I'm not worried about their tenuous hold on the AL East lead (now 1.5 games ahead of the Red Sox) -- Joe Maddon had it right: "9=8."
"8" represented playoff spots. He didn't say "Win the AL East." Really, in the Wild Card Era of baseball, all that matters is making the playoffs. That's the lead of today's SN column.
It would help the Rays to have home-field advantage -- if only because they have MLB's best record at home (and for the added game of trying to guess, based on attendance during this Cinderella season, how many empty seats they'll have for a playoff game).
But, really, all that matters is making the playoffs. At that point, anything can happen. Favorites fall short; longshots come in. Teams get hot; statistical significance is reduced to irrelevance.
With a 7-game lead on the Wild Card contender directly behind the Red Sox, the Rays would have to defy more than 150 games of statistical significance that they are a .600 baseball team to miss the playoffs.
Even going 3-10 wouldn't necessarily blow their chances; the Twins (or, perhaps more likely, the Jays) would have to pull a Rockies and win the vast majority of their games. Perhaps they can; again, they would need the Rays to fold like they haven't all season.
I suck, obviously. Leaving the content up behind the strikethru to publicly shame myself.
Whatever: "9=8." If the Rays focus on the next 9 innings, every night for the next 13 games, they will be one of 8. And that's all that matters.
There's a ton more in today's column:
I love Lance's return: Great drama, if headed for overkiill. It's an interesting argument between Lance, Tiger and Phelps, but Lance is certainly in the discussion for America's most beloved athlete.
Was Vince Young going to kill himself? No. (Well, we think not.) But obviously the Titans management thought it was a very distinct possibility. And that is SO freaky.
UPDATE: Read this tick-tock on the last 48 hours for VY. As arguably the greatest college QB of the ESPN Era, it is painful to watch him struggle in the NFL. You have to wonder if his career will ever bounce back; I think that at a minimum, he needs to get out of Tennessee and onto a new team, a fresh start. (But what if his particular set of skills will never let him be a particularly productive NFL QB?) Ah, for the days of this.
Shawne Merriman is the new Tom Brady! (Not quite, but season-ending surgery of incredibly valuable players is totally the new hotness!)
Beanie Wells will play against USC on Saturday: That's great. How MUCH will he play? How EFFECTIVE will he be, particularly against that vicious USC D? This won't end well.
UPDATE: Must-see video promoting the USC-OSU game. Garrett Lambert: I salute you.
Would Cavs fans still want LeBron after 2010 if they thought that he didn't particularly like Cleveland teams? He's a Yankees fan AND a Cowboys fan. (Cripes: What a front-runner.)
I'm sure Cavs fans are willing to forgive basically anything if he re-signs -- as they should -- but what an amusingly complex relationship LeBron has with the die-hard fans of Cleveland.
(BTW, I'd rank Cleveland as the top fan base in all of sports, for towns with teams in all three major pro sports leagues.)
More later, including the week's official BlogPoll results. Be interesting to see how I diverge.
Full SN column here. (8 months in, I'm curious: Do people realize that while I will often write about the same news storylines in the column and on the blog in this morning post that links to the column, I actually try to make this morning post as original as possible?)