Thursday, October 16, 2014

Week 8 College Football Picks: Root, Root for Old Notre Dame?

We like to hate a lot more than we like to like.

nd football entrance
We see it every day. On message boards and on Twitter – the trolls get far more responses than those providing common sense. Being the object of derision trumps being the object of affection. You want people to dislike you. You want haters to hate so you can watch the money pile up, and so on and so forth.

As an admitted and recovering pro wrestling fan, I’ve learned this lesson many times over. Hulk Hogan needed an evil adversary like “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Stone Cold Steve Austin needed to overcome the heinous acts of Vince McMahon. It was good vs evil every week and those who were evil were always – I repeat, always – more interesting.

When it comes to college football, no one draws more attention than Notre Dame. Yet the beauty of Notre Dame’s hold on the general public is that they must be good.

Between the time Lou Holtz left and Brian Kelly arrived, the moments when Notre Dame mattered were few and far between. With the notable exception of the first two Charlie Weis years, there was about 15 years of emptiness. People wanted to hate Notre Dame, but if they lose every week, what’s the point?

The arrival of Brian Kelly and the 2012 undefeated run reminded us why NBC gladly forks over millions to Notre Dame and why ESPN added extra zeros to the ACC contract for only a couple games a year. Because when Notre Dame is good, people come out of the woodwork to root against them.

The 2012 season finale for Notre Dame against an unranked USC team destroyed the ratings of every other regular season game that season. It’s amazing how Notre Dame’s ratings stay nearly the same until they start winning, and then the ratings soar as college football fans remember they hate the Irish.

That’s why there will be such an interesting dynamic in play on Saturday night. Few can root for Notre Dame. Yet how many can truly root for Florida State right now, awash in more Jameis Winston controversy?

For the first time since Catholics vs. Convicts a quarter-century ago, a majority of neutral observers may actually be rooting for Notre Dame. That can’t be true, can it?

Overall Record: 37-39-1
Best Bet: 2-5
Upset Special: 4-2-1
The less said about my Best Bet picks the better. Crushed about my Upset Special last week, as Washington State came in right at the number I got. If I had made my picks a day earlier, they would’ve covered. If I had waited a day, they would’ve lost. Oh sports gambling, what a fickle fiend you are.

Virginia Tech (+1) over PITTSBURGH
Pitt hasn’t won a game in a month. They lost at home to Iowa (excusable) and Akron (inexcusable). Their last game was a road loss to Virginia.

Virginia Tech beat Ohio State in Columbus. I have no idea why Pitt is favored as they prepare to play at home in an empty Heinz Field on Thursday night.

OREGON STATE (+2) over Utah
There’s no way I’m passing up getting points for Oregon State at home. Everything points to Utah winning this game. They beat UCLA on the road. They’re ranked. They’re improving. Oregon State has played one real team in USC and got smacked around by said real team.

But this is a typical Oregon State game. They win at least one of these a year, when they are home underdogs to a ranked team and come through in a big way. I can’t shake the feeling that Utah’s win over UCLA was a lot less impressive than first thought – like UCLA might just stink.

Temple (+7.5) over HOUSTON
This is a spiteful pick for Houston playing their best game of the year by an order of magnitude to beat Memphis in Memphis. How dare you Houston!

jahad thomas
Is it possible that Temple might be good? They haven’t played anyone with a pulse except for Navy and they lost to Navy by a touchdown. Still, Temple is 4-1 and – I swear this is true – they would play in a New Year’s Day bowl game if they won out. That’s putting about 15 carts in front of the poor horse but a win over Houston would make next week’s Temple/UCF game mean a lot in the AAC race. Who wouldn’t love that?

OKLAHOMA (-7.5) over Kansas State
Two weeks ago, I went all in on Oklahoma and said there was no possible way they would lose to TCU. They lost. I’m going to double down here because Oklahoma should be the Big 12’s best team.

I watched Kansas State play Iowa State and Auburn and left thoroughly unimpressed with both performances. They should’ve lost to Iowa State and should’ve lost to Auburn by about 28 if Nick Marshall threw an accurate deep ball. I don’t think this one will close.

Baylor (-8) over WEST VIRGINIA
This game feels like such a trap/letdown game that it can’t be. If everyone is saying it’s a trap, then the effectiveness of the trap is severely diminished. West Virginia is a fascinating team that could be 5-1 or 2-4, with two wins on last second field goals and a slugfest loss to Alabama.

I could see this game playing out similar to Oklahoma’s visit to Morgantown, where the teams match scores for three quarters before the Mountaineers run out of gas. That’s when Baylor scores 3 touchdowns in 28 seconds to put things away.

DUKE (-2.5) over Virginia
Virginia has have covered every time out and have helped my win-loss record on several occasions. So why am I bailing now? I just don’t see Virginia winning at Duke. In fact, I think Duke is probably the second best team in the ACC and they will spend the rest of the year bemoaning their bad loss to Miami.

OHIO STATE (-19.5) over Rutgers *Best Bet*
If J.T. Barrett was the starter from April and got reps through spring and summer, then Ohio State would be undefeated. The Virginia Tech loss was not pretty but people were acting like the Ohio State QB was some schlub they found of the street. No, Barrett was a four-star recruit who was one of the top dual-threat QBs in his class.

jt barrett
Once Barrett figured out – and the offensive line fixed their issues – the Buckeyes have been absolutely lights out. I thought Maryland was going to give Ohio State a test and they got decimated. Rutgers deserves credit for starting 5-1 but they haven’t beaten a team with a winning record yet, much like they did last year en route to going 6-6.

Rutgers is not beating Ohio State in the Horseshoe. In fact, I don’t know if they ever will. This one could get ugly because the Big Ten team that will be a playoff contender is Ohio State.

ALABAMA (-11.5) over Texas A&M
This feels like a bad spot for Texas A&M. Alabama and Nick Saban are pretty obviously pissed off. They aren’t happy with anything right now. And the last time Texas A&M came to town, the Johnny Football legend took off. Everything seems to be coming together for a bad A&M beatdown. Suddenly, my diatribe about the Aggies descending back to mediocrity is making sense again.

Oklahoma State (+8.5) over TCU
I have picked games involving these teams four times and I am 0-4. That would cause a sane person to say, “You know what, maybe I’ll sit this one out.” Me? Never!

My angle? TCU is worn out from two incredible games against Oklahoma and Baylor. Frankly, they were done after three quarters against Baylor – the tank was on empty. Oklahoma State beat Kansas last week wearing pajamas as they were already looking ahead. The schedule trips up TCU more than the Cowpokes, but Oklahoma State is a solid Top 20 team that cannot be overlooked. Ask Florida State.

Nebraska (-7) over NORTHWESTERN
I don’t think Nebraska is back from irrelevance quite yet but I do know that Northwestern is bad. The fact that they beat Wisconsin will remain one of the sport’s great mysteries all year long.

Do you know Nebraska should be 8-1 by the time they play Wisconsin? The Big Ten West is so brutally bad that Nebraska may play only one ranked team all year.

LSU (-9.5) over Kentucky
I’m going to be the party pooper here. Kentucky hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record yet. It is 5-1 with 5 home wins – nice scheduling! They were losing by 14 to South Carolina with 12 minutes to go before the Gamecocks inexplicably imploded and lost in regulation. I am impressed that Kentucky is 5-1 but I am not impressed enough to think they are going to Death Valley, at night, to beat LSU.

Look, LSU may be a 7-5, 8-4 type team this year but it will still take a great team to give them fits at home at night. I don’t think Kentucky is that team, yet. I think it’s far more reasonable to see Kentucky upsetting Mississippi State at home next week.

Notre Dame (+12) over FLORIDA STATE *Upset Special*
I love Notre Dame in this spot. And no, it’s not just because I picked them to make the playoff in April. It’s just a perfect matchup. Let’s count the ways:

everett golson unc
1) The bend & don’t break defense that Notre Dame employs is perfectly suited to stop Florida State. They can get bogged down in the red zone but make up for that with big plays – see the Oklahoma State game. If ND can avoid giving up the big play, they can slow the game down.

2) The Florida State defensive line is not what it was last year. And that’s good because Notre Dame’s biggest weakness is the offensive line. Did you see what Stanford was able to do to Everett Golson? Without pressure, Golson can rip a defense apart. Florida State is vulnerable.

3) Florida State can’t run the ball. Notre Dame can stop the run. Making Florida State one-dimensional is the only way to slow them down.

4) The turnovers have to stop, right? Notre Dame has been awful with the football and still winning games. That’s a sign of a really good team that has not reached its potential yet.

5) Notre Dame has way more motivation in this game. It is essentially their moment. Ever since Alabama, they have been waiting for this game on this stage with this quarterback to prove they are an elite, national title-level program again. This is it. They’re playing with house money in a game no one thinks they have a chance in heck to win. C’mon…they make movies about these scenarios you guys.

Stanford (-3) over ARIZONA STATE
I hate this pick already. I don’t know why I insist on picking Stanford games but they seem to play big games. Stanford annihilated Arizona State twice last year. For some reason, the matchup is weighed heavily in the Cardinal’s favor. So much so that not even David Shaw can mess it up.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Week 7 College Football Picks: The Merciful End of Style Points

After a week in which everything went haywire, the resulting fallout was notable for one glorious omission – the phrase, “style points.”

oregon style points
For too long, style points had been the go-to phrase for analysts trying to decipher which two teams should play for the BCS title game. It reared its ugly head in multiple BCS controversies, whether it was Texas nudging Cal from the Rose Bowl in 2004 or Oklahoma edging Texas from the BCS Title Game in 2008. For reasons that always escaped me, we became obsessed with how many points a good team could score against a bad team – a fact that means nothing.

There are many issues that could still arise with the college football playoff. It still worries me that many have Florida State at #1 based on last year’s performance. But the discussion and debate, mercifully, is focusing on wins and losses, not margin of victory.

This shift is due to the people responsible for choosing who plays in the playoff are actually watching the games. The polls were always flawed. A coach is expected to coach his football team, not rank 25 teams. The AP Poll is flawed by forcing writers to submit ballots by early Sunday when most are covering a specific game.

The selection committee, when it comes to rankings, has one job – watch all the football. That means we can finally focus. We have seen a shift in the dynamic, as evident from the Oregon/Michigan State game. The final score obscured a tight game. Instead of Oregon getting credit for “style points” from late scores, it was accurately portrayed as a close game.

Likewise, Mississippi State only beat LSU by 5 points but anyone who saw the game witnessed LSU put up a ton of garbage points late. The Bulldogs dominated that game. The final score was almost irrelevant, secondary to the true result.

I have been skeptical about how the college football playoff will play out. So far, this is one shift that will have a profoundly positive impact on the sport.

Overall Record: 31-35
Best Bet: 2-4
Upset Special: 4-2

For the second week in a row, my Best Bet ended up being my Worst Beat. Seriously, Michigan State was up 27-3 in the fourth quarter and can’t cover a touchdown-spread? Ouch.

UCF -3.5 over Byu
This is an exceedingly tough sport for BYU. Knowing what we know now, an undefeated BYU team would have been in the playoff discussion. Instead, they lost at home to a rival for the first time since the 1970’s, got outclassed on defense, lost its star quarterback and is resigned to a fate that will not include a New Year’s Day bowl. Good luck motivating that crew.

As for UCF, the early results have been mixed to say the least but its three tough games – Penn State, Missouri and Houston – were on the road or in Ireland. They get a nice ESPN spotlight for the big first home game of the year. The crowd will be pumped and it will further motivate a UCF defense that has been really strong.

Washington State +17 over STANFORD *Upset Special*
How do I put this politely? You know what, who cares: Stanford sucks. I thought the Cardinal were being hamstrung by David Shaw. That is true to an extent, but they just do not have good players on offense this year. Kevin Hogan is an average quarterback. They don’t have a great running back. The offensive line is nowhere near past units. Beyond Ty Montgomery, who scares you? Notre Dame dominated Stanford’s offense. If not for an early Everett Golson fumble, Notre Dame shuts out Stanford for 55 minutes and the game isn’t close.

stanford notre dame 2014Stanford does have a great defense but Washington State is going to huck and chuck it all over. I would imagine Mike Leach will remind his team that Stanford eviscerated the Cougars last year in humiliating fashion.

IOWA -3 over Indiana
Is there some alternate universe where Indiana is a good football team? Yes, they beat Missouri, but that’s because Missouri played a D- game. Indiana also got blown out at home by Maryland and lost to Bowling Green.

If Iowa can’t beat Indiana at home by a field goal, Kirk Ferentz should be fired on the spot. The only reason this is not my Best Bet is because I could’ve written that same sentence prior to the Iowa State game.

Georgia -3 over MISSOURI
In July, I picked Georgia to be in the playoff. I also picked Todd Gurley to win the Heisman. There is only one thing I’ve seen so far to sway me from that and it is the bizarre reluctance to run Todd Gurley. It cost them the South Carolina game. It got them in trouble against Tennessee. You have the best player in the country, so use him.

I have no feel for Missouri, since I saw them lose to Indiana and saw them almost lose to a pretty mediocre South Carolina team. Yet, that South Carolina team beat Georgia. So it all ends up being an infinite loop of confusion. I simply do not trust Missouri to stop Todd Gurley.

Auburn -3 over MISSISSIPPI STATE
I went against Auburn last week. I went against Auburn in week 1 against Arkansas. I was a fool both times. I’m not picking against Auburn for a third time. I love how Mississippi State is playing but this feels like too much to ask, in back-to-back weeks with the most pressure the football program has ever faced. I wouldn’t call myself confident in this pick, but it just feels like Auburn is the best team in the country right now.

Oregon -2 over UCLA
I have no idea what to make of this game. Both teams have terrible offensive lines. Both teams lost at home last week as heavy favorites. Both teams have Heisman-contender QBs that are one more bad game away from losing their shot. It’s desperation time for both.

Why am I going with Oregon? Because they had that Michigan State game. If they can keep Marcus Mariota upright, there is no one stopping that offense. UCLA had all kinds of problems last week with Utah’s running quarterback and Mariota is a lot better.

Please note: I flip-flopped on this game four times before settling on Oregon.

BAYLOR -8.5 over Tcu
I am going to ride against TCU for one more week. I consider it very troubling they gave up that many points to Oklahoma and have a team with an even better offense next on the schedule. It’s worth noting that Baylor has been very mediocre on the road in recent years but have been lights out at home – having won 21 of their last 22 in Waco.

This is Baylor’s coming out party as they finally play a real team after a month and a half of cupcakes. You get the feeling Baylor and Art Briles would like to make a statement. A big win here and Baylor will be firmly planted in the Top 4 until someone – anyone? – can knock them off.

ARKANSAS +10 over Alabama
I was wrong last week about Alabama. They aren’t that good. They lost to Ole Miss and Ole Miss didn’t even play well for three quarters. Alabama looked as shaky as they have looked in seven years. Even the 2010 team that underachieved was so talented that you could see them underachieving despite having future NFLers all over the place.

This Alabama team? I think they’re just average. Yeah, it’s Alabama average, which means New Year’s Day in Orlando but they will be lucky to beat Arkansas. I can only imagine the scene for calling the Hogs will be something else. Like UCF, this is their first big home game after playing at Auburn and in Arlington versus Texas A&M. Place will be live Saturday night.

memphis cincinnati football
MEMPHIS -9 over Houston *Best Bet*
Hello, easy money. Memphis is the second-best team in the AAC by a wide margin, or about the 27 points they beat Cincinnati by. That game wasn’t even that close. Memphis lost to UCLA by one score in the Rose Bowl and was tied 3-3 to now #3 Ole Miss in the fourth quarter. They are an order of magnitude better than Houston, which has lost to UTSA and couldn’t score a touchdown at home versus UCF.

Fun prediction because I like to party: Memphis will win this game by at least 21 points.

TEXAS A&M -2 over Ole Miss
I do not see how Ole Miss gets up again after last week. The win and atmosphere surrounding last week’s Alabama game may never be matched again. It was the biggest weekend in Oxford in my lifetime, even surpassing the Eli Manning years. They have to come back a week later, travel to College Station and play a pissed off Texas A&M team at night?

Let’s make no mistake: Ole Miss deserves all the credit in the world for beating Alabama, but they didn’t actually play that well. You can either look at this as a team that is #3 in the country and can improve – or a team that is punching above its weight. For one more week, I’m leaning toward the latter.

Usc -2.5 over ARIZONA
I feel stupid already for making this pick. The late night Pac-12 games have made absolutely no sense all year, so why should they start?

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The PGA Tour Wrap-Around Schedule is So Very, Very Dumb

What if I told you the new PGA Tour season begins in the second week of October?

frys.com 2014“That’s stupid, who watches golf in the fall?”

“That’s stupid, didn’t the golf season just end?”

“That’s stupid, but are Tiger and Phil playing?”

The answers to your queries are no one, yes and no – and it’s very, very stupid. For reasons beyond me and that only make sense in the twisted mind of PGA Tour chief Tim Finchem, the 2014-15 PGA Tour season begins with the Frys.com Open in Scottsdale.

The Frys.com Open has an illustrious history, with past winners including household names such as Jonas Blixt, Bryce Molder and the immortal Troy Matterson. Wait, wait, no. This is all wrong. I must have Googled something incorrectly. There is no way the PGA Tour season is starting…

Nope, I was right. The PGA Tour season is beginning just three weeks after the last one ended. Would you even call that an offseason?

Several years ago, in a move that zero golf fans were clamoring for, the PGA Tour completely changed its schedule. Like most of the drastic moves the Tour has made in the past decade, it has gone over with the same reverence one holds for a fart in church.

It all stems from the PGA Tour’s concern that people stopped paying attention to golf after the final major of the season, the always fantastic PGA Championship. I will spoil the ending – the vast majority of sports fan still ignore golf after that tournament concludes.

For years, the PGA season ended proper with the Tour Championship in early November, some two months after the PGA Championship. Many top players essentially took the fall off, playing only a couple of tournaments, before showing up to the Tour Championship. If they showed up at all, as Tiger and Phil – the Tour’s biggest draws by several Rory McIlroy tee shots – skipped the event at times.

To fix that problem, the Tour made a new one by instituting the FedEx Cup, to wrap up the season in mid-September, carrying the momentum from the PGA Championship and hoping to snag some attention before football season took hold. That didn’t work. But it is still better than the old system, if barely.

The problem – or the problem the Tour saw – was that its “Fall Series” of tournaments were turned into minor league events, featuring guys struggling to keep their Tour cards for the following year. The Tour was still on a calendar year season and, for golf nerds, the Fall Series was incredible. I put that in italics because it must be said. Guys fighting for their livelihood was riveting television if you loved golf.

The PGA Tour, obviously, does not care about people that love golf. They make money from people who merely like golf. The golf-likers were not watching the Fall Series that the golf-lovers enjoyed. So they blew it up.

What we have now is the monstrosity of a 12-month PGA Tour wrap-around schedule that begins in October and ends in September. With the exception of silly season – the made for TV events in December – there is no break for the PGA Tour.

How stupid is this idea? Well, it has accomplished zero of the goals the PGA Tour wants and has added only headaches.

Because the season needs to start in October, they smash a whole bunch of tournaments in August and September, forcing guys to play 7 or 8 weeks in a row. I can hear you cracking, “But it’s golf.” And it is. But it’s still taxing to play two months straight in big tournaments, not even including the Ryder Cup.

Secondly, the top players are still avoiding the fall tournaments like the plague, which means TV viewers are still avoiding the fall tournaments like the plague.  Look at this player field and pick out the stars. Good luck.

The worst part is the complete and total lack of fanfare when the new season starts. I happened to be going through my Comcast guide for Thursday – curious about potential Game 5s in baseball – when I saw PGA Tour Golf listed. My first thought was, “No, that can’t be right.”

Think about the other sports – literally, every single one – and the anticipation built up before the first games. College basketball fans are so starved, they have made a spectacle out of the first practice! By the time the NFL season rolls around, football fans are practically (literally?) foaming from the mouth.

Golf fans? They haven’t even had time to digest the Ryder Cup before the new season starts, if only briefly to take its usual December break.

And here’s where I mention the really stupid part – there is more interesting golf being played elsewhere in the world during the fall. The European Tour still operates on a calendar year schedule, so its version of the FedEx Cup, the Race to Dubai, wraps up the week before Thanksgiving. There is a WGC event in China in early November. And Australia pops in with its biggest tournaments of the year.

So to recap, the PGA Tour willingly starts it season behind football, baseball and NASCAR in the States while trailing behind other golf worldwide. To pour salt on the wounds, the PGA used to be the only American sport to operate on a calendar year schedule, which meant it could actually generate interest in January as football finally winds down.

Instead, its season starts this week. I won’t be watching. Odds are, you won’t be either.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

A Good Manager Adapts; A Poor Manager Always Sticks to the Plan

"If he got in trouble in the ninth or got a baserunner, we were going to bring our closer in. That's what we've done all year." – Matt Williams, National manager

On Saturday night, the Nationals were one out away from tying up its National League Division Series against the Giants at one game apiece. On the mound, the Nats had their best pitcher in a groove that pitchers dream about. He had not given up a hit in six innings. The start prior, he went the full nine without giving up a hit.

stupid matt williams
The Nats lost the game because Matt Williams stuck to his plan.

With two outs in the ninth, Jordan Zimmermann walked a batter. As you see from the quote above, Williams had his mind made up. Regardless of circumstances or variables, Williams was going to pull his starter if a runner reached base. Why? Because, “That’s what we’ve done all year.”

That one statement perfectly encapsulated why Matt Williams is not a good baseball manager. Those are the words you never want to hear from a manager in any walk of life.

Watching the Nats for the 2014 season made one thing very clear: Williams was the Nationals’ biggest liability. He made questionable decisions, particularly with the bullpen, all year long. The Nats’ incredibly talented lineup and pitching staff turned Williams into nothing more than a chauffeur for the second half of the season. He just needed to get out of the way.

But come October in baseball, the manager is a difference maker. More than any other sport, the manager in baseball has a distinct impact on the game with specific moves. For two games, Williams has been severely out-managed by the Giants skipper, Bruce Bochy, who not coincidentally has two World Series rings.

Williams’ insistence on doing what has worked in the past made me think of my professional career and the difference between good managers and bad managers. There are many different managerial styles for employees. It’s impossible to say what works and what doesn’t work with any certainty because there are so many variables to the manager/employee relationship. Some employees need the stick – others needs the carrot.

However, there is one trait that is universal to poor managers: they do not adapt. Matt Williams embodied that on Saturday night.

Whether I’m searching for a new job, starting a new one, or working with new vendors, I will invariably ask, “Why?” Why do we this that way? Why are we going in this direction? I need to hear a reason. I may not agree with the reason but I want to know the thought process behind a decision.

“That’s the way we’ve always done it,” makes me cringe. I have heard it far too often in my professional life. Simply put, it is the worst possible answer you can give to explain a business decision.

That answer will get your business in trouble. If you think about the companies and industries that have failed, it is usually their insistence on the status quo. Blackberry did the same thing for years, until its market share was swallowed whole. Fox kept relying on American Idol to drive ratings until the show had nothing left to give and the network now languishes in fourth place.  The American auto industry was on the brink of ruin by failing to innovate. I’m sure you have your own example at the top of mind right now.

Please do not misinterpret – what was worked in the past can certainly continue to work in the future. But there must be a better reason to continue to doing so beyond past success. Our world is changing far too fast to be beholden to what worked last year, last month or even last week.

Two weeks ago, someone asked me a question about our website. I almost responded with, “Because that’s the way it’s always been,” before stopping, feeling embarrassed and answering with, “I don’t know, let me find out.” I found out. It wasn’t a good reason. We will be changing it.

Sure, it would have been easier to succumb to the status quo, especially for a page that accounts for such a minute percentage of our traffic. The path to success is rarely the easier one.

On Saturday, Matt Williams exemplified the fallacy of falling back on past successes. If you cannot adapt to new situations, you will fail. That’s what poor managers do. And that’s why I was a very unhappy person just past midnight Sunday morning.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

7 Ways MLB Postseason Coverage is Terrible

The playoffs in Major League Baseball are the most unique in all of sports. With the exception of overtime playoff hockey, no sports changes as dramatically in the postseason.

Think back to the AL Wild Card and how the Royals battled back from 7-3 down. Almost everything that happened in that game from the 7th inning on could only happen in the postseason. It's absolutely incredible and terrifying at the same time, depending on your rooting allegiance.

royals 2014
Simply put, baseball in October is the best. That's why I watch. That's why many people watch. That's why the game is perfect.

Unfortunately, everything surrounding the sport in October is not. While I've made my displeasure about the second Wild Card known, that pales in comparison to how poorly the sport is covered and televised in October.

It appears Bud Selig and company went out of their way to provide the worst television product possible. Here's why:

1) Ernie Johnson: Horrible Baseball Announcer
Every criticism of Johnson has to be prefaced with, "But I love him on Inside the NBA." And I do. And we all do. But he is an atrocious baseball announcer. His performance during the AL Wild Card game was one of the worst I can ever remember. On Tuesday night, an all-time classic unfolded and Johnson put forth less emotion than I hear from the Nats announcers in March. Frankly, it was an insult.

On Thursday night, Johnson continued his reign of indifference when the first pitch thrown by a Royals pitcher was blasted to centerfield for what appeared to be a leadoff home run until Lorenzo Cain made a mind-blowing, home-run-robbing catch. It was the stuff October legends are made of. Johnson treated it like a routine pop fly in August.

It is inexcusable that a horrible, part-time announcer is calling the biggest games of the year. There are about 30 everyday announcers who would make a better choice. Couldn’t NBC loan them Bob Costas for a couple weeks?

2) TBS should not be involved
TBS airs 13 games during the regular season. It will air up to 18 games in October. You see the disconnect here? It reminds me of the college football coverage fiasco when Fox aired the BCS for four years before it aired any regular season games. Fox gave us endless band shots, random announcer pairings and Thom Brennaman verbally spinning sonnets for Tim Tebow.

TBS has been awful. During the AL Wild Card, they lacked correct camera angles. They produced a brutal spot where George Brett tried to read a promo. The aforementioned Ernie Johnson is paired with Cal Ripken, who talks like a guy who has never played baseball before in his life. Ron Darling – sterling in the regular season – is reduced to bystander in a three-man booth that instantly contends for worst announce crew in baseball history.

MLB is the only sport where a part-time partner covers the biggest games. In the NBA, TNT and ESPN cover the sport during the season and air the playoffs. In the NHL, NBCSN does everything. In college football, ESPN carries the torch from beginning to end. It's not rocket science. MLB chased the money. We can all agree ESPN and Fox should be covering the playoffs. As evident by the NL Wild Card coverage: ESPN knows what it's doing and TBS does not.

3) Airing games exclusively on the MLB Network
The Washington Nationals will play a playoff game on a network that is not available in every DC area home, or even close to every DC area home. It is a disgrace. The MLB Network should not have exclusive coverage for a playoff game when its penetration pales in comparison to local sports networks in this city and national sports networks in this country.

MLB isn't alone as the NHL Network and the NBA Network both air playoff games. The huge, monstrous difference is that the latter two leagues share coverage in local markets. That is not the case in DC. It is wrong and should not be allowed to happen.

4) Airing games during weekday afternoons
I was rooting for the Giants on Wednesday night. It wasn't because they would be a better matchup for the Nationals. It was because a Giants win meant Game 1 would start at 3 pm Friday instead of noon Friday. Why on Earth a baseball playoff game is starting at noon on a work day is beyond anything I can imagine.

1964 world series game 1
You want to grow the sport of baseball by playing games when everyone is at work or at school? How is that a good idea?

There is a bizarre romanticism and fascination with World Series games being played in the day 60 years ago.  Ken Burns' Baseball documentary gave us glowing memories of school kids sneaking out to listen to the game on radio. While this is undoubtedly a part of Americana, things have changed. For one, stadiums have lights. For two, we have televisions. For three, baseball is 18 miles behind football in popularity and should do anything it can to grow the audience.

Do you think Fox and TBS would rather air a game at noon on Friday or 7 pm on Friday? There is only one important sporting event that is allowed to take place at noon on non-holiday Friday and it's the NCAA Tournament.

5) Sacrificing viewers to build Fox Sports 1
So far, Fox Sports 1 has been a total and complete disaster when it comes to ratings. I say that because no one is watching. Their original shows have all bombed and/or been canceled. Their big gamble on Big East basketball led to viewing audiences in the five digits. They wanted to compete with ESPN but lag behind ESPN2...and NBCSN.

In attempt to build the network, Fox Sports 1 paid a metric ton of money for playoff baseball. It was recently reported Fox is unleashing its biggest sportsmarketing push ever to tell people where to watch the games. Do I need to explain why that's a bad idea for your sport's biggest games? I haven’t see ESPN running ads telling me what channel to watch LeBron in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The only corollary is the NHL and NBCSN using each other but with one not-so-slight difference: the NHL was coming back from a lost season and desperate for coverage. MLB is not desperate for coverage. Again, they chased the money and their audiences are going to be way down this year.

6) Game times are not set in advance
This is a growing trend in sports where game times are not announced in advance. Usually, the times are announced at least a week out. For the NBA and NHL playoffs, game times can come out a day or two prior, but it's usually a difference between 7 pm or 7:30 pm, which doesn't affect plans.

Baseball is not like that at all. Game 1 for the Nats could have been at noon or 3 pm. Game 4 could be at 7 or 10, while Game 5 at 5 or 8. It's ridiculous for people trying to attend these games and even worse for people trying to watch these games.

I know the Nats are playing Friday afternoon at 3 pm on Fox Sports 1. According to my Comcast guide, Fox Sports 1 is airing "TO BE ANNOUNCED" at 3 pm.

7) Way too many graphics
Baseball is the simplest sport on Earth and why it's so great. You get 3 strikes. You get 3 outs. There are four bases. Go score runs.

However, sports coverage in 2014 is never satisfied with just showing you what you tuned in for, which is the actual game. No, TBS and Fox unleash a mountain of graphics overlaid on live actions and replays when all you need is the little score box with particulars.

There have been two great inventions in sport television in the past 20 years: the score box and the first-down line in football. Nothing else has added to coverage.

I want you to remember that when TBS shows you that the shortstop is playing where a shortstop traditionally plays as Ernie Johnson monotonously throws it to an interview with a distracted athlete in the stands.

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