October 12, 2005
Paul Byrd:
On 3 days' rest, Angels starter eats up 7 innings while only giving up 2 runs and 5 hits. If the Angels go on to win the ALCS, this was an MVP performance.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Did the Yankees and Red Sox ruin the ALCS forever?

The rivalry in 2003 and 2004 produced arguably the two greatest ALCS of our generation, if not ever. (Certainly the most hyped.)

So the inevitable result?

Who else watched last night's ALCS Game 1 between the Angels and White Sox and found it ... lacking? (Bigger question: Who didn't watch at all?)

Letdown when the two teams that delivered that wild drama didn't return to face off again.

(And, frankly, letdown even if they did; I know we asked this in 2004 about 2003, but how could the teams possibly top last year?)

Fans became spoiled.
The bar was raised too high.

The 2003/2004 ALCS signaled (and apparently climaxed) MLB's Renaissance.

Will the ALCS ever be the same?

Did we sell out the former perpetual drama of the playoffs for a simple (yet unbelievable) two-year high?

Halos Edge Sox
That lamentation above aside, last night's 3-2 Angels win in the ALCS opener in Chicago revealed a very important playoff truth:

Conventional wisdom is meaningless. So much for the Angels rolling over in the face of:

*Travel weariness! What happened to White Sox' advantage of being rested while the Angels were exhausted from their red-eye road trips?

*Raggedy starting pitching! What happened to the Angels' rotation being in shambles from the ALDS?

*White Sox mo! What happened to the sizzling Sox bats, the Ozzie Mania or the home-field advantage?

Pre-game plotlines are great, but where were the experts saying the Angels would maintain their mo? Or anticipating Paul Byrd dominating? Or projecting the White Sox bats suddenly going quiet?

Game 2: Buehrle vs. Washburn. That is, if Washburn can even pitch. He's recovering from strep throat, so even if he starts, that's the effect to watch. (If he doesn't start, it'll be Kevin Gregg.)

NLCS Preview
Eclipsed by the ALCS, last year's NL edition was one of the most exciting LCSes of the ESPN Era.

Garret Anderson: HR last night was his 3rd of postseason
Joe Girardi: Reportedly has offer to manage the Marlins
Nomar: Reportedly saves 2 people who fell in Boston Harbor
Bartolo Colon: Angels Cy contender is out for rest of ALCS
Al Leiter: Ready to retire? (TV fame and fortune are next)
Ike Diogu: Promising Warriors rookie PF breaks left hand
This year, there's a lot of talk about respect between the two teams. What is that all about? If they want to move the needle, they have to create some tension!

In the meantime, Game 1 is a coulda-woulda-shoulda between Andy Pettitte and Chris Carpenter, who both missed last year's NLCS with injury.

Everyone has said that the Astros' run will be defined by their Big Three, but the more important dynamic is the Cards' recently inconsistent pitchers vs. the Astros' consistently sketchy lineup.

If you're rooting for the best story, you've got to take the Astros, behind "relief ace" Roger Clemens, rolling to their first World Series ever.

Vikings Sex Cruise
Local cops are investigating an alleged sex cruise last week involving as many as 17 Vikings players, after some crew members reported being propositioned. I guarantee they didn't sign up for this ship.

No felonies are involved, according to reports out of Minneapolis. (The real pressure to punish isn't on the legal system; it's on the team management.)

The bigger issue, if the reports are true, is that so many players on this team -- already such a massive disappointment to its fans -- could spend their bye week acting like such morons. Didn't they have tape of the Bears to study?

Big Ben OK
That wasn't a sigh of relief from Steelers fans: That was a gale-force wind. Not only is Roethlisberger not out for the season (as feared), but he could play this Sunday vs. the Jags.

So the new controversy in Pittsburgh is whether the team should start Fast Willie or Bus Bettis at RB. Starting is probably overrated (count the number of touches, instead), but Bettis looked good on MNF.

Artest Returns
"I'm going to be very edgy, and I'm not going to balance it," Ron Artest told the media after his first game back since expulsion.

Wow, how promising.

How critical is Artest to the Pacers' East hopes? Well, put it this way: Without an effective Ron-Ron, they have no chance. With him, Top 3.

Olympic Coach K
Shane Battier, Olympian?

Coach K will lead the Olympic hoops team into Beijing in 2008, according to reports. There is no better choice among any coach (college OR pro).

It will be interesting to see how Coach K meshes with the pro players. He has experience as an Olympic assistant for the Dream Team in '92.

Think he'll put Jay Williams on the team? What if Williams geared his rehab from that cycle injury not around the NBA, but being an Olympian?

(The biggest question, of course, is whether LeBron will play. For now, he says he "doesn't know yet." Wouldn't blame him for skipping after the Larry Brown debacle in Athens.)

Amare Stoudemire:
The most exciting young post player in the NBA will unexpectedly be out for 4 months after knee surgery yesterday. This won't be your 2003-2004 Suns.
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Page 2 index
Mike Philbrick archive
Ranking NLCS SPs
Roger Clemens
LDS G5 relief was epic
Chris Carpenter
Leading guy for NL Cy
Andy Pettitte
Missed 2004 with inj.
Roy Oswalt
Best LDS of Big 3
Mark Mulder
Body shots? No problem.

Int'l intrigue? This story about the NC St hoops player who might be deported because he's in the US illegally. Who's running NC St admissions?

Interesting story on P1 of ESPN.com about a HS football coach in NJ who resigned after he wasn't allowed to lead pre-game prayers.

How powerful (and popular) is the Penn State resurgence? The win over Ohio St was ESPN's 2nd-most watched regular-season college fb game ever.

Brewing CFB controversy (as tabbed here since August): Three (or more) unbeatens. By the way, Penn St is No. 1 in most computer polls.

Tomorrow, I'll be breaking my latest ironman writing streak (200-some weekdays in a row) to observe Yom Kippur. Page 2's Mike Philbrick will be guest-writing. See Q It Up.

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