With a little chill in the air and shortening days, we step into October. To be honest, Iíve been ready for October for some time. I got to the cider mill early this year. I went into late August. I got my usual cider and cinnamon donuts as well as a cider cooler (apple cider slush mixed with soft serve vanilla ice cream). You add some cinnamon to it and it woulda been apple pie in a glass.
While we donít get to see the World Series in October anymore, we do get to see some great baseball. Unlike last week, most of the races have been settled. The White Sox couldnít keep pace and the Tigers got hot, resulting in the Tigersí clinching the AL Central last night. Itís a great and welcome distraction from the Lions march backwards.†
Of course, the most interesting race is the AL West. Texas currently holds a one game lead over the Aís. As luck would have it, the Rangers are finishing their season out against the very same Aís! The Rangers lost a close 4-3 game to the Aís just last night. They square off tonight at 10 and have a final game Wednesday. The winner of this series gets to play the Tigers in the first round. The loser gets either the Yankees or the Oís in a one game playoff. As luck would have it, the Yankees and Oís are also battling for their final spots. The Red Sox are relishing the role of spoiler for the Yankees and currently lead their game 2-1 about midway through. The Oís are playing the Rays who, despite being out of the hunt, wouldnít mind keeping the Oís in the wild card. Still, how great would it be if the Oís snatched the East from the Yanks? (Well, not so much for our few Yankee fans out there, but the rest of us would love it.)
As it stands in the AL, the Oís and Aís will play in the one game wild card match-up. I like both of these teams. I donít think many folks saw either of them being here. I know I didnít. Buck Showalter had the Orioles playing really well as 2011 wound down, but I wasnít sure if theyíd be able to keep it up. The Red Sox implosion may have helped, but here they are. The Aís, on the other hand, always have young talent. Still, they never seem to be able to gel. This year, however, they did. I see Oakland as the hotter team right now and whether they play the Oís or the Yankees, they walk out of the wild card with a win. I wouldnít be shocked to see them move onto the AL Championship series either.
On the other side of the coin, the Tigers have caught fire. We have some solid starters (Sanchez has started to put some ball games together) and the hitting has improved, but they still struggle at the set-up man and closer positions, which can really cost a team in the playoffs. Couple that with the fact that the Rangers have had our number this year (Rangers lead the series 7-3) and you have a tough first round match-up.†
While things could flip entirely today, this provides a great match-up. Both teams are pretty evenly matched. Detroit has the best hitter of the season in Miguel Cabrera, while Texas has some solid hitters and the next best thing in Josh Hamilton. As far as pitching, I give Detroit a slight edge. I just like Verlander, Scherzer, and Fister a little better than Harrison, Darvish, and Dempster. Still, the Rangers have an edge in the bull pen and Joe Nathan has been notoriously nasty to Detroit. Iím optimistic for my team, but realistically pick the Rangers to win the series.
Barring any sort of miraculous comebacks or horrendous meltdowns, the NL is set. Youíve got Washington, San Fran, Cincy, Atlanta, and St. Louis with LA having as much of a chance as a snowball in downtown LA. What doesnít help LA is that they wrap up the season against the Giants. What does help them is that the Cards wrap up against Cincy. These are huge rivalry series, so itís anyoneís guess how theyíll shake out. Still, I donít see the Giants losing two.†
Thatíll give us an Atlanta v. St Louis one game playoff. Two storied franchises will get one chance to make it to the next stage. Tim Hudson against Kyle Lohse (I would guess). If only Chris Carpenter was healthy. Can you folks picture much better than a Tim Hudson-Chris Carpenter gun fight for that last playoff spot? Statistically the Cards have the offensive edge, but not by a terribly wide margin. I do, however, give the Cards the edge in experience. I think that will make the difference here. I take the Cards to move on.
The Cards prize is to face the Nationals in the next round. Washington will be without fireballer Stephen Strasburg, but they still have a formidable staff anchored by Cy Young candidate Gio Gonzalez. The Cards, in my opinion, have a much deeper rotation. They also have a lot more experience. I give the Cards a pass to the next round in a hard fought, seven game series.
The other match-up in the NL features the Cincinnati Reds and the San Francisco Giants. As I said last week, the Giants have a heck of a rotation with a revitalized Barry Zito. If Tim Lincecum can do what heís done in previous post seasons, this really is a scary team. The Reds have an up and coming offense and Joey Votto has returned just in time for the playoffs. Still, I take a good rotation over a strong offense most days. Letís not forget that San Fran has gotten itself some pop even without Melky. I think the Giants move on to face the Cards. My apologies to Bandit (though I would be perfectly happy to see the Reds move on).'
The story around Detroit is Miggy chasing down an achievement that your superstitious author was hesitant to bring up. Seriously, think of the pressure that going for this achievement has to be putting on the man. Heís looking to join names like Carl Yastrzemski (the last to do it), Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Frank Robinson, and fellow Tiger Ty Cobb. Itís a relatively short list, but itís long on hall of famers. Barring serious injury, I can see Cabrerra joining these men in the hall, but itíd be great to see him join them on a certain achievement list.
OSU president Gordan Gee will get a chance to eat his words come 2018. The Buckeyes have signed an agreement to play a home and home series against TCU. Gee famously called TCU a ďlittle sister of the poorĒ when asked about non-BCS schools playing for the National Title. Who knows, the Buckeyes might actually be eligible by 2018. Wouldnít it be poetic if TCU kept them out of the title game?
Some of you may have noticed that I havenít talked about my high school team lately. The reason is simple: I had to resign. As we ended practice a few weeks ago, our head coach asked for a joke. One of the seniors gave one at my expense (pretty much implying that I have no genitalia). Now most schools that costs you a game at least and a shit ton of running. My head coach laughed it off, broke practice and thought nothing of it. Being an unpaid volunteer, I was pretty pissed at my head coachesí reaction. †When I asked him about it, he first told me it was just a joke and nothing to worry about and then tried to convince me that I misinterpreted a 17 year old boy. I spent four years studying English lit, I think I can wrap my head around a 17 year oldís lewd jokes. Long story short, I didnít feel the right kind of respect, sense of team, or backing from the head coach and resigned. Iíve had the support of the school staff and one of the guys I used to coach with at Center Line was frankly shocked at my ability not to want to slug my former head coach. Frankly, Iím just happy to put it behind me.
Thatís it for this week. Thanks as always for stopping by to read my thoughts. I hope everyone is ready for some MLb playoffs. I leave you as always with your word of the week.
woman cave, noun†
A sanctuary in a home free from males and kids, where a woman can go to get some peace.
Sheila retreats to her woman cave to clean her gun after a long day on the job.
Teresa likes to watch movies in her woman cave when the kids go to bed.
Iím not one of those ďhomerĒ types who likes to dwell on how great my team is, but I am impressed with the fact that LSU hasnít lost a regular-season non-conference game since opening the 2002 season with a road loss to Virginia Tech (then ranked #16). The streak of 40 wins in such games broke the mark completed by Kansas St. in 2003.
Although there are certainly more daunting non-conference schedules around, LSU has put forth a serious effort to have at least one non-conference opponent that at appears to be formidable on paper every year.
The other record is more of a ďpersonal bestĒ as LSU has won 20 consecutive home games since the 13-3 loss to Tim Tebowís #1 Gators in 2009. This is the only time in its history that LSU has won so many consecutive home games.
I wanted to go through them and talk in detail about some of the close calls and big games (some of which were not so close) during the longer streak.
This piece at ďNola.comĒ covers several of them, but Iíll mention a few more...
(Go to the second bold subtitle on my Wordpress blog if you want to skip all the LSU/Alabama stuff. Every time I try to post this, I lose my internet connection, so as Iíve reviewed, Iíve kept thinking of new things to mention.)
LSU/Alabama For the Record
As you might have expected, Iím not quite done talking about LSU/Alabama (since this is the first blog Iíve written since the actual game).
A few notes on the history before I get on my soap box. The last time LSU was in a game where the only scoring was field goal(s), they lost to Alabama, 3-0, in 1979. Alabama won the national championship that year as the only major undefeated and untied team. Going back to 2011, Les Miles moved past Nick Saban in wins against Alabama, 5 to 4 (Miles admittedly leads Saban in losses against Alabama, 2-1). No other coach in LSU history had more than two wins against Alabama, although Bill Arnsparger (1984-86) was an impressive 2-0-1, the tie of course coming in Baton Rouge. If LSU can get past Arkansas, Miles will have a winning record with LSU against every SEC team except for Georgia (1-2). (That would have been true even had LSU lost this game though.) LSU has now won 11 of the last 15 against the Tide in the state of Alabama and 7 of 9 (also 9 of 12) against the Tide overall. Alabama still has leads in the series: 45-25-5 overall, 20-16-2 in Alabama in general, 10-9 in Tuscaloosa, and 25-9-2 in Baton Rouge. The one game missing is a tie in New Orleans. Itís just bizarre that LSU has as many wins in Tuscaloosa in this series as in Baton Rouge despite playing about half as many games in Tuscaloosa. The two teams are tied in their last 31 games (15-15-1), their last 29 games (14-14-1), their last 27 games (13-13-1), and their last 22 games (11-11) against one another. One more thing: LSU now leads in overtimes in the series, 2-1. The Tigers had won in 2005 (in Tuscaloosa, of course) and lost in 2008 (in Baton Rouge, of course).
Iíve seen some criticisms of this yearís LSU/Alabama game that claimed that the defenses werenít really so great, the offenses were just bad. I guess in that case, in every no-hitter in baseball history, the batting was just bad.
The fact that there were four interceptions thrown is somehow proof that the defense wasnít that good? Well, the two interceptions thrown by Alabama would have been completions against your average BCS-conference defenders (especially against Oklahoma St. or Kansas St.), and one of them probably would have been a touchdown. Jarrett Lee threw one interception all year, a pass that basically amounted to a punt against Mississippi St. He doesnít throw two in this game if Alabama doesnít make him extremely uncomfortable. He was used to being able to resort to his ďcheckdownĒ receiver when someone wasnít open downfield, but the Alabama linebackers were too good to allow that. And the reason Jefferson did better than Lee did is because they couldnít allow the linebackers to fall back into coverage as easily given Jeffersonís ability to spread out the field and run.
A low-scoring game does not mean there werenít sustained drives and good scoring opportunities. There were those things. For example, LSU had a 40-yard drive late in the fourth quarter, but that possession had started on the 5. Why did it start on the 5? Alabama punted after a 30-yard drive of their own. So why didnít that drive put Alabama in better field position? Brad Wingís 72-yard punt. Why was LSU so backed up before that punt? Eric Reid intercepted a ball at the 1. The offense of one team repeatedly did enough to bury the other team deep in its own territory (although Alabama didnít do this as often as it perhaps should have due to long field-goal attempts). And how can you call that a boring game when it was tied in the fourth quarter through all these great plays and potential game-winning drives? The defenses basically put up a wall when it came time for the offenses to potentially make a game-changing play. Thatís not simply offensive ineptitude.
Of course, there were some stupid penalties, but that takes place in big games all the time, especially in college. The back-of-the-helmet-grabbing penalty (I donít know if you call that a facecollar or a horsemask or what) actually wasnít that bad of a penalty, because I donít know if LSU would have gotten the tackle (at least it may have been many yards downfield) without grabbing at the head and shoulder area. Of course the substitution penalty by Alabama and the pre-punt-return mugging by LSU were inexcusable, but these are young men with the average age of about 20, and it was a very tense, frustrating sort of game, so I donít think thatís evidence of offensive ineptitude (of course the latter was a special-teams penalty anyway) or an indictment of either team overall. And I think it was tense and frustrating enough that even the coaches lost focus with some of the play-calling and decision-making.
Also, someone on the Alabama sidelines should have been making sure something like the substitution infraction didnít take place. Alabama also had a similar penalty in the first quarter (which also helped put the Tide out of field-goal range, but donít forget that in both cases, the LSU defense also helped out with tackles for a loss). LSU had a few pre-snap penalties as well, but a good defense will cause those at times. One of them was an illegal shift, which resulted from an effort to gain an advantage on the defense when those were obviously hard to come by. I think the only thing I didnít cover was a couple of holding penalties, but every game has thoseómaybe theyíre called, maybe not, but theyíre there.
There were 32 first downs in the game. By comparison, there were 37 in the Arkansas-South Carolina game, which the Hogs won, 44-28. Also, there was a good mix of run and pass in this game. In yards gained, there was a total of 290 passing yards and 244 rushing yards. Attempts favored rushing of course, but for Alabama even that was close, 29 passing attempts against 31 rushing attempts. The difference in the game, as expected by commentators and coaches alike, was a few big plays and special teams, but thatís not to say nothing else was going on. As stated earlier, those plays are less meaningful without enough offense to set them up.
I started writing this for suggestions of some additional changes to the conference ďalignmentsĒ. But with this interest that many seem to have in the idea of 16-team conferences, I wondered how popular this idea could get. I know there are a variety of interests at play here, and it would be hard to get them to work together, but Iím mostly just imagining what I would do if I were appointed czar of college football.
I know thatís not going to happen, but as someone who frequently criticizes the powers that be, I thought I would put my own proposal out there. It comes across as cynical grumbling otherwise. But Iím not complaining because I like complaining, Iím complaining because Iíd sincerely like there to be a better system, and I know Iím not alone.
For the record, Iím opposed to most of the expansion ideas because one wouldnít really be in a conference with teams in the other division. It would just be a guaranteed quasi-playoff opponent at the end of the season. But as czar of college football, I would be an enlightened despot. If the people petitioned me through their ADís and college presidents, I would listen.
Besides, if you did it for all of the guaranteed BCS/playoff spots, it could be good because (1) there would be fewer such spots, (2) more teams could play for those spots, and (3) there would be a more uniform process of playing for those spots.
I think the first two arguments are evident, but Iíll give some more explanation for the third. The Big East is an 8-team conference and the team with the best record in the seven conference games is named the champion. 12-team conferences play either 8 or 9 games just to determine the division winners, and then an additional game is played between the division winners. There are more hurdles in getting there from a 12-team conference, even if you assume equal competition.
Something else I dislike about the expansion/realignment talk is the idea that a conference should add one or two teams in another region in order to generate great recruiting and revenue.
† Okay, so I have a few things running around in my head...First, let's get into this stupid fucker Brett Favre...The other day he decided to go on the radio and give Aaron Rogers a back-handed compliment...Saying that the last Packers team he was a part of, was "The Best team I had ever been on"...So he was "Surprised he (Rogers) didn't win a Super Bowl sooner." A couple things Favre neglected was, that a number of those guys were gone once Rogers took over...And then LeRoy Butler pointed out on ESPN NFL 32, that Favre had said his Vikings team was "The best team he had ever been on."
Oh silly Brett...You just miss having your name in the news...Butler made it clear that he thought Rogers is a better QB...Butler went on to trash Favre, pointing out how he never helped, reached out to, or worked with Rogers...He also said, "He (Favre) is right, Aaron got to sit and watch, and learn from Brett...Learn what not to do!" The only thing Butler left out, was calling Favre a fucking small-dicked, douchebag, fucking asshole...It's clear Brett was not a favorite in the locker room...
Please Favre, just go away and stay away...
-Now, To the hot button topic here in the Cleve...Peyton Hillis...So the Browns had been working on renegotiating his contract...I had no idea why it was taking so long...He's the best player on the team, fucking pay him...Well it turns out his agent ticked off the bosses...So they redid 3 other players deals...TE Evan Moore, who they don't use enough...Average LB Chris Gocong...And DL Ahtyba Rubin...I have no problem with these guys, but Hillis carried the offense last year, and honestly, with the lack of receiving weapons, Hillis should be carrying the offense again...But they haven't given him the touches...
Then Hillis had Strep Throat...He missed the Miami game because of it...Now, Strep can be bad...Especially if you're rocking the high fever that comes with it at times...But Then we found out Center, Alex Mack played Sunday while sick...How sick? He had his appendix removed Monday...Pretty fucking sick I guess!
So the rumors have swirled that Hillis was faking and was trying to take some kind of half-assed contract stance when he sat out with Strep...Hillis doesn't seem like that type of guy, but the rumors kept swirling...SO his idiot agent went on the radio, and said he told a very sick Hillis to not play...WTF!
All of this proves one thing...You shouldn't renegotiate contracts during the season...The shit becomes a distraction...Now everyone is wondering is Hillis not getting the touches he should, because of the contract talks...Everyone is wondering if Hillis was dogging it...Some think the Browns will trade Hillis...It's fucking nuts...
The Browns need to realize that if they lose Hillis or trade him, the majority of fans will go bat-shit, fucking crazy...They finally have a player they identify with...A player that gave them hope and patience for the future...The front office can't blow this...Hillis' agent needs to realize, he should shut his mouth, and he also shouldn't be trying to get Adrian Peterson money...His guy only had 1 big year...Hillis, needs to play Football, and make the most of his touches...Erase any doubt anyone had about him...
-Next, TCU hasn't even played a game in the Big East, and they have already told the conference to eat a dick...They have excepted an offer they should have gotten a couple year ago...They are heading to the "Big 12"...Yes, the Big 12 wants to save themselves and finally gave TCU some love...If they weres smart, they'd reach out to Boise State next...
And the Big Least, well they are disappearing...They will have 6 teams left...If they don't act fast, they will lose their automatic BCS bowl bids...But who are they going to get? Rip teams from the MAC of Conference USA...So then they'll just be an even more watered down conference...Best move...Close up shop...USF, UConn, Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinnati, and West Virginia, find yourselves a new home, with one of the big guns...Lets get this 4 "Super Conference" thing done!
-The Chicago White Sox named Robin Ventura their new manager...Good luck, but you know what...Ventura could win 3 World Series as the White Sox manager, but I'll remember him best for getting his ass kicked by old man Nolan Ryan!