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On Bucs, bucks and other stuff

Today's electronic conversation between Times Sports columnists Gary Shelton and John Romano includes their takes on the Bucs' offseason, the odds of a new stadium for the Devil Rays and how many playoff tickets we'll have to buy in Tampa Bay in 2008.

By GARY SHELTON
Published May 13, 2007


Today's electronic conversation between Times Sports columnists Gary Shelton and John Romano includes their takes on the Bucs' offseason, the odds of a new stadium for the Devil Rays and how many playoff tickets we'll have to buy in Tampa Bay in 2008.

GS: I'm not saying May is a quiet month in sports, but I swear you can hear a bird burp. On the other hand, it gives a guy a chance to reflect. Would you say that the Rays are renewed, the Bucs are reloaded, and the Lightning is re-eliminated?

JR: Renewed? Yes. Reloaded? Maybe. Re-eliminated? Unfortunately. Regurgitated? My tuna melt. What about you? Have you been part of the increased television audience for the Rays?

GS: Yes, I have. I find them a lot of fun to watch. But do you remember the munitions expert in The War Wagon? The Rays' bullpen reminds me of him. Want to blow up a bridge? Send out one of these guys.

JR: The War Wagon? Did you watch that after washing your Edsel?

GS: Don't mess with The War Wagon, junior. We could use a little John Wayne in Tampa Bay sports now.

JR: That's an interesting thought. Could any of Tampa Bay's three franchises make it over their respective humps with the addition of one Duke-like talent?

GS: I think he'd be great. I can see Wayne giving a pregame speech to the Bucs. I can see him coming out of the dugout to argue with an umpire for the Rays. Heck, I can even see him playing goaltender for the Lightning. Of course, I can see Pee Wee Herman doing the same thing, and he would help, too.

JR: Ah, but could he build a baseball stadium? You talked quite a bit with Stuart Sternberg this week, and he said all the right things. Still, do you get the sense that this stadium issue will eventually turn ugly?

GS: Don't they always? At this very moment, there are politicians preparing to print up signs that say: "Build a pitching staff, build a contender, and then we'll talk about building a stadium." It's a large sign.

JR: Okay, so be an oddsmaker for me. Gary the Geek, we'll call you. What are the odds a stadium gets built in St. Petersburg in the next decade? What are the odds it gets built in Hillsborough? And what are the odds Sternberg throws up his hands in frustration and announces he is selling the team?

GS: I make it 43 percent that there is a new baseball stadium in Pinellas in 10 years, because I always think it's against the odds. I say it's 11 percent in Hillsborough, because that would make the lease situation in St. Petersburg uncomfortable. In the end, here's what happens. If Sternberg doesn't get his new stadium, he threatens to sell the team. ... Back to Vince Naimoli. That'll get it done.

JR: That will never happen, my friend. By then, Vince will be running Greenpeace and, coincidentally, selling walrus meat out of the trunk of his car.

GS: Speaking of walrus meat, what did you think of the Bucs' off-season?

JR: It was good but not as good as that segue.

GS: Seriously, I'm going to go out on a limb and say the 2007 Bucs would beat the pudding out the 2006 Bucs. It wouldn't be close. Sadly, the 2006 Bucs aren't on the schedule. So what are we to expect?

JR: An improved offense, a revival by the defense and a Ping-Pong championship for Jake Plummer. They'll definitely be better, but I'm not sure if that means they'll actually be good. Do you see them cracking .500?

GS: If not, it's going to get ugly. But if you're realistic, I'd say they would be about 8-8. They need another year like 2005 where they get surprising play from Simms and Cadillac and win a few close games. Also, they need to avoid making a trade for Marc Denis.

JR: How about Evgeny Artyukhin? I hear he's available and wants to pummel someone.

GS: Yeah. If the Lightning overpays him, he can bring the team back to the glory of 2005-06. Tell Evy to write when he gets work. I've seen the Lightning, and that team needs more help than him. So here's the question, Carnac: How many playoff games by our three franchises will we see in the 2008 calendar year?

JR: The over/under is seven. You divide it up for me.

GS: Okay. The Lightning loses in seven games to the Senators next year. That's it. You don't see any postseason for the Bucs or Rays by then, do you?

JR: I'm feeling giddy today. Lightning loses in six games to the Senators, and the Bucs lose a first-round playoff game at Seattle.

GS: You always have been an optimist, haven't you?