I don't care that Manny hits behind him: Don't. Pitch.
To. Him. He smacked a HR in the 8th and the GW RBI in
the 9th to carry Boston to a W. MVP? For now.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
Just. Get. In.
There's no shame in backing in with a brutal second
half. (Just ask the White Sox.)
There's no shame in crawling in with a shoddy record.
(Just ask the Padres.)
There's no shame in stumbling to the finish. (Just ask
There's no shame in winning the division with no fan
expectation of winning the World Series. (Just ask the
This is the key lesson of the last weekend of the 2005
baseball regular season, one of the best finishes
we've seen in the ESPN Era.
Just make the damn playoffs.
The Yankees shouldn't care whether they win the
division or the Wild Card. Neither should the Red Sox.
(The Indians have no choice.)
Make no mistake, your rooting interest is in an
unprecedented DOUBLE-playoff: NY vs. BOS on Monday for
the East, that loser vs. CLE on Tuesday for the WC.
(But, hey: Take any one-game playoff combo you can
But what IS locked in is that ONE of those three teams
will spend October watching the playoffs on the
If it's the Indians: It's an unfortunate finish
to a thrilling second-half run. "Wait 'til next year!"
If it's the Yankees: It's the biggest
embarrassment in franchise history: A $220 million
payroll that finished the season in the same spot as
chumps who paid a fraction of that.
And if it's the Red Sox: It establishes that
there truly is a karmic balance in the universe. But
memories of 2004 should keep Red Sox Nation happy. (It
If the Wild Card Era of the MLB postseason has taught
us anything, it's that being the Wild Card is just as
good as being a division winner, if not
The only stigma in baseball comes from not making the
playoffs at all. So even if the weekend's rules are
"odd-man-out," the job is simple:
Just get in.
AL East Showdown
The MLB playoffs start today. This
weekend's season finale in Boston is every bit as
meaningful as the ALDS or ALCS or even the World
Series. Another unique twist in a rivalry we figured
could get no wilder.
Because it could result in either the Yankees or Red
Sox missing the playoffs, a staggering ending to the
2005 season. And no teams are more important to
baseball than those two.
||CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
|WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...|
Aaron Small: Yanks' unlikely ace goes 10-0. (Cy? Why not?)|
Roger Clemens: Wants to pitch Sat, regardless of standings
New Giants/Jets stadium in NJ: Teams make deal (via NYT)
|... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'|
Mark McGwire: Returns to Busch for appreciation night. LOL|
Will Peterson: Giants CB may miss the rest of the season
Sloppy NBA fashion: Stern says they'll crack down on slobs
Of course, most fans would be giddy if the AL East
runner-up missed the playoffs. Most loathe both teams
so much, they don't even care which, as long as one of
them doesn't make it. (But be honest: You'd miss
Meanwhile, don't think AL MVP voters won't be
watching and basing an entire season's body of work on
how A-Rod and Papi respond this weekend. For now, give
Papi the edge for Thursday's heroics.
There's no pressure on Chicago. Even if
they lose all three games in Cleveland, they've
clinched the Central division title.
That's bad news for the AL East runner-up. What is the
White Sox' motivation for doing anything but playing
to avoid injury and wearying pitchers?
(And would Chicago really want to play the AL East
runner-up in the ALDS? That's like begging to get
ousted by next weekend.)
NFL in Mexico
Finally, the NFL recognizes "Mexico":
Don't try to buy a jersey with the country's name on
the back, but enjoy the novelty of the 49ers and Cards
playing on Sunday night in Mexico City, in what can
only be described as the "Which USC Player Will Be
Drafted No. 1?" Bowl. (8:30, ESPN)
NFL Week 4 Subplots
Game of the Week: SD at NE
How banged up is the Pats' D? No bigger test than a
surging Tomlinson and Brees-to-Gates.
Injury Watch: PHI at KC
For two weeks, I've wondered about McNabb and for two
weeks, he's been awesome. At Arrowhead will be
Philly's toughest game of the year.
Prove-It Game I: DET at TB
The Lions lead the NFC North? Not for long. Bucs
continue to feast on conference patsies; look for
Caddy to keep riding downhill.
Prove-It Game II: DEN at JAX
The MNF W over KC feels flukish, simply like
home-field advantage. The Jags are a bonafide Top 5
team in the AFC if they beat 2-1 Denver.
What's Going On Here?!
IND/TEN: Peyton. TDs. Now.
HOU/CIN: Bengals NFL's best?
Kudos to the NFL for lifting its normally strict
TV-blackout policy in San Antonio, so displaced Saints
fans living there can see their team.
See Big 5, right, for more.
CFB Wknd Preview
Trap Games for the Top 4?
USC (1) at AZ St (3:30, ABC)
Watch the heat in scorefest.
Texas (2) at Mizzou (12, ABC)
Whoa: V. Young vs. B. Smith
VA Tech (3) at WVA (12, ESPN)
Big rivalry; Hokies motivated
FLA (4) at Bama (15) (3:30)
Toughest game of Gators' year
Notre Dame Showcase Game:
At Purdue. Boilers have won last two, but those were
in Willingham Era, not Weis Era. Irish O too much.
Heisman Watch, Big Ten Style:
*Minn RB Maroney at Penn St.
*Mich St QB Stanton vs. Mich.
*Wisc RB Calhoun vs. Indiana
More: Don't expect a let-up from Michigan
State, hosting rival Michigan (12, ABC)... Teams of
intrigue? Cal and Texas Tech.
Blank Giants 1-0 to move to 80-79. Doesn't San Diego
understand that its cachet comes with making the
playoffs as a LOSER? 81 or 82 wins is l-a-m-e.
|Today on ESPN.com|
|Page 2 Index|
|More NFL W4 Subplots|
|NYJ at BAL|
|Ravens get off the schneid?|
|MIN at ATL|
|Which Daunte shows up?|
|DAL at OAK|
|Raiders, Randy desperate?|
|STL at NYG|
|Eli continues to progress|
|SEA at WAS|
|Are the Skins really 2-0?|
NFL Week 4 Office-Pool Picks: CIN, IND, NE, NO, NYG,
TB, SEA, JAX, BAL, MIN, KC, OAK, ARI, CAR (LW: 11-3,
NL Wild Card: Sure, the Astros could wrap it up
tonight, but if they blow a 2-game lead to Philly with
3 to play, that's a HUGE choke.
AL Cy: As much as I'd love to see journeyman Aaron
Small get it, Bartolo Colon earned it with his 21st W
and a West title. (Vote Small 3rd!)
Jones-Tarver III: I'd love to think a motivated Roy
Jones Jr could take back his title (and dignity) from
Antonio Tarver. But I'm not seeing it.
Welcome back, Midnight Madness: One of the best
traditions in college sports returns to ESPN, with
coverage on ESPNU later in October.
As fans (and media) show MLB love this weekend, let's
be clear: So much for the sport being decimated by
spring steroid issues. Just saying...