Throughout the 90′s and into the 2000′s the Atlanta Braves perched atop the National League East (and the old National West) was as common as the sequence of months on the calendar.
An organization known primarily for pitching, they are displaying something not recently seen in a Braves team and it is as important a part of their recent surge atop the division in 2012 as anything else discussed.
It was an unfortunate turn of events that saw a city’s collective heart skip a beat. The reigning NBA MVP lay on the floor, with just over a minute left and his team up by 14 points over the eighth seeded Philadelphia 76ers.
U.S. President Barack Obama (C) and British Prime Minister David Cameron (R) watch the action as Western Kentucky takes on the Mississippi Valley State in the first round of the 2011 NCAA men’s basketball tournament in Dayton, Ohio. The Hilltoppers rallied from behind to knock out the Delta Devils 59-58. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
You’re doing it wrong, Nick Young.
MLB Spring Training 2012: Thoughts On Playoff Expansion, Yu Darvish Debut And A Johan Santana Sighting
Spring is upon us and that means baseball. The Locker will be bringing periodic articles and notes from the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues until the start of the 2012 baseball season.
I’m one of the biggest Major League Baseball fans around and I have to tell you this expanded playoff format doesn’t make me happy. You have a 162-game schedule and if that isn’t grueling enough the winners of the three divisions in each league now have to worry about not one wildcard, but two. That means a third place team from a division could make the playoffs without truly deserving to be there.
Spare me your lectures. I’ve got reasons for my displeasure.
Some will argue that those third place teams are just as capable of winning the world series as anyone else. Okay, do you want to just scrap all 162-games, drop it to about 45 and then have an NCAA basketball style tourney to determine who plays 4-of-7 for the World Series? No? Didn’t think so. If they were “just as capable as any other team” they would have done it between the months of April and September. That Argument is ridiculous and without merit.
I will give you a scenario of why. In 2010, the new format would have put the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees for a one game playoff. Most in television would have loved this match-up to determine who goes on to the division series. Most except that New York Yankees team who played 162 games for the right to play in the division series because they outlasted that Red Sox team in the regular season. Even worse, how would it have looked had the Yankees with 95 wins that year lost to an 89 win Red Sox squad they had already outpaced in the regular season. On top of that, what kind of situation would the Yankees have been faced with having to use their ace on a team they beat in the regular season just to get into the next round? This would have been true in any other year as well.
Are you getting my point here?
While most are enamored with the drama of a one-game playoff (a game seven if you will) I say let baseball be the way it is. Seventh games in a playoff series are special for a reason; you have to play well to get to them and it determines who the best of the best is after a long regular season and postseason series. Diluting the system (i.e. every season) with them is something I am vehemently opposed to.
Of course, being the sucker I am for baseball, I will watch. That doesn’t, however, mean I have to be happy about it.
Yu Darvish start was nothing to write home about: Yu Darvish made his first start for the Texas Rangers on Wednesday. He threw two scoreless innings in his debut while striking out three. I take this with a grain of salt. Watching his first start he had decent control of his breaking pitches (particularly his change-up) and his fastball was a little flat causing a lot of balls to be hit hard. It is too early to go one way or the other on Darvish. Excitement will be tempered until we get later in the month and start seeing him go between five and six innings against with his full repertoire.
Johan Santana, Stephen Strasburg sighting: There was an familiar yet unfamiliar face on the mound Wednesday. New York Mets ace Johan Santana faced big league competition for the first time since 2010 and looked pretty good. Fastball was down a few miles per hour but he got a lot of ground ball outs and looked good moving around on the mound. A welcome sight for New York Met (and baseball) fans.
On Sunday, The Washington Nationals Stephen Strasburg returned to the mound to face the Houston Astros in his first outing. He looked to be in form as he struck out three and giving up two runs on 44 pitches (26 strikes). For an initial outing he looked good and had great movement on his breaking pitches. A welcome sign coming off Tommy John surgery that wiped out his entire 2011. The Nationals are banking on Strasburg to play a major role in their rotation this season and this has to be a great sight for teammates and officials alike.
As many have heard by now Peyton Manning is no longer an Indianapolis Colt. Let that first line sink in for a moment.
Good? Lets continue.
Now that the inevitable has happened the question, naturally, is who are the major players in the Manning sweepstakes. The usual suspects come to mind and for obvious reasons, most assume he will end up in Miami, Washington, Kansas City or New York because those teams currently have vacancies (in the Jets case we will consider it more question mark than vacancy) at quarterback and they have money to spend on one of Manning’s ilk.
That being said there are a lot more factors in play now that Manning, who has donned the blue horseshoe on his helmet since being drafted out of Tennessee in 1998, is a free agent. Starting in a place many haven’t even truly considered important.
Before news broke of Manning being released many of the teams being floated as possible landing spots for Manning were looking to deal for the number two pick in this years draft currently held by the Rams. This is key for a number of reasons, one of which is the value of return on that pick should they still decide to trade it away. Do the Redskins, who were rumored to be the most bullish on that number two pick, now turn their attention and considerable resources to Manning? Do they pass up on Robert Griffin as a future starter for present gain? It would seem the perfect Dan Snyder move in bringing in Manning, but would it make sense? This question is critical because it is no secret the Redskins need a quarterback and should they lose out on Manning the price just got steeper for the rights to “RGIII.”
Then there’s Miami who, since Dan Marino retired, have watched one quarterback after the other try and fail to succeed on a consistent basis. If the Redskins sign Manning are the Dolphins the best match for a deal with St. Louis? Or, do they make their own run at Manning, and pair him with Brandon Marshall? While it may seem like a WR/QB combo made in heaven this would be the first time Manning would have to deal with a receiver that has a “diva” mentality in his career. Not so sure how that would go in South Beach.
Kansas City seems to make logical sense because they, in my view, have the pieces in place to make Manning an instant winner. Particularly in a division that was won by an (8-8) Broncos squad last year. Being able to immediately take pressure off of Manning with a running back tandem of Jamal Charles and Dexter McCluster is a bonus, and the recently franchised Dwayne Bowe would give Manning a true number one target. We all know Manning wants to win at any stage of his career, but putting him in a situation with young established pieces such as Kansas City seems the real ideal fit.
So with Manning sure to coax a bidding war where does that leave Cleveland? Does Cleveland jump in on Manning or do they continue to be suitors for the number two pick by giving up two first-rounders of their own? Not to mention there are teams in Arizona and Seattle who have their own issues at quarterback and would love a crack at Manning. I see those two clubs as outside chance/long shot scenarios. Cleveland would have to pay a steep price to get the pick it covets and I’m not sure that Mike Holmgren (yep, he’s the guy calling those shots) would be willing to fully invest.
So that brings everything back to St. Louis. They could be the forgotten belle of the ball by no fault of their own. Of course Manning is now the top prize and whoever doesn’t land him will come knocking again. But what does that do for Jeff Fisher and his preparations to move forward on rebuilding this franchise behind Sam Bradford?
Manning has the fate of six franchises and a future top-10 pick in his hands. While he will be missed in Indy, and Indy will miss him, he has options and he’s going to be just fine.