Saturday, August 02, 2008

Saturday 08/02 (Very) Quickie

MLB Post-Trade Debuts: Manny, Dodgers lose critical one to D'backs; Jason Bay scores the GW run after hitting a triple in the 12th to lead BOS over OAK; Griffey leads White Sox over Royals (By the way, Manny is wearing No. 99, predictably "quirky")...

Will Brett Favre take the $20 million hush money today?

Steve Smith is good enough to get away with being in the middle of training camp brawls, right?...

Francisco Liriano is back (finally) with the Twins; Livan Hernandez is on the market after his release...

Josh Howard: Street racing? I guess he wants the fastest way out of Dallas. How did he turn into an NBA bad boy?

-- D.S.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Coaches' Top 25 Poll: What Does It Mean?

The first/preseason Coaches' Top 25 poll was released, and it's important: The Coaches' poll is 1/3 of the BCS formula, and -- as we all know -- the No. 1 voting criteria is...


In other words: Where teams start is a built-in advantage.

If you keep winning, it's a hell of a lot easier to stay at the top than to start from the back. (Yes, ultimately, if you simply keep winning and never lose, you will probably get to the top spot. Probably. Maybe. You never know though.)

Georgia is No. 1, which presumably means that they are the favorite to win the national title. However, if you think that Florida will beat Georgia in Jacksonville on November 1 -- as I do -- then you can't have Georgia as your No. 1 team.

(Georgia would have been better off losing to Florida a year ago, then blitzing them this year with that everyone-celebrate-in-the-end-zone schtick; by pulling it out last year, all UGA did was motivate UF to beat them, which they will.)

The number seem to indicate that Georgia's run at No. 1 will end long before the Cocktail Party. As I noted in my SN column today, UGA's 22 first-place votes are less than the combined first-place votes of No. 2 USC and No.3 Ohio State.

It stands to reason that when USC and Ohio State play in September, the winner will immediately vault into the No. 1 spot, no matter how UGA has started (including what should be counted as an impressive win at Arizona State -- if the Bulldogs actually win).

Using inertia -- and baseless projection -- as your guide, you can see how this is going to play out:

The USC-Ohio State winner will have a damn-near-lock on one spot in the national championship. (There will be no subsequent Stanford or Illinois moment for the winner of that USC-tOSU game.)

The other spot appears to be reserved for the winner of the Georgia-Florida game, certainly if that winner stays unbeaten, running the table in the SEC. (LSU, ranked No. 6 by the coaches, could play the spoiler, but without a QB and with a road game in Gainesville -- another revenge game for the Gators -- I don't see it happening.) But going unbeaten via the SEC is still a hell of a thing: Would a 1-loss SEC champ trump an unbeaten champ of, say, the Big 12? I don't think so.

Oklahoma comes in at No. 4; Missouri comes in at No. 7. They don't play each other during the regular season, so each could get through the regular season unbeaten (OU has Texas in Dallas; MU has Texas in Austin), but something would have to give in the Big 12 title game.

West Virginia and Clemson are No. 8 and No. 9 and are the top-ranked teams from the less powerful BCS conferences -- neither is without problems, and I'm not sure that even if either/both go unbeaten, they don't lose the BCS selection battle to a one-loss SEC champ...

...Or even the loser of the USC-Ohio State. (You can shudder now.) I'll preview the talking points now:

*"Well, they got their only loss of the season out of the way in September," giving them plenty of time to go from the bottom of the Top 10 (as far as they'll fall) back up into the BCS mix, as teams ahead of them lose.

*"Well, their only loss was to the No. 1 ranked team in the country," which is complemented by this fallacy...

*"Well, give them credit for scheduling a title-killing game against a fellow heavyweight." If the game isn't going to be meaningful -- like, "Winner gets to play in the BCS title game, loser doesn't," then what's the point?

But count on this:

Provided the USC-tOSU winner runs the table and the loser sustains no other losses (racking up a conference title along the way) the hype for a USC-Ohio State rematch in BCS championship game will be the most powerful force in college football this year.

A perfect season out of the SEC champ will hold off that result. A perfect season out of the Big 12 champ will hold off that result. (If we get an unbeaten USC-tOSU winner, an unbeaten SEC champ and an unbeaten Big 12 champ, the Big 12 champ will be screwed, I am sure.)

The chances of perfection for any team are very low, even for the winner of the USC-tOSU game. However, simply (and, as always, baselessly) projecting from the preseason rankings, I think the other team that will play for the national title will come down to a debate between a 1-loss SEC champ versus the 1-loss USC-tOSU loser.

Who says preseason polls are meaningless? (By the way, mine won't be coming until way later in the month. But for now, the must-read among preseason polls is Sunday Morning QB's ballot. He is going 5 teams at a time, in reverse order, and through Friday morning, he's gone from 25-11.)

-- D.S.

Friday 08/01 A.M. Quickie:
Manny, Bay, Favre, CFB Top 25, More

Tired of the Manny meme or the Favre overload? We may be turning the corner.

Manny is officially out of Boston -- for better or worse. Bay is a fine replacement, but we'll see; meanwhile, the Dodgers get stronger, in a division where Manny might make the difference.

Manny and the various trade dramas leads today's SN column, but -- again, for better or far far worse -- the Favre story extends into its Nth day:

Is he taking the $20 million hush money? (That would be great for the Packers and anyone sick of the Favre story, but kind of offensive.)

Is he getting traded to the Jets? (That would be terrible for Packers fans -- as any trade would be -- and pretty bad for anyone who hates the Favre story. Favre in New York? Ugh.)

The only thing you can hope for is that the resolution comes tomorrow. Why? Because things that happen in sports on a Saturday tend to lose their momentum by Monday...

...Unless it's college football results. Speaking of which, the Coaches' Top 25 is out. It's important -- important enough for a stand-alone post later this morning.

Here is the complete SN column from today. More on the Coaches' Top 25 coming at 11 a.m. ET.

-- D.S.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Packers to Favre: $20M to NOT Play?

Just when I think the Packers can't respond any more stupidly to this Favre situation, they go and offer him $20 million NOT to play. The Packers are a case study in how NOT to manage crisis.

Thursday 07/31 A.M. Quickie:
Manny, Pudge, Angels, MJ, Favre

The Manny trade rumors might be as all-encompassing (and ultimately annoying) as the Favre story, but it feels like a blissful respite from Favre 24/7 to focus on Manny.

The potential/very real trade is the lead of my Sporting News column today.

I remain stunned that the Red Sox would bail on Manny -- I figured they were analytical-minded enough to see past the personality issues and focus on the numbers.

Then I read Pinto's VORP analysis, which posited that losing Manny wouldn't cost the Red Sox any wins. Maybe one. Of course, here's the thing about that:

One win may be the difference between making the playoffs and not, between winning a playoff series and not, between successfully defending the title and not.

There's a default "Trust Theo" in this situation, but if I was a Red Sox fan, I'd be more bummed than a Packers fan should be if the Packers let Favre go.

(And if I was a Yankees or Rays fan -- or Angels fan, more importantly -- I'd be thrilled. One of the Top 3 biggest bats in the AL will have been shipped out of the league.)

From the Marlins' perspective, I love it. Take that $22 million payroll and double-down on Manny, betting that two months of paying for Ramirez is worth it, given how close they are to the playoffs.

(I renew my long-standing theory about the Marlins: You can rip them all you want, but they have two World Series titles since 1997, so they must be doing something right.)

Amazingly, the Manny thing eclipses what should be a triumphal day for the Yankees and their fans: Nabbing Pudge, the linchpin of 2 World Series teams in the last 5 years.

Given the pace of the arms race here, I think it's just a matter of time before someone brings in Barry Bonds. Frankly, I don't know what any of them are waiting for.

(Bad PR? Please: Nothing cures a PR problem like winning. And the risk that acquiring Bonds would HURT an already successful team seems low.)

Full SN column can be found here. More here as the trade deadline winds down to 4 p.m. ET.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

College Football Fantasy Football

Got an interesting email from in my in-box on Monday: Their college football fantasy game will now include real names -- "Tim Tebow," not "Florida QB 15."

WSJ Sports expert Nando DiFino has a fast follow-up on the announcement, though two things confuse me:

(1) If the NCAA is going to let this go, then I believe it opens the door to all sorts of other products.

(2) Forcing people to include a minimum of two conferences in their league design is wack:

College football, more than any other sport, includes a level of care about conference play that is fantastic. But if I'm a huge fan of the SEC and I get a bunch of other huge fans of the SEC to play in a league with me, why should we have to include another league we know/care less about?

-- D.S.

Wednesday 07/30 A.M. Quickie:
Favre, Artest, Angels, WVU, More

Let's skip the latest Favre development all together, shall we? Wouldn't it be amazing if people stopped covering it or fans stopped clicking on any links related to it (or turned off the TV or radio when it came on the air)?

There's a lot more to talk about in today's SN column. Wouldn't you rather talk about the Angels' power-play to affirm their status as the team to beat in baseball? Wasn't it enough to have MLB's best record? How about a 12-game division lead? How about a 7-game win streak against the defending champs?

You've got to respect "Title or bust," and the Angels are now in the same position as the Celtics in the NBA: Anything less than a World Series title at this point would be considered a failure. Mark Teixeira only sharpens that argument.

Meanwhile, the Rockets seem to have the same idea: In the West, it isn't enough to simply make the playoffs, only to lose before the conference semifinal round is over. You're either woefully out of it or you're a contender. With Yao and T-Mac, the Rockets weren't there; with Ron Artest, they are.

That's up there with Duncan/Parker/Ginobili and Bryant/Gasol/Bynum as the best "Big Three" in the West. Making it more interesting is Artest's versatility. I'd love to see the Rockets continue to retool, shopping T-Mac. But with Artest a free agent next summer, this is a one-shot-for-it-all deal for the Rockets. I like it.

Complete SN column here
, including the proper homage to Carlos Zambrano.

Blog navel-gazing: launches, offering a platform and hub for some of the leading women sports bloggers. It's a little sad this has to exist, but -- then again -- it could be worse. Look at Fanhouse right now.

Meanwhile, speaking of blog-world navel-gazing, where is the coverage of the insanity going on over there at Fanhouse? Between the soft-core fantasy football video and the resulting insurrection among the contributors, AOL Sports is about to implode their very valuable property.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday 07/29 A.M. Quickie:
Sabathia, Manny, Rodgers, LeBron, More

It was a blow for all who love Instant History that CC Sabathia wasn't able to beat the Cubs last night -- it would have affirmed the "CC-for-NL-Cy-after-only-5-starts" movement.

That led today's SN column and led a trio of big series openers, including Angels-Red Sox (LAA still owns 'em, even at Fenway) and Twins-White Sox (um...WHO threw a CG SO?)

We're a little more than 48 hours from the trade deadline, and it appears Mark Teixeira is a lock to get moved, but AJ Burnett appears to be off the table. The Braves signal that they have given up on the season; the Jays, by contrast, want to battle in the hyper-competitive AL East. Which team's attitude respects their fans' intelligence more?

NFL Camping: Brett Favre doesn't even have to show up and he dominates training camp talk -- particularly at Packers camp. Packers fans can tell me whether they are ready to give (or already have given) Aaron Rodgers a break. Might take a while.

Meanwhile, USA Oops is top of mind for two reasons: (1) LeBron practiced on that gimpy ankle and (2) LeBron gave $20K to help Obama's campaign. It almost makes me like him more.

Lot more in the column. Full contents here.

More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday 07/28 A.M. Quickie:
Manny, Favre, Sabathia, Camping, More

Today's Sporting News column starts with an absurd premise: Why not trade Brett Favre for Manny Ramirez?

That was my first reaction to hearing that Manny was open to (or insisting on) a trade, combined with the news that it looks like the Packers are zeroing in on shipping Favre out.

Then I couldn't help myself with the gimmick, using "first reaction to..." as the lens for all of the big headlines on the radar this morning:

CC Sabathia vs. the Cubs today.
Yankees-Red Sox...oh, make it stop.
Devin Hester signed; Ryan Grant unsigned.
T.O. vs. Pac-Man...PLEASE: Make it stop.
Warriors avoid Euro-itis.
Tour de Hunh?
Olympics ticket sell-out.

Here is the complete column, if you want to see the whole thing. More later.

Oh, this story was totally fascinating -- if entirely opaque. "Facebook for football?" The reporter knows how to create a catchy short-hand.

Also: I'm late on this (yet still prescient!), but congrats to Matt Hinton aka Sunday Morning QB for his move to Yahoo. It is an incredible coup for Y! Sports -- SMQ is the most interesting CFB blog in the sports-blog world (not "most hilarious," which would go to EDSBS). Given that SMQ's motif is a brilliant once-a-day post (not that there's anything wrong with that!), I will be curious and excited to see him move to Y! Sports' blog format of many many posts per day per blog.

- D.S.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday 07/27 (Very Very) Quickie

Brett Favre a Packers camp no-show (for now): Bluffing?... Derek Lowe!... Torii Hunter!... Yankess over Red Sox (again)... Goose Gossage inducted into baseball HOF... Are the Hawks about to (sign-and-) trade Josh Smith?... Kyle Busch cannot be stopped... Brewers in tie for NL Central lead: Ryan Braun for NL MVP? -- D.S.