Thursday, September 27, 2012

9/27 (Real Refs Return) Quickie

In the end, the NFL blinked. It doesn't matter if they were already headed toward a resolution with the refs -- done in a few days or a few weeks. The perception is that they buckled in the wake of Monday night.

And perception is what was at the heart of yesterday's end-game: In the unlikeliest scenario, the NFL couldn't deal with the post-"Fail Mary" perception that the game's integrity was eroding/eroded. And so the league made the best of a bad situation it found itself in -- they cut a deal with the refs, probably not as hard-line as they would have wanted, but still hard-line enough. Meanwhile, they cut bait on a replacement-ref situation spinning entirely out of control.

There was a pretty good argument to be made that the NFL couldn't afford to go another week with the fake refs -- the dominant image of Week 4 would have been the persistent jeering within stadiums every time a ref made a call. There is a good case to be made that THAT would have been even worse for the league than the single epically bad call on Monday night -- from one really bad "worst-case" situation to a cascade of nationwide credibility issues that put the entire brand at risk.

NFL owners might be stubborn, but they are not stupid. They weighed the business risk -- and, let's be clear: that's all they weigh -- and realized it was time to get out of this hole now.

As many have already pointed out, the good feelings for the "real" refs will last right up until the first iffy call. And, if history is any guide, there will be plenty. But the state of the NFL is far better today than Tuesday morning.


Tigers lead AL Central again: If you like your postseasons interesting, Detroit is a more interesting team than Chicago -- more likely to dent New York and Texas (and Baltimore?) pitching, more likely to offer intriguing stars like Miguel Cabrera and his near-Triple-Crown season. (That said, I'm not averse to a one-game playoff to decide the AL Central winner.)

The A's are hanging around. Joe Sheehan had a really interesting point in his awesome subscription newsletter yesterday that there is a case to be made that a team like the A's is better off manipulating the new postseason system by optimizing their result in a one-game Wild Card at home, rather than trying to win the division, and -- in the process -- having to play a tie-breaker to win the division, losing that, then having to play a one-game Wild Card, then (even if they win that) having to start an LDS series against a fresh opponent.

The best story in baseball over the season's final week will be the Marlins bringing back Adam Greenberg -- a latter-day Moonlight Graham -- for his 2nd-ever MLB at-bat next Tuesday. His first, of course, ended with the end of his career.

Another Penn State player leaves: The guys who took off before the season started, just after the punishment was handed down, were never going to be as fascinating as the ones who -- NCAA transfer deal still on the table -- leave mid-season when they either chafe at Bill O'Brien's style or just don't like where the program is (or is headed). Remember: Players can leave without NCAA consequence all the way through the start of NEXT season, with immediately eligibility.

Jobs: Smart hire by the Astros to hire Nats 3B coach Bo Porter -- it's hard to know whether the team's success is because of savvy dealmaking, a stocked farm system over the past few years, lucking into Harper and Strasburg, Davey Johnson's managerial style or what. But picking up a hot assistant is a tried-and-true method in sports hiring.

-- D.S.

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