Tuesday, October 09, 2012

10/09 (LDS-ish) Quickie

As a Nats fan, I'm new to this: At what point do we get to freak out that the absence of Strasburg will result in the Nationals being bounced from the playoffs during the NLDS round?

I'm not saying that starting Strasburg over Zimmermann on the road in St. Louis for Game 2 would have ended in a different result -- although it's hard to imagine how Stras would have pitched worse.

But if you stipulate that even if Stras was healthy that Zimmermann would have gotten the call in Game 2, then Game 3 in D.C. becomes the moment where Strasburg's absence is officially acute.

The Nats' starting pitching -- the strength of the team throughout the season -- has, thus far, abandoned them. Gio flailed and Jordan failed.

Game 3 starter Edwin Jackson is a mystery -- his performance in last year's postseason (as Cards fans themselves will giddily tell you) hardly inspires confidence.

And Ross Detwiler -- instead of being available for long relief on the off-chance (or, as it turns out, the reality) that Gonzalez or Zimmermann truly struggled -- is suddenly the Game 4 firewall.

It's not fair to panic -- it's too early. Then again, if/when the Nationals lose at home in Game 3 tomorrow, it may be too late to panic. The series might effectively be over.

So why not start the panic now?


*Regardless of how the Orioles finish their LDS series vs. the Yankees, they will always have Game 2, where they gutted out a W and split the opening two games at home. It was the kind of gritty win that has defined their entire season. There will be no shame if Baltimore loses to the Yankees -- the AL's top seed. And maybe -- just maybe -- last night's win puts just enough doubt in New York's mind that Baltimore can steal Game 3 in the Bronx and turn Game 4 into the most must-see game of the MLB season so far.

*Texans go to 5-0 at expense of Jets: Is it better or worse that the Jets basically gave that game away? Houston was clearly the superior team, but New York had plenty of chances to grind out a win. His receivers didn't help him much, but Mark Sanchez is clearly unnerved by the QB rotation with Tebow, who -- as always -- seems energized every time he comes onto the field, regardless of whether or not he gets yanked right back out.

Consider that it wasn't until Week 7 a year ago that Tebow was installed as the Broncos starter and the team proceeded to turn their season around. Denver was 1-4 heading into a Week 6 bye -- New York's 2-3 record seems more despondent than Denver's, which is all the more reason they should shelve Sanchez (who clearly isn't a top-tier QB the team can rely on, ludicrous offseason contract extension notwithstanding) and go with Tebow full-time, perhaps with Sanchez rotating in occasionally to mix up the defense. A year ago, it worked for Tebow's last team -- the Jets shouldn't be so conventional that they ignore the potential. At this point, they have nothing to lose.

*Brian Cushing injury: As with the Falcons, I had no faith that the Texans were going to win the Super Bowl anyway, so Cushing's injury merely provides a quality excuse when Houston falls short. (Apparently, I feel so sure about there not being an Atlanta-Houston Super Bowl that I should probably find some small way to bet myself about it, perhaps with a small donation to a charity in the city of the team that makes it to the SB -- two donations if both make it.)

*I will say this: Arian Foster is so fun to watch. I love that he was undrafted and yet has emerged as the NFL's best RB, and I love that he just pummels opposing defenses. As NFL fans, we could do a lot worse than having Foster carry Houston to a Super Bowl.

*RGIII Mania: Anyone else have a problem with the Redskins rushing RGIII back for this Sunday's game against the Vikings following his concussion on Sunday? What happened to "The NFL takes brain injuries seriously." If the team will disregard common sense, isn't it incumbent on the league to step in and say "No go. He has to sit out this weekend."

Aside from a sense of decency -- that no opposing team in the NFL has ever felt particularly obligated to offer, mind you -- why wouldn't the Vikings go straight for RGIII's noggin to try to knock him out of the game? Is a fine -- even a suspension -- worth what would almost assuredly be a guaranteed win, in a season where Minnesota is suddenly in playoff contention?

I make myself sick even suggesting that, but I think that speaks more to the absolute insanity of playing Griffin next week than it does anything else. Even if the Vikings don't target Griffin's head, what if -- as with last week -- he gets an inadvertent shoulder to the helmet? Different intentions, same result -- and possibly far longer-term implications. I just don't see why the Redskins are messing around here with their franchise future.

*The most interesting thing I read yesterday: Grantland's Bryan Curtis on Josh Hamilton -- Hamilton isn't much of a story this week, but as closure on his Texas career, it's a fascinating read.

-- D.S.

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