Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tie-break This!

Major League Baseball has a potential nightmare on its hands. Oh, it’s not like a steroid scandal or anything; in fact, it would be great for baseball and the fans would love it. This nightmare would be purely logistical.

There’s a possibility – a somewhat remote, statistically slim possibility, but still – that as many as five teams could end up with the same record in a fight over three playoff slots! The Mets, Phillies, Rockies, and Padres are within two games of each other, and the West division-leading D’Backs are only one game better. Now while it probably won’t happen, what if it did? The “tiebreaker scenario” machinery might blow a gasket trying to figure out how to solve that logjam.

It’s much easier when only a few teams are involved. Say, for example, the Mets, Phillies and Padres all finish tied. The Mets and Phillies would hold a one-game playoff to determine the winner of the N.L. East. The loser would then face the Padres for the Wildcard. But what happens if the Rockies join the party? Suddenly, three teams are left vying for the Wildcard. How would that work? A round-robin?

It’s worth rooting for such a scenario if only to see how MLB would solve it. I don’t have the inclination to whip up a spreadsheet to figure out who needs to win or lose and when to make this crazy scenario play out, but I’ll certainly be following that ticker as the season reaches it dénouement.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rocket Fuel?

We all know Barry Bonds is the poster boy for steroid abuse in baseball. Yet how is it that Roger Clemens consistently gets a free pass in the steroids debate? Has anyone noticed that he's a 45-year old power pitcher? That doesn’t send up any red flags?

I love how everyone dismisses Clemens as a user by saying "He's a workout warrior." HELLO! Who do they think are using all that stuff? Do they think players just inject steroids and become magically muscular overnight? Without the work, steroids won't do a damn thing. It’s these very “workout warriors” whom steroids benefit the most by aiding the body in rapidly repairing itself.

Also, as a player without a contract every year -- and ostensibly retired -- Clemens isn't subject to off-season drug testing. In fact, he can "train" however he likes and wait until it all passes through his system before he rejoins the league. Talk about a "competitive advantage"!

Perhaps, though, it’s all finally catching up with him. Clemens follows a solid outing by getting cuffed around by the likes of the D-Rays. Hamstrings, groins, elbows, menstrual cramps: too many starts missed from too many ailments in just half a season. Simply put, forty-plus players off their cycles shouldn't be counted on for too much consistency. Maybe we'll all get lucky and 2007 will be end of the road for that fat, bloated mercenary and his never-ending career. Good riddance.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Just what DOES it take to get fired around here?

Tom Coughlin shouldn't be the coach of the New York Giants. He was a bad hire and has lived up (down?) to my meager expectations for him since. Last year, the Giants collapsed before our eyes and nearly faded away. Somehow they squeaked into the playoffs but the Coughlin-watch lived on. Again, against all logic, the Giants decided to bring back the Colonel for another go-round. Which brings us to the 2007 season.

The Giants have been arguably one of the worst teams in football. Their 0-2 record is certainly emblematic, but their non-existent, sieve-like defense has actually been football's worst. (Coughlin's personal hire to fix the defense, former Eagles coach Steve Spagnuolo, looks like a great move so far.) The offense -- sparkling in Week 1, sputtering in Week 2 -- faces a stern test in Washington this Sunday.

Let's say, for argument's sake, the Giants turn in another miserable performance. Just what does is take to get fired around here? If the Giants go 0-3, it's a safe assumption that they're not making the playoffs, even in the mediocre NFC. The coach, who was nearly fired last year, will take on instant lame duck status. Coughlin won't be coming back -- you know new GM Jerry Reese wants to put his own man in charge -- so why
waste time as the life drains from the team for the next 13 weeks? Let Kevin Gilbride run the club (he can't be any worse than Coughlin... okay, he can, but that's not the point) while the Giants conduct a season-long audition of coaches around the NFL and NCAA.

How many times have we seen the Giants drag their feet, delaying the inevitable coaching change until all the best prospects have been scooped up by others? (That's exactly how they ended up with Coughlin in
the first place.) Let's be proactive, for once. Being the coach of the New York Giants should be a marquee job in the NFL. Coaches should want to coach there, not turn their noses up in disdain. Show 'em the Giants mean business, that winning actually matters.

Bottom line this Sunday? Go 'Skins...