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Tuesday, September 7, 2004
Page 2 Quickie: September 3, 2004

The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Much like our current political environment, at the end of this week, it's tempting to declare the AL Wild Card race a done deal.

The Red Sox are unstoppable: Nine straight Ws... Swept the Angels, their nearest WC competitor (now a distant 4 games behind)... Suddenly struggling Texas on deck...

But look to Monday (10 p.m. ET on ESPN, in fact), when Boston revisits its New Rivalry with the A's, who have won 9/10. Yet the A's couldn't care less about The WC; they're focused on their division title.

Okay, so let's do it: With 30 games to go, the Quickie projects the Red Sox as the winner of the AL Wild Card.

So much for "The WC" (AL Edition) having a cliff-hanger of a season-finale. But that still leaves the NL, which is getting very interesting...

Marlins Streaking
Seven wins in a row through Thursday, with Hurricane Frances apparently the only force that can stop the reigning champs right now.

We've seen this before (the September streak, not the 'cane): Last year, Florida went 18-8 in the final month, to clinch the Wild Card spot and ride momentum all the way.

Speaking of mo', suddenly that Carl Pavano for NL Cy Young bandwagon ain't driving down a lonely, "you're-crazy" road. He's 16-5, with an outside chance at magic No. 20.

Baron Wants Out
Wouldn't you? The Hornets might have the least cachet of any team in the NBA. (how can you screw up cachet when you play in New Orleans?), PLUS they move to the West, so they can look forward to a decade of 10th-place, crappy-draft-pick finishes.

Davis' agent suggested a few teams, including the Knicks, Suns, Lakers and Heat. Now let me suggest this:

Baron for Dwyane, straight up.

Wade may have more long-term career upside, but when you have Shaq for just a few seasons, you need a win-now running mate, particularly one who's a true point guard (Davis), not a natural 2-guard making an uncomfortable transition (Wade).

CFB Preview: Day 5
Hot seats: This season, the uber-hot seat is the "Gary Barnett Endowed Chair," where even winning ugly can get uglier.

How about Bill Callahan, bringing his high-falutin' "West Coast" offense to Nebraska? Call it "Callahan kismet" that NU happens to open with a 1-AA cupcake.

Miss. State's cupboard was empty when Sylvester Croom got there, so he gets at least one grace week (vs. Tulane) before wondering if the team can clear the .500 bar in his first season.

Tangentially hot seated: Big Ten refs, who will be under the scrutiny of the new instant replay system starting this weekend.

Meanwhile, check out Page 2 later today for the annual College Football Preview "What's Hot, What's Not" List.

Ichiro Mania
Not on pace to break the 84-year-old single-season hits record, but to shatter it. Three more on Thursday night. 217 for the season. With 29 games left, Ichiro needs 41 to break Sisler's mark.

No, it's not Bonds chasing HRs: But on the other hand, because it's only singles, there's no boring, anti-competitive strategy to pitch around Ichiro, like there is/was for Bonds; Ichiro gets at least five solid at-bats per game to try to get his hits.

NFL Pre: Last Games!
As long as the great teams (this means you, New England) refuse to play their starters in these preseason games, I'm sticking to second-string comment value. Tonight's five best plotlines:

CHI/CLE: One will go Pre 3-1
GB/TEN: Chris Brown emerging
IND/CIN: More Carson-watching
ATL/DC: Gibbs gets extra game
MIA/NO: Fins still struggling

Next week: NFL '04 Preview!