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Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner (10) celebrates his three-run home run off Washington Nationals relief pitcher Wander Suero with Enrique Hernandez (14) during the sixth inning in Game 3 of a baseball National League Division Series on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Expansion or distraction?

New York Post reporter Joel Sherman shared that Major League Baseball is exploring major league overhauls to its playoff format.

Among the changes being discussed are:

> Seven teams from each league making the playoffs, three division winners and four wildcard teams;

> Teams with the best record in each league get a bye;

> The wildcard round would be a best-of-three series. If needed, each of the three winning teams would host the other two divisions' winners and the wildcard team with the best record.

Playoff expansion is an understandable topic, especially for a sport like baseball, which has a super-long regular season, and keeping as many franchises as possible in contention for as long as possible is a top priority.

(Yes, the timing of this leaked report — with pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training and all of the initial questions of the regathered teams centering on the Houston and Boston cheating scandals — makes a lot of sense, too.)

The timeline Sherman reported suggests these changes could start as soon as 2022. That timing actually lends credence to the possibility of the proposal, since the current collective bargaining agreement expires after 2021.

Sadly, I wish the report stopped there. Because apparently baseball is also weighing a proposal that in the expanded playoff pitch, there is a new wrinkle that seems rather circus-like.

MLB is also looking at allowing the playoff teams to pick their wildcard opponent.

Confused yet?

Let's explore. Say the Dodgers had the best record in the NL in 2022. Let's say the Cubs and the Nationals finish with the next best records and then the Cards, Braves, Rockies and Brewers finish as the wildcard teams.  

The Dodgers get the bye, and the Cubs would pick their first-round foe. Then the Nationals would pick their foe, and the remaining teams would play as the Dodgers rested.

I hope the changes get voted down — I like the exclusivity of the MLB playoffs and personally believe that it's not a bad thing for a 92-win team to be left out every now and then. And maybe this is asking too much to settle for six teams in each league with two wildcard games in each league. I like that one more.

And the whole "choosing your opponent" thing feels too Bachelor-like for me, too.

Thoughts?

 

SEC hoops now and in the future

You know the drill, TFP ace sports columnist Mark Wiedmer writes about college hoops, we read and link Weeds on college hoops. Here's Weeds sharing knowledge and wisdom on the SEC race as the league passes the halfway mark and heads to the finish line.

Weeds' numbers say Auburn has the easiest path to the SEC regular-season title, followed by LSU and then UK.

Each is tied at 8-2. Each has a frontrunner for SEC player of the year — AU's Samir Doughty, LSU's Skylar Mays, UK's Nick Richards. Each has, barring a complete bottoming-out, secured an NCAA tournament.

(And Weeds is spot on — as usual — when praising what AU coach Bruce Pearl has done as an amazing job this season. Not only is he the leader right now for SEC Coach of the Year, but if Auburn finishes strong and gets a 3 or a 4 seed — the Tigers are 21-2 and ranked No. 11 in the country after all — shouldn't he be in the conversation of National Coach of the Year? You lose three key players off an all-time team, and you are better the following season? Wow, that's doing work. And gang, as someone who has been to a whole lot of AU basketball games through the years, Pearl's transformation of the entire program and the entire game experience simply cannot be measured.)  

The race for a college conference title in the regular season may be up there with being picked as the Lookouts fan of the game. Sure, it's nice to get a free Coke and a hot dog, but in the grand scheme of things, it's not worth a great deal and no one really will remember it down the road.

This year, the biggest benefit of winning the conference likely would be not having to play the other two until potentially the SEC title game.

So regardless how those three finish, the measure of every hoops memory comes in March.

While Weeds' numbers in the here — and Auburn already having home wins over LSU and UK — make a ton of sense, I would rank the SEC's current big three in the opposite order when it comes to NCAA ceilings.

UK has a top-level backcourt nationally, and it's on each end of the floor. With Tyrese Maxey's versatility, Immanuel Quickley's shooting skills and Ashton Hagans' elite defensive talents, that's headaches for every team in the country. Add in Richards and his vastly improved post game and UK will be a very difficult out.

LSU is paper thin, playing only seven players an average of more than 12 minutes per game. That makes every game a possible loss because of the foreseen — foul trouble, the flu or a fluke injury. But Skylar Mays has the look of one of the March Mad Men who make the magic materialize.

As for Auburn, its strength is in its bench. Pearl is pulling every proper string. The Tigers' depth allows them to play with pace and pressure and withstand foul issues to anyone not named Samir Doughty. It also allows the Tigers to attack the backboards in waves.

But Auburn's erratic shooting leaves it vulnerable to anyone, regardless of seed.

And the blessing and the curse of the bracket is that one bad game becomes the lasting legacy. Whether you won the SEC regular-season title or not.      

 

Old Man Rivers

Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers have parted ways.

That leaves me with two main questions:

The first one is about the future and comes in multiple parts. Who should the L.A. Chargers target as their next QB? Where should Rivers look, considering the stakes and the dwindling clock? And who should look at Rivers?

There has been a lot of discussion about L.A. looking at Tom Brady for the sizzle hire considering the Chargers' need for fan energy. But the Chargers, who finished 5-11 last year and will pick No. 6, have better pieces than most realize. They have two dynamic pass rushers, when safety Derwin James is healthy he's as good as any DB in the game, and a lot of impressive offensive weapons, so adding an experienced QB could mean a dramatic turnaround, too.

Rivers has to look at a team that is on the verge of winning it all. Could that be the Bears or even New England if Brady actually walks? Could that be Indy or even Tampa Bay? Hard to know considering the Super Bowl favorites — K.C., San Fran, Green Bay, Minnesota, Baltimore, Seattle — are set at QB.

Should Tennessee look at a Philip Rivers? Personally, I think Rivers is done. His arm looked noticeably weaker in 2019 and his decision-making was dreadful, and if it had not been for Jameis Winston's historic 30-30 season, Rivers would have led the league in interceptions.

The other question has to be is Rivers a Hall of Famer. His numbers are among the top 10 in most meaningful metrics, but that's as much about longevity and the changing face and nature of the game.

I think yes, but I am surprised that when Eli Manning walked away, this was the central discussion. Are we to assume that everyone is just accepting Rivers as a Hall of Famer? Maybe this is not being asked because it appears that Rivers still wants to play.

But, who had the better career, Rivers or Manning, which is a question made even more interesting by how they entered the league and were traded for each other?

 

This and that

— Very informative look at the dipping 3-point percentages across the SEC this season from TFP all-around college sports mack daddy David Paschall. Not a shock that Tennessee is suffering the sharpest drop considering who the Vols lost and the way the team has struggled this year. And yes, the numbers back the notion that Jordan Bowden is way off. As Paschall notes, Bowden is down more than 11 percent with the extended 3-point line this season. Bowden shot 37.8 percent from 3 last year when it was 20 feet, 9 inches. This year, he's at 26.4 percent behind the arc, which is 22 feet, 1.75 inches. Interesting read, friends.

— So the Mets built a new spring training facility, and the $57 million overhaul includes a swanky new home clubhouse that will only be used in spring training for the big league players. The minor leaguers in Port St. Lucie will not be able to use it, as the Mets allege it will give them something to work for. Uh, OK. But what about the talking points during the conversation about eliminating minor league franchises? Wasn't better facilities — and who would have better than a $57 million new facility? — part of that discussion? Wasn't proximity — pretty sure Port St. Lucie and Flushing, NYC are not a car ride — part of that discussion? Hmmmmm.

— We missed this one Monday, but this fellow definitely lost the weekend. Yes, that is the former president of Jackson State University, who stepped down after being arrested in a prostitution ring. So, how was your weekend, by comparison?

— The transfer portal is much-debated but here's one you don't see every day. Yes, that's former Florida Gators player Justus Reed, who is looking for a place to play in what would be his seventh season of college football.

— All of us who have ever played a lottery are terrified of doing this, right? This South Carolina man almost threw away a six-figure lottery winner before realizing his mistake.

— I thought Tennessee was already the Volunteer State. But apparently, we've officially been the Volunteer State for about 24 hours or so.

— Here's today's A2 offering from some fat-faced dude who notes that if you choose to vote Democrat in Hamilton County, you will not get a say in this year's county assessor race. Enjoy.

— Our college hoops pick of FSU plus-8 hit last night in Durham against the Blue Devils. That makes us 25-19 against the number in college hoops this year. We'll have at least one later today. 

 

Today's question

It's true or false Tuesday. That is true.

True or false, LSU's national championship team could beat an XFL team.

True or false, you are in favor of expanding the MLB playoffs.

True or false, Philip Rivers had a better career than Eli Manning.

You know the drill, answer some T or Fs, ask some T or Fs.

As for today, Feb. 11, well, let's review.

Sheryl Crow is 58 today. Jennifer Aniston is 51 today. Burt Reynolds would have been 84 today. Whitney Houston died on this day in 2012. Wow, it's been eight years since Whitney died.

Also, it was 30 years ago that Buster Douglas dropped Mike Tyson in one of the jaw-dropping sports moments of all time.

Rushmore of sports upsets in the last 50 years. Go. (And USA Hockey and Buster over Tyson is half, right?)

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