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Thursday, August 24, 2006
Page 2 Quickie: August 23, 2006


 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
HOMETOWN.  HERO.

I finally attended my first baseball game of the season Tuesday night, and I picked a doozy: The Mets' wild 8-7 win over the Cards.

As I walked into Shea, I was handed a ballot for the MLB Hometown Heroes gimmick: Picking the ultimate player for each franchise.

Some teams are easy: Say, Tony Gwynn for the Padres, or Hank Aaron for the Braves. Most are tough: for the Pirates, Roberto Clemente or Willie Stargell? Some are brutal: Yankees? Red Sox? Dodgers? Reds? Some are hilarious: Nats? D-Rays?

Albert Pujols is listed for the Cards. It's hard to imagine his competing with Ozzie Smith or Stan Musial … until you watch firsthand as he clocks two homers and accounts for all seven St. Louis RBI, bolstering his NL MVP claim. Were Ozzie or The Man the best player of his era, as Pujols is?

Meanwhile, Carlos Beltran isn't a Mets nominee, obviously, but from the frenzied crowd reaction ("M-V-P!") after his walk-off HR Tuesday night, he might have earned a few write-in votes.

For nearly four years, I've preached "Instant History" in this column, but "All-Time Best-Ever!" is the rare debate topic in sports that demands a longer view.

As I punched my ballot, MVPs and championships helped me separate the merely great from the absolute best. It'll take an NL MVP en route to a Mets World Series title to lift Beltran among the greatest Mets ever.

Could it happen this year? It's precisely moments like the one Beltran delivered Tuesday night that start to morph a simple star into a Hometown Hero.

Tigers' 3-Year 180
Tigers: Best turnaround ever? On this date three years ago, the Tigers were 31-97, 36 games behind the division-leading White Sox.

After Tuesday night, when they ensured their first .500-plus season since '93, the Tigers were 81-45, approximately a 50-game improvement.

(If I were a Boston fan -- or any fan of a team likely to miss the playoffs -- I would adopt the Tigers as my team. How can you NOT root for them?)

Ortiz: No AL MVP?
Want to know how effective Big Papi and the Red Sox would be without Manny Ramirez in the lineup? Tuesday provided a snapshot:

With Manny sitting out (hammy), Ortiz came up in the ninth with a man on second and two out, and the Red Sox down by two runs to the Angels in Anaheim.

Mike Scioscia IBB'ed Ortiz (THANK YOU!), and with no Manny to make the Angels pay for it, Kevin Youkilis ended the game on a fly out, Boston's sixth straight L.

Lesson: Who is Boston's real MVP? Well, Papi wouldn't be Papi without Manny being Manny.

(If you haven't read this column by David Schoenfield, do it now. It's a must-read.)

MLB Hit List
Pujols = Ruth? Albert tested similarly to Babe in a battery of reflex tests set up by GQ to replicate tests given to Ruth in his prime. Pretty fascinating results.

Are the Yankees losing money? That's what GM Brian Cashman claims. (It's not far-fetched, given the $200 million payroll.) But it DOES show the Boss' commitment to winning. How many owners would allow that?

John Gibbons' non-apology apology: "I overreacted," the Jays manager said of his clubhouse fight with SP Ted Lilly. "I wasn't proud of it." I still question whether he's temperamentally suited to manage in the AL East.

Skins Get RB Duckett
"The Handcuff": No fantasy football drafting principle might be more important.

When drafting a top RB, pick his backup in later rounds as insurance.

Last season, FFL GMs who took Larry Johnson as a "handcuff" to Top 5 pick Priest Holmes were probably at the top of your league.

In '06, the handcuff to watch is going to be new Redskins RB T.J. Duckett, acquired from Atlanta, to back up the injured Clinton Portis.

Duckett averaged only 3.1 yards per carry in '05 (but 3.9 ypc for his career). Expect new Skins O.C. Al Saunders to deploy him creatively.

(In fact, it's worth wondering if the bruising Duckett will get Portis' goal-line carries. Handcuff threat to FFL GMs: Paralysis by analysis.)

CFB '06: Top 5
The Quickie's 2006 college football preview will run all week long.

Today: Who's No. 1?

The hot theory?

It's the schedule, stupid.

West Virginia is getting love for its BCS affiliation but cupcake schedule. (That, plus the way they thumped Georgia to end last season.)

I'd point WVA bandwagon riders to last season's Quickie fave, Louisville, who I picked to meet USC in the Rose Bowl for precisely the same reason many like WVA in '06: Sick offense, sickly schedule.

It's a cautionary tale. But as long as unbeaten BCS teams get fast-tracked to the BCS title game, WVA has the best shot of all of them to do it. (Crap: I have learned nothing from last year.)

Quickie Top 5:

1. Ohio St.
Been saying it since 01/03/06

2. West Virginia
Unbeaten by default?

3. Auburn
Best team in SEC earns Top 3

4. Texas
One loss will be to Buckeyes

5. USC
Notre Dame in my Top 5? Nope!

Quickie Book Club
"Why Fantasy Football Matters" has been an antidote to my agita over holding the dreaded No. 4 pick in my upcoming fantasy draft.

Erik Barmack and Max Handelman have put together a hilarious treatise on fantasy football; it's one of those classic ideas, well-executed, that makes you say, "I am SO glad someone wrote this book."

(ESPN.com is actually running a series of excerpts from it on the Fantasy Football page. Here's a link.)

Quickie Closure
The final edition (ever) of the Daily Quickie will run on 8/31. Leading up, I'm highlighting some superlatives.

04/05/06: Biggest Homer Call

Did my marriage to a woman from Gainesville create a blind spot for all things Florida? How else to explain ranking 2006 NCAA Tournament MVP Joakim Noah as the third most dominant NCAA Tournament performer of the ESPN Era, which earned scoffs from fans and experts alike?

(To be fair, I didn't pick the Gators to get past the Sweet 16 in my bracket. Don't know if that makes it better or worse, actually. I did, however, lead the small but hearty band rooting against George Mason.)

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