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MLB17 Chin-Music: Derby Downtime Induces Cubs Late Season Delivery

1 Aug

Say hello to the new new Chicago Cubs! That’s no typo, I’ll explain.

The new Cubs were 2016 MLB champions. The new new Bruins are the current version that seems to have shaken off the malaise that had permeated their clubhouse from May into early July. When they needed runs on the scoreboard they couldn’t score ’em, when they sought to stop their opponents from crossing home plate they couldn‘t shut ’em down.

But the Northsiders recent run of winning ball (13-3) has seen them bounce the Brewers, season-long NL Central stalwarts, from the top perch last week, a change in divisional standing reinforced this past weekend when Chicago took 2 of 3 closely fought contests at Miller Park.

The change from enigmatic defending champs into a club with clout can be traced back to the 3-day Derby layoff in mid-July.

So begins the separation process where the eventual division champ comes into focus (some flag-grabbers have been crystal clear since springtime) and the also-rans start to fade in the dog-days of late summer.

Notice I didn’t write All-Star game layoff.

MLB’s mid-season shindig hasn’t been about its best ball-players for many moons now, not since Bud Selig & Sponsors decided at the height of the steriod surge (90s) to highlight the home run, putting muscle over what really matters, League rivalry and showcasing the variety of baseball skills from mound to mitt to making contact with the bat, be it single or space-shot.

Coming off their excruciatingly long awaited (1908) World Series win that had much the nation applauding, in relief more than anything, and Chicago’s worthy opponents, the Indians, shaking their heads (were up 3-1), the Cubs actually began their trophy season in fine enough form, going 13-11 in April.

But starting in early May and going to Derby time the Cubs looked downright pedestrian in a group not exactly brimming over with contenders.

Besides Milwaukee there hasn’t been much to crow about in either Midwestern bracket, be it Senior or Junior circuit, although Indians and Royals have, like the Cubs, fought their ways back into respectability at or near 10-games over (.500). All of which means this state of parity will ensure that the wild-card and half the division races will go down to the September wire.

The Bruins, like most clubs in 2017, have had their share of injuries. Blame, however, for their inconsistency lay in untimely hitting (7th in both runs (477) and RBI (454) (NL)) and dead bats (.244 BA (13) / 877 SO (9)). The champs can, as in 2016, still generally generate the 4-bagger (141 (5)).

Team pitching’s been better than average (4.00 ERA (4 / 4.35 MLB)) even as staff stars Jon Lester (8-6) and Jake Arrieta (10-7) have regularly struggled. Encouraging signs as stretch-run nears are, 1) KC closer pick-up, tall Wade Davis (6’5 / 20sv / 2.12) is nearly always closing when given the chance which ain’t often this season; 2) middle-relief in Duensing (L), Edwards, Rondon & Strop has been effective with most ERAs around 2.50 (Hector 4.31 / 5hr) with fine ratios (BB-to-SO / H-&-R), and 3) team run-stoppage (401 (12)), a rank 4th best (Numerical ordering of league ranks around the web confuses and needs clarity) that lags behind League darlings the Dodgers (317) yet shows understanding of its necessity, especially come post-season.

The champs have been feeding off their new title like a baby feeds off its Mama. That’s good for awhile but now it’s time for the Wrigleyites to get onto solids, stand on their own two 2017 feet and take seriously the task of doing what their famous tough-as-nails forefathers did in 1908: Win their third pennant and 2d consecutive World Series championship (v. DET (4-1)).

Will today’s Central standings hold for the duration? Chicago has the edge over Suds City in experience so it’s certainly within realm of possibility that they’ll have the mental wherewithal to hold on the rest of the way. All one need do is get their playoff ticket punched for, once you’re in, regular season records mean little. That Pennant flag is up for grabs and ANYTHING can happen.

And ‘anything’ these days usually means the Los Angeles Dodgers fold-up their title-hunting tent pretty early (See; 1988). Senators (Nats) haven’t faired much better since they reconfigured in the nation’s Capital.

National League contenders Arizona (60-45 (3 games)) and Washington (62-41 (3)) are in the City of Big Shoulders to start the August slate and should prove a good test of the Cubs re-discovered moxie: Real or transitory?

But Milwaukee’s a feisty crew, appearing equal to the task of unseating their I-94 rival to the South. They’ve given up the lead but that mark of contendership does not wear-off easily. And if any ball-club knows how to stop a separation process (See; beer) it should be a team from Milwaukee tagged the Brewers.

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credit: JoeMaddon, wc.cca, A.PardavilaIII, 10.20.16; AnthonyRizzo, wc.cca, B.Grey, 8.1.12; Bryant-Machado-Reyburn, wc.cca, MD, 7.15.17, K.Allison; Cubs, 1908, G.Lawrence, wc.cca
Posted: 8.1.17 @ 4:22p EST; Copyright © 2017

MLB17 Chin Music: With Cubs Ascendancy, Baseball’s Spotlight Swings Midwest

4 Jan

Now that the Chicago Cubs have rediscovered their long dormant championship flair, a find expedited by an ownership (Ricketts) that acquired top managerial (Theo Epstein & Joe Maddon) and player talent, the 2017 MLB spotlight swings Midwest, back to the region where major league baseball was first imagined (Hulbert), empowered (NL – 1876) and then came to thrive.

Champions for the 9th time (Cap Anson (6), Frank Chance (2) & Maddon (1)), the new & improved Northsiders seem to have a vision, egos largely in check, are still wearing their classic blue-pinstripes and still lovable even as ticket prices climb. All of it is, of course, a friggin’ nightmare for Cubs regional rivals (Pale Hose, Redbirds, etc.). But then teams of substance love a challenge, right? Right.

cubs-wc-18k-1957-78-sportslogoThe toast of that “toddling town,” the “big shoulder(ed)” Bruins who last November won their first World Series since 1908, that being the 2d in a back-to-back (1907), making it the first dynasty in the World Series era, the same year “Take Me Out To The Ball-Game” made the stadium scene, currently hold the biggest championship sandwich in all of sport. Chomp!

Cubbies (you can still call ’em that) took MLB’s first title in 1876 when the great Al Spalding (Byron, IL) was a top moundsman precedent to launch of his sporting goods empire, and have sandwiched in that 140 years all the good & bad included therein, by way of their 2016 triumph over the hearty Cleveland Indians.

Baseball may not’ve been invented in the old Northwest Territory but its people and their passions certainly played the major role in turning the game, and its entertainment value, into America’s great national pastime.

While the White Stockings (Cubs), led by legendary men like Spalding, Fred Goldsmith, Ross Barnes, Deacon White, Anson, King Kelly, Larry Corcoran, George Gore and John Clarkson, were dominating the new National League in taking 6 of its first 11 championships, including 3-straight (1880-82), 250 miles southwest, German immigrant made-good-in-beer, owner Chris von der Ahe was building his St. Louis Brown Stockings of the rival American Association, a team featuring Charles Comiskey and Bob Caruthers, into an equally titanesque team, one that dominated their fraternity in fashioning their own early dynasty in winning four-straight AA titles (1885-88).

cubs-wc-bpl-1906-196kLook at the line: Harry & George Wright’s Cincinnati Red Stockings (1869), Chicago wheeler-dealer William Hulbert who first conceived of the major league and then worked to keep it alive (1875-6), acting with iron-fist as defacto Commissioner, the White (Cubs) and the Brown Stockings (Cardinals): Boston, New York, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Providence, they all had their glory, some of it sustained, but until Babe Ruth suited up for the majors (Red Sox / Yankees), regardless of what John McGraw might say, west of the Appalachians was where the game’s ‘main office’ would remain until the 1920s.

Since the Yanks gave up their World Series monopoly (1963), the joy of winning has spread from coast-to-coast. Good for baseball, good for fans, worldwide.

Today, it’s the Cubs who stoke Midwestern pride. And as the Bruins are the most popular sport franchise in the nation, even before they raised their latest championship banner, or will come April, that state means plenty.

Their biggest off-season news, exit of table-setter Dexter Fowler to St. Louis. Cubs will miss his run production (84 – 125g) and playoff pop. What they won’t miss of the 30-year old are his SOs (124) and low OBP% (.393).

cubscelebrate-wc-11-3-16-a-pardavilaiii-7mCardinals: Though the Yanks had rebirths in more recent times (70s / the Joes), from 1926 to the present it’s been the Cardinals who, while never fashioning back-to-backs, have been the consistent standard of excellence in the major league game on par with the Highlanders.

Tigers: It’s been 30+ since Michigan’s pride won a WS in that transcendent 1984 when Sparky Anderson & Co. jumped out early and never looked back (.614). Two flags and a half dozen playoffs under Jim Leyland left the franchise hopeful yet frustrated. Aces remain in the aging Verlander and Cabrera, purse-strings tighten on big payroll and Tigers’ ownership seem content to lick their wounds for now.

Indians: Like Detroit, after Mike Hargrove’s two pennants and two WS losses, Tribe lowered expectations for a time. Now back on a mission with the same man who helped quench Red Sox championship drought (x2), hoping Terry Francona can get his club back to another Series, up 3-1 and able to close the deal.

Royals: Cast-off from Milwaukee, Ned Yost has managed KC to two flags in three years and a World Series win (‘15), Royals first since 1985 when Dick Howser skipped, Brett hit, Saberhagen won and Quisenberry closed. Stumbled a bit in 2016 but kept heads above water (81-81) and expect to contend again.

arrieta-wsg6-11-2-16-a-pardavilaiii-3-2mBrewers: Kick themselves for thinking Yost the wrong man (fired 2008, 83-67). For a club priding itself on thrift, even if it means one flag in 47 years (‘82), they should kick themselves, hard. Good call on Fielder but at 5’11” and near 300 lbs., how long could it last? Wisconsin taxpayers still waiting for a return (WS) on their Miller Park investment (2001). Patience is a virtue, until it’s not…Mark.

White Sox: Cubs southside rival (1901), Sox play in a park (Guaranteed Rate) whose name changes for dollars, making it occupant’s poor play seem of lesser importance. Champs in 2008, Pale Hose now remind Chicagoans of ‘85 Bears whose single SB win stands as both a testament to excellence and unfulfillment.

Reds: Last pennant, 1990 (win).

Twins: Last pennant, 1991 (win).

Pirates: Last pennant, 1979 (win).

canned-cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: RizzoCelebrates, wc.cca, 11.3.16, A.PardavilaIII; Cubs-logo, wc, 1957-78, sportslogo; CubsTeam, 1906, Boston-Public-Library, wc; Cubs-Celebrate, wc, 11.3.16, A.PardavilaIII; J.Arrieta, wc, 11.2.16, WS-G6, A.PardavilaIII; can-of-corn
Posted: 1.4.17 @ 11:17am, edit 3:06 EST; Copyright © 2017

MLB16 Chin Music: What If Cubs Do Win a World Series, Again?

19 Feb

These are different days in the land of bruins, “big shoulders” and manually-operated scoreboards.

If you’d been pulling a Rip Van Winkle and just awoke from your Washington Irving-like slumber you might not recognize the goings on at Wrigley Field.

.....CubsLogo.1914.Wjmummert.wc.thmOh, the renovations at the century old structure (1914), originally named Weeghman Park and home to the Federal League champion Whales, haven’t changed it a whole lot. It still retains that certain brick & steel-beam charm but with more lights, seats, eats for the adults and bells & whistles for the Xbox® set.

And they best be careful what they do with that playing surface. It’s where Cubs’ great Charlie Grimm (d. 1983) had his ashes spread (Wikipedia). Hallowed ground, indeed.

The new mood amongst the faithful isn’t so much more upbeat as Cubs fans have always been the glass-half full sort, as it is more…expectant, an air of confidence they‘ve not had at the ‘friendly confines’ for quite some time.

...........Epstein.9.8.10.wc.S.Slingsby.thmEven the ivy, what’s left, looks more hopeful, if a bit nervy.

The hirings of wunderkind executive Theo Epstein (2011 (5y)) and then prized manager Joe Maddon (2015) were the table-setters to a hoped-for celebratory feast (WS win), marking the first major investments by the Ricketts family who purchased controlling share of World Cubs in 2009.

Ricketts tugged tight on those purse strings in early going to get team’s financial house in order in wake of Tribune’s economic plight (a prior ownership that had on occasion, like Wrigleys, made serious investments in winning) and some hefty contracts weighing on the books. But they’ve loosened those strings a bit with mind’s eye for pennants and championship banners. At least that’s the notion.

Though off-season signings of Jason Heyward (.268 (RF)) and ringholders Ben Zobrist (.265 (2d)) and moundsmen John Lackey (165-127) showed the Cubs are in a mood for winning now, the cultivation & keeping of young, homegrown (Bryant) or trade-acquired talent (Rondon / Rizzo), as opposed to free agency, seems the tack the Cubs’ braintrust favors.

..........Maddon.wc.4.14.14.MD.K.Allison.thmConfidence wasn’t always such a rare commodity in Chicago’s National League exchange. No sir-ee, Bob.

The Cubs today are butt of the longest running joke on championship futility. But because subject-history has been trampled flat by current trend-setters (See; the Prez, etc.) in favor of math, science, more math (sabrmetrics), most folks have no idea about Chicago’s glory days of yore.

The name Chicago had struck fear into the hearts of foes in the 1880s (White Stockings) when Cap Anson, John Clarkson and King “Hook-Slide” Kelly were busting balls, then again in the early 20th when the greatest pitching staff ever assembled was mowing ‘em down at West Side Park (Grounds) while the fielding exploits of Steinfeldt to “Tinker to Evers to Chance” were driving New Yorkers to despair and alternatively inspiring some to pen poems (F.P. Adams) in honor of the brawny & brainy Bruins.

That’s saying something in an age when players, managers, umpires, bowler-wearing fans, even kid vendors were tough as nails. ‘Put ‘em up, panty-waist!’

.........Chance.wc.1909.ATC.LoC.thmThough their last World Series win (1908), 2d of the 1st back-to-back dynasty in modern history, was over a century ago, collecting pennants is no small achievement. From 1929 to 1945 the Cubs collected Senior circuit banners like nobody‘s business, appearing in 5 and taking Tigers to 7 in their last.

It’s that near 40-year period from 1946 to just before the magical season of 1984 as Ryno, Rick, Jim Frey, Don Zimmer, Harry Caray & Co. finally broke the post-season drought, when the seed for a weeping willow of woe was sown & cultivated by a succession of sorries.

Since that bittersweet ‘84 when Cubs were still ‘day-timers only’ and Ueberroth made the money-call to gave their playoff opponents the Padres (3-2) home-field even as Chicago had the top mark, the Northsiders have made the PS six times, including the NLCS in 2003 (FL 4-3). Not exactly a source for Midwest bragging rights but a far cry from the futility the bear Cubs had suffered for what seemed an eternity. It’s been moving in the right direction, anyway.

........Bryant.4.27.15.MBD.Chicago.thm.wcBut hold off on stocking that celebratory champagne just yet. These Cubs have a few burs in their fur that need attention.

Last season’s team BA (.244 – 13th NL (KC .269 (2d AL)) and strikeout totals (1518 – 15 (KC 973 – 1st)) are unacceptable lines for a championship caliber club. And no off-season acquisitions look likely to change that worrisome state.

Encouraging marks were the OB% (.321 – 5 (KC .322 – 7)) and favorable run production (689 – 6th (KC 724 – 6)) with Rizzo (94), Bryant (87) and Fowler (102), all mainstays who look to have a nose for the plate when they manage to get on base, not made easier with that woeful whiff total.

Some stern instruction in fundamentals seems in order for Chicago’s bat-control and the glove work, another necessity if Chicago seeks a place among MLB elite. Cubs sat in bottom bracket on team fielding (.982 – 12 (KC .985 – 3)) and errors (111 – 12th (KC 88 – 6)). The signing of 3-time gold glover Heyward will help.

.......Arrieta.wc.DSCN0048.thm..6.24.14As for the moundsmen, Bruins have their ace in re-signed 2015 Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta (R) while both Jon Lester (L (10)) and newly acquired John Lackey (R (13)) will provide innings and a wealth of craft.

Jon had a disappointing first year in the Senior Circuit, posting 11-12, in opposite of king’s ransom he’d negotiated. Lackey pitched alike his first half-season with the Cards (3-3 / 4.30 (‘14)) and picked-it-up in 2015 (13-10 / 2.77). All three stars gave mixed performances in their post-season outings last October.

Jake’s 2-1 record is misleading. The Missouri native pitched a gem in WC win vs PIT but averaged a hefty 6.50 ERA (1-1) and 4 runs in limited outings vs STL [W] and NYM [L]. Jon, known for his playoff prowess from Beantown days (‘07-13) pitched pedestrian in his two starts (0-2 / 4.50) and served up 3 dingers in 13i.

Fourth starter Jason Hamel, also in his 2d decade, went 10-7 (3.74), faltered in the PS too (2g-7h-7r (3hr)) but figures back in the rotation as Kyle Hendricks (3.95) and Adam Warren (3.29 (NYY-Castro)) may duel for the fifth spot.

.......Wrigley.wc.Jblesage.5.28.08.thmCubs’ closer is Venezuela-born Héctor Rondón (30sv / 1.67). Indians signee at 16 (‘04), Cubs took Rondón in “2012 Rule 5 Draft.” He came with an injury-history, a TJS in 2010 and elbow bang the next year (Wikipedia) but has been tooling along fine for Chicago since 2014. His showing in last season’s PS was mixed as well, shutting the door on STL (NLDS) in G2 & 4 after a shaky outing in G3 and only one hit surrendered in two, non-lead closer stints vs Mets (NLCS (0-4)).

Returning for mid-relief are Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, Clayton Richard & Travis Wood who in 2015 provided the bulk of innings for the Northsiders (100ip). “Sweet Trav (Overboard ’87)” was a 2013 All-Star but gave up 11 “tatters (G.Scott)” last year while Grimm posted a nifty 1.99e in just under 50i of work.

But a message to Wrigley regulars: Careful what you wish, you just might get it.

......Inherit.Tracy.wc.1960.UA.thmWith progress comes a cost, a quid pro quo of sorts. When you gain something you also lose something. For the Cubs and their followers, if they do hoist the World Series trophy, that price may be the ‘lovable’ they’ve been serving up since 1945. Spencer Tracy (“Henry Drummond”) spoke to this yin-yang thing in Stanley Kramer’s highly acclaimed Scopes Monkey Trial movie, Inherit the Wind (‘60):

Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it.
Sometimes I think there’s a man who sits behind a counter and says, ‘All right, you can have a telephone but you lose privacy and the charm of distance.
Madam, you may vote but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder puff or your petticoat. And Mister, you may conquer the air but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline.’”

The faithful, the Ricketts, sports media, all may’ve failed to give enough thought to exactly what it will mean to the Cozy World of Confine if the Cubs actually do get to and then win a World Series, this year or any for that matter.

............whatIf.maryeoriginals.wc.5.4.14.thmRed, white & blue Bruins have built so much out of “nothing” it’s become the “cool(est) hand” in all of sport. Everybody likes the Cubs. The undying love they engender in their fans nationwide is admired on par with Yankees’ prowess. And the nobody’s, who cares what they think? What do titles get you anyway? A run-o-the-mill championship package from Sports Illustrated and higher ticket prices, that’s what.

Cubbies are cool to a ♫ tune ♫ of a $1.8 billion valuation (Forbes). Near chicken-feed to what your friendly neighborhood pharmaceutical draws in a fiscal year but not too shabby for so-called ‘losers,’ eh?

If “Cubs win” in the WS they become just like all the other champions today: Fairly forgettable. Pop Quiz: Who won the Series in 2014? Yeah, “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Balderdash.

Fenway faithful understand of what I write, how winning changes things.

Finally breaking the drought (2004 (1918 (v Cubs))) to take a World Series title again can be cathartic for those who still hold the pain from the good chances that got away (‘67, ‘75, ‘86).

....Chicago.MI.Ave.wc.4.9.11.L.Fuss.thmBut it’s a different mood in Boston these days. Success is sweet but it can be a pretty girl with a fickle heart once the winning becomes an expectant: Warm in clover, cold when the chips are down.

And that’s hyperbole. A ticker-tape parade on Michigan Ave. in October, so thick with confetti “The Fugitive” could elude the coppers for days would be a beautiful sight. Even the lordly Cardinals’ fans, those who love the game, might nod in grudging appreciation, as long as it‘s not the Cubs who again bump ‘em from the PS (See; 2015 DS) on their way to the Series. Ouch.

Ready to rain on those parade preparations are other baseball clubs with their own aspirations to glory.

For starters, there’s the reigning champ Royals, newer version of Miami’s “No-name” NFL bunch back in the 70s. Joe got the loot but Ned Yost got the hoot (ring). These guys just might want a dynasty for the KC-side of Missouri.

Then there’s the Giants, winners of three Series the past six seasons, staggered every even-numbered year which means they’re due in 2016.

....FDR.wc.cca.E.Goldensky.1933.thumbAdd in the usual contenders like the Cardinals, Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, new-comers in the Pirates, Astros, Blue Jays and last year’s NL pennant takers the Mets and there are Seven Ways from Sundown (‘60) that could keep the Cubs frustrated.

Progress, like time, marches on. If Cubs don’t win the World Series sometime soon it’s just proof the Sporting Gods are stark, raving lunatics, or they simply know better. That’s why they’re deities.

A man who knew a thing or two about progress was at the Allied controls when the spring Cubs were about to embark on a season that’d take them to what was to be their last fall classic (‘45), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945 (Warm Springs, GA)):

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much (Yankees & Cardinals), but whether we provide enough for those who have too little (Royals (2015) and Cubs (?)).”

Hooray for progress! Play ball!

...canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: Cubs, wc-cca, 1957-78, Sportslogo; CubsLogo, wc, Wjmummert, 1914; Epstein, wc, 9.8.10, S.Slingsby; Maddon, 4.14.14, wc, K.Allison, MD; Chance, wc, ATC, 1909, LoC; Bryant, 4.27.15, MBD, wc, Chicago; Arrieta, wc, DSCN0048, 6.24.14, Wrigley, wc, Jblesage, 5.28.08; InherittheWind, Tracy, UA, 1960, wc; WhatIf, wc, maryoriginals, 5.4.14; Chicago-street-sign-MI-CHI-Ave, wc, 4.9.11, L.Fuss; FDR-girl, wc, 02-41, top college; FDR, wc, E.Goldensky, 1933; Canned-corn.
Posted: 2.19.16 @ 12:10p, edit (title) 10.22.16 @ 2:34p ET; Copyright © 2016
Stat / bio sources: Baseball-reference, Rotoworld & Wikipedia

NFL14 Cherry Picks W9: Contender Poor

1 Nov

The Great Pretender(s)

You might’ve heard Carl Sandburg’s famous line, “Sometime they’ll give a war and no one will come (The People, Yes (‘36)).”

Not as serious but in that same vane: What if they held a playoffs and “no one” showed?

Unfortunately, everyone invited will make the NFL‘s post-season party, even though at midway point in this 2014 season it’s looking like serious contenders are in short supply: Denver, New England, Arizona, Philly and a few borderline.

Where have all the contenders gone?

Packers and Cowboys, clubs on the rise and media darlings of week 8, both looked ready to rule the roost and then proceeded to lay an egg with loses against New Orleans (3-4) and Washington (2-5), respectively, two teams who had looked pretty tepid in 2014.

Ravens and 49ers were also making their cases for contendership but recent slip-ups reminded football fans that rumors of their ascension to serious status were slightly exaggerated.

............Rivers, J.Beall, wc.cca, 1.12.14, thumb

Two of last season’s more memorable playoff performers in Super Seattle and AFC dark horse San Diego started where they left off but have since showed some chinks in the armour and appear not quite the same teams.

It’s not just the losing. Excepting the 1972 Dolphins and 2007 Patriot, teams are gonna’ have their ups & downs in the course of a 16-game season. It’s when and how teams choose to falter that makes contender such an ephemeral tag in the pro set.

After starting 0-2 w/loses to heavy-hitters in DEN & PHI, Colts went on a five-game win streak and had the ranking-set all a flutter. Then they ran into AFC rival Pittsburgh (W8: 34-51) and have prognosticators scratching their heads. But when one considers how Indy got spanked by NE in 2014-PS (22-43), this recent shellacking is no shocker.

Former early hopefuls the Bears, Falcons, Texans, Panthers and Giants have all been knocked to the canvas and show little sign of rising for the bell, let alone raising the belt.

............Eli.1.15.12.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.GB.thumb

There’s still time for turnarounds & tune-ups. Someone’s gotta’ fill these playoff slots and it’s looking like 8-8 could fill one in both conferences.

And there are positive signs.

Pre-season hopefuls KC, Cincy, Pittsburgh and New Orleans are building back w/recent impressive wins, surprise squads in Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit are hanging tough while nobody’s pre-season pick to challenge for a playoff spot outside of Floridians and this writer, Miami, is proving Bullygate did not destroy this franchise while the early, frequent calls for Mr. Tannehill’s head (62.3 C%) have faded to silence.

Where have all the (hopefuls) gone, long time passing…
Oh, when will (we) ever learn,
Oh, when will (we) eeeeevvveeer learn (Seeger ‘55)?

Swing Time

It might be the new betting craze: in lop-sided NFL games, plunking down money on the high likelihood of a massive swing in 2nd-half momentum where the team trailing turns the tables and snatches victory from the lollygagging leader who shockingly goes flat.

It’s a lock.

One might suspect skullduggery to explain these inexplicable flips in on – off (player performance) switch, from one half to the next. But that’s quickly dismissed by the near impossibility in pulling-off such a dastardly deed with the vast loyalty-factor it’d require.

..........Astaire.RKO.1936.Follow.thumb

Swings in momentum are nothing new.

Sometimes they’re attributable to weather, injury, turnovers or even adjustments.

But what goes on today is more frequent (See; SB47), predictable, sustained & staggering to chalk up to something as simple as a few turnovers. There’s a pattern here

Watch for the next lopsided score. One team’s up 14, 21, 24, and like clockwork, they’ll squander every last point, while the riser, who couldn’t seem to tie their shoes the previous half, are an unstoppable juggernaut in the second round.

And is there a fan in 2014 who doesn’t anticipate just this same super swing in momentum when they peruse the halftime scores and spot a blow-out? Not bloody likely.

Crazy as it sounds, you’re almost better off not going up big in half-one, for if you do and you‘re not fully prepared, the swing-back in momentum will knock you out cold.

If not orchestrated, what then the explanation?

Adult Attention Deficit Disorder?

A concentration that can hone in like a heat-seeking, missile, then dissipate as quickly as it came about. On the other side, one that lays dormant, unable to formulate but later, somehow, coalesces in the locker-room at half.

Latest case-in-point: NFL’s showcase game at London’s Wembley Stadium last Sunday morning (EST), between Detroit Lions and designated home team Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta jumps out 14-0 (1Q), then parlays a 21-0 commanding lead to go intermission.

The savvy gambler would have, if permitted, laid down a wad on Detroit to roar back, expecting the birds radar to go on the fritz as they fly straight into a plate-glass window.

Swing time.

............Astaire. Rogers.Flying.RKO.33.wc.cca.thumb

And that’s just what happened as the teams returned to the field, the roles completely reversed and Detroit squeaked out a 22-21 victory.

So here’s a team (DET) that hadn’t a clue how to play football in first half, then, during the break, figures out how to ‘split the (pigskin) atom,’ on both sides of the ball, mind you, as the hot shots from Hotlanta seemed to’ve mis-laid their playbook.

The same thing happens on the college scene where defending champ Florida State fell down 0-21 to host University of Louisville Thursday night (7-21 H), quickly tied it in the 3rd, held the now flat-lining Cardinals to 10 points and won away, 42-31.

Some call these shocking turnarounds, rallies. I’m not sure what to call em, but they ain‘t rallies. Equal parts resurrection from the dead and sinking of the Titanic.

Maybe this is one for the psychology folk.

Today’s player may simply be given to powerful mood swings (PEDs), the highs too high, the lows so deep they’re like quicksand from which you just can’t extricate yourself. Coaches & captains try to keep things even keel, balance the emotional scale but just can’t control the widespread tendency.

Whatever’s going on, it making for some pretty sorrowful football.

Curious Quotes

NFLN’s Brian Billick commenting on Tom Brady’s bodacious numbers compiled against the woeful Bears in Patriots huge win on Sunday (51-23):

............Billick.8.8.07.wc.cca.k.Allison.thumb

“If that (30-35 / 354y / 5td) is not (deserving of) a perfect quarterback rating, what is? The (QB) number is the most useless rating in the history of this game (Billick).”

When it comes to saber-think, Brian (QBR, WAR, etc.), ours is not to reason why, but to simply, obey. So they demand.

Wardrobe Dysfunction

Sunday NFL Countdown sought to fill morning air-time last game-day with a cutesy kids segment to honor the festive spirit of Halloween. It was called “Da Pumpkin Patch” as Mike Ditka handed out pumpkins & candy to youngsters dressed in their favorite team’s garb. All nice, all in good fun.

What wasn’t nice was the fashion statement in person of the female hostess (?) haunting the segment.

............ESPN.Jkinsocal.wc.cca.2.1.13.thumb

With advent of the new, hip-hop, flashy, noisy, hi-techy, stand & deliver ESPN, the “worldwide (monopoly) in sport” has seen fit to fit their female anchors with the latest & greatest in club-wear. The men remain in standard suit & tie.

This kid’s segment featured the hostess in high-heels and skin-tight leather pants. Inappropriate for any sport segment unassociated with TMZ and the like, but certainly poor style for a Sunday morning kid show.

I suspect the wardrobes of anchors and analysts are corporately directed. That means ESPN President John Skipper’s hand may be the one guiding the style or the hands of those that do “da” selecting.

There was another “Skipper” awhile back whose look was a tad mundan, for sure (See; Gilligan‘s Island), but at least Alan Hale’s wardrobe fit the deserted isle theme. As for “Ginger,” well, formal evening wear’s alwyas ship shape.

.........Cherries.on.cloth.thumb

Cherry Picks Week 9: Who Want’s It?

Cards (6-1) @ Dallas (6-2): 11-2 Fox 1:00 EST (GOTW2): AZ wins
Eagles (5-2) @ Houston (4-4): Fox 1:00: Philadelphia wins
Chargers (5-3) @ Miami (4-3): CBS 1:00: San Diego wins
Broncos (6-1) @ New England (6-2): CBS 4:30 (GOTW): Pats win
Ravens (5-3) @ Pittsburgh (5-3): NBC 8:35: Steelers win
Colts (5-3) @ New York (3-4): ESPN 11-3 8:35: Giants win

Record: 43 – 23 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: T.Romo, 9.26.10, wc.cca, A.Guel, 2m; P.Rivers, wc.cca, 1.12.14, J.Beall; J.Cutler, 11.1.09, wc.cca, M.Schadle; Astaire, RKO, Follow, 1936, wc.cca; Astaire & Rogers, Flying, wc.cca, RKO, 1933, wc.cca; B.Billick, wc.cca, 8.8.07, K.Allison; ESPN-HQ, Bristol, 2.1.13, Jkinsocal; cherries, wc.cca, 6-11, picdrome
Posted: 10-31-14 @ 11:58pm; edit 11-1 @ 10:43am EST