Sept. 26, 2003
Red Sox GM
Theo Epstein:

Who can bounce 4 HR-in-4 AB god Carlos Delgado from this spot? The brilliant architect of Boston's now-official trip to the postseason.
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
GO.  CUBS.

Clinching the AL Wild Card Thursday night, the Red Sox have set into motion baseball's Ultimate Playoff Scenario. If the Cubs win the NL Central this weekend, we head into the most compelling postseason landscape in a generation.

The motherlode: Potential for the once-in-a-lifetime Cubs-Red Sox World Series, dramatically (if only temporarily) reversing baseball's ratings decline and captivating the nation.

Ideal LCS also sick: Cubs vs. Bonds (and Dusty vs. old team), Red Sox vs. Yankees. Two cursed franchises blocked from the World Series by, respectively, the best player and best team of the century.

Even the Division Series would have more drama than usual:

* Moneyball Madness (Oak/Bos)
* Economic Class War (NYY/Min)
* Pitching Dream (Atl/Cubs)
* Felipe Alou vs. owner/nemesis (SFG/Fla)

From a general-interest standpoint, the plan falls apart if the Cubs miss the cut or join the Red Sox in being bounced early.

The "leftovers" have their charms, but for the mainstream fan, no matchup come close to the appeal of a Red Sox-Cubs World Series.

Top NFL Subplots
Skip the 49ers-Vikings game and set up a Terrell Owens-Randy Moss trash-talk contest:

* Unbeatens: Panthers have more to prove than Vikes, Chiefs, Broncos, Colts.

* Hello?!?!: Jets coach Herm Edwards better beat Dallas for first win.

* Couch QB: New Browns starter has chance to displace injured rival Holcomb.

* Trouble: Winless Eagles face awesome Bills in Buffalo.

DON'T MEAN TO HOUSTON-HATE, BUT IT'S THE CUBS HERE
THE SET-UP: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW FOR THE WEEKEND
1 NFL Sunday Night: Colts/Saints. Sorry: *Unbeaten* Colts
2 Sat. BCS Showcase: Wazzu/Oregon, Pitt/A&M (3:30, ABC)
3 Last MLB race: NL Central (Cubs/Pirates, Astros/Brewers)
THE SIT-DOWN: DROP THESE FROM YOUR HOT LIST
1 LeBron as top shoe seller: Yao bringing Reebok to China
2 Mia Hamm as over-the-hill: STILL world's best player
3 Tigers breaking 120 Ls: Will have to lose 3 straight
 
* Game of Week: Chiefs (w/Priest Holmes) vs. Ravens (w/Ray Lewis).

Set-up Saturday
Like a fake ID in the freshman dorm, this weekend's slate offers a false sense of security: Most of the dozen or so remaining good unbeaten teams could be looking past seemingly inferior opponents.

See Wisconsin (UNLV), Pittsburgh (Toledo), Texas (Arkansas): By the time these contenders knew what hit them, it was too late. Which of the unblemished is ripe for upset this week? Minnesota (at Penn St.), Oregon (host Washington St.) and Iowa (at Michigan St.).

Olympic West Village
SoHo-lympic House? "New York 2012" group lobbying for the Olympics (sure) launched a design comp for a New York Olympic Village. Criteria? Hmm ...

* Overpriced rent
* Delivery-menu infestation
* SoHo House envy
* On-call drug dealer
* Nosy stoop lady

MLB Stat Races
About time we celebrated each league's OPS champ (that's Bonds -- of course -- and Delgado or Manny Ramirez in the AL) the same way we celebrate winning a mere batting average title.

Until then: Got one eye on the AL batting race between Boston teammates Manny and Bill Mueller -- and one eye on the NL HR race between Thome, Bonds, Sexson and Pujols.

How to keep track of it all? ESPN2 has a ridiculously fun plan for Sunday: From 1:30 to 7, they'll cut from game to game, wherever the key moment is.

Between that and NFL: It's a remote-control biathalon -- "picture-in-picture" and "last channel."

Red Sox manager
Grady Little:

I may be smoking instead of reading tea leaves, but my boy Theo didn't so much praise Little on Thursday as leave him twisting for '04.
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
P2: Ralph Wiley on Warren Sapp
NFL: Clarett Q&A
IN: NFL Power Points
 
Ranking the ideal World Series pairing:
Cubs/Red Sox
Declare a two-week nat'l holiday
 
Cubs/Yankees
Then Sammy can call his shot
 
Giants/Red Sox
Curse of Bambino ... or Bonds?
 
Giants/Yankees
Steel yourself for nostalgia-fest
 
Other combos
Real fans would watch; anyone else?
 

W4 office-pool suggestions: STL, SF, TEN, WAS, JAX, BUF, CIN, KC, OAK, NYJ, CAR, DEN, IND (LW: 9-5; Season: 26-20)...

Notre Dame to ACC is the fall's forced drama: Talking about field hockey and volleyball here, not football (maybe in a few years) ...

Emmitt Smith supports Clarett, but here's his real zinger: "The NCAA has a great racket going, and you can print that one" ...

I'd watch a cool feature on College GameDay about punt returns, but I'm distracted by telemarketers violating my do-not-call wishes ...

Blew K-O pool last week with Packers; for those still in it, lightning can't strike twice: Rams over Cards ...



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