Saturday, October 21, 2006

CFB Saturday Tailgate

This is Dan's wife. He's in Miami and doesn't have access to a computer. He says sorry for the delay, and put your college football analysis in the comments section as usual.

Friday, October 20, 2006

World Series Preview:
Cards: Worst W.S. Team Ever?

*Click here for Friday A.M. Quickie.
*Click here for NFL Week 7 Preview.

The worst World Series team ever: Is that really the Cardinals? That's a bold claim (made by, among others, Thomas Boswell), but you all know I'm a sucker for the superlative. And that would certainly qualify.

I'll leave it to the experts, analysts and historians to battle that out -- it bolsters the case that the Cards have the second-worst record ever for a World Series team (just a game ahead of the '73 Mets).

Though I was extremely sympathetic to the Mets' cause, there's something appealing about the fact that, less than a month ago, the Cards were on the brink of the worst miss-the-playoffs collapse in MLB history. And yet here they are.

The Cards' run confirms the playoff-success-as-random theory (most recently explained by a certain Cards fan-slash-sports blogger who must be plenty happy today).

How fitting that the signature moment of an NLCS won by the Cards is a did-you-see-that play by the OTHER team -- Endy Chavez's HR-saving catch over the wall.

Or that the second-biggest signature moment came from the light-hitting catcher, when Yadier Molina provided the winning margin in the top of the 9th.

Or that the NLCS MVP was an otherwise forgettable pitcher, Jeff Suppan, who went 7 IP allowing only 2 hits and 1 run -- his second straight clutch performance in an NLCS Game 7. Speaking of superlatives:

That arguably crowns him the NL's top big-game playoff pitcher of our era. Try to find a player who tops "won 2 NLCS Game 7s in 3 years."

(I'd say the only pitcher who could top him is Randy Johnson in 2001, but that was just for Unit's work in one series; Suppan did it in two different series over three years -- in the first, beating Roger Clemens and in the second, stifling his league's top offense.)

What about the Mets? As will be pointed out today, it was their offense that failed them, not their pitching, as originally predicted. (Shows what the "experts" know.)

Between the payroll and the talent, I have no doubt they'll be back in the playoffs a year from now – the NL East's equivalent of the metronomic Cardinals?

I'm sure the Mets' offseason focus will be on pitching -- whose won't? -- but it's worth noting that these final two games were anchored by lightly regarded cast-offs, not pricey imports.

Now, about that World Series: I'm not buying that the week off will slow the Tigers' momentum; as has been pointed out, the White Sox had five days off between last year's ALCS and the World Series.

As I point out below, this is a hugely intriguing series: The winner will either be a team completing the greatest turnaround in MLB history (Tigers) or a team that is arguably the worst champ in MLB history. (Cards) Either way, superlative-lovers rejoice!

Much like the Cards' fate in 2004, I predict another hard-fought 7-game NLCS title yields a World Series sweep to a Team of Destiny.

The Tigers have too much pitching, too much hitting, too much Leyland and too much mojo on their side.

Tigers in 4.

So, for the Comments section, a few suggested topics (though by all means, say whatever you want):

(1) Are these Cards the worst World Series team ever? If not, then who?

(2) Where does Suppan's performance and history put him among all-time NL clutch pitchers?

(3) What's your outlook for the World Series and why? Who are the biggest X-factors?

I'm traveling this morning, so I might not be able to post until later. See below for the usual Friday A.M. Quickie and the NFL Week 7 picks.

-- D.S.

NFL Week 7 Preview and Picks

Panthers over Bengals: Game of the Week! Hard to pick against the Bengals in Cincy, but I *did* have the Cats ranked No. 2 this week, didn't I? Yes, like a moron.

Steelers over Falcons: Last week was the breakout game that Big Ben needed to get re-tracked.

Pats over Bills: The Pats stay relatively under the radar, exactly where Bill Belichick wants them to be.

Chargers over Chiefs: Stumbling K.C. picked the wrong week to face the nasty Bolts D -- and the suddenly sizzling Philip Rivers.

Dolphins over Packers: And your headline on Monday: "Vick-tory!"

Lions over Jets: I should be taking New York, but I can't be the only one who thinks their 3-3 record is a little misleading.

Eagles over Bucs: After last week's last-second loss to the Saints, Philly will want to put this one away early in the 4th.

Jaguars over Texans: Even without star LB Mike Peterson, the Jags should have more than enough to stifle Houston.

Broncos over Browns: Didn't Bruce Gradkowski used to be Charlie Frye?

Colts over Redskins: Mark Brunell picked the wrong week to throw down the "must-win" gauntlet.

Cardinals over Raiders: And if the Cards can't win this game, Dennis Green should be fired immediately.

Seahawks over Vikings: The World Series has KO'ed Sunday Night Football (even though more people would watch SNF than the WS), so if this bleeds past 7 p.m., you best enjoy it.

Cowboys over Giants: Tiki Barber said this week he's probably retiring after the '06 season. Dare we hope for similar news from T.O.?

Last week: 6-7
'06 season: 54-33

-- D.S.

Friday A.M. Quickie:
Everything But LCS/WS

I don't care if 66 percent of Americans couldn't care less about baseball or that the World Series will undoubtedly take a backseat to a slow Saturday in college football and, as usual, your standard Sunday in the NFL.

I think it's pretty amazing that the World Series will match up a team that, a mere three years ago, was arguably the AL's worst team ever against a team that, a mere three weeks ago, was arguably MLB's worst choker ever.

So the World Series result will either be the greatest turnaround story in MLB history or the least-worthy champ in MLB history. How can you not embrace THAT, America?

That Northern Colorado backup punter who stabbed the first-string punter in an attempt to get his job was charged with attempted murder. Now THAT's some fucked-up shit.

NFL bomb threat: Hoax. You don't want to be that dumb-ass who tried to pull it off. Who DOESN'T hate this person? The big question: Will they use the new rules eliminating habeas corpus to Gitmo his ass?

Knight to trump El Deano: Bob Knight signs extension to keep coaching at Texas Tech through 2012. The biggest implication? Presuming he never gets canned, he'll eclipse Dean Smith for all-time wins record.

Not-gay Lance still hates the French: I really couldn't care less about the new French book alleging more nastiness about Lance Armstrong. What about more denials he's schtupping Matthew McConaughey?

Reigning NBA Most Improved Player Boris Diaw's new 5-year, $45 million extension should be a reminder to all fans about how team/system "fit" matters in determining whether an NBA player languishes or flourishes.

(In my most notable example, I've contended that if the Pistons drafted Dwyane Wade -- as many people mock Detroit for whiffing on -- he would have sat at the end of the bench just like Darko did, because Larry Brown hates young players.)

The Wizards unveiled their alternative jerseys last night, and they're... gold. I thought they would be black with gold letters. Apparently, I had it confused. I give them points for boldness, but these are going to be mocked. (Since when was GOLD a Wizards color?)

I'm with Gilbert: "I want to go back to the red, white and blue colors. We're Washington, D.C. The flag. America's colors. that's what it should be."

Tony K done on MNF? Finally, in a story that should get some traction within the sports-blog universe, is Tony Kornheiser leaving "MNF" after this season? That's what he raises to the NY Post.

Now THAT's the unrepentantly insubordinate and gremlin-reveling Tony Kornheiser who has been missing from "MNF" broadcasts. What an irony.

-- D.S.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

NLCS Game 7 Live-Commenting Mania

NLCS. Game 7.
Mets. Cards.
Shea. Brisk.
Suppan. Perez.

Who will be the hero? Who will be the goat? Track the game right here with your fellow fans: Pre-game, in-game, post-game. Be the first to offer the analysis. Have at it!

CFB Weekend Preview

Yes, I'm posting the regularly featured college football weekend preview on Thursday, rather than Friday. I wish I could say that it was part of some larger blog re-invention, but really, I'm going to be on the road tomorrow -- I'm heading down to Miami to offer career counseling to Lamar Thomas. Moving on...

If someone told you that this week's most intriguing game would be between 19th-ranked Rutgers and should-be-ranked Pitt, you'd probably ask them where they found such high-quality crack.

And yet, here we are. Rutgers is one of a handful of unbeaten teams remaining and combines with Pitt to give the Big East a respectable four Top 25-worthy teams (Rutgers, Pitt, WVA, L'ville).

Here's where we see how legit Rutgers really is. A win here keeps the Big East title dream – if not the BCS title dream – alive.

But, more likely, the Big East is going to turn into a poor man's version of the top-heavy SEC: The teams will spend the next few weeks giving each other a BCS-crushing loss.* Welcome to what SEC fans will agree should be called "Round-Robbery."

(Meanwhile, the ACC might be down – way down – but Clemson and GA Tech are still playing for supremacy in the league, and it's the biggest ranked-vs-ranked game of the week. Isn't the absence of Miami, FSU and VA Tech refreshing? The winner should be Top 10.)

1 Ohio St over Indiana
2 Michigan over Iowa
4 WVA over at UConn (Fri.)
5 Texas over at 17 Nebraska
6 Louisville over at Syracuse
7 Tennessee over Alabama
8 Auburn over Tulane
10 Notre Dame over UCLA
11 Cal over Washington
12 Clemson over 13 GA Tech
14 LSU over Fresno St.
15 Arkansas over Mississippi
16 Oregon over at Washington St.
18 Boise St over at Idaho
*At Pitt over 19 Rutgers
20 Oklahoma over Colorado
21 Wisconsin over at Purdue
22 BC over at Florida St.
23 Texas A&M over at Oklahoma St.
24 Missouri over Kansas St.

Comments Question: What are your most intriguing college football plotlines of the weekend?

-- D.S.

NBA Season Preview:
NBA Blog Previews

I'm still figuring out how I want to preview the NBA season (certainly I'll ramp up next week), but in the meantime, I wanted to point to a really cool project being executed nicely right now: NBA Blog Previews.

Basically, it's a consortium of the leading NBA bloggers, coming together to preview the season under an intuitive brand name.

I'll leave it to you to browse through it (it's running all month), and here's the schedule.

Meanwhile, must-read The Basketball Jones is contributing with team-by-team podcasts. Also very cool.

This is the kind of collectively harnessed energy that pushes the sports-blog "industry" forward in a really productive, useful way. (And in a way that mainstream sports media should either co-opt or be at least a little worried about...maybe both.)

(By the way, Free Darko doesn't seem to be participating, but I can never recommend the genius of that blog enough, especially now that we're revving toward the new NBA season.)

-- D.S.

Thursday A.M. Quickie:
We're Headed to Game 7!

The only thing tarnishing the usually untarnishable "Game 7" situation is that everyone is pretty convinced that no matter who wins the NLCS, they will get stomped by the Tigers next week in the World Series.

Otherwise, what's not to love about a Game 7 in ANY sport's playoffs? It combines the pent-up drama of the previous six games with the do-or-die urgency of the NCAA Tournament, the NFL playoffs (or the college football regular season).

It's hard to figure out who has the edge: The Mets are playing in front of what will be a rabid home crowd, coming off last night's desperation win, where John Maine pitched the game of his life, with 0 ER and only 2 H in 5.1 IP. (I'm already sick of jokes off "Maine.")

But the Cards are throwing Jeff Suppan tonight (0 ER in 8 IP in Game 3), while the Mets will be throwing Oliver Perez, who will be throwing on 3 days' rest after giving up 5 R in 5.2 IP on 92 pitches in Game 4. My guess? The Mets will use every pitcher but Maine and Glavine -- and even then, you kind of want to say "Suck it up and throw if you have to!"

(Suppan has a nice little history in NLCS Game 7s: He beat Roger Clemens in 2004 to lead the Cards to the World Series.)

Meanwhile, Mets SS Jose Reyes had his national breakout: Lead-off HR in the 1st, scoring 2 runs and collecting 3 hits and 2 stolen bases. (On the other hand, who else thought Billy Wagner was going to blow it?)

Lance and Matt: We're not gay.
Or so they say.*

(* - Not that there's anything wrong with that. And thanks to TheBigLead for the tip-off.)

Yesterday's NFL bomb threat: Everyone from terrorism experts to the NFL is skeptical of yesterday's bomb threats for this weekend's NFL games. Still, I'll be curious if any fans with tickets don't show up.

Favre rips NFL for its substance-abuse policy towards Koren Robinson, banning him from the team and its facility. Favre seems to think that Robinson would benefit from being around the support system of his teammates. But wouldn't he be better off getting treatment away from the temptations of the NFL lifestyle? I guess Favre's point is that the choice should be Robinson's (with the team's help), not the NFL's.

T.O.'s latest gripe? He's not getting the ball in the first half enough. "I feel like I need to be in the offense, involved a little bit earlier in the ballgame." But he's caught as many passes in the first half as the second half this season; he's obviously talking about TDs. But, seriously, won't this guy EVER shut up? I wearily suspect not.

Mark Brunell: Out on a limb. Brunell calls the Redskins' game this weekend "must-win." Given that they're playing at Indy, I'll say "Good luck with that." Maybe after they lose, the Skins will finally bench Brunell for Campbell. There hasn't been a more disappointing team this season than Washington (and that includes Pittsburgh).

Marcus Vick is the new Wes Welker: I find the twists this week in the Marcus Vick Story to be fascinating. He's gone from collegiate (and draft-day) pariah to one of the most intriguing players of Week 8. Who doesn't want to see Vick top Reggie Bush in all-around stats?

He might return punts. He might return kickoffs. He might play WR. (Hell, if I was Nick Saban, I'd introduce a package or two that feature him as a QB option.)

Adrian Peterson said he intends to play in Oklahoma's bowl game if he can. Someone (presumably from the lowly NFL teams thinking they might draft him) needs to lock him in a closet for bowl season. I appreciate his school spirit, but can you think of a dumber way to tempt your professional fate?

Here's a fun way to spend the second half of an NBA preseason game: Looking at police lineups to see who mugged you the day before. That was Sebastian Telfair's experience. Making the situation weirder, the guys who mugged him are reportedly the ones who shot rapper Fabolous, who may or may not have built a rap career on a misspelling.

Isiah Update: If Isiah Thomas is going to feel it necessary to take shots at EVERYONE who ripped him for drafting Ronaldo Balkman*, he's going to leave little time for coaching, because EVERYONE ripped him.

Here's what Isiah said about Greg Anthony: He should "never ever be in a position to question myself** on anything about basketball because I do remember the kind of player he was."

* - Based on 3 preseason games, Balkman certainly looks like an NBA-worthy player. Will he be a star? No. But will he provide productive energy off the bench? Absolutely. And I predict when we rank last year's draft class at the end of this season, Balkman will be in the top 20 players.

(** - One of my pet peeves is people who mis-use the word "myself.")

Melee in Miami, Cont'd: Here's why I defended Donna Shalala's reaction to the Miami Melee: At least she was decisive. How often do we criticize leaders in sports for dissembling on punishments?

Realize: It's the media's business to be contrarian. No matter WHAT Shalala would have done, there would have been hysterical criticism. She could have kicked players off the team and folks would have screamed "Too harsh!"

In a no-win situation, she did the best she could do: Make a decision that seems reasonable and stick by it. Anyway, this is a non-issue by week's end (short of Miami losing to Duke), much in part thanks to Shalala dealing with it decisively.

Evgeni Malkin scores in his NHL debut. OK, so maybe the mystery kid will match the hype.

Was sports-radio yapper Tony Bruno fired yesterday from his job at KMPC in LA? All employees were let go, so, yes, it looks like he was.

Would you want to put your favorite MLB team's logo on your casket or urn? Me neither. (And you all know I'm a sucker for innovative marketing ideas. This ain't one of 'em, although the company is getting a TON of publicity out of this.)

Finally, let me point all of you to the New Kid on the Block: A new sports blog called With Leather, from the successful deviants who brought you "What Would Tyler Durden Do?" It's edited and written by Matt Ufford, who many of you might know as "Captain Caveman" from the Comments section on Deadspin and as part of the blog collective, Kissing Suzy Kolber. Welcome to the neighborhood!

-- D.S.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

NLCS Game 6 Live-Commenting

Sorry this is so late getting up. Any comments about the Game 6 going on right now? You can also hit up the Comments area overnight -- be the first on the blog to have a say on the state of the series!

NFL Bomb Threat?!

Two words: Holy S---.

NFL Power Rankings:
Bears Still No. 1?

As usual, submitted without further comment (that's for you in the Comments area) and with embarrassment over using the term "Power Rankings."

Questions for you: (1) Should the Bears still be No. 1? (2) If so, who should be No. 2? (3) Who are your biggest gainers (and droppers) this week?

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

I'd also point you to MJD's excellent rankings for AOL's NFL Fanhouse.

-- D.S.

Wednesday A.M. Quickie:
Mets Have Cards Where They Want 'Em?

NLCS: Cards win 4-2, up 3-2: Thanks to that rain delay from Monday, we go right into Game 6 in New York tonight, with the Mets facing elimination and throwing lightweight John Maine against reigning NL Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter. Yet why do I still think the Mets will win? If you haven't been watching (and I know that's a lot of you), it's time to tune in.

From A-Rod to "A-Wrod": I think it's hilarious that all anyone wants to talk about with Lou Piniella is how soon the Cubs will trade for A-Rod. From the Day 1 coverage, you'd think it's a done-deal already. (And, as I pointed out yesterday, it should be.)

It's hard to believe that we're going to be living with this soap opera for the next four months. The Yankees and Cubs should do everyone a favor and consummate the trade during one of the World Series off-days.

Tiki to retire after '06 season? That's the story in today's NY Times, and I wouldn't blame him. Have you ever seen an NFL player get more love from TV and advertisers?

He may not be the most talented player (or most exciting or most winning), but he's good ENOUGH, good-looking and – always key – plays in New York. He'll have a lucrative TV analyst deal in place before the Giants' season is over.

Clinton Portis says he wants the ball more: And, given the Redskins' start, can you blame him? Tens of thousands of fantasy owners who took Portis anywhere from the 4th to 12th overall pick agree.

Koren Robinson's appeal was denied and he's suspended for the rest of the season. More important: Falcons OG Matt Lehr was suspended 4 games for violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

How many NFL 2006 undrafted free-agents are on active 53-man rosters? Because Marcus Vick is having the last laugh, just moved from practice squad to the real deal. He's a poor man's Wes Welker. (And next stop: Starting QB! Just kidding, but wouldn't that be awesome?)

Melee in Miami, Cont'd: I have to say, for all the knee-jerk "Throw them all out!" ranting, I'm most impressed with The U. honcho Donna Shalala, who recognized that punishment was necessary but refused to give in to the insta-mob mentality and kick the offending player(s) out of school. But it's not like she didn't draw a line: The school now has a "zero-tolerance" system for antics like this. We'll see how that plays out as the inevitable antics occur. But I think she's handled it about as well as it can be handled.

(If it turns out that Shalala never saw the tape of the brawl, I'll have to downgrade my rating from "as well as it can be handled" to "some good, some bad." It's inexcusable for a school president to not watch that tape, particularly if she's passing judgment. Did she think that it would somehow insulate her judgment if she didn't see it? Makes no sense.)

(Meanwhile, have you heard about the OTHER brawl this weekend in college football: Dartmouth vs. Holy Cross. Yes, exactly like Miami vs. FIU... except, you know... Ivier.)

NBA Preseason Watch: Amazingly, last night's Knicks-Celtics game offered a look at two of the more intriguing rookies of the new season:

*Celtics PG Rajon Rondo continued to look like the most impressive rookie of his class and THE steal of the draft: 14 pts (7-11 FG) with a team-high 7 assists. (Why'd they trade away Roy/Foye for Telfair again?)

*Knicks SF Renaldo Balkman isn't even close to the embarrassment people thought he was the morning after draft night. In fact, he could end up one of the Top 10 most impressive rookies of the season, if only because the expectations are so LOW. Last night, he had 9 pts and 7 reb in 14 minutes (and, in 3 Knicks preseason wins, is averaging 8 pts and 6 reb in 18 minutes).

Evgeny Malkin debuts tonight: Now we get a chance to see what all the hype was about. (And if you're going, "Who's Evgeny Malkin?" consider your ignorance to be bliss.)

14-y.o. hoopster commits to USC: 6-6 guard Dwayne Polee got an offer from Tim Floyd and already took it. (USC fans should take a lesson from UCLA, which got a similar commitment from stud Taylor King, who reneged to go to Duke. And Illinois fans will tell you all about the "value" of early commitments.)

LCS to TBS: Turner Sports paid $350M to get the rights to one of the LCS series. Just as long as they don't hire Steve Lyons (actually, the rumor is that they're targeting Ripken or Grace for TV analyst roles).

CFB Top 25 Update: As I finalize my ballot for the week, I'm very close to joining the crowd, flip-flopping Michigan and WVA, putting UM at No. 2 and WVA at No. 3. (Happy, haters?)

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

NLCS Game 5 Live-Comment

I just wanted to set up a post for the NLCS Game 5 tonight. And, for the evening, I leave you with these words of foreshadowing from new Cubs manager Lou Piniella from his introduction today:

''Curses. Come on.''

Famous last words.

Randy Moss to the Pats?!
(Plus: Coaches Get Axed!)

Uh, no. It was a great NFL Trade Deadline rumor while it lasted -- and that's about four hours, via the always-must-read folks at -- but it looks like Randy Moss will not be going to the Pats, a move that would have undoubtedly turned the NFL on its head, made many people's eyes bleed, triggered an implosion of coverage, etc. But the latest? It's a non-starter. Drat.

Meanwhile, the Ravens fired Jim Fassel, their O.C. And Dennis Green continued his Tuesday Tirade by firing the Cards' O.C. Hey, Fassel's looking for a new gig...

"Monday Night Miracle":
Bears Win, Cards Choke

Tuesday A.M. Quickie found below this post.

"Monday Night Miracle"
: That's what last night's game is already being called. Instant classic? Perhaps not the game; certainly the fourth quarter, a jaw-dropping series of events.

When Tony Kornheiser was talking about the Cards choking away the game, up 23-10 in the middle of the 4th quarter, I pshawed his talk – why piss on one of the most glorious results in Cards franchise history? They were about to seal the most staggering, unexpected win of the 2006 season. Why was he hammering this stale point? Why... --

Then the Bears D. And the fumble recovery for a TD. And the Bears D. And the Devin Hester punt return for a TD. And the Bears D. And the missed FG by the normally money Neil Rackers. And the Bears D.

It doesn't matter that they SHOULD have lost the game last night; they didn't. They weathered a gruesome game from Rex Grossman and the offense and stole one. Teams en route to a one of Those Seasons – a title season – get those kind of wins.

And this one meant more than any of the previous beat-downs the Bears have delivered this season.

What about Leinart? You had to feel for Matt Leinart. On a national stage, he came up huge. He picked apart the Bears defense in a way no one thought he would (or could). I'm willing to join the reformed naysayers who questioned his NFL bonafides: Leinart is legit.

(Hell, after that performance, we can start asking questions like: Should the Titans have taken Leinart? Should the Jets? Should the Raiders? Should the Bills? Should the Texans?)

Grossman stinks it up: Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum, Rex Grossman had 6 turnovers. Six! I can't even imagine what his fantasy points situation was, after 4 INTs and 2 lost fumbles. (In my league scoring, Grossman had -10 points.) Yikes. Needless to say, it's possible Grossman's luster wore off last night.

I wonder if any FFL GMs who started Grossman LOST a Monday-afternoon week-winning lead because of him. (OMG, I just checked: The guy IN MY LEAGUE with Grossman was leading his game 49-29 heading into last night. His opponent had Anquan Boldin (+12); this poor schlub had Grossman (-10). A guaranteed win becomes a contender for "Worst Loss Ever."

Dennis Green blows up: After the game, all eyes were on Green's meeting with the media. And he provided the Quote of the Day:

"If you want to crown them, just crown their ass... We let them off the hook." He's not wrong, on either count.

NFL "Flex" TV Scheduling Hearts the Bears: Word is starting to leak out about the negotiations about which games NBC will poach from Fox and CBS to move from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night in primetime. Unsurprisingly, the Bears will be a hot choice (although I predicted after that MNF game in New Orleans a few weeks ago -- with sky-high ratings -- that if the Saints look like they're legit, they should see plenty of Sunday night airtime).

Finally, here's some hilarity: A link to the Comments area for last night's pre-game, mid-game and post-game post about the Bears. Note how the tone changes. Check it out here.

-- D.S.

Tuesday A.M. Quickie:
NLCS, Piniella and More

NLCS Game 5 PPD to today: We're all better off being able to see Glavine and Weaver on full rest, rather than the potential for T-ball that last night's game portended.

Meanwhile, who wants to bet that MLB seeded the clouds in St. Louis to ensure that they wouldn't have to go head-to-head with Monday Night Football? Because that, my friends, is a battle MLB would lose.

Is Pujols' hammy hurting? That's the speculation. My bet is that it wouldn't keep him from smacking home runs if he could.

Piniella to Cubs; A-Rod next? Naturally, the first question after Lou Piniella signed on to manage the Cubs is: Are the Cubs going to try to bring in A-Rod, reuniting him with his Mariners (and first) manager?

I've said it for a while: It's in the best interests of both the Yankees and the Cubs to morph him from "A-Rod," being booed at Yankee Stadium to "A-Wrod," being cheered at Wrigley.

Get him out of the AL, as far away from his past as possible. Put his power in Wrigley's friendly confines for 81 games a year. Get him back to shortstop, his natural position. Put him together with Piniella, who knows how to handle him. Give him a fresh start with great fans.

Meanwhile, the Yankees lose his $16 million salary, which they can immediately apply to getting better pitching; it's not like A-Rod's bat stood out in that lineup full of stars. More importantly, they lose his distraction. And if they can replace him with Aramis Ramirez, all the better.

See the Comments section for my new definition of "VORP": Value Over a Rodriguez Problem.

Melee in Miami, Cont'd: It shouldn't surprise anyone that the poster guy of the Miami-FIU brawl, Anthony Reddick, was suspended an extra game for his part in the brawl.

You might remember Reddick for his star turn on camera, swinging his helmet at an opposing player, in a move many blog analysts have likened to a woman swinging a purse.

Forget the suspensions: The only truly just karmic come-uppance for The U. would be a short-handed loss this week vs. lowly ACC doormat Duke. Now THAT would be satisfying punishment.

Speaking of Duke, rising sophomore PG Greg Paulus, one of the most unlikeable players in college basketball, is out indefinitely with a foot injury.

(This might be a good time to announce that I find myself, for the first time, finding a reason to root for Duke. But only slightly. Trust me. Despite my strongest objections, my favorite high school player in the class of 2006 – Jon Scheyer from Glenbrook North (IL) H.S. – will be on the Duke squad this season as a freshman swingman. You might remember Scheyer as part of the magical GBN team that won the Illinois state hoops title in 2005 with a starting five of all Jewish players, coached by Illinois coach Bruce Weber's brother. I can root for Scheyer's success without rooting for Duke, can't I? How about 20 ppg on a sub-.500 team?)

A's fire Ken Macha: When was the last time a team that went to the ALCS fired its manager a few days after losing? It couldn't possibly have been ALL Macha's fault (or even SOME Macha's fault) that the A's ran into the Tigers buzzsaw. It had to be the fact that he and Billy Beane haven't gotten along in years. And what Billy wants Billy gets.

More MLB managerial notes: The Nats are reportedly zeroing in on Joe Girardi. But what if Joe is holding out for Torre's job, when he's inevitably gone after the 2007 season?

Jared Jeffries out 3-8 weeks (wrist): Of COURSE the player who Isiah seems to think is the most important to his coaching re-debut would get hurt and put a hurt on the team's chances of getting better.

NFL Trade Deadline: Honestly, unless Randy Moss is traded to my Jags, I can't possibly see anything interesting happening. This ain't MLB. And it ain't even the NBA, which is saying something, given how lame the NBA trade deadline has become.

Mike Tyson to fight a woman boxer? It's horrifying, but admit that you'd be intrigued enough -- even if out of disgust -- to watch. My bet? It never happens. Simply too much trouble than it's worth for a fight promoter. Or is it?

For those of you who wear jerseys, you might want to note that college hoops uber-frosh Greg Oden, the presumptive top pick in the 2007 NBA Draft and many analysts' preseason first-team All-America will switch from his h.s. number (50) to his youth-ball number (20), which was originally his first choice as a prep, but the only jersey that fit him was the ones made with numbers in the 50s. In college, they don't have that problem. And OSU, I'm sure, is busy printing them out. This is likely of interest only to me.

"Dancing with the Stars 3" update: Sara Evans is out of the competition. Now, this might not mean anything to you, but please allow me to explain why: She's filing for divorce from her husband, and I guess she can't stay focused. Still bored by this paragraph? Let me quote from the New York Times' coverage of the news:

"Ms. Evans accused her husband of adultery with the couple’s former nanny, excessive drinking, soliciting sex via an Internet site and maintaining a library of pornography that included pictures of him having sex with other women." Guh! There's the payoff for your patience. Sounds like a real catch, that guy.

-- D.S.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Spotlight: Chicago
Bears, Piniella Rule City?

Big day for Chicago sports:

(1) Unbeaten, consensus No. 1-ranked* Bears make '06 MNF debut tonight.

(2) Cubs hiring Lou Piniella.

Follow-up Questions:

(1) Who is still mocking me for picking the Bears to win the NFC? Anyone? Seriously: What would you say the Bears' biggest weaknesses are and how likely is a remaining opponent positioned to exploit them? (Besides "threat of injury," which are everyone's weakness.)

(2) How would you evaluate the Cubs' move to hire Piniella? Can he become the Jim Leyland of the NL? (Let me get this out of the way: I'm speaking very figuratively. Obviously, the Tigers have a much more well-stocked cupboard of talent than the Cubs do.)

-- D.S.

* - If the NFL had, you know, real rankings and not just a vast collection of individual "Power Rankings" from everyone with a keyboard and a vague idea of how to list the numbers 1-32.

New LeBron Nike TV Ad:
LeBron IS Hilarious

Have you seen...

The new LeBron Nike TV ad on YouTube?

Top contender for Catchphrase of the Fall:

"Ain't been nothing good like that since 'Sanford and Son.'"

Here's the link to the clip.
(Sorry, no embed.)

Update (2:05 p.m.): Big day for sneakers. Today, Adidas launched its new basketball-shoe campaign, geared around the phrase "It Takes 5ive."

(Presumably, you're supposed to pronounce the "5" like "F," which isn't nearly as cool as pronouncing "F" like "S," which would REALLY be old-school. Like 18th Century old-school -- when "Boo ya!" was more like "Boo ye!")

The tagline is integrated into its release of five shoes for five players: T-Mac, KG, Duncan, Billups and Arenas, who -- as blog readers know -- should be the star of any/all campaigns. It takes Gilbert, my friends! (Count me as a first-day purchaser for his shoe release.)

-- D.S.

Monday A.M. Quickie:

Monday morning: So much to discuss...

(1) NFL Top 5 Storylines:
1. Winless No More (x 3)
2. Panthers: NFC's No. 2?
3. Gotta love the Saints
4. Steelers right the ship
5. Wait: Did T.O. score?
Click here for a full NFL Week 6 post.

(2) NLCS: Mets clobber Cards to tie 2-2, putting the "pivotal" into today's "pivotal Game 5." (Delgado: Omar Minaya's finest '06 acquisition?)

But does it even matter? The Tigers are going to beat down the NL survivor anyway, and I think everyone recognizes that.

(2b) Cubs to hire Lou Piniella: Needless to say, I'm not expecting him to hire Steve Lyons as his bench coach. Everyone was sure this was a fait d'accompli for Joe Girardi. I think it's bold; he's one of the only managers out there who is an event in and of himself. (I've always had a soft spot for him. My baseball glove -- randomly -- is a "Piniella" model, and -- even more randomly -- he once signed a baseball to me and my ex-g/f, whose father was good buddies with him.)

(3) BCS: Ohio St, USC in drivers' seat. I think it's set: The winner of OSU-Michigan will (or, at least, should) meet the winner of WVA-Louisville in the BCS title game. (USC won't survive unbeaten.) Click here for a full BCS breakdown.

Plus, if you missed it yesterday, here's my argument why college football's system is sort of undeniably awesome (even if you're a Florida fan).

(Meanwhile, Boise St. put up big numbers again last night. They look more and more like this year's 2004 Utah: Likely unbeaten, but with ZERO chance of making the BCS title game, even if they're the only unbeaten remaining. The best they can hope for is to earn an invite to a BCS-level bowl with that new slot that was opened for Cindy non-BCS teams just like them.)

(4) 31 brawlers were suspended from that wild Miami-FIU fight on Saturday night. Personally, I can't believe they could narrow it down to that few (13 from The U, 18 from FIU).

Far more interesting were the comments by TV analyst Lamar Thomas, a "The U." alum. Here's what he said. Judge for yourself:

''Now, that's what I'm talking about. You come into our house, you should get your behind kicked. You don't come into the OB playing that stuff. You're across the ocean over there. You're across the city. You can't come over to our place talking noise like that. You'll get your butt beat. I was about to go down the elevator to get in that thing.''

And: "I say, why don't they just meet outside in the tunnel after the ball game and get it on some more? You don't come into the OB, baby,'' Thomas said. ''We've had a down couple years but you don't come in here talking smack. Not in our house.''

Unsurprisingly, Thomas is probably going to be fired. Deadspin's all over the hilarity.

(5) Duke LAX players on "60 Minutes": I watched the piece, and I have to say between that and other in-depth reporting I've read, I have serious doubts that the players committed the crime. I am most certain they'll be acquitted -- or any guilty ruling will be overturned on appeal.

(Now, do I still think that Duke LAX players are probably, across the board, a bunch of priggish assholes? Absolutely. But their comeuppance shouldn't include jail -- unless they've actually earned it. In this case, it just doesn't look like they have. One player was right: Even if he doesn't go to jail, this will define his life forever. If you saw someone's resume and it said "Duke Lacrosse," wouldn't you think twice about hiring him? It's like having "Enron" on your resume. Radioactive.)

-- D.S.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

NFL Week 6 Fanalysis:
Panthers are Back!
Plus: "Big Bruce" for R.O.Y.

My weekly ritual of shallow, half-baked thoughts from Sunday's NFL results:

Panthers: NFL's 2nd-Best Team? In the ever-changing search for the next nominee for "Who's No. 2?" in the NFL (behind the Bears, of course), might I nominate the hard-charging Panthers?

After an 0-2 start to the season, Carolina notched its 4th win in a row -- and its biggest yet -- over the 4-1 Ravens, which included a career day from Jake Delhomme (365 yards, 2 TDs), 189 yards from star Steve Smith and 3 FGs from John Kasay, all while the D held the Ravens to 80 yards rushing, the fourth straight game they've held an opponent to under 100 yards on the ground. Classic Panthers. Sure looks like a team with No. 2 Mo to me.

(Meawhile, who had "Week 7" in the office pool for "When will an injury to Steve McNair ruin his surprisingly good start for the Ravens?")

Ugh: I can't believe T.O. caught 3 TDs.

That would be the most depressing result of the day if it wasn't for the fact that Torry Holt beat out T.O. for best (read: Fantasy) WR of the day (even if the Rams lost to the Seahawks).

How can you NOT feel good for the Saints, losing a 17-3 lead to the Eagles to fall behind early in the 4th, then rallying with a TD, holding the Eagles offense off and giving themselves a chance to win in the final seconds on a John Carney FG? What a story this team is.

(And they did it all without a big game from Reggie Bush, who isn't even the best rookie in his own division, let alone NFL Rookie of the Year.)

Wait, are you looking for the REAL Rookie of the Year? Here you go:

Bruce Gradkowski is the new Ben Roethlisberger, the MAC alumni QB making a huge splash as a rookie, the latest a 2-TD effort today that included a last-minute, game-winning TD pass.

But, after just two games, I'd say what Gradkowski has done is even more impressive than what Big Ben did after two games as a starter.

(In fact, I'm calling it now: "Big Bruce" as a nickname, though I've read "Bruce Almighty" being thrown around. Now THAT's bold.)

I even looked up the numbers to back up my argument (shocking, I know):

In Big Ben's first two games starting for the Steelers as a rookie, he was 24-42 for 339 yards, with 3 TDs and 3 INTs. The Steelers went 1-1.

In Big Bruce's first two games starting for the Bucs as a rookie, he was 45-75 for 409 yards, with 4 TDs and 0 INTs. The Bucs went 1-1.

(I suck, but I'm humbled by the collective abilities of the Commenters. I leave up my sorry-ass analysis up here as penance. You all rule. See? THIS is why I never deal in numbers.)

But it comes down to this: Gradkowski is doing it with one of the worst five teams in the NFL; R'berger did it with one of the best top five teams. Who's job is easier -- thus, whose success is more impressive?

Speaking of Big Ben, it looks like he's back. At the very least, the Chiefs were the perfect antidote for what up until now has been a completely forgettable season for R'berger.

Joining the Bucs in the "Winless No More" column are the Titans, who shocked the suddenly reeling Redskins behind rookie Vince Young's first NFL win. (The Lions did it, too, leaving only the sorry Raiders.)

It's hard to proclaim the Falcons the NFL's top running team when they're out-gained on the ground by the Giants in a loss. (Tiki Barber had one of those frustrating days for a fantasy owner where you wonder how he could rush for 185 yards and still not score any TDs.)

Chargers blow out 49ers: Philip Rivers is looking like so much more than a mere Big Ben-style "game manager": He looks like an aggressive, accurate star-in-the-making.

I can't believe Joey Harrington almost led the Dolphins to a 17-point 4th-quarter comeback on the Jets. How are the Jets 3-3?

There's "Winless No More" and then there's the Raiders: Oakland might as well pack it in and make their goal to secure the No. 1 overall pick in next spring's NFL Draft. How good would Dwayne Jarrett look in a Raiders uniform?

MNF: Tonight is going to be ugly, but it's the chance for the Bears to prove to the whole country that they deserve to be considered the overwhelming Super Bowl favorite at this point.

-- D.S.

Unsurprising First BCS Rankings:
Ohio St, USC are 1-2

Biggest surprise of the first BCS rankings? What a boost Auburn got from beating Florida: No. 4, behind Ohio St, USC and Michigan in that order.

No surprise: Ohio St and USC seemingly control their own destiny. Win out and find a spot in the BCS title game. Of course, Ohio St has to get through Michigan and USC has to get past Cal, Oregon AND Notre Dame.

Biggest screw-job? West Virginia, unbeaten and ranked all of No. 5, behind one-loss Auburn and ahead of one-loss Florida. Even if they run the table, how is West Virginia expected to climb over a one-loss team if they're not even above them right now?

(Actually, that probably has everything to do with Auburn's tough strength of schedule and WVA's...well, not. A WVA win over L'ville combined with an unbeaten season should help their cause... but will it be enough?)

Other observations:

Everyone seems to think Texas is so great, yet the BCS ranking has them 9th, barely fending off Cal and Tennessee, and only the fourth-best one-loss team. Translation? Don't expect Texas to jump all of them to get a rematch with Ohio St in the BCS title game.

Got to love Boise St and Rutgers at No. 15 and No. 16., better than their human poll standings right now.

The computers' evaluation (and how it deviates from the human polls) is always pretty fascinating: Ohio St. No. 3? WVA No. 14? Crazy stuff.)

And perhaps the biggest shocker of all? Tulsa (5-1) at No. 25. 33rd in the Harris poll. Unranked in the coaches' poll. Yet so beloved by the computers as to vault them, at the very least, into the only Top 25 that matters for now. I love it.

-- D.S.

NFL Week 6 Comments Tailgate

It's Week 6! Use the Comments area below to provide your pre-game, mid-game and post-game analysis of how the day's developments in the NFL are playing out.

CFB Hangover:
Enter the BCS!

The prophecy is fulfilled: In a mere 7 weeks (less than that, if you only count conference games), the SEC has managed to cannibalize its chances at competing for the national title.

As a Gators fan, what kills me most about Florida's loss is that, more than anything, they beat themselves: Safety in the end zone off an offensive penalty; misplayed punt that resulted in a TD; and, most soul-crushing, Chris Leak's controversial fumble (after many replays, I have no problem with the call) and his inexcusable interception late in the fourth quarter.

But the beauty – and brutality – of college football is that, among the title contenders, there is no room for explanations: With a loss, a team is simply eliminated from title competition (barring a single unbeaten with many one-loss teams... or zero unbeatens and many one-loss teams, but that looks unlikely this season).

It is harsh. It is, no matter what the BCS critics might say, as effective and efficient as system for determining a champion as exists in sports. One loss and you're out? Try taking the NCAA Tournament – survive and advance -- and making that your sport's regular season.

No other sport – no matter how much you hate the BCS – is so punishing as to essentially eliminate title contenders after a single loss.

So what are we left with, as the first official BCS ranking is set to be revealed later today? I think there's a very clear picture of who will be playing for the national title:

The winner of Ohio State-Michigan versus the winner of West Virginia-Louisville. Because those two teams will be the only unbeaten teams left in college football.

(The lone potential party-crasher, USC, which will likely be both No. 2 in every major poll and No. 2 in this initial BCS ranking, will never survive the rest of their season with the way they're playing. Either Cal or Oregon or, most likely, Notre Dame, will beat them.)

And that's what we're down to, a mere 7 games into the season: Four teams playing two virtual national semifinal games next month. For now, it seems incredibly clean. (And, if I had to make a prediction, it will be Ohio St vs. West Virginia. And WVA would give them a game; if OSU had trouble handling Vince Young a year ago, WVA QB Pat White poses similar problems.)

Meanwhile, I can already predict the huge controversy: What happens when we're left with only two unbeaten teams – the two I described above – and the WVA/L'ville winner ISN'T in the top 2 of the BCS, even though they're one of only two unbeaten teams remaining?

But that's for six weeks from now. For now, I just marvel at the cruel efficiency of the college football "regular-season playoff" system.

Meanwhile, here's my first crack at a new Top 25 for this week:

1. Ohio St.
2. West Virginia
3. Michigan
4. USC
5. Texas
6. Louisville
7. Florida
8. Notre Dame
9. Arkansas
10. Auburn
11. Tennessee
12. Cal
13. LSU
14. Clemson
15. Oregon
16. Georgia Tech
17. Boise St.
18. Rutgers
19. Wisconsin
20. Nebraska
21. Texas A&M
22. Missouri
23. B.C.
24. Wake Forest
25. Pitt

-- D.S.

Sunday A.M. Quickie:
Florida Just Kills Me

A few thoughts this morning. More later today:

(1) The Tigers' turnaround is one of the Top 3 baseball storylines of the decade.

(2) The Mets' pitching issues are catching up with them. All that means is that Zito or Schmidt will be even more overpaid or that the Marlins will bring in a huge haul for Dontrelle Willis.

(3) Florida just killed me last night. More on this later.

(4) USC may be undefeated and they can say "a win is a win" all they want, but there is still no indication that they deserve to be the No. 2 team in the country. (Even though I'm quite sure they will be when the first BCS comes out later today.)

(5) Steve Lyons is a d-bag.

(6) That Miami-FIU brawl was one of the wildest I've ever seen in college football - hell, or any sport. Did you see that guy swing his helmet like a hammer? How about all that kicking? You stay classy, 'Canes.

-- D.S.