Saturday, October 07, 2006

Tigers Eliminate Yankees

I'm watching Kenny Rogers spray champagne on Tigers fans, and it's one of the coolest celebrations I've seen between an athlete and the fans. And it's so appropriate for this easy-to-like Tigers team, who dispatched the easy-to-hate Yankees team.

Schadenfreude is in FULL EFFECT.

After Kenny Rogers last night and Jeremy Bonderman in Game 4, I'm liking these Tigers more and more as the new incarnation of last year's White Sox, who rode four scintillating starting pitchers to a World Series title.

Meanwhile, what next for the Yankees?

Brian Cashman, fired?
Joe Torre, fired?
A-Rod, traded?
"Best lineup ever" (ha!), imploded?

Here's the thing that should have Yankees fans thinking: Their team got ROUTED. The last two games weren't even close, and that was with the supposed greatest lineup anyone has ever seen. What a joke.

-- D.S.

Gators Beat LSU, 23-10
Who's Number...2?

The Gators' offense wasn't particularly effective -- well, besides Tim Tebow's trick freak plays -- but the special teams and defense were opportunistic playmakers.

Now, the real question: Will Top 25 voters do the right/smart/appropriate thing and jump the Gators over No. 4 WVA and No. 3 USC into the in-play No. 2 spot?

Well, USC could barely hang on against Washington -- unranked Washington? -- at home. And WVA beat up on the worst team in the SEC, while Florida beat an SEC team ranked in the Top 10.

Good enough for me: I've got the Gators in the No. 2 spot, and -- not to jinx things -- but if they can beat suddenly vulnerable Auburn at Auburn, I think they've got a case for No. 1. But that's getting ahead of myself.

For now, I'm content to spearhead the argument that they're No. 2 after a huge win in the Game of the Day.

-- D.S.

CFB Shocker: Auburn Routed
Why It's Bad for the Whole SEC

You all know I'm an SEC fan, so here's the thing about Auburn's loss at home to Arkansas:

The whole thing about the SEC (and its fans) griping about how a one-loss team should still be considered a BCS title-game contender, because the degree of difficulty in the conference is so much tougher than any other conference.

Fair enough. But that's predicated on the powers -- Auburn, LSU, Florida, Georgia -- beating on each other, round-robin style.

It's easier to claim you're an awesome one-loss team when you lose by, say, a point on the road to another team in the BCS Top 10. You've got a case.

And therein lies Auburn (and the SEC's) problem:

Auburn lost...
By double-digits...
At home...
To an unranked team.

I had them at No. 2, and in my next Top 25 ballot, I'm going to drop them completely out of the Top 10, if not into the high teens. (Certainly Arkansas will get a HUGE boost -- I'm going to put THEM into the high teens.)

So now Auburn could run the table and still have zero cred with that ass-kicking at home to an unranked team on their resume. And, all of a sudden, even if LSU runs the rest of THEIR table, they lost to a team that lost at home to an unranked team. See how it builds on itself?

As far as I'm concerned, both Auburn and LSU are done. (Hell, LSU was done as soon as they lost to Auburn, but now -- even if every other contender has one loss -- LSU's loss seems that much more pathetic, because Auburn's loss was so ultimately pathetic.)

It's looming larger now than ever: The SEC isn't going to have any team emerge unbeaten, because the league is so freaking brutal. When an unranked non-factor can go on the road and completely stomp the league's top-ranked team (and No. 2 overall), THAT's a tough league.

-- D.S.

CFB Saturday Tailgate!

It's our weekly college football Saturday tailgate! Pre-game, mid-game and post-game, break down all the plotlines and intrigues that develop over the course of the day. I, of course, will be spending the day getting ready for -- then obsessing through -- the Florida-LSU game. I expected Herbstreit to pick against them, but Corso's pick of UF was a bit of a shock.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure there's a better College GameDay background than Florida. The best sign was a clever student who had a picture of Borat in a UF tank-top, along with the phrase "Great Success."

I think Borat is going to be THE dominant pop-culture icon between now and the end of the year. When his image is crashing College GameDay in Gainesville, that's a huge sign. Success!!

Get on those Comments, y'all, and have fun this afternoon watching games.

-- D.S.

Saturday A.M. Quickie:
The Gamble(r) Pays Off

I remembered last night that one of the coolest moments in sports is when you see a player having what is obviously the greatest night of his career.

It makes it even more special when the player is over 40.

And even more special when he's doing it against an opponent that has pummeled him mercilessly in the past.

And even more special when it's happening in the playoffs -- playoffs that as recently as a few seasons ago seemed like a laughable notion.

Now, those same laughable Tigers are one win away (home or away) from eliminating the Yankees, and they can thank Kenny Rogers for shutting down arguably the greatest lineup in baseball history en route the the performance of his life.

It's so interesting: I think in terms of what detail from a player's career will stand out in the first paragraph of his obituary, career or otherwise.

In Rogers' case, it was always going to be his tussle with the photographer last season.

Amazingly, he has replaced that with a dazzling performance that will be remembered long after he retires -- even more if the Tigers go on to eliminate the Yankees. That was a "wow" night.

Speaking of the Yankees, the loss triggers the new question: What if they LOSE this series?

Already, it seems like trading A-Rod is inevitable. (My brother is visiting me in NYC and says a fair deal would be A-Rod for Aramis Ramirez. Not even sure the Cubs would do that.) Would an ignominious LDS exit trigger the firing of Joe Torre? How about imploding the team?

More on today's radar:

Buck O'Neil, the legendary Negro League baseball player, died at 94. I knew he had been sick, but as recently as early this summer, he had been on the ballfield during a minor-league exhibition game. He was one of the great ambassadors of baseball -- and certainly of the Negro Leagues. Sad news...

A's advance to ALCS: And if the Tigers win, don't the A's get home-field advantage? (Am I mistaken about that?) They looked fantastic sweeping out the Twins, who learn the hard way -- much as the A's have learned throughout the decade -- that 162 games doesn't mean squat in the playoffs. Finally, the breaks have gone the A's way, making their first ALCS since '92.

(And it keeps alive the glorious scenario that my preseason pick of an A's-Mets World Series might happen. It would be my Greatest. Prediction. Ever.)

The Titans might not bring back Albert Haynesworth after his suspension. That's tough talk from an 0-4 team...

Nomar has a torn quad. Gee, WHAT a surprise...

Every time Louisville scores 40-plus points without Brohm or Bush (even if it's against Middle Tennessee St.), I keep them among the half-dozen or so BCS-league teams with a shot at going undefeated.

Chris Henry suspended two games by NFL: Could it have been helped by the Odell Thurman incident two weeks ago?

Garrett Wolfe's Q-rating has gone up substantially this week, so he better deliver with some monster stats today to justify the hype. It's the only way the Northern Illinois RB will stay on the Heisman radar. It'll take Barry Sanders-style stats. And, even then, he has little chance of winning. A "win" would simply be being invited to New York for the Heisman Ceremony. (That shouldn't be taken as me dissing him -- I love that little guy, and totally root for him.)

More on new NBA ball: Regular blog readers know I have been saying the new NBA ball is, staggeringly, the No. 1 plotline of the new season. Here's yet another story about the ball and the players' complaints.

Big Ben Wallace hearts hates Flip Saunders: Chris Sheridan's ESPN Insider piece from yesterday is a must-read, but if you don't have a subscription, here's the gist: Ben Wallace hates Flip Saunders. Good times!

Random stuff: Colts don't want to pay Simon (yikes)... Here's what we're missing in the Stephen Jackson gun-shots story: Any talk from the NBA about a suspension. Does that mean there won't be one?... North Dakota suing NCAA over Fighting Sioux name.

Our usual Saturday college football tailgate is coming later today. Be sure to check in to check out the comments -- and maybe throw in some analysis of your own. I've got to go get ready to watch GameDay from Gainesville...

-- D.S.

Friday, October 06, 2006

End-of-Week Review

Thanks for another great week, everyone! Don't forget:

CFB Tailgate on Saturday!
(CFB Picks here.)
NFL Tailgate on Sunday!
(NFL Week 5 picks here.)

Meanwhile, here's my weekly ranking of my Top 10 favorite newsmakers of the week:
10. L.A. Times: Wrong about Clemens?

9. Mario Lopez: Steals Eva from TP?
8. Barcelona: Not worst team in NBA Atlantic
7. Frank Thomas: Your REAL AL MVP
6. "Friday Night Lights": Great show, no audience
5. J.D. Drew: An epic base-running blunder.
4. Brett Favre: Oh, just sit down already
3. A-Rod: Yes, it CAN get worse.
2. Albert Haynesworth: He's sorry. Yes, he is.
1. Joel Zumaya: It's that bloodshot eye!

Comments Question: Who is YOUR most intriguing newsmaker of the week in sports?

-- D.S.

AP Top 25 Individual Ballot Analysis

I'm sorry I'm just getting to this now, in the afternoon at the end of the week. But I just saw it and felt compelled to dig into it.

I don't know when the AP started doing this (this week?), but the AP has a URL that links to every Top 25 poll-voter's individual ballot. (People who used to read my Daily Quickie column on know that this is a big deal for me.)

First of all: HUGE kudos to the AP for bringing more transparency to the entirely-too-sketchy poll-voting process.

(It almost makes up for the AP's hypocrisy in huffily withdrawing from the BCS under the rhetoric of "not wanting to make news," while still arrogantly bestowing, on its own, one of two recognized national titles in college football. But that's not making news or anything.)

But second: It offers a glimpse into the individual ballots that was previously very difficult (you had to look up each voter on their own and hope they published their ballot, which some did and some didn't).

What were some of the more surprising examples of the perception of homerism or scratch-your-head judgment? (I don't mean to pick on these specific individuals; these were the ones that just hit me most viscerally.)

Angelique Chengelis (Detroit News), who had Michigan ranked No. 3 and Auburn at No. 7. (No. 7? Why not No. 25, as long as you're deflating Auburn's ranking.)

Bob Thomas (Florida Times-Union) and Susan Miller Degnan (Miami Herald), who both had Florida ranked No. 2 (and I'm even a Florida fan saying that's just wrong).

Jeff Metcalfe (Arizona Republic): Cal at No. 11 (Pac-10 homerism, much?)

Scott Rabalais (Baton Rouge Advocate): LSU at No. 6. (Here's an idea: No Top 25 voters from papers that are based in a Top 25 team's town.)

Jon Wilner (San Jose Mercury News): Michigan at No. 2, Florida at No. 3, Tennessee at No. 8.

(There were a surprising number of voters who had Michigan at No. 2, including Kirk Herbstreit, who votes under the auspices of WBNS-AM in Columbus. And then there was guys like Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle, who had Texas No. 6, ahead of Michigan at No. 7. Hell, even the voter from Austin, Kirk Bohls, had Texas at No. 8 and was another voter with Michigan at No. 2. I'm not saying it's THAT wrong -- although it IS wrong -- but just noticeably different from the No. 6 aggregate ranking...and perhaps even inflating the No. 6 up a slot or two?)

Sketchy stuff happens at the bottom of the ballot, too:

Ray Fittipaldo (Pittsburgh Post): Penn State at No. 24?

Bud Withers (Seattle Times): Puts hometown Washington at No. 20. Gotta love the reliable hometown nudge.

And a few kudos to the Colbert-Style Heroes:

Mitch Vingle (Charleston WV Gazette), who had West Virginia No. 4, behind Ohio St, USC and Auburn. (We'll see what happens as we get closer to bowl-selection time.)

Kevin Pearson (Riverside CA Press-Enterprise), who had the guts to vote West Virginia No. 1 (Maybe he's doing Vingle a favor...)

Scott Wolf (LA Daily News), who also had West Virginia No. 1, but had hometown USC No. 6. (WVA can NOT claim West Coast Bias against them.)

Doug Lesmerises (Cleveland Plain Dealer), who I actually think was a classmate of mine at Northwestern, whose ballot I simply think most closely matches mine.

Here's my problem: Reporters and columnists are entitled to their opinion, but if they are going to insist on flashing regional bias, I think fans should insist that these folks not be given the responsibility – the privilege, actually – of having such sway over a process that is more a national trust of fandom than personal fiefdom of a couple dozen newspaper reporters.

I didn't spend nearly the time on this that I wanted to, and I'm sorry I'm only finding this now – on a Friday afternoon. Maybe next week I can dig into it more (and earlier in the week). Someone with a gift for Excel could really do some damage on the analysis.

Here's your follow-up task: Check out the various ballots using this link and, via the Comments section on this post, add any more examples of questionable bias (or just sloppy or "YOU'RE-an-expert?!" judgment you might see. The AP might have started this to add in a little more accountability; it's on fans to take it to the next step.

-- D.S.

OK, so The House Rock Built had a post about this on Monday. Credit where it's due. Great catch, Brian!

Week 5 Preview and Picks:
Be Nice, Philly Fans!

Game of the Week/Month/Season! Eagles over Cowboys: The atmosphere should be so TOxic as to shatter any confidence Dallas might have brought in. Over-under on number of batteries thrown on the field: 7.5

The rest of the day:

Bears over Bills: JP Losman may have been able to run roughshod over the Vikings' D; he's going to get pummeled vs. the NFL's No. 1 team.

Rams over Packers: The short week after Monday Night Football couldn't come at a worse time for Green Bay, which should sit Favre for Rodgers – hey, just to see what happens. It can't get WORSE.

Colts over Titans: Vince Young has Michael Vick's old problem: Until his coaches start scheming to take advantage of his unique talents, he'll struggle. (As if being a rookie wasn't hard enough.)

Vikings over Lions: Despite Detroit's offensive output last week, the defense is so weak that it's going to make Minnesota look like a juggernaut.

Pats over Dolphins: I wanted to pick this as the Upset of the Week, I really did. But I got burned picking against the Pats last week. Lesson learned.

Saints over Bucs: I predict that Reggie Bush ends his TD drought this week... twice. With that TB QB situation, the Saints will have the ball... a lot.

Giants over Redskins: Am I merely bitter that the Skins won the shootout with my Jags last week? Perhaps. But the Giants have enjoyed a bye week to get ready.

Panthers over Browns: A league patsy comes along just in time to allow Carolina to continue to gain momentum.

Cardinals over Chiefs: I know -- I picked the Chiefs to lose last week too (to the 49ers, ugh). I'm saying lightning can't strike twice for Damon Huard, and Matt Leinart comes up big for the home crowd.

Raiders over 49ers: The worst game of the week, and a contender for worst game of the year (which the Raiders always seem to be a part of).

Jags over Jets: Forget what you saw last week in D.C. – there is no way the Jags' D has two awful games in a row.

Chargers over Steelers: Phil Rivers is the new Ben Roethlisberger – trying to stay out of the way of his talented teammates.

Broncos over Ravens: After the way Baltimore beat the best team in the AFC West last week, I should know better. But with the game in Denver and seeing the way the Broncos stuffed the Pats in Denver a few weeks ago, the NFL ends the week with one fewer unbeaten team.

Last Week: 5-9 (Worst Ever!)
Season: 36-24

(Don't forget to log in all day Sunday for the weekly NFL Comment Tailgate of pre-game, mid-game and post-game analysis!)

-- D.S.

CFB Weekend Preview

Game of the Week: LSU at Florida

It's always a special Saturday when your favorite team coincides with the national Game of the Week.

("Special" is probably not this week's alliterative "S-word" to describe the Saturday schedule. I'm nominating "Settle-It Saturday": Florida has to prove they're legit contenders, as does Oregon. Is that it? Yeesh. This is why they can't commit to a new S-Word adjective for EVERY Saturday.)

Anyway, I'm picking the Gators. I'm sure you're shocked. LSU's defense scares the hell out of me; it's the best D in the country (sorry, Ohio St fans). They absolutely obliterated Leak and Co. last year.

But (1) that was in Baton Rouge (though LSU has shown it can win at the Swamp recently, too). (2) Leak was in one of his first big games in the Meyer offense, which has since been tailored to suit him -- it's also had a full year more to coagulate around the talent. (3) As with Alabama last week, there's a measure of payback to be had.

There's another reason to look to last week's Alabama win for cues: Big plays win big games. And in a game that is likely to be a defensive struggle, all it takes is one or two; this season, the Gators have been able to create them.

A few more game notes:

SEC Mania: Arkansas will keep it close at Auburn behind super-frosh QB Mitch Mustain... Georgia just isn't that good, but playing at home helps fend off Tennessee.

(You know what? They should just forget everyone else and call it "SEC Saturday." Hell, GameDay is even in Gainesville, which must make Chris Fowler happy.)

Is Oregon for real? If they can win convincingly AT No. 16 Cal, I think they'll deserve to be ranked in the Top 10.

More Pac-10: Washington will finally justify me ranking them No. 25 in my personal Top 25 by keeping it close at USC.

Red River Shootout a dud? Much like the let-down once the Red Sox vanquished the Yankees in the ALCS, it's just not the same now that Texas conquered Oklahoma en route to last year's national title.

More Big 12: Home-field adv. will make all the difference when Iowa State beats No. 22 Nebraska and Texas Tech out-guns No. 23 Missouri.

Running down the Top 25 schedule:

1 Ohio St over Bowling Green
2 Auburn over Arkansas (Close!)
3 USC over Washington (Close!)
4 WVA over at Mississippi St.
6 Michigan over Michigan St.
7 Texas over 14 Oklahoma
10 Georgia over 13 Tennessee
11 Oregon over at 16 Cal
12 Notre Dame over Stanford
13 Clemson over at Wake Forest
18 Georgia Tech over Maryland
19 Iowa over Purdue
20 Boise St over LA Tech
Iowa St over 22 Nebraska (Upset!)
Texas Tech over 23 Missouri (Upset!)

(Don't forget to log in all day Saturday for the weekly CFB Comment Tailgate of pre-game, mid-game and post-game analysis!)

-- D.S.

The Legend of Zumaya
(Or, the "Tell-Tale Heart" Edition)

Tigers fire-balling reliever Joel Zumaya just became the most compelling player in the MLB playoffs.

For that 100-plus MPH fastball...

For that SCARY-ASS EYE...

And for the way he protected a series-turning win for the Tigers in New York yesterday, ripping out the heart of the Yankees' order (and perhaps the Yankees' heart itself) in the 7th and 8th, recording 5 outs in 5 chances against:

Jeter: K
Abreu: GO
Sheffield: FO
Giambi: K
A-Rod: K

That's the heart of an order that many argued was the scariest lineup of hitters in MLB playoffs history (ESPN Era).

But not as scary as Zumaya, with his heat, his own heart and that freaking eye, which is straight out of Edgar Allen Poe -- and which just helped obliterate the Yankees' playoffs home-field advantage that took 162 games to create.

Speaking of Poe, there's another "Tell-Tale Heart" in this series besides Zumaya's: A-Rod's.

And the tale being told is even scarier than Zumaya's eye: A-Rod was 0-4 in Game 2 with 3 Ks, the last coming after facing Zumaya in the 8th. The symbolism couldn't have been more staggering:

The rookie pitcher making all of $327,000 this season having the best performance of his life when his team needed it most, blistering the highest-paid, uber-talented player of his era, having the (now-typical) worst performance of his life when his team needed it most.

(A-Rod looks even worse now than he did during his epic slump during the middle of the summer. Win or lose, the Yankees HAVE to trade him this winter, right?)

But punishing A-Rod takes a back-seat (at least for the morning) to praising Zumaya. (Is it too late to hand Zumaya the AL Rookie of the Year award? Yes... but it shouldn't be!)

Meanwhile, are bloodshot eyes are the new Thundersticks or Rally Monkey or "Cowboy Up" T-shirt, that postseason fad that catches on across the country as the symbol of a hot team's good fortune?

How many Detroit fans will arrive to the ballpark tonight with bloodshot eyes? And will it be a fashion statement, to honor Zumaya, or simply the effects of 24 hours of celebrating the revival of their team's fortunes in this series?

Comments Question(s): What's your analysis of the Yankees-Tigers series NOW? How do you rate the Tigers' chances, now that they control home-field advantage? Who's the most compelling player of the playoffs so far? Do you agree it's Zumaya?

-- D.S.

Friday A.M. Quickie:
LDS Look-Ahead and More!

In analyzing the state of the four LDS series, which one of these things doesn't look like the others?

Cards-Padres: Over
Mets-Dodgers: Over
A's-Twins: Over
Yankees-Tigers: Whaaa?!

For every Tigers fan who might be nervous about putting the series in Kenny Rogers' hands in the first game in Detroit tonight, there must be 10 Yankees fans freaking out about Randy Johnson controlling their team's destiny.

Twins at A's: Brad Radke pitching with the equivalent of a wet Kleenex hanging from his shoulder socket is inspiring, but Oakland is going to close it out at home this afternoon.

Padres at Cards: Both pitchers (Young and Suppan) were moved around in the playoff rotation to give each team what it perceives would be an edge in the first game in St. Louis. Here's the REAL edge: The Cards are up 2-0 with 2 to play in St. Louis. Cards close it out tomorrow.

Mets at Dodgers: Unlike the A's or Cards, the Mets still have to win once on the road to ensure that they don't blow a 2-0 lead and have to win a pressure-packed Game 5 back at home. Steve Trachsel should give Mets fans low confidence, and the Game 4 starter is up in the air. Still picking the Mets to win; the Dodgers were cooked after the double-out at home plate in Game 1.

Stephen Jackson's version of NBA Training Camp: How appropriate for the one-time Palace Brawler that his '06 season begins with an incident at an Indianapolis strip club where he fired a gun after being hit by a fist (and a car). Does he want to avoid running wind-sprints THAT bad?

Clinton Portis' crazy characters return: Winning obviously inspired Portis to break out a new zany press-conference character: Dolemite Jenkins, who came out to greet the local media in a "Vote for Pedro Santana" T-shirt, a dual reference to "Napoleon Dynomite" and his interest in having teammate Moss win NFL Player of the Week.

Sixers lose exhibition opener: No, it's MUCH worse than that. The Sixers became the first NBA team to be beaten in Europe – and only the third NBA team since 1988 to lose to an international team.

Arguably, this is MORE embarrassing than Team USA's performance in the World Championships; that team's excuse was lack of chemistry. The Sixers played together all last season.

Now, you could say that Philly had no motivation and that the Euro team was probably playing like it was their NBA Finals, but what bigger motivation could there be than avoiding humiliation?

Of course, with the Sixers, ongoing humiliation seems to be their goal. Expect a quality "Trade AI" rumor ASAP to take the attention away from this debacle.

N.C. State upsets Florida State: But it's only an upset if you haven't seen how utterly mediocre the 'Noles are this year. Are they still thinking that Jeff Bowden is a good replacement for daddy Bobby?

(Meanwhile, despite being 3-2 overall with losses to Akron and Southern Miss, suddenly the Wolfpack is 2-0 in the ACC, with wins over BC and FSU. Not too shabby. That's coach Chuck Amato chilling his hot seat.)

Gators reinstate top DL: Just in time for the national Game of the Week against LSU (and next week's game vs. Auburn and the following game vs. Georgia), Florida has reinstated suspended DT Marcus Thomas, the team's most dominant lineman. Coincidence? I'm a Gators fan, and even I have to chuckle at this one. In a game that should be low-scoring and made (or broken) on one or two big plays, getting a premier defensive player back in the lineup could be the difference.

Nats want Braves' Pendleton? Apparently turning their attention away from Joe Girardi, the Nats are looking at Atlanta hitting coach Terry Pendleton as their next manager. The Braves stunk last season, but at least their OPS was 2nd in the NL. (The Nats are also reportedly talking to Dusty Baker. That sound you hear is the enthusiasm of fans being sapped.)

Penguins earn a RIM-job: The guy who runs Blackberry is buying the Penguins. (Obvious idea for the team's first game promotion: The first 5,000 fans 18 and under get a free Blackberry!) At least the guy is from Canada.

Andre Gurode won't press charges against Albert Haynesworth, but he wants to know something that is unknowable: Why? He'll never get an answer, probably because Haynesworth himself doesn't know.

Coming later today:
*CFB Weekend Preview!
*NFL Week 5 Picks!

-- D.S.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

MLB Nightcap Live-Commenting

Yes, I know I missed the Cards-Padres game. But there's still Mets-Dodgers! Who will be tonight's Drew-style goat? Discuss the game -- mid-game! -- right here. Otherwise, I'm back tomorrow a.m. for a full day: A.M. Quickie, CFB Weekend Preview, NFL Week 5 Picks and more!

-- D.S.

Gossip! Eva Dumps TP for Slater

Yes, I'm late with this, but I had to comment on the rumor that Eva Longoria dumped Tony Parker for "Dancing with the Stars 3" star Mario Lopez.

How many ways might this hurt TP?

(1) Dumped by a hottie starlet? (Personally, I've always found Eva to be totally overrated. Sports fans inflated her hottie value because she was the hottest star to attend games or be seen on TV attending games. "Hot for an NBA Crowd" is a lower bar than, say, "Hollywood Hot.")

(2) Right before the season starts? (What's worse: This or the awful new basketball?)

(3) Dissed for AC Slater? (Sucks to be you when, on the social-climbing hierarchy, you were beneath a former teen actor-turned-reality-TV contestant... though DWTS gets a MUCH bigger TV audience than the NBA -- particularly when the Spurs are on.)

(Bonus) And, oh, by the way, apparently TP's been getting "Sloppy Seconds Slaters," if you know what I'm saying.

Meanwhile, it affirms what I've been saying all along:

There's something about the ballroom dancing, my friends. You joke about my coverage, but the massive TV audience (which absolutely blew out "Friday Night Lights") and this latest turn of events in the romantic life of Tony Parker make my point.

Meanwhile, if you want to get any, your time is better spent mastering that box-step than hitting the B-button playing Madden. As Tony Parker now knows...

-- D.S.

Update: Henry Abbott from fantastic True Hoop is owed a name-check and shout-out for being all over this earlier this summer. Screw Us Weekly; how about True Hoop Weekly morphing from NBA coverage to celebs?

Sorry: THIS is Ridiculous

T.O. has written a children's book.

About learning to share, no less.

Submitted without further comment.

-- D.S.

Yankees-Tigers Game 2:
Live-Commenting Frenzy

Nothing says excitement like... a rain check! It's Mussina vs. Verlander at Yankee Stadium in a day game to make up for last night's rain-out. Use the Comments area to offer (and track) real-time commentary about the game's action.

Update: A-Rod just struck out looking with the bases loaded to end the inning. ESPN mercifully cut to commercial just as the boos were beginning to cascade. He brings it on himself. Three pitches!

T.O. at Philly: Countdown Continues

There's been a lot of talk about T.O. coming to Philly this Sunday. It is, without question, the game of the year.

For a crazed environment, I think it's up there with any game in recent NFL history (recent meaning "ever").

I know there are some easy "T.O. Sucks" or "T.O. Swallows" or "T.O. is an M-F'er" or any number of curse-based chants that the Philly faithful will pull out and try to get on national TV.

(Frankly: More power to them. I can't wait to see/hear it. It could be the all-time crowning achievement of Philly sports fandom.)

Here's my question: Side-stepping the easy curse-based chants or signage, what is the most clever cheer/jeer or sign (to be seen on TV) that you can think of?

Again, I don't want the Comments to devolve into "How about 'Fuck T.O.!' Yeah!" (There: I dropped the F-bomb myself, thus taking it out of play.)

Looking for clever here: Hell, maybe some Philly fan will see what you write and actually make it happen.

What would you want to chant?
What would you want to put on a sign?

-- D.S.

Thursday A.M. Quickie:
Who Screwed Up More?


Was it Torii Hunter, whose overconfident lunge at a Kotsay blooper turned a routine RBI single or double into a signature 2-run inside-the-park HR that effectively cost the Twins the game -- and put them in a seemingly insurmountable 0-2 hole in the LDS after two games in Minnesota?

Or was it JD Drew, whose unprecedented base-running blunder turned into the first-ever moment in baseball playoffs history that two players were tagged out at home on the same play?

Though Hunter's miscue directly cost the Twins the game and the Dodgers didn't throw away the entire game on "J.D.'s Boner," there's no question that Drew's double-D'oh was the bigger blunder. Tom Boswell has a strong take.

Hindsight will rule here: If the Dodgers go on to lose the series (as they went on to lose Game 1 last night), Drew's dud will probably be attributed as the triggering event. (If they win, it'll be forgotten.)

The upshot is that both blunders have the promise of being devastating to their team's psyches -- in a 5-game series, they could be all the difference.

Tigers at Yankees, Game 2 (Make-Up): I believe that the last time the Yankees had to deal with playoff games on consecutive days to account for a rain delay, they delivered the biggest choke in sports history.

But these 2006 Tigers ain't those 2004 Red Sox (and these 2006 Yankees are a lot better than those 2004 Yankees).

(Randy Johnson is reportedly ready to pitch Game 3 tomorrow in Detroit. I'm calling it now: He's going to get shelled.)

Dodgers at Mets, Game 2 (8 p.m.): It looks like El Duque will miss the entire playoffs with a calf injury. (What is it with old Mets pitchers and their calves?)

Cards at Padres, Game 2 (4 p.m.): How would most Cards fans rate their confidence in Jeff Weaver as the starting pitcher?

(Hmm: Probably with the same confidence that Padres fans have in David Wells as THEIR starting pitcher.)

A's up 2-0 on Twins: As I said yesterday, when a freak inside-the-park-HR is the winning margin to let the visiting team take a second straight game on the road before heading back home for two games, you know the series is as good as over. The Twins must have used all their mojo winning that division title.

T.O. vs. Eagles, Cont'd: When's the weigh-in?

The latest forced drama is that McNabb says he sent T.O. a text message last week to support him in his time of, uh, need.

T.O. says he never got the text.

(Actually, McNabb sent him 35 texts and T.O.'s publicist says she was so shaken up when she saw the list on T.O.'s cell-phone that she called 9-1-1, thinking T.O. was trying to text himself to death.)

This is what we're reduced to:

He-said-he-said about text messages. The T.O.-Eagles feud has officially regressed to the junior high level.

Can Koren Robinson apply his 45 days of work-release (to go with 45 days in jail, per his DUI sentencing) toward playing football?

Greg Anderson is out of jail today: And, yet, the "Game of Shadows" guys are clink-bound. Ah, the sweet smell of justice...

Commish Gary Bettman says the NHL is in good shape, and usually this would be the moment for sarcasm, but I actually agree with him:

As soon as the NHL started running itself like a tidy niche sport, it was on the road to recovery. Dropping pretensions of being part of a mythical "Big Four" was the key.

(For the record, there is currently a "Big Three": NFL, MLB and College Football. That's right: I don't consider the NBA part of the "Big" sports anymore either. It is merely the biggest of the niche sports.)

More niche-sport news: MLS will let teams sell ads on the front of jerseys. I've argued for a while, this is an inevitability in both the NBA and MLB.

There's nothing sacred about jerseys – at least nothing that the big dollars from sponsors can't buy. NASCAR fans and European soccer fans (who eclipse MLB or NBA fans for passion) don't seem to mind.

I have yet to hear a good argument -- beyond "what about the tradition!" -- for keeping advertisements off MLB or NBA uniforms. It's simply not worth getting that upset over.

(Ideally, owners would take that jersey-sponsorship revenue and have to earmark it for either reducing the price of tickets or parking OR for growing payroll to make the team better. I'm not holding my breath.)

Update: Thanks to reader Garett D. (from Canada!) who reminded that my favorite Euro football team, Barcelona, actually PAID a sponsor to put their logo on their uniforms, which the team previously had refused to ever adorn with an ad. The sponsor? UNICEF. The team pays the sponsor AND the money goes to a good cause? Now THERE's a concept.

After the ill-fated Bob Ferry Era, the inept Wes Unseld Era (and the even more f'ed up Michael Jordan Era), hiring Ernie Grunfeld to run the team's basketball operations was the best decision the Wizards ever made, so giving Grunfeld a contract extension continues to keep the Wiz on the right path. For once. (And I say that as a Wizards fan.)

Finally, a HUGE thanks to all the blog readers who came out for my NYC reading series last night. It was great to meet all of you in person, and I hope you had a great time. It was a really fun event.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mets-Dodgers, Yankees-Tigers:

Drop your Mets-Dodgers (and, later, Yankees-Tigers) live-commenting right here. It's an NYC two-fer!

(If you're in NYC and not in a trance watching the Yankees, please feel free to drop by Happy Ending at 302 Broome St. tonight starting at 8 for my monthly sports reading series.)

-- D.S.

NFL Power Rankings

I'm still shaking my head over taking the Chargers No. 1 last week. (What was I thinking?!)

But with another week comes more data, and you will be shocked and amazed at the variance between last week and this week:

1. Bears (Last week: 3)
2. Colts (LW: 4)
3. Ravens (LW: 7)
4. Pats (LW: 12)
5. Bengals (LW: 2)
6. Falcons (LW: 14)
7. Seahawks (LW: 8)
8. Broncos (LW: 9)
9. Eagles (LW: 10)
10. Chargers (LW: 1)
11. Jaguars (LW: 6)
12. Cowboys (LW: 13)
13. Rams (LW: 17)
14. Panthers (LW: 15)
15. Redskins (LW: 22)
16. Saints (LW: 5)
17. Vikings (LW: 11)
18. Bills (LW: 25)
19. Giants (LW: 18)
20. Jets (LW: 16)
21. Steelers (LW: 19)
22. Chiefs (LW: 28)
23. Dolphins (LW: 20)
24. Texans (LW: 29)
25. Browns (LW: 27)
26. Cardinals (LW: 23)
27. 49ers (LW: 21)
28. Packers (LW: 24)
29. Titans (LW: 26)
30. Lions (LW: 30)
31. Bucs (LW: 31)
32. Raiders (LW: 32)

Comment Question: Who's YOUR No. 1 team? Which team gets your biggest gain from a week ago? Biggest drop?

-- D.S.

A's-Twins G2: Live-Comment

Update (3:30 p.m.): You know you've lost an LDS series when...

"The visiting team hits an inside-the-park home run to take a two-run lead with less than a third of the game to play, which would put your team in an 0-2 hole after 2 games AT HOME."

Original Post:
The A's and Twins are underway. Feel free to live-blog "live-comment" away about it.

Meanwhile, the Rangers fired Buck Showalter, whose top-line career highlight will continue to be his cameo on "Seinfeld" when George got him to buy into switching to cotton uniforms for the Yankees.

You know, as we sit here following the A's-Twins game, in honor of Buck Showalter and his Seinfeld cameo, what's your favorite Seinfeld sports-related plotline, character, funny line, etc. ever? (Paul Katcher did a column for Page 3 about it. Here's the link.)

I'm going to have to think about that one, but throw your pick in the Comments section. Maybe it'll inspire my pick.

-- D.S.

Wednesday A.M. Quickie:

I think we can have a legitimate argument over whether Frank Thomas is the AL MVP; a lot more people will say it's Derek Jeter. That's fair enough.

Both players provided examples of why they are their TEAM MVPs in Game 1 of the LDS:

Big Hurt had 2 HR, leading the A's past Johan Santana and the Twins in Minnesota.

DJ became the 6th player ever to bat 5-for-5, including a HR and 2 doubles, in a 8-4 Yankees win over the Tigers in New York.

But it's no fun to say "they're both winners!" I'm still going to claim that Thomas is more valuable, with Game 1 as a great example:

The A's simply don't score a lot of runs. They needed every ounce of Thomas' power; he accounted for 66 percent of the A's offense.

As eye-popping as Jeter was last night, the Yankees didn't necessarily need him to win. Certainly not AS MUCH AS THE A'S NEEDED THOMAS.

The plotline out of New York is that the Captain provided the ultimate example of big October hits in a big October game, in contrast to A-Rod (1-4, 0 RBI, 0 R).

But I'm quite sure all you'll be hearing this morning is "Jeter, Jeter, Jeter." Not undeserved, but let's not forget Jeter is in his prime, while Frank Thomas is supposed to be years past his.

More MVP-worthiness: Albert Pujols had a 2-run HR to lead the Cards past the Padres in San Diego. What a big day for MVP-level players.

Today's LDS Game 1: Dodgers at Mets. Bursts of power seem to be the trend so far in the playoffs; that favors the big-bopping Mets lineup. Who else has HUGE expectations for Carlos Beltran, given his performance the LAST time he was in the NL playoffs?

(They're going to need it: Who the hell is going to start for the Mets in Game 1? Even the ageless, indefatigable El Duque is questionable. Bring back Ron Darling out of the TV booth!)

The Nats like Joe Girardi, as I've been touting here for two weeks. Meanwhile, the Cubs obviously like him, too.

Where is the better fit? Girardi might feel more at home in Chicago, but I think the Nats' ownership and executive structure is so much more stable – and there's a stronger commitment to a youth movement, which obviously is an environment Girardi thrives in.

Another Kenny Rogers temper incident? Detroit po-po are investigating a claim that Rogers mixed it up with an autograph-seeker over the weekend. Eyewitness accounts are mixed.

The point is: If Rogers even lost his temper, isn't that what 2005's "anger-management training" was supposed to remedy? Looks like someone needs a timeout.

Albert Haynesworth apologized to Andre Gurode and – more importantly – won't appeal his unprecedented 5-game suspension. I think it's a two-sided signal of remorse that should begin to repair his rep (though he cemented the first graf of his obituary on Sunday).

NBA defends new ball: The only one who seems to like the new NBA ball is the NBA itself, unsurprisingly. The see-no-evil defense (in the face of uniform criticism from players, stars and scrubs alike) is ludicrous.

We'll know soon enough how the new ball affects play on the court. If scoring or shooting percentages go down significantly, it'll be interesting to see if the NBA does a U-turn.

(I still can't believe that the biggest subplot of the new season is the new model of ball being used. But there we are...)

Eddie "Jackin' It!" Griffin was fined for missing the T'wolves media day. Wouldn't the team have been better served to PAY him to miss it?

"Friday Night Lights" report: I had high expectations and the show STILL exceeded them. It was REALLY good. Visually, it was stunning. The dialogue was very good by TV standards (take that how you will), and I think the show could do really well. But what happens in the spring?

Kornheiser says he's pulling his punches on MNF? That's at least what he's claiming in his Washington Post column today. Here's the thing: He's right, and at least he himself is admitting he isn't doing the schtick that got him the MNF job in the first place.

I appreciate the mea culpa, but it doesn't make things better unless he changes. However, he's got me intrigued enough to tune in next week for reasons other than watching the unbeaten Ravens vs. Denver.

New NHL season opens today: I wish I had something to say about this, but I don't. I'm just not a hockey fan, though I appreciate the dedicated fans who are. If I had a favorite team, it would be the Washington Capitals, who were my hometown team growing up -- I went to more than a few games at the old Cap Centre. It helps that the Caps have the most eye-popping scoring talent in the sport.

T-Minus 5 Days until T.O. Goes to Philly, by far the most anticipated game of the NFL season. Can you feel the love hate?

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A's Go Up 1-0 on Twins

Like I have been saying for the last month:

Frank Thomas for AL MVP.

-- D.S.

P.S.: And free-agent-to-be Barry Zito might have just tacked on an extra $10 million on his future price-tag by out-dueling Johan Santana.

Reading Event Reminder: Tomorrow!

As seen on Deadspin...

NYC-area readers: Don't forget that tomorrow night is my monthly sports reading series, featuring Will Leitch from Deadspin, the editors of ESPN the Magazine and award-winning sportswriter Tom Callahan.

It'll be at Happy Ending (302 Broome on the Lower East Side). It starts at 8 (doors open at 7:30, and you might even want to show up a little earlier) and is free. Even if you can't make it, feel free to pass along to any NYC-based friends. See you there!

-- D.S.

A's-Twins: Live-Comment Now!

The A's and Twins are underway. I'm not going to be able to live-blog the game, but I encourage you to "live-comment" the game using the Comments section. Have at it!

(Though let me just chime in: My "Frank Thomas for AL MVP" campaign is NOT insane.)

- D.S.

TV Watch: "Friday Night Lights"

In the fall's biggest sports/primetime-TV crossover, the new series "Friday Night Lights" premieres tonight.

Translated into everyone's favorite "Blank Meets Blank" game, it's "Playmakers" meets "The O.C." Whee!

I was all set to gently mock the series: After all, "Friday" is being broadcast on TUESDAYS.

Then I started reading the reviews:

The dean of all TV critics, Tom Shales in the Washington Post, raved. So did Virginia Heffernan in the NY Times.

I was planning to watch before, if only out of curiosity and a sense that if there's a network-TV show about sports, I should be watching.

But now I go in with some pretty high expectations. If you sneak away from the Yankees game to watch, let's circle back on it tomorrow for everyone's reactions.

-- D.S.

Greatest Baseball Moment Ever?

Today is the anniversary of the "Shot Heard 'Round the World," Bobby Thomson's home run to lead the Giants past the Dodgers in a one-game playoff for the NL pennant.

It is widely regarded as the greatest single moment in baseball history.

Here's what I'd like to know: What is YOUR choice as the greatest single moment in baseball history?

Obviously, most of us weren't around for the Shot; does your choice necessarily have to happen in your own lifetime? (For example, how many people will say "Kirk Gibson in '88?")

Make your argument for the greatest single moment in baseball history in the Comments section.

(Don't forget to weigh in below with your MLB LDS picks and X-factors for each series, plus whether or not Brett Favre should hang it up after last night's debacle.)

-- D.S.

MNF: Brett Favre Should Quit NOW

If Brett Favre's Monday Night Knock-Out wasn't a strong enough omen, his Zero-TD, 2-INT performance in a "worst loss ever"-contending 31-9 stinker on national TV should be:

Don't come back, Brett.

Ugly note to end on? Sure, but how is that different from the rest of this season? Or, for that matter, all of last season?

He gave up the chance to end on anything BUT an ugly note by coming back... for 2005, let alone 2006.

He's just plain ineffective. His team around him is even more ineffective, made all the more ironic by Favre's preseason boasts about his teammates' "talent."

Sure: Talent for sucking.

(The whole thing was made even worse by the direct comparison to Donovan McNabb: Surrounded by an almost equally sketchy team, McNabb passed for 2 TDs and ran for a career-high 2 TDs. He carried his team.)

If Favre isn't willing to do what's best for the team and cede his spot as the starter, it's up to rookie head coach Mike McCarthy to show some rare leadership and bench the star in favor of the future, Aaron Rodgers. (Rodgers might not even be the right guy, but he's at least worth a look at this point of yet another lost season.)

I'm not sure if McCarthy has that type of leader's mettle in him to make that move.

But I'm quite sure it's the right moment to do it. He just might not be the right man to do it. That job is saved for Favre himself:

If Brett cared at all about his team or his fans – even if it doesn't satisfy his Hall of Fame-level self-interest – he'd show the leadership by benching himself.

Or even hanging it up completely.

Update (12:51 p.m.): Reader Joe in Asheville emailed me a phenomenal reason why Favre SHOULDN'T quit: He's in striking distance of the all-time interceptions record:

George Blanda – 276
John Hadl – 268
Fran Tarkenton – 266
Vinny Testaverde – 261
Brett Favre – 260

(Hmm: 12 games, 17 INTs? TOTALLY doable!)

-- D.S.

MLB LDS Preview-ish

MLB LDS Mania! My favorite part of baseball's LDS playoff round is the weekday day-games. There isn't a weekday-workday sports event more intriguing (aside from the first two days of the NCAA Tournament).

The 1 p.m. game is by far the most intriguing: Barry Zito and the Moneyball A's vs. Johan Santana and the low-budget Twins. If you saw my picks in the previous post, you'll see I noted this series is the biggest toss-up of the four.

The 4 p.m. game is unlikely to generate much heat: The Cards stumbled into the postseason; the Padres throw out an "ace" who couldn't even hit a .500 record.

The primetime game is a must-win for Detroit: The only way the Tigers are going to advance is by stealing one in New York, then hoping to win two at home. Considering Wang was one of the Top 3 pitchers in the AL this season, it's not going to be easy.

(Oh, and I don't want to overlook the Yankees' lineup, which might be the most loaded -- on paper -- in the last 50 years of MLB playoffs history.)

I'm sticking with my picks:
A's in 5.
Yankees in 4.
Mets in 5.
Padres in 3.

Comments Question: Along with offering up your picks, here's a bigger question: Who are your biggest X-factors in each series (and WHY?)

Tuesday A.M. Quickie:

Everything *BUT* MLB LDS or MNF...

Girardi out in Florida: No big news here. (His replacement is likely going to be Braves bench coach Fredi Gonzalez.)

The big question, of course, is where will the presumptive 2006 NL Manager of the Year end up? My bet is the Cubs, with the Nats a darkhorse.

Grimsley denies naming Clemens, Pettitte: The "Clemens/Roids!" story is quickly morphing into one where the top angle is that the L.A. Times pretty much blew this story completely.

And the newspaper did. You know, "bloggers" take a lot of grief from critics and cranks in mainstream media for rumor-mongering or firing before aiming.

I can't think of a moment of sports-blog journalism as significantly screwed up as this one from the Times. And, in fact, it's far worse; isn't the Times supposed to be reputable?

Used to be reputable, I should say.

A-Rod batting 6th: It doesn't matter where A-Rod is batting. If the Yankees don't win the World Series, no matter how A-Rod does in the playoffs -– well or poorly -- he'll be blamed.

And if the Yankees DO win the World Series, no matter how A-Rod does along the way -- well or poorly -- he'll never be accepted.

The upshot? A-Rod can't win -- and I think he might even know that. But wouldn't that be the ultimate release from pressure? 6th is a gift.

Amare Stoudemire has new knee stiffness: Amare is arguably the most physically gifted player in the NBA, but it looks like he'll also end up being one of those all-time great "if only he was healthy, what could have been...?" players.

Another reason why Gilbert Arenas is my favorite player in the NBA: Because he's piping thin air into his sea-level house, in order to replicate mountain-training.

(If only "Agent Zero"* would pipe in recording of LeBron's trash-talking while Arenas is practicing his would-be playoff game-winning free-throws, he might be on to something.)

* – Thanks, Wizznutzz!

Pete Rose admits he took "greenies": Wait, is this really news? EVERYONE TOOK GREENIES! EVERYONE! It was MLB's performance-enhancer scandal before "performance enhancer" was a phrase. Correction: It was a scandal for DECADES, and everyone looked the other way.

The fact that MLB banned amphetamines (or "greenies") should undercut every nostalgic fan's (or player's or critic's) argument that somehow baseball's recent "Steroid Era" was new or different... or worse.

Greenies were simply the PEDs of their day; if Roids or HGH had been available in the 1950s like greenies were, you bet your ass it would have been as widely used as in the late 90s – probably more so.

CFB Game of the Week (LSU at Florida) Update: It helps that the CFB G.O.T.W. dovetails with my personal favorite team.

The Gators were hurting at RB, because starter DeShawn Wynn was injured against Alabama and was doubtful against LSU. This is huge, because UF has a thin RB corps as it is – and if last season is any indicator, Chris Leak needs a running game to help offset the way LSU will crack down on the passing.

Wynn is still questionable – but at least it's an upgrade. Don't know how effective he'll be; for a player of bruising size, he's a bit delicate.

Meanwhile, super-frosh (and Bush-lite) Percy Harvin might be recovered enough from a high ankle sprain to play; he's a huge X-factor.

Haynesworth suspended NFL-record 5 games: See below for original comment, but I'm hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks this was unreasonable.

I always figured that the first 5-game suspension would be for something innocuous, like an inspired TD celebration.

-- D.S.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Monday P.M. Quickie:
I'm Back! (So What'd I Miss?)

I'm back to blogging, and allow me a few thoughts to circle back to the last 24 hours in sports:

The No. 1 team in the NFL? Everyone saw them crush the defending NFC champs last night.

(I may have to revise my "1/4 MVP" ballot to give it to Steve McNair for the AFC and Rex Grossman for the NFC.)

Albert Haynesworth suspended 5 games: It's notable not for the viciousness of his stomp on Andre Gurode's face, but for being the longest NFL suspension ever for an on-field action.

Cubs fire Dusty Baker: Who didn't see this coming? The only question is whether the corporate restructuring within Tribune Co. will keep the Nats from poaching Joe Girardi.

Giants fire Felipe Alou: Hey, I hear Dusty Baker is available...

Remember that old rumor about Duke teammates Christian Laettner and Brian Davis? They're buying the Memphis Grizzlies together. Aww, how sweet...

(Could they possibly convince Coach K to take a pro job coaching the Grizz with Jerry West running the franchise?)

Clemens scandal: Well of COURSE he denies it. The question is: Will Hall of Fame voters hold this against him in the same way they're holding it against McGwire, Sosa and Bonds? Won't believe it 'til I see it.

(Now, the lead prosecutor for the Feds says that the LA Times story contains "significant inaccuracies." He didn't say if "inaccuracies" meant "The L.A. Times has lost all credibility, because Roger Clemens isn't listed.")

NBA Training Camps open tomorrow/Tuesday: I'll try to start rolling out my NBA preview, but I think it's mostly going to be back-loaded to the end of the month, closer to the actual opening game. Amazingly, the No. 1 storyline is the new freaking balls.

Also more tomorrow/Tuesday: It's the actual anniversary of the "Shot Heard 'Round the World," the most famous moment in baseball history. (It's also the subject of a great new book: "The Echoing Green," by Joshua Prager.)

And what about the MLB LDS series?!

I'm going to do a lot more tomorrow (Tuesday) morning in advance of the day's series starts. Here's my gut reactions ("gut" = I picked a Mets-A's World Series back in April in the Quickie):

A's over Twins (no confidence)
Yankees over Tigers (low confidence)
Mets over Dodgers (medium confidence)
Padres over Cards (high confidence)

-- D.S.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Off for Yom Kippur Holiday
(Commenters, I Give You the Keys)

I'd love to comment on the late-afternoon (and night) NFL games and all of the storylines that develop overnight. (There's a post below that covers the early games.)

I'd also love to comment on all of the baseball-playoff look-ahead stuff (looks like the Cards avoided the dreaded "playoff-playoff-playoff") PLUS the fall-out from the Clemens PED scandal.

But tonight marks the start of Yom Kippur, so I won't be posting until tomorrow evening, when I'll be back with lots of stuff to make up for the day.

Please excuse my absence, and I pass the baton to all of you to use the Comments area to provide all of the shallow, quick-hit news analysis throughout the sports world, from tonight through tomorrow morning and all day.

(It could get a little unraveled in the comments area, so let's use the NFL post below for all analysis NFL-related, and the comments area of THIS post for everything else.)

I appreciate the collective pinch-hitting, and I'll be back tomorrow evening.

-- D.S.

NFL Week 4 Recap:
Who's the "1/4 MVP?"

It's a quarter of the way through the season (for some). What do we know so far?

Steve McNair is the "1/4 NFL MVP." His Ravens are 4-0 and the offseason acquisition showed his value with yesterday's game-winning late drive.

The Colts' escape in New York said more about Peyton Manning's ability as a two-minute drill expert than the Jets' promise as an '06 surprise.

T.O. isn't nearly as valuable to the Cowboys as T.G. (Terry Glenn). And Glenn doesn't even need to O.D. to earn fans (and catch TDs).

With a loss to the previously winless Texans, the Dolphins season can officially be called "finished." Start scouting the draft for OL.

I made a small miscalculation picking the Chargers as the No. 1 team in my "NFL Power Rankings" last week. Look for a correction.

How in the world are the Bills 2-2?

With Damon Huard's breakout performance as Chiefs QB, Trent Green might earn the rare "Double-Pipp" career-achievement award.

Sorry, New Orleans: The ride had to end sometime.

Yesterday should have been Kurt Warner's final snaps as a starter for the Cardinals.

Vince Young might just be the greatest 2-point conversion QB in NFL history. (The other 6 points? Eh, not so much.)

Maybe if Brett Favre is embarrassed on national TV for "Monday Night Football," he'll finally consider packing it in (or demanding a trade).

Commenters: What do YOU think we know after a quarter of the season (incorporating Sunday's results). Please feel free to use the Comment area to update using results from Sunday's late games.

-- D.S.

NFL Comments Tailgate

Please weigh in on the Story of the Day (Clemens Scandal!) below. But use this post to comment all day long about NFL Week 4. Pre-game, mid-game and post-game: Have your say here and write the first draft of NFL conventional wisdom, as it happens!

Clemens 'Roid Shocker!
Tejada, Pettitte, More

OK, this is huge. So huge that it should make last week's T.O. suicide story look small in comparison.

The report: Roger Clemens used PEDs.

Not just Clemens, but a Who's Who of MLB stars:

Clemens teammate (and ex-Yankees playoffs poster boy) Andy Pettitte, plus ex-MVP Miguel Tejada and 2005 O's Cinderella story Brian Roberts, along with others.

This according to a report in the LA Times, based on claims from Jason Grimsley -- remember those blacked-out names? -- via a federal agent's affidavit.

This is huge on an order no less explosive than any of the claims made against Barry Bonds.

I mean, Roger Clemens is arguably the greatest pitcher of all time – certainly the greatest pitcher of this generation.

Tejada is one of the most complete players, an ex-MVP. Pettitte is held up as the Yankees' model of playoff clutch. Roberts' story carried baseball through the steroid-plagued first half of the 2005 season.

The Clemens thing is a rumor that had been floating around for years, but there had never been anything people could point to on paper.

The agent whose affidavit is cited, Jeff Novitzky, also investigated BALCO. His claims are already being dismissed by Clemens and Pettitte's agent, Randy Hendricks:

"It's an agent's recollection about a conversation he had about conjecture."

The paper said that Grimsley claims the feds attributed claims to him he didn't make.

There's no word whether those questionable claims included the naming of names.

I have a hard time believing that the federal agent signed a sworn affidavit that blatantly makes things up.

I have a hard time believing that Grimsley had any reason to lie (but now might feel the pressure to close ranks with his ex-colleagues).

But I have an easy time believing that all of them used steroids.

Maybe this will blow over. Why?

Because fans really don't care about the MLB steroid story as much as the media does.

Because enough doubt will be in fans' minds to dismiss the story.

Because fans are willing to give Clemens et al the benefit of the doubt where they wouldn't for someone like Barry Bonds.

Because the playoffs are 48 hours away. (MLB execs say: Welcome!)

Because stories that break on a Sunday – particularly during NFL season – have little traction.

(Because more people care about an arbitrary week in the NFL -- and its Monday analysis -- than they do about baseball... and certainly more than they do about steroids.)

But it would/could/should be big. Should be HUGE.

It's Clemens. It's PEDs.

Enjoy the day!

Commenters: What do you think about this story? Do you care? What will the fall-out be, if any? What's your take?

-- D.S.

CFB Hangover: I'm Wrecked!

OK, Georgia Tech is way more underrated than anyone thought (even with the game season-opening performance vs. Notre Dame)...

And Virginia Tech is way more overrated. What a classic example of riding up the rankings based on rep and the illusion of dominance based on a weak schedule. (And I 'fess up to buying into it, too.)

Well, if voters had any sense at all, they'd literally flip-flop the two. GA Tech deserves to be in the 10-20 range; VA Tech should be in 20-25.

(Would that be a precipitous fall from No. 13 into the 20s? Sure. But deserved.)

As expected, Iowa wasn't much of a match for Ohio St, even at Iowa. That should earn the Buckeyes a few more No. 1 votes.

I'm wondering if USC perhaps will lose some support (certainly any thought of voting them No. 1) after they struggled to put away Washington St?

Speaking of putting away, Florida's final score makes it look like Alabama didn't keep it close; on the contrary, it was dangerously close for way too long.

But, like Ohio St last week vs. Penn St, a defense that isn't just solid but that makes big plays is the difference between a good team and a great team.

Hot seats: Dan Hawkins, whose Colorado team lost to suddenly sizzling Missouri and fell to 0-5; John L. Smith, whose team followed up its heart-breaking loss to Notre Dame with a loss to bottom-feeding Illinois.

I'll be filing my first Top 25 poll of the week later today. Any suggestions or thoughts on big swings that should happen from last week?

Meanwhile, it's not college football, but the must-see QB start in the NFL today will be rookie Vince Young against the Cowboys. Should be VERY interesting.

-- D.S.

MLB: Last Day! (Or Is It?)

Here's the only match-up you really need to worry about today:

If the Astros win and the Cards lose today, the Cards are forced into a must-see "playoff-playoff-playoff" on Monday against the Giants.

(It must be asked how the Clemens-PED story might affect the Astros' mindset today.)

Anything else and the Cards win the division and the Astros win a couple months of dealing with the emerging Clemens/Pettitte et al scandal.

(Otherwise today, playoff pairings will be set and we can finally get to the business of making sense of the playoff picture. )

The NL West is fairly simple: The Dodgers and Padres are tied, with both clinching playoff spots. If they remain tied after today, the Padres win the division title and LA wins the Wild Card.

The AL Central is simple too: If the Twins win and the Tigers lose, the Twins amazingly win the division and the Tigers are the Wild Card; any other scenario and the Tigers win the division and the Twins win the Wild Card.

Commenters: How does the last day of the MLB season shape up to you? AL Central? NL West? NL Central?

-- D.S.