Another Year, Another BCS Disappointment

Submitted by Brandon Land on

 

One more year has passed, and one more season provides us with the BCS deciding college football’s championship fate. Another year, and once again the masses will be told we’re all wrong and that the computers and voters for the system are somehow right. It’s gotten so old that I’m not even sure it’s a question of right or wrong anymore. No, this has become a question on the credibility of those that run the sport.

This weekend’s football will have seemingly no bearing on the national championship picture. We're now likely all exposed to the fact that, no matter what, LSU and Alabama will face off in a rematch from earlier this season; a national championship will be on the line this time. I’m not opposed to a rematch. I’m sure it will be a good game. What I am opposed to is the idiocy that we’ve been told all year every game matters. That’s been the slogan, and yet it’s one that the BCS will once again go against in order to satisfy the money grab that goes with the system.

If the supposed goal of the BCS is to find the best team in college football, then the system is doing the exact opposite of what it should be. Maybe LSU and Alabama really are the best two teams in college football, but the last time I checked, LSU already beat Alabama at Alabama’s place. Maybe the BCS should change its slogan to, “Every game matters… unless you’re the SEC.”

The SEC is likely far and above the best conference in college football. Regardless of that fact, it doesn’t mean that the two best teams in all of college football reside in the SEC. We’ve been force-fed the idea that the collective efforts of teams such as Stanford, Oklahoma State, and until yesterday Houston have no meaning. Besides LSU, Houston was the only unbeaten team left, a moot point now that Houston was taken down by Southern Mississippi. Don’t misconstrue what I’m saying. I don’t actually think Houston was even a top-five team this year. With that said, football is a game that is based on matchups. Somehow, we were supposed to say that Houston is an inferior team to everyone else yet turn around and declare that LSU and Alabama should play one another again even though that matchup was decided in the most important fashion – on the field.

The only thing the SEC championship game has determined is how much BCS money the SEC will receive. A Georgia victory would likely haev given them a spot in a BCS bowl game. Let’s assume for a moment that somehow, a Georgia victory against LSU were to knock LSU out of the top two in the BCS rankings. I don’t think it would happen, but imagine the repercussions. LSU would have played in a conference championship game while Alabama sat at home. Alabama would then go on to play for a national championship over LSU, with the same number of losses as LSU (one), and with that loss having come at home against LSU. Alabama could conceivably win a bet in which it never even had to place any cash on the table to make. They’d have no risk, yet the potential for the entire reward. Yeah, that’s how flawed this system really is.

It’s become an old and tiresome argument, yet it’s one I find myself making every single year. The only people happy are those who have a rooting interest in one of the teams voted into the game, those who run the system, and in this case, supporters of the SEC. How ironic that the SEC supporters who groaned at the prospect of a Big Ten rematch between Ohio State and Michigan are now the same people pining for a rematch between LSU and Alabama. I’m not even sure ironic is a proper word for the situation; hypocritical comes to mind. After all, the BCS turns every last one of us into a hypocrite at some point in time.

The team that has been playing the best football of late, USC, is banned from playing in conference championship or bowl games for NCAA violations by Reggie Bush dating back more than half a decade. Bush is long gone, the punishments hurt him none. Even in giving up his Heisman, we all remember who won the award. Does the fact that Bush took “improper” benefits change that he was voted as the best college football player in 2005? I think not.

While the NCAA is busy policing student-athletes to the fullest extent, it allows a flawed system to determine football’s supposed champion, all in the name of money. A tiresome argument indeed – and yet each year brings a new set of circumstance for us to scratch our heads and wonder, “Why can’t we have a playoff again?” The sad truth is that it may never happen. We might have a better chance of walking on Mars before we see a legitimate champion in college football.

Thursday's View from the Bench

Submitted by Brandon Land on

As always after a loss, second-guessing is the norm. While I do believe there are different ways to manage different situations, I have a few thoughts nonetheless.

  1. Ron Washington's handling of some important baserunning scenarios raised some questions at the very least. In the top of the first inning with Ian Kinsler having led off the game with a single, Washington dialed up the hit-and-run with Elvis Andrus at the plate. Andrus couldn't make contact and Ian was caught easily at 2nd base. So early in the game and not knowing what kind of stuff Chris Carpenter was going to throw, I would prefer to see a little more caution from Washington and possibly an attempt sit back, make Carpenter pitch, and see what happens. It wasn't an egregious error, but one that merits a second look at the very least.

  2. In the sixth inning with one out, Washington had Andrus lay down the sacrifice bunt to move Kinsler to 2nd base. I'm all for getting guys into scoring position, but giving away free outs isn't usually a good way to play baseball. Historically speaking, going from a man on first with one out situation to a man on second with two outs situation results in a decresase in run expectancy of about 0.2 runs. Again, I realize what Ron was trying to do, but carelessly giving away free outs in the World Series isn't the kind of thing that will normally result in success.

  3. Where was Yorvit Torrealba? In easily the most questionable decision of the postseason, Washington elected to use Esteban German instead of Torrealba in a pinch hit situation. There are two arguments in support of the decision, neither of which make sense. The first is that German was a decent hitter during the season, the second is that the prospect of extra innings left Washington possibly saving Torrealba for that potential scenario. German had 11 at-bats all season and hadn't seen live pitching since late September. Torrealba was a no-brainer, especially given that you have to play the game to win in the moment instead of planning for extra innings. A quick win in Game 2 will erase Washington's blunder, but a loss will live a bitter taste for many fans.

  4. There's an interesting write-up by Joey Matschulat over at BBTIA regarding the postseason performances of C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton. Of particular interest to me is how bad Josh Hamilton looks in dealing with a groin strain. Not only can he not power through his swings, but even roaming the outfield appeared to be a chore for last year's AL MVP. He's not making an exit from the lineup, but it might be time to consider moving him down some to give the rest of the lineup more potential at-bats. Maybe Hamilton goes out and proves me wrong, but right now he looks like a man running on fumes.

Monday's View from the Bench

Submitted by Brandon Land on
  1. In grabbing a win in Game 2 of the ALDS, the Rangers seized back some of the momentum that was lost in being the victim of a 2-hitter against rookie pitcher Matt Moore on Friday. James Shields had his changeup working early, but when the Rangers finally waited it out and forced some pitches to be left up in the zone, the offense was back on all cylinders. You'd at least like to see Nelson Cruz put a ball in play with two men on and no outs, but on the whole, the Rangers took advantage of more opportunities than they squandered, and as a result, will open play at Tropicana Field with the series tied instead of being down a much less desirable margin of 2-0 in the series.

  2. One of the coolest moments for the Rangers at home in the playoffs came in the bottom of the 4th inning when, with the bases loaded, the crowd at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington chanted "NAP-O-LI" just prior to Napoli sending a line shot to left field that scored two runs. For a fan base that has had only limited opportunities to cheer in the brief history of home playoff baseball, it was a moment that, regardless of the outcome of the series, will live on for a long, long time.

  3. Speaking of the crowd, there was a noticeable difference between the crowd noise from Game 1 and Game 2. In Game 1, the crowd was virtually abysmal, and I believe there are several reasons for it. My first thought as the game started had to do with the pre-game ceremony in which Cooper Stone, son of fallen fan Shannon Stone, threw out the first pitch to Josh Hamilton. It was a fitting and appropriate moment, but it left a noticeable quiet in the stadium. I had a difficult time getting my mind back into baseball mode and I wasn't even at the game. I have a hard time believing that, on some level, the emotional and heartfelt moment didn't stick with the fans in attendance just a little. More than that, the start time had a major impact. In the Arlington area, leaving work early enough to make the game just isn't feasible. For those fans, getting parked, up to the ballpark, grabbing a beer, and finding a seat, it's likely already the 2nd or 3rd inning. To arrive only to find your team down 5 or 6 runs is definitely deflating, and it makes it tough to get energized and behind the team.

  4. Mitch Moreland, who has struggled against left-handers and will be facing David Price -- who has limited left-handed hitters to a .171/.227/.281  line this season -- will get the start at first base in Game 3. Said Ron Washington: "Right now, he's feeling good about himself, and I want to give him that opportunity to continue." Yes, Moreland had the insurance home run in Game 2, but I'm not so sure the playoffs is a time to be playing someone because they feel good about themselves, especially with other potential options that would likely fare better against the lefty Price.

Thursday's View from the Bench

Submitted by Brandon Land on
  1. The Detroit Tigers truly forced the Rangers to earn home field advantage in the ALDS. While Cleveland briefly flirted with beating Detroit on the season's final day, by the time the 8th inning rolled around, it was clear the Rangers needed a win to wrap up home field, and they did just that with a huge night from Mike Napoli, who once again came through in a big way in front of his old team. For the season, the Rangers have 3 players with 30 or more home runs, and none of them are named Cruz or Hamilton, who had 29 and 25 respectively. If healthy all season, who knows what happens. Take a moment to digest that when considering how truly potent this offense is. They'll need every bit of it in facing the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS.

  2. Wednesday night was quite possibly the greatest night of regular season baseball we'll be treated to for the forseeable future. It's hard to imagine anything trumping exactly what went down last night. It was the Braves who first took claim to the greatest September collapse in baseball history in blowing an 8 1/2 game lead during the month, eventually giving way to the Cardinals for the National League Wild Card. That was trumped later in the night as the Boston Red Sox completed a 9 game collapse for the American League Wild Card.

  3. It seemed Boston was in position to go ahead and win, and on the night, looked as if it would take a miracle for the Rays to have any shot at even forcing a one-game playoff for the Wild Card spot. Then, Boston blew the game in the 9th inning. Having been 76-0 in that situation on the season, Boston finally blew one. Meanwhile, in Tampa Bay, the Rays dug a hole in letting the Yankees get up 7-0 on them before storming back and tying the game in the bottom of the 9th inning to force extra innings. To put that in perspective, the Yankees had not blown a lead that large in the 8th inning or later since 1953. Less than two minutes after Boston lost, Even Longoria blasted a line drive shot over the left field corner for a game winning home run in the bottom of the 12th inning.

  4. I simply had to reserve a little bit of space for Jose Reyes. Reyes, who was leading the National League batting title race heading into yesterday, requested he be removed from the game after leading off with a bunt single in the bottom of the 1st inning, all in the name of preserving the batting title. I don't know which part I'm more offended by: the idea of Reyes shooting for a personal accolade at all costs, or the misnomer that batting average alone is an accurate measure of a player's value. In an era where baseball franchises are using advanced metrics well beyond batting average to measure a player, it's dubious as to why Reyes made the decision to play, get a hit, then quit on fans that had come to see him play perhaps his final game with the New York Mets. Do the Mets really wonder why they're one of the laughinstock franchises in baseball?

  5. Who says managers don't matter in baseball? Heading into the season, the Tampa Bay Rays we a team without expectations after losing virtually everyone to free-agency. As a team hampered by a low payroll, Joe Maddon once again proved himself to be on of baseball's best, if not the best, managers. In utilizing all the information available to him, crazy infield and outfield shifts, and unconventional defensive tactics, Maddon's Rays ranked at the top of Major League Baseball in DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) with 77. The next closest behind them were the Los Angeles Angels with 59, whose speed likely makes their ranking self-explanatory. Maddon has truly gotten the most out of so little, and the truth is, the Rays have a stockpile of talent in their farm system. It's entirely likely that regardless of payroll issues, the Tampa Bay Rays can remain competitive in a tough AL East for years to come.

Wednesday's View from the Bench

Submitted by Brandon Land on
  1. The Rangers sure picked a great time to get hot. Mitch Moreland has been the only regular who hasn't fully joined into the barrage of offense the team has used to batter teams, including knocking the Angels out of playoff contention on both the division and wild card fronts in the past week. As previously noted, Adrian Beltre has been incredibly hot since returning from the DL in August. Nelson Cruz, who is back in right field after a hamstring injury forced him to miss some time, is finally getting his timing back. Mike Napoli continues to be red hot. Michael Young is consistent as always. Josh Hamilton has quietly had possibly the quietest above-average campaign in baseball. Elvis Andrus has proven to be a very solid hitter who still hasn't reached his ceiling. None of those players even mention the headliner.

  2. What else can be said about Ian Kinsler? He's gone above and beyond in proving why batting average alone is a poor indicator of a player's value. Say what you want about his penchant for pop-ups and the perception that he doesn't always put full effort into getting to first base after a grounder, but on the whole, the guy just gets on base. To top it off, Kinsler reached the 30 home run, 30 steal milestone on Tuesday evening, his second such season in his career. To put that in perspective, only 11 other players in baseball history have had multiple 30-30 seasons. The guy is quite possibly the most versatile leadoff hitter any team will face in the playoffs. He can make a pitcher pay in any number of ways, and he'll be the guy to set the tone for the rest of the lineup. He's not too bad on defense either.

  3. It comes down to the final day of the season to determine where the Rangers will open the postseason. A Rangers' victory or Tigers' loss will leave Texas with home field advantage in the ALDS, to face the wild card team beginning Friday. I'm not sure I have any faith in the Tigers losing to the Indians, but with Mike Scioscia pulling Jered Weaver from his final start and handing the ball to rookie Garrett Richards, I feel much more comfortable in the ability of the Rangers to jump on the new kid on the block. The Rangers have struggled against new pitchers in the past, but Richards has given up 8 runs in his 9 innings of work at the Major League level.

  4. Not one, but two wild card contenders have almost completed historical collapses. The Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox now find themselves virtually fighting an uphill battle despite being tied for the wild card in their respective leagues entering the final day of the season. Atlanta is facing the Philadelphia Phillies, while the Cardinals have yet another game against the lowly Astros. Even if both teams win, the play-in game for the postseason will be in St. Louis. On that same note, Boston faces the prospect of the Yankees intentionally losing to the Tampa Bay Rays on the final day of the season. No team will ever admit to purposely losing, but conveniently throwing out replacement players with nothing on the line provides an easy disguise. Any potential play-in game between the Red Sox and Ray will be played in Tampa Bay. Advantage: Cardinals and Rays.

The Greatest Third Baseman in the World

Submitted by Brandon Land on

In December of 2010, the Texas Rangers failed in an attempt to re-sign Cliff Lee and keep him around for likely the remainder of his career when he chose to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies. As a sort of consolation prize, Adrian Beltre was signed in January.

When rumors initially surfaced that Beltre was potential a target for Texas, many fans were either only slightly familiar with him or wholly unfamiliar with him. The idea that the franchise would throw so much money at a third baseman -- especially with Michael Young still on the team -- was somewhat confusing to a fan base that was still both euphoric from the franchise's first World Series appearance and let down that the staff ace had spurned them for a National League team.

It's entirely likely that those that did know of Beltre remembered him from his time in Seattle -- more specifically, a nasty injury near the end of the 2009 season. "Severely contused right testicle" isn't something you normally see on an injury report, and it becomes even more awkward when the player in question says, "My testicle got the size of a grapefruit." You can't make this stuff up, and unfortunately for Beltre, his time in Seattle was most remembered for the injury. Beltre had undoubtedly struggled in Seattle, where Safeco Field was unfriendly to right-handed power hitters such as Beltre.

After taking a one year "pillow contract" with the Boston Red Sox in 2010, the expectation was that Beltre could prove he could still hit and earn another contract in free-agency a year later. Beltre did just that, and the worry among many experts was that the Rangers had just signed a player that would only perform in contract years. What they should have considered was that any player that can take a baseball to the groin and finish the game must really love what he does.

In 2011, the fact that Adrian Beltre loves what he does has done more than justify the contract the Texas Rangers signed him to. From the opening series of the season in which Beltre belted a grand slam to his late-season tear, he has not only provided offense from a position previously manned by Michael Young, but the defensive upgrade has been more than worth it. Oh, and there's the whole part about the Rangers getting to hold onto Michael Young as well, who hasn't had such a bad season himself.

After Tueday night's 2-for-5 performance against the Oakland A's that saw Beltre hammer a first-inning pitch from Rich Harden over the center field fence for three runs, Beltre found himself at the top of the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) leaderboard for all third basemen in baseball. Most impressive is the fact that Beltre missed over a month with a hamstring injury and has still amassed the kind of numbers on the whole that place him as arguably the best at his position. Indeed, he has made the most of the time he has been in the lineup.

On defense, Beltre ranks as the top defensive third baseman in the American League according the the Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) statistic from Fangraphs, which is more accurate in reflecting true defensive performance beyond simply looking at errors and putouts. Oh, and have I mentioned the Rangers got to keep Michael Young to DH?

No matter how you spin it, Beltre has rewarded the Rangers for signing him. He could have played for the LA Angels, and we could be talking about the Angels preparing for the playoffs, not the Rangers. When the playoffs roll around, the Rangers will continue to require Beltre's presence, both on offense and defense, in order to go where the team has confidence that it can -- back to the World Series. In the meantime, we should all sit back and enjoy watching Adrian Beltre, the greatest third baseman in the world.

Tuesday's View from the Bench

Submitted by Brandon Land on
  1. Toronto helped the Texas Rangers out by beating the Angels 3-2 in 10 innings on Monday. This puts the Rangers up a full five games up in the division and drops the magic number to five as well. With only nine games left on the schedule beginning with a series against the Oakland A's, I feel comfortable in saying that the Angels are finished. It's too little, too late. Even if the Angels somehow go, say, 5-1 from now until prior to the final season series against the Rangers, they would need to rely on Texas playing .500 ball or worse for that series to even matter. I won't go as far as saying that the series will be a victory lap of sorts for Texas with the possibility of catching Detroit to snag home field advantage in the ALDS still looming.

  2. Funny how some advice from and old friend can work wonders for a pitcher's pshyce. Since Bengie Molina stopped by to pick up his AL Championship ring and encouraged Neftali Feliz to mix his pitches more, Feliz has been lights out. While the numbers actually show that he hasn't really used his breaking pitches more frequently, they also indicate that he has used the cutter more often as opposed to the four-seamer. That cutter, since August 6, has gained an additonal 2.5 inches of horizontal break. What does that mean for Feliz? It could mean nothing, or it could mean everything. One would be inclined to believe that more horizontal break would be more difficult for a hitter to deal with. All numbers aside, Feliz has looked much more comfortable and dominant on the mound over the past month-plus, and that has to be a very comforting sight for the Texas Rangers as the playoffs approach.

  3. It would seem that behind C.J. Wilson, the Rangers have to answer some questions over the next nine games as to who will be in the postseason rotation. I'm inclined to think that it would be very difficult to leave Derek Holland out of the mix. While he has the occasional hiccup, he's been much more consistent as of late and has shown an ability to work out of jams when offenses are keyed in, which will be important against some of the top offenses in baseball. Whether because of hip problems or general ineffectiveness, Colby Lewis has been a shadow of the guy that beat the Yankees twice in the ALCS in 2010. The team will have a difficult time justifying giving Lewis a shot in the postseason rotation, especially with the previously-mentioned ability to work out of jams being a strong suit for Matt Harrison, who leads Major League Baseball in double-play balls. Beyond Wilson, Holland, and Harrison, I suppose it comes down to a hold-your-breath decision between Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman. The next turn through the rotation will likely go a long way toward making this decision for the Rangers.

  4. Speaking of pitching, the Rangers will have an important decision to make this upcoming offseason in regards to the amount of money to offer C.J. Wilson. Over on the Baseball Time in Arlington Website, Joey Matschulat suggests that Wilson may have a lot to do with the development of Derek Holland, who, in his last 13 starts, has delivered a line of  .240/.294/.334 with a 2.74 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 74-to-24. It really is scary to think about a potential rotation that includes Wilson, a more consistent Holland, and Alexi Ogando with a full year of starting under his belt. This disregards the potential development of pitchers such as Martin Perez and the ever-present possibility of Neftali Feliz making the jump to the starting rotation. It really speaks volumes about the organizational philosophy of developing a plethora of talent from within.

     

     

     

     

Monday's View from the Bench

Submitted by Brandon Land on
  1. What do you say about Tony Romo now? A week after fueling criticism with a sequence that included a fumble and an interception, Romo was the only reason the Cowboys got back into the game against the 49ers. Despite a rib injury that had Jason Garrett rolling with Jon Kitna -- who invoked memories of a 2008 Brad Johnson -- Romo put himself back into the game and willed his team to a win. What made the feat even more impressive was the lack of pass protection Romo continued to receive, taking hit after hit yet zipping the ball across the field. There was no Dez Bryant. Starting running back Felix Jones who, whether by virtue of sheer ineffectiveness or by the shoulder injury sustained during the game (and I'm slightly inclined to go with a combination of both), was a virtual non-factor. In the biggest moment of the game, it wasn't Miles Austin, it wasn't Jason Witten, but Jesse Holley who came up huge. This is and always has been Tony Romo. He's an aggressive quarterback that can make spectacular throws, but unfortunately he sometimes gets overconfident and makes a throw that goes the other way. On the whole, he'll win your team more games than he loses. Even Drew Brees struggled with interceptions last year while trying to will his team to wins.

  2. Speaking of Jesse Holley, despite the big play to set up the game-winning field goal in overtime, hopefully the coaches pull him aside and remind him about the importance of securing the ball. After catching the ball, holley ran with the ball loose at his side and proceeded to hold the ball up in celebration prior to reaching the end zone, only to be caught from behind. Bailey went on to make the 19 yard kick despite missing from 20 early in the game, but in that situation, Holley has to secure the ball, press forward, and get the score.

  3. How comfortable can you be with the injury situation that is plaguing the Cowboys? Romo will be nursing the rib injury, Witten has the same, starting center Phil Costa re-injured his knee, Terence Newman was still out with a groin injury, Mike Jenkins is nursing an assortment of injuries, Dez Bryant has the bruised quad, and perhaps worst of all, Miles Austin may be out until after the bye week with a re-aggravation of his hamstring strain. You always hate to say it, but injuries could dictate a lot of what happens during the impending stretch of the season prior to the bye week. Fortunately, the schedule seems to favor the prospect of being able to get guys healthy while also being able to squeeze out some wins.

  4. Rex Ryan had to have been the goat of the week for the New York Jets. In a blowout win and only a week removed from Mark Sanchez being tested for concussion-like symptoms, he left the starting quarterback in the game. Sanchez ended up hitting his right arm on defensive lineman Matt Roth's helmet. “That was my fault,” Ryan said. “I was trying to get Plax a catch. (Sanchez) got hit. He’s fine, but he took a big hit, that’s for sure. That’s my responsibility.” Uh, right. Really smart, Rex.

The Tony Romo Enigma

Submitted by Brandon Land on

When it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, perception effectively becomes reality. Knee-jerk reactions, expectations and media hype provide a melting pot of negative reactions when the team doesn't win. It also proves, time and time again, to be an unfortunate situation for Tony Romo, who has undoubtedly learned that it comes with the territory of being the starting quarterback for the Cowboys.