Friday, August 24, 2012

Sports Saturday-ish: 8/24/12

Normally I wait until college football season begins to start these back up, but I'll be out of town next weekend, so...yeah.

MLB - The Washington Nationals not only made out of my self-imposed "Olympic Break from all non-Olympic sports" in first place, they're in even better position now. They have the best record in the Major Leagues, lead the division by 6.5 games, only have one real threat to win said division (3rd place in the division is 19.5 back), and have a 99.7% chance of making the playoffs according to Sports Club Stats (93% of winning the division). Now I have a reason to keep watching! This time of year, that's unusual, being a Nationals fan.

So...let's talk about Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals' star pitcher. Since he's still only two years removed from Tommy John surgery, the team is "shutting him down" for the rest of the season in mid-September (ish). This is what most national media outlets talk about when they talk about the Nationals (well, that and Bryce Harper). Let him play, they say!

Personally, I think we're overblowing this a little bit. (The national sports media overblowing a storyline? Never!) Let's even disregard the medical implications. We're talking about, what, two or three regular season starts? No big deal. Of course, the playoffs - should the Nationals make it, of course - are a bigger deal, but the playoffs are kind of a crap shoot to begin with. And you only need four starters in the playoffs anyway, and I think the other Nationals starters are more than capable. I guess what I'm saying is, it is very unlikely that sitting or playing Strasburg is going to be the only difference between winning the World Series and not, so you may as well follow the doctor's advice.

But is it that pitchers could pitch 300-plus innings back in the early 20th century, but now, even 200 innings is considered a heavy workload? Did those guys just have shorter careers back then as a result, or more frequent career-ending injuries, compared to now? I'm honestly curious. Also, if the team going to be giving Strasburg this treatment, then they better be prepared to keep him around into his mid-30s, as opposed to letting him, you know, sign with the Yankees as soon as he hits free agency.

Washington at Philadelphia - Fri 7:00p, Sat 7:00p, Sun 1:30p; MASN

NFL - It's time for obligatory words regarding Maurice Jones-Drew's holdout!

Sure, it'd be nice if your team's most recognizeable player, and the NFL's leading rusher from last year, was on your team, rather than holding out for a better contract. But running back is one of the more easily replaceable positions on the team, the offense has looked pretty good in preseason without him (through two games - haven't watched last night's Baltimore game yet), and the Jaguars seem to hold most of the leverage in the negotiations here. Jones-Drew will be back. Probably. This would a bigger deal to me if Jacksonville were on the cusp of a Super Bowl run. But I would consider an 8-8 season in 2012 to be a success, depending on how improved franchise quarterback Blaine Gabbert is throughout.

This week, the team announced that starting next year, they'll be playing one home game in London each season through 2016. Well, it makes sense to me. If ticket sales aren't where you want them to be, then decrease supply! That's basic economics. I'm sure that's part of it, but according to owner Shad Khan, this is also about increasing the visibility of the franchise worldwide, which I think is also a good thing for the team. It is, however, also important for me that this team remain the Jacksonville Jaguars, because that's the only reason I root for them. Shipping one out of eight home games overseas doesn't make this any less Jacksonville's team, but could one non-Jacksonville home game per season lead to two or more non-Jacksonville home games in future seasons? I guess we'll revisit this issue in four years and see where we are.

Jacksonville at Baltimore - Sat 12:00a, NFL Network (tape delay)

College football - My college football preview is going to be pretty short.

Florida State is being picked by many to win the ACC, and by some to win the National Championship. In other words, this preseason is just like every other preseason, which means these "predictions" have absolutely no bearing on what might actually happen...just like every other year. Yawn. Let's just play the games already. (FSU starts with two cupcakes, and doesn't really start their season until Game 3 versus Wake Forest.)

Penn State, of course, is basically just playing for fun this year. (And the next year, and the year after that...) In a way, I'm actually kind of looking forward to watching the team without the pressure of, you know, everything hanging in the balance. On the other hand, it'll probably be hard to get excited about all those games against opponents not named "Ohio State" or "Michigan" (the latter of which they don't even play this year). Purdue? Illinois? Iowa? You know what, guys, y'all can have it...this year. Maybe even next year, too.

Soccer - Last year, I watched several English Premier League games for the first time...but that interest only really lasted for a couple of weeks. Well, August is traditionally one of the deadest sports months of the year, so it's a great time to get back into the EPL! Except...I've found something even better. (Or worse.)

This week, I discovered a brand new soccer channel deep in the depths of the DirecTV Sports Pack called "beIN Sport". It's owned by Al Jazeera (yes, that Al Jazeera), and it just launched, like, last week. (Or maybe the week before?) Apparently Al Jazeera decided some time ago they wanted to start up an American soccer channel, and they then proceeded to buy up a bunch of the rights to various European soccer leagues (including the top leagues of Spain, Italy, and France, and the next level down from the EPL, the "Football League Championship"), plus various other soccer rights, including South American World Cup qualifiers. And, bam, new TV station! They're already on DirecTV and DISH, but I'm not sure how much cable coverage they have yet (if any).

So, anyway...while I've been unable to really get into the English Premier League (which, should be noted, is still on ESPN and FOX Soccer just like last year), I think I might be able to get into the beIN Sport-televised French league, "Ligue 1". Why? Because I like France. It's more interesting for me to watch a game between, say, Lyon and Marseille, then a game between Manchester Whatever and one of the two billion London-based teams. And that's even when considering that the picture quality on the Ligue 1 games is far inferior to what you get with an EPL broadcast. (Sure, they say it's High Definition, but...I'm skeptical.)

Ligue 1 isn't getting off to a good start, though. So far I've watched two games (one of which was not a Ligue 1 game, technically, but did involve a Ligue 1 team), and both games ended 0-0. That's 180 minutes of scoreless soccer. Yuck. You guys do occasionally score, right? Right?

Turns out that, according to Wikipedia, not only is Ligue 1 often lower scoring than other European soccer leagues such as the EPL, but Ligue 1 teams usually flame out spectacularly in major European tournaments such as the UEFA Champions League. So evidently, if you like crappy soccer, Ligue 1 it is! In a way, all this actually makes these French footballers a little more endearing, to me. But we'll see how long this infatuation lasts. (Probably just until American football season starts.) many of these games will end 0-0? (No, I certainly do not plan on watching all of them, but dammit, I am going to see at least one goal scored in a Ligue 1 game this weekend.)
Fri 2:30p - Evian v. Lyon, beIN
Sat 7:00p - Nice v. Lille, beIN
Sun 3:00a - Valenciennes v. Ajaccio, beIN
Sun 8:00a - Montpelier v. Marseille, beIN
Sun 11:00a - Paris Saint Germain v. Bordeaux, beIN

Auto racing - One quick thought here: I'll be interested to see how the racing is on the recently re-re-configured Bristol. That is all.
Sat 7:30p - NASCAR Sprint Cup at Bristol, ABC


bubba0077 said...

The common thinking is that pitchers now throw much harder than a century ago. This puts much more stress on the rotator cuff and elbow, requiring longer recovery time and wearing them down faster.

Chris Allen said...

That makes sense.