The Pulse: Who wins the NL Central?

Updated: June 26, 2006, 3:48 PM ET
Friday, June 23

Welcome to The Pulse, the place to find out what the sports world is thinking. Every day on ESPN.com, SportsNation registers its opinion on a wide range of topics by casting votes and offering opinions. We'll collect the daily highlights and create a running file throughout the week to measure The Pulse of SportsNation on a wide variety of issues. Check this page every day for an update of what the 'Nation is saying.

Friday's Big Questions

1. What will happen with Clemens and Pujols back in the NL Central?
2. Should Ozzie Guillen have been suspended for a slur?




Does Clemens equal an NL Central title? Not according to SportsNation.
The Rocket has finally lifted off.

Roger Clemens returned to the Houston Astros on Thursday, taking the loss in a 4-2 game after giving up two runs on six hits over five innings. The Astros enter the weekend six games behind the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals, who got one of their own stars back Thursday with the return of Albert Pujols from the disabled list.

What will Clemens and Pujols mean to their teams in terms of division title chances? SportsNation answers with a resounding "no" when asked if Clemens will be the difference between the Astros making or missing the playoffs and well over 80 percent of the 'Nation feels Pujols will have a bigger impact on the NL Central race.

As one would expect, that translates into SN voters making the Cardinals their overwhelming favorite to win the division crown while Houston is picked to finish behind both St. Louis and the surprising Cincinnati Reds.

  • Will Roger Clemens be the difference between making and missing the playoffs for the Astros?
    73% No
    27% Yes

  • Which player's return will have a bigger impact on the NL Central race?
    85% Albert Pujols
    15% Roger Clemens

  • Which team will win the NL Central?
    82% St. Louis Cardinals
    9% Cincinnati Reds
    7% Houston Astros
    2% Milwaukee Brewers

    There is no way the Astros can pull this off without help from the batting order.
    Mike (Dorchester, MA)

    You would think just the thought of having Clemens playing last night that it would be a motivational boost to the entire team, but they came out flat and lost.
    Kev Wash (Richmond, VA)

    Pujols is back. NL Central race is over. Forget about last night's 0-4. Just having him in the lineup makes everyone better.
    Christian (High Point, NC)

    The Astros have a chance. Especially if the Cards pitching stays on the AA level. I wouldn't be surprised to see St. Louis and Houston in a battle for second this year. Or a three way tie at the top.
    Justin (Blacksburg)

    The Astros will not make the playoffs this year. With the way that the Cards and Reds have been going, one will take the division and one will have the wild card.
    Nick (Nap-Town)

    Astros for the wild card? C'mon, has no one seen what the Reds are doing this year?
    Marcus (Minneapolis)

    $23 million, huh Houston? Good luck with that.
    Mike (Dorchester, MA)



    What will Ozzie Guillen say next?
    Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen made news earlier this week with his use of a homophobic slur when referring to Chicago columnist Jay Mariotti, and while SN did not buy Guillen's explanation that the word he used has a different connotation in his native Venezuela the majority were not surprised MLB ordered the skipper to sensitivity training rather than suspending him.

    Will Guillen's constant outbursts and the media attention they attract affect his standing with the White Sox organization? The 'Nation is split, with 40 percent saying he will be with the Sox for 3-4 more years but roughly 30 percent giving him one or two more years and the same percentage putting him in the Chicago dugout for at least five more years.

    But no matter how long Guillen remains with the White Sox voters do not think he will win another World Series title in the Windy City.

  • Are you surprised MLB did not suspend Ozzie Guillen for his homophobic slur?
    59% No
    41% Yes

  • Is Guillen's excuse that the word has a different connotation, dealing with courage instead of sexuality, in Venezuela valid?
    66% No
    37% Yes

  • How long will Guillen remain manager of the White Sox?
    40% 3-4 years
    31% At least five years
    31% 1-2 years

  • Will Guillen win another World Series with the White Sox?
    55% No
    45% Yes

    Guillen is weird. I mean he said all that about stuff about A-Rod being a hypocrite for saying he might play for the Dominican Republic and then apologized and said he was a great player. I wouldn't expect anything less or more than this latest outburst from Ozzie.
    Brian (Richmond, VA)

    I'm with Guillen 100 percent. I know that in USA there's this politically correct thing but I just call it hypocrisy. We should be proud of a man who speaks his mind in these times.
    Jose (Puerto Rico)

    Ozzie is out of control. I really think that if Mariotti did show up in the White Sox clubhouse Oz would fight him right there. Afterwards, the White Sox would typically do nothing because Ozzie won them a World Series and has them near first place right now.
    DC (Altoona, PA)

    I guess Ozzie would have no problem if a bunch of white people resorted to ethnic Latino slurs about him, right? Gimme a break.
    Will (Idaho)

    Selig once again shows he is a total embarrassment to MLB. Guillen should have been suspended for two weeks. His weak response basically says this stuff will be tolerated. Ozzie is lucky he's not in the NBA or he would feel the Stern hammer, and hard.
    Dougie Fresh (DC)

    I think Guillen's sensitivity training would be a good punishment if it were done Clockwork Orange style.
    Ephraim R. (Maple Shade, NJ)

    Thursday's Big Questions

    1. Did the Knicks make the right move firing Larry Brown?
    2. What to make of the U.S. World Cup failure?




    All the screaming and yelling in the world couldn't save Brown's job.
    The nomad is on the move again.

    Larry Brown was fired by the New York Knicks on Thursday after his one season with the team ended with the second-worst record in the league and the coach having openly feuded with a star player. Brown called coaching the Knicks his "dream job" but it turned into a nightmare. Still, well over 60 percent of SportsNation says firing Brown was a bad move and many feel he should have had more of a chance to turn things around in Gotham and more than 80 percent see Brown coaching on the NBA again.

    Team president and general manager Isiah Thomas takes over on the bench and now gets the change to guide the roster he put together over the last two-and-a-half years, a decision SN likes even less than Brown's firing. Nearly 90 percent call it a bad move and the 'Nation nearly unanimously feels the Knicks will not win a title with Isiah at the helm. In fact, nearly 80 percent predict another sub .500 season in 2006-07

  • 65% Firing Larry Brown was a bad move
  • 86% Hiring Isiah Thomas was a bad move
  • 98% The Knicks will not win a championship with Thomas as coach

  • 82% Larry Brown will coach in the NBA again

  • How many games will the Knicks win next season?
    53% 21-30
    25% 31-40
    18% 20 or fewer
    4% 41 or more

    It's so obvious that Dolan scapegoated the wrong cat that it makes me wonder what's in his soup.
    Phil (NYC)

    Disgusted. Isiah has ruined the Knicks. And Dolan is a fool for hiring him. And for treating Larry Brown like crap. So disgusted.
    Albert (NY)

    I just don't get the Knicks. Isiah Thomas is running the team into the ground yet Brown is fired? They are the laughingstock of the league and the laughing is only going to get louder now that they have Isiah coaching.
    Mark (Chicago, IL)

    I am not a Knicks fan by any stretch. However, I am a basketball fan and as much as I love the fact that the Knicks are horrid, I can't help but feel sorry for the fans. Isiah Thomas was a horrible general manager, and I don't see him being a good coach.
    Dave (Chicago)

    James Dolan is the worst thing that's happened to the Knicks. As a fan I have watched in horror the last several years as he's chased away any potential this team has had and input his personal stamp of failure. All the terrible decisions that have been made to put this franchise in disrepair point to the one constant throughout this sorry era - James Dolan.
    Greg (NY)

    Good riddance, Larry! Not that I'm a big fan of Isiah and his maneuvers but now it's his team, the team he assembled. Sink or swim, Zeke!
    Marcus (Minneapolis)

    Zeke assembled this team and now the players will finally be used properly. I predict a conference finals appearance. Eddie Curry is ready to step up - as is Frye - in the front court. I am very excited. Marbury and Crawford are great. Rose will add his veteran leadership and skills. Things are looking good. Zeke will make it happen, just wait and see.
    Michael (New York, NY)



    Does the end of the U.S. World Cup run mean the end of Bruce Arena's coaching tenure?
    SportsNation is looking smart today.

    A majority picked Ghana to beat the United States in the final match of World Cup Group play and the "Black Stars" obliged with a 2-1 victory that sent the Americans packing for home. The strategy employed by U.S. coach Bruce Arena came under scrutiny as he did not include forward Eddie Johnson in the starting lineup and his team committed costly mistakes that led directly to both Ghanaian goals.

    Arena will no doubt come under fire after following a quarterfinal berth in the 2002 World Cup with a winless run in group play this year, and SN apparently thinks that heat would be justified as a vast majority thinks Arena should not remain coach of the national team. And with the Americans out of the running nearly 60 percent of the 'Nation will tune out the remainder of the proceedings from Germany.

  • Should Bruce Arena remain coach of the U.S. national soccer team?
    79% Yes
    21% No

  • With the United States eliminated, are you still interested in the World Cup?
    59% No
    41% Yes

    The US lineup was BS. How were we going to score goals? I don't understand Arena. We hadn't scored and he refused to put in more attacking players?
    Ben (Boston, MA)

    Bruce Arena needs to be replaced ASAP. His lineup and lack of ability to adjust either in-game or between games is shocking.
    Greg(Boston)

    A loss against Ghana is just another reason soccer will never become a 'major' sport in the United States. Won't break through until we start winning big-time matches.
    Will (Idaho)

    Please, do not stop paying attention with the U.S. out of the World Cup. Keep tuning in to see incredible action and passion.
    Jose (Puerto Rico)

    The U.S. is spoiled. We expect every team we send into international competition to win first place. We need to realize that some countries are actually better than us in some sports and grow to accept it.
    Kev Wash (Richmond, VA)

    Say what you want about the U.S., but Ghana sure is a great story.
    Mickey (DC)


    Tuesday's Big Questions

    1. Do Mark Cuban's actions go too far?
    2. How will the rest of the NBA Finals play out?




    Mark Cuban's actions after Game 5 did not go unnoticed.
    Mark Cuban was at it again. And David Stern was watching.

    Tuesday, Cuban was fined $250,000 for "several acts of misconduct" after Game 5 of the NBA Finals Sunday. Following the game Sunday, he went on to the court after the game to vent to the officials, allegedly yelled in the direction of Stern and other league officials and then used profanity to reporters following the game. He also, according to one report, said the NBA rigged the games. Cuban, however, denied that report on his blog Tuesday. The fine brings Cuban's total to at least $1.65 million in the six years he's owned the team. Over 60% of SportsNation agrees with Stern issuing a fine to Cuban.

    Despite all the attention placed on Cuban, the NBA Finals continue with Game 6 Tuesday night. Miami is in the midst of winning three straight after facing a 2-0 deficit. The home team has won every game in the Finals so far and the Mavericks are 8-2 at home in the playoffs this season, while the Heat are 4-6 on the road. But if the Heat are going to win the title, SportsNation says they better do it in six games, because nearly 50% of SN believes the Mavs will win in seven games.

  • Do you agree with the NBA fining Cuban $250,000 for his actions following Game 5?
    42% Yes, but $250,000 is too much
    37% No
    21% Yes, but the fine should be higher

  • Was Cuban justified in feeling that the officials favored the Heat in Game 5?
    73% Yes
    22% No

  • How would you feel if Mark Cuban became owner of your favorite team?
    81% Happy
    19% Upset

  • What impact does Cuban sitting courtside during games have on his team?
    76% Positive - the team knows he is behind them
    24% Negative - his expressive nature is a distraction

  • Which team will win the NBA Championship?
    47% Mavs in 7
    31% Heat in 6
    22% Heat in 7

    I'm waiting to see Cuban's head explode after the Mavs blow another game and ends the season.
    Dan (Bmore)

    Dwayne Wade will shoot 45 free throws and the Heat will win. Mark Cuban will attack Dick Bavetta and be banned from the league forever.
    Mike (Ann Arbor)

    I originally wanted Dallas to win because it would have been great to see Stern have to give the trophy to Cuban. I'm rooting for Miami tonight just so this thing FINALLY ends.
    James (N.J.)

    I feel like if/when it goes to game 7, the Heat will win. Shaq giving his all without having to worry about saving anything = Miami win.
    Josh (Boston)

    Heat will win tonight, closing out the NBA season and thus ensuring that the only thing talked about on Thursday is USA-Ghana.
    Christian (High Point, N.C.)

    Dallas wins because the refs will call more fouls on the Heat tonight, and it will go seven games because that's more money for the NBA.
    Kevin (ATL)

    Note to Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks: Nobody wins a champion by whining. If you really want the title, then shut up and play ball.
    Tom* (Parkville, Md.)

    Has everyone forgot how good the Mavs are at home? Mavs in 7.
    J.J. (Johnstown)

    What's wrong with Cuban?! All major sports should have at least one Cuban in it.
    Geno (Vermont)


    Monday's Big Questions

    1. Hurricanes or Oilers in Game 7?
    2. Will Phil Mickelson win another major in 2006?




    Chris Pronger could win the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy.
    It's something NHL players and coaches dream about: Game 7, Stanley Cup finals. Carolina and Edmonton face off in the ultimate hockey match Monday night, one game to decide the winner of what many call the most grueling postseason in sports.

    The action has been bruising and the Oilers have seized momentum with two straight wins to tie the series at three games apiece and ramp up the excitement level of what was becoming a snoozer of a series. The 'Nation says that momentum is more of an advantage to Edmonton than playing at home is for Carolina.

    The goaltender matchup features Hurricanes rookie Cam Ward versus Oilers backup Jussi Markkanen -- who did not play in the postseason until starter Dwayne Roloson was injured -- with Ward being SN's overwhelming favorite. Despite that, SportsNation likes Edmonton to continue its roll and hoist the Stanley Cup for the sixth time in franchise history.

  • How would you rate the overall excitement level of these Stanley Cup finals?
    70% Extremely high
    26% It's been a good series
    2% I'm just now tuning in
    2% If I weren't a Carolina/Edmonton fan I wouldn't be watching

  • Which team will win Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals?
    46% Carolina Hurricanes
    54% Edmonton Oilers

  • Home teams are 11-2 in Stanley Cup Game 7s. Which will be more important Monday night?
    52% Edmonton's momentum after two straight wins
    48% Carolina's home-ice advantage

  • Which goalie would you rather have in Game 7?
    74% Cam Ward, Hurricanes
    26% Jussi Markkanen, Oilers

    Its all about momentum. The Oilers took two in a row after building on Game 3. Oilers close it out in Game 7.
    Keller (Toledo, OH)

    I'm no expert and I have no idea how Edmonton made it to this series, let alone forced a Game 7. So I might as well pick the Oilers to win it, in OT, on a Pronger goal.
    Matt (Fairfax)

    Carolina is looking TIRED. Edmonton is finishing EVERY hit. They didn't mean as much in Game 1 but after six games they mean a ton.
    Brian (Pittsburgh)

    C'mon, home teams are 11-2 in Game 7s in finals history! I know Carolina is beaten up and I know Edmonton is riding an emotional wave, but you can't bet against the team with the home fans behind it. 'Canes raise the Cup down South!
    Rosy (Michigan)

    Time for the Canes scoring forwards to step up. With the exception of game two they haven't really exploited the Oilers goaltending.
    Klinger (Yankee Nation)

    How can you pick against the Oilers? They seem to be a team of destiny. But how can you pick against the home team in Carolina? I guess I'm just hoping for an overtime thriller.
    Corey (San Antonio, TX)



    Will a U.S. Open collapse ruin Mickelson's season?
    Phil Mickelson handed the U.S. Open title to Geoff Ogilvy on Sunday with a double-bogey 6 on the 18th hole at Winged Foot, a collapse that has been dissected many different ways: Mickelson should not have used his driver off the tee; he should have punched the ball back into the fairway after an errant drive rather than going for the green; he should have made a safer play to avoid the greenside bunker on his third shot; or, he simply choked.

    No matter the explanation for what happened on the 72nd hole in Mamaroneck, N.Y., questions now arise about Mickelson's state of mind. How will he react to such a disappointment after winning the two previous major tournaments? Not well, says SportsNation. Voters say Lefty will be haunted but this failure and will not capture another major title this season.

  • Will Phil Mickelson win another major title in 2006??
    48% Yes
    52% No

    Phil's mental errors constituted choking. You don't hit driver off the tee, and you don't play it that close on your second shot. After that, he played it the only way he could.
    Hende (OH)

    Phil was back in his old form. I hope this isn't a start of a downhill slide.
    Vik (Fort Myers, FL)

    I'll be surprised if Mickelson wins another tournament this year. This mistake is going to be in the back of his mind for a while.
    Bryan (Michigan)

    Who else thinks Phil will go in the tank at the British? He seems like the kind of guy who won't be able to forget this very easily.
    Stephen (Salem, OR)

    Let's give Phil a break. That was heartbreaking to watch and an unbelievably classy move by Phil to apologize (which he in no way should have to do). I gained more respect for him in his loss. Also, nice sportsmanship from Ogilvy by leaving the scorer's tent.
    Geoff (Chicago)

    The reason I am most mad at Lefty is if he had played for the bogey after the bad drive we could have had an 18-hole playoff to help us get through another work day!
    Jon (Dallas)


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