before long, he and his brother Jeff will have the same amount of hair. I actually wonder what advice Jeff has to offer Stan these days.

In the back of his mind, Stan has to wonder what life would be like with just a few of these players that have been moved that I listed above. 

How is he going to get the best out of Josh Smith, who appears to struggle at times on the front line?

I can only imagine what his conversations are like with Owner Tom Gores.

My dad recently suggested to me at dinner that Monroe's role with the Pistons would be better off as a sixth man. Van Gundy seems to be using him there.

Once upon a time, another No.10 for Detroit relished in his role as a sixth man. 

Remember Hall of Fame Forward Dennis Rodman? 

He's collected five championships through the years with Detroit and the Chicago Bulls.

In The Bad Boys Era, Rodman delivered Detroit two titles and was a great Spark Plug.

Unfortunately for Monroe at this stage, it doesn't seem like a trade is possible because he has control as to where he'll go. The only chance is at the trading deadline where Detroit would take less then what his perceived market value was last year. Monroe could be dealt to a contender.

At any rate, we have Kevin Love's Minnesota situation in Detroit. Only the Timberwolves were able to get a good package for him centering around No.1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins.

Detroit won't make out as well as they did when Grant Hill departed for Orlando in a sign and trade deal that enabled the Pistons to land Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins. 

That trade led to a 2004 title for Detroit while Hill, thinking he had no chance of winning a championship in Detroit, was derailed by injuries and never won a title going without a ring.

It will be interesting to see what Monroe's role will be for the rest of the season. Is he going to be a sixth man or go back to being a starter? 
Why would a coach use a guy who's going to pile up statistics to land a bigger contract elsewhere?

At this point, how many young players are going to be used to get experience and develop?

Aside from Center Andre Drummond, who are the real building blocks on this team?

Perhaps Detroit should look at all the players on their NBADL affiliate the Grand Rapids Drive and see if any of those are worth bringing to the Palace.

Obviously Van Gundy knows he has to blow this team up like the Philadelphia 76'ers are doing and start from scratch. 

The Pistons can thank the Minnesota Timberwolves for being the team that was the first to lose to Philadelphia that snapped a 17-game losing streak. Detroit was the 76'ers second win.

With play like this, Gores will be bothered should attendance figures go below 10,000 at The Palace.

I've heard comments in social media that the Pistons should move downtown.

Please people. Winning basketball will bring fans back to the Palace! Besides, the Pistons own their building. Why would they want to rent elsewhere?

It obviously appears that Monroe's departure is inevitable especially since it's likely the Pistons will once again miss the playoffs.

The only guarantee is once Monroe leaves, the No.10 will be permanently out of circulation and won't ever be seen again on the court. Rodman's number will be in the rafters with the other legends.

Meanwhile, the money that would be spent on Monroe will be utilized in attempting to acquire quality free agents or Van Gundy and company can use the financial flexibility in a trade to fit his system.

But one thing Van Gundy won't have to worry about is losing his lottery pick in 2015.

He'll have plenty of time to evaluate talent with his scouts.

In the meantime, what does Stan want for Christmas?

How about a few wins, less embarrassing losses and to avoid taking trips to the store, not having to purchase Tylenol, as well as avoiding Red Bull. I'm sure when Stan took the job that a 6-23 record was far what he expected at Christmas Time.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Michigan's Next Football Coach?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

It is very rare that I would pass on a Michigan VS Ohio State contest to go Holiday Shopping with My Girlfriend.

But when the Wolverines are 21-point underdogs and this is likely going to be Coach Brady Hoke's last game, then I'm not interested in watching a Swan Song.

After Michigan's 23-16 loss to Maryland Saturday, the Wolverines dropped to 5-6 and this was their best chance to become Bowl Eligible.

Right now Ohio State is hungry and they need this game to give them a punchers chance to reach the Final Four to have an opportunity at winning the National Championship in January in Dallas at AT&T Stadium.

A win over Michigan would put Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship against Minnesota or Wisconsin.

Hoke's record is currently 31-19, however in the past three seasons, he's 20-17. Top recruits are changing their minds about going to U-M and looking elsewhere.

The Big Ten needs Michigan to be a top rated school because the All-Time Winningest Program only enhances the conferences credibility. Football in The State of Michigan is a better place when the Wolverines are winning.

Assuming that Hoke is terminated, I've decided to make some suggestions on who could roam the sidelines at "The Big House."

1. Mike Stoops is the Defensive Coordinator at Oklahoma under his brother Bob. Mike coached at the University of Arizona from 2004-2011 and was 41-50. How could anybody rule out a Stoops since the bloodlines are strong in college football? Give Mike a big powerhouse like Michigan and he'd make the most of his second opportunity. Arizona has struggled throughout the years despite the recent success of former Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez.

2. Jim Leavitt is a linebackers coach for the San Francisco 49'ers. Now I know that he won't get consideration for the job, but I'll give you reasons why he should. He built My Alma-Mater USF's Football Program from Scratch. From 1997-2009, he was 95-57 and put USF on the College Football Map. Unfortunately for Leavitt, he was fired due to conduct regarding treatment of students. He's currently working on Jim Harbaugh's staff. Since Leavitt left USF, his successors have really struggled. Skip Holtz was 16-21 in three seasons. Willie Taggart is currently 6-17 with one game left this season. Is Leavitt's fiery personality too much for Michigan Football? Probably. But right now Michigan needs a lot of energy and the 57-year old is a proven winner and his temperament could be what this university needs to reignite this once proud powerhouse.

3. Jon Gruden would bring tremendous credibility to Michigan. He's 51 and has a knack when it comes to developing young quarterbacks. Gruden went to school at University of Dayton. He was born in Sandusky, Ohio, the home of Cedar Point which is the Roller Coaster Capital of the World. He would be on an interesting roller coaster ride at U-M at the beginning. But a great way to recruit is take an NFL career record of 95-81, show the student's parents his Super Bowl Ring and tell him that he has a lot of Professional Contacts that could turn into Dollar Signs which make Dreams Come True. Anybody who watches Gruden on ESPN is definitely going to learn something. A recruit would be foolish not to play for Gruden, who would be returning to the Midwest. Can you imagine a Michigan VS Ohio State Game with two coaches from the Buckeye State? I wouldn't be going Holiday Shopping if these two faced each other in November!

4. Greg Schiano had an opportunity to become the coach at U-M when former Athletic Director Bill Martin spoke to him on December 5, 2007. Two days later he withdrew his name from consideration. During an 11-year tenure at Rutgers University, Schiano was 68-67 with a 5-1 record in Bowl Games. He coached two seasons in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Bucs but struggled with an 11-21 mark. He built Rutgers into a credible program and ironically, the school is a member of the Big Ten. The timing may not have been good for Schiano before, but since he's unemployed, it could work out this time.

5. Pat Fitzgerald will turn 40-years old on December 2. The Wolverines have seen plenty of the the Northwestern Wildcats coach since he became the head man in 2006. As of tonight, Fitzgerald is 60-52 and has guided the Wildcats to five Bowl Games. He-s 1-4 at his Alma-Mater, but the question remains, would Fitzgerald be ready to take a major climb at a program with Michigan's History? One former Northwestern Coach was Ara Parseghian who coached there from 1956-63 and compiled a 36-35-1 mark then moved on to Notre Dame. This is a tough call for the Orland Park, Illinois native.

6. Cam Cameron is a Michigan Man and what would a coaching search be without looking for one? Cameron spent 10-years at U-M where he learned from the late Bo Schembechler. He's tutored QB's Jim Harbaugh, Elvis Grbac and Todd Collins. He's also coached Amani Toomer, Derrick Alexander and Heisman Trophy Winner Desmond Howard. Cameron has worked alongside future head coaches Lloyd Carr, Gary Moeller, Les Miles and Mike DeBord. Cameron is currently the Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach at LSU under Miles. He's struggled with his two head coaching stops. From 1997-2001, he was 18-37 at Indiana. But I wouldn't hold that against Cameron because Indiana is a basketball school, and struggles on the gridiron. In 2007, Cameron's lone season with the Miami Dolphins produced a 1-15 mark. He's been a QB Coach for the Washington Redskins as well as an Offensive Coordinator for the San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Ravens.

7. Les Miles has been approached twice since Carr retired after the 2007 Season as well as in 2010 when Rodriguez was fired. While he's listened to Michigan's overtures, he declined and elected to remain at LSU then return home to his Alma-Mater. As of tonight, Miles is 7-4 and his career mark is 130-49. At 61-years old, he's signed through 2019. Would he join former SEC/Florida Coach Urban Meyer in the Big Ten? Meyer is 50 but it would be neat to see these two rivals face each other in the Big Ten. But I don't believe the third time will be the charm and Miles listens, but stays put.

8. Jim Harbaugh is going to get mentioned for this job as his status beyond this season with the 49'ers remains in limbo. If there is a reach, this one is it. Harbaugh is a former U-M QB and his name surfaces when the head coaching vacancy becomes available. He's a proven NFL QB and he's won at every coaching stop. He began his career at the University of San Diego and from 2004-2006, Harbaugh was 29-6. He moved on to Stanford from 2007-2010 and was 29-21. He mentored Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck. Then he stayed in the Bay Area to coach the San Francisco 49'ers where he's been since 2011. He's currently 43-15-1 with three trips to the playoffs and one Super Bowl Appearance. Another Michigan Man and he'll turn 51 on December 23. There will be plenty of fire in him. Now the question would be how much the Wolverines would have to pay him to return to Ann Arbor?

9. Mack Brown is currently enjoying life as a broadcaster at ESPN. But these days coaches tend to work into their late 60's and early 70's. Brown turned 63 on August 27, 1951. His overall head coaching record is 244-122-1 and is 13-8 in Bowl Games. His main coaching stops include North Carolina and Texas. He won a National Championship in 2005. If Michigan came calling, I'm sure Brown would listen very hard and this would be his last coaching stop at another Legendary Program. I believe he would take this job! Michigan and Texas are scheduled to play in the future during the regular season.

10. Mike Gundy is having a tough season at his Alma-Mater Oklahoma State with a 5-6 record. He's been coaching the Cowboys since 2005 and has compiled an 82-44 record. He's 5-3 in Bowl Games and if there is ever a time to try to lure him away from OSU, it's now. The Cowboys are paying him $3.75 Million a year and at age 47, this guy has a promising future and is off to a excellent start. Many great coaches move onto new challenges. Gundy has compiled his record being the little brother to the Oklahoma Sooners. Can you imagine if he went to a school which was the No.1 university in the state? Can just imagine what a MSU coached Mark Dantonio (58) team would be like against a Gundy coached Michigan Program. Another fiery young competitor that can bring a lot of energy into Michigan Stadium.

It will be interesting to see how the Michigan coaching search plays out. But there are a lot of good candidates who can revitalize this Legendary Program. Many of these guys are great Offensive Minds and have Developed a lot of Quarterbacks, which is an area where the Wolverines desperately need help.


Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Future NHL Markets?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

I've been hearing a lot of talk lately about Future Expansion in the NHL.

The most recent rumor has been the Florida Panthers moving to Quebec City, which is in the process of building a new arena hoping for a return to the NHL.

I wouldn't be holding my breath if I lived in Quebec. Especially while Gary Bettman is the commissioner. It had to be tough enough to see the Atlanta Thrashers move to become the new Winnipeg Jets. Bettman lost a Major Southern Market, but this was the second chance for the area, which had the Atlanta Flames, and it simply didn't work.

Bettman persevered in keeping the Arizona Coyotes from moving to Hamilton, Ontario, and into Canada to preserve hockey in the Southwest.

There is no doubt that during the first week of the NHL season that Bettman had to be bothered with the Florida Panthers attendance.

During the opener on October 11, the BB&T Center was 59.3% full as 11,419 showed up and saw the New Jersey Devils defeat Florida 5-1.

The second home game on October 13, saw the stadium 38% full as the Ottawa Senators defeated the Panthers 1-0 in front of 7,311. This crowd made National Headlines for all the wrong reasons as the record low numbers circulated throughout Regular and Social Media.

There is even talk that tarps will be used at the BB&T Center to reduce the capacity, thus making it easier in theory to sellout. The NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars currently do this.

While Detroit is considered Hockey Town, South Florida is not!

The attendance woes are attributed to the new owners desire not to give away free tickets, thus everybody pays and it doesn't devalue the entertainment.

For years, the Panthers have been losing millions of dollars and are currently seeking help from Broward County for Bailout Assistance. Time will tell whether they get help.

Former Red Wing Gerard Gallant is the team's head coach and he's working for a franchise that has only made the playoffs four times since the team was founded in 1993.

The Panthers reached the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals but were swept by the Colorado Avalanche 4-0.

Florida's last playoff appearance was in 2012.

I've seen a lot of arenas throughout the years and the BB&T Center is one of the Most Beautiful!

Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland has always told me that he's impressed with this facility.

I actually live 20-25 minutes away off the Sawgrass Expressway from the BB&T Center in Deerfield Beach.

It would be totally unfortunate if the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL becomes a White Elephant with no major tenant should the Panthers depart.

When ground was broken in 1996, it costs $185 Million to build. In 2014, the same arena would cost $268 Million.

But if the Panthers fail in South Florida, there would be plenty of cities that would welcome them with open arms.

I'm going to list some and we'll see how it plays out down the road.

1. Seattle would be an ideal place for a team but there is one major problem. There is no arena suitable. The lack of a new stadium saw the former NBA's Supersonics relocate to Oklahoma City. This would be a natural rival for the Vancouver Canucks. Key Arena could only serve as a temporary but by no means is it adequate for long term.

2. Portland, OR., would be another good Pacific Northwest Rival for the Vancouver Canucks and the Rose Garden where the NBA's Trail Blazers seems like a good spot. However, with such a small market, I doubt that "Rip City" could support two major sports especially during the winter season. The Trail Blazers have been the only game in town and set numerous attendance sellout records through the years. This could change if the Oakland Raiders decide to move to Oregon.

3. Kansas City used to be the home of the Scouts (1974-76) and were coached by Red Wings legend Sid Abel. Abel was also a part of the Scout's front office. Former Red Wing Guy Charron was a captain for KC. They played at the old Kemper Arena. Since there is no major winter sport, I could see a Missouri rivalry develop with the St. Louis Blues. The Sprint Center broke ground in 2005 at a cost of $276 Million ($314 in 2014) and the capacity for hockey is 17,544. It opened in 2007.

4. Salt Lake City, Utah., is the home of the NBA's Utah Jazz, but again the major question remains, can the area support two winter teams? I have my doubts here as well, though a good rivalry could develop with the Colorado Avalanche.

5. Oklahoma City, OK., got a gift from the NBA when Hurricane Katrina sent the New Orleans Hornets to the area, and the strong fan support ultimately secured the area as a future spot for relocation. The Supersonics moved there and have flourished. However, I wouldn't predict an NHL team moving here because once again, two major sports in a small market would be tough. The NBA's Thunder being the only game in town has given it a stranglehold on the Sports Entertainment Dollar in the Central Midwest. If an NHL team was based here, the Dallas Stars would be the only natural rival. It would be weird to see a Red River Rivalry On The Ice, a far cry from the gridiron featuring the Oklahoma Sooners VS Texas Longhorns.

6. Milwaukee, WI., is an intriguing market and there are plans underway to get a new stadium built in an effort to keep the Bucks from leaving town. For years, the Milwaukee Admirals have been a top minor league team for the NHL. Chicago is 90 minutes away so there is a natural rival for the Blackhawks. This is a very realistic possibility, however, it's a minimum of five years away. The Wisconsin Badgers have always been an elite College Hockey Team. The Badgers have made 24 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, have reached the Frozen Four 12 times with Six National Titles. This is fourth best in College Hockey History with the last National Title in 2006. Another rival for the Milwaukee franchise would be the Minnesota Wild.

7. Louisville, KY., used to have the ABA's Kentucky Colonels from 1967-1976 and the team won a championship in 1975. This area built a 20,000 seat start of the art arena for the Louisville Cardinals basketball team called the KFC Yum! Center. It's also the home of the Kentucky Derby. Lexington's Rupp Arena is also a possibility since it's in close proximity to Cincinnati, Ohio. The NHL would be the only game in town in either area. If a team was based in Louisville, it would be a financial boon to see the Kentucky Derby and NHL Playoffs going on at the same time. Although, I've seen the Indianapolis 500 and NBA Playoffs make the area a Memorial Day Sports Capital. Who can forget the Louisville is the hometown of boxing legend Muhammad Ali?

8. Cleveland used to be the home of the NHL's Barons and I'm sure Dan Gilbert would like to get a team in the Quicken Loans Arena. But I don't see this happening because the Columbus Blue Jackets seem to be Ohio's Hockey team, let alone the only major game in town.

9. Hamilton and Quebec City seem to be the next Canadian teams. The reason I'm putting these cities together is it would either be one or the other. Hamilton was once linked to the Phoenix Coyotes, but Bettman blocked those possibilities. A Hamilton franchise would have been a good rival to the Toronto Maple Leafs., but would bring no value to American Television. Quebec lost the Nordiques to Denver and while it lost a rival with Montreal, this opened up the Mountain Time Zone Region. It gave Denver a second chance to replace the former Colorado Rockies franchise. The Avalanche have won two Stanley Cup Championships.

Bettman knows that expanding into Canada does very little to build the USA TV Contracts. I don't see Toronto getting a second NHL team because there are too many other options, though this has been talked about. Canada was fortunate enough to land a team when the Ottawa Senators began play in 1992-93 after a 54-year hiatus.

10. Las Vegas, NV., is by far and away the Odds On Favor to land a team. There have been preliminary meetings with local ownership groups and ground has been broken for a New Stadium on The Strip near MGM which would have no shortage booking events. Las Vegas will easily book concerts, fights and many other events. It's just a matter of time about What Sport Wants to Take The Plunge into the Biggest Gambling Market in the World. A Las Vegas team would have natural rivalries with the Arizona Coyotes, LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks. The league already holds it's Award Banquet in Las Vegas. This isn't a matter of if, but when this happens. Bettman and company are currently Kicking The Tires for now, but it won't be long before they're setting up shop. An NHL team would be the only game in town. If I had to wager on the NBA or NHL, then hockey gets My Bet.

So indeed there are no shortages of a future home for the Florida Panthers.

But Bettman is determined to keep hockey alive in South Florida, as he fought extremely hard to save it in Phoenix.

Having been a long time resident of South Florida, all the Panthers need to do is cash in on their NHL Draft Choices then sign them to long term deals as they become impact players. This will enable them to create a fan base that can identify with players in the community.

This is can be a good hockey market, but there has to be a product worth watching and paying for. There are many ways to be entertained in South Florida with the Beaches, Casinos, Golf, plus there are Four Major Sports, etc...

But there is potential for success and an Excellent Hockey Arena to play in.

There is no doubt in My Mind that the NHL will Expand Again.

My top four choices would be in the Western Conference. Las Vegas, Seattle, Kansas City and Milwaukee would be the Front Runners.

The NHL wants to have an even amount of teams in each conference and the Western Conference is two short.

I look forward to your feedback.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Let's Get Defensive

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

There is a Saying in the NFL that Defense Wins Championships.

Through the years, I've been intrigued about how the high-powered offenses would handle the strong defenses.

Are defenses judged by specific players or by the units themselves?

Now that we're at the half way point of the 2014 NFL Season, this is a great opportunity to see which defenses keep their teams in contention as we approach the playoffs.

The following numbers could be great indicators as to what to expect in the months of November, December, January and determine the teams which will be playing in the Super Bowl in Glendale, AZ come February.

Lets begin with Total Points. The Detroit Lions have allowed the least with 126 followed by the Kansas City Chiefs (128), the Baltimore Ravens (131) and the Arizona Cardinals (139).

Next, we move onto Total Yards. The San Francisco 49'ers are on top with 2,142 followed by Kansas City at 2,160, Denver with 2,207. The defending Super Bowl Champions Seattle Seahawks are fourth with 2,213, the Miami Dolphins are fifth with 2,259 while the Lions are sixth with 2,323.

Kansas City is No.1 with 1,370 Passing Yards allowed followed by Miami's 1,481, San Francisco 1,548 and Seattle is fourth with 1,586. Detroit is ranked 10th with 1,731.

The Denver Broncos have allowed the least amount of Rushing Yards with 507, Arizona is next with 545, Detroit is third with 592 and San Francisco is fourth  with 594.

The Detroit Lions are in the Top 10 in all four of these categories.

Can Detroit sustain this success with the recent defensive losses of Stephen Tulloch and Nick Fairley?

This remains to be seen.

If you look at legendary defensive units, here are some that stand out that either won or played in Super Bowls.

The Pittsburgh Steelers "Steel Curtain" produced four Super Bowl Championships.

Miami's "No Name" defense led to a pair of titles in the early 1970's including the lone 17-0 undefeated season in NFL History.

"The Monsters of The Midway" made Chicago proud as the Bears mauled their way to a 1985 World Championship.

"The Doomsday Defense" of the Dallas Cowboys were a group that became a dynasty in the late 1960's and 1970's, that produced championships in The Lone Star State.

Despite not winning a Super Bowl in the late 1960's and 1970's, The Minnesota Vikings "Purple People Eaters" used this unit to reach the title game four times.

Who can forget the "Orange Crush Defense" of the Denver Broncos of the late 1970's and early 1980's which also made a Super Bowl Appearance?

Now that we've looked at Great Defensive Units, it's time to take this a step further.

How many players from the past could play at high levels in today's NFL with the numerous rule changes aimed at keeping the game safer?

Due to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the days of two and three practices during training camp in one day are long gone.

Concussions are a big issue therefore rules of hitting players high especially with helmet to helmet contact are being called and in some cases players are being ejected and even suspended.

We'll really never know how the players of the past would play in Today's NFL.

When My Girlfriend entered a Fantasy Football League, she had to pick a defensive player and sought My Opinion.

If the guy gets one or two points that could be the difference as to who wins that week.

Now I'm going to mention several names of players that I think could play in Any Era.

Later on, I'll add some of the best defensive players in the NFL Today.

The numerical order I'm about to provide is not in rank, but as players came to mind when I wrote them down as I tried to go back to some of the legendary defenses which I mentioned earlier in this story.

We'll Start With The Past:

1. Dick Butkus (Chicago Bears)
2. Lawrence Taylor (New York Giants)
3. "Mean" Joe Greene (Pittsburgh Steelers)
4. Jack Youngblood (LA Rams)
5. Herb Adderley (Green Bay Packers)
6. Willie Davis (Green Bay Packers)
7. Willie Brown (Oakland Raiders)
8. Bobby Bell (Kansas City Chiefs)
9. Willie Lanier (Kansas City Chiefs)
10. Lem Barney (Detroit Lions)
11. Wayne Walker (Detroit Lions)
12. Dick "Night Train" Lane (Detroit Lions)
13. Alan Page (Minnesota Vikings)
14. Carl Eller (Mnnesota Vikings)
15. Nick Buoniconti (Miami Dolphins)
16. L.C. Greenwood (Pittsburgh Steelers)
17. Mel Blount (Pittsburgh Steelers)
18. Jack Lambert (Pittsburgh Steelers)
19. Dwight White (Pittsburgh Steelers)
20. Ernie Holmes (Pittsburgh Steelers)
21. Jack Ham (Pittsburgh Steelers)
22. Bruce Smith (Buffalo Bills)
23. Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens)
24. Michael Strahan (New York Giants)
25. Ronnie Lott (San Francisco 49'ers)
26. Charles Haley (San Francisco 49'ers /Dallas Cowboys)
27. Reggie White (Philadelphia Eagles/Green Bay Packers)
28. Kevin Greene (Pittsburgh Steelers/Carolina Panthers)
29. Jason Taylor (Miami Dolphins)
30. John Randle (Minnesota Vikings)
31. Richard Dent (Chicago Bears)
32. Derrick Thomas (Kansas City Chiefs)
33. Clyde Simmons (Philadelphia Eagles)
34. Simeon Rice (Tampa Bay Bucs)
35. Warren Sapp (Tampa Bay Bucs)
36. LeRoy Selmon  (Tampa Bay Bucs)
37. Derrick Brooks (Tampa Bay Bucs)
38. Neil Smith (Kansas City Chiefs)
39. Andre Tippett (New England)
40. Howie Long (Oakland/LA Raiders)
41. Aeneas Williams (Arizona Cardinals)
42. Harvey Martin (Dallas Cowboys)
43. Randy White (Dallas Cowboys)
44. Karl Mecklenburg (Denver Broncos)
45. Junior Seau (San Diego Chargers)
46. Randy Gradishar (Denver Broncos)
47. Tom Jackson (Denver Broncos)
48. Dick LeBeau (Detroit Lions)
49. Bryan Cox (Miami Dolphins)
50. Pat Swilling (New Orleans Saints)
51. Darrell Green (Washington Redskins)
52. LaVar Arrington (Washington Redskins)
53. Wilber Marshall (Chicago Bears/Washington Redskins)
54. Brian Urlacher (Chicago Bears)
55. Mark Gastineau (New York Jets)
56. Dexter Manley (Washington Redskins)
57. Bob Brudzinski (LA Rams/Miami Dolphins)
58. Kim Bokamper (Miami Dolphins)
59. Elvin Bethea (Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans)
60. Joe Klecko (New York Jets)
61. Dave Wilcox (San Francisco 49'ers)
62. Deacon Jones (LA Rams)
63. Merlin Olsen (LA Rams)
64. Jackie Slater (LA Rams)
65. Bubba Smith (Baltimore Colts)
66. Willie McGinest (New England Patriots)
67. Ty Law (New England Patriots)
68. Tedi Bruschi (New England Patriots)
69. Chris Doleman (Minnesota Vikings)
70. Trace Armstrong (Chicago Bears/Miami Dolphins)
71. Leslie O'Neal (San Diego Chargers)
72. Sean Jones (Green Bay Packers)
73. Rickey Jackson (New Orleans Saints/San Francisco 49'ers)
74. Robert Porcher (Detroit Lions)
75. Alex Karras (Detroit Lions)

Now To The Present:

1. J.J Watt (Houston Texans)
2. Mario Williams (Houston Texans/Buffalo Bills)
3. Ndamukong Suh (Detroit Lions)
4. Clay Matthews (Green Bay Packers)
5. Julius Peppers (Carolina Panthers/Chicago Bears/Green Bay Packers)
6. Jared Allen (Minnesota Vikings/Chicago Bears)
7. Terrell Suggs (Baltimore Ravens)
8. DeMarcus Ware (Dallas Cowboys/Denver Broncos)
9. Luke Kuechley (Carolina Panthers)
10. Cliff Avril (Detroit Lioms/Seattle Seahawks)
11. Jadeveon Clowney (Houston Texans)
12. Cory Redding (Detroit Lions/Indianapolis Colts)
13. A.J. Hawk (Green Bay Packers)
14. James Harrison (Pittsburgh Steelers)
15. John Abraham (New York Jets/Atlanta Falcoms/Arizona Cardinals)
16. Darrelle Revis (New York Jets/New England Patriots)
17. Dwight Freeney (Indianapolis Colts)
18. Robert Mathis  (Indianapolis Colts)
19. Osi Umenyiora (New York Giants/Atlanta Falcons)
20. Jason Pierre Paul (New York Giants)
21. Elvis Dumervil (Denver Broncos/Baltimore Ravens)
22. DeAndre Levy (Detroit Lions)
23. Justin Smith (Cincinnati Bengals/San Francisco 49'ers)
24. Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh Steelers)
25. Terence Newman (Dallas Cowboys/Cincinnati Bengals)

The one thing that many of these players had in common is they've caused lots of nightmares for many quarterbacks.

Whether it be that clutch interception or the devastating hit which caused fumbles, season or career ending injuries, these events were a large part of that created many dynasty's.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of the 2014 NFL Season unfolds.

Meanwhile, these 100 players will always leave me wondering what would have been, both past and present.

All we have to reference is by watching highlights on the various sports networks today.

There is always ESPN Classic and the NFL Network to relive the Great Defensive Players along with Teams. Then we can formulate our own conclusions

I'm going to end this post with the following questions:

Would you fear Dick Butkus or Lawrence Taylor the most?

I wouldn't want to get on Taylor's bad side, but I'm running as fast as I can from Butkus.

Taylor ended the career of Joe Theismann on a Monday Night game on November 18, 1985.

Would Peyton Manning be able to take the hits and punishment that Butkus gave opponents?

If Peyton wants an answer, he can ask his father Archie, who played with the New Orleans Saints during the same era.

Could you imagine Ndamukong Suh body slamming or stepping on quarterbacks Terry Bradshaw or Dan Marino?

There are so many ways that a mind can wander about these Cross Over Eras.

I've been fortunate enough to witness many through the years.

First as a fan then as a member of the media.

Until the day that I die, I'll never be able to watch enough film to be a Student Of The Game.

Having spoken to lots of players and coaches, this always seems to enlighten me.

But as the year progresses, I'll be monitoring all of the team's statistics and see where they end up in their quest to get to the Super Bowl.

Plus, what defensive players will emerge in My Future Lists?

Stay Tuned!

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.                                                              

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pro Football Viewpoints

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

Going into the Lions game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday October 5 at Ford Field, Bills QB Kyle Orton had an all-time record of 4-0 against Detroit.

Thanks to three missed field goals by kicker Alex Henery, Orton raised his record to 5-0 as Buffalo won 17-14. Orton was 30-43 for 308 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Prior to the game, Orton had four touchdowns and zero interceptions versus Detroit.

But if there was ever a gift, this was it. Henery's 0-3 performance made him the second kicker casualty of the season for Detroit.

The Lions cut Henery one day later after he was 1-5 in field goal attempts. Detroit signed former Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater on Tuesday. This is a guy that was originally signed by the Lions as an undrafted free agent in 2006.

He holds the NFL record for kicking the longest field goal (64 yards) which he set on December 8, 2013, in Denver in a game against the Tennessee Titans.

He was cut by the Denver Broncos after completing a suspension for DUI.

In addition to the Lions kicker's woes, the Buffalo defense sacked Lions QB Matt Stafford a career high six times.

The Bills defense carried their defensive coordinator and former Detroit Head Coach Jim Schwartz off the field. I can't say that I was impressed with this, but we'll see if this win does anything to get Buffalo into the playoffs.

If there is a positive that comes out of this loss and the Lions find their kicker, then we'll give them a mulligan if they're able to defeat Minnesota or earn another road win with Prater and his strong leg. One thing Prater has going for him is he'll be kicking in a dome the majority of the time. The only cold air will come from the Air Conditioner.

The Lions and Bills contest was the final meeting between ownership groups that have Detroit connections. Detroit's late Owner William Clay Ford and Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Jr. were good friends. They've been great for the NFL throughout the years.

I will be curious to see if these teams continue to face one another in the pre-season as they have over the years.

I have a feeling that if Detroit faces Orton again, win number six will be much more difficult if Detroit can play a complete game without key mistakes. We shall see what the 2014 fortunes turn out to be for both teams.

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Speaking of the Bill's, I'm glad that Terry and Kim Pegula finally were unanimously approved as the new owners and the team is committed to staying in Western New York.

Pegula has a great reputation in the area and is the owner of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres. There is no question that he'll cross-market with both teams.

But one thing that I want to emphasize here is that the Buffalo Bills fans should be thankful that Billionaire Donald Trump got involved in the bidding process. I've always been critical of Trump because he was the one person that wanted to compete against the NFL when he was the owner of the USFL's New Jersey Generals.

The USFL eventually folded and I truly blame him for being a major reason for the league's extinction and demise.

But during the Bills sale process, Trump submitted a bid for $1 Billion and in cash. I'm sure this sale would have been completed in 30 days with a wire transfer. I know he would have kept the team in Western New York. If Pegula didn't bid $1.4 Billion, I doubt the Wilson family would have sold the team to the Bon Jovi Group that was prepared to move the franchise to Toronto, CA.

So the folks should send Thank-You Cards to Trump because he was a legitimate second choice if Pegula didn't get the franchise.

The Bills franchised would have scored a Touchdown with Trump or Pegula as owners.

Trump earned my respect for stepping up at a time when Buffalo needed him. It would have been interesting to see how Trump would have interacted with the likes of NFL Owners such as Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder, The Rooney and Mara families, Paul Allen, Tom Benson, etc...



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In a recent story, I mentioned that I could relate to Chicago Bears Defensive End Jared Allen missing the team's 38-17 thrashing by the Green Bay Packers on September 28, 2014. For Allen to have played the following week against the Carolina Panthers, he had to regain the 12 pounds he lost while battling Pneumonia.

Allen did return to action against the Panthers and recorded seven tackles in a 31-24 loss in Charlotte, NC., on October 5, 2014.

As I said before, and I'll say it again, I've dealt with many health issues throughout the years, but now I've learned how tough Pneumonia can be having experienced it myself. Late Lions Owner William Clay Ford died of it earlier this year.

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How good is Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck? The No.1 pick in the 2012 NFL draft out of Stanford is proving why he was a better selection than Washington Redskins pick Robert Griffin III.

The Colts are 4-2 in 2014 and Luck has 17 touchdowns, seven interceptions and 1,987 yards.

According to Gil Brandt, Luck became the first QB in NFL History with consecutive games of at least 370 yards, four touchdowns and a 70% completion rate. For a league where there have been a lot of great QB's in NFL History which includes Hall of Fame signal callers, this is an amazing accomplishment.

During his six games, Luck has posted 370, 172, 370, 393, 312 and 370 yard games. The Philadelphia Eagles were the team that held Luck to 172 yards during a 30-27 Colts loss.

In Luck's short career that spans all of 38 games dating back to 2012, he's amassed 10,183 yards, 63 TD's and 34 INT's.

Talk about a smooth transition from Peyton Manning to Luck, Colts Owner Jim Irsay hit the jackpot.

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Finally, as disgusting as it's been to hear about all of the Domestic Violence, Child Abuse and Assault Cases, we can thank the Cincinnati Bengals for a Feel Good Story.

I'm inspired by the support the Cincinnati Bengals organization has given Devon Still, as his 4-year-old daughter Leah is battling Cancer.

Earlier this season, the NFL announced it would donate proceeds from the sale of Still's Jersey to Cancer research.

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton notably supported the effort by purchasing 100 Still Jerseys shortly after the announcement.

On Sunday Night, October 5, the Bengals defensive tackle found yet another touching NFL Tribute in New England. Patriots Owner Robert Kraft announced the organization is making a $25,000 donation to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital in support of Leah.

The Bengals Cheerleading Squad wore Still's No. 75 Bengals's Jerseys on the sidelines, plus wore "Still Strong" and "Women of Still" shirts on Friday.

It doesn't get any more inspiring than this!

The Bengals kept Still on their Practice Squad then moved him to the Active Roster enabling him to keep the health insurance due to Leah's Medical Bills.

They're a sentimental favorite to win the Super Bowl this year.

This organization has had a track record for having players with character issues.

But now they've come a long way to drastically change their image, especially at a time when the NFL needs to with the recent publicity the league has received with all of the above problems listed. The NFL is working on new policies to change in order to protect the image of the shield.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Digest These Baseball Facts

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

While the NFL is heating up, there is no time better for baseball than October.

Fall is here and the leaves are falling and changing colors.

Other things that are falling are teams that made it to the playoffs as we get ready for the World Series in a few weeks,

This story is going to provide some interesting perspective on where baseball once was compared to where it currently stands.

With the help of the Baseball Hall of Fame and MLB Public Relations, I was enlightened with these facts therefore, I wanted to pass this information along.

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On October 5, 1868, Henry Chadwick wrote the first hard-cover book on baseball. He was born 190 years ago today. His Hall of Fame Plaque says, "Baseball's Preeminent Pioneer Writer For Half A Century. Inventor Of The Box Score. Author Of The First Rule Book In 1858. Chairman Of Rules Committee In First Nation-Wide Baseball Organization." He was inducted into the Hall of
Fame in 1938. There was no primary team and he was an Executive.

I can only imagine what Chadwick would think about the statistics in this modern age. When he reaches 200 years old in 10 years, who knows what baseball will come up with? He introduced statistics such as batting average, and the concept of earned and unearned runs.

Since the Los Angeles Dodgers are in this years playoffs, it's only appropriate to mention a piece of history regarding them.

On October 2, 1966, Dodgers Pitcher Sandy Koufax wins his 27th game of the season. This was the final game of his Hall of Fame Career.

Nowadays, no pitcher would sniff 27 wins a season with the game changing in an era where specialization has led to specialists.

Koufax had a career record of 165-87, 2,396 strikeouts, a 2.76 ERA, 40 shutouts, 137 complete games, appearing in 397 games, 2,324.1 innings pitched, starting in 314 games and even had nine saves. Once again, how many of today's pitchers would complete 137 games? Close your eyes and what do you see?

Need I say more?


Here is another interesting October fact that has lasted a long time.

On October 1, 1921, history was made as Chicago White Sox Catcher Ray Schalk was the first catcher to make a putout at every single base.

This hasn't been accomplished again.

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Now that the Detroit Tigers have been eliminated from the playoffs, I have to admit that I'm pulling for the Kansas City Royals to win the World Series in a few weeks.

If there is a team of destiny this Fall, the Royals are definitely that squad.

When Kansas City defeated the LA Angels in Game 1 of the ALDS 3-2 in 11 innings, it marked the first time since 1979 that a team won it's first two playoff games in extra innings.

The Royals are playing on House Money and are definitely enjoying their underdog status. Kansas City made it three straight extra innings wins with a 4-1 triumph over the Angels Friday night in Anaheim. The key blow was a two-run home run in the 11th inning by Eric Hosmer that gave KC a 3-1 lead. Hosmer, 25, wasn't even born when the Royals made their last playoff appearance 29 years ago. He turns 25 on October 24, 2014. It's possible that he'll be working that day playing in The Fall Classic.

Meanwhile, Sunday, the Royals didn't need extra innings in Missouri as they completed the Angels 3-0 sweep with an 8-3 victory.

Going into the playoffs, the Angels had the best record in baseball with a 98-64 mark, while the Royals were 89-73. It's safe to say that these records mean nothing now.

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I wonder what Chadwick would think of these numbers from MLB Public Relations.

* A total of 5.2 million viewers watched the American League Wild Card Game, +14% over last years Tuesday WC Game. It beat TBS top cable net in prime time by +112%. Kansas City defeated Oakland 9-8 in 12 innings in Missouri. I started watching the game in the fifth inning and watched this game until the conclusion. It certainly will go down as one of the best games in playoff history especially since the Wild Card Game is a one game elimination to advance. I'll bet Commissioner Bud Selig must be gleaming at a game like this since it was his idea to expand the playoffs.

* This Wild Card Game drew a 30.3 rating in Kansas City, the highest MLB Telecast on record. Seventy percent of TV's on in KC tuned to the last 15 minutes. They were rewarded with the Royals first playoff victory in 29 years.

* How powerful is Twitter?

There were 817,653 tweets during the AL# Wild Card Game, topping #2 Thursday  Program by +642%. There were 90,000 + tweets in five minutes after the walk-off hit by Salvador Perez.

* The 817,653 tweets are most for an MLB # Postseason Game on record with the exception of 2012 & 2013 # World Series Clinchers.

* The Royals and A's Wild Card Game drew a 3.8 overnight rating on TBS, + 12% over the corresponding game last year on Tuesday. The Pittsburgh Pirates made it to the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, and snapped their 20-year consecutive losing seasons as they faced the Cincinnati Reds.

It will be interesting to see how the ratings and tweets go the rest of the playoffs.

My photographer Ebling had an interesting perspective of the post-season.

Her Milwaukee Brewers (82-80) collapsed in September failing to make the playoffs after spending 150 games in first place.

Yet, the Detroit Tigers and LA Angels reached and got swept in the playoffs and played just three games more than the Brewers. The Tigers and Angels suffered just as much as the Brewers since their expectations were enormous.

But with the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals set to face each other later this week, I look for two baseball starving fan bases to think Cinderella is waiting to put on her glass slipper.

The Orioles won their last World Series in 1983 while the Royals managed to win their lone title in 1985. Baltimore defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 while Kansas City defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3 in the battle of Missouri.

One team is guaranteed a chance to snap that drought and it will be fun to watch.

As for Chadwick, I can imagine what type of hard-cover book he'd write these days, here in 2014.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

This Weekend In Baseball

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

How do you cap a Hall of Fame Career?

If you're Derek Jeter, a game winning RBI against the Baltimore Orioles in his last game at Yankee Stadium Thursday Night was a great start.

The Yankees 5-4 breath taking victory was better than a Hollywood Ending.

Jeter played it smart. He never wanted to play Shortstop again and wanted it to end in the Bronx.

On Sunday, at Fenway Park, the Yankees won the last game of the season 9-5 over the Boston Red Sox.

Jeter's last at bat was an RBI single in the third inning. He appeared as a Designated Hitter and even though the Yankees VS Red Sox is one of the most intense rivalries in sports, Boston and their fans demonstrated an abundance of class in their appreciation of Jeter. I've always felt that Red Sox fans were some of the best in the USA.

Jeter's career will end with five World Series Championships in 20 seasons.

In 2,747 games, the Kalamazoo, MI. native amassed 3,465 hits, a .310 average, 260 HR, 1,311 RBI's and the folks in Cooperstown, NY., are already planning for 2020 when he's inducted on the first ballot.

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Turning our attention to the playoffs, I'm intrigued by some of the match-ups because there is some great history involved.

Let's start off with the Oakland A's facing the Kansas City Royals.

Once upon a time, the Oakland A's used to be the Kansas City A's. During the regular season, the Philadelphia Phillies faced Oakland in Northern California.

Once upon a time, the Oakland A's used to be the Philadelphia A's.

In the National League, we have the Barry Bonds Bowl as the San Francisco Giants face the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Bonds, 50, began his career as a Pirate player for retired Detroit Tigers Skipper Jim Leyland.

Bonds piled up stolen bases and home runs in Western Pennsylvania from 1986-1992. He signed as a free agent with the Giants and played in The Bay Area from 1993-2007. Between the two clubs, he belted 762 HR's and stole 514 bases.

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A year ago, My Photographer Candice Ebling and I attended Miami Marlins Pitcher Henderson Alvarez no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers on the final game of the season in South Florida.

Sunday, history repeated itself as Jordan Zimmerman (14-5) threw a 1-0 no-hit gem against Alvarez, who is photographed here.

Yes, I said Alvarez (12-7), who has now been involved in two-consecutive final day no-hitters. This time he was on the wrong end of it. This is the fifth time in Major League Baseball History that a no-hitter has been tossed on the final day of the season.

Zimmerman, 28, struck-out 10 and allowed only two base runners. Thanks to a dramatic diving grab by little used Steven Souza Jr., who came out as a defensive replacement in the ninth, history was made.

Zimmerman's 104th pitch got smacked to deep left-center. He threw 79 strikes and 25 balls.

Zimmerman was a second round draft pick in 2007 out of Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

On this day, the Nationals Park Crowd of 35,085 hope his gem is the beginning of a successful playoff run for Washington, the NL East Division Champions.

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Speaking of the Washington Nationals, otherwise known as the former Montreal Expos franchise, it was 20-years ago in 1994 that the Baseball Strike cancelled the World Series.

When the season ended, Montreal had the best record in baseball with a 74-40 record. They were on a collision course to possibly face the New York Yankees 70-43.

The Expos roster consisted of Wil Cordero, Pedro Martinez, John Wetteland, Cliff Floyd, Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker, Rondell White and Manager Felipe Alou.

Unfortunately, for Montreal, the city never recovered and the team moved to the Nations Capital. It ruined baseball in one of Canada's biggest cities.

I do hope that at one point , Montreal gets another team.

If there is a sentimental favorite to win, I'd be pulling for the Nationals. They squandered an opportunity in 2012 when rookie sensation Stephen Strasburg was shut down with a 15-6 record after 159.1 innings. The Nationals, who finished 98-64, imposed the innings limitation as a result of Tommy John Surgery in 2011.

Strasburg wouldn't pitch in the playoffs and Washington was eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 in the NLDS.

This season, new manager Matt Williams has led the Nationals to a 96-66 record and he was a major part of the Arizona Diamondbacks 2001 World Series Championship. He should get strong consideration for Manager of The Year honors.

If there is a story book ending, the Nationals would win the World Series 20-years later in a celebration of what would have been, then share a piece of history with the Montreal fans.

The only time Montreal and Washington ever face each other in sports is when the Canadiens face the Capitals in the NHL.

It would kill Detroit Tigers fans that Washington acquired Pitcher Doug Fister (30) in the off-season and in his first season with the team, he posted a 16-6 mark with a 2.41 ERA.

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When the Detroit Tigers face the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS later this week, it will mark their third different opponent from the AL East Division.

Detroit has had success in the playoffs against the New York Yankees. Last year against the Boston Red Sox, Detroit's bullpen prevented it from reaching the World Series.

This season Detroit is 5-1 against Baltimore and by next week, we'll know whether this matters. Regular season records in many cases mean nothing when it comes to the playoffs because I've seen teams often get revenge.

Now that the Central Division winning Tigers (90-72) are making their fourth straight playoff appearance, it will be interesting to see how far they advance since once again, the bullpen is full of question marks.

I'm not going to predict a World Series Championship yet for the Motor City Kitties.

However, that Three Headed Monster of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and David Price is scary to look at if you're an opposing manager. With Detroit's bullpen issues, these guys might have to complete some games.

When I think of the Detroit Tigers VS Baltimore Orioles, it brings back some memories of their rivalry back in the 1970's.

Baltimore had great pitchers like Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar along with Elrod Hendricks, Boog Powell, Davey Johnson, Brooks Robinson, Mark Belanger, Paul Blair, Frank Robinson and were led by legendary Manager Earl Weaver.

For Detroit, they had some fine players. Bill Freehan, Norm Cash, Dick McAuliffe, Aurelio Rodriguez, Ed Brinkman, Willie Horton, Mickey Stanley, Al Kaline, Jim Northrup, Mickey Lolich, Joe Coleman, Joe Niekro, Dean Chance, Fred Scherman and Tom Timmerman.

Billy Martin piloted these guys.

There were some Hall of Famers from these two squads.

Time will tell how much star power and Hall of Famers will come from these two teams. But one thing is for certain, this figures to be a fun series to watch.

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For that matter, all of these series should be enjoyable.

Last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates ended a 20-straight losing season streak making it to the playoffs and followed that up in 2014 reaching the post-season.

This year, the Kansas City Royals snapped a 29-year playoff drought.

Does Cinderella exist?

I wish I had late Yankees Announcer Mel Allen to give us a narrated version of "This Week In Baseball" because it will be loaded with a lot of information and great feature stories as it was years ago before NBC's Game of The Week.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pro & College Football Observations

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

Ever since Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf were selected as the top two QB's in the 1988 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers respectively, I've always been intrigued by Booms VS Busts.

Colts General Manager Bill Polian's selection of Manning produced a Super Bowl Championship for Indianapolis. Meanwhile, Leaf is currently one of the biggest busts in NFL History! He's currently in a Montana Jail because of Burglary trying to steal Prescribed Pain Killers, to go along with his other criminal issues.

When the Detroit Lions defeated the New York Jets 24-17 on Sunday, the fans in The Big Apple had to be biting their lips and nails.

In the 2009 NFL Draft, Lions QB Matthew Stafford (6-3, 232) was the top selection, and the second signal caller was Mark Sanchez (6-2, 225), whom they traded up with the Cleveland Browns for the No. 5 spot.

During this meeting only one of them was at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.

It was Stafford, who led the Lions to the triumph by amassing 293 yards, tossed two touchdown passes and ran for another.

The early returns for Sanchez were good as he led the Jets to a pair of AFC Championship Game appearances in 2009 and 2010.

By no means was Sanchez a bust. He was playing for a defensive coach in Rex Ryan that wanted him to manage the game. Ryan failed to come up with a suitable offense for Sanchez.

How badly did it end for Sanchez in New York? The guy was injured in the final pre-season game in 2013 with the second and third string units, which ended his season before it started as he spent the year on injured reserve.

Sanchez's final numbers with the Jets were 12,092 yards, with 68 TD's and 69 interceptions in a five year stint.

Fortunately, for Sanchez (27), he got released and he's the back-up QB in Philadelphia under offensive genius Chip Kelly.

There is no doubt that Sanchez will start again in the NFL. For now being the Eagles back-up gives him a chance to regain his confidence.

As for Stafford, the Lions made out extremely well as he has shattered every franchise passing record at the age of 26. I can only imagine what his numbers will be like when his career is complete.

What the Jets saw Sunday was their dream of hoping that the Lions would botch the No.1 pick was just that.

Through Sunday's game, Stafford has 18,633 yards, 114 TD's and 76 interceptions in his NFL Career.

This season, he has 1,176 yards with five TD's and three interceptions leading Detroit to a 3-1 record.

Detroit can only hope more playoff wins are on the way, but now New York is trying to develop another franchise QB in Geno Smith. The Jets are currently 1-3.

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I have never been a fan of celebrations and on Sunday September 21 at Ford Field, Lions Linebacker Stephen Tulloch did nothing to change my attitude. He suffered an ACL Injury on a sack of Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in Detroit's 19-7 win.

Tulloch was trying to do a "State Farm Discount Double Check" and as a result, Tulloch missed his first game in nine NFL seasons against the Jets.

Amazingly, Tulloch says he doesn't regret doing the dance and would again. If Tulloch wasn't making millions of dollars then I wonder if he would change his thought process. He should have played in the 1960's and 1970's when many players had to work two jobs to make a living.

How times have changed. Maybe State Farm will sign Tulloch to an endorsement deal now that he has extra time since he's not playing football.

The only celebration I like is the Lambeau Leap in Green Bay. The Packers have made this celebration a part of them appreciating their fans, thus those normal dreadful end zone seats are extremely valuable!

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Prior to this year, I really never knew how serious Pneumonia was.

But when Detroit Lions Owner William Clay Ford died on March 9, 2014 just days before his 89th birthday, and then I experienced it in late July, then I realized it's extremely rough!

It took me close to four weeks to recover. When I had Prostate Surgery on September 10 at Bethesda Hospital East in Boynton Beach, Florida, I decided to get the Pneumonia Vaccine, which is supposed to last five years.

During the Green Bay Packers 38-17 road thrashing over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Illinois, there was a notable defensive player missing on the sidelines stuck in bed.

His name is Jared Allen (32), the Bears best defensive lineman that missed the contest because of Pneumonia.

Allen is 6-6, 270 pounds and he missed a NFC Norris Division Rivalry Game against the hated Packers. When one of the best defensive players in the NFL misses a game this way, this is serious!

Allen could play football in any era because he's an old school, hard-nosed, hard hitting player that gives 100% effort on every snap.

I'll bet he's had some great football conversations with Bears Hall of Fame Linebacker Dick Butkus. But even Butkus wouldn't be strong enough to play through Pneumonia.

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On to College for a Couple of Points.

Going into Saturday's game against Cincinnati, Ohio State was unbeaten in the last 46 contests VS In-State Opponents with a 45-0-1 record.

Make it 47 contests, as the Buckeyes hammered the Bearcats 50-28 in Columbus to go 46-0-1.


Not having a Major State Rival has everything to do with this overrated streak. I wouldn't classify the Ohio Bobcats, Akron Zips, Toledo Rockets, Bowling Green Falcons and Cincinnati Bearcats as marquee opponents. Instead they're mid major programs that need a big payday to finance their athletic programs.

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Finally, Tennessee Tech Football Coach Watson Brown has entered a club that no major collegiate coach has entered which is nothing to be proud of.

With his team's 50-7 loss to Northern Iowa Saturday Night, Brown has entered the 200 Loss Club.

But I'll be the last to criticize Watson Brown because the fact that he's coached 29 seasons is amazing, and he's coached at schools that are anything but storied programs.

He's coached at Cincinnati, Rice, Vanderbilt, UAB, and Tennessee Tech therefore, it's hard to move up the wins ladder.

Brown was 4-18 at Rice from 1983-84.

He moved on to Vanderbilt in 1986-90 and was 10-45.

UAB was his next stop and one of his longest from 1995-2006 and was one of his better acts, compiling a 62-74 record.

His latest stop on the coaching trail is at Tennessee Tech which began in 2007. He's currently 1-3 this season and 34-49.

Brown's overall record is now 128-200-1.

His first coaching job began in 1979 with Austin Peay and that lasted two years. He produced back-to-back 7-4 campaigns with a 14-8 record. That was his only winning stop.

In 1983, he was 4-6-1 in his lone season with Cincinnati.

Despite the record, Brown is coaching at the age of 64.

There is no telling how many young men he's had a positive influence in their lives both as a head and assistant coach.

But the guy has to have done something right to stay in the coaching profession this long.

He's the older brother of former Texas Longhorns Coach Mack Brown.

The Brown brothers have 372 wins and counting. Mack is 3-0 in their head-to-head match-ups, but I wouldn't be surprised if he got advice from his older brother in every aspect of coaching in addition to dealing with the student athletes.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

Baseball Insights 2014

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

As teams make their push to get into the Baseball Playoffs, there are some interesting Story Lines worth mentioning before the conclusion of the 2014 season.

On Friday Night, Miguel Cabrera hit career home run No. 390, tying him with Graig Nettles for 58th in Major League History. On April 18, 2015, Cabrera will turn 32 and I wouldn't be surprised if he passes Mr. Tiger Al Kaline (399) by the end of the month or in early May.

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It was very disappointing to hear that the Arizona Diamondbacks fired Manager Kirk Gibson and Bench Coach Alan Trammell on Friday. The former Tiger stars had a solid run in Arizona.

In four plus seasons with the Diamondbacks, Gibson led Arizona to a 353-375 mark. He won an NL West Division Title in 2011 with a 94-68 record as well as Manager of The Year.

The following two years, Arizona was 81-81, but unfortunately, due to some questionable front office trades and a rash of injuries, the Diamondbacks stumbled badly this season to a 63-96 mark before Gibson was let go by Arizona Chief Baseball Officer Tony LaRussa.

It was inevitable that when former Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers was fired three weeks ago, that Gibson's days were numbered. LaRussa and his newly hired General Manager Dave Stewart were destined to seek a fresh start.

But for whatever it's worth, the Diamondbacks previously fired Oakland A's Manager Bob Melvin and it's safe to say, the folks in the East Bay have been happy with the skipper.

With a good front office, if there is anybody worthy of another opportunity, it's Gibson. He's one of the greatest competitors in baseball and his young players in Arizona admired him. There are going to be some open managerial jobs this fall, I hope Gibson lands one of them.

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There has been a lot of talk about the Farewell Tour of legendary New York Yankees Shortstop Derek Jeter and rightfully so.

But on the South Side of Chicago, another player is quietly retiring. His name is Paul Konerko of the White Sox. Whether Konerko ever gets into the Baseball Hall of Fame remains to be seen by the Baseball Writers. Since his first season with the White Sox in 1999, Konerko has been an All-Star six times, won a World Series in 2005 and has been the team captain since 2006.

On Saturday, a statue of Konerko was unveiled, and his No. 14 will be retired. Going into the White Sox final game against the Kansas City Royals, he's amassed 439 home runs, 2,340 hits, 1,412 RBI, 1,162 runs scored, 2,348 games played and 8,390 at bats.

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Despite watching his team falter late in the season, Milwaukee Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio gave his own tribute to outgoing Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig by retiring uniform No. 1 at Miller Park. This will happen in 2015.

Back in 1969, Selig moved the Seattle Pilots to Wisconsin and they began play in April of 1970 at Milwaukee's County Stadium.

Milwaukee was a National League City when the Braves called Wisconsin it's home from 1953-1965.

The Brewers lone World Series appearance was as an American League team and they lost a classic to the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3 in 1982.

During Selig's ownership, Robin Yount played his entire career with the Brewers while fellow Hall of Famer Paul Molitor had a great run as both played big roles in the franchise's history as well as their contributions in the World Series.

Former Milwaukee Braves Outfielder Hank Aaron finished his Hall of Fame career with the Brewers. Two other Hall of Fame players include Rollie Fingers and Don Sutton, along with legendary Announcer Bob Uecker.

In his role as commissioner, Selig had an office in Milwaukee as well as in New York.

He proved that a good owner can make it in a small market and this tribute that will be paid is Very Deserving!

Without Selig, there wouldn't be Miller Park, let alone another franchise in Milwaukee.

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Finally, a year ago when Selig suspended New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez for 162 games, which turned out to be the entire 2014 season, due to the Biogenesis Baseball Scandal, I thought this guy's career was in serious jeopardy.

But with Jeter's retirement and the Yankees 83-78 mark, plus not making the playoffs for the second straight year, New York needs Rodriguez back.

They saved $25 million for Rodriguez's salary in 2014 and the 39-year-old has three years left on his contract.

Going into 2015, Rodriguez currently has 654 Home Runs, 1,969 RBI, 2,939 Hits, and 1,919 Runs Scored.

In the end, nobody will care about his tarnished milestones. Rodriguez will never be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame because he's already in the Public Hall of Shame.

With Jeter gone, who will play shortstop for the Yankees?

Rodriguez used to play the position before moving to third base.

He's had two hip operations, but would Rodriguez return to shortstop next summer when he turns 40 on July 27, 2015?

It's a thought but perhaps a long shot.

But at least Jeter won't be around for the Rodriguez Circus. He knew when to walk away from baseball on his own terms and not due to injury.

Is baseball ready for Alex Rodriguez in 2015?

Who knows.

But the guy served his punishment.

I have a feeling that the hardcore Yankees fans will show a compassionate side and welcome him back with open arms.

Then they'll boo him again when he strikes out with the bases loaded and he'll feel at home again getting booed by millions then questioned or second guessed by the tons of The Big Apple Media.

But once again, the Yankees really do need Rodriguez back.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

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