Postseason bound (again) with a legit MVP candidate
This stat would have blown what was left of my dad's hair back.
With last night's results, the Braves clinched the NL East title in the most surreal season ever.
No, that's not the stat. This is: The Braves have the most division titles in MLB history.
Ponder that for a moment, especially those of you old enough to recall Rick Mahler or Phil Neikro being the only choices to be the Opening Day pitcher and the lone bright spot being Dale Murphy hitting 30 homers every year.
The Braves have 20 division titles, the most in baseball since divisions were crafted in 1969.
Not the Yankees or the Dodgers. The Braves have won a smidge shy of 40 percent of the division races they have entered, which is staggering considering the dreck the team was for the first 20-or-so years of the division format.
That's the great news; it's also the sign of the flaw in this team.
The Braves have been built to make the playoffs, not win the World Series. Strong lineup. Strong and deep bullpen. Hollow rotation.
Yes, Bryce Wilson authored arguably the best outing of his career with five scoreless innings in the clinching 11-1 win Tuesday night. But we see it. We know it.
And considering that the Braves have not won a postseason series since the playoffs immediately after 9/11, we have come to expect it.
But that's the bad side of the coin. Let's review the good.
> These Braves clinched the East despite all the hardships;
> These Braves overcame an avalanche of injuries early, starting with Freddie Freeman overcoming the the Corona to losing your two young catalysts in Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr. as well as losing ace Mike Soroka to a torn Achilles;
> These Braves added Marcel Ozuna, who only became the most impactful free agent signing in baseball.
Let's explore that last one for a moment. (Yes, Spy, you could make an argument that the Dodgers landing Mookie Betts was more important for the bona fide World Series frontrunner, but that was a trade.)
Ozuna was 4-for-5 last night with two homers and a double. He knocked in five, and it was just another day at the office for a real MVP candidate, if not the leading contender.
Check the numbers: He's 11th in average at .327, tied for third with 17 homers, second with 53 RBIs and third with an 1.042 OPS. Those numbers are across MLB; in the NL Ozuna is seventh in average, first in homers, first in RBIs and third in OPS.
And he has been the best protection that Freeman has had ever.
Now, the question becomes whether the Braves re-sign Ozuna, the one-year addition who has been everything the Braves could have hoped for and more.
Speaking of playoffs
Cue Jim Mora. "Playoffs? Playoffs?!?!?!"
The MLB bracket in 2020 is, well, 100 percent 2020. Unpredictable. Unforeseen. Unreal.
And in the current set-up, it favors the Braves.
OK, there are eight teams in each league that qualify. For context, when Babe Ruth won his first World Series in 1923, there were 16 teams across all of baseball. So there's that.
The bracket is the traditional 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, and 4-5 in the Wild Card round, which will be a best-of-three at the higher seed's field.
The Divisional rounds will be the 1-8 winner vs. the 4-5 winner and that's set in stone. MLB will not reshuffle the seeds at any point in the draw, meaning that if 7 beats 2, the 1 seed still faces the 4-5 regardless.
As for the seeding process, well, here comes the controversy.
The top three seeds will go to the Division winners ranked by record. The next three seeds (4 through 6) will go to the three division runners-up ranked by record. The last two spots are wildcards.
So, here's what we know about the NL. The Dodgers (39-16) are the 1 seed. Period. The Padres (34-21) are going to be the 4 seed.
That means the Braves, who are a game ahead of the NL Central-leading Cubs for the 2 seed, are in position to avoid the two best NL teams until the NLCS. Plus, grabbing the 2 seed looks like a first-round date either with the Reds or the Giants, both have been hovering around .500 all year.
There are two guys that put the personality in 'sports personality' on a national spectrum, and they were together Monday night.
OK, let's back up for a quick second.
We discussed this on Press Row a bit on Tuesday, but the TV numbers are pretty much universally down across sports. Yes, even the NFL.
It's easy to say it's about the social justice stuff, and how that has turned off a lot of casual-to-serious sports fans who simply want to watch their games, drink their Co-Colas and see sports as a distraction/entertainment from their daily grind.
There are some of those for sure, and to deny that would be short-sighted and wrong. But to say it's all that is just as convenient and incorrect.
There is a flooded sports zone as we currently speak. There is continued cord-cutting that alters almost all of cable broadcasts. There are financial crunches on millions. As Crash tells Larry in their on-the-mound meeting, "We're dealing with a lot of (Bleep) here."
But, as Larry eventually advises Crash and the Bulls, "Let's get two."
Those two are Chuck Barkley and Peyton Manning, who were cohorts on ESPN's megacast of the 50th anniversary of Monday Night Football, and simply put, they were fantastic.
No, Chuck and Manning are not going to cure all that ails sports in terms of ratings and controversy. But those dudes put the personality in sports personality, and then some.
Check the exchanges here and Barkley's one-liners here.
In truth, while Barkley is under contract with TNT and his chemistry is perfect with his crew there, but not unlike A-Rod, who does baseball for Fox and ESPN, Barkley should be on multiple networks during multiple sports.
As for Manning, well, we all expected him to be great at this, and we were right. We just need him to find a home and let us know when he's on.
Because, regardless of the words on the court or the names on the backs of the helmets, if Chuck and Peyton are involved, I'll be watching.
This and that
— The first big in-season college football cancellation/postponement happened Tuesday when Notre Dame and Wake Forest called Saturday's game because of a small outbreak of Irish players. They may make it up. They may not. But this is part of the current normal, friends.
— Speaking of TV numbers, not sure what is the reason for this, but the numbers are undeniable for the Washington Football Team. The local numbers in that market are down year-over-year. According to John Ourand of Sports Business Journal, Washington's Week 1 win over Philly drew a 14.3 rating in the D.C. area; last year's Week 1 loss to the Eagles drew a 19. Week 2's loss to Arizona last Sunday drew a 16.5; Week 2's loss to Dallas last year drew a 18.3. Could the name change or Dan Snyder's scumminess be the factor?
— There is a bigger talking point about this and a lesson. Outspoken activist Alyssa Milano, who has banged the drum for up-to-90 percent defunding of police departments, was dang quick to blow up the 9-1-1 when she thought she heard gunshots in her swanky neighborhood.
— Deion Sanders is the new head coach at FCS Jackson State. There have been reports that his staff will include fellow NFL Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Terrell Owens. Now comes news that Sanders has offered five-star defensive lineman Maason Smith.
— You know the rules. When TFP college football savant David Paschall writes about college football — and this time of year, that's quite frequently — we read and link Paschall's prose on college football. Here he writes about Jeremy Pruitt facing a former neighbor on Saturday. Here he writes about local athlete Ladd McConkey impressing his head coach at Georgia. Here he writes about Alabama's big goals.
— We mentioned Tuesday you dudes who are still alive in the Intimidator Pool. If you want either the Dolphins or the Jags — well, if you do, you're more brave than me — I need your pick by close of business Thursday. If not, you have until Friday. You know who you are.
Which way Wednesday starts this way
Which way do the Braves go, sign Ozuna long term, spend that money on a pitcher, put that money in their pocket?
Which is your prediction for the Braves' NL postseason outcome: Lose in round 1; Lose in the Divisional; Lose in NLCS; World Series bound?
Which sports personality currently working is the best?
As for today, Sept. 23, let's review.
Bruce Springsteen is 71 today. Springsteen overrated, underrated or properly rated? (That said, he's aces in concert friends.)
Ray Charles would have been 90 today. Mickey Rooney would have been 100 today. Jason Alexander (George Costanza) is 61 today.
On this day in 1969, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid premiered.
Wow, on this day in 2009, Modern Family premiered on ABC. Well done to all involved.
Wow, on this day in 1994, Shawshank Redemption was released. Well done to all involved.
Rushmore of prison films, because Shawshank is certainly on that one.