Monday, June 28, 2021

Quit Trying To Figure Out Coaching/ Managerial Hires

 BY SCOTT MORGANROTH 

What goes into hiring a coach or manager?

For the longest time, I’ve often wondered about this and now I’ve decided to address this insane process?

Will winning a championship guarantee that you’ll get another gig?

No.

Just ask former Detroit Tigers Manager Mayo Smith, former Baltimore Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick and and former Arizona Diamondbacks Manager Bob Brenly.

Smith led the Detroit Tigers to the World Series title and by the end of the 1970 season, he never got another managerial job. To Smith’s credit, there were only 20 teams at the time with no divisions. 

Billick led the Ravens to a Super Bowl Championship in 2000. He coached the Ravens from 1999-2007 and had a regular season record of 80-64 with a .556 winning percentage, plus a 5-3 mark in the playoffs leading to an 85-67 mark. 

He is in the Baltimore Ravens Ring of Honor but never landed another head coaching job. As a result, he took his knowledge as an NFL commentator.

From 2001-2004, Brenly led the Diamondbacks to a 303-262 record and led Arizona to its lone World Series Title by defeating the New York Yankees 4-3.

Like Billick, Brenly never got another opportunity to guide another team. He was in the running for several managerial positions for the 2008 season, and fell short in 2009 when the Milwaukee Brewers elected to hire Ken Macha instead. Brenly would go on to broadcasting, working with the Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks and TBS Television. He’s also worked at FOX.

Another non-hire that puzzles me is current ESPN/ABC Announcer Mark Jackson.

I once met Jackson at the Palace of Auburn Hills when he played for the Indiana Pacers.

He had an amazing NBA career where he scored 12,489 points, grabbed 4,963 rebounds and amassed 10,334 assists. His playing career spanned from 1987-2004. 

Jackson was hired to coach the Golden State Warriors on June 6, 2011 by new owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber. 

After inheriting a team that had made the playoffs just once in the previous years, Jackson promised to turn the Warriors into a good defensive team and playoff contender. 

The team struggled to a 23-43 record in his first year during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season as the team suffered several key injuries to key players while adjusting to a new system.

In the 2012-2013 season with a strong performance from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Jackson led the Warriors to a 47-35 record and a No.6 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. It was the first time the Warriors made the playoffs since the 2006-07 season. The Warriors defeated the Denver Nuggets 4-2 in the first round, but lost to the San Antonio Spurs 4-2 in the semifinals.

Originally signed under a four-year, $8 Million Contract, Jackson earned two more years guaranteed on his contract in 2013, putting him under contract through 2014-2015. 

The following season, the Warriors improved to 51-31, the team’s first season with 50 or more wins since since 1994-94. They reached the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1992, but lost in the first round to the Los Angeles Clippers 4-3.

On May 6, 2014, Jackson was removed as head coach of the Warriors. The Warriors front office said the team was better than when Jackson inherited the job, but felt it needed a different coach to win an NBA Championship. In retrospect, he did the dirty work for Steve Kerr who subsequently won the teams first title in 40 years.

I was surprised through the years that Jackson didn’t land with his hometown team the New York Knicks, who drafted him in the first round, 18th overall, in the 1987 Draft. The Brooklyn native played his college ball at St. John’s University. He played for the Knicks from 1987-1992. He also played for the Knicks from 2001-2002.

He played on some good Indiana Pacers teams with Reggie Miller from 1994-96 and took them deep into the playoffs.

But like Smith, Billick and Brenly, why Jackson never got another chance to lead his own team remains a mystery. 

But like Billick and Brenly, Jackson has far from disappeared as has a cushy job broadcasting for ESPN/ABC. I enjoy watching him.

There will always be questions in every sport that certain coaches get multiple chances why others don’t even get a sniff.

I’ve always thought that Juwan Howard and Patrick Ewing deserved to be head coaches. They would get jobs but at their respective Alma-Maters, Michigan and Georgetown. 

Many years ago, Mean Joe Greene had mentors like former NFL legends Chuck Noll (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Don Shula (Miami Dolphins), but never got an opportunity to lead his own team. 

Greene, who was a Pittsburgh Steelers icon paid his dues on the field and on the sidelines. It wasn’t meant to be. 

The NFL later implemented the Rooney Rule that requires all teams to interview minority candidates for coaching and front office positions.

During the recent NBA Coaching Cycle, Jason Kidd landed his third head coaching gig after previous stints with the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. Former NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups landed his first job with the Portland Trail Blazers.

One name prominently mentioned was San Antonio Spurs Assistant Coach Becky Hammon. She’s been working with Gregg Popovich since 2014. She coached the Spurs Summer League team in 2015. She was the first woman to be a head coach in that league. He name was connected to the Portland, New Orleans and Orlando jobs. None of those have come to fruition.

On December 20, 2020, Hammon became the first female acting coach in NBA History after Popovich was ejected during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

While there is no rhyme or reason to this process and I’m sure there are other examples that I haven’t mentioned because these stood out, there is one prediction that I will make.

I do believe that Hammon will be the next coach of the San Antonio Spurs when Popovich elects to step aside. She knows that organization well and the small market Spurs don’t present an over extensive local media challenge with her despite the fact when she gets hired, she’ll have lots of national requests initially.

As for Smith, Billick, Brenly and Jackson, I’m still puzzled as to why they never got other gigs.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at Southfloridatribune@gmail.com and on Twitter @TribuneSouth.

You can hear his broadcasts by subscribing to The South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel for free.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Numbers Don’t Lie

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

During hockey season, the Florida Panthers were referred to as the Cardiac Cats because they were in a lot of close games and won many of them en route to a Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance.

Going into the season, it’s no secret that the strength of the Miami Marlins has been the pitching staff. When you have hurlers such as Pablo Lopez, Trevor Rogers, Sandy Alcantara anchoring your staff, this tends to keep you in ballgames.

Entering their game on Wednesday against the Toronto Blue Jays, Miami was sixth in MLB with a 3.38 ERA.

The Marlins record was 31-41 but here are the statistics worth noting.

Of their 41 losses, 16 have been decided by one run and 27 have been decided by two or less.

The last place Marlins are eight games behind the NL East leading New York Mets. Therefore, there is plenty of time to right the ship to make a return visit to the playoffs. The task to get in as a Wild Card is considerably tougher as the Fish are 11 games back of the San Diego Padres (44-32).

Why are the Marlins struggling with close games?

The offense has been very anemic. 

The team is averaging 3.9 runs per-game which is tied for 26th in MLB.

They average 7.7 hits per-game which ranks 17th.

Miami’s batting average stands at .232 which ranks 19th.

Miami’s On base percentage is .301 and ranks 22nd.

Miami’s slugging percentage is .369 and ranks 27th.

The team has 68 homer runs which is 26th. The bulk of these home runs have come from Adam Duvall (16), Jesus Aguilar (12) and Jazz Chisholm (8). 

Duvall leads the team with 52 RBI while Aguilar has 50. Chisholm his third on the team with 27 RBI and he’s played in 51 contests. 

Aguilar leads the team with a .264 batting average.

You’re not going to win games with these numbers especially with the pitching numbers we’ll mention.

The team has allowed 3.7 runs which is tied for 3rd.

Miami 7.4 hits allowed  is tied for 9th.

The opponents batting average is .227 which is 11th.

The team ERA is 6th in MLB at 3.38.

They are 1st in home runs with 55.

Let’s examine Lopez, Rogers and Alcantara. 

Lopez is 3-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 85 innings and 85 strikeouts.

Rogers is 7-4 with a 2.08 ERA in 86.2 innings and 101 strikeouts. 

In the top of the fifth inning of the Marlins 3-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday, June 23, he strike out Teoscar Hernandez for his 100th strikeout of the season. 

He became the fifth Marlins pitcher to strikeout 100 batters in his first 15 games of the season and the first rookie to do so.

Alcantara is 4-6 with a 2.93 ERA in 101.1 innings and has the teams lone complete game with 90 strikeouts.

If you dig deeper into the numbers of Alcantara, Lopez and Rogers, they have a combined 2.64 ERA, 273 Innings Pitched, with 273 strikeouts. Only six times this season have those three allowed more than three earned runs in a start in 46 combined starts.

After the Marlins scored 10+ runs in back to back games in Chicago over the weekend, Miami has now scored just two runs in its last three games going into the opener vs the Washington Nationals on Thursday Night.

There is definitely a lot to digest and we’re only 74 games into the season.

If these numbers continue to spiral in the wrong direction, leave little doubt that the Marlins could be sellers at the July 30, 2021 trade deadline. 

That’s the last thing that Marlins fans want to hear especially when you consider that names such as Starting Marte, Adam Duvall, and Corey Dickerson could be talked about plenty during the next month.

I can’t imagine Manager Don Mattingly and his career average of .307 coming out of retirement rescuing this offense.

To date, after the Marlins 7-3 loss to the Washington Nationals, Miami is now 31-43. 

Chisholm did hit his ninth homer of the season in the loss and increased his RBI total to 27 with his three-run blast.

Sixteen of those losses have been decided by one run and 29 by two runs or less. 

The Marlins have scored five runs in their last four games.

There is no way that I would blame Mattingly for the team’s won, loss record especially since he’s had to deal with injury issues all-season long.

But, The Numbers Don’t Lie and that’s why the Marlins are in their current predicament.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.

You can listen to his broadcasts by subscribing to The South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel for free.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Great To See Real People!

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

There are some stories that the words paint the picture of what things are like.

Then there are others where the photos tell the story.

This will be one of those articles that the photos you’re going to look at will make my job much easier.

The cliche’ that a picture is worth a 1,000 words definitely describes the message I’m conveying.

During the past year, COVID-19 has turned our world upside down. 

The amount of fatalities has clearly changed all of our lives as we were hit with an enemy that we didn’t know. 

For those that had COVID-19, we still don’t know what long term health issues they’ll have to deal with.

COVID-19 prevented me from seeing my Mother during the last year of her life and thankfully, My Wife and I saw her before she passed away a couple days after Thanksgiving.

COVID-19 claimed the most important person in my life when My Aunt Judy, the older sister I never had, died in late January. 

We had to fly to Detroit and attend the funeral I had hoped would be years away!

In the past year, covering sports has been something that I never visualized when I broke into the industry in 1979. 

Communicating with Coaches, Players and Executives through Zoom Calls have been the new norm in an industry that was unthinkable years ago.

My first Zoom experience began with the Miami Marlins then continued with the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Owls and Florida Panthers. 

This doesn’t even count the numerous broadcasts and networking events that took place.

The in person events would eventually come back as I would cover FAU, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Races at Sebring International Raceway, the Florida Panthers and Miami Marlins. 

The Press Boxes would be limited to 30-50% capacity and each member was properly social distanced. 

But with those games came the Pre-Screening COVID-19 Questions and the Temperature Checks, in addition to the memos about wearing a Mask, etc… 

Some places had abbreviated media meals, others didn’t. 

I brought meal replacement shakes and bars so I could keep on my lifestyle calorie count program.

Of the four organizations I mentioned, I have to admit that coming to Marlins games has been the most gratifying since I got to know many of my colleagues through the Zoom Calls. 

Indeed, they’re Real People!

Prior to this week, the last game that I saw occurred was on Thursday, May 27th against the Philadelphia Phillies. I had to go through all the protocols listed on the confirmation that involved the compliance questionnaire, the temperature check, etc… We were allowed to show up three hours prior to game time.

When I returned to loanDepotPark (Marlins Park) on Wednesday, June 9th, things were much different on the confirmation. By this time, I was fully vaccinated but the form said that I could come four hours in advance and there was no compliance questionnaire that had to be filled out. 

There was no temperature check. 

I was allowed field access but we had to be social distanced.

The mask requirement is in place and I still wear mine the majority of the time when I am near people.

When I’m alone and at my desk, I do take it off. There are lots of other colleagues that don’t wear their masks when they’re completely social distanced.

When I was on the field for the first time on Thursday, June 10th, it finally sunk into me that we might be turning the corner with COVID-19. 

The site of players taking batting practice, talking to my colleagues on the field and chatting with players, coaches and Manager Don Mattingly seemed surreal. 

Yes, these are Real People?  

They are the ones that we’ve grown accustomed to talking via Zoom. It was great to shake their hands, give fist bumps and that occasional hug.

Some of the players look smaller in person than they are behind the desk and on camera while others are bigger. 

Yes, once again, they’re Real People!

During the season, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Florida Panthers fed us and we had to take our meals to our work stations. There would be post-game Zoom Availability.

As for the Marlins, the only food the media could get is either to bring your own or go to the concession stands. 

There was plenty of bottled water and coffee available so we could stay hydrated. 

Once again, I just brought my shakes and meal replacement bar.

Our latest memo said that beginning June 22nd, Media Dining will be available in the Press Box at a cost of $12/person and we are asked to consume the food at our work station. 

Time will tell whether I eat the meals or stay on my program with cost not factoring into this decision. During the latter part of the season when the Panthers offered them complimentary, I stayed on my program.

But when you put things in perspective, this is how far we’ve come.

However, the underlying aspects of COVID-19 is whether we’ll see a full Press Box again and most of all will we be able to interview players at press conferences or in the locker room.

From the Marlins standpoint, Manager, Coach, Player, Personnel and Executive requests in 2021 will take place using Zoom. Additional interview requests come through the Marlins Communications Department.

The pre and post-game Media Availability remains the same as it has the past 12 months.

But we’ve indeed come along way. 

The only questions that will ultimately come into play is whether visiting announcers eventually travel with the teams or stay remote since it could be a cost cutting measure from their respective organizations because announcers have acclimated to the conditions thrust upon them. 

Also, some of these decisions are made with the respective leagues.

I have to admit, that I’ve enjoyed the reduced Press Box capacity because there is more space for me to get work done.

I’ll be anxious to see what the other teams that I cover have in store and whether the masks will ever completely go away.

All I know that it was great being on the field again and something that I wondered during the darkest days of this deadly virus would ever take place.

That’s progress! 

And once again, it’s Great To See Real People!

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.

You can see his broadcasts by subscribing to The South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel for Free.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Question That Went Viral

 BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

I continue to be mind boggled at how the World Wide Web can get information around and to how many people.

On Friday May 21, 2021, I had the time to go on A Miami Marlins Media Pre-Game Availability Zoom Call. 

I’ve been doing this for nearly a year since I started covering the team last summer.

As always, I wait my turn and in many cases, my question is generally near the end. 

I’m totally fine with that. I usually have a few backup questions because I never know who was going to ask the one I have in mind. 

When I know that I’m going to be able to go on a call, I usually take my normal Meditation Drive up A1A and just chill admiring the drive up the ocean. 

This is one of the best things that I love about living in Florida.

But this day would be no normal Zoom Call.

On Tuesday, May 18, Detroit Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull threw a no-hitter vs the Seattle Mariners on the road. This was the eighth no-hitter in Tigers history as Detroit blanked the Mariners 5-0.

On Wednesday, May 19th, Corey Kluber threw the 12th no-hitter in New York Yankees history and the first since 1999. 

The Bronx Bombers shutout the Texas Rangers 2-0 and as a result, this young 2021 season found itself with seven no-hitters.

How surreal. 

A feat which is celebrated had happened seven times within the the first six weeks of the season. 

This was the first time since 1969, when Cincinnati’s Jim Maloney threw one on April 30 and Houston’s Don Wilson on May 1st that this happened on consecutive days.

Because of scheduling conflicts, I wasn’t able to go on the Zoom Call on May 20, 2021, and I actually considered doing it after Turnbull’s no-hitter, but didn’t.

But as I mentioned, on May 21, 2021, I did go on and the beat writers did there normal thing by asking Manager Don Mattingly the daily game oriented questions consisting of the starting lineups and roster changes.

One of the things I enjoy doing is asking Mattingly just simple baseball questions that don’t pertain to the game. I leave that to the regular beat writers and electronic media who cover the team on a daily basis.

I Just ask baseball questions that can range from how he gives advice to hitters, his pitchers, the Marlins travel schedule, etc… and there are times that Mattingly spends a lot of time answering them. I call them the “Thinking Man’s Questions.”

On this call, what seemed like a Simple Baseball Topic, turned out to be “The Question That Went Viral.”

I asked Don to comment on the the seven no-hitters in a short period of time. 

What I’ve learned about Mattingly is he always gives you an honest answer and doesn’t hold anything back. He’s one of the nicest and polite individuals I’ve ever worked with. 

He was also a heckuva player that has a lifetime average of .307. He was an excellent hitter and an outstanding defensive player that won nine gold gloves as a first baseman. 

I do believe he belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

He was the captain of the New York Yankees from 1991-95 prior to Derek Jeter. He’s regarded as one of the best Yankees of All-Time and is honored in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.

He began is managerial career with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011 and is now the Marlins skipper. He’s been a manager for 10 years.

The guy know what he’s talking about.

But once again, pertaining to the no-hitters, Mattingly said, that “baseball has become unwatchable at times. Where does this get better? Because it’s great for your team when a guy throws a no-no. It’s great for that guy. It’s a great accomplishment. But when there are so many, so early…it tells you that there are some issues within the game that need to be addressed.

“The issues are going to take a while…We’re at a point where it’s getting so much attention because it’s just a game that sometimes is unwatchable. Guys you don’t talk to don’t even like watching the games because there is nothing going on in them.”

When I heard this quote the next day, I told my wife Candy that I asked Mattingly this question.

On the next Homestand, for the first time, I met one my colleagues Craig Mish of SportsGrid on Wednesday, May 25, 2021, when the Marlins faced the New York Mets. I introduced myself to him and when I mentioned the Mattingly no-hitter comment, he told me that if you listen to the video, it was your voice that asked that question. 

He texted me the comment that he was able to get from the Marlins Communications Department and said you should listen to it. He told me that what I said went viral and at the time, there were 392,000 views on Twitter around the world. At that time, I was truly amazed. It was just a simple baseball question and I didn’t think much about it. 

When I went on google, I couldn’t believe that my question was on every platform imaginable and so many people heard my voice.

I’m thrilled that Craig was smart enough to get the clip from the Marlins and was able to use it to his benefit. 

We talked a lot that night and he was giving me pointers about Social Media and how powerful it can be. 

It was great to meet yet another colleague from Zoom in person and I value Craig as a very good friend that I look forward to spending time with him down the line.

I do have the clip on my phone and I have to admit that I’m proud of it!

I’ve always had a great relationship with the Marlins Communications Department and enjoy coming to the games and covering this team. 

I’ve had a lot of great memories through the years covering them at Joe Robbie Stadium and now loanDepotpark (Marlins Park).

Since I started doing these Zoom Calls, Jason Latimer, Vice President, Communications & Broadcasting has always been great to me when I want to get my questions in. 

In fact, Mish asked Latimer who asked the no-hitters question and Latimer said it was me. 

I met Jason on LinkedIn and we hit it off great. 

That’s what got the ball rolling with me covering the Marlins. 

Jason told me that I can cover as many games as I want.

His Assistant Director of Communications Jon Erik Alvarez and Coordinator of Media Relations are also incredible to work with. 

But when I look back at this experience, it can be described in many ways.

It was educational, humbling, mind boggling because I am just amazed at how technology seizes to amaze me in many ways.

Yet, when I go on these calls, I’m not going to change my approach. 

I’m going to ask that hard baseball question and will make Mattingly think. 

He’s a baseball lifer and I know he’ll put a lot of thought into it so as a result, all of us in the media will benefit as well as the fans.

The one thing I won’t do is go on a post-game Media Availability Call and question him on what decisions he’s made in the game. 

If I ever second guess any manager, it won’t be until the Pregame Media Availability Call when the manager has had time to think about the previous night and watch video.

I’m not in the business of second guessing! 

I’m a Sports Media Journalist/Broadcaster, not a Manager or Coach!

At this point, I couldn’t think of two better people in my life than Mattingly and Latimer. 

They’re both class acts.

If I did anything to Latimer, I caught his attention on “The Question That Went Viral” and it’s safe to say as he’s seen for about a year that I know what I’m talking about.

But I do look forward to the day that I can interview the newsmakers in person because that’s what this business is really all about.

I’m totally fine with that because at 58, I’m too old to think that I’ll ever get the mega job with a major media outlet. Working for myself suits me just fine.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com and you can find him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.

You can find his broadcasts on The South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel and subscribe for free.

Inter-Miami, Recap Before International Break

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH This is the time of the year in sports where we begin to hit that slower period where the NBA Finals are complete, the N...