Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: Wild Card A Toss-Up

Today's Calls: Ben Sheets vs. CC Sabathia, Mets vs. Phils, Tarvaris Jackson vs. Tyler Thigpen, Pat White vs. Dan Hawkins, Gilbert Arenas vs. $111 Million, Mark Cuban vs. Josh Howard and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: The Brewers needed a return to normalcy, more than anything else. You know ... ↵

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↵— Winning, after that Wild Card-deflating five-game losing streak, giving their new manager his first win. Check. ↵

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↵— Keeping pace with the WC-leading Mets, who finally managed to beat the powerhouse Nats. Check. ↵

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↵— Losing on-again, off-again ace Ben Sheets to some form of shoulder injury? Check. ↵

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↵(Ahh: Now THAT is normalcy for the Brewers and new manager Dale Sveum.) ↵

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↵Check out the remaining schedules below. I suspect that Mets' extra game will somehow come into play: ↵

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↵Remaining schedules: ↵

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↵PHI (10): @ATL (1); @FLA; ATL; WAS ↵

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↵Have to love finale vs. woeful Nats ↵

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↵NYM (11): @WAS (1); @ATL; CHC (4); FLA ↵

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↵Santana could pitch up to 3 more. ↵

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↵MIL (10): @CHC (1); @CIN; PIT; CHC ↵

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↵Spot secure, will Cubs play to win? ↵

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↵A.L. Playoff Push: While I have been saying about the Rays “All that matters is making the playoffs, however they get in,” that doesn't mean that a division title wouldn't be a symbolically sweet moment. ↵

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↵And Tampa is one step closer to that, taking 2 of 3 from the Red Sox in the process. (Meanwhile: Twins can't win when they need to most — when the White Sox lose.) ↵

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↵Milestones: A-Rod becomes the first ever to go 35 HRs and 100 RBIs in 12 seasons, topping Ruth. More: Ichiro collected 200 hits for the 8th straight season, tying W.W. Keeler's MLB record. And he'll break it in '09. ↵

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↵Awards Watch: At least one other person agrees with me that Manny-for-MVP is a pretty good idea. ↵

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↵NFL: The Tarvaris Jackson Experiment is over in Minnesota. I find it remarkable that with all the questions they had about Jackson coming into the season, the best they could come up with for a backup was Gus Frerotte. At this rate, Tim Tebow will look good in purple. ↵

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↵Meanwhile, the next time someone tries to argue that being a starting NFL QB is somehow unique or special, please utter "Tyler Thigpen." ↵

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↵Hochuli Scandal, Cont'd: To find out that he feels incredibly badly about his massive blunder makes me feel less hostile toward him. That said, in no way should he be allowed to ref a playoff game this season, and I hope he's the first to volunteer that. ↵

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↵NBA: Gilbert Arenas has knee surgery, to miss the first month of the season. (Should be qualified: At LEAST the first month.) ↵

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↵The Wiz proved they can win without him, but they aren't nearly as good as they would be with a completely healthy Agent Zero. The question is: Will he ever be completely healthy? Wasn't that the $111 million bet that the team made this summer? ↵

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↵CFB Thursday Night Football: No. 21 West Virginia gets a chance to repair its limp '08 rep with a tough road game vs. the Big 12 at Colorado. ↵

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↵WVU needs a strong performance alone on the national stage to convince poll voters that the loss to East Carolina was a fluke. (Pick: West Virginia.) ↵

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↵Could Ohio State lose to Troy? Coming off last week's obliteration, playing without Beanie Wells and playing a BCS-tested Troy, I wouldn't put it out of the realm of possibility. ↵

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↵SN's expert panel picks this week's games. As usual, my Top 25 picks will come tomorrow. ↵

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↵CFB: Syracuse may be the worst football program of any BCS conference. But Orange fans have two things to look forward to: ↵

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↵(1) The inevitable firing of Greg Robinson (and hiring of the Raiders' Lane Kiffin?) ↵

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↵(2) The upcoming release of the film "The Express," about Ernie Davis (who, by the way, did NOT wear Nikes). ↵

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↵The Last Word: "Cell phone cameras are not your friend." About the Josh Howard "Anthem" quasi-scandal, this might be the most profound thing Mark Cuban has ever said about the intersection of sports and media. (Here are Shoals' "talking points" on the matter at Free Darko.) ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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