- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 26, 2009

HE SAID WHAT?

“I don’t get all these claims of complexion. It’s just not that difficult.” - ESPN analyst Andre Ware after Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany claimed college football’s playoff proponents are oversimplifying a complex issue

TAKE YOUR PICK ” Will the Dodgers still have baseball’s best record when Manny Ramirez returns?

Yes - We’ll give you three reasons: First, Juan Pierre has made the most of his opportunity in left field. In his 16 starts entering Monday since Ramirez went down, Pierre is hitting .391 with eight steals. Second, the Dodgers’ pitching staff leads the NL with a 3.74 ERA. Ailing starters Jason Schmidt and Hiroki Kuroda are scheduled to return to the rotation within the next two weeks, giving the Dodgers six capable starters. Finally, the NL West stinks - really stinks. Playing in the same division with San Francisco, Arizona and Colorado is worth a couple of stolen victories between now and July 3.

No - The Dodgers have done nothing but tread water since Manny’s 50-game exile. Los Angeles is 9-7 in the 16 games since he took off, and another six weeks of near-.500 ball isn’t going to yield the best record. The Dodgers have two major issues: First, their strong start on the hill is something of a mirage; four of the five principals on the team’s staff (four starters and closer Jonathan Broxton) are sporting ERAs well below their career averages. Second, with Manny gone, nobody in the lineup frightens opposing pitchers, with the possible exception of third baseman Casey Blake.

Our take - Boston, not the Dodgers, will have the best record in baseball come Independence Day but not because the Red Sox look dominant. Even without a salary cap, parity has found its way to baseball. The Red Sox (26-18) are the game’s best team, but the race for No. 2 is wide open. Toronto (27-20) has been exposed. Nobody’s buying Milwaukee (26-18) or Detroit (24-18). The Yankees (25-19) and Mets (23-20) are underachieving as usual. That leaves Philadelphia (24-18), the Dodgers (30-15) and Texas (26-17) on the table. Even though Brad Lidge has blown saves in three of his past six outings, we’ll take the Phillies at No. 2.

TWT FIVE ” COLLEGE ATHLETIC BRANDS IN 2008

SchoolEarnings (in millions)*

1. Ohio State$109

2. Florida$107

3. Texas$105

4. Tennessee$95

5. Michigan$89

* Estimated according to a recent study by Fox Business

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