If there was any question as to what was the best team in the country, Oregon answered that yesterday.  It isn’t that they dominated UCLA, or that their other opponents have been world-beaters.  The utter obliteration of all of their opponents, especially in the second-half, cements them as the team to beat.  Much attention is paid to their offense, but their defense is equally impressive.  Think about this: when the offense is scoring 7 or 8 times a game, and scoring quickly, the opposing offense gets that many more opportunities to get the ball and that much more time on the field, yet this defense is getting stronger in the second halves of games.  As impressive as TCU/Boise State/Auburn/Oklahoma have been, the Ducks are the most complete team.  Like Oregon does so many times a game, let’s line up for the kick…

Halladay’s Foul/Fair Bunt Propels Phillies Past Giants

For the second straight time, the Roy Halladay/ Tim Lincecum matchup was royally hyped, and again the performances were very good, but hardly dominant.  Halladay, for one, wasn’t pounding the strike zone the way he had in his earlier postseason starts, and batters were getting ahead in the count in very un-Halladay-like fashion.  In fact, the score aside, I think Lincecum pitched a stronger game.  Then again, with the ridiculous stat of “wins”, it isn’t the best pitcher who gets the recognition, but the pitcher with the best run support, and Halladay had that.  It’s tough for a team like the Giants, who scrape together runs (a polite way of saying they have a poor offense) and wait for the big hit, recently coming from Cody Ross.  And Ross did deliver, but it wasn’t enough to give the Giants a lead. 

Of course, the focus will be on whether Halladay’s bunt attempt in the 3rd inning should have been ruled fair, the result of which advanced runners to 2nd and 3rd while Halladay stood at home plate watching the ball trickle off of the plate to the side (which should have made the ball foul).  In fact, I imagine that play, in which let’s not forget Pablo Sandoval was unable to locate third base after catching the throw from Buster Posey will be the watershed moment in the minds of fans if the Phillies are able to take this series. 

Which, of course, will depend on the hitters.  All the attention may be on the pitchers, but Oswalt/Hamels and Sanchez/Cain is a wash, they are both great pairs.  The difference is going to be which lineup can get hot, and frankly, my money is on the Phils.  Whether they can win three straight is going to be a question, but I see this going seven games.

Rangers Try to Close out Yankees at Home

I don’t know about you, but I would be very concerned if I were the Texas Rangers.  The Yankees looked like the Yankees we all know and despise in their 7-2 win over Texas the other night, running off C.J. Wilson after tagging him with 5 earned runs.  The Rangers also lost despite having out-hit the Yankees 13-9, going an astounding 0-9 with runners on base at one point.  While one can’t read too much into a single game, I got the sense that the Rangers were pressing to get the game- and series- over with rather than focusing on the task at hand.  The Yankees can be very dangerous when they’re facing elimination; they tend to rise to the occasion and play up to the immense talent on their roster.

That said, my head tells me the Rangers should close it out at home tonight.  No, the Rangers haven’t been very good in the postseason at home.  While Colby Lewis was effective and Phil Hughes bombed out their first times out in this series, I don’t expect Hughes to pitch nearly as poorly as he did in Game 2.  But Hughes is not going 7 innings.  This game could very well come down to the relievers, where everyone short of Mariano Rivera on the Yankees is a questionable call at best, whereas I like the way Texas’ bullpen has been able to negotiate the typically hitters’ ballpark.  I can see the Rangers scoring several times in the 6-8th innings, and taking Texas to their first ever World Series.

NBA Flexes Their Labor Muscles Yet Again

David Stern is at it again, trying to set the tone for labor negotiations that might make the NBA the second league heading towards a lockout in 2011.  Telling reporters that the NBA is looking to cut labor costs by 1/3rd in order to make the league “profitable”, Stern makes it clear what his argument is going to be.  He is going to stand behind the owners (and their lawyers) and pronounce that the league is going under, that franchises are horribly unprofitable and that they will only achieve profitability if labor makes concessions.  You know what, if that’s the case, I completely agree with him.  But any labor organization would have to be a fool simply to take his word for it, yet that is where we are with major sports franchises.

The financial documents of the Marlins and Pirates that were recently leaked shows that teams were lying to their fanbases and local governments about being unable to spend when they were in fact flush with cash and raking in record profits.  In the NBA’s case, the hapless Golden State Warriors franchise sold in July for a record $450 million.  Why would such a terrible franchise set an NBA record if it was so unprofitable?

Stern has an easy way to make his case- open up the books of his member franchises and show the union, governments, and fans how unprofitable members are.  If the NBA gets to know exactly how much players are making in order to set their case, shouldn’t the union be able to do the same?  It’s like a criminal investigation in which the prosecution gets to claim it has physical evidence that proves guilt, but refuses to show anyone what that proof is.  If you want to claim poverty, Commissioner Stern, then pull out your balance sheet.