Who doesn’t love winning 9 in a row? A good winning streak makes everything better. It makes the food taste better, the beer colder and the summer heat more tolerable.
Not only do the Braves now lead the Phillies by 3 games in the division standings, the club’s 32-22 record is just a half-game shy of San Diego for best in the National League. The best part?The Braves are a team with very few perceivable holes. Things that were a question mark to start the year are now a strength.
The bullpen, for instance. It was solid going into the year, but with still in need of a middle-haul (not quite an overhaul, you see.) Since then, we’ve sufficiently ‘vamped (not quite a revamp, you see) the unit with the addition of Jonny Venters, who through 16 appearances has held opposing hitters to a .181 average and has surrendered just 3 runs. Yeah, I’d say he’s a keeper.
The one hole that has arisen in the pitching staff, the loss of Jair Jurrjens to the disabled list, has been mitigated by Kris Medlen’s successful transition to a starting role. Medlen’s been hit around a bit in his 5 starts, but he hasn’t giving up many runs. Last night, Medlen took the mound in the series-opener with LA and turned in another strong outing, leaving the game with a 4-0 lead. Two of the runners he left on base came around to score, leaving him with 2 ER in 7.1 innings.
Oh, and Yunel Escobar, with 4 multi-hit games in the last 5, is starting to hit too. Look out, National League.
…..Shifting gears, here, as the word “expansion” was brought up again today regarding the SEC. As Tim Tucker writes, the conference officials plan to discuss possible realignment plans today. With more Rivals-created rumors today about Texas jumping conferences, this time to the Pac-10, and this time along with half of the Big XII (Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Colorado and the two Oklahoma schools), there is more gloom-and-doom talk of a day that is soon coming, a day that the “Megaconferences” will ruin college football from the inside out.
Interesting quote in that Tucker piece Texas A&M athletic Director Bill Byrne. When asked if joining the SEC would be an option for the Aggies should the dominoes actually fall, Byrne said: “It might be…You know what? It might be.” The SEC doesn’t need Texas A&M, but it’s pretty clear that A&M wants the SEC. As an LSU fan, I wouldn’t be opposed to the addition if any expansion is carried out. The LSU-A&M series was played regularly from the 1940 all the way up until 1995, and the Tigers could use another rival out west.
To balance the divisions, another team could be either be added to the East (Clemson? Georgia Tech?), or an additional Texas team could be added to the West and Alabama or Auburn could shift over to the other division.
But before we get into all the hypothetical situations, let’s remember that when the smoke clears, assuming there’s any smoke to be cleared, we will not be left with a bunch of 16-team Megaconferences. Sure, I could see a few schools jumping conferences in the next couple of years (like Boise State to the Mountain West, which seems to be a go). And yeah, Texas may go elsewhere, and the Big XII could subsequently break off into a million pieces, but we will not see any of these conferences becoming unchallenged juggernauts overnight.
For one, the air was kind of let out of the whole “expansion=instant success” balloon last decade. Remember when the addition of Miami and Virginia Tech meant that the ACC was gonna supplant the SEC as the dominant football conference in the south and we’d have a Seminoles-Canes championship every December and it’d make lots and lots of money? Yeah, instead we have Wake Forest-Georgia Tech slopfests played to an empty stadium at 11 in the morning.
Secondly, we already have a Mega-Conference, and it’s the SEC. The run of 4-straight championships tells you that. That the biggest players in this charade are the Pac 10 and Big Tweleven tells me that these proposed moves are purely reactionary. They are just envious neighbors trying desperately to keep up with the Sabans.
Conference expansion isn’t a guaranteed winning strategy, and neither is staging a championship game. It works in the SEC, and it works beautifully (read: it makes tons of money), but it might not be an ideal system for the other leagues. The Pac 10 already has a terrific scheduling format in place (9 conference games, true round-robin, every team plays every other team). To disrupt that perfection in order to participate in an arms race would be a short-sighted and perhaps even counter-productive cash grab.