Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Tigers Win the Pennant!

OK, at this point, how can you NOT be rooting for the Tigers to win the World Series?

It wasn't a walk-off home run. It needs a better name than that.

"Sweep off?"

-- D.S.

CFB Saturday Tailgate:
A. Peterson Done for Season!

(Be sure to read below for my particularly quick analysis of today's Top 5 most intriguing storylines.)

The first official BCS ranking is coming tomorrow, and speculation is raging that it will be Ohio State at No. 1, with USC edging out Florida for the coveted No. 2 spot. They have to play the games first, of cours. That's where you come in.

Use the Comments section for our weekly Tailgate of analysis: Pre-game, mid-game and post-game, let's talk about performances and dynamics that are shifting throughout the day that might impact how that first BCS ranking will look.

Have at it!

Update (4:41 p.m.): Adrian Peterson out for the rest of the season! Two things:

(1) In my list, he was THE top Heisman contender. (At least, he is/was the best college football player -- whether that wins him a Heisman or not is another thing. No matter how you define "best," Peterson was in your Top 3.) So now that's blown wide open.

(2) Considering that he would have been a guaranteed first-round pick (if not Top 10) in the NFL Draft... AFTER HIS FRESHMAN SEASON! *AND* he would have been a guaranteed Top 5 overall pick after his sophomore season...

He becomes Exhibit A about how the draft-eligibility restrictions are terrible for the top players and should be eliminated.

How can you deny that having to come back for this third year put him at risk -- a risk now turned reality -- of a career-harming injury, when he would have been a lock first-round pick in either of his first two years? Forcing him to return to school if both he and, as important, NFL talent evaluators agree he would have been ready after either of his first two years was/is in the worst interests of both the player and the NFL.

UPDATE (4 p.m.): I'm getting my first chance of the season to really watch Missouri -- beyond the highlight shows, really watching entire drives. And -- wow -- do they look good, especially on offense. They are legit. If they can hold off the hard-charging A&M (no gimme), I'm vaulting Mizzou into my Top 10 -- and QB Chase Daniel should be a Top 5 Heisman contender. He runs the spread offense as well as any QB I've ever seen, including WVA's Pat White or Florida's LeakBow combo. Worst. Jinx. Ever.

Meanwhile, I feel amazing for Vanderbilt, beating Georgia in Athens, but if you're an SEC fan, it's bittersweet: It makes Florida's game against UGA next week that much less impressive. It's certainly not the tough matchup it looked like it was even two weeks ago, let alone before the season started. (And, of course, it's no gimme that UF wins at Auburn tonight.) But how awesome for Vandy?

Saturday A.M. (Very) Quickie:
(Plus Selig's Worst Idea Yet)

Update (4:20 p.m.): Fox analyst Steve Lyons was fired for his racially insensitive remarks towards Lou Piniella last night. Good riddance to a complete moron.

Very quick update this morning:

(1) Mets choke: If the Mets wanted to lose playoff games in the late innings, they could have saved $10 million (or whatever the HUGE number was) they spent on Billy Wagner and kept Braden Looper as the choke-when-it-matters closer. (Post-trade-deadline acquisition Mota, too.)

(2) T.O. ticked: Who had "Week 6" in the office pool for when T.O. would publicly terminate his relationship with his Cowboys position coach?

(3) Knicks shocker: They pound the Nets in their exhibition opener. I've been saying this since the summer: Isiah will definitely win more games than Larry Brown did, if only because the players will be motivated out of spite for Brown.

(4) A-Rod scare: How freaky was that story that he was involved in a near-accident on a plane?

(5) Selig's new folly: He floats the idea of taking a home playoff game away from the Wild Card winner, because getting a single extra playoff home game isn't enough of a reward for winning the division.

Oh my god, this might be his worst idea yet! First of all, Wild Card World Series winners have made baseball infinitely more exciting since the WC's inception. Second, Wild Card winners are often better than the fourth-best team in a given league. Third, it's unnaturally anti-competitive. That bonus home game SHOULD be a HUGE advantage for the division winner -- of course, if the division winner is going to lose to the Wild Card no matter WHERE the game is played (cough! Yankees! cough!), where the 5th game of a best-of-5 series that ends in 3 or 4 games is moot.

(If anything, the rule should swing the OTHER way: If the Wild Card team has a better record than the division winner they are playing, then it's the Wild Card that should get the home-field advantage. For example, look at the NBA, where the 6th-seeded Clippers had home-court advantage over the 3rd-seeded Nuggets, even though the Nuggets were a division winner and the Clippers got in as the equivalent of an NBA Wild Card team.)

The Wild Card system has been the greatest baseball innovation of the last 25 years -- and possibly in the game's history. It has made the regular season -- and the playoffs -- infinitely more exciting and dramatic.

I actually think that Selig has been on a roll lately when it comes to innovating the game and how it has been marketed. Why would he mess with that by doing something regressive?

-- D.S.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Tigers Win! (Again!!)

Wow: This Tigers win was the best one yet:


It's true: They ARE the reincarnation of last year's White Sox -- pitching wins championships.

This series is over by the time you're back at work on Monday.

Mets-Cards up next...

-- D.S.

Week in Review:
Lidle, Torre, Tebow and More

Thanks for another great week, everyone! Don't forget the weekly CFB Tailgate on Saturday and NFL Tailgate on Sunday.

Also, just because they're buried below, don't forget to check out (and have your say about):

*NFL Week 6 Picks!

*CFB Top 25 Picks!
*CBB Midnight Madness!
*MLB LCS Mania!

Meanwhile, here's my weekly ranking of my Top 10 favorite newsmakers of the week:

10. Steve Aponavicius: Kicking easy as A-BC!
9. Rajon Rondo: Celtics rookie PG = R.O.Y.?
8. Tom Glavine: The Old Man Rules
7. NBA Griping: New crackdown on whining
6. Tim Tebow: CFB's most intriguing?
5. Stephen Jackson: Odell Thurman of NBA?
4. Snowball: Bring on the Detroit weather
3. Joe Torre: Back for more abuse
2. Alexis Gomez: Jim Leyland = Genius
1. Cory Lidle: Tragedy transcends games

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

-- D.S.

Bonus name: Gilbert Arenas, my favorite NBA player (yes, even more than Jordan Farmar). Read this profile, then try to argue that Arenas shouldn't be the most popular player in the NBA. How can you NOT love him?

College Hoops: Midnight Madness!

Warning: Rant.

The biggest controversy of the college basketball season is already here:

How could any "expert" in their right freaking mind POSSIBLY pick North Carolina as a preseason No. 1 over Florida, the defending champs.

Start with this: The argument for Florida as No. 1, regardless of any other team out there.

It's not simply that they're the defending champs. There have been a lot of defending champs who don't deserve to start the next season No. 1.

It's that this defending champ RETURNS ALL FIVE STARTERS. And that's from a team that demolished 5 out of 6 NCAA Tournament opponents.

The Gators' frontcourt is, arguably, the best in the last 25 years of college basketball history. I challenge you to find any that are better, that combine this much talent with championship experience:

Joakim Noah, the reigning Tournament MOP; Al Horford, perhaps the most NBA-ready big man in college hoops; and Corey Brewer, even more versatile than either of the other two. (Oh, plus backup PF/C Chris Richard, who could start for every other team in the country.)

Then layer in the attitude: Everyone knows about the Big Three forgoing the NBA Lottery to return to school to defend their title. But you have to follow the team closely to hear the talk: There's no ego, no sense of entitlement. They're hungry.

If anything, the run to the title in March taught this team precisely what they have to do to win another -- no other team can say that, certainly not UNC. (Last time I checked, UNC was losing to a team from the Colonial Athletic Association.)

So, let's see:

Superstar talent? Check.
Championship experience? Check.
Hungry attitude? Check.

Florida is the most loaded returning champ since Duke in 1991-1992. And that Duke team easily won its repeat title (over an inexperienced, talented Fab Five) -- just like this Florida team will.

That's the thing: Talent without experience can win SOME games in the NCAA Tournament. (LSU over Duke) Experience without talent can win SOME games in the NCAA Tournament. (George Mason over UNC or UConn) But Talent AND Experience, combined, will beat either, handily.

Line up the rosters: Florida is even MORE talented than UNC... AND more experienced.

In fact, I'd argue that Florida is more talented than ANY team in the country -- AND more experienced than any team in the country. Using any metric for how to project success, and the Gators have a monopoly. How can any team beat that?

(Or, more accurately: When you're picking out the team most likely to win the national title – which is what the preseason Top 25 ranking is supposed to be – how can you NOT pick Florida?)

So, here we go: Explain to me again how UNC is better than Florida, to the point that big-name publications and experts have the Heels ranked No. 1 ahead of the Gators.

I understand the greatness of Tyler Hansbrough, but he's not better than Noah or Horford -- and he's certainly not better than both COMBINED.

Then there's the heralded UNC freshman class. Absolutely: They are an awesome collection of talent. But as we've seen, talent isn't enough in March. Florida's greatest legacy is TEAM equaling TALENT. The best pick should have both.

There's no evidence that these UNC freshmen are ready to sublimate their high school egos in the way necessary to win a national title. A year from now? Sure. (That is, if they all stay in college. Good luck with that.) But they'll need this year to figure it out, in order to make a run in 2007-08. They could take a lesson from this Florida team.

(If anything, the team of young talent most likely to make the Florida-type leap is Kansas -- humiliated a year ago and presumably a year wiser about the psychological talent necessary to complement basketball talent.)

(And if you're looking for the top freshman class, forget UNC: Ohio State is the best. Amazingly, you'll get a chance to see both Kansas and Ohio St against the 2006 gold standard; both play Florida before the year is over.)

OK, so back to UNC: They might be a Top 5 team, but I think it's ridiculous to project how this freshman class will deal with (a) college competition, (b) playing with a bonafide superstar in Hansbrough, and (c) winning six straight in March, which -- in the end -- is all that matters. I don't think they can do it.

And to argue that ANY team – UNC or anyone else – is better positioned to win the title than Florida?

That's the REAL Madness.

-- D.S.

NFL Week 6 Preview and Picks

What's your Game of the Week? Otherwise, provide your own one-line analysis for the game of your choice in the Comments section.

Panthers over Ravens: Baltimore is coming off of a short week, not to mention a loss at Denver. Carolina is rounding into top-tier shape. It's the G.O.T.W., begrudgingly.

Falcons over Giants: Jerious Norwood is the new Reggie Bush. (Here's the argument.)

Cowboys over Texans: I question why T.O. is in Dallas, too. After another week of being shut-out, could he crack up even WORSE?

Bills over Lions: Nursing a beat-down by the Bears? Detroit's the cure for what ails ya.

Rams over Seahawks: UPDATE! I've flip-flopped on this, because it totally slipped my mind that the Rams signed ex-Seahawk Isaiah Kacyvenski, who will tip off all of Seattle's plays. Whee!

Eagles over Saints: Or maybe that title belongs to the Saints.

Bengals over Bucs: On the bright side, the Bucs don't NEED Chris Simms anymore, now that Bruce Gradkowski is The Man.

Redskins over Titans: Another "cure-for-what-ails-ya" game, for a team that needs it badly.

Dolphins over Jets: I can't believe I'm pinning my prognostication success rate on Joey Harrington.

Steelers over Chiefs: Just as long as Troy Polamalu doesn't rip Larry Johnson down by the facemask.

Chargers over 49ers: Considering how good the Bolts looked last week beating the Steelers, this game doesn't seem fair.

Broncos over Raiders: NBC can't wait for "flex" scheduling, to avoid Sunday Night clunkers like this one.

Bears over Cards: Worthy of "Monday Night" treatment, if only because Chicago is the best team in the NFL right now.

Last week: 12-2 (Season-best!)
'06 season: 48-26

-- D.S.

CFB Weekend Preview:
Florida in Spotlight Again

For the second straight week, Florida is involved in the Game of the Week. Despite the way Auburn was clobbered at home by Arkansas, this game is arguably tougher for the Gators than last week's game against LSU:

First, it's on the road. Second, Auburn will be motivated after dropping off the national-title radar a week ago. Third, the best way for them to regain national respect is to KO the Team du Jour (or "du Week"). But can they?

Florida's defense has emerged as the toughest in the country; if Auburn can be shut down by Arkansas, what will they be able to do against Florida? Meanwhile, no team yet has devised a way to stop Florida's suddenly chic two-headed QB: "Leakbow," (or, as I like to call the set-up: The "Fun-n-Gun-n-Run.")

As always, I'm biased. But I'm picking Florida – and if the Gators DO win at Auburn, I'd be willing to put UF's three "big" wins (AT Tennessee, AT Auburn and LSU) over Ohio State's AT Texas, AT Iowa and... what else? (Penn State? Ha, sure.)

Here's the rest of the weekend. Since I take the chalk, SOMETHING crazy HAS to happen, right?

1 Ohio State over at Michigan St.
2 Florida over at 11 Auburn
3 USC over Arizona St.
4 Michigan over at Penn St (TRAP!)
5 WVA over Syracuse
6 Texas over Baylor
7 Louisville over Cincy
10 Cal over at Wazzou St.
14 LSU over Kentucky
15 Iowa over at Indiana
16 Georgia over Vanderbilt
17 Arkansas over SE Mizzou St.
18 Oregon over UCLA
19 Missouri over at Texas A&M
20 Boise St over at New Mexico St.
21 Nebraska over at K-State
23 Oklahoma over Iowa St
24 Rutgers over at Navy
25 Wisconsin over Minnesota

Don't forget to drop by tomorrow all day for the weekly CFB Tailgate, using the Comments section to deliver all the pre-game, in-game and post-game analysis.

-- D.S.

LCS Mania:
Mets Strike First

(You can find the usual daily Quickie-style analysis of all the day's other sports news in the post directly below this one.)

Here's the morning's top debate:
Who was the bigger NLCS Game 1 hero?

Tom Glavine, ageless in throwing 7 shutout innings and limiting the Cards to 4 hits, knowing the rest of the rotation behind him is slop?

Or Carlos Beltran, accounting for all of the Mets' runs with a 2-run HR and evoking memories of his breakout 2004 postseason?

My vote is for Glavine, who recently has been argued to be the most clutch playoff pitcher of our era. And he helped his cause last night.

Beltran's HR was great (and certainly necessary), but on any given night, the Mets' O can come from a half-dozen spots in the lineup.

But amazing starting pitching? That's the vastly more rare commodity for this team.

Meanwhile, Game 2 intrigue: Tony LaRussa has moved Chris Carpenter up to start tonight on 4 days' rest, rather than Game 3 tomorrow on 5 days' rest.

Here's the most interesting stat, which you'll probably hear 100 times today:

4 Days' Rest: 9-6, 3.64 ERA (23 GS)
5 Days' Rest: 4-1, .97 ERA (6 GS)

The context is set: If Carpenter doesn't win, the Genius will find himself with a severe case of the second-guessers.

ALCS Game 3: Weather or Not? There's nothing more intriguing than the weather being the biggest X-factor in a baseball playoff game.

The conditions in Detroit are supposed to be so spotty (temp in the 40s, wind at 20 mph, ominous rainclouds) that they moved the game to 4:30 to try to avoid a "weather-out."

The more brutal the weather, the better: Baseball fans in Michigan might have forgotten what October baseball is like; this football weather will help ease their transition.

Finally, I absolutely love this emerging controversy over the questionable radar-gun clocking of the pitchers -- particularly the ones showing triple-digits.

Is juicing the radar-gun numbers so terrible for the sport, given that fans WANT to see that 100 mark? Will Joel Zumaya's performance demand an asterisk?

It's misleading, sure, but in this case, I think fans WANT to be misled. It's not like batters are using the radar gun to make their decisions about whether to swing.

(Particularly versus Zumaya. Just ask the heart of the Yankees' order.)

-- D.S.

Friday A.M. Quickie
(Everything But the LCS)

*Who was the Mets' bigger Game 1 hero?

*Why is LaRussa on the hot seat?

*What's the ALCS' biggest X-factor?

I've got a complete LCS post coming.

Meanwhile, the rest of today's big news:

Did Alfonso Soriano reject a 5-year, $70 million offer from the Nats? The Nats are denying it.

Wait: Are they denying he turned it down or that the mega-deal was proffered?

Either way, it's a bad start to the most intriguing position-player free-agency of the MLB offseason.

CFB Thursday: Ranked teams can take advantage of the lack of clutter to make statements when they play on Thursday night:

Good: Clemson. The No. 12 Tigers did what they had to do: Put up a nice, staggering number (63) on a terrible opponent, so that poll voters who simply look at scores affirm in their minds that Clemson is a legit powerhouse.

Bad: Virginia Tech. Everyone – me included – should be ashamed for having the Hokies as high as No. 11 as recently as two weeks ago. VA Tech lost its second straight game – and this one was brutal: A 22-3 loss to B.C., which was KO'ed from the Top 25 for the crime of having a bye week last week. This should get them back in.

Oh, and Steve Aponavicius for Heisman!

Complete CFB Weekend Preview coming later today.

Now that the new NBA ball is passe as the hot button for the new season, the trendy point of contention is the league's new crackdown on player griping.

Kevin Garnett has the quote of the debate so far, after last night's game where the T'wolves collected 3 Ts, including 2 on Mark Blount.

"To the fact that you can't really speak to the refs, the refs don't want to hear it. That's almost like Communism. That's like Castro." Didn't North Korea manufacture the new NBA ball?

NBA Preseason: Quickie readers know my fascination with Jordan Farmar, the only Jewish NBA player. (I like to claim that my own game resembles Farmar's, just without the skills.) He had 10 points and a game-high 5 assists in the Lakers' win last night. Get him in the rotation, Phil! (And where's that replica jersey for me to buy, NBA?)

Police arrest Lloyd Carr stalker: That's nothing, if Carr can't beat Penn State tomorrow (let alone Ohio St next month).

Brad Daugherty is ESPN's newest NASCAR reporter. Having cognitive dissonance? Apparently, he's been a NASCAR guy for a long time.

Kurt Warner said he's considering retirement after the '06 season. Considering that his starting days are over and that he's gotten his bell rung more than Notre Dame, why not make the jump to TV now?

More CFB Top 25 Stuff: I meant to link to this yesterday. My non-nemesis Dan Steinberg raised the ante on the Top 25 analysis, actually finding the ranking that could very well be the Most Sensible. Ranking. Ever. (Hint: Leave it to the gamblers.)

As someone mocked on national TV for being a high-talker, I am unwilling to make voice jokes about Avery Johnson, who just got a new 5-year, $20 million deal to keep coaching the Mavs.

The Little League World Series is going to institute pitch counts next season. Now, if only they could do something to limit those insane coaches.

And, finally, it's nice to see justice served: That baseball coach who wanted to bean the autistic boy was sent to prison. Rot in hell, "Coach."

(Oh, and I want to give a huge shout-out to Joshua Prager, author of the phenomenal new book, "The Echoing Green," for having a tremendous book club performance last night in NYC. He couldn't have been nicer, and the stories he told -- and songs he sang -- really enhanced what is already a spectacular book that I recommend everyone read.)

Coming today on the blog:
*MLB LCS Mania!
*CFB Weekend Preview!
*NFL Week 6 Picks!
*College Hoops Midnight Madness!

-- D.S.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Here's your last call (and my last shameless promotion) for the event I'm hosting tonight on behalf of the ESPN Book Club, featuring Joshua Prager, author of the excellent new book, "The Echoing Green."

There's a Q&A with the author from 7-7:45 p.m., then he's doing a reading and a signing after that. The event will be held in NYC, at the Borders at the Time Warner Center near Columbus Circle. If you live in the city, I personally invite you to come check it out. Thanks!

Schwarz on Lidle

This is pretty surreal.

NFL Power Rankings

I think the phrase "Power Rankings" is so freaking cliched. So I'm taking nominations for a new name for weekly NFL rankings, ideally a little more ironic or clever. It can be a play on "Power," but it could also be something else. Put them in the Comments section, along with your usual mockery/ridicule of my latest rankings:

1. Bears
2. Chargers
3. Colts
4. Pats
5. Bengals

6. Eagles
7. Broncos
8. Ravens
9. Seahawks
10. Falcons
11. Rams
12. Jags
13. Saints
14. Panthers
15. Vikings
16. Giants
17. Cowboys
18. Steelers
19. Redskins
20. Chiefs
21. Bills
22. Jets
23. 49ers
24. Texans
25. Dolphins
26. Cards
27. Packers
28. Browns
29. Bucs
30. Lions
31. Titans
32. Raiders

Comments Debate: Everyone seems to agree that the Bears are No. 1. So: Who is your No. 2 (and why)?

Thursday A.M. Quickie:
Lidle, LCS and More

Cory Lidle follow-up: It's hard to analyze the Lidle tragedy without becoming maudlin. An otherwise scary day in NYC became the sports world's biggest story, because a notable name -- a Yankee, no less -- was one of the people who died.

From all accounts, it sounds like he was a good enough guy, though I wonder if "good father and husband" is a euphemism for "can't really say many nice things about him as a player." (See the reaction of some of his ex-Phillies teammates the day after he was traded to the Yankees.)

Sure, it's possible that he was obsessed with his plane and with flying as his hobby, but how many of us have hobbies we're obsessed with?

On TV, there were the obligatory quotes from his teammates, current and former. There was a LOT of speculation and airtime filler. There were a LOT of comparisons to Thurman Munson, though I think everyone can agree that was an imperfect analogy. Mostly, there was this sense of: What do you say? What CAN you say? (Beyond: This is terrible. Condolences to his family and friends.)

I'd point you to the 40-plus comments left on the post I put up about Lidle's death by readers of this blog.

Meanwhile, there's some interesting Lidle coverage on the Web. Paul Katcher took a look at what can only be called the "eBay spike" for sports-memorabilia prices when tragedy happens. Here's the link, and it includes this detail: $318 for a $15 autographed ball?

TIGERS WIN GAME 2, TOO: If baseball managing is an overrated job, as many critics claim, someone needs to explain how Jim Leyland managed to "overrate" the idea of using little-known Alexis Gomez as his DH in place of Marcus Thames.

With 1 HR and 11 RBI – for his MLB career – Gomez became a cult hero in Detroit: He hit a HR and drove in 4 RBI to put the Tigers up 2-0 in the ALCS... and the series hasn't even played a game in Detroit yet.

It's quickly becoming cliche to say it, but these Tigers are beginning to resemble last year's White Sox: Great pitching, timely power-hitting and... yes, doubters: Savvy managing.

They also are upholding the great tradition of the Wild Card team becoming the postseason's most dangerous team -- and most likely to win the title, no matter what things look like on paper.

NLCS: Rain-Out, which sets up a new schedule that would see games on up to five consecutive days. The last notable time that happened? The 2004 ALCS, when the Red Sox used back-to-back-to-back mojo to pull the greatest playoff-series U-turn in sports history on the Yankees.

(Is "genius" Tony LaRussa thinking about shifting Chris Carpenter up to Game 2 because of the rain-out? We'll see...)

T.O.: "I do question why I'm here." No, he's not talking existentially. That was LAST week. He's actually griping about his involvement in the Cowboys offense. (Go figure: Who had Week 6 in the pool?)

Well, maybe it's that: (a) your coach hates you; (b) your QB hates you; or, perhaps, (c) defenses are simply taking you out of the offense, given that you're the top threat on the team. Hmm...

Joe Girardi talks with the Nats for a second time about the manager job. Now, is this a ploy by Girardi to drive up the pressure (and the price) on the Cubs? Or does he see the intrigue in managing where he's wanted?

Stephen Jackson might be going to jail for 3 months for violating his probation, after he was arrested yesterday and charged with battery and disorderly conduct. Apparently, he didn't satisfy the terms of his earlier probation (from the 2004 Palace melee) so the judge extended it. Jackson is a classic dumbass.

NBA Preseason Notes:
(1) Ben Wallace's debut with the Bulls was typical: 7 points and 9 rebounds. (Of course, it wasn't as impressive as his replacement Nazr Mohammed's debut with the Pistons the other night.)

(2) Rookie Rajon Rondo is for real: The Celtics PG had 29 points, again out-playing more-heralded PG import Sebastian Telfair (16 pts.)

(3) If the Nets wanted a glimpse of life without Vince Carter, it's not bad: Antoine Wright had 23 starting for VC in a Nets loss to the Pacers...

(4) ...Who also got a glimpse of life without a key player, Stephen Jackson. But summer (re-)import Al Harrington looks like he could be the offseason pickup of the year in the NBA. He had a team-high 21 pts and 9 rebounds in the win.

I remain mystified why Louisville would even CONSIDER risking re-aggravating Brian Brohm's hand injury by playing him in what should be a non-game this Saturday vs. Cincinnati. Focus on Louisville. was launched, in the attempt of making Landis' case for himself (via Power Point, no less!) and pre-empting the "official" investigation later this fall. It's a clever attempt, but Landis sealed his fate in the first days after the scandal broke, no matter how slick his Power Point skills are.

Top 25 Watch: Reader Troy Pratten sent me this clip from Kirk Herbstreit's column this week, pointing out that this is precisely the attitude I've been calling for. So let me re-print it:

"Who's No. 2?
I have been touting Michigan the last four weeks as the No. 2 team in the country. However, one thing you have to do when ranking teams -- especially when you have several unbeaten teams -- is be willing to change, if warranted, on a week-to-week basis. Michigan has done nothing wrong, but to fail to reward Florida for its victories is unfair.

"The Gators have done everything asked of them and have been very impressive along the way. Going into Week 7, Florida clearly is the No. 2 team in the country; however, ranking teams at the top of the poll should be a very fluid situation. With Florida going to Auburn and Michigan going to Penn State on Saturday, there is potential for changes again this time next week."

Kudos to Herbie, the guy I think is arguably the best "analyst" talent at ESPN, if you factor in quality of analysis, delivery and overall image.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Lidle Reportedly Killed in NYC Plane Crash

Wow. Holy shit. Cory Lidle was the pilot of the plane that hit a building on the Upper East Side of NYC. This is very sad. (Not more sad than anyone who might have died, but particularly relevant to sports fans and the sports world.)

Update: Thanks to everyone who has commented on this tragic story.

ALCS vs. NLCS: Uh, Simulcast?

I'm sitting looking out my window at the rain showering NYC, and I'm wondering if it'll be over by game time tonight at Shea... and, if not, how long they'll let it rain before calling the game? Would they take a 9 p.m. start? 10 p.m. start?

If nothing else, it'll let you direct your attention completely to the Tigers-A's series. That is, if you're not watching, say, Lost.

Anyway, I want to open up the Comments section for your pre-game(s), mid-game(s) and post-game(s) analysis of the two LCS series on tonight. Why are they showing them at the same time, again?

-- D.S.

Reminder: NYC Author Event Tomorrow!

Just a quick reminder that I'll be hosting an ESPN Book Club event featuring Joshua Prager, author of the excellent new book "The Echoing Green," at the Borders at the Time Warner Center (Columbus Circle) tomorrow night at 7. If you live in NYC, I really hope to see you there! (And it'll be over before the MLB playoffs start, so you've got no excuse NOT to go!)

This Week's CFB Top 25 Ballot

So I've ripped the AP pollsters over the last week, put my first crack at a Top 25 out earlier this week, and even gotten into a blog feud over it. Now you can check out my final CFB Top 25 ballot for this week.

Here's the link to all BlogPoll ballots. Look under the "Week 7" column, and you can find mine under, obvs, "Dan Shanoff."

(Yes, Florida is No. 2 on my ballot. By the way, did you notice that ESPN College GameDay will be covering a Florida game for a second consecutive week this Saturday (at Auburn)? Ever remember THAT happening? UPDATE: Uh, apparently, it happened with Ohio St just this year. My bad!)

-- D.S.

Groupie Sex with the 1960s Packers!

This is the greatest sports-politics mash-up story of the year:

Candidate bragged about groupie sex with the legendary 1960s Green Bay Packers.

And after you've read the story here, jump into the Comments section to provide your best ideas for her campaign slogan.

-- D.S.

Wednesday A.M. Quickie:
ALCS, NLCS and More

Tigers bury Zito, A's in ALCS Game 1: Given that the Tigers just won using their 4th starter, pummeled the A's No. 1 starter and yanked away home-field advantage with a series-opening win in Oakland, perhaps my "Tigers in 7" was a bit too conservative.

Inge's HR showed fans everywhere how the Tigers' lineup has packed power up and down all season long; Ivan Rodriguez's HR contributed to the argument that he just might be the most worthy AL MVP.

(Now, before you jump on me about how playoff stats aren't counted in MVP voting, I'm simply citing it as symbolism. But it's hard to argue against Pudge arriving as a free agent to a team coming off arguably the worst season in AL history, then just a few seasons later, powering them into the playoffs, past the Yankees and to a 1-0 ALCS lead.)

Meanwhile, Barry Zito got shelled. If I was so quick yesterday to say that a quality start in the ALCS would add millions to his pending free-agency value, then should it work the other way, too?

After all: What good will it be for the Yankees to over-spend on him if he gets racked by the Tigers' lineup as much as the rest of the Yankees' overpriced pitchers?

NLCS Preview: Glavine vs. Weaver in Game 1 in New York, where the Mets are the only game left in town. (And that's for the better.)

The Top 5 X-factors:
1. Mets' relief pitching
2. Beltran vs. Cards, 2004
3. Jim Edmonds
4. Power: Pujols or Mets?
5. LaRussa's scheming

The Pick: No reservations about this series similar to my quandary about the A's and Tigers from yesterday. I said it over the weekend: Mets in 5.

A-Rod going nowhere? Brian Cashman said the Yankees have no intention of trading A-Rod, but they'll listen to offers. But SHOULD they trade him?

It will be almost impossible to get back "equal value," unless you consider getting rid of his playoff chokery as "value." I still like the deal shipping him to the Cubs for Aramis Ramirez.

The hot free-agent of the MLB hot-stove season? Japanese pitcher Daisuki Matsuzaka – who may or may not be able to throw the mythical "gyroball," but is certainly the best pitcher in Japan (if not the world, given his status as reigning WBC MVP) – will be available to MLB teams.

(The intrigue? It'll be sealed bids for the right to negotiate with him; that means that his price will likely be astronomical, as teams try to guess how much they'll need to bid -- really, how much they'll need to bid to beat out the Yankees -- to win the lottery. If Randy Johnson at the end of his career is worth upper-teen millions, is it so crazy for the Boss to offer Matsuzaka $10-15 million a year?)

What the hell is wrong with Jeremy Shockey's foot? (I can't possibly be the only one to claim it's the effects of foot-in-mouth disease.)

Why would the Jaguars – arguably the AFC's top defensive team – pick up CB Ahmad Carroll, a guy whose Monday Nightmare Football experience is still tattooed on his ass?

Karma's a bitch: Just as the "PED punter" Todd Sauerbrun was supposed to come off his four-game suspension, the Broncos cut him. And who would want a punter touched by the taint of steroids?

Well, I guess one way to prove that Mario Manningham is the most valuable player in college football is to have Michigan poop the bed against Penn State without him.

(Interesting TV note: Fox owns the rights to the BCS title-game now, and they'll announce the first BCS standings during the NFL postgame show on Sunday night following the 4 p.m. game's finish.)

Adam Morrison made a very successful NBA debut last night in the Bobcats' exhibition opener, and he was everything that his supporters said he would be: He scored 19 points (game high) on 7/14 FG shooting. Of course, the Bobcats lost, but that's not The Weeper's fault.

Who needs Ben Wallace when the Pistons can get 16 points and 8 rebounds in a team-high 31 minutes from free-agent stop-gag Nazr Mohammed in a 20-point win over the Heat? This will be VERY interesting.

More NBA rookie-watching:

(1) Celtics' Rajon Rondo had 11 points and 8 assists (7 more than C's starting PG Telfair)...

(2) Sixers' Rodney Carney had 14, compete with game-winning 3...

(3) Grizzlies' Rudy Gay had 14 (on 5/18 FG. Yikes...)

Happy 17th Birthday, Michelle Wie: I will repeat the argument I've made for four years: She is the greatest 17-year-old golfer in the history of the game.

If Wie right now took on a 17-year-old Tiger (or, for that matter, a 17-year-old Nicklaus), she would wipe the floor with him – or any other 17-year-old golfer (male or female).

Hell, I'd say that Wie's biggest competition among 17-year-olds would be another female -- the gutsy Morgan Pressel, who would also have been able to beat a 17-year-old Tiger.

I haven't talked about this NASCAR drama, but I should have. To summarize: Brian Vickers wrecked his teammate Jimmie Johnson (and Dale Jr.) on the final lap on Sunday, taking the race win for himself (even though he's out of the Chase) and wrecking both Johnson and Dale Jr's chances (both are still in the Chase).

To make things more interesting, Vickers is bolting Johnson's Hendricks team for NASCAR newbie Toyota, which has caused all sorts of off-track drama. Frankly, it's one of the most intriguing NASCAR dramas ever – and one of the only ones where non-NASCAR fans can follow what's going on and have an opinion.

All I can say is: Vickers might as well wreck himself early next race, because he's getting some "NASCAR justice," whether he wants it or not. (Meanwhile, Vickers will have the last laugh: I'm predicting that Toyota will be totally dominating NASCAR within 3 years.)

Lawrence Phillips was convicted, and the guy who puts the "R-B" in "troubled" faces up to 20 years in prison, which would easily eclipse Maurice Clarett's "mere" 3-year stretch.

Oh, and WashPost uber-blogger Dan Steinberg had a reply to my post about his post in our new blog feud. Here's the link, and you can find my reply in his Comments section. (Someone tell me why didn't I make that a post on my own blog again? D'oh.)

Genius Sports-Marketing Gimmick of the Week: The White Sox inked a $500K deal with 7-Eleven to start their games at 7:11 p.m.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

ALCS Pick: Tigers or A's?

Ack, I'm torn: On the one hand, I'm all-consumed with seeing my A's-Mets World Series prediction (from APRIL!) come true. On the other hand, I'm rooting for the Tigers' rags-to-riches story -- and sensing eerie similarities between these Tigers and last year's White Sox.

Stick with my April gut? (A's)
Go with the hot hand? (Tigers)

Tigers in 7.

Joe Torre Staying

But does it even matter? After six straight playoff failures, does anyone really think that Torre's presence (or not) will make the difference?

New NBA Whining Crackdown:
So Who's On Notice?

I'm so intrigued by the NBA's crackdown on whining (or, as the NBA says, "showing up the refs"). Here's the question:

Which players are most likely to get nicked by the new emphasis?

Basically, what I'm asking is this:

Who are the biggest whiners in the NBA? About calls against them when they play D? No-calls against them when they are on offense? Other generic griping?

As I wrote earlier, LeBron James became one of the worst offenders over the course of last season. It is the biggest crack in his otherwise spotless facade of skills, talent and marketability:

He's a first-team All-Star Bitcher. Griper. Crier. Whiner. Whatever you want to call it, he's it. Waaaa!

We're all witness, all right: Witness to LeBron's unsightly whining about calls. (Funny: I didn't see "The Griper" among his LeBron "personas.")

So: Who else is on notice? Which other players are most likely to be T'ed up as the NBA cracks down on bitching and moaning about calls?

-- D.S.

Tuesday A.M. Quickie:
Can We Stop the Torre Talk, Now?

OK, maybe this news will finally end what promises to be ceaseless hot-stove speculation about the future of the Yankees:

Joe Torre is coming back to the Yankees.

At least, that's what the NY Post says (of course, the NY Daily News was the one who said Sunday that Torre was as good as gone.)

Let's see:

Torre is coming back, presumably by the grace of George. And there's no way that the Boss will eject A-Rod, no matter how much that might bug Torre.

So after the last 72 hours of hysteria about the future of the Yankees, indications are that Torre will be back, A-Rod will be back, the Boss will be back -- and the Yanks will still have their pitching problems.

(Lou Piniella hasn't heard from the Boss, which is another good indicator that the Yankees have no interest in hiring him to replace Torre. Lou also let the Nats know he has no interest in managing them.)

ALCS Game 1: Speaking of pitching problems, the Tigers are dancing with the ones who brung 'em: Ineffective ALDS Game 1 starter Nate Robertson will get the start in Game 1 of the ALCS against Barry Zito, who I would imagine understands that every quality postseason start equals another $10 million or so on his upcoming free-agent contract.

(Who the hell am I to question Jim Leyland? He just ran the Yankees out of the playoffs; he can do what he wants.)

Cubs interview Joe Girardi: Here are a couple questions I might suggest: (1) Can you get along with a GM and ownership group? (2) What do you think Dusty Baker did MOST wrong? (Can you narrow it down?)

MNF: Broncos Beat Ravens in Ugly One. Given that the game was played at Denver and in horrible sloppy weather, I'm trying not to read too much into the Ravens' first loss of the season -- or another big Broncos win over a presumptive AFC contender.

More great news for the Dolphins: Daunte Culpepper might be out for the rest of the season. Nick Saban says he won't play again until he regains his "explosion," whatever that means.

Meanwhile, by default, that means that Joey Harrington is the Dolphins' QB of the present -- and future. Hard to believe that six weeks ago, so many people were touting the Fins as AFC contenders.

Bledsoe will remain the Cowboys QB, according to Bill Parcells, who has, oh, NEVER had a problem with detrimental decisions based on loyalty to "his" QBs. Come on: It's Romo Time, already!

Jags D remains cursed: JAX loses top tackler Peterson. How many more devastating injuries can a great defense have before it starts to take a toll? Coming off a shutout, the/my Jags D lost its top playmaker to a torn pec. Ouch.

Matt Leinart's job just got a lot harder: Larry Fitzgerald, who caught one of Leinart's 2 TD passes on Sunday, is out for a month (or more) with a bad hammy.

NBA Preseason: Raps top Wiz. Why concentrate on this game? Because it was the only one of the night, sure, but also because I'm ready to declare Gilbert Arenas the most intriguing player in the NBA right now.

How do I account for "most intriguing?" It's a combination of on-court skills and off-court personality. And right now, no one has more than "Agent Zero," who had 29 points last night. No word on how he did at his customary halftime game of online poker.

Top NBA Draft pick Andrea Bargnani had 8 points and 4 rebounds in 13 minutes (also notable for 5 fouls). Better preseason debut than Mario Williams in that OTHER league...

I'm hearing more and more about the NBA refs cracking down on excessive whining about calls. There's SUPPOSED to be a quicker T, but I'm waiting to see if "whine-over-calls" poster guy LeBron James earns any.

Crikey! Andrew Bogut is out 6-8 weeks with a leg sprain. So much for the breakthrough season, for him or the Bucks.

Why the hell would Louisville rush Brian Brohm back from his hand injury in time to play against... Cincinnati? Their offense will be fine without him for another week. Shouldn't they be totally focused on having him be as healthy as possible for the West Virginia game?

And since we have a few commenters who seem to care deeply about Michigan WR Mario Manningham, they might have to hold off on that Heisman campaign: He's likely to have surgery on his knee and could mis a few weeks.

Last thing: That story that emerged yesterday about Tom Candiotti getting Jeff Kent drilled by a pitch to help his fantasy team (this was a dozen years ago) is taking on a life of its own. As it should!

-- D.S.

Monday, October 09, 2006

My First Blog Feud?!

It's so funny: This weekend, I had started working on a post for later this week that was going to talk about how Dan Steinberg's new "DC Sports Bog" blog for the Washington Post is not just the gold-standard among newspaper blogs (and bloggers), but the very model for how newspapers MUST make their blogs more "value-add" than the usual (cough!) lazy (ahem!) unaffiliated (me!) sports blogs out there that simply take other media's news items and spout their own half-baked opinions about them.

(Well, there goes the post for later this week...)

Let me say this, first of all: I'm a HUGE fan of Steinberg AND his new blog. You can check it out here, and you don't have to be a DC sports fan to appreciate the way he's really running with the blogging form. Every newspaper reporter who wants to blog should take note.

Then, just now, I get an email from Dan (who I've corresponded with via email a few times), pointing me to his latest blog entry, which -- well -- rips my argument from Friday about the bias of the AP voters.

Is this the next great Internet feud? Are we going to be the Jewish version of Jason Whitlock and Scoop Jackson? (If so, then who's who?)

Ha ha: Hardly! On Friday afternoon, as I dashed off the offending post knowing the clock was running down on the week, I was worried that my reasoning would turn out flawed, particularly on the point Dan (uh, the OTHER Dan) appropriately picks on: My half-baked claim of AP voter bias.

Well, I overreached, and Steinberg caught me on it. He took the time (that I didn't) to go over every ballot to REALLY look for bias. Qualitatively, at least, it wasn't there in the way I generalized off of a few ballots (though I did scan all of them and did provide a fair number of examples).

(Quantitatively, I'm still waiting for the type of Excel-based analysis that makes the blogger-run college football BlogPoll so freaking awesome. I'm not the one to do it, but it's precisely the type of analysis that would help.)

But Dan's points are well-made, and his post about it is worth a look, not because he calls me out about it, but because it's a smart debunking of a half-cocked blogger's opinion.

Now, can he debunk that I think that the media (and coaches) have no business being in the poll business? Or, if they insist on being in that business, why they limit themselves to a pool of local reporters of unknown expertise? Or that I still wonder how they watch enough games to make them more expert than, say, a knowledgeable fan with a "GamePlan" cable package (or one of the many really good college football bloggers)? Or how they can explain the apparent hypocrisy of taking themselves out of the BCS process because they don't want to make news, yet sit on a collision course to "split" the national championship themselves?

Nah, but he CAN tell me why I was half-baked to throw that conclusion in there, when really it was the wrong point to hit on. (I will say, however, that the new ability to look at each voter's ballot individually is a step in the right direction. Hey, AP, how about having each voter record a podcast or file a column explaining their picks? Fans are due at least that much.)

The other funny timing about Dan's post was that, as I noted in one of the CFB-related post's Comments areas earlier today, I was planning to ease back on my constant poll-voter-bashing anyway.

So, anyway, I'm sorry to say that there won't be any feud between me and Dan Steinberg. I like his work too much (and appreciate that he took the time to read my blog and respond).

But, I promise: I'll find more potential feuds soon!

-- D.S.

The Five Best Arguments
(Coming Out of the Weekend)

(1) Are the Bears the best team in the NFL? If not, who is? If so, who's No. 2?)

(My answer: Yes, they are, as long as Rex Grossman stays healthy. No. 2? I'll begrudgingly say the Colts, even if the Ravens win tonight.)

(2) What punishment -- if any -- should Antrel Rolle get for his facemask on Larry Johnson?

(My answer: It looked pretty intentional to me. If Haynesworth got 5 games and is the new standard, I'd give Rolle at least 2 or 3.)

(3) Who is the better fit as Yankees manager in 2007: Joe Torre or Lou Piniella?

(My answer: Piniella. This team needs a kick in the ass. Not as badly as they need better pitching, but it won't hurt.)

(4) In each league, which team is best positioned to win the MLB LCS?

(My answer: Tigers, with pitching-pitching-pitching, and the Mets, with hitting-hitting-hitting.)

(5) How should fans rank these three teams: Florida, Michigan or USC?

(My answer: Just like that.)

-- D.S.

Monday A.M. Quickie:
So Much More Than T.O.

What are the biggest NFL storylines coming out of Sunday? Here's the Top 5:

1. Shocker: T.O. booed in Philly
2. No shocker: T.O. is impotent
3. Bears confirm No. 1 status
4. Reggie Bush makes good
5. Daunte benched after argument?

Sunday night: Hopefully, positive reinforcement (like beating the reigning NFL champs) will convince Marty Schottenheimer that the further he gets from "Martyball," the better.

(Meanwhile, the Steelers are reeling. 1-3 with three straight losses? Don't talk to me about how tough their schedule is; talk to me about how they'll spend that Top 10 draft pick.)

Click here for my quick-hit breakdown. (Or, of course, just scroll down to the next item.)

Boss: Yankees a "sad failure." I'd say Steinbrenner was pretty generous there, unless by "sad" he meant "pathetic" and by "failure" he meant "chokers."

Is Joe Torre going to Texas? They have reportedly indicated they want him, but why would he go to a perennial dud? (Well, aside from the oodles of loot that Tom Hicks can throw at him.)

First, of course, he has to get fired from the Yankees, which sounds like it will happen any minute now. Despite his team's dud over the past six postseasons, his legacy is still secure.

MLB LDS: Cards eliminate Padres, head to NLCS to face the Mets. I was at Shea a few months ago when the Mets came back from that deep hole to clock HR after HR (to counter Pujols' HR frenzy) and win. Mets in 5.

"Pulling a Haynesworth" appears to be the new NFL trend: It's when a defensive player does something totally stupid.

This week, Antrel Rolle is the new Albert, tackling Larry Johnson by the facemask. Let's start the suspension bidding at 2 games.*

(After all, LJ *is* one of the NFL's top fantasy stars.)

MNF: Broncos at Ravens. Time for Baltimore to learn what the Pats learned: That Denver, at home, is tough to beat.

Is the NBA going back to the old ball after all the complaints? That's where it seems to be headed, and it just shows the type of influence the players can have. (Spalding comes out looking terrible.) So, let's review: The old NBA ball is the new NBA ball?

College Football Weekend Review:
Top stud: Florida QB Tim Tebow: The true freshman (and backup) accounted for 3 TDs, including a double-clutch floater in the lane at the goal line, to lead Florida over LSU and up to the No. 2 spot, vacated by...

Top dud: Auburn, which lost its "controls-own-destiny" spot in the national-title race after choking at home on national TV by double-digits to unranked Arkansas.

Did you catch Garrett Wolfe, the Northern Illinois shadow Heisman candidate, last night? You know you're having a Heisman-type season when 162 yards and 2 TDs is your WORST game of the season.

The latest AP Top 25 poll did the right thing, vaulting Florida over USC and WVA to No. 2. Here are the individual ballots.

Worst Ballot: Angelique Chengelis of the Detroit News, a target of my mockery for her ballot last week (ridiculous homerism putting Michigan at No. 2), is again at the top of my "Worst Ballot" List:

Chengelis replaced last week's laughable pick of Michigan at No. 2 with USC at No. 2 this week, while putting Florida at No. 5. Whatever crack she's smoking, I want to invest in it, because it's strong stuff.

(I posted an update about my Top 25 and the Michigan-vs-Florida debate raging in the Comments section.)

"Hindsight 20/20" Unlikely-Star NFL Fantasy Lineup I Wish I Had:
QB Bruce Gradkowski
RB Cedric Benson
RB Noah Herron
WR Greg Jennings
WR Lee Evans
TE Dan Campbell
Flex: Reggie Bush
Def: Jaguars

-- D.S.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

NFL Week 5 Analysis:
Bluster, Bears and Bush

All bark and no bite: That neatly sums up the situation in Philly, where the Eagles fans were apparently nasty enough about T.O. before the game, but his non-existent stats (plus a Cowboys lead) has neutered the vibe inside the stadium.

And, yet, who cares?

The sweetest revenge, of course, is that the Eagles picked off Drew Bledsoe for a game-clinching INT, after the Cowboys got a gift-wrapped PI call that put the ball on the Eagles 7.

(And T.O. nemesis Donovan McNabb had an in-your-face day: 350 yards and 2 TDs.)

Here's the best part: For all the pre-game hype and all the venom spewed by Philly fans, T.O. was a complete non-factor. And the Eagles won.

The Bears are a bonafide juggernaut: Not only did the D come within 1 minute of pitching a shutout, but the offense racked up 40 points. That makes it 156-36 on the season.

Well, Reggie Bush sure picked an awesome moment to score his first NFL TD – a game-winning punt return? That's what we've all been waiting for.

(Meanwhile, Bucs rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski (2 TD passes) is a fantasy winner -- if not one in real life.)

Matt Freaking Leinart. OK, so maybe he's going to be a pretty good NFL QB. Not that it could keep the Cards from a loss.

So much for that Redskins' revived offense. (And so much for ripping a Giants D that was torched in its last game vs. Seattle.)

Wow, the Dolphins really ARE that bad, aren't they? Nice to see spot-starting QB Joey Harrington hasn't lost his touch with the INTs.

If there's a silver lining for the Packers in defeat, I think they found their new RB: Noah Herron (106 yds, 1 TD). From...? Northwestern, naturally.

Sure, it was only a win over the Browns, but the Panthers seem to have righted the ship heading into the second quarter of the NFL season.

You know who really won the Colts-Titans game? The gamblers who took Tennessee and the points. (The Colts did NOT look good.)

If you were wondering whether the/my Jags' sieve-like defensive performance last week was an anomaly, just ask the Jets.

I know Alex Smith was playing the Raiders, but for one week at least, the guy really looked like he was worth a first-round draft pick.

Here's the bright side for Oakland: They're one step closer to drafting Brady Quinn... hell, or anyone else they might want. Keep it up!

Leave your own pithy, one-line analysis about your most intriguing NFL Week 5 results or developments in the Comments section!

-- D.S.