The Pulse: Who's going to the playoffs?

Updated: July 10, 2006, 4:33 PM ET
Friday, July 7

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 Question

1. Which teams are headed to baseball's postseason?



Pudge and the Tigers look to be primed for the playoffs.
The All-Star break is just days away and SportsNation is taking a long, hard look at the postseason races in both the American and National leagues.

The fight for the four playoff spots in the AL has four overwhelming favorites according to the 'Nation. The White Sox lead the way with nearly 90 percent of voters putting them in the postseason while the team they trail in the Central Division, the surprising Tigers, gets support from better than 80 percent. The East-leading Red Sox get the nod in the East and the A's in the West, leaving the Yankees (22 percent) and the rest of the contenders choking on dust.

Over in the NL things are only slightly less lopsided. The Mets are running away in the East and the only team with more than 90 percent of SN in its corner and the Cardinals are close behind despite uneven performances in recent weeks. The Dodgers are the only other team above 50 percent but still trail the Padres in the West, a division that has all five teams within five games of the lead. The upstart Reds have come back to Earth after a hot start but are still SportsNation's Wild Card pick heading into the break.

Which four teams will make the playoffs in the American League?
88% Chicago White Sox (56-29), Central: 1 GB, WC: lead
82% Boston Red Sox (51-32), East: lead
81% Detroit Tigers (57-28), Central: lead
73% Oakland Athletics (45-40), West: lead
22% New York Yankees (48-35), East: 3 GB, WC: 7 GB
10% Minnesota Twins (46-37), Central: 10 GB, WC: 9 GB
8% Texas Rangers (43-42), West 2 GB, WC: 13 GB
7% Toronto Blue Jays (47-38), East: 5 GB, WC: 9 GB
6% Seattle Mariners (42-44), West: 5 GB, WC: 14.5 GB

Which four teams will make the playoffs in the National League?
93.0% New York Mets (51-34), East: lead
89% St. Louis Cardinals (45-39), Central: lead
56% Los Angeles Dodgers (44-41): West: 1 GB, WC: 0.5 GB
44% Cincinnati Reds (44-42), Central: 2 GB, WC: 1 GB
34% Houston Astros (43-43): Central: 3 GB, WC: 2 GB
26% San Diego Padres (45-40), West: lead
13% Colorado Rockies (44-40): West: 1 GB, WC: lead
11% San Francisco Giants (44-42), West: 1.5 GB, WC: 1 GB
7% Milwaukee Brewers (42-43), Central: 4.5 GB, WC: 1.5 GB
4% Philadelphia Phillies (38-46), East: 12.5 GB, WC: 6 GB
3% Arizona Diamondbacks (40-45), West: 5 GB, WC: 4.5 GB

Seriously, can we stop talking about the overrated AL East and maybe talk about the Central, which has the best two teams in the league right now?
Matt (Chicago)

The Detroit Tigers, the new face of domination (and for the next few years, too).
Darprice (ATL)

Papi and Thome are studs. What a night on Thursday, and now they get to face off this weekend. The Red Sox need to really pull it together.
Chris (CT)

A's are getting healthy and you better watch out for them. They'll put on the usual late-season charge and get away from the pack out West.
Tyler (Bay Area)


David Wright and the Mets are walking all over the NL East.
If the Mets have their pitching staff healthy and Cliff Floyd isn't hurt they can definitely compete with the Tigers, White Sox and the rest of the AL.
Ronak (NY)

Nomar got into the All-Star game and the next order of business will be getting the Dodgers the West crown.
Dave (Springfield, IL)

Even injuries can't totally derail the Cards. Pujols is returning to form and the pitching will sort itself out. LaRussa won't let the team fall apart. Central champs. Mark it down.
Marcus (San Antonio, Texas)

Some love for Bronson Arroyo? A microscopic 2.79 ERA, 95 Ks, 9 Ws and the ace for a team that is pushing for a WC spot and could possibly dethrone the mighty Cards.
Brian (Newburyport, MA)

Doesn't matter what happens in any division in the NL. The AL is just that much better and will win the series in a walkover, just like last season.
Robin (Las Vegas)

With all the hatin' going on last year on the NL West they deserve some credit for the strength top to bottom. They don't have the Cubs, Pirates or Royals to pad their records against like the rest of the league.
Dave (Springfield, IL)


Thursday's Big Question

1. Which country will win the World Cup?



Zinedine Zidane is finishing his career in Germany and looking to retire a World Cup champion.
The biggest sporting event on the globe is about to come to and end with Sunday's World Cup final between Italy and France and SportsNation gives the nod to the Italians.

Just over half of SN is rooting for the Azzurri but a full two-thirds thinks Marcello Lippi's team will take home the trophy. And apparently even the Italian fans are even considered superior to their French counterparts. Better than 60 percent of voters would rather watch the match from the streets of Rome than the Champs-Elysees in Paris. But no matter where they are more than 90 percent of the 'Nation will be watching somehow.

As for the action on the field, French midfielder Zinedine Zidane is the player SportsNation thinks will have the biggest impact on the game. Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who has yet to surrender a goal to the opposing team in the tournament, is second on the list.

  • 56% Are rooting for Italy to win the World Cup
  • 67% Think Italy will win the World Cup

  • 65% Would rather watch the game in Rome than Paris
  • 93% Will watch the World Cup final (Sunday, 1:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

    Which big name will play the biggest role in determining the outcome of Sunday's game?
    38% Zinedine Zidane, France
    26% Gianluigi Buffon, Italy
    24% Francesco Totti, Italy
    13% Thierry Henry, France

    Italy will pound the net and Barthez will make mistakes. In the end the Azzurri get their fourth star.
    Sandro (Miami via Boston)

    Italy is playing the best defense right now. They've given up one goal this tournament and that was an own goal against United States. If home team Germany can't break their great wall, I don't see how France will score. It's just not possible. Italy, 2-0.
    Ji (Charlotte)

    Italy has only given up a goal to itself. Buffon is the best keeper in the world. Barthez is an adventure but these are two teams peaking at the right time. But you have to give the edge to an Italian team that has so many weapons up front.
    Evan (DC)

    France has more experience than Italy and will win with Henry and Zidane overpowering the Italian defense. Oh, and Barthez will have a great game. VIVA LA FRANCE!!!!
    Matt (Ann Arbor)

    Italy hasn't played that good on offense yet with the exception of the Germany game, and France has a better offense than Germany with Viera and Zidane and Trezeguet and Henry. France beats Italy, 1-0.
    Dan (Milwaukee)


    Will Alessandro Del Piero be celebrating on Sunday?
    Del Piero will sub in and get the winner for Italy. Mark it down.
    Michelle (Detroit)

    ZZ is legend in France and Italy is the perfect nemesis. Best player in the world (right now) versus the best defense in the world. Couldn't have asked for a better match in the final.
    Justin (Blacksburg)

    We all should be looking for the dream matchup of Henry vs. Cannavaro. One of the best strikers against one of the best central defenders. And of course you've got Totti and Zidane. Should be tight game and it's gonna be scoreless and go to penalty kicks. Italy won't let up a goal, and the French D is also great with Lillian Thuram.
    Brian (Newburyport, MA)

    All I can say is this has been an exciting and trilling WC. I would love to see Henry go out on top.
    Dan (B'more)

    My early analysis is that the Azzurri need to challenge the Bald Clown Barthez. He is sooooo shaky. Zidane worries me, but the Italian defense has been solid and Cannavaro always seems to be there to clean things up.
    Chris (CT)

    I've caught almost every game of the World Cup and the ref that did the Italy-Germany game was the only decent one so far.Can you ever remember a sporting event so blantatly affected by the refs? I would feel robbed if I waited years only to have a questonable call knock me out of the World Cup.
    John (Buffalo)

    You know, I could justify ducking out of work to watch the World Cup since it only happens every four years. Sad those days are over. Doesn't work as well with baseball when you know 10 more games are on later that night.
    Arturo (New York)


    Wednesday's Big Questions

    1. Are the Bulls NBA title contenders?
    2. Does Dusty Baker deserve the boot?


    Will Big Ben be a champion again in the Windy City?
    Ben Wallace, the biggest prize on the NBA free agent market this offseason, has jumped ship in Detroit and landed with Central Division rivals the Chicago Bulls after agreeing to a reported four-year, $60 million deal. SportsNation doesn't think it's a good move but feels the Pistons should have done more to keep Big Ben.

    Does Wallace's move shift the balance of power in the Central and the Eastern Conference as a whole? Sort of, says the 'Nation. More than half of voters say the Bulls will have a better season than the Pistons in 2006-07, and nearly 60 percent say the four-time Defensive Player of the Year will win the award again in his first year in Chicago.

    Still, a large majority do not think the Bulls will win an NBA championship while Wallace is in town and fewer than 30 percent think Chicago will win the Eastern Conference title next season, giving the defending NBA champs from Miami the nod again next season in the East.

  • 18% Wallace is smart to leave Detroit
  • 55% The Pistons should have upped their four-year, $48 million offer

  • 55% The Bulls will have a better season than the Pistons next year
  • 57% Wallace will win Defensive Player of the Year next season
  • 65% The Bulls will not win a championship with Wallace

    Which team will win the Eastern Conference in 2006-07?
    38% Miami Heat
    28% Chicago Bulls
    18% Cleveland Cavaliers
    10% Detroit Pistons
    5% New Jersey Nets

    Selfish move by Ben that I think he will regret in the long run. As for the Pistons, it is disappointing as I don't think the rest of the team has Ben's heart, making the team second fiddle to everyone's new superstar mentality.
    Darprice (ATL)

    The Pistons are in trouble. They are about to find out how important Big Ben was to them. The Bulls are looking good, and if they somehow manage to get KG, watch out.
    Kevin (Manassas)

    It won't hurt the Pistons THAT much, but it just seems very underhanded of Ben. The Pistons treated him very well and gave him a lot of opportunities.
    Matt (Ann Arbor)

    Underhanded on Ben's part? Seems to me the Pistons purposely low-balled him.
    Hende (OH)

    I'm not too worried about the loss of Ben. At least the Pistons will be playing 5-on-5 at the offensive end next season.
    Clay (Hillsdale, MI)

    I like Ben's move. It immediately puts Chicago in the upper class of the Eastern Conference.
    Justin (Denver)

    Signing Wallace immediately makes the Bulls a top 3 team in the East
    Dave (Hazlet, NJ)

    Detroit also saved quite a bit of money letting Big Ben go. Hope they spend wisely.
    Justin (Blacksburg)

    Maybe the Bulls overpaid but it was a great move. Wallace takes care of rebounding and gives a physical presence in the middle. You can't run with those young guards without rebounding the ball. And don't forget, the Bulls own the Knicks' first pick next year. Paxson is doing a great job.
    DC (Altoona, PA)

    Ben Wallace going to the Bulls means he does not believe in Flip Saunders as a coach and believes the Pistons are on the way down.
    John (Buffalo)



    Baker isn't making much of an argument for continued employment.
    Cubs general manager Jim Hendry has made it clear he is thinking about an overhaul of the team that could include firing manager Dusty Baker, telling reporters he will use the four-day All-Star break to evaluate the team.

    Chicago enters play Wednesday with a 30-53 record and sit 13.5 games behind NL Central-leading St. Louis, undermined in part by injuries to stars Derrek Lee, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, and Baker has taken increasing heat in the Windy City since the Cubs' collapse against Florida in the 2003 NLCS. The Cubs also finished below .500 last season.

    All things considered, two-thirds of SportsNation says Baker should be shown the door before his contract expires at the end of the season.

    Should Dusty Baker be fired by the Cubs?
    67% Yes
    33% No

    Dusty will be gone since he has "his team" now but still can't manage to win.
    John (Chicago)

    Dusty will be with the Cubs a week from today. But not two.
    Justin (Blacksburg)

    Baker should have been out on his behind after last year. The sooner he's fired the better.
    Will (Schaumburg, Ill.)

    Firing Dusty won't matter if Wood and Prior can't stay healthy and the lineup continues to under-produce. But at least getting rid of Dusty get some fresh thinking in there would be a good start.
    Mike (Chicago)

    Dusty's gonna take the fall for a bunch of injuries, but that's the way it goes in baseball. The manager's always the scapegoat.
    Ron (New York)

    Dusty Baker has been jerked around all season as player after player got injured. He'll probably get fired in the next 15 minutes and choke on a toothpick, the ultimate example of falling on your sword for management.
    Adam (Albany, NY)

    Morris Buttermaker would do a better job than Dusty Baker.
    Bob (Boston)


    Monday's Big Question

    1. Who are the biggest All-Star snubs?
    2. What is Steve Yzerman's NHL legacy?


    SportsNation wonders how Nomar's resurgence has been ignored.
    Major League Baseball announced its All-Star teams last weekend and as usual there is plenty of conversation about who is undeserving and who got snubbed.

    Impressive Twins rookie Francisco Liriano and his MLB-best ERA get SportsNation's vote as the biggest snub on the American League, while resurgent Dodgers shortstop Nomar Garciaparra with his .361 average is far and away SN's choice as the biggest omission in the National League. Travis Hafner of the Indians, Justin Verlander of the Tigers and Carlos Delgado of the Mets also get double-digit support from the 'Nation.

    Voters from SN fall in line with seemingly everyone who follows baseball in calling Royals pitcher Mark Redman the least deserving AL All-Star, awarding the Kansas City hurler better than 90 percent of the vote in that category. Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca is his NL counterpart.

    And how does SportsNation feel about the winning league in the All-Star game getting home field advantage in the World Series? Not good.

    Who is the AL's most glaring omission?
    54% Francisco Liriano, Twins (8-1, 1.99 ERA)
    26% Travis Hafner, Indians (.312 BA, 22 HR, 66 RBI)
    10% Justin Verlander, Tigers (10-4, 3.13 ERA)
    7% Jason Giambi, Yankees (.268 BA, 24 HR, 63 RBI)
    2% Tadahito Iguchi, White Sox (.293 BA, 9 HR, 38 RBI)
    1% Brian Roberts, Orioles (.313 BA, 1 HR, 33 RBI)

    Who is the NL's most glaring omission?
    72% Nomar Garciaparra, Dodgers (.361, 10 HR, 47 RBI)
    13% Carlos Delgado, Mets (.262, 22 HR, 55 RBI)
    6% Michael Barrett, Cubs (.313 BA, 9 HR, 31 RBI)
    4% Bobby Abreu, Phillies (.290 BA, 8 HR, 57 RBI)
    3% Roy Oswalt, Astros (6-4, 3.27 ERA)
    2% Johnny Estrada, Diamondbacks (.317 BA, 6 HR, 44 RBI)

    Who is the least-deserving AL All-Star?
    92% Mark Redman, Royals (5-4, 5.59 ERA)
    5% Gary Matthews Jr., Rangers (.326 BA, 8 HR, 41 RBI)
    4% Michael Young, Rangers (.319 BA, 5 HR, 51 RBI)

    Who is the least-deserving NL All-Star?
    46% Paul Lo Duca, Mets (.286 BA, 3 HR, 24 RBI)
    45% Derrick Turnbow, Brewers (4-4, 4.04 ERA)
    9% Brian Fuentes, Rockies (1-1, 2.16 ERA)

    Are you in favor of awarding home-field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star Game?
    59% No
    41% Yes


    Francisco Liriano leads the majors in ERA but is on the outside looking in.
    Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano should BOTH be All-Stars.
    Gregg (Minneapolis)

    Does Joe Mauer not starting the All-Star game qualify as one of the all-time biggest snubs? Mauer Pauer for life!
    Dave (Hazlet, NJ)

    Anyone else think Ozzie Guillen should take some heat for adding some of his own players who probably should have been left off? Jenks and Beuhrle? Konerko over Hafner? C'mon, man.
    Steve (Cleveland)

    Why not more players from the best team in baseball, the Tigers? Give me Verlander and Carlos Guillen!!
    Ryan (Lansing, MI)

    Seriously, how does Nomar, the leading hitter in the National League, get left off the team? Let's hope the fans are at least smart enough to vote him into that last spot.
    Kevin (Glendale)

    Yeah, it's been beaten to death already, but how on Earth does Mark Redman make the cut? Hopefully this finally puts that ridiculous one-player-from-every-team rule on the scrap heap.
    Dave (Connecticut)

    Sure would be nice to see Delgado there alongside fellow Mets Lo Duca, Reyes, Wright and Beltran, but I guess you can't really argue with Pujols and Ryan Howard ahead of Delgado.
    Vinny (Flushing)

    The bad part about playing in and NL park like Pittsburgh is not having the DH. Sorry, Giambi, you're a victim of circumstance this year.
    Oscar (Miami)

    The voting is flawed and always will be until they take the fans out of the process. Voting too early and too often, too many homer picks, to much online voting. Let the people who know best -- the players and managers -- pick the teams.
    Nathan (Wrigleyville)

    What's really sad is that this sham voting process is going to help determine home field come October.
    Steve (Chicago)



    Yzerman stood tall in Detroit for more than two decades.
    Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman retired Monday after 22 seasons with the Wings, the last 20 spent as the longest-serving captain in NHL history. A 10-time All-Star who led Detroit to three Stanley Cup titles, Yzerman ended last season as the active leader in regular-season and playoff points.

    His 692 career goals rank eighth all-time and his 1,755 points are the sixth-best total in NHL history, but most will remember the player known simply as "The Captain" more for his determination and leadership than his gaudy stats.

    Who was the best recently-retired NHL captain?
    51% Steve Yzerman
    28% Mark Messier
    10% Scott Stevens
    6% Al MacInnis
    5% Ron Francis

    This was something every hockey fan in Detroit was dreading. After the sudden retirement of Barry Sanders, Stevie Y WAS Detroit sports. A talent that we took in as our own. You will be missed, Stevie!
    Mike (Detroit)

    This is one of those days I wished would never come. I am 22 years old and Steve Yzerman has been playing in the NHL, for the Redwings, for all the years of my life. I can't imagine asking him to play another year. He has accomplished so much and has taken the Redwings from the bottom to the top. I just want to thank Yzerman for all the great memories and for making Detroit one of the best hockey cities. He inspired dreams in all of us. Thank you for everything, Steve!! Detroit loves you!!
    Mike G (Detroit)

    I don't even want to think of another person being the captain of the Wings. They should just retire the 'C' along with the number 19 jersey.
    Dex (Utica, MI)

    The first two things that come to mind when I think about Steve Yzerman: Champion and Class. That sums up his career. Thanks for the memories!
    Ron (Vancouver)

    Very simply put, Yzerman is the embodiment of what leadership is.
    Justin (Ann Arbor)

    I will always remember watching Stevie skate around the rink with his first Stanley Cup. It sent chills down my spine. I named my first son Steven.
    Jerry (Odenville, AL)

    I detest the Red Wings but I've always had an immense amount of respect for Steve Yzerman. I would guess that vast majority of anti-Red Wings fans feel the same way. That pretty much says it all.
    Paul (Dallas)

    Steve Yzerman in my eyes was the best all around player in NHL history. Wayne had more scoring skills, Mario was better with his moves, but no one had a better all-around game. Thank you, Steve.
    Greg (Dearborn, MI)


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