5-at-10: Friday mailbag with Rushmores, SEC's third-best team, NFL and NBA rule changes

AP photo by Wade Payne / Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright (20) and other Vols celebrate Saturday's 38-33 win against SEC rival Florida at Neyland Stadium.

To our business first.

Rushmore of baseball brothers: Paul and Lloyd Waner are the only brothers to both be in the Hall, so they are there. The DiMaggios likely would have had two in Cooperstown if the youngest of the three Dom, who was a career .298 hitter, had not missed four seasons in WWII. After that give me Roberto and Sandy Alomar, and of all the great pitching brothers out there, I’ll take the Neikros, who combined for 539 wins, a record for brothers.   

Rushmore of Steve: Sports version, Steve Young, Steve Spurrier, Steve Carlton and Steve Sabol of NFL Films who is a sneaky all-time NFL Rushmore candidate to be honest. (All apologies to Steve Garvey, the father of our country who was my first favorite ballplayer.) Non-sports: Steve McQueen, Steve Austin, Steve Jobs and Steve Martin (and whoever suggested that “The Jerk” is one of the funniest movies ever, you are spot on). And buckets if we used Steven/Stephen this one becomes all-time hard.

Rushmore of Must-see tourist things in these United States: Statue of Liberty, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone (or Jellystone if you have a pic-a-nic basket), D.C.’s history.

Rushmore of memorable movie court scenes: The “Now imagine she’s white” scene in “Time to Kill” is strong. And the movie took more than a few million liberties with the protocols and dialogue between offices, but the “You can’t handle the truth” scene from “A Few Good Men” is there too. Atticus Finch deserves a spot. And with all due respect to “Scent of a Woman” and “Liar, Liar” and even the inspired call of “Primal Fear” — hey why did Ed Norton not become a bigger star? — the soft spot in my heart for “My Cousin Vinnie” wins the final spot.

As for a couple of other items of interest. Thursday night NFL football was rotten last night and even elicited this exchange between Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit:

Al: “"Sometimes a game could be so bad, it's almost good. You know what I mean?"

Kirk, who has been calloused by watching way too many Iowa-Northwestern 12-10 rock fights, answered directly: “No.” 

Today is an awesome sports day that is the start to an awesome sports weekend.

Of course football is in full swing, but wall-to-wall postseason baseball too. Yes please.

You know the rules. Here’s Paschall on the Vols trip to Red Stick this weekend.

You know the rules, part II. Here’s Hargis’ prep column on Cleveland doing the unthinkable and topping Maryville

And here’s a prep feature from some round-faced fella on Signal Mountain dealing with some tough and close losses this football season. How close have the Eagles played everyone to date? SMMHS is 2-5 with a point differential of minus-4. 

Last remaining Eliminator selections for this week:

SAC — Green Bay 

Ted P — Buffalo

Ellis — Jacksonville

To the bag


From Chas

Who is the SEC’s third-best team?

Chas — 

My answer is Tennessee, but it’s really guesses and sliding value judgments at this point, right?

The Vols may have the best offense in the league. Yes, the numbers emphatically state that, but the competition must be factored into that equation too.

I think Ole Miss is good, but not as good as last year. Matt Corral > Jaxson Dart, and Matt Corral will always be one of those dudes who was tougher than a $3 steak and beloved by those connected to the program.

I’m not sure what Mississippi State is, but they feel better.

The long-term availability of Will Levis changes the conversation about the Wildcats, who lost a winnable game at Oxford. But winning close games, especially when you play less than great is a bona fide skill that routinely makes good seasons great and salvages potentially rocky seasons into 8-or-more wins. Alabama and Georgia are amazing at this, by the way, and Auburn is the world’s worst at out-playing an opponent and figuring out how to lose. 

Which brings us to LSU, who are a missed PAT from very likely being unbeaten and No. 8 or so in the country.

But it’s the same LSU that needed two monster defensive plays to beat an infuriating Auburn crew. Still, if it ever clicks for Jayden Daniels, LSU is going to be hard to handle and could stake a claim to that third spot Saturday vs. the Heupels.

Speaking of infuriating, if you are one of the cattle ranchers or oil barrens who have pumped seven figures into the A&M recruiting funds, man, how ticked off are you right now?

Preseason No. 6, you’ve got two losses already and you are going to T-town for a baptismal beating from the Dark Lord without your starting QB. Egad.

So, with that, my SEC rankings are as follows:

1 Alabama

2 Georgia

3 Tennessee

4 Ole Miss

5 LSU

6 Kentucky (lower than when I started on this earlier this week because no Levis for an extended period will be a major blow)

7 Mississippi State

8 Arkansas

9 Florida

10 thru 13, any combination of Auburn, A&M, South Carolina and Missouri that you want to pick and choose from. A couple may find their way to bowl eligibility, but who knows  

14 Vandy


From Todd G

Jay, I love you writing and we read the 5-at-10 every day here at work.

We all call them the ‘er’ months now when it comes to baseball thanks to you. 

But you are way off on the AL MVP. It has to be Judge, who has the higher WAR and led his team to the playoffs, and not Ohtani.

I’m shocked you would think a guy on a losing team could be MVP.

Todd — 

Thanks for the email, and the ‘er’ months was the creation of a guy named Mike, who ran a bar in Smyrna that Spy and I used to frequent on occasion. (And on occasion back in the pre-family days, I mean days that end in ‘y.’)

I understand your points, and I was especially surprised to see Judge’s WAR was a full point higher than Shohei’s. 

But you point me toward two things I hate about the voting for MVP.

First is the recency biases, and this is across all sports.

Remember a few years ago when Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double and was the MVP because we had not seen that before. And there was a fairness in the discussion because no matter what, averaging a triple-double proves you are extremely valuable to your team.

Well, that bias impacted the following year — when Russ did it again and did it with better results for the team and from the field — and subsequent years. Heck, Russ has averaged a triple-double four times in the last six seasons.

That view and being dumbed down to the amazingness of the skillsets of Russ and Shohei impacts voters.

Know this: To complete some of the amazingness of Shohei Ohtani’s season, he’s the first player to finish in the top five in homers hit and strikeouts thrown since 1890, when ol’ Jack Stivetts hit seven bombs and struck out 289.

This is the fifth time ever the top five sweep, including the first time when John Ward did it first in 1878. Of course, John Ward — a Tennessee natural gas shoutout feels apropos here — ranked in the top five that season with one homer and 116 Ks.

The other thing about the voting for MVP is are we voting for the best player, the most valuable player or the best player on the best team?

With the exception of ‘Coach/Manager of the Year’ the MVP voting is the most ambiguous. 

(Side note: The coach of the year awards are almost always determined by a view of who did the most with what was perceived to be the least. The flaw there is that the perceptions of which teams have the least are crafted by the same folks who are doing the voting, so coach of the year votes all-too-often are a veiled mea culpa so the media — stupid media — doesn’t have to admit they underestimated or poorly judged this team or that. Because if we are truly voting for coach of the year, is there a better college coach than Nick Saban? Or Geno? Or Popovich?)

Because if it’s the best player on a playoff team, then let’s state that. If it’s value, well team value swings the vote to Judge because without him — especially in August — maybe the Yankees fall out of the playoffs.

Interesting discussion, and a great way to start the ‘er’ months. Visor tip to Mike.


From Shawn   

I saw where you discussed the baseball rule change. 

If you could change a football rule or a basketball rule, what would it be?

Thanks and thanks for the daily break from work.

Shawn — 

Thanks for reading my man, and I think I have discussed some of this before.

But I am happy to kick it around again.

My two football rule changes would be philosophical changes.

First, embrace technology. All of it. Chip up the balls and grid the field. That we have an 11-figure annual game like the NFL that is based in the land acquisition of yards, feet and even inches that determine the jobs and legacies of so many decided by three old white dudes with sticks, two of which are actually connected by chain links is insane to me.

And if we are not going to embrace the technology — and that means an eye-in-the-sky referee as well as a buzzer that goes off when the pay clock hits zero (seriously, if we can have this on a shot clock then why in the world is it not on a football play clock at the highest levels?) — then get rid of replay and the rest.

Marry technology or break-up with it. That’s my view.

The second philosophical football change is to review all the rules and try to fix the penalties that unfortunately are written in ways that it behooves purposefully breaking the rules. Penalties like half the distance to the goal of defensive penalties inside the 10 or college and high school defensive pass interference not being a spot foul.

As for basketball, I would explore a 4-point line in the G-League. 

And I would, at the NBA and International levels, look about expanding the width of the floor. These dudes are so huge and long and athletic, the NBA games in moments that matter are as clogged as the Ridge Cut at 5 on Friday.  


From Scott

How dumb are you of course you need elite QB play to win in the NFL? God only knows as to why I keep reading your foolish rants.

An elite QB gives you a chance to win every game. Do you even watch sports (bleep)hole?

Scott — 

Yeah, I watch sports. Not as much on TV as I used to.

But if we are talking about the NFL, especially this NFL season, every team has a chance in every game.

The rules have been tweaked and twisted to move everyone to the middle, elite QB or not.

Or did I imagine that Aaron Rodgers and the Pats’ third-team QB went to overtime last week?

Or did we not watch a field goal-fest last night by teams led by Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson, two QBs many think are on a trajectory toward Canton?

Or a 49ers team — with a back-up QB — hammer Matt Stafford and the Rams?

There have been, through four weeks, more NFL games decided by three points or fewer this season than any before it.

And we have a legitimate class of elite QBs, but it appears everyone has a chance every week, regardless of who is behind center.

Well everyone that is other than the Texans I suppose.

Enjoy the weekend friends.