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The Stack is here on this Wednesday ready to talk some sports and also pay respects to a man who's impact on the game of football will be forever felt.  First, like to wish my dad a happy 49th birthday and a happy anniversary.  Not that he ever reads the blog, but maybe he should now.  Happy birthday dad.  Love ya.  Now let's get right to it and see what made "the stack" for today, Wednesday, September 19:

MLB races heating up as end of season looms

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, some teams are pulling away and leaving their respecitive division rivals in their rearview mirror while others will be sweating it out to the final day, maybe even the final pitch.

In the AL, all three division are pretty hotly contested with the largest lead at three games for both the Texas Rangers (over Oakland) and the Chicago White Sox (over Detroit).  Both teams should hang on and win their divisions.  Oakland and a hard-charging Anaheim Angels team will be battling it out for a wild card.  I think Oakland is going to hang on and win the wild card while the Angles, a team with such high expectations after getting Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson in the offseason, will be left out of the postseason.  Very disappointing.  Speaking of disappointing, Detroit fights that description perfectly, especially if they don't win the AL Central.  After getting Prince Fielder in the offseason, most everyone thought the Tigers would run away with the central.  But they have failed to live up to expectations and I don't see them having a big enough charge to win the central or get a wild card birth.  If that is the case, the Tigers will go down as the biggest disappointment of the 2012 baseball season.

The AL East is the most intriguing of the playoff races, AL or NL, and it's not even close.  The Baltimore Orioles are the surprise team in baseball.  How they've managed to stay in this race with the almighty and powerful New York Yankees is really amazing.  Apart from Orioles fans and the most avid of baseball fans, can you name five players on the Orioles roster without looking at it?  I can't either! And yet, here they are a game behind the Yankees for the division lead (At the time of publishing, the Orioles were losing 2-0 to the Mariners).  The Yankees had a ten game lead what a month-and-a-half ago and now they are tied with the Orioles?  What happened?  Yes injuries to the pitching staff have been a significant factor, but the Yankees talented roster should still be able to hold off the Orioles right?  Regardless of who wins the division, the other team will get a wild card spot.  But this race is going down to the final series, maybe even the final day.

In the NL, the Washington Nationals have the NL East on lockdown.  The Atlanta Braves sit 5.5 games back, but I don't think they have the firepower to catch the Nationals for the division.  The Braves are a definite wild card team though.

In the NL Central, the Cincinnati Reds have breezed by the rest of their division.  They're trying to catch the Nationals for first in the NL and have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.  This team disappointed last year against Philadelphia.  That won't happen this year.  There are three teams in the central still in the hunt for that last wild card.  The St. Louis Cardinals currently hold a slim one game lead on the final wild card birth with the NL West Los Angeles Dodgers right behind them.  The Milwaukee Brewers are two games back and the fading Pittsburgh Pirates are three games back.  The Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks have a slim shot at making the playoffs.  Got all that?  It's going to be a very interesting race, one that goes right down to the wire.  I would not be surprised to see the teams change every couple of days.

In the NL West, San Francisco is running away from the Dodgers.  They are comfortably ahead with an eight game lead.  No worries for the Giants.

So as you can see, the hunt for October is in full swing and it is going to be a fun couple of weeks to see who is going to make it to the postseason.  Once postseason baseball starts, it is going to be very entertaining to watch.

 

NHL lockout thoughts

After weeks of on and off negotiations, the long awaited and expected announcement came down.  The NHL locked out the players as of midnight eastern time Saturday night as the current CBA expired.  The two sides will remain in contact according to statements issued by both the NHL and the NHLPA, but the both sides remain far apart on the core issues regarding a new CBA, specifically the how the hockey related revenue should be shared.  So far in the few days since the lockout began, no progress has been made and multiple players have signed contracts to play in Europe while the lockout is going on.

While both sides are saying the right things in that they will remain in constant communication, the fact of the matter is that if each side was truly serious about trying to reach a new CBA, it would have never come down to this and the league would not have locked out its players.  I tend to side more on the players side in that they've consistently been willing to negotiate and try to find a fair deal while the NHL seems to be just threatening them by saying "take our deal or leave it."  The deal their offering seems far more skewed in the owners favor and would make the players make far more concessions than the owners would have to.  Both sides should give a little to reach common ground and get the season going.  The league has come a long ways since its last lockout and the revenue they've generated is pretty significant.  In excess of 3.2 billion dollars.  That is a lot of money, more than the NHL has ever seen and both sides are responsible for contributing to that.  It's time to get a deal done.

This will be the second lockout in the last eight years.  The last lockout, in 2004-05, wiped out the entire season.  This will be the fourth lockout under Commissioner Gary Bettman.  While it appears that an entire season will not be lost, given what happened the last time the CBA expired, you'll have to forgive hockey fans for being a little anxious and depressed about the possibility that there will be no hockey at all this year.  If the only hockey that's played this year is on XBOX playing NHL '13, there are going to be problems.  Let's just get a deal done.  Come on owners.  Come on players.  Come on NHL.  Let's get back to the negotiation table.  Let's get a deal done.  Let's play hockey! 

 

Steve Young rips the NFL on replacement refs

ESPN's Steve Young blew up the Twitter world last night when he said of the replacement refs on Sportscenter breaking down the Broncos-Falcons game saying of the NFL, "they just don't care."  BOOM!  And with that football fans and the media alike took to Twitter like wind to a grass fire.  One of the best quarterbacks ever to have played in the NFL just ripped the league who employed.  As I was reading through some of the tweets, the overwhelming majority supported Young and his claim.  And you know what, he's absolutely right.  If the league truly cared about the integrity of the game, they would get right back to the negotiating table and strike a deal with the locked out officials and get them back on the field. 

The replacement refs are doing the best they can.  And I think most people understand that.  But these are officials who came from the high school and low college ranks.  They just aren't ready for the speed of the game.  They don't know all of the rules.  There were tons of missed calls over the weekend, particulary in the MNF game.  For instance, twice the officials put the ball in play at the wrong yard line.  Once they caught it, but the other time, they gave the Bronocs eight extra yards.  And no one caught them.  

If the current officials were officiating, they'd make mistakes and we'd accept that.  And sure the replacement officials are under intense scrutiny.  But it is the magnitude of mistakes that is most alarming.  This has to stop.  Some fans don't see a difference.  Some don't care.  But for those of us who are avid NFL fans, this is very maddening and must come to a stop.  Get the locked out officials back on the field.

I leave you with more of what Young said last night, accompanied with a video.  

"Everything about the NFL now is inelastic for demand. There's nothing they can do to hurt the demand for the game. So the bottom line is they don't care. Player safety???doesn't matter in this case. Bring in the Division III officials???-doesn't matter. Because in the end, you're still going to watch the game, we're going to all complain and moan and gripe and say there's all these problems, all the coaches say it, the players say it???doesn't matter. So just go ahead, gripe all you want. I'm going to rest. Let them eat cake.

There's nothing that changes the demand for the NFL. ... It doesn't affect the desire for the game. If it affected the desire for the game, they'd come up with a few million dollars."

 

Steve Sabol dies at age of 69

The NFL was delivered very sad news yesterday when NFL Films president Steve Sabol passed away from cancer at the age of 69.  If you're a fan of the NFL, you know who Sabol was and you know his work.  From showing Hank Stram winning Super Bowl III against the Minnesota Vikings to the countless interviews and blooper shows, NFL Films helped capture the NFL and make it what it is today and Sabol helped run it all.  You see the features on the NFL Network.  You see each team's season recap in the highlights thanks to NFL Films.  NFL Films helped revolutionize the game of football and encapsulating it with the pictures and sounds of the game.  Many former and current players as well as teams have expressed their condolences on the passing of Sabol.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, youtube NFL Films and watch some of the stuff.  I guarantee you'll be a fan.  Most NFL fans know of NFL Films and have had to have seen plenty of footage that they've shot. Perhaps they just didn't know about the man who with his father helped make it all possible.  Thoughts, prayers and condolences are with the Sabol family.  It is truly a sad day in the NFL.  He will be missed.

 

Coming up Thursday: Thursday Night Football preview

 

 

 

 

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