FROM THE CHEAP SEATS
The Braves down 3-0 to the Padres? Yeah, right, next thing you'll tell me that Nebraska lost a conference game and Skip Away finished ten lengths behind a 34-1 shot. What?
I picked the Braves to win the NLCS, but I was a little uneasy about it, picking them to win in seven games. I still think it's possible, but in any case, it reminds us how hard it is to predict a short series between top teams. Once you have teams that win 95+ games, the likelihood of the better team winning is nowhere near as great as you might think. It's confused a bit by our perceptions. Every time the team that is supposed to win does, we look at it as the inevitable result. Every upset tends to be analyzed to death, overrating the winner, questioning the character, condition, or chemistry of the loser. But stuff happens, and in a short series, plenty of it happens. In the current landscape, every team that plays in an LCS has already won a series, so their confidence level is high. Remember, if the Braves had played the Astros, everyone would have thought the series was a tossup, so why are we that surprised that the team that beat them in four games is winning this series?
Big win for Texas A&M this weekend. The question is whether this is a good thing for the struggling Big 12 Conference or a bad thing. The Big East has never recovered from the end of Miami's top five run and if this is more than an accident, the Big 12 may be in for trouble. Of course, maybe Kansas St. will be the new Nebraska. Maybe it will be an exciting and competitive conference for the first time in its history, resembling the Big Ten and Pac Ten more than the Big East.
Skip Away has had a marvelous year and certain to be named the Horse of the Year whatever happens from this point on. Which is what makes Saturday's third-place finish all the more surprising. He had a slight inflammation in his foreleg after the race, but Skippy is just the latest victim to two of the most dangerous things in thoroughbred racing, Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, and a muddy Belmont Park racing surface.
Jerkens, known as "the giant killer" in New York, has a nearly forty year history of major upsets of legendary horses. He defeated the great Kelso three times in the 60's, then a decade later beat the legendary Secretariat twice as a three year-old. In fact, this race resembled his victory with Prove Out over Secretariat in the 1973 Jockey Club Gold Cup, also on a muddy Belmont strip, also at equal weights, also by a wide margin. I was at that race and couldn't imagine Secretariat, a horse who loved off tracks, losing. Yet Prove Out romped home by 9 lengths. Wagon Limits is just the latest in a long string and what makes horse racing special.********
By the way, distance races on a muddy Belmont Park racetrack are a true crapshoot. I assume that if it rains on Belmont Stakes day the winner will be a complete surprise. I'm rarely disappointed and Skippy was just another victim.
I don't have the answer to this, but when the Indians used five different starters in the first five games of the ALCS, was that a first? What made it more intriguing was that Dave Burba, who started 31 games and was second on the team in innings pitched, wasn't one of them.
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