And the Orioles sweep the Blue Jays after having failed to beat them in the previous 12 tries.  3-12 is not a good record against any team, but I think it would be a fallacy to try to look at season-long stats for this team, namely because it isn’t the same team.  There are a lot of squads in a lot of sports that turn things on at a certain time of the season or go through some big ebbs and flows, but I have never seen a team take such a black and white change as I have with this 2010 Orioles team.  I can barely recognize in this team what was such a disaster back in April.  There are still gaping holes in the lineup, occasional shaky starts and bullpen meltdowns, but when this team plays to their ability, it seems like, well, they are who we thought they were.  They have, in a season, managed to fulfill the best and worst expectations people had for them back in March.  Now on to the national stage, let’s line up for the kick…

Giants Take over NL West Lead

The Padres have been fading, but you would be hard pressed to find a fan not from Colorado or San Francisco who doesn’t want San Diego to somehow make it into the playoffs.  In March this team was written off worse than the Orioles- the Orioles were a team on the upswing; the Padres were billed as a team waiting to sell off Adrian Gonzalez for the best batch of young prospects.  That might still happen next season, but up until now San Diego had held their own in a very tough division, with a dynamic pitching staff in San Francisco and punishing young hitters in Colorado and even Los Angeles.  It is not easy to win in that division (Baltimore fans know all about tough divisions), and the Padres had ridden a young staff that had a best-case-scenario outcome- all the young arms progressed better than expected, the bullpen came together, and they scored just enough runs to win.  If only the Orioles had gotten off to a best-case-scenario start!  Unfortunately the long September is catching up with them and there is more than a good chance that the slow decline of the Padres won’t turn around before it’s too late.  Here’s to hoping that there is another Cinderella story in baseball, a sport that often has its short list of postseason contenders already decided before the season ever starts.

NFL Week 1 (or even Week 2) Overreactions

Yes, the Seahawks throttled the 49ers and the Chiefs took down San Diego (bad week for San Diego, huh?), but it is comical the way columns come out about how the 49ers are in disarray or the Chiefs are the next big thing in the West.  Crazy things happen in Week 1- crazy things happen in week 3, 5, 8, and 12, too.  No single bad outing ever determines a team’s success in the long term, especially when they are playing meaningful football for the first time in 8 months (9, for most teams).  I loved watching in my fantasy league the way former high round picks were dumped after a bad Week 1 performance, as though they would never turn things around.  Look, if after week 4 or 5 your team is still barely scraping by, then maybe there is a problem.  Last season, if I recall correctly, the Broncos beat the Bengals (and started 6-2 I might add) in Week 1 followed by the Giants topping the Cowboys and the Bears beating the Steelers in Week 2.  At the time these were seen as referendums on these teams, only to turn out pretty meaningless by the end of the year.  16 games is a short season (not that I would ever favor an 18 game schedule), but there is such a thing as hitting the panic button a bit too early.  Don’t go changing your predictions just yet.

Reggie Bush Hands Back Heisman…

… but does so in a way that doesn’t engender much respect.  Yes, he gave back the award- whether it was under duress or not I am not going to speculate, it would be unfair to assume that the reports that he was told it would be taken from him are correct.  However, he has refused to acknowledge what the rest of the country knows for certain- he and his family accepted gifts, whether directly or indirectly, from a marketing group while he was a student at USC, rendering him ineligible.  He has to have known about that, and has been unable to provide any answers to explain or defend himself from these accusations.  Giving back the Heisman doesn’t matter if it doesn’t come with an acknowledgment that you committed (or were complicit in) any wrongdoing.  It’s like turning yourself in to police and then refusing to confess.  Nice job… but they knew it was you anyway.  Reggie Bush could have easily gotten us all to applaud him by saying that he was a young kid, got caught up in things, was just trying to help his family, and he is going to work to help make sure other kids don’t get drawn into those mistakes.  We would have all understood and been sympathetic.  Instead he sends out canned press releases and won’t take a direct question on the issue.  When will athletes learn that coming clean is always better than trying to dodge something?