Saturday, August 28, 2010

08/28 Very Quickie: Stras, Brees, Beck

By this time next Saturday, the college football season will have started. (With 18 games coming Thursday, headlined by Pitt-Utah.)

I'm sorry, I don't think I offered enough emphasis: By this time next Saturday, the college football season will have started!

*Stephen Strasburg to have Tommy John surgery, cont'd: Not sure how much I can add to yesterday's insta-analysis: This is not just bad for the Nats (and Nats fans), but bad for baseball.

*More MLB: The Reds are rolling (Jay Bruce gets Fantasy Stud: 3 HR)... Braves still stumbling; Phillies finally capitalize... Tim Lincecum has now lost 5 straight starts (his drop-off is almost as dramatic as the Strasburg news)... Was that Red Sox win against the nouveau-rival Rays too-little-too-late or the spark to a September run? Boston is only 4.5 GB and it's not even September 1 yet. Consider that Boston would be leading the other 2 divisions.

*Tony LaRussa, Albert Pujols and the Beck Rally: I have no idea what LaRussa and Pujols are thinking -- I presume they do not want to get in the middle of a polarizing political hurricane -- and I presume that they will drop out of the rally before it starts, making this (almost) a moot issue.

*NFL Preseason: Drew Brees looks ready to defend his championship. (Kevin Kolb ready to replace Donovan McNabb? Not so much. But how about that Mike Kafka!) Oh, and I can't wait to hear what Rex Ryan has to say about the Jets' latest flat offensive performance.

*Fantasy Watch: Keep an eye on that potential shoulder injury for Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles.

*US Soccer shake-up? How do US soccer fans feel about this leak that US Soccer is talking with Juergen Klinsmann about the coaching job... um, while Bob Bradley is still the coach? (I think it's clear that it is Klinsmann's job if he wants it, and that Bradley is on his way out -- perhaps to coach Aston Villa in the Premiership?)

*A phrase about Tiger Woods you didn't start hearing until this year: Regressing to the mean.

*So because I live such an exciting life, last night I found myself watching a high school football game on ESPN between two of the Top 25 teams in the country: No. 2 Tampa Plant vs. No. 19 Manatee (which happens to be the name of one of the classes in my kids' day-care, so I'm partial). Manatee rolled them. Watch RB Mike Blakely. (Amusingly, the game was "preseason" so it won't be on their records. But you can guarantee it will impact their national rankings.) OK: That's WAY too much about high school football.

*Today's biggest sports story will be... how the LaRussa-Pujols-Beck thing shakes out.

-- D.S.

Friday, August 27, 2010

08/27 Quickie: Tiger, UNC, Melo, 400

Today's Names to Know: Stephen Strasburg, Tiger Woods, Butch Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Albert Pujols, Cliff Lee, Gordon Gee, Sam Bradford, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Michael Hoomanawanui, Derek Anderson, Bryce Harper, Don Fehr and More.

Late-a.m. update: Stephen Strasburg needs Tommy John surgery. If you're a Strasburg fan or a Nats fan or a baseball fan, that news is a punch in the stomach.

Well we're one-day-down/three-to-go for the "Tiger post-divorce redemption" storyline to overwhelm us all.

UNC football scandal: Yikes. Of course, it's easy to get fixated on the single detail that that tutor in question was Butch Davis' nanny. But he had NO idea. None. Nope. Noooo idea.

That was a nice little run UNC had where it looked like the football team was a future Top 20 staple -- although probably not a national power. Now? Thunk.

Let's be clear: This pales in comparison to the academic fraud perpetrated at Florida State a couple years ago. And FSU is better now than it had been in Bowden's final half-dozen years.

If Carmelo doesn't want to play for the Nuggets and is demanding a trade, the Nuggets are smart to get rid of him now before he bolts as a free agent and leaves them with nothing.

(If Melo leaves, it's time to tear down the entire roster, get young and rebuild: Trade Billups. Trade JR Smith. Trade K-Mart. I'm sticking with Melo for Derrick Favors and Terrence Williams.)

Albert Pujols reaches 400 HRs: By 2013 (age 33), he's at 500. By 2016 (age 36), he's at 600. By 2020, when he turns 40, there's no reason to believe he can't reach 700.

More trouble for Cliff Lee: He got pounded by the Twins and is now 2-5 in 10 starts since he was traded from Seattle; Texas is 3-7 in those games. (That said: The Rangers are in no danger of missing the playoffs, and if last year is any indication -- small sample size, yes -- he will do fine once there.)

Phillies thunked with 4-game sweep by Astros: What a blown chance to either make up some ground on the stalling Braves (3 straight losses) or skip over the Giants for the Wild Card lead (the Phillies are still only .5 GB for that). That said, it's not even September yet; the Phillies will be in it until the season's final week.

Ohio State-Michigan, cont'd: Had a great conversation with an OSU fan -- a friend, no less! -- that gave me new perspective on how much the timing of the rivalry means to fans of both teams.

That's why I'm curious how OSU fans and alums feel about OSU president Gordon Gee coming out on the side of moving the game date, which almost certainly ensures that it will happen.

(Don't seem to see any resistance from OSU or Michigan fans about being in separate divisions; it's all about the game date. They should prepare themselves for it to be moved.)

Not bad, Sam Bradford. Not bad. (And if you know where I've been on him, you know that's a compliment.)

Michael Hoomanawanui: Enough said.

(Injury Watch: Donnie Avery, knee. You might not be a Rams fan, but file away for your fantasy football drafts next week.)

I'm feeling pretty good about drafting Tom Brady as my QB in my two fantasy leagues so far. And if you have Aaron Rodgers, you should be feeling even better.

Matt Leinart has been displaced by Derek Anderson: Just in case you had thought Leinart had hit rock-bottom as a pro before, nope: He's there right now. Biggest bust ever? He's up there. (Let's put it this way: There is little -- if anything -- that can happen to Tim Tebow in his career that could qualify him as a bigger NFL bust than Leinart.)

Bryce Harper took BP before the Nats-Cards game last night and crushed the ball: I'm ready for him to be in the big leagues right now. Do we really have to wait 3 years?

Given the way certain NHL teams have decided to treat the bloggers who have been so good for their league, I hope new union honcho Don Fehr makes their lives miserable. (h/t: Wyshynski)

-- D.S.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Update on Sunday Ticket To-Go: Meh

Update on that Sunday Ticket To-Go post from earlier this week:

So apparently you will only be able to get Sunday Ticket To-Go for your laptop, iPhone and iPad if you cannot get DirecTV in your location. Not "choose not to" -- literally, if you are one of the few places that DirecTV won't slap on a satellite dish.

They clarified this, despite initial marketing that made the "To-Go" package seem universally accessible -- which was the reason it was brilliant. With DirecTV's new caveats, the proposition is no less attractive; it is merely infinitely less available.

How short-sighted of DirecTV: What better advertisement for their dish product than to let non-dish subscribers see the value of Sunday Ticket and Red Zone, with the potential for DirecTV to upsell them with "Like it on your laptop? You'll love it on your HDTV."

Instead of trying to create as many qualified leads as possible, DirecTV is going for the nickel(-and-dime) defense. They have a week or so to figure out what an error it is to limit their customer base on this product.

BlogPoll Follow-Up: Full List Is Out

The complete BlogPoll Top 25 preseason ballot -- from me and the other 100+ participants, with help from their readers -- is out. Alabama is No. 1, predictably. Two other voters joined me in picking Boise State as No. 1. Check it out here, complete with analysis from BlogPoll administrator Brian Cook.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

08/26 Quickie: Furyk, Revis, Braves

Today's Names to Know: Jim Furyk, 18-game NFL season, Darrelle Revis, Tim Cowlishaw, Braves, Joey Votto, Manny Ramirez, BYU, Ronald Powell, USA Hoops, Josh Kroenke, Elin Nordegren, Tiger Woods, Rex Ryan and More.

Jim Furyk oversleeps for pro-am and gets DQ'ed from Barclays tournament with implications on the FedEx Cup standings (and, ultimately, money): I appreciate that the PGA wants to give its pros an incentive not to blow off the sponsor-critical pro-am events, but it is ludicrous that the rules will keep Furyk from this tournament -- to Phil's point, not when half the FedEx Cup field isn't even participating in the tournament. The lesson in all this is, of course, check your cell phone battery twice before relying on it for your wake-up call. Oh, and use the hotel wake-up call system as a redundancy.

About the 18-game NFL season, here's what I don't get: Peter King had a tweet where he said that the 16-game season is brutal enough on the players' bodies; by implication, 18 would just be too much.

Of course, that begs a question going the other direction: If it's so brutal, maybe they should play 14? Or 12? Or, per Gladwell, none at all?

Super Bowl champs play 19 games in a season, presumably with their biggest effort coming in games 17, 18 and 19.

Hard to understand how 20 teams playing 18 games, with the playoff teams playing a few more, will wreck the players any more than 16. And, by the way, fans are all for expanding the schedule.

I'm not suggesting I understand the toll a longer season takes on players' bodies -- although if the owners would pony up a bigger share of league revenue, I suspect that players would be entirely on board.

It's going to happen, whether or not owners vote on it yesterday (they didn't).


*So no Darrelle Revis signing yesterday. If a blogger or online outlet like PFT went on Twitter and claimed something would happen and it didn't, people would scoff and use it as an example of low credibility.

Rather than mock Tim Cowlishaw, I would rather say that: Sources can be wrong; it's a dangerous game to claim locked knowledge on anything; and scoops are overrated anyway. Still: Cowlishaw sure didn't mind the attention he got for making the call; he should be ready to take the backlash -- and that's without defensively saying, "Um, did I mention it could be Wednesday OR Sunday?"

All that said: Hell, I could have tweeted "Darrelle Revis is going to sign! (Eventually.)"

*So the Football Writers Association of America formally stripped USC of its 2004 national title. But they won't do the right thing and elevate Auburn to No. 1. (Why not? And why wouldn't FWAA members insist their leadership do the right thing?)

*You know what's soul-sucking if you're a fan? Being up 10-1, then losing. Ouch, Braves fans.

*Reverse jinx: I open my mailbox and see Joey Votto on the cover of this week's SI -- and last night he had 2 HR in that wild 12-11 Reds win over the Giants, where the Giants came back from being down 10-1 in the 5th to take an 11-10 lead in the 8th, only to lose on a Votto RBI single in the 12th.

*So who's going to get Manny? The White Sox?

*So after all that, BYU is going back to the Mountain West? How disappointing for the rest of us.

(Update: Got an email from reader Brandon, who is all over this stuff and says everyone in BYU country is assuming they will NOT go back to the MWC -- regardless of those earlier reports -- and will go indie, with the potential they end up in the Big 12 eventually.)

*Yes, I heard about the stuff involving Florida's vaunted freshmen defensive ends skipping practice Tuesday. (a) It's overblown. (b) It's a typical blip. (c) This team is going to be better than people think -- and I'd say that a preseason average ranking at No. 4 means most folks aren't sleeping on them to begin with.

*USA Hoops: Greece was no match. The US will roll to gold.

*Nuggets fans, welcome your new main owner: Kroenke scion Josh, who isn't all that much older than the average player on the team.

*"There was never any violence inside or outside our home." -- Elin Nordegren, to People magazine.

*My expectations for Tiger at the Barclay's is about the same as it is for Tiger at any tournament right now: He's not winning, and how bad will he miss?

*I'm not a particularly big Pat Haden fan, but the new USC AD wins some points for trying to guilt Reggie Bush into returning his Heisman.

*"Hard Knocks" Watch: Last night's ep did nothing to dissuade me that if I was an NFL football player, I would really enjoy playing for Rex Ryan (as long as I was, y'know, good).

(Special teams coach Mike Westoff wins the night with his insta-classic curse: "Triple F%$%ing Asian Flu.")

*Love this post from Yahoo about the all-time fantasy football lineup, but to exclude Marques Colston from the TE spot -- even the "honorable mention" group -- is a gross oversight.

(I'm talking about the year when Colston was inadvertently listed -- by Yahoo itself! -- as a TE rather than a WR, and it influenced the league like nothing else in fantasy football history. Wow: Not even as a one-hit wonder?)

*Another must-read: WSJ's Darren Everson on my preseason No. 1 college football team, Boise State.

*I'm late on this, but the "My Wife Knows Everything"/"My Wife Doesn't Know" horse-race ending from Sunday really IS awesome. (h/t Rachel Sklar)

*Don't forget to check out my bonus post from yesterday about how we're living in the golden age of sportswriting.

-- D.S.

Best. Sports Media Era. Ever.

Had some nice isolated time on the subway to read Joe Posnanski's latest post, about Tiger Woods (via Hal Sutton) and sports media today. It's a typically great post and a fertile topic.

The crux of the post is that Joe's editor asked him if the Tiger scandal was merely -- or "entirely" -- a product of the "TMZ Era?"

(First of all, I wouldn't label it the "TMZ Era" as much as the "internet era." Or, if you thing 24/7 sports coverage created this, the "ESPN Era." But I think that gives too much credit to cable-only ESPN -- say, through 1995 -- and way too much credit to TMZ, which is only the past 5 years.)

The Tiger story was really the culmination of the increasing celebrity culture and the increasing velocity, transparency and democratization of news and information.

I think there are a couple of interesting riffs off Joe's piece.

The first is most direct: Joe's editor appears to lament our current era. My spin-off question would be: How many sports careers would the media by-products of the "TMZ Era" have helped?

Could the "TMZ Era" have gotten Mickey Mantle off the sauce? As good as Mantle was, how much better could he have been? Not to get too maudlin (but!), but how many more years might he have lived?

Joe's editor oversimplifies -- and diminishes -- the current golden era of media (sports and otherwise) by labeling it the "TMZ Era."

What if I framed it as the "sunlight era" -- where transparency ruled?

(You don't understand media today if you don't see leaked Tiger sexts and leaked MLB financial documents in the same ballpark.)

What if I framed it as the "accountability era" -- where fisking ruled?

(Joe had a nice piece of fisking of his own, politely if comprehensively taking a stiletto to his own teammate's opinion.)

What if I framed it as the "democratization era" -- where the openness of expression and platforms ruled?

(We are better off if hundreds of fans analyze MLB financial documents on Deadspin -- or a government data dump on TalkingPointsMemo than we are if a tiny cabal of magazine reporters do it.)

This is where I part ways -- radically -- from Dan LeBatard, who recently tried to make an argument lamenting the state of sports media. He got some support and some backlash, at least within the sports-media industry.

He called things "more reckless and less credible than anything we've ever seen."

Predictably, I feel the opposite about it. Not only do I think we are, as fans and as consumers, better off now than before -- I think we are better off now than ever.

Variance will happen as you add voices to the system. Variance will happen as you apply new pressures -- like generating online page views -- to the system. Variance is not a bad thing.

There will always be a "bottom 50 percent" that is lousy -- whether you are talking about newspaper sportswriting or blogs or college professors or restaurants or whatever.

But at the top? Things are really really good. Better than they ever have been.

As for the bottom? Well, one argument is not to consume it; of course, your readers -- gee: remember them? -- are consuming it, want to talk about it, want to hear about it.

The other argument is to accept that there are topics that some people want to talk about and make a choice whether you want to engage it or not, accepting the consequences whether you do or you don't. I will say this: Ignore fan interests at your peril. My argument would be to do your part to elevate the discussion.

That's not to say that there isn't room for media to surprise and delight us with interesting analysis or the non-obvious argument or story; I think fans have been pretty supportive of that kind of sportswriting -- with a wider and better audience than ever, thanks to new publishing platforms. While some lament Tiger coverage, the rest of us are reading and passing around that awesome column written by someone online who doesn't have a radio show or TV guest-hosting gig.

I'm digressing. The point is that when you focus on the top -- and the astonishing volume of terrific sports writing, opinion, analysis and creative expression you find there, provided you have the paths to find it -- things in sports media have never been better. Ever.

There is a wonderful, era-defining essay from Roger Ebert from last year about how this is the "golden age" of movie criticism, but his argument could just as easily apply to sports.

Ebert's closing advice: "Find out all you can, and see what you can do with it." It is a paean to openness, to open-mindedness, to discovery, to all the things that make media consumption so great -- if at times overwhelming -- right now.

The alternative is to lament the state of things, to close off, to close ranks. To each their own, but having been working in online media since 1995, I have been a first-hand witness to the seismic media evolution of the online era -- the... ha ha... "TMZ Era." The nay-sayers and doubters and closed-minded folks have always been there, and the world simply passes them by.

I trust emerging platforms. I trust creative people who have the enthusiasm to join in the ecosystem, in whatever form that might take. I trust consumers -- I trust fans.

Trust me: It has never been better. And it is only going to get better.

-- D.S.

Please join lots of other great folks and follow me on Twitter.

Update: I probably could have written 10,000 words on this and still not touched on everything. There are a lot of holes in here to be filled and a lot of broad strokes that would benefit from detailing that won't happen in this post. As always, I look forward to those discussions.

08/25 Quickie: Ohio State-Michigan, More

Today's Names to Know: Ohio State vs. Michigan, 18-game NFL season, Bobby Bowden, Johnny Damon, Stephen Strasburg, Rajon Rondo, Chad Ochocinco, Yahoo's "Prep Rally," Brian Kelly, Jenn Brown, DirecTV's Sunday Ticket To-Go and More.

What would happen if the Big Ten moved the Michigan-Ohio State game from each team's season finale to the middle of the season?

Well... nothing, really.

Fans would adapt. Certainly non-Michigan and non-Ohio State fans would adapt. Let's face it: Michigan-Ohio State has lost serious luster, nationally, since the 2006 de facto national semifinal game. It might be the biggest rivalry game, but it isn't the best rivalry game -- and, more importantly, it certainly isn't the only big game.

That's not to say that this has to do with Michigan being bad recently. This has to do with the rest of the sport growing exponentially.

There are plenty of amazing games that happen before the end of the season. This season's Game of the Year is the first week of October: Florida at Alabama. And you could make a serious case that its 2nd-best Game of the Year comes in its very first week, Boise State vs. Virginia Tech. (Michigan-Ohio State? Probably doesn't crack the list of Top 25 or 30 best games of the year. And the only reason it would make the list is because of nostalgia.)

College football has gotten so much bigger -- even bigger, I should say -- in recent years that it simply doesn't impact the national landscape to change the date on the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. Michigan-OSU isn't smaller; the pie is bigger, way bigger.

Sidebar point: If anything, the Michigan-Ohio State season-ender has become emblematic of the Big Ten's tone-deafness to the rhythm of the college football season, where the season's biggest weekend of games happens a week -- even two -- after that rivalry game. Back when the entire nation ended that week? OK. Now? It's archaic.

Again, it speaks to the point that the main griping about changing the date stems from some kind of out-dated ideal about this game. No one but Michigan and Ohio State fans will care if the game's date is moved, and even they will quickly get used to it.

After all: What would it say about the strength and vitality of the country's supposed "best" college football rivalry (supposedly) if it can't handle being played a couple weeks earlier?

(I don't care if this is really about money -- we have all agreed to suspend our disbelief about virtually everything in sports, because it could all be said to be "really about the money" if you really dug into it. And what kind of fun is that?

Then again, you could also say the same about changes to sports: On 95 percent of them, fans would adapt, so why bother complaining? It's a fair corollary. Hell, most of us agree that the BCS is a terrible system and yet college football has never been more popular. I suspect that specific cognitive disconnect drives much of the rage and frustration from the leading anti-BCS pundits.)

I love tradition in sports -- many traditions, specifically. But I also recognize that this is a regional issue -- maybe the rest of us should defer to Michigan and Ohio State fans about whether it's a bad or it's a neutral thing that the game date is moved.

Then again, if Michigan-Ohio State fancies itself one of our greatest national college football rivalries, then the rest of us can have a say.

And that say is: It's just not that big of a deal to move the game.


NFL owners meet today in Atlanta, and an 18-game regular season will be a big topic. The players are a wee bit concerned -- greater chance of injury, more games for same pay -- but this is one of those topics where fans will undoubtedly be on the side of owners. More games? Why not?

Bobby Bowden's new book: Why is Bowden only now claiming he was forced out? Was he lying to everyone back when he "retired?" And let's get one thing straight: It was time for him to go; he had become ineffective, at least as it relates to maintaining FSU as an elite program. Did you see what happened virtually the moment Jimbo Fisher took over? Recruiting spiked. If he didn't want to go, FSU did the right thing -- if not an easy thing -- pushing him out the door.

In pounding the Reds for a second straight game, the Giants sure seem worthy of that NL Wild Card spot...

FACEPALM...Then again, so do the Phillies, after their dramatic 16th-inning win over the Astros. It's going to be a fun end to the Wild Card race.FACEPALM. You may now stop commenting and emailing. I am leaving this up -- rather than deleting -- to offer self-humiliation.

Damon to Detroit: Any sort of temporary swoon from Red Sox Nation about the prospects of re-embracing Johnny Damon is gone, now that Damon has rejected the Sox for the Tigers.

Strasburg to the DL: Knew this was coming. Still: Yikes.

USA Hoops cuts Rajon Rondo: Sorry, he "withdrew." Sure. He may be the most important cog for the reigning Eastern Conference champs, but his style of play didn't fit internationally.

No way the Chargers trade Vincent Jackson to the Vikings -- can the Vikings even afford to pay Jackson, if they could work out a deal? (No.)

Colorado's Big 12 season was already going to be lame-duck this year. Apparently, now the Buffs are going to have to stay through 2012, which will make 2011 even more awkward.

Chad Ochocinco fined $25K for tweeting during a game he was playing in: I think he would say it was worth it. Not sure other players will want to pony up that much money, but it is totally the kind of thing 85 would do.

I think that in a few years, not only will players be expressing themselves during games, but the league will be facilitating it -- not unlike the way that a decade ago, the league wouldn't recognize fantasy football but now has its own fantasy game platform.

(Obligatory disclosure: The sponsored fantasy league I am participating in this season is using the platform, specifically.)

I love that Brian Kelly is forcing NBC Sports to tweak its broadcast pace (including ads) in order to keep up with Notre Dame's new style of football on the field. (See that? We're talking about Notre Dame. And not in a mocking way! This is the power of Kelly.)

Jenn Brown won't be part of Icehouse's college sports marketing plans this season, leading to a lot of easy moralizing by critics. I see both sides. Brown will have plenty of endorsement opportunities, and there are plenty of innovative programs that marketers can create.

Really excited for Yahoo Sports' new blog dedicated to high school sports, Prep Rally: It's a great, unfilled niche -- full of terrific stories that are going largely uncovered but will benefit from Yahoo's huge platform.

In case you missed it yesterday: DirecTV is selling access to NFL Sunday Ticket and the Red Zone channel through your laptop/iPhone/iPad for $350. If you don't have a dish but love the NFL, what do you think of that price? Would you be willing to pay $20 a week for all-access NFL that comes with the caveat it isn't on your TV?

-- D.S.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

NFL Sunday Ticket: Open to All?

There were inklings about this back in the spring, but here is what I think is some pretty big news:

NFL Sunday Ticket is available to anyone -- not just DirecTV subscribers.

The caveats:

*Only on your laptop, iPhone, Android phone or iPad.

*It costs $350.

Now, to respond to the caveats:

Only non-TV platforms: Who cares? I'd love to be able to watch any game I want -- or the Red Zone Channel -- on the go on my iPhone or with my iPad.

Cost: Is that more than the NBA's package or the college football package? Absolutely. Does the NFL command a premium? Yes.

Put it this way: If someone asked you how much you would pay for Sunday Ticket and Red Zone Channel -- even if it was "limited" to your laptop, phone and iPad -- would you be willing to pay $20 a week? Because that's what it basically costs.

And while the $350 may feel like a lot -- it IS a lot -- I think that of the things you would be willing to pay $20 a week for, every NFL game (plus Red Zone) is worth it.

This is a big deal for NFL fans.

08/24 Quickie: Brady, Damon, Elin

Today's Names to Know: Tom Brady, Elin Woods Nordegrin, Johnny Damon, Stephen Strasburg, Jose Bautista, Tyler Patrick Thomas, Sidney Rice, Matt Leinart, Sammy Sosa, Maurice Clarett, Michael Heisley and More.

This whole Tom-Brady-says-he-hates-the-Jets thing is the biggest non-story of the week.

Tiger and Elin's divorce is final: Next up, a correlation-causation confusion when he either plays better or plays worse. (She could use a reality-TV show, but I presume she is too classy for ANY interest in that. To her credit.)

Johnny Damon to the Red Sox? Do I detect the faintest whiff of love-him-when-he's-ours triumphalism from Red Sox fans over a player they loathed for leaving just a few years ago? (Is Manny next? Now THAT would be awesome.) BTW: Sounds like Damon would prefer to go to Detroit.

Rangers lose no-no in 9th: Gotta love the no-hitter brought to you by 4 pitchers.

Stephen Strasburg back to DL (again): Nothing wrong with being overly cautious. The foreshadowing is bad enough as it is.

Jose Bautista!

This Oregon State lineman story -- Tyler Patrick Thomas allegedly being found naked and drunk in a stranger's home, then stunned into submission by cops after he got into a 3-point stance and charged at them -- is simultaneously hilarious yet sad. It would be nice that, instead of dismissing him from the team, Oregon State suspended him and got him some counseling.

NFL: Sidney Rice headed for hip surgery that could keep him out for half the season? If so, we'll get to see whether Favre made Rice look good... or the other way around.

Yikes, the Cardinals QBs are terrible: And Matt Leinart sucking heading into his 5th NFL season is a good reminder not to put too much stock in the NFL draftniks, all of whom projected Leinart as a can't-miss NFL QB prospect.

Hard to see Tim Tebow having a worse career than Leinart, and given the pro expectations -- for Tebow, few; for Leinart, quite a few -- that makes Leinart a bigger bust than Tebow could ever be.

Retired Number Watch: I don't disagree with Sammy Sosa that the Cubs should retire No. 21.

The UFL should absolutely try to get Maurice Clarett, but the only reason they would be doing it is for the publicity. And if all they care about is publicity, there is a much much bigger and better way they can get it:

By undercutting the NFL age limit by 2 years and recruiting star college freshmen and sophomores to its league with the promise of cash and a 100 percent focus on getting them ready for the NFL Draft.

Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley knows less about basketball than you do. Unclear why he would agree to do this radio interview -- maybe team p.r. handlers sabotaged him.

Why on Earth would Kwame Brown want to play for Michael Jordan again? And why would MJ want him? All that can result is jokes. Lots and lots of jokes.

If you liked yesterday's profits-for-Pirates story, Deadspin apparently has more coming today -- from the Rangers?

-- D.S.

Monday, August 23, 2010

BlogPoll Mondays: Preseason Ugh

Although I will usually submit the first iteration of my weekly BlogPoll Top 25 ballot on Sundays, I will have a post on Monday highlighting the ballot and encouraging your feedback.

Let's dig into my preseason ballot. A few notes:

*Based on your comments, I have already made some changes:

(1) I have vaulted Ohio State ahead of Oregon (great points made, obviously) AND VA Tech, but still outside the Top 5.

(2) I have bumped out Arizona in favor of Washington. After being tipped by a commenter, I went back and revisited 'Zona -- yes, overheated. I'm inclined to wish for a UW revival anyway.

*The preseason ballot sucks, on lots of levels. For starters, there's no standard (as if the weekly ballot has one, among the AP or Coaches or even BlogPollsters). Are you picking the best team? The team that will win the title?

How about No. 2: Is that really the 2nd-best team... or are pollsters picking Ohio State at No. 2 because they figure OSU will go unbeaten, not because OSU would actually beat Florida if they played head-to-head.

Here's how I net out: For this week -- this week -- I am picking what I think is the best team: Boise State. I think if Boise played Texas in the national title game, Boise would win. Same if they played Alabama/Florida or Ohio State. This is NOT a "protest" vote against the BCS; you can go back to January and see that I've been high on Boise State for this season.

Once we have some actual game data, I mostly -- mostly -- use a "resume" system: What have you done this season? Not what you did last season or what you might do the rest of this season. Obviously, this involves a bit of nuance, primarily early in the season. But I felt very good putting BYU at No. 1 after they beat Oklahoma last year in early September. I felt very good putting Houston high after they won at Oklahoma State. And I will feel great keeping Boise State at No. 1 after they beat VA Tech at FedEx Field in a few weeks.

What else about this year's preseason ballot?

Well, I'm big on TCU -- just like I was last year. (This is a stretch, but one of the reasons I like Boise over Texas is because Boise has learned a lot of defensive scheming from TCU, which I think is the best-coached defense in the country... even better than Will Muschamp's coaching at Texas. And I think TCU's D would have smothered Texas a year ago; I think Boise's D could do enough to stop Texas this year.)

I'm also big on Cincinnati -- I believe in the new coach, Butch Jones, coming off a great career at Central Michigan, and new QB Zac Collaros, who was arguably better than Tony Pike when Pike was injured last season.

And as always, I'm big on Utah, which -- as I said earlier this summer -- could enter the Pac-10 next season as the best non-probationary team in the league.

Check out the complete ballot here, and please continue to leave your feedback. I believe the updated version is due to BlogPoll HQ by Wednesday morning, but I'm going to try to lock in any changes by Tuesday afternoon.

As always, thanks for the help and input -- and keeping me honest!

-- D.S.

08/23 Quickie: Favre, Mariotti, Top 25

I tuned in to Sunday Night Football long enough to see Brett Favre get knocked on his keister by the 49ers' 1st-team D. I had seen enough -- and so had Favre.

Lou Piniella retires, immediately: I see him as a Hall of Famer. I would love to see the Cubs promote Ryne Sandberg for the rest of the season, but I recognize that puts the owners in a bind if they never intended to give him the job next season.

Should the Nats shut down Stephen Strasburg's season now, even if his forearm is OK enough for him to pitch, say, in a few weeks? Short answer: Yes.

Mariotti Watch: Neither ESPN nor Fanhouse has made any determinations about Jay Marriotti's future with them, but it's pretty simple: If he's guilty of a crime, he's done; if the charges are dropped, he'll remain employed. But as with every other talent in sports media, he could get tossed overboard and neither outlet would miss a beat, audience-wise.

My preseason BlogPoll ballot is out, and I ended up going with my original conviction: Boise State is the best team in the country this season. I rank Texas No. 2, not because they are necessarily better than Florida or Alabama, but because UT will go unbeaten, and Florida and Alabama will give each other losses, Bama beating Florida at home in October, then Florida beating Bama in the rematch in the SEC title game in December. TCU is the new Boise -- simply not respected enough to crack the Top 2. Would love your reaction to the entire 25.

USA Hoops: That 1-point win in Madrid against Spain will be the US's closest game of this trip -- but it should remind fans that it is no gimme that the US will always put the winning team on the court, despite obvious talent advantages. (Love the switch to the Syracuse-style zone for the final play.)

Phelps Watch: The best thing to happen to Michael Phelps is to have had Ryan Lochte whip him all over the place at the Pan-Pacs; Phelps needed to have his competitiveness activated, and it feels like that did it.

Business: On the other hand, at least the Pirates are doing something right. (That said, that ownership has a serious optics problem; I don't begrudge them wanting to run the business to avoid a loss, but if they're making $26.5M in profit and not re-investing back in the business, that undercuts the entire premise of revenue-sharing.)

Yesterday, I took my 4-year-old to his first-ever in-the-movie-theater movie -- Toy Story 3. The movie was incredible. The experience for me as a parent was unforgettable. (He pronounces it "thee-ay-ter," and I'm not going to correct him.)

-- D.S.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Preseason BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot v.1

So the SB Nation embed code for my BlogPoll ballot (v.1) doesn't seem to be working. Here is the list, hand-entered. Keep in mind that I picked my No. 1 team - for now, in the preseason - as the best team in the country... NOT necessarily the most likely to win the title.

1. Boise St
2. Texas
3. Florida
4. Alabama
5. TCU

6. VA Tech
7. Oregon
8. Ohio St
9. Georgia Tech
10. Wisconsin

11. USC
12. Miami (FL)
13. Houston
14. Oklahoma
15. Nebraska

16. Iowa
17. Auburn
18. Utah
19. Florida St
20. Cincinnati

21. Arkansas
22. Pitt
23. West Virginia
24. Navy
25. Arizona

Would love your comments. As you can see, I flipped my opinion since this morning -- I'm sticking with my earliest feeling about the season: Boise State is the best team in the country. Again: It's an entirely other matter if they get to prove it in January.