Thursday, December 31, 2015

One More Memory At The Joe

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

In the past two years, the date of December 1, has provided events to remember.

On December 1, 2014, My Cat Maverick Morganroth passed away because of liver and kidney failure. I had Maverick for 13.5 years and he's the best pet I've ever owned! When I pass away, his Box of Ashes will go with me to My Final Resting Place.

A year later on December 1, 2015, I returned to Joe Louis Arena (JLA) with My Photographer Candice Ebling. This was Ebling's first and only trip to JLA.

Before the game, we drove by the construction site of the Red Wings new arena. She also saw downtown Detroit at night, and didn't realize how close the United States and Canada were as she looked across the Detroit River.

It was neat returning to JLA seeing the Red Wings after a five year hiatus. Seeing Karen Newman sing the National Anthem and eating Little Ceasars Pizza in the Press Room made me feel at home.

As for the game itself, Detroit defeated the Buffalo Sabres 5-4 in a shootout. This was my first time seeing the 3-3 overtime in person and it was exciting to watch.

Kudos to Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland for being the driving force by implementing this rule change during the off-season.

Petr Mrazek looked excellent in the shootout to earn the win.

Justin Abdelkader scored two goals in regulation time while Brad Richards netted the game winner in a 1-0 shootout.

This was my first opportunity to see rookie Dylan Larkin in person and this kid will be an All-Star Stud. I can actually see him becoming a captain within 2-3 years and he'll be the new face of the franchise.

If there is one advantage to being high in the Press Box, it's the ability to see all Championship Banners and Retired Jerseys.

The next time I see those banners will be at the new arena, unless by chance, I'm in Detroit for the playoffs during the Spring of 2017.

There was one person missing in The Press Box.

Former Red Wings Public Address Announcer Budd Lynch died on October 9, 2012 at the age of 95.

He was the PA Announcer at JLA from 1985-2012. We would talk a lot during pre-game meals, intermissions and at DSBA functions.

Lynch began his career in 1949 as the Red Wings Radio Play-By-Play Announcer. Lynch was the longest tenured employee in Red Wings history at 63 years.

I will say that when Olympia Stadium closed in 1978, I missed that building because the 16,000 seat Red Barn venue had very few bad seats.

JLA has it's own character. Being on the Detroit River across from Windsor, Canada was great in it's own right. I saw a lot of great hockey in this building.

But on December 1, 2015, it was a night to reflect on the memories of an Original Six team that I enjoy covering. It's always great seeing my friends and colleagues.

I'm very fortunate that the Red Wings play the Florida Panthers twice a year at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL now that they're in the same division in the Eastern Conference.

Red Wings fans always travel well especially in Florida where there are numerous transplants. The Red and White Jerseys are more noticeable at Panthers games because Florida draws smaller crowds than the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Holland and I have spoken numerous times about what a future stadium would look like.

He always told me that he was impressed with the Panthers Stadium. Nothing better than a glimpse of the future.

Yet, it was very neat to see a building of 20,000 fans at JLA wearing Red and White.

But as I explained to Ebling, once you've seen a game in "Hockeytown," it will be much different than when we're working Road Games.

With a 5-4 victory over the Sabres, it was great to see one more win at JLA.

I saw one All-Star Game and enjoyed covering games on New Year's Eve.

When I told Ebling that the Red Wings won four Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008, she marveled at this stadium's tradition.

If indeed this was my last time at JLA, it certainly turned out to be an evening to remember.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Lions Make It Interesting Nationally

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Whether the Detroit Lions win or lose when they're on National Television, they generally make things very exciting.

It remains to be seen if they'll get any National TV Appearances in 2016 beyond their annual Thanksgiving Game.

In last years playoffs on the road against the Dallas Cowboys, while the Lions were leading 20-17 in the fourth quarter, a pass interference call that gave Detroit a first down well into Dallas territory was picked up without explanation by referee Pete Morelli.

That turned into a huge benefit for the Cowboys, as the Lions shanked a punt on the next play and the Cowboys took advantage of their good field position to march down the field and score the go-ahead touchdown to take a 24-20 lead.

In week four of the 2015 season, Detroit was featured on Monday Night Football hitting the road to face the Seattle Seahawks.

On October 5, the Lions lost 13-10 as Kam Chancellor forced a fumble punching the ball out of Calvin Johnson's hands. The ball went into the end zone and K.J. Wright guided the ball over the back line for a touchback. The Lions 91-yard drive with the go ahead touchdown was not meant to be and Seattle took the ball at the 20-yard line.

The NFL admitted that Wright should have been called for an illegal bat for hitting the ball out of the end zone, NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino told the NFL Network. The penalty would have given the ball back to Detroit at the Seattle 1-yard line.

The Seahawks got an early season gift.

The Lions bad luck continued on Thursday, December 3, 2015 at Ford Field.

Once again, the officials played a big role in deciding the outcome of this contest.

With six seconds left to go in the fourth quarter, Devin Taylor committed a costly face mask penalty that gave Aaron Rodgers one last shot as his team trailed 23-21. Taylor barely touched Rodgers and it didn't appear to be a face mask from the numerous replays I saw.

Nonetheless, this set Green Bay with an un-timed down and Rodgers connected with Richard Rodgers for a 61-yard touchdown which gave the Packers a 27-23 win.

What a climactic ending to a good football game.

Now did the Lions lose solely on this play?

No.

Green Bay scored on their final two possessions erasing a 23-14 deficit.  The Packers outscored
Detroit 13-3 in the fourth quarter. Rogers ran for a 17-yard touchdown, in addition to the Hail Mary Pass otherwise known as "The Motor City Miracle."

At the 5:44 mark in the third quarter, Matthew Stafford was at the Detroit 12-yard line, lost a fumble and it was recovered by Packers Jake Ryan at the 12. Three plays later, Rodgers connected with Davante Adams for an 8-yard touchdown.

A Lions 20-0 halftime lead was reduced to 20-14 in the third quarter.

As my colleague George Eichorn and I stood in the photo room after the controversial face mask penalty occurred, I told him that I had a feeling the Detroit Lions were in trouble. I've covered lots of football games at the Pro, Collegiate and High School Levels and have seen a lot of crazy things transpire especially late in games.

For 60 minutes, Detroit didn't trail in this contest. But when a future Hall of Fame QB gets a chance to beat you, that's a sign of trouble.

Eichorn gave me a strange look as I walked across the room with bad vibes. Then Rodgers went to work to hit Richard Rodgers thus ending Detroit's hope of sweeping the Packers in a season series since 1991.

By dropping to 4-8, Detroit's slim playoff hopes took a hit while Green Bay (8-4) is in first place in the NFC North/Norris Division.

There is no question that Coach Jim Caldwell wasn't looking forward to this post-game press conference. He would get second guessed until he was blue in the face.

Lions VP of Communications Bill Keenist and Media Relations Director Matt Barnhardt did their best to minimize the damage as they have all-year in a tough season which had high hopes.

In the short time I've known Caldwell, he seems like a real nice guy. The Lions were 1-7 but haven't quit on him.

But Caldwell isn't stupid and knows he's coaching in an organization which hasn't won an NFL Championship since December 29, 1957. There are four teams that have never appeared in a Super Bowl and Detroit is one of them and has only one playoff win in that time period, ironically against the Dallas Cowboys at the Pontiac Silverdome.

On this night, I was battling a cold and decided to take a low-keyed approach.

I had only one question, but another media member asked it.

ESPN Analyst Ron Jaworski wondered about the same thing on Wednesday, December 10, 2015 appearing on Pardon The Interruption.

Why wasn't Calvin Johnson in the end zone to guard against the Hail Mary?

"Because in that situation, we have a couple different things we can do," Caldwell said. "That was one where you're kind of looking for more of that pass back and forth kind of thing because of the range. He ran around there so long, moved up, gave himself a chance to get into the end zone. We had plenty of guys back there, we had plenty of guys. We just didn't make the play, they did."

Caldwell was asked the question, what was it like to go from a certain victory to a tough loss?

"There's no certain victory," he said. "Until that clock ticks zero, there's no such thing as a certain victory. I never feel that way. When it's over with, it's over, that's why I never smile during the course of games for the most part until it's over, and that's a perfect example."

Stafford would put up solid numbers by going 23-35, 220 yards and two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He rushed for 22 yards and was sacked three times.

Johnson had three receptions for 44 yards, one touchdown (17-yards) and was targeted eight times.

Johnson now has 15 career touchdown receptions against the Packers, which are the most by any player against Green Bay. He surpassed the previous high of 14 set by WR Randy Moss. He has played the Packers 16 times in his career, and has caught 90 passes for 1,409 yards (88.1 yds/g) with 15 touchdowns.

Stafford was asked about the catch Richard Rodgers made.

"It was a great play, you know, a tough way to lose one," he said. "The team played really tough, played really hard. Our defense played really good most of the game, so it's the NFL. Plays happen like that. It's not an easy pill to swallow."

Stafford was asked if he watched the final play?

"No I tried not to. I kind of peaked and saw the Jumbotron, and it looked like he was in pretty good position to make a catch, so I saw it at the very end."

During the course of the week, I've noticed Caldwell and his defensive coordinator Teryl Austin have shunned questions about Calvin Johnson/Hail Mary Pass. I don't blame them at this point as they prepare for the St. Louis Rams on Sunday in Missouri.

But it didn't take long for another face mask penalty to come into question in Arizona's 23-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings Thursday Night in Arizona.

There was no face mask penalty called as Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater was grabbed.

NFL Network Announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms indicated that this was more deliberate than what happened to Aaron Rodgers. This non-call could cost Minnesota a division title.

As I breakdown some of the junk posted on social media I gag when I hear for the Lions to ever get rid of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson; that would be completely absurd!!!

Stafford, 27, is the franchises all-time leader with 24,878 yards with 153 touchdowns and 97 interceptions.

Who would the Lions get to replace him? If you draft a young signal caller, there is still a major learning curve.

Unfortunately, Detroit has had three offensive coordinators in almost three years in Scott Linehan, Joe Lombardi and Jim Bob Cooter. There needs to be some stability in this area or this is a recipe for disaster.

Anybody thinking of firing Jim Caldwell right now needs to have a brain transplant.

He deserves to finish out the season and it appears that Martha Ford Firestone is smart enough to understand that. She realizes that it's best for the new general manager to decide if he continues.

It's not like Caldwell took a "Dumb Pill" after leading the Lions to an 11-5 mark last year and into the playoffs.

President Tom Lewand mishandled the salary cap with Ndamukung Suh while GM Martin Mayhew let Nick Fairley leave for nothing. Now Fairley is contributing for the St. Louis Rams.

This doesn't fall on the coaches shoulders. You coach the players you're dealt.

I admired her bold move by terminating Lewand and Mayhew on November 5. Shortly thereafter, Caldwell dismissed three coaches to shake things up.

I will be curious to see how the rest of the season plays out, but Mrs. Ford has earned my respect because her style is much different than her late husband William Clay Ford.

At 90-years old, she doesn't have a passive bone in her body.

If the Lions have to make major upgrades during the off-season, they have to draft a top-flight running back out of college. The 2016 Draft has lots of good prospects in this class.

They need to balance the offense because the running game has been a major problem all year.

It wouldn't hurt to have a couple impact defensive players.

But what a bizarre week in Detroit.

On Wednesday, the Pistons lost to the Memphis Grizzlies as Matt Barnes knocked down a half court shot with 1.1 seconds to play as Detroit lost 93-92, 30 miles north on I-75 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. A victory over Memphis would have been Detroit's sixth straight at the friendly confines. That streak ended at five.

Fortunately for the Pistons, they play 82 games where the Lions play 16.

Regardless, Pistons Coach Stan Van Gundy and Lions Coach Jim Caldwell probably have the late Yankees Hall of Fame Catcher Yogi Berra on their minds.

Berra's famous one-liner is "It's not over until it's over." This has to be engraved in both coaches' heads.

There is lots of intrigue for both teams. We'll just see which teams rebounds the best after these crushing and heart-breaking defeats.

I'll also be curious to see what happens the next time the Lions appear on National Television.

You can rest assure that while the Lions were losers against Dallas, Seattle and Green Bay, each network that they were on, had to do well with the ratings with all three games decided late in the fourth quarter.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Tribute to Betty Jayne Ebling

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

During the month of November, the past 30 days have been a whirlwind.

I have been working diligently to prepare to take the Florida State Exam to get a 215 License which enables me to sell Health, Life and Variable Annuities.

This Quest actually began in 2006 when I started looking into this, but circumstances never enabled me to take the State Exam the past nine years.

Over the past six months, I began This Process once again. I spent over 200 hours of Classwork at Gold Coast School of Insurance, in addition to over 700 hours of doing homework. The instructors at this school were excellent!

Nine years ago, the Training Manual was 300 pages. Now it's 600 pages with no pictures. As of October 2015, the Class Requrements have Increased from 40 hours to 63 because the test is so challenging and, tricky. I was grandfathered in at 40 hours.

The State of Florida's Exam is one of the most difficult ones in the country.

Numerous sources said that 75% fail the first time which leaves 25% left to succeed on the initial try. I relished the challenge of playing the underdog role to get this done. Florida is a tough state because of the numerous scams. Many of these occur with the senior citizens since it is a retirement state.

There was no shortage of hurdles in My Quest to pass this Exam.

But the biggest one occurred on Sunday, November 15, 2015 when a very Special and Inspiring person passed away at the age of 73 due to Natural Causes.

This person's name is Betty Jayne Ebling.

Over the past three years, she provided me with guidance when I needed it. On Wednesday, November 18, we were supposed to talk, but unfortunately, that was a call that never came. The moment she passed, I felt a new kind of pressure.

Not only did I want to pass this exam for my immediate family and friends, who have believed in me all along, but now winning one for "Betty Jayne Ebling" provided me with additional pressure as well.

On Monday, November 16, 2015, I didn't start studying until 2 PM. I had to clear out my head and get my emotions under control.

That night, her husband Fred Ebling, a retired school teacher decided to give me some advice.

This guy had the line of the century. He said, "You should lock yourself up in a private room and tape your mouth shut so you don't get distracted."

This was real funny, but I opted to use a different approach and sit out in the library in my familiar spots. Considering the source, Fred Ebling's comments are ones I joke around with my close people.

Betty Ebling has been telling me all along that "If you go out there and give it your best effort, I'll be proud of you no matter what. You find out what mistakes you made then work on those areas and you'll get there. I really do believe that you'll be fine. I have a lot of faith and confidence in you."

The next two days were like no other. I couldn't sleep and studied at an even more intense pace. There isn't anything that I haven't accomplished that I haven't strived to the max to get. I thrive under pressure.

The last time I saw Mr. and Mrs. Ebling, I did it with no mustache and beard. Those became casualties on Tuesday, November 17, 2015. I had to take a professional picture and wanted to represent my closest people in the best way possible.

I could hear her voice and see her face in the back of my mind and in my heart.

On Thursday, November 19, 2015, my goal was to complete the 150 question exam, plus the 15 pretest questions which amounted to 165 questions. I had 2.75 hours to complete the exam.

I had no desire to change an answer and over think these questions. Just Complete The Exam!

When I walked into the testing facility, I told the lady who registered me that Betty Jayne Ebling died and to please say a prayer for me. I have only one shot to get this one done and dedicate a win to Betty Jayne Ebling.

The lady did say a prayer and gave me words of advice. She told me to "Take my time reading the tutorials and relax. Take some deep breaths then go out there and after five minutues, I'll be fine. Go out there and take care of business."

I finished the exam 25 minutes early and managed to pass it with 70%. That was all I needed. I took the Rocky approach and just go the distance. That I did. I was shocked that I passed the Toughest Test Of
My Life! This was one single day and I've had difficulties on past state exams before, but not on this day.

Getting my BA Degree in Communication took me five years but seemed easier than this considering everything it took to pack that much pressure in a short period of time.

I was so excited that I passed but real relieved that I accidently forgot my drivers license. Here I am getting one license yet forgot one. It's safe to say, I never got out of the parking lot. The lady called me back and I ran up and got the drivers license with no pain in my gimpy knees.

But this is a day which began at my favorite spot in the Florida Everglades, then I ate at a Chili's in Boca Raton 10 minues away. I made it to the testing facility 15 minutes early. By the end of the day, I returned back to My Evergaldes Hangout to Wind Down.

On the day of Mrs. Ebling's death, the Detroit Lions defeated the Green Bay Packers 18-16 to snap a 24-game losing streak in Wisconsin.

This football game was an after thought upon hearing the news of her passing.

As of this posting, the Lions have won three straight games following major changes in the front office and coaching staff.

Meanwhile, the Packers have lost four of five games going into their meeting Thursday Night at Ford Field since their bye week.

What will give Thursday Night?

Will the Lions compelete a two-game sweep of the Packers or will Green Bay wake up in a key divisional contest in its quest to win the NFC North Division. We shall see.

But I do want to use this Platform to Express My Deepest Condolences to the Entire Ebling Family for the huge loss that they've just experienced!

They are such a close knit group that I know it will take a lot of time to heal from this truly unfortunate loss, which happened way too soon!

Nothing will bring back Betty Jayne Ebling physically, but she is one of the Greatest People I've met in My Lifetime!

God Bless Mrs Ebling and I want to extend My Deepest Thanks for All the Guidance and Insights You've provided me. While I feel grateful to be a part of her life, three years was not nearly enough.

But because of her, I'm a better person!!

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

Monday, October 19, 2015

Meet Daytona Tortugas Pitching Coach Tony Fossas

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTO BY CANDICE EBLING

If there is ever a person that I view as a Baseball Lifer, it's former Daytona Tortugas Pitching Coach Tony Fossas.

Fossas, 57, from Havana, Cuba is a fellow USF Alumnus. I met Tony in 2005 when he was the pitching coach for the Florida Atlantic Owls. He worked for retired Manager Kevin Cooney.

It was neat seeing him again on August 29, 2015 the day after the Detroit Lions faced the Jacksonville Jaguars in North Florida. Daytona faced the Tampa Yankees on Saturday Night at Jackie Robinson Ballpark.

During Fossas playing career, he had a 17-24 mark with a 3.90 ERA and 329 strikeouts,.

Fossas played for the Texas Rangers (1988), Milwaukee Brewers (1989-1990), Boston Red Sox (1991-1994), St. Louis Cardinals (1995-1997, Seattle Mariners  (1998), Chicago Cubs (1998), Texas Rangers (1998) and New York Yankees in 1999.

After his playing career, Fossas moved into coaching. It was great talking to him about his post FAU job, plus he had many other interesting insights in this exclusive interview.

Q: Tony, what have you done since leaving FAU?

A: I've been coaching with Cincinnati the past seven years. I've done Extended Spring Training, have coached for the Reds Minor League clubs in Billings, MT., Ohio and in Daytona Beach. So this is a really good job place for me because I live in Fort Lauderdale. This is close to home.

Q: You talk about being at the professional level. Have you thought about going into the higher classifications such as Double AA and Triple AAA, or do you prefer the younger players in Class A?

A: I just like working in baseball. Double AA, Triple AAA and the Major Leagues is the same. The organization tries to put you in the best place you fit to help the organization. So I don't have any problems being here.

I just enjoy what I'm doing and being in the game. The part of the game isn't just where I'm at, or who I'm with. I just love the game of baseball!

Q: At our Alma-Mater USF, you had the opportunity to play for Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. What was that experience like?

A: I played my last three years for Robin. He was a Father Figure to me, and cared a great deal about me. He was a guy in my young-hood, who developed me as the pitcher I was. It was a great situation for me all the way around.

Q: What lessons from Roberts have you conveyed to your pitchers?

A: The same thing Roberts taught me, I heard from Ferguson Jenkins. When I was with the Cardinals, I heard the same message from Bob Gibson, so I figured out nothing can go wrong if I repeat the same message to my players.

Q: Last year, I had the opportunity to interview former Detroit Tigers Pitcher Joe Coleman when he was with the Jupiter Hammerheads. I'm going to ask you the same question that I asked Joe since you're both pitching coaches. Why are we seeing so many Tommy John Operations?

A: I don't really know. I do know that guys are bigger and stronger than they have been. Some players are throwing the ball harder than ever.

But if I can say a couple things about it, but I'm not an expert at it, I would say when I was younger, I played football, hockey, street hockey, basketball and some baseball. It wasn't like me playing baseball on a year-round basis. Nowadays, the parents are so infatuated from getting the kids their scholarships. Therefore, their kids play baseball at 10 years old all-year round. The kids body isn't fully developed enough to do that.

So that's one of the attributes that's in the best interests of the player is to play multiple sports, and let their arm rest, and not be full-time in one sport.

Second, I think in the era that we play, there is a lot more weight-lifting and a lot less long distance running. In the older days, we ran a lot more. The players I played with, we did a lot more long distance running. Now their is a combination of weight lifting and running.

So what's the answer to your question, I don't have the answer. But if I did have the answer, I'd be a very wealthy man right now (laughing).

Q: What are your thoughts about pitch counts being more emphasized these days?

A: Again, I'm not involved in the science of the game, but in the older days, there was no pitch count. I don't have a thought one way or the other. We try to obey orders. When people tell you what to do, there is a protocol to follow, you do it.

The science is a lot greater than it was, and there is a lot more knowledgeable people in that area than I am. It really doesn't matter. If you don't have a really good bullpen, it doesn't matter if the starter goes six innings. The key is to have a really strong bullpen at whatever level you're in to win games.

Q: Working in Daytona Beach, many of these ballparks are past and current spring training sites. Are the Major League dimensions a good way to judge the development of younger players in the Florida State League? Does a major league ballpark help in the way you judge pitchers?

A: I judge pitchers by their ability to throw strikes, keep the ball down, the ability to throw an off-speed pitch for a strike, the ability to throw a change-up, the ability to be able to pitch inside and outside effectively, attack the strike zone and attack the hitter.

It's irrelevant about where you're pitching at because some ballparks are hitters friendly or pitchers friendly. It's important that you learn how to pitch. Also, you learn the place/park that you're pitching at.

Q: Finally, let's talk about what it's like to work for the Cincinnati Reds organization. When I was covering the Tampa Tarpons from 1984-1986, Cincinnati had one of the best farm systems in baseball. What are your thoughts about the Reds farm system?

A: We have good personnel that works together really well. From the top all the way down, everybody  is on the same page and we try to work together for the benefit of the major league club. We try to find that "Diamond In The Dust" to help the major league club.

The Daytona Tortugas finished the 2015 season winning FSL North Championship. The Charlotte Stone Crabs defeated the Daytona Tortugas to win the FSL Championship.

Three pitchers to watch from Fossas' staff include starters Jackson Stephens, Amir Garrett and reliever El'Hajj Muhammad.

Stephens was 12-7 with a 2.97 ERA, 26 games, in 145.1 innings pitched with 30 walks and 97 strikeouts.

Garrett posted a 9-7 mark with a 2.44 ERA, 26 games, in a 140.1 innings pitched with 55 walks and 133 strikeouts.

Meanwhile, Muhammad was 6-6 with a 2.96 ERA, 17 saves in 52 games in 54.2 innings pitches.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

What's Up In Lion Land For 2015?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING
JACKSONVILLE, FL

On December 28, 2014, We covered the Detroit Lions vs Green Bay Packers at Historic Lambeau Field with the NFC North Division Title on the line. The Green Bay Packers emerged as 30-20 winners and won the Norris Division.

What stood out in this game was former Lion Ndamukong Suh stepping on Packers QB Aaron Rogers leg which almost cost him an opportunity to play in the wild card game on the road against the Dallas Cowboys.

Suh has since signed with the Miami Dolphins and will now have an opportunity to collect fines against  Patriots QB Tom Brady. A new challenge and a new conference for Suh.

But life goes on in the NFL where rosters change drastically and big name players find new addresses.

The head coaching turn over every year leads to more intrigue as to what teams will make dramatic improvements to reach the playoffs.

It's also worth mentioning that some previous years playoff teams regress, thus find themselves out of the Playoff Tournament.

Now it's time to turn the page for 2015.

The last time I covered a Lions pre-season game was back in the late 1990's at the Pontiac Silverdome.

There was a much different atmosphere at EverBank Field on Friday, August 28, 2015. It was a rainy and wet night in Northern Florida.

There was no division title on the line. Just jobs.

On this night, the Lions had a 75 man roster.

They didn't use Suh's replacement Haloti Ngata so other than what I've heard throughout the off-season, it will be interesting if he'll be a big impact on the Lions defense.

Three offensive players from last season never made it to today's opener in San Diego against the Chargers.

Tight-end Joseph Fauria was released and is now a member of the Arizona Cardinals.

QB Kellen Moore is now on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. I have a gut feeling that Moore will land a starting job within a year or two.

Wide-receiver Ryan Broyles was released, and as of today is still an unsigned free agent.

Aside from the addition of Ngata, I will be curious as to how much of an impact two new draft choices make.

We all know that rookie running back Ameer Abdulla was an exceptional player at Nebraska. He'll be wearing jersey No. 21.

Here is an interesting comparison between Lions Hall of Famer Barry Sanders and Abdullah.

Although Nebraska is currently a Big 10 School, it used to be a member of the Big 12.

Sanders played for Oklahoma State, which is still in the Big 12. Sanders wore No. 21 for Oklahoma State and came out of college 5-8, 200 pounds.

Abdulah is 5-9, 203 pounds and like Sanders runs low to the ground. If he's used as an outside receiver, then he's even more dangerous in space.

While it's unfair to compare a rookie to a Hall of Fame player, both wearing No. 21 in College, both having Big 12 ties and similar physical characteristics, it's worth noting.

The Lions had good luck with another former Big 12 running back. Have you ever heard of Billy Sims? He played for the Oklahoma Sooners.

If injuries hadn't cut Sims' career short, who knows how much more success Billy would have had with the Lions.

But when you have good luck drafting with these Big 12 Schools, there is nothing wrong with adding more players from these institutions: especially, when it comes to running backs.

The other draft choice in this year's class who intrigues me is defensive tackle Gabe Wright.

This kid is from Auburn and is 6-3 and 305 pounds. He was selected in the fourth round.

During the off-season, the Lions didn't re-sign Nick Fairley, who was also from Auburn. Fairley is 6-4, 308 pounds. He was the Lions first round pick in the 2011 draft. Fairley is currently with the St. Louis Rams.

Will Fairley's departure haunt the Lions or will Wright be a hidden gem for Detroit? I will be curious to see how these story lines play out this season.

It's time to see if tight-end Eric Ebron's sophomore season will be much better than his rookie campaign. There is no question he has the potential, now the question is will he be productive on the field?

If the Lions can avoid the Tigers injury problems this season, then I'll be curious to see if they can return to the playoffs.

The four offensive players that will be key are QB Matthew Stafford plus wide receivers Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and running back Joique Bell.

What type of contribution will running back Zach Zenner have?

Zenner is 5-11, 222 pounds and played college ball for South Dakota State. He had an impressive pre-season.

As I've watched many football experts predict playoff teams, the Lions have been absent from many of these lists.

I've always relished the underdog role because it gives you a chance to prove your critics wrong. This is Detroit's chance to do so.

The Lions will have plenty of National TV Appearances. Are they going to be contenders or pre-tenders?

How good will Ngata be or how much will the loss of Suh have an impact on one of the top defenses in 2014?

As much as I would have liked to see Suh stay because he gave the Lions an incredible ferocious defensive identity, his contract could be a tough one for the Miami Dolphins to swallow if they don't reach the playoffs immediately. This is a must win season for Miami.

The Lions defeated Jacksonville 22-17.

After the game, Detroit Coach Jim Caldwell was pleased with Stafford's play throughout the pre-season.

"He has had a good pre-season," Caldwell said. "He has done a nice job on his completion percentage. He moved the ball."

What are Stafford's thoughts about what he expects from the offense in 2015?

"I am pleased with it, "he said. "As an offense, we're playing with good tempo. If we stay out of our own way, we'll be a pretty good football team."

How good of a football team will the Lions be?

If the Lions make the playoffs, I think they'll do it with a 9-7 record.

The main goal is get into the tournament.

The 2011 New York Giants won the Super Bowl with a 9-7 record against the New England Patriots, who were 13-3. The Giants are the only 9-7 team to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

There have been other 10 win teams that won the Super Bowl.

As for My Super Bowl Prediction, look for a rematch of last year's Super Bowl.

But this time, the Seattle Seahawks will defeat the New England Patriots. The Seahawks were one play away from repeating.

Running back Marshawn Lynch emerges as the MVP in Super Bowl 50.

Seattle Coach Pete Carroll gets vindicated after last year's heart-breaking 28-24 loss which costed his team a chance at a repeat.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com. He is a member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Back To The Future

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING
DAYTONA BEACH, FL

The first time I saw the movie "Back To The Future" was back in the 1980's when my long-time colleague George Eichorn and I watched it in a cinema in Southfield, MI.

When I made the decision to cover the Detroit Lions vs Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday August 28th, I was curious about who was playing the following night in Florida State League (FSL) action, Advanced Class A Professional Baseball in Daytona Beach.

As it turned out, the Daytona Tortugas were hosting the Tampa Yankees at Jackie Robinson Ballpark.

This game brought back some fond memories from my past.

The Tortugas are the Advanced Class A Affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Yankees are the Advanced Class A Affiliate of the New York Yankees.

What made this real special for me is I was a beat writer for both organizations from 1982-86. There were a lot of great memories at Fort Lauderdale Stadium and Al Lopez Field. I worked with the Yankees from 1982-84, then with the Reds from 1985-1986.

It was a pleasure working with future major league players, coaches, managers and trainers.

Fort Lauderdale Manager Stump Merrill was fantastic.

My best memory of Merrill, though it didn't feel that way at the time, was when my tape recorder stopped working during a 40 minute interview.

Thanks to My Photographer Ken Rotberg, who used his tape recorder to track players, I used his recorder, and Merrill was nice enough to do the interview all over again.

He said to me, "I'm here to develop young players. I'm glad that I can help a young reporter." He patted me on the back and said, "Hang in there Scott, you're doing fine and I appreciate you promoting the team. I enjoy working with you and please keep it up."

I got to know the Fort Lauderdale Yankees really well and the most notable prank they played on me was letting me wear one of their hats, only for it to be filled with shaving cream. I was stunned to say the least.

During the season, I had an unforgettable interview with late Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner. He was very cooperative, but if you asked a certain question about his managerial revolving door, he'd abruptly end the interview. Early in the conversation, we talked about some interesting topics, then I saved the managers question for last, which saw the interview come to an end.

I don't feel bad about this because weeks later, Ted Koppel of ABC News Nightline, did the same thing and Steinbrenner ended the interview quickly on National TV.

All in all, I learned a lot from the Steinbrenner experience.

The players that stood out in my tenure with the Yankees included, DH Pete Dalena, Infielder Todd Demeter, Pitcher Tim Birtsas (Pontiac, MI), Catcher Scott Bradley, Pitcher Bob Tewksbury, Infielder Rex Hudler, Pitchers Jose Rijo, Jim Deshaies, Rey Fontenot, Eric Plunk and Infielder Orestes Destrade.

Rijo, ironically played for both the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds. He won a World Series in 1990 for the Reds and was a key contributor on that squad.

During the 1982 season, Hudler went on to rip Steinbrenner in the Fort Lauderdale News/Sun Sentinel about his ways of handling the Yankees farm system while The Boss was in town. Hudler went on to have a solid carer in the major leagues. There were many players in this group that made it to the majors.

I'll never forget Pete Dalena, who played for the 1983 team.

My Hallandale Digest Editor Dan Bluesten didn't think Dalena could make the majors by being a DH. I asked Merrill about this and he said that Dalena would go as far as his bat would take him.

Two days after I wrote the Dalena article, he was promoted to Class AA Nashville, then eventually played for the Cleveland Indians in 1989.

There were many instances Bluesten questioned my gut feelings on story ideas and he was proven wrong several times.

It didn't hurt that My Mentor Tony DeMarco always taught me to trust my instincts. Whether DeMarco ever gets into the writers wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame remains to be seen, but he's in My Hall of Fame as a Mentor and a Friend.

Merrill would eventually manage the Yankees in the Major Leagues and Steinbrenner always found a role for him in the organization.

Players such as Brian Butterfield and Chuck Hernandez have been coaches in the major leagues. Hernandez, a former Yankees left-hander had one of the best moves to first base that I've ever seen.

Hernandez, who was a pitching coach under former Tigers Manager Jim Leyland, told me during an interview in Lakeland, FL., that he had to have a good move because he had troubles getting hitters out, and had no difficulty joking about it.

Merrill went on to win two titles with the Fort Lauderdale Yankees in three years while I was covering the team. One of these titles was against the Tampa Reds.

It was an incredible three-year run covering the New York Yankees in Spring Training as well as the FSL Yankees.

Two of the nicest people I worked with in the Press Box were Doug and his wife Dee Pett. Doug was the PA Announcer and Official Scorekeeper while Dee assisted him. They are both former Metro Detroiters.

When the Miami Marlins came up I-95 to Fort Lauderale, two incredible people that became friends were executives and media personalities, Larry Bluestein and the late Sonny Hirsch.

In 1985-86, I covered the Tampa Tarpons for the Tampa Tribune.

The Manager of the Tarpons was Marc Bombard. He's worked with the Reds when I was in Tampa and has moved to other organizations.

During my tenure with the Tarpons, his two teams were real competitive.

In 1986, he guided the Tarpons to the FSL Playoffs. I joked with Bombard that we were rivals and now we're teammates.

He laughed when I told him you need to win a championship while I'm here. He said, "We'll try Scotty," smiling.

We had a good two-year run and the two players who stood out were left-hander Chris Hammond and Catcher Joe Oliver.

In my only year with Hammond in 1986, he posted a 3-2 record with a 2.81 ERA.

The thing that Hammond will best be remembered for was when I wanted to interview him, he turned me down. He said that he doesn't talk to the media. I told him "OK and I hope you're as good as Phillies legend Steve Carlton. You're Just a Minor Leaguer that is Just a Prospect with no guarantees to make it to the Major Leagues, who could use the publicity to promote yourself."

Hammond was a member of the 1990 Cincinnati Reds Championship team, but wasn't on the post-season roster because Manager Lou Piniella lacked confidence in him.

His ride to the majors was attributed to the fact that he was a left-handed pitcher. Left-handers are always in demand and Ray Fontenot took the Southpaw route to get to the majors.

As for Hammond, he was a mediocre pitcher, who had a 66-62 record with a 4.14 ERA. He was a journeyman pitcher that played for seven teams.

One of the nicest players I ever worked with was Tarpons 1985 Catcher Joe Oliver. He had a .269 average in 112 games, with seven home runs and 62 RBI.

Oliver would play for the Reds from 1989-1994 and was also a member of the 1990 World Series Championship Team. He would play two stints with the Reds.

Joe's other baseball stops were with the Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Tigers, Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

In case you were wondering, I never fell for any shaving cream pranks with the Tarpons. I got just a little smarter to let it happen again.

To this day, Joe and I remain good friends. He lives in Orlando, FL.

My employer the Tampa Tribune gave me lots of flexibility with the Tarpons.

My Executive Sports Editor Joe DiSalvo was great to work with. Joe allowed me to also free-lance write for RedsVue Magazine in Cincinnati. He allowed me to use their computer system to send stories, plus allow his Editor Rick Nelson to proof read them before I sent them.

One of my fondest memories of Nelson is when I covered the FSL All-Star Game in Osceola, FL in 1986. This was a new stadium for the Houston Astros.

The Tribune allowed me to use a company computer. I typed my story into it but the phone lines wouldn't allow me to send it after four attempts.

Nelson would get me a 25 minute extension, and I dictated two stories to Rick and made it with two minutes to spare. Rick did an excellent job typing the story which was approximately 25-30 inches under extreme pressure. We would joke around about this the following week, but it wasn't fun at the time.

The stories look real good when I saw them in the paper. This pressure situation was good for me.

RedsVue Editor Mark Schmetzer was also a great guy to work with. In addition to the Tarpons, he utilized me during Spring Training as well as Fantasy Camps.

Schmetzer got me credentialed for a three-game series at Riverfront Stadium against the LA Dodgers.

Schmetzer and I also remain good friends.

Former Tarpons Official Scorekeeper Bill Campbell and his wife Cathy were tremendous folks to work with.

So now "We're Back To The Future" in 2015 at a very Historical Ballpark.

I saw one familiar face for Daytona Beach. He was a USF Alumnus and also worked for a year as a pitching coach for FAU when I worked with the Owls. His name is Tony Fassas. I will be writing on him at a later date.

But Jackie Robinson Ballpark is a must see if you're a baseball junkie. It has a Museum throughout the park with a lot of commemorative photos, plaques and a Statue Outside.

This is a real neat place.

I was impressed by the way the Daytona Beach Community has embraced this team.

The fans were also great to us. It was just as fun before the game as it was during the contest just taking pictures with Jackie Robinson's historical breakthroughs which changed MLB forever.

As for the game, it was 0-0 and Rained Out after four innings.

But that didn't matter to me. The score meant absolutely nothing!

Seeing the history about Jackie Robinson was fantastic.

More importantly, the two organizations that were facing each other meant everything.

I met so many great people during my five years covering both that I can proudly say I was covering these people at the beginning of their careers.

The Hallandale Digest and Tampa Tribune were my employers throughout college.

Not only did I enjoy working in baseball, but I was getting paid to do it.

It doesn't get any better than that.

This night was a collection of a memorable past that brought me "Back To The Future" even though I'm not Michael J Fox.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Around The Diamond

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTO BY CANDICE EBLING

I know I'm not alone, but who ever thought that after four-straight playoff appearances that the Detroit Tigers would be 60-70 and 20 games behind AL Central Leading Kansas City. Things won't get any easier the next three nights as the Tigers play the Royals in Missouri from Tuesday-Thursday.

The past 30 days have been unbelievable as outgoing President and General Manager Dave Dombrowski traded three impact players in Pitcher David Price (Toronto Blue Jays), Closer Joakim Soria (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes (New York Mets) in exchange for prospects. He did it while in playoff contention. This led to comments by Cespedes that the Tigers threw in the towel. Indeed, that does sound like what the Tigers did.

I understand why Dombrowski did this because he didn't want these potential free agents to leave without immediate compensation instead of taking draft picks. Did Tigers Owner Mike Illitch make the right move by firing Dombrowski a few days later? I'm still a bit uncomfortable with this move despite the fact that Dombrowski was going to be highly sought after as a free agent when his contract expired when the season ended.

As it turned out Dombrowski landed with the Boston Red Sox in August reuniting him with former Marlins Owner and now Red Sox Boss John Henry. It remains to be seen what his successor Al Avila will do in the months ahead to take the now last place Tigers and get them on the right track. Can Avila convince Cespedes to rejoin the team in free agency?

But it's totally unfortunate that a season that had so much potential is decaying by September 1st. Yet, in the past several seasons, the bullpen has been and still is one of the biggest weak spots for the team. I am convinced that Dombrowsi will turn around the Red Sox and should he fire John Farrell, I have a gut feeling who he'll tab as his next skipper.

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There is no way that I'll blame Tigers Manager Brad Ausmus for this seasons debacle. I'd like to find any manager that can deal with all the injuries, under performing players, influx of younger players, roster turnover as well as the fire sale at the end of July. Brad has handled this as well as he could and if he gets fired, I have a gut feeling that he'll join Dombrowski in Boston and manage the Red Sox. He's a bright young manager that will have a job in some team's dugout in 2016.

Should Detroit fire Ausmus, there are only two skippers that would make any sense. I predict that Detroit would either hire former Minnesota Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire, who knows the AL Central quite well or Dusty Baker, who has guided multiple teams to the playoffs.

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Do the Tigers miss former hurler Max Scherzer? I would say so, but not at a price tag of $210 Million for seven years. When Scherzer left for the Washington Nationals as a free agent, everybody was saying why bother to play the season since this was a team which was favored to win the World Series.

But how have things gone for Scherzer in the Nations Capital? He made it to the NL All-Star Team. He did throw a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Washington. Max's record stands at 11-11 with a 2.88 ERA, 209 K's and 26 Walks.

He's been awful in August going 0-3 with a 6.43 ERA.

The Nationals team batting average is .250 and Washington is 66-63, eight games out of the Wild Card.  Washington is currently 5.5 games back of the NL East leading The New York Mets (72-58).

Do you think that Scherzer misses the Tigers bats and not having to hit with the DH in the AL? How about pitching at pitcher's friendly Comerica Park? I would think so.

The Tigers won't make the playoffs and it appears that the Nationals will be watching them on television unless the team gets on a roll very quickly.

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Longtime LA Dodgers Broadcaster Vin Scully is coming back for his final season. The 2016 season will mark Scully's 67th year with the Dodgers. He'll be turning 88 in November. I've been to Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla., but unfortunately we never crossed paths. It bothered me when the Dodgers relocated to Arizona.

Despite not meeting Vin, he is the Greatest Broadcaster of All-Time!

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Finally, what would a late season column be without playoff predictions?

Let's start in the American League.

I look for the Kansas City Royals to meet either the Toronto Blue Jays or the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. After being a game away from winning the World Series last season against the San Francisco Giants, despite losing James Shields to free agency, the Royals added key pieces down the stretch to convince me they'll close the deal this time. The last time Kansas City won it was in 1985 when they defeated Missouri Rival The St. Louis Cardinals.

Thirty-years from their last title would be a great anniversary for their next championship.

The National League will be fun to watch. It's not as clear cut. As of now, the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates hold the final two Wild Card Spots.

If I had a sentimental favorite, it would be the Cubs, who haven't won a championship since 1908. If you're doing the math, this is 107-year drought.

If team President Theo Epstein and Manager Joe Madden pull this off they'll get two statues outside of Wrigley Field.

For Epstein to break a long drought with the Boston Red Sox then do it with the Cubs, he'll make a case as being one of the best team builders in MLB History and will get into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Look for Madden to get his number retired.

Realistically, it's always hard to count out the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers.

However, don't count out the surging New York Mets, who have great young pitchers and Cespedes has been tearing the cover off the baseball. The Mets were big buyers at the trade deadline. They'll be very, very dangerous.

But I'm going to go out on the limb and predict that the St. Louis Cardinals face the Kansas City Royals in the Fall Classic. Once again, the Royals will defeat the Cardinals 4-3. The Royals had their fair share of All-Stars and Ned Yost will manage Next Year's All-Star Game.

These next two months will be fun to watch. Stay Tuned.

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

Friday, July 3, 2015

Views on NHL Coaching Moves

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Every successful coach in any sport deserves to maximize his income potential.

Therefore, I understood why former Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock took his intense personality across the border and accepted the challenge to rebuild the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It's pretty hard to turn down an eight year contract for $50 Million.

The Red Wings offered $20 Million for five years.

Can't blame a man for more than doubling his salary with another "Original Six Team."

Will money buy Babcock happiness? He's taking over a franchise which hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1967 when there were only six teams in the NHL.

Former NHL Coach and current Hockey Night In Canada Analyst Don Cherry advised Babcock to stay in Detroit. Cherry had been through this before.

But Babcock decided to undertake this rebuilding process in his home country Canada. This week Toronto traded away its franchise player Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I do wish Babcock, 52, well except when he faces Detroit. My dealings with Babcock have been pleasant through the years. I look forward to seeing him when he visits the Florida Panthers in Sunrise.

Bobcock's regular season mark with Detroit was 458-223-105 for a .649 winning percentage. He made the playoffs in all 10 seasons with the Red Wings and won a Stanley Cup in 2007-2008. He reached the Stanley Cup Finals the following season. Detroit has made the playoffs 24-consecutive seasons.

I know this was a gut wrenching decision for Babcock to leave Detroit, but to his credit, it was classy that he had a Farewell Press Conference with the Detroit Media and left a Class Act.

The day before his Final Press Conference with the Detroit Media, Babcock called Toronto, "Canada's Team." Toronto is the wealthiest franchise in Canada.

I hope for Babcock's sake that the organization, run by former Red Wing Brendan Shanahan, gives him enough time and provides him the players to be successful. Otherwise, it will be a long eight years for a guy that hates losing.

The best example of this is former New York Yankees Manager Casey Stengel. In 12 years with the Yankees, Stengel was 1149-696 and won seven World Series titles for the Bronx Bombers.

In 1962, Stengel became the pilot of the Expansion New York Mets. In 3.5 seasons, Stengel 175-404 after the losing wore him out.

We'll see how much this wears on Babcock and see his his red hair turns grey. The guy is only four months younger than myself, having been born on April 29, 1963, and is eligible for AARP.

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Red Wings GM Ken Holland is not only the smartest person an organization can have, but the most loyal. He's already made a couple solid moves in free agency.

When Babcock departed, Holland knew his successor was a two hour drive on I-96 in Grand Rapids.

Ken obviously felt Jeff Blashill could transition well to Detroit, otherwise he wouldn't have torn up his old contract then doubled so Blashill wouldn't talk to other teams.

In six seasons as a head coach, Blashill has never had a losing record. He won a Calder Cup with the Grand Rapids Griffins 2012-2013.

In his six-year coaching career, Blashill is 225-127-10-28.

He's shown loyalty to Holland and deserves this opportunity. Plus, he's worked and developed many of the current Red Wings. Needless to say it should be a seamless transition.

It was interesting that as I watched Holland's press conference of Blashill's hiring that Ken indicated this was the worst kept secret.

We'll see if this leads Detroit to the post-season for a 25th straight year.

Before the Blashill hiring, I posted a comment on Facebook that Detroit should consider hiring Dan Bylsma, a Grand Haven, MI native. Bylsma's Pittsburgh Penguins defeated Mike Babcock's Red Wings to win the 2008-2009 Stanley Cup.

But the Buffalo Sabres, who made an aggressive attempt to hire Babcock, snapped up Bylsma, thus there were no other candidates that made sense to me.

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There seems to be a New Trend in hiring a head coach in the NHL that I've noticed.

Instead of hiring recycled-experienced coaches, teams are starting to give younger coaches an opportunity.

The Tampa Bay Lightning hit a home run with Jon Cooper. The 47-year old Prince George, BC, CA native has compiled a 101-59-20 mark in three seasons. Cooper defeated three "Original Six Teams" to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, only to fall to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Prior to coming to the Lightning, Cooper won championships with the St. Louis Bandits, Green Bay Gamblers and won a 2011-2012 Calder Cup for Tampa's AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals.

The Philadelphia Flyers went to college and found their new coach, Dave Hakstol, 46, from the University of North Dakota. In 11 seasons with North Dakota, Hakstol was 289-141-43 and his team reached the Frozen Four seven times. Hakstol is photographed.

Hakstol is the first head coach to go directly from the NCAA to the NHL since 1982 (Bob Johnson from the University of Wisconsin to the Calgary Flames).

On June 2, 2015, the New Jersey Devils hired John Hynes, 40, to be their next head coach.

Hynes is the youngest coach in the NHL.

Prior to joining the Devils, Hynes coached for the Pittsburgh Penguins AHL affiliate the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the past five seasons, making the playoffs each year. He reached the conference finals twice.

Hynes was the AHL's Coach Of The Year in 2010-2011.

I'll be curious to see how all of these coaches due in the 2015-2016 Season.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a long-time member of The Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Atlanta Braves Announcer Chip Caray's Observations

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTO BY CANDICE EBLING

During the latter part of Spring Training, we took a ride to Orlando and covered an exhibition game between the Detroit Tigers versus the Atlanta Braves at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.

Through the years, there have been numerous broadcasting names that have been delivering thrilling moments for generations.

In the business world there are four types of businesses: Small Businesses, Large Businesses, Corporations and Family Businesses.

In baseball, the term Family Bloodlines run real thick. Not only as a player, but as a broadcaster.

To name a few that stand out, there is the father and son tandem of Jack and Joe Buck, who had and have been fixtures with the St. Louis Cardinals. They both have worked on National Television while the late Jack also worked on National Radio and worked many sports. Joe has worked with other sports as well.

Thom and father Marty Brennaman are currently working together with the Cincinnati Reds. Prior to arriving in Cincinnati, Thom worked with the Arizona Diamondbacks and also works for FOX Sports doing a variety of assignments.

The next one intrigues me even more.

I'm speaking about The Caray's. There is Harry, son Skip and grandson Chip. Yes, three generations. Chip is photographed.

In December of 1997, the improbable nearly became a reality. Chip was hired to work with Harry on Chicago Cubs broadcasts on WGN TV. But on February 18, 1998, this never came to fruition as Harry died. Chip would continue to work seven seasons and left after 2004.

Chip, 50, would move to Atlanta and followed his late father Skip's footsteps to broadcast Braves games, where he still is active.

I had an opportunity to speak with Chip on some interesting topics in this Interview.

Q: Compare and contrast Spring Training in Arizona where you worked with the Cubs, and Florida with the Braves. I see you have quite a tan.

A: Both places were great. The distances for Arizona teams was very favorable. Not much travel time to play other teams, whereas the closest to the Braves is Kissimmee (Houston Astros) is 15 minutes away. The next closest is where the Detroit Tigers play in Lakeland which is 45 minutes. In both places the weather is hot. Arizona is dry and the ball carries more which is advantageous to hitters, less like the regular season except in Colorado. Florida is more humid and the ball is heavier. Hot hitters in Spring Training doesn't always correlate to regular season. Arizona is more luring for tax purposes.

I like Florida because My family and I live here year-round, therefore, I can spend more time with my family between games.

Q: You mentioned that the Braves travel a lot in Spring Training. Can you see them in Orlando over the long term? This is a beautiful complex.

A: I'm not sure how much longer the Braves will be at this current site. I don't see them moving out of Florida. But I could see them moving to either coast of Florida.

Q: This year MLB has instituted Pace of The Game Changes. What are your thoughts? These changes seem to be aimed between innings as well as hitter's time in the batters box.

A: The big difference between Pace of The Game and Time of The Game is some games can have a fast pace and be 2.5 hours. Yet you can also have a fast pace of the game be 3.5 hours. What I'm saying is it's the "In Between Down Time" that we're trying to hurry up.

In today's society, instant gratification with Social Media such as Twitter and Facebook, we're looking for more ways to attract the younger crowd.We really need the younger crowd as much of those that are say 55 years-old.

Q: Chip, this has been a common topic and will be long after our conversation. Do you ever see the DH in the National League?

A: I don't like it. Baseball was originally a nine person game. Pitchers hit. This is the true form of the game. The DH also takes away some of the strategies of the game from the managers such as the double switch, etc... Besides, The Players Union likes the DH and it does prolong careers for the veteran players. But I would say that a true fan of the game doesn't like it.

Q: This year Detroit native John Smoltz is going to the Hall of Fame. Long term, he turned out to be a great acquisition by Atlanta from the Tigers at the 1987 trade deadline for Doyle Alexander. How happy are you for John?

A: Smoltz is a great guy all around. Just like all the other Braves are happy for him. He's earned the honor and it's well deserved.

Q: In two weeks, the All-Star Game will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio and Commissioner Rob Manfred is allowing Pete Rose to be a part of the festivities. It's the right thing to do since so much of the history of the game especially in Cincinnati centers around him. Chip, do you ever see Pete Rose ever being reinstated?

A: If you go into any dugout/ locker-room, there are rules you don't break. It has nothing to do with drugs, alcohol and any other legal matter.

It has to do with "No Betting On The Game." Pete broke that.

For instance, he bet they would win 12 games in a row but not 13. Why? I wouldn't be surprised if he gets back in the game but not as a manager or anything else.

Chip and I did address the Tigers a bit and he agreed that losing Max Scherzer would hurt a bit. With the Washington Nationals, Scherzer is 9-5 with a 1.79 ERA plus he already has tossed a no-hitter along with a pair of complete games.

Detroit's difficulties this year have been as expected with bullpen issues and it has to get much better if the Tigers are going to return to the playoffs.

But we're approaching the All-Star Break soon and the Tigers offense is the key down the stretch. I will be curious to see what moves are made in late July to see if indeed Detroit is a buyer or a seller. It wouldn't hurt to stay healthy.

As of this post, the Tigers reside in third place in the AL Central and are currently 39-37, six games behind division leading Kansas City.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a long-time member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Detroit's Sports Scene

 BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Congratulations to former Detroit Red Wings Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Federov for reaching The Hockey Hall of Fame. Lidstrom's No.5 Jersey has already been retired and hangs in the rafters at Joe Louis Arena. As for the No.91 worn by Federov, there is no such of a spotting at the top of the Joe.

Will Federov's jersey ever reach the rafters? If you believe in the phrase that "Time Heals All Wounds"then the answer would be Yes, especially now that Federov is heading to The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, ON, CA.

In the 2003 offseason, Federov wanted to leave Detroit badly and turned down the Red Wings 5-year-$50 Million offer. He took less money to join the Anaheim Ducks agreeing to a 4-year-$40 Million to live in Southern California. Federov would pick-up his milestone 1,000th point with the Ducks.

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I recently signed a petition that the Tiger Stadium Grounds should continue to have the Historical Natural Grass over a New Artificial Surface. Call me an old school, traditionalist that enjoyed seeing my boyhood idols play on grass at "The Corner." Time will tell if this ever happens. But I say that grass is a safer surface and I can attest to this because when I Played or in My Media Projects, My Knees took a Major Beating.

Nonetheless, I'm still glad that there will be baseball played at "The Corner" as well as other productive redevelopment on these sacred grounds with the Police Athletic League (PAL) involved. There is way too much history to see it be wasted away. I commend all of the volunteers that have put in their time to work on the field and from what I've read, it's still being used regularly.

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When I heard that on May 24, 2015 that "The Gordie Howe International Bridge" was going to connect Detroit to Canada, this seemed unreal, yet well deserved. Howe was born March 31, 1928 in Floral, SK, CAN and spent the majority of his NHL Career with the Detroit Red Wings mainly residing in the Southfield-Lathrup Area.

Back in November and December of 2014, Howe was experiencing major health problems. The family was planning for a funeral. Thankfully, that funeral hasn't happened. Instead, thanks to Stem Cell Treatment performed in Mexico, Mr. Hockey is still with us.

All I can say is I'm glad that he's alive to hear his latest honor. I can just imagine how he feels inside. He's an icon in two countries and in the sports world.

I hope that he's still alive to take the first drive across the bridge which is expected to open up in 2019-2020.

Construction on the bridge has started. The cost estimate is $1 Billion-$2.2 Billion. The ceremony was attended by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on May 24, 2015.

Talk about timing, The Gordie Howe International Bridge and the Detroit Red Wings New Arena are under construction at the same time which is fantastic.

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I was hoping that former Wisconsin Center Frank Kaminsky would be selected by the Detroit Pistons. However, that never came to fruition.

I thought Kaminsky would remind me of a tall center that used to play for the Pistons named Bill Laimbeer, who also shot well away from the basket. The only difference that I see between these two players is Laimbeer had the reputation of being one of the most hated players in basketball. He played more mind games, threw untimely elbows and instigated many confrontations to get in his opponents minds.

Laimbeer's style played a large part in the Bad Boys winning a pair of NBA Titles in 1989-90. I wouldn't be surprised if he burned enough bridges on the court that hindered his coaching career.

Now Kaminsky gets to play for the Charlotte Hornets. His boss is former Pistons rival Michael Jordan and don't be surprised if Jordan does talk about his battles with Laimbeer, The Bad Boys, and the growing pains on his way to six championships with the Chicago Bulls.

We do know that Kaminsky won't have to ask Jordan for his autograph since it will now be on his paychecks.

What a small world we do live in. Once upon a time, Kaminsky took a shot questioning the small crowds at Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats games compared to his home court at the Kohl Center in Madison, WI.

Where is Kaminsky starting his NBA Career?

You guessed it, Charlotte, NC. If he becomes the player that Jordan and many basketball experts and fans believe he can become, then all will be forgiven, criticizing his new city. Perhaps, his play will put people in the stands,

I can only just imagine how his first press conference went with the local media.

Since basketball returned to Charlotte in 2004, the franchise has only made the playoffs twice.

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On a recent episode of Mike and Mike, former Pistons Coach Larry Brown provided insights on why Darko Milicic was a bust with the second selection in the 2003 NBA Draft.

Darko played for a third-tier Serbian team called Hemofarm. Darko didn't love the game of basketball. The Pistons saw a 7-foot 275-pound prospect and were hoping he would be a dominant player that could provide a low-post presence. Obviously, that didn't happen and has turned out to be one of the biggest blunders in NBA Draft History.

Milicici characteristics turned out to be a deadly recipe for disaster and a reason why my blood pressure, in addition to my heart beat, takes a beating when I see foreign prospects at the top of the draft.

I'd rather have a college player that I have much more knowledge about playing even one or two years, than a foreign player that doesn't have much film. I know NBA teams have more international scouts since these prospects could be expensive mistakes. But I would rather play it safe.

If I could get a three or four year player, who is experienced and more mature, that's even better.

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Finally, with unrestricted free agency hours upon us, I like how soon to be former Detroit Piston Center-Forward Greg Monroe says he "Unwanted."

If this isn't "Insanity," then please describe what's the definition of the word.

For the past year, the Pistons have been working hard to sign Monroe. Greg was determined to be a free agent and now the that time has come.

I realize that he hasn't made the playoffs in Detroit and totally understand his frustration. There has been instability with the coaching and a change of ownership.

With with President/Coach Stan Van Gundy's leadership, the climate is spiraling upwards.

Monroe said he wants to win. If he signs with the New York Knicks, who won a franchise worst 17 games last year then I need another English Lesson about the word "Winning."

This has a Sergei Federov twist to it where Monroe was determined to leave town regardless of how bad the team wanted to retain him and was willing to pay him extremely well.

On the other hand if Monroe decides to find another team closer to winning, then more power to him. I understand a fresh start could be good for him.

However, not being wanted is a bunch of "Hogwash." The Pistons off-season moves were made with Monroe's departure in mind. It's not a crime for both sides to move on.

When Grant Hill left the Pistons following the 2000 season, the Pistons won an NBA Title in 2004. Need I say more.

What I will say is the guarantee I'll make is the only time you'll see the No.10 Jersey is in the rafters at the Palace of Auburn Hills or an arena in Downtown Detroit.

Remember Dennis Rodman? He was the heart, soul and spark plug of the Bad Boys and is a Member of the Basketball Hall of Fame!

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

My MLB Franchise Four----Mt. Rushmore

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When MLB decided to come up with the Franchise Four at this year's All-Star Game in Cincinnati, there was absolutely no way that I would pass up on this chance to come up with mine.

There are lots of great players that wouldn't make it because their teams in the 1900's are no longer in existence. The one guy that comes to mind is Cy Young.

There are many players that won't make it due to the Steroid Era. On My List, don't expect to see Barry Bonds on it because he was a cheater and his arrogant attitude towards the media will not help his chances to reach the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

Did you know that Hall of Famer Joe Morgan was a good player for the Houston Astros before joining the Cincinnati Reds Big Red Machine?

One day, I see Center Fielder Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels making this list.

If I had a fifth selection for the Detroit Tigers, southpaw hurler Mickey Lolich would be on it.

Lolich won three games in the 1968 World Series as the Tigers topped the St. Louis Cardinals to win a World Championship. He was a three-time All-Star. His career record for Detroit was 207-175, nine saves, pitched in 3,361.2 innings, 190 complete games and 2,679 strike outs. Lolich's 190 complete games is unrealistic in the New Specialization Era, predicated on pitch counts and innings pitched-monitored.

On Father's Day, June 16, 1974, Lolich worked 11 innings and threw 170 pitches, and got a walk-off win at Tiger Stadium. I'd like to see that happen these days. A manager could get fired today allowing a pitcher, especially his ace working this long.

Lolich would finish his career with 217 wins and 2,832 strikeouts also playing for the New York Mets and San Diego Padres in the National League.

What's even more impressive is Lolich's strike out total of 2,679, the most by an American League left-hander. Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson struck out 2,545 while pitching for American League teams, a number that includes strikeouts in inter-league play.

My photographer Candice Ebling asked me about how many pitchers would end up on the list? In some cases none.

Did you know that former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is the only player in team history to amass over 3,000 hits?

I found it tough to choose between Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. I went with DiMaggio because he won nine World Series Titles and owns an unbreakable 56-game hitting streak.

Where does Roger Clemens belong? It's tough to find a spot with the Yankees and Red Sox. He had some success with the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays, but not enough longevity.

Former St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols is a victim of the team's illustrious tradition.

The Small Market Florida Teams, The Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins are tough to come up with four due to the high roster turnover and small payrolls. It's tough for these teams to keep their big name star players longer than seven years.

Now that Giancarlo Stanton has signed a long term contract, if he stays healthy, then I could see him on a future Marlins list.

With My List, a real deciding factor is whether a player wins a championship(s). If the player does it with multiple teams, that's even better.

An interesting note is the Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros have swapped leagues. Ironically, the Astros players on this list played in the National League while the Brewers played in the American League.

Now that I've given you readers a basic criteria, I welcome your feedback.

Here is My Franchise Four.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST:

New York Yankees
1. Babe Ruth
2. Lou Gehrig
3. Derek Jeter
4. Joe DiMaggio

Baltimore Orioles
1. Brooks Robinson
2. Jim Palmer
3. Frank Robinson
4. Cal Ripken Jr.

Tampa Bay Rays
1. David Price
2. Evan Longoria
3. Wade Boggs
4. Carl Crawford

Boston Red Sox
1. Ted Williams
2. Carl Yastrzemski
3. Jim Rice
4. Pedro Martinez

Toronto Blue Jays
1. Joe Carter
2. Roberto Alomar
3. Dave Stieb
4. Roy Halladay

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL:

Detroit Tigers
1. Ty Cobb
2. Hank Greenberg
3. Al Kaline
4. Miguel Cabrera

Kansas City Royals
1. George Brett
2. Hal McRae
3. Willie Wilson
4. Dan Quisenberry

Minnesota Twins
1. Harmon Killebrew
2. Rod Carew
3. Tony Oliva
4. Kirby Puckett

Cleveland Indians
1. Bob Feller
2. Jim Thome
3. Sandy Alomar Jr.
4. CC Sabathia

Chicago White Sox
1. Frank Thomas
2. Paul Konerko
3. Nellie Fox
4. Carlton Fisk

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST:

Houston Astros
1. Nolan Ryan
2. Jeff Bagwell
3. Craig Biggio
4. Joe Morgan

Los Angeles Angels
1. Bobby Grich
2. Nolan Ryan
3. Brian Downing
4. Tim Salmon

Oakland A's
1. Jim "Catfish" Hunter
2. Reggie Jackson
3. Rickey Henderson
4. Dennis Eckersley

Seattle Mariners
1. Ken Griffey Jr.
2. Jay Buhner
3. Randy Johnson
4. Edgar Martinez

Texas Rangers
1. Nolan Ryan
2. Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez
3. Jim Sundberg
4. Toby Harrah


NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST:

New York Mets
1. Tom Seaver
2. Keith Hernandez
3. John Franco
4. Mike Piazza

Atlanta Braves
1. Warren Spahn
2. Greg Maddux
3. Tom Glavine
4. Hank Aaron

Miami Marlins
1. Al Leiter
2. Livan Hernandez
3. Miguel Cabrera
4. Josh Beckett

Washington Nationals/ Montreal Expos
1. Rusty Staub
2. Gary Carter
3. Tim Raines
4. Andre Dawson

Philadelphia Phillies
1. Steve Carlton
2. Mike Schmidt
3. Robin Roberts
4. Richie Ashburn

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL:

St. Louis Cardinals
1. Bob Gibson
2. Lou Brock
3. Stan Musial
4. Ozzie Smith

Chicago Cubs
1. Ernie Banks
2. Billy Williams
3. Ferguson Jenkins
4. Sammy Sosa

Cincinnati Reds
1. Pete Rose
2. Johnny Bench
3. Tony Perez
4. Barry Larkin

Pittsburgh Pirates
1. Willie Stargell
2. Roberto Clemente
3. Honus Wagner
4. Bill Mazeroski

Milwaukee Brewers
1. Robin Yount
2. Paul Molitor
3. Rollie Fingers
4. Cecil Cooper

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST:

Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers
1. Jackie Robinson
2. Sandy Koufax
3. Don Drysdale
4. Roy Campanella

San Diego Padres
1. Tony Gwynn
2. Dave Winfield
3. Randy Jones
4. Trevor Hoffman

New York/San Francisco Giants
1. Willie Mays
2. Willie McCovey
3. Juan Marichal
4. Orlando Cepeda

Colorado Rockies
1. Larry Walker
2. Dante Bichette
3. Todd Helton
4. Troy Tulowitzki

Arizona Diamondbacks
1. Curt Schilling
2. Randy Johnson
3. Luis Gonzalez
4. Matt Williams

Here are some after thoughts about My MLB Mt. Rushmore.

Did you know that Nolan Ryan's number was retired by the California Angels, Houston Astros and Texas Rangers. Ryan wore No. 30 with California, and No. 34 with the Astros and Rangers. He won his only World Series Title with the 1969 New York Mets.

Eddie Murray would have made this list with the Baltimore Orioles, but you can't leave off Cal Ripken Jr.

A unique player to talk about is Fingers. He won three World Series Championships with the Oakland A's and led the Brewers to the 1982 World Series. His No. 34 is retired by both franchises.

Fingers is known for his trademark mustache.

Why did Sammy Sosa make this list?

Sosa led the Chicago Cubs to the playoffs in 1998. It was the first time the Cubs reached the playoffs since 1989. In 1998, Sosa and Mark McGwire, had their famous home run chase of Roger Maris 61, which  helped Baseball resurrect itself after the demoralizing Player Strike in 1994.

What also rescued baseball was Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive game streak in 1995 as he passed 2,130 finishing with 2,632.

Once again, I welcome your opinion and will respond back to you.

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

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