I guess I wrote off the New York Mets' chances of blowing their National League East lead a little too quickly last week. The last bit of their lead over the Philadelphia Phillies, which was seven games with 17 to go, evaporated Thursday as they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals while the Phillies were beating the Atlanta Braves.
The Mets end the season with a three-game series at home against the last-place Florida Marlins. The Phillies get to finish at home against the Washington Nationals -- who are in fourth place but just got done sweeping the Mets. If New York manages to miss the playoffs, a distinct possibility, it would let the Phillies in via perhaps the greatest collapse since the Phillies' own swan dive in 1964.
The Rockies were still out of the playoffs Friday morning, tied with the Phillies/Mets for second in the wild-card race, one game behind the all-new, outfielderless San Diego Padres, who in turn trail the Arizona Diamondbacks by a game for the N.L. West lead. Got that? Good. Also, the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers continue to stumble toward the Central Division title, the Cubs two games up with three to play, both losers again Thursday. The Brewers are hosting San Diego for the weekend, the Cubs visiting Cincinnati.
Meanwhile, an interesting sidebar to the Milton Bradley story: Mets outfielder Marlon Anderson accused an umpire of lying. After an arbitration hearing on his appeal of a two-game suspension, Anderson said ump Dan Iassogna, who tossed him for arguing balls and strikes and flinging his helmet Sept. 15, lied in his report of the incident.
"He said I said the F-word three times," Anderson said, according to Newsday. "Anybody who knows me knows I don't do that."
I don't know if Anderson swears or not, or if Iassogna lied or not, but it's interesting that we've now had two incidents in the same week in which players have accused umpires of lying in their reports. Bradley said umpires lie a lot in their reports, and he was sure Mike Winters, the ump with whom he argued Sunday, would lie in his report of that incident.
Winters was suspended Tuesday for the rest of the season, so whether Bradley was correct about Winters' lying or not, we know at least that Major League Baseball doesn't believe Bradley was simply talking nonsense, as is his wont. With Anderson's accusation -- which, again, was only that, and it's worth noting that his two-game suspension was upheld -- coming on the heels of the Winters-Bradley fracas, it's looking like baseball has a real problem on its hands.
Are the umpires honest or not? In the aftermath of the Tim Donaghy scandal in the NBA, this is not a question to be taken lightly. Commissioner Bud Selig has to take decisive action here to address what could easily become, if it hasn't already, a serious issue for fans.
Oh my gosh, what did I just type? Bud Selig has to take decisive action? I'm sorry. I'm awake now.
NFL Week 4 [PERMALINK]
Starting next week, we go to October rules, which is that every game blurb is limited to two sentences, because it's all about baseball in October. Not quite there yet, but I've got this baby set on high speed, low accuracy.
Winners in caps, and, as a continuing service to about four readers who have requested it, I'm including as usual the picks of my daughter, Daisy, coin-flippinest 2-year-old on the San Andreas Fault, and my son, Buster, game-predictinest 4-year-old this side of Accuscore's oldest server.
You should have seen Buster's reaction the other day when I told him the grand prize of the annual Panel o' Experts game-picking contest: Dinner at my house.
Sunday early games
HOUSTON (2-1) at Atlanta (0-3)
Hey, Atlanta: Remember Matt Schaub? Yeah, he's the guy who used to back up Michael Vick. Oh, look. He just threw another touchdown pass against you. And another.
GREEN BAY (3-0) at Minnesota (1-2)
Brett Favre is going to break some kind of record in this game. Remember how he and the Packers never used to play well in the Humphreydome? Those days are gone, for the moment, at least with the Vikes' pass defense in its current state. Minnesota. If the Packers really are one of the top few teams in the NFC -- and it's certainly looking that way -- they'd be well-advised not to lose this traperrific game.
Oakland (1-2) at MIAMI (0-3)
Things are looking up a little bit for the Raiders. Not so much for the Dolphins. But I think the Mammals will get No. 1 anyway. Trick knee.
Chicago (1-2) at DETROIT (2-1)
Brian Griese takes over for Rex Grossman as the Bears quarterback, and when Brian Griese is looking like a vast improvement, it's time to rethink things. He'll be asked to manage the game and not screw up while the Bears defense tries to slug the Lions in the mouth. But the Bears defense is hobbling. This would have sounded ridiculous three weeks ago, but this looks like a coin-flip game to me, even with the way the Eagles so thoroughly exposed Detroit's defense last week, so I'll go along with Daisy's quarter. You look for ways to not say no to your child is what I hear.
ST. LOUIS (0-3) at Dallas (3-0)
What the Heck Pick of the week. Kind of a trap game for the Cowboys, what with their being anointed the favorite in the NFC. But with Orlando Pace and Steven Jackson out and Marc Bulger among the walking wounded for the Rams, I can't picture Dallas losing.
Kids: Dallas (12-point favorite)
BALTIMORE (2-1) at Cleveland (1-2)
The Browns scored 51 and beat Cincinnati in that crazy game and then lost at the gun in Oakland on a blocked field goal. Seconds, or inches, from having a winning record. And the Ravens are scuffling, pulling out close ones against mediocre teams. But then again, that's all they have to do here. Derek Anderson and Jamal Lewis are going to have a tougher time against Lewis' old mates than they had against the Bengals, that's for sure.
Kids: Cleveland (Go, kids!)
N.Y. Jets (1-2) at BUFFALO (0-3)
Nothing's going right for the Bills. They're banged up and playing lousy. Ergo: They win this one.
Buster: New York
Sunday late games
Seattle (2-1) at SAN FRANCISCO (2-1)
The NFC West is probably going to come down to one of these two, or maybe Arizona, winning it with a record that looks something like 9-7, so intradivision games, especially the two Seattle-San Francisco games, are huge. The 49ers just haven't been able to get their offense going. Alex Smith is still struggling. That's not news. Frank Gore struggling is. Backward syntax type I.
The Seahawks offense looked good against Cincinnati last week, but that was Cincinnati, the defense that gave up 51 points to the Cleveland Browns, something I still just can't get over and feel compelled to mention like three times a day. Like, I'll be ordering a burrito and I'll go, "Black beans, no lettuce, the Browns hung a 51 on the Bengals." It's getting out of hand. Like when the Bengals let the Browns score 51 points.
At some point, Smith and the Niners offense are going to figure it out a little, and since I picked them to win the division, I'm going to go ahead and say this game is that point, even though I don't really believe it. See what I did there?
Buster: San Francisco
TAMPA BAY (2-1) at Carolina (2-1)
I don't quite know what to make of the Panthers these days, and I also don't quite know what to make of the Buccaneers. While I'm at it, I don't quite know what to make of the officiating crew of this game. But I think Tampa Bay's a pretty good 2-1 and Carolina's a not-very-good 2-1. Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme has a sore elbow. He'll either play with it or give way to David Carr. I don't know what to make of that, but I suspect: not much.
Kids: Tampa Bay
Kansas City (1-2) at SAN DIEGO (1-2)
How bad are the Chiefs that the Chargers can look as bad as they've looked and still be favored by a touchdown and a half over them? Pencils down? The answer is: way.
Kids: San Diego (11.5-point favorite)
Denver (2-1) at INDIANAPOLIS (3-0)
The Jacksonville Jaguars were able to move the ball pretty well on Denver's defense last week. OK? Got it?
Kids: Indianapolis (9.5-point favorite)
PITTSBURGH (3-0) at Arizona (1-2)
The Cardinals did this cool thing last week where they shuttled Kurt Warner -- kids, ask your parents: He used to be a big deal -- in to run a no-huddle offense. It's the kind of wrinkle Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was known for when he was the offensive coordinator for the Steelers, the kind of thing that keeps the other team off-balance and guessing. Unless the other team is the Steelers, who'll shrug their shoulders and say, "We don't care who's back there. We're blitzing." Which will work just dandy.
Kids: Pittsburgh (6-point favorite)
Sunday night game
PHILADELPHIA (1-2) at N.Y. Giants (1-2)
This won't be as easy for Donovan McNabb as last week's track meet against the Lions, but then again, the highlights won't feature those UCLAwful throwback PJs. This should be a pretty fun game, with both quarterbacks -- McNabb and Eli Manning -- starting to click and both defenses not. Clicking, that is. Ergo: Final score will be 5-3.
Buster: New York
Monday night game
NEW ENGLAND (3-0) at Cincinnati (1-2)
On Labor Day, as I honored the bravery, sacrifice and foresight of the American labor movement and also drank beer, I looked at this game on the schedule and I thought, "Thank goodness for the American labor movement, thanks to which we have the five-day workweek, so that I might enjoy all the Week 4 games that went before this one rather than having to spend my lone day off taking care of chores, and also thanks to which we have the eight-hour workday, so that I can get home and watch this game, which promises to be extremely diverting."
I think in oddly formal, run-on sentences when I drink. And yes, I know it's part of my workday to watch this game. Your point being?
Wait, my point, that being the point here, being: Now? With the Bengals defense a mess, running back Rudi Johnson out and the Patriots looking like a juggernaut: not so much promise.
Kids: New England (7-point favorite)
Season record: 31-17
Last week: 10-6
What the Heck Picks: 0-3 -- is it too early to talk about a perfect season?
Gratuitous uses of the word "ergo": 3
Previous column: Archie Manning, Superdome hero
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -