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MLB's Postseason Proposal
[Posted early Wed. a.m.]
Baseball / Spring Training Quiz: Name the 15 teams based in Arizona. Answer below.
New AP Poll (records thru Sun.)
1. Baylor (48) 21-1
2. Gonzaga (15) 25-1...
3. Kansas (1) 20-3
4. San Diego State 24-0
5. Louisville 21-3
6. Dayton 21-2
7. Duke 20-3
8. Florida State 20-3
9. Maryland 19-4
10. Seton Hall 18-5
11. Auburn 21-2
12. Kentucky 18-5
13. Penn State 18-5...up 9
14. West Virginia 18-5
15. Villanova 17-6
16. Colorado 19-5...up 8
17. Oregon 18-6
18. Marquette 17-6...up 8
19. Butler 19-6
20. Houston 19-5
21. Iowa 17-7
22. Illinois 16-7
23. Creighton 18-6
24. Texas Tech 15-8
25. LSU 17-6
Preseason No. 1 Michigan State is nowhere to be found, following a three-game losing streak, including the loss to Michigan on Saturday.
Penn State has its highest ranking since 1995-96.
The Big East has five teams in the top 25, while the Big Ten has four.
The ACC has Nos. 5, 7 and 8, but if you carry out the votes, the next team is Virginia at 38! [The Big Ten has five between Nos. 26 and 36.]
--So as for the Big Ten...I have no issue with them receiving 11 bids for the NCAA tournament, assuming, number one, Indiana gets its act together, now, after losing four straight (they host 21 Iowa Thursday). When you look at the following, though, understand the Hoosiers are 3-3 against AP ranked teams, while Michigan is 4-4. Illinoi, on the other hand, is 1-5. [San Diego State hasn’t played a ranked team all season, I just have to throw in here.]
Big Ten Standings...conference record (overall mark) thru Sunday:
9 Maryland...9-3 (19-4)
13 Penn State...8-4 (18-5)
22 Illinois...8-4 (16-7)
21 Iowa...8-5 (17-7)
Michigan State...8-5 (16-8)
Minnesota...6-7 (12-11)...would not be one of the 11 bids
Ohio State...5-7 (15-8)
Michigan 5-7 (14-9)...reminder, the Wolverines handed Gonzaga its only loss, and by 18 points on a neutral floor.
As for the ACC....once you get past Louisville, Duke and Florida State, you have....
Virginia...7-5 (15-7)...2-2 vs. Top 25
N.C. State...6-6 (15-8)...0-3
Notre Dame...6-6 (15-8)...0-4
Virginia obviously gets a bid, and, today, I’d give one to Syracuse, but Notre Dame and N.C. State? Nope.
If you use the eye test, the Big Ten is superior to the ACC.
The ACC had nine bids in each of 2017 and 2018, but seven last season.
--All the above, including the team records, was written prior to action Monday and Tuesday nights.
Monday, 7 Duke beat 8 Florida State 70-65 in Cameron Indoor Stadium. FSU was just 3 of 18 from three, and 12 of 20 from the free throw line.
Tuesday, 6 Dayton handily met its main A-10 challenge in defeating Rhode Island (18-6, 10-2) 81-67, the Flyers improving to 22-2, 11-0.
13 Penn State defeated Purdue 88-76.
9 Maryland had a real scare from lowly Nebraska (7-17, 2-11) 72-70 in College Park.
Michigan State beat 22 Illinois 70-69 to stop the bleeding.
North Carolina State had an important 79-74 win at Syracuse.
Virginia beat Notre Dame 50-49 in overtime.
Meanwhile, San Diego State remained undefeated, 82-59 over New Mexico.
Lastly, I wrote the other day that Wake Forest had been playing with character the last few weeks, just not closing the deal, and last night they looked solid in defeating North Carolina for the first time in six years, 74-57, the Deacs 11-13, 4-10; the Tar Heels now a stunning 10-14, 3-10.
--The trade sending Andre Iguodala to the Heat could represent a critical one for the Heat’s title hopes, with Iguodala in his second game, a 113-101 win over his old team, Golden State, playing 17 minutes but with a +25 while on the court, which is kind of staggering. He’s just one of those guys who makes everyone else look good, while setting an example on defense. Iguodala of course also brings a winning pedigree, 3-time NBA champ with the Warriors.
--The defending champion Toronto Raptors have now won 15 in a row, 40-14 overall.
--The New York Post’s Joel Sherman first reported on MLB’s apparent proposal to expand the playoffs for the 2022 season, adding two wild-card teams in each league – and giving the team with the league’s best overall record a bye into the Division Series.
The division winners with the second-best record in each league would get to pick their opponent from among the three-wild card teams.
The division winner with the worst record would then choose its opponent from the remaining two wild-card teams.
The final matchup would pit the wild-card winner with the best record against the wild-card team not yet chosen.
So you potentially could have as many as 18 first-round games, 12 of which could be elimination contests. Every Game 2 is an elimination game.
MLB would eliminate any Game 163 tiebreakers.
And there is a reality-TV aspect. The selection process would take place the Sunday night the regular season ends, with representatives of all playoff teams gathered together for a “Selection Sunday” type show.
But before any of this comes to fruition, the proposal will become part of the negotiations for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players and the team owners.
I like it. MLB is facing seven consecutive seasons of falling attendance and needs to do a lot, especially with pace of play.
But you have to keep more fan bases engaged. I was listening to sports radio Tuesday morning, WFAN, and I got a kick out of how many panned the idea...as in not one of those calling in liked it.
I’m for it because it doesn’t break the 50% threshold. We’re talking 14 of 30 making the postseason, not 16 of 30 like the NBA has. NHL is 16 of 31, NFL 12 of 32.
MLB’s proposal not only can’t help but increase fan interest (including some major wheeling-dealing at the trade deadline, you can imagine), but it would allow MLB to obtain a richer television-rights package, that would mean more money for the players...as the league looks to reduce tensions with the union ahead of the critical CBA negotiations.
Part of the negotiations might be to reduce the regular-season schedule somewhat. We all know the playoffs can’t go into November, and the players could use a few extra days off during the season for load management.
So since I seem to be among literally four people in America who like this idea, here’s one who doesn’t.....Kyle Glaser of Baseball America:
“MLB should be working hard to be less like the NHL and NBA when it comes to the postseason, not more. Those are the leagues that feature roughly half of all teams making the playoffs, and we know what happens.
“Teams with losing records get in. No one remembers what happens in the first round. The regular season is irrelevant. Making the playoffs becomes a meaningless accomplishment. [Ed. This is a gross overstatement.]
“One of baseball’s most valuable assets is its playoff teams have proved undeniably worthy. After 162 games, the teams who make it have earned it.
“Adopt this proposal and MLB throws that ball away. Devalue the 162-game regular season to the point that even teams who barely finish above .500 - as the seventh-best teams in each league, the Red Sox (84-78) and D-backs (85-77) did last year – can call themselves playoff teams, and making the playoffs becomes little more than a participation trophy. In 2017, there would have been a three-way tie for the sixth-best record in the American League – all three teams (the Angels, Royals and Rays) finished at 80-82.
“All that in the name of satisfying broadcast partners, who, by the way, are already paying MLB more than a combined $1 billion per year and are zero threat to suddenly just stop carrying MLB games. MLB doesn’t need radical changes to survive in the modern media landscape.
“Baseball is already dealing with a number of long-term problems, from the increasing length of game times to declining attendance to a sign-stealing scandal that has created a crisis in credibility.
“Embracing mediocrity to generate superficial excitement is not a fix to MLB’s problems. It would just create new ones.”
--Commissioner Rob Manfred said last week that he hoped to wrap up the investigation into the Red Sox’ sign-stealing investigation before spring training but no decision has been made as yet and isn’t likely to be this week.
So the Red Sox have named bench coach Ron Roenicke as “interim manager,” but are waiting for MLB to conclude its probe before making an announcement to remove the interim tag.
Chief baseball officer for Boston, Chaim Bloom, said the Red Sox felt confident that Roenicke would not be implicated, but the team is going to respect the investigation.
Roenicke managed the Brewers from 2011 to 2015.
--Back to the Astros, Barry Svrluga and Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post reported that, according to an executive from a team that faced the Astros in the playoffs in 2017/18, “The whole industry knows they’ve been cheating their asses off for three or four years. Everybody knew it.”
The executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to defy an MLB request that personnel from other teams refrain from speaking freely about the Astros, estimated “10 to 12” teams had complained to MLB about the Astros over the years. The Post reported, “An executive from another team agreed with that number.”
Yes, this just goes on and on, and the postseason proposal is viewed by many to be just a distraction from the scandal. I can’t disagree with that. I’m also more convinced than ever that there will be some major beanball wars when the Astros come to your town.
--A deal that would have sent the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson and additional players to the Angels fell though, a victim of the reworked Mookie Betts trade. Needless to say, the Dodgers now have a surplus of outfielders.
As part of the reworked Betts / David Price trade, the Dodgers acquired Twins pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol, who was supposed to go to Boston, but the Red Sox were spooked by a medical review of the hard-throwing hurler. Boston instead is getting outfielder Alex Vertugo and infield prospect Jeter Downs, plus catcher Connor Wong.
Minnesota is receiving pitcher Kenta Maeda plus cash from the Dodgers for Graterol.
--This week the tour goes to Riviera for the Genesis Open, my favorite event each year outside of the majors and the The Players Championship.
We have a helluva field this year, with each of the top five players in the world competing – new No. 1 Rory McIlroy*, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson – and nine of the top 10 overall, including Tiger. It would be rather delicious to have two of them battling it out on Sunday in the final pairing.
Actually, the Genesis Open is now the Genesis Invitational, which means the field is just 120 instead of the normal 144, plus there is a three-year tour exemption, not the usual two years, as well as a big increase in the purse, including $1.674 million to the winner.
So the Genesis joins The Memorial and the Arnold Palmer Invitational as PGA Tour events with “elevated status.” Tiger is the host of the Genesis, proceeds benefiting his foundation.
But Tiger has teed it up 12 twelves times at Riviera and never come away victorious; the most starts on any course without a win (though he’s finished top-20 eight times).
*McIlroy passed Koepka in the World Rankings after this past weekend, Koepka’s reign at the top ending at 38 weeks. Rory has been No. 1 now eight separate times, but this is the first since Sept. 19, 2015.
For his part, Koepka dismisses any talk of a rivalry between the two, though the other day he added:
“I’ve been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour.” [McIlroy’s last of four majors was the 2014 PGA.]
--With Jordan Spieth’s T-9 last week at Pebble, he jumped from 55 to 49 in the world rankings, meaning he qualified for next week’s WGC-Mexico Championship. Spieth had hinted he was skipping the event, since it’d be five events in a row (Phil Mickelson is), but it’s tough to turn down the world-ranking points.
--Last night’s Blues-Ducks game in Anaheim was postponed with 7:50 left in the first period when St. Louis defenseman Jay Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench after having a “cardiac episode,” the team said. His teammates immediately called for help and medical personnel rushed to him.
Bouwmeester was said to be conscious and alert this morning.
--It’s official...Philip Rivers and the Chargers are calling it quits after 16 seasons, so he’s a free agent. It’s still not known if he’ll call it a career or pursue another opportunity.
As fans of the sport know, Rivers is a huge family man, he and his wife, Tiffany, having nine children.
But after being an iconic figure in San Diego, where he stayed even after the team moved to L.A., the family has moved to Florida, relocating to a vacation home they bought five years ago, so there is your hint, if he decides to play further. Tampa Bay is a possibility, but Indianapolis is said to be another mulling over a move to sign Rivers.
Rivers is sixth in career passing yardage and touchdown passes...59,271 and 397, the latter representing the most (handily) by any QB not making the Super Bowl.
--Michigan State reportedly is set to hire Colorado coach Mel Tucker to replace Mark Dantonio, who suddenly retired on Feb. 4 after 13 seasons. Needless to say, because of the timing the search was hectic.
Tucker was 5-7 in his first year at Colorado in his collegiate head coaching debut. He was the Jacksonville Jaguars’ interim coach at the end of 2011, going 2-3. No word on what CU is going to do now.
--30 years ago, Feb. 11, 1990, we had perhaps the single-biggest upset in the history of sports...Buster Douglas, a 42-1 underdog, defeating Mike Tyson to become boxing’s undisputed heavyweight champion. [Andy Ruiz’ upset of Anthony Joshua last summer doesn’t come close to being as shocking.]
I’ll never forget that night. A buddy and I decided at the last minute to put HBO on to catch the fight and what an amazing bout we then saw, Tyson 37-0 prior to the loss.
Douglas told the Palm Springs Desert Sun the other day, “I had a great game plan. My trainer John Russell put together a great strategy, and we worked it to a tee.”
While Douglas was knocked down in the eighth round, he would come back to knock Tyson down for the first time in his career in the 10th and, moments later, Buster finished him off.
Many questioned Tyson’s commitment to the fight, but he had no excuses.
--Siba, a black standard poodle with a meticulously groomed coat, won best in show at the 144th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last night.
Siba thus become the first standard poodle to win the show’s top prize since 1991. Not a fan, just sayin’.
Top 3 songs for 2/14/70: #1 “Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin / Everybody Is A Star” (Sly & The Family Stone) #2 “I Want You Back” (The Jackson 5) #3 “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” (B.J. Thomas)...and...#4 “Venus” (The Shocking Blue) #5 “Hey There Lonely Girl” (Eddie Holman...super tune...) #6 “No Time” (The Guess Who) #7 “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” (Dionne Warwick) #8 “Psychedelic Shack” (The Temptations) #9 “Travelin’ Band” (Creedence Clearwater Revival) #10 “Arizona” (Mark Lindsay... ‘A-’...censors be damned....)
Baseball / Spring Training Quiz: The 15 teams in Arizona for spring training.
White Sox, Dodgers, Reds, Indians, Cubs, A’s, Padres, Mariners, Brewers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Royals, Rangers, Angels.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.