NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 09: Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts throws a pass during the NFL game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on December 9, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. According to reports on July 30, 2011 Manning agreed to a five year deal with the Colts for $90 million. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Much like my daughter, when I play a card game with her and she changes and makes up rules as the game goes on, Bud Selig is just making things up as he goes along as well. Last Friday, major league baseball made the official announcement that they'll be adding a wild card to each league, upping the playoff teams to 10. And for just the 2012 season, the division series will have a 2-3 format, and then back to the 2-2-1 configuration it has been in 2013. Of course, there are pros and cons to this news. The one-game playoff between the wild card teams gives more weight to winning a division, which is good. But it's also unfair to the wild card team with the better record, as it had 162 games to prove its superiority, which can then be wiped out in one game. And the new format also gives yet another non-division-winner and possible mediocre team a chance to win the World Series. On the pro side, there will now automatically be a one-game, dramatic finish to the season every season. But it will be manufactured drama, not like the historic day of last season. The wild card was originally added to create more races, but it erased just as many as it produced. And now Selig wants even more teams involved, which cheapens the 162-game schedule just a little bit more.
Whatever one's opinion of the new rules, baseball keeps fixing things that aren't broken, and putting themselves deeper into realignment and scheduling problems. In 2013 there may be two 15-team leagues, which would cause interleague play every day of the season. They'll never contract teams, and since 30 doesn't divide up very evenly, maybe they should add two more teams, with the two leagues having four divisions. No more wild card needed. It would dilute the talent even more, but with more and more players coming from every corner of the world, eventually baseball may be able to field 32 teams with the weaker ones not being completely pathetic. What they should really do is cut back to 28 teams and two divisions in each league, but that won't happen. Ever. So with interleague play being a daily occurrence, what should they do with the DH? Baseball needs to solve the issue once and for all, one way or another. Have it for both leagues or neither league. With every passing season, the lines are blurring between the National and American Leagues so they should play by the same rules.
While we're busy fixing things, the NHL needs to do away with three-point games. Every game now has a winner, whether it's in regulation, overtime or a shootout. So every game should have a loser, wherein no point is awarded. A team wins or loses. That's it. And can't the NFL fix its replay problems? In this day and age of technology, why does the on-field referee have to go under a hood to watch the replay. In the NHL, replays are looked at at the league offices in Toronto, and the decision is made much quicker. Often we at home can tell the outcome of the play in question before the official even makes it to the sidelines (and they still get it wrong much of the time anyway). Why not have league officials make the decisions much the way hockey does?
And though they're not changing any rules, the New York Jets may be calling an audible right in the middle of the Mark Sanchez era, by going after Peyton Manning. They already tried that with Brett Favre in 2008, which did not work out very well. Would Manning want to play for the circus that the Jets have become? Would he want to encroach on his brother's territory and share New York/New Jersey with him? If he did sign with the Jets, that would have to be the end of Sanchez. They couldn't keep him, could they? And what does all this do to the relationship between the Jets and Sanchez if Manning doesn't choose Gang Green? At any rate, the Jets may be taking a page out of Selig's playbook by becoming mesmerized by the shiny set of keys being dangled in front of them and scrapping their previous plans for the latest quick fix.
And now on to the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
New York vs. Boston: There were a quartet of games last weekend featuring the two cities that loathe each other (and we're counting New Jersey and Long Island in this equation). The warmups came on Friday and Saturday, with the Boston Celtics easily defeating the New Jersey Nets, 107-94, which ended the Nets' three-game road winning streak, and in a reverse of that game, the New York Islanders ended a five-game road losing streak by beating the Boston Bruins, 3-2, with John Tavares tipping in the winning goal (after Josh Bailey scored for the third consecutive game). The heavyweight bouts happened simultaneously on Sunday afternoon, with the New York Rangers continuing their dominance over the Bruins (fifth straight win and ninth out of last 11 games), beating them 4-3, in the usual hard-hitting game, which had three fights. Derek Stepan was the hero, scoring the winning goal in the team's resilient victory. And in Boston, the New York Knicks fell to the Celtics, 115-111, in a crazy game in which both teams had big leads and lost them, with Boston finally winning in overtime. While Jeremy Lin and Baron Davis each turned the ball over six times, it was Celtic point guard Rajon Rondo (18 points, 17 rebounds, 20 assists) who was too much for the Knicks to deal with. If the loss to Boston wasn't proof, the defeats to the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs showed that the magic and winning associated with Linsanity appears to be ending. Lin himself has struggled, and Carmelo Anthony is completely lost since he's come back from his injury, as he's a shadow of his former self, and the Knicks are 2-5 since he returned to the lineup. He's not the only one struggling, though, as the starters are being outplayed by the bench, which is vexing Mike D'Antoni, who is having a devil of a time trying to figure out what to do with everybody.
57: The Nets bounced back in a big way following their loss to the Celtics . . . well, Deron Williams did, as he set a franchise record on Sunday in the team's 104-100 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats by scoring 57 points. He also set a team record with 21-for-21 shooting from the free-throw line. Five other Nets have scored 50 or more, with Super John Williamson doing it first, in 1978 when he poured in an even 50. Vince Carter (51 in 2005) was the last Net to do it, and in between were Mike Newlin (52 in 1979), Ray Williams (52 in 1982) and Stephon Marbury (50 in 2001). Unfortunately, poor Brook Lopez injured his ankle in the same game and will be out for three weeks, after just coming back and playing in only five games. On Tuesday, Williams couldn't conjure up any heroics, as the Nets lost to the Miami Heat, 108-78. But on Wednesday, Jordan Farmar provided some fireworks by nailing a game-winning three-pointer with 0.2 seconds left on the clock, giving the Nets a 101-100 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, which ended New Jersey's seven-game home losing streak.
New York-New York vs. New Jersey: On Sunday, the Islanders beat the New Jersey Devils, 1-0, with Anders Nilsson getting a shutout in only his second NHL start, and Devil Petr Sykora played in his 1,000th game. On Tuesday, the Devils finally got some offense and defeated the Rangers, 4-1, with Martin Brodeur channeling the old, pre-Henrik Lundqvist days when he never used to lose to the Blueshirts. And on Thursday, the Devils avenged their Sunday loss to the Isles with a 5-1 win, with Ilya Kovalchuk recording a hat trick. In the other games (not against each other or the Bruins), the Rangers lost to the Lightning in overtime last Friday and on Thursday they were done in by their own mistakes, falling to the Senators, 4-1, as they continue their up-and-down play, trying to snap out of their complacent, lost-their-edge funk, and the Devils walloped the Capitals last Friday, with Zach Parise scoring three goals.
Down in Florida: There's more going on with the New York Mets these days than just playing some routine spring training games: The obscure illness this time around (there's one every spring, isn't there?) belongs to Ike Davis, who has come down with a case of Valley Fever. Luckily, he can play through it, though. A number of non-obscure injuries have cropped up as well, with David Wright nursing an injured ribcage, Scott Hairston straining his left oblique, Pedro Beato suffering from rotator cuff inflammation and Andres Torres feeling tightness in his hip. A judge ruled on Monday that the Wilpons may still be on the hook for up to $83 million, and they have a March 19 court date, as their soap opera drags on. And former Met Lenny Dykstra was sentenced to three years in prison for grand theft auto and filing a false financial statement. But there was good news on the field for the Mets, as Johan Santana threw two shutout innings on Tuesday in his spring debut without suffering any setbacks, and R.A. Dickey, Dillon Gee and Jon Niese all threw a few uneventful innings, with Niese working on improving his changeup (but Mike Pelfrey didn't fare so well, giving up four runs). As for the New York Yankees, everything was all about baseball until David Robertson fell down the stairs and sprained his foot, though he'll be undergoing more tests to verify the severity of the injury, which would be a big blow to their bullpen if he's out for an extended period of time. On the mound this week, the horizontally challenged Michael Pineda (who came into camp 10 pounds overweight but has already lost most of his extra girth), also working on his changeup, tossed a pair of scoreless innings on Monday, the slimmed-down CC Sabathia gave up one run in two innings and Phil Hughes went one-and-a-third innings and allowed two runs on Tuesday, Hiroki Kuroda gave up three runs in two innings on Wednesday and Ivan Nova was hammered on Thursday, allowing five runs. The team did take time out on Wednesday to listen to a motivational speaker, who preached mental and physical strength and ripped a phone book in half and rolled up a frying pan with his bare hands as examples of mind over matter. After he was finished, he was seen walking back to his van down by the river.
Big Blue and Gang Green News: The New York Giants made a couple of minor moves this week, by re-signing Domenik Hixon and using their franchise tag on Steve Weatherford, and Eli Manning restructured his contract freeing up some cap space for the team. The news swirling around the Jets can be summed up in two words: Peyton Manning.
R.I.P. Alex Webster: The New York Giants legend passed away at the age of 80 on Saturday. Webster played all 10 years of his NFL career with Big Blue (1955-'64), and ranks fifth on the franchise's all-time rushing list (4,638 yards). He scored two touchdowns in the 1956 Championship Game victory over the Chicago Bears and played in two Pro Bowls. He also coached the Giants from 1969 to '73, and was named the Coach of the Year in 1970. Webster is a member of the team's Ring of Honor.
And that's the New York week that was.