Shooting from the lip/Oct. 4th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Sometimes less does equal more. A perfect example: the baseball playoffs. Only eight teams get in. Compare that to the NFL, where 12 teams get in. Or the NBA or NHL where 16 teams make it.
So few teams getting in is what made this past weekend special in baseball with the Braves, Giants and Padres fighting for two playoff spots in the National League, and the Rays and Yankees each trying to win the American League East. You get those last-day races in other sports, too, but getting the last playoff spot in the NFL, NBA or NHL usually means little more than figuring out which team will get crushed in the first round of the playoffs.
Not so in baseball. Because it's so tough to make the postseason, you have to be really good just to secure a spot. Finishing around .500 isn't good enough, as it can be in the NFL or in the NHL and NBA, where it's common to make the playoffs with a losing record. In baseball, if you don't play close to .600 ball, you have no shot. Baseball doesn't reward lousy teams that just happen to get hot late in the season. A spot has to be earned over six months.
Once the playoffs are set, every team has a legitimate chance because every team is really good. That’s why it's so compelling to watch the final days play out, knowing a team is just a pitch or two away from making the playoffs and, perhaps, going on to win the World Series or missing the postseason entirely. Major League Baseball has hinted it might look at expanding the number of playoffs teams. Here's hoping it doesn't. It's perfect just the way it is.
TBS has set the announcers for the Rays-Rangers series. Don Orsillo will handle the play-by-play with Buck Martinez on analysis and Marc Fein doing the reporting.
There should be some sort of federal law that says college fans cannot rush a basketball court or football field unless their team upsets the No. 1 team in the nation. Who knows what we should do with the fans of the University of Colorado? They rushed the field after their team beat Georgia. Man, you know your program is in rough shape when you storm the field after beating a team that is now 1-4.
To Sun Sports for showing reaction in the Rays dugout during the ninth inning of Sunday's game against the Royals, with the players high-fiving upon learning that the Yankees had lost and the Rays had clinched the American League East and homefield advantage throughout the AL playoffs.
To Fox for showing Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb receiving a rousing ovation from Philadelphia fans.
I've always been critical of Fox's Pam Oliver for her too-cozy interviews with NFL players. But credit is due after her excellent work in a feature on Michael Vick for the Fox NFL Sunday pregame show. Oliver pushed Vick, asking him if he knows people will never forgive him for his involvement in dogfighting, then asking why he's able to handle success now when he couldn't handle it before. What's even more interesting was how brutally honest, humble and contrite Vick was in his responses. Maybe Vick is putting on an act, but I believed him. He appears to have turned around his life.
Fox baseball analyst Tim McCarver talked manager of the year during Saturday's Game of the Week between the Yankees and Red Sox. McCarver picked Charlie Manuel of the Phillies in the National League and Boston's Terry Francona in the American League. Both are elite managers and not horrible picks. And it's true that both had to deal with injuries, especially Francona. Then again, it's not like Boston actually contended for a playoff spot. The Red Sox really haven't been a serious factor for a while, have they? Then consider this: Both teams rank in the top four in the majors in payroll. It just seems like managers such as Joe Maddon (Rays), Ron Gardenhire (Twins) and Ron Washington (Rangers) in the American League and Bobby Cox (Braves), Dusty Baker (Reds), Bud Black (Padres) and Bruce Bochy (Giants) in the National League all are more deserving.
Maybe it was the rain. Maybe it was the difference in time zones. Maybe it was just lousy golf. Whatever it was, the Ryder Cup just didn't have that normal, exciting feel. It seemed like whenever you turned it on over the weekend, you didn't know if you were watching something live or something that happened six hours ago.
Least surprising result
Even Gators fans could not have been surprised that Florida was dismantled by Alabama on Saturday night. That last sentence isn't a knock on Florida because Alabama looks like it can demolish any team in the country. But this sentence is a knock on Florida: The Gators are not a top 10 team, and the reason is one that coach Urban Meyer and Gator Nation probably doesn't want to hear. They miss Tim Tebow. Desperately. I bring this up only to set up two interesting quotes heard over the weekend.
During Saturday's game, CBS's Gary Danielson said flat-out: "(Quarterback) John Brantley is not as good as Tim Tebow.''
Then, during Sunday morning's Sports Reporters on ESPN, New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said, "Listen, I'm the president of the Urban Meyer Fan Club, but right now he looks like a lot better coach when he has Tim Tebow behind the center than when he doesn't have him.''
Slight change of the day
Dan Sileo's morning radio show was simulcast on 620-AM in Tampa and 740-AM in Orlando. I say "was'' because Orlando has decided to stop airing the show. Sileo tends to talk more about Tampa Bay sports, and 740-AM is looking for a host and a show that concentrates more on Orlando sports. Sileo's show, which had been on in Orlando since 2002, will continue to air on 620-AM.
Pick of the day
While most of the talk about MVP in the American League has surrounded the Rangers' Josh Hamilton, the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera and the Yankees' Robinson Cano, another named popped up during TBS's MLB on Deck pregame show. Analyst David Wells said: "I like Carl Crawford because he is a complete player, defensively and offensively. This guy can run. He makes things happen.''
Three things that popped into my head
1. It's great that Rays manager Joe Maddon has a TV commercial for vitamins, but how dumb does it look when he is made to yell out, "That's a hit!'' while watching a guy take batting practice?
2. Next weekend might be the best sports weekend of the year in Tampa Bay: the Rays will be in the playoffs, the Lightning opens the 2010-11 season, FSU plays Miami, USF opens Big East play, the Gators play LSU and the Bucs play the Bengals.
3. Wow, when the Bucs don't play, they really fall out of mind, don't they?