Today's Names to Know: Ichiro, Felix, Jose Bautista, David Price, Albert Pujols, Alabama, Oregon State, Andrew Luck, The U, Mike Vick, Dallas Cowboys, Jahvid Best, Keith Smart and More.
I feel about Ichiro the same way I felt about Iverson: He is one of the most remarkable players of his generation, and he should be on any fan's "must-see-in-person" list. 10 straight 200-hit seasons is incredible -- and there is no reason to think he won't separate from Pete Rose with an 11th in 2011. What a shame his team sucks. Speaking of which...
Yesterday's start by Felix Hernandez should put his entire Cy Young candidacy into focus: King Felix pitched a 2-hitter over 8 innings, giving up only a HR to MLB HR leader Jose Bautista (who cracked the 50 barrier). And yet he lost, because the offense he plays with stinks. In short: Not his fault. Not his fault he got the loss. Not his fault he has "only" 12 wins. He is the best pitcher in the AL this season, and I hope enough AL Cy voters recognize that to give him the award.
UPDATE: Just read an awesome stat via Buster Olney. In Felix's 12 losses this season, the Mariners have scored 14 runs. (Just looked it up: In Sabathia's 7 losses, the Yankees have scored 12 runs.)
The presumptive favorite, CC Sabathia, got rocked by the Rays, who are now only .5 GB with 10 to play -- including series with Seattle, Baltimore and KC. The division title -- and home-field advantage -- is there for the taking. But watch out for the Twins!
Also on my "must-see-in-person" list: Albert Pujols, who is winding down his 10th MLB season with his 6th year with 40+ HR (he hit 40, 41 yesterday). No player -- certainly no player of this generation -- has had a better 10-year start to his career. If you want to watch one of the Top 10 baseball players of all time, in real-time, you need to catch Pujols when he hits your town next.
CFB Weekend Preview: It is arguable that this week -- at Arkansas -- will be Alabama's toughest test of the season. So what happens when the Tide wins by 20? (I'll tell you what: We start looking ahead to next week's game vs. Florida, which should be another pummeling.)
Meanwhile, the real Game of the Weekend -- and one of the best games of the year -- is Oregon State at Boise State. First: Credit OSU for scheduling both TCU and Boise State. I think it will help the Beavers tremendously to have played TCU in the season-opener; the Horned Frogs are every bit as good as Boise -- a better defense, not as good of an offense. This should be a shootout. Pick: Boise, qualified. I have been ranking Oregon State a lot higher than most ever since they lost to TCU. They are fearless.
Otherwise, I expect all ranked teams to win -- that includes Andrew Luck and Stanford slicing up Notre Dame in South Bend. In games between ranked teams, I'll give teams playing at home the edge: Auburn over South Carolina and LSU over West Virginia.
(By the way, even playing on the road, Miami will earn very little credit for walloping a limp Pitt team.)
My Top 5 favorite storylines for NFL Week 3:
*Must-track: Jahvid Best
*Must-wha? 2-0 Steelers at 2-0...Bucs?
*Must-stay-up: Jets at Fins
Don Nelson out in Golden State: What a necessary part of the transformation of the franchise, now with a new coach (Keith Smart), new owner, new franchise star (Stephen Curry), new free agent stud (David Lee) and new uniforms. Always like head coaches not from the re-tread bin.
A couple of NBA teams start their training camps this weekend, but most start Monday. It's going to be hard to find any oxygen outside of South Beach, but with the Heat as the centerpiece of the league and Kevin Durant its new super-elite star, the league could be looking at its biggest season in years. I had thought that nothing could top Lakers-Celtics in the Finals, but I just didn't have the imagination to consider Kobe and the 2-time defending champs playing LeBron, Wade and Bosh in the Finals.
I'm sort of fascinated by NBA's new crackdown on player griping, which has become an epidemic. If they really enforce the rules, we will see a dozen (or more!) T's per game; I suspect the league doesn't want to draw that much attention to it -- I mean, you could give LeBron a half-dozen Ts a game, by himself. Presumably, they will not follow the new rules to the letter, but rather T up the most egregious whining. (My favorite detail: Refs are supposed to T up players who pantomime a smack on their arm to gripe.) It is fascinating that the impetus of the rule appears to be how bad the constant whining looks on TV.
"(Very) Quickie" posting over the weekend -- as always -- with some big stuff coming next week.