Shanoff's WUC: A-Rod, LCS, Rush, Tebow, Weis

Today's Calls: Yankees vs. Angels, Joe Torre vs. Retirement, Rush Limbaugh vs. Jim Irsay, T.O. vs. Brady Quinn, Sam Bradford vs. Tim Tebow, Oklahoma vs. Texas, Notre Dame vs. USC and More. ↵

↵Alex RodriguezThe Opening Pitch: A-Rod isn't done yet. He can't be done yet. ↵

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↵The redemption of Rodriguez only happens if (or when) the Yankees win the World Series. ↵

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↵For a while there, he didn't even need to be an integral part of it — all he had to do was be a champion, and his career of self-centered brilliance would be expanded to include the must-have moniker "World Series champion." ↵

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↵But as the Yankees were bounced from the playoffs, year after year, it became apparent A-Rod didn't merely need the Yankees — the Yankees needed A-Rod. It wasn't that they couldn't win with him ... it was that they couldn't win without him. ↵

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↵That's why A-Rod's breakthrough in the ALDS — 6 RBI, including 2 huge HRs — was such a revelation: When A-Rod is on, the Yankees are unstoppable. And while there's still plenty of time for him to gag on the pressure, this was a glimpse of what it's like when he doesn't. ↵

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↵A-Rod can either be the Kevin Garnett of baseball (who remembers KG's playoff failures anymore?) — or the Dan Marino (defined by the "greatest never to win a championship" label). ↵

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↵A-Rod controls his own destiny — champ or chump. Because of his sudden postseason success, A-Rod has become the most compelling story line of the playoffs. ↵

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↵LCS Lead-Up: The Yankees are thinking about going to a three-man rotation (CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte), leaving Joba Chamberlain and Chad Gaudin for extended bullpen help. If the series schedule (and weather forecast) allow, this would be New York's ideal. ↵

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↵Joe Torre done in 2010? Regardless of whether he wins the World Series this year (or next), he'll be 70. I just don't see Torre as the Jack McKeon type, a managerial Methuselah. (Then again, after a year or two away — and with enough financial incentive — I could see him getting back into it, even in his 70s. Why not?) ↵

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↵MLB Mea Culpa: Yesterday, I tweaked MLB's LDS format as kind of lame because no LDS has gone to the full five games in four seasons. Astute reader AA emailed to protest the fact the LDS has produced underdog series victories inherently makes it more dramatic, even if the series don't go to a do-or-die 5th game. ↵

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↵AA's key data point: This was the first season since 1995 when all four higher-seeded teams won, and from 2006-2008, half of the LDS series were won by the lower-seeded team without home-field advantage. Agreed, AA: The unpredictability of the outcome of the LDS round makes it one of the BEST playoff systems in sports — regardless of how long the series go. Go, LDS! ↵

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↵NFL vs. Rush Limbaugh, Cont'd: Colts owner Jim Irsay, against. While I support Irsay's position and applaud him for coming out publicly about it, I find it hard to take any level of sanctimony from a guy whose family cowardly snuck out of Baltimore under cover of night. ↵

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↵NFL Draft: While everyone agrees — just as he was last year — Sam Bradford is the No. 1 QB prospect on the board, please note that SN's latest 2010 mock has Tim Tebow going No. 9, to the Raiders. ↵

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↵(Now, nevermind that playing for the unimaginative Raiders would be a worst-case for Tebow; he needs an innovative coach, and it's not like Al Davis will hire Jon Gruden back — or Gruden would want to go back to Oakland, no matter HOW much Gruden loves Tebow.) ↵

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↵NFL Must-Read: Michael Tunison on the rumors that either T.O. or Brady Quinn may get traded by next week's deadline. The players represent the biggest blunders of the decade for each franchise, neither going anywhere. ↵

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↵Remember when Oklahoma-Texas was going to be a de facto college football playoff semifinal this season? Now: It's a big game, but not THE game. Oklahoma was bounced from the BCS title-game hunt in Week 1 and Texas feels like the BCS lock. Sam Bradford might be back — that will only inspire Texas (already highly motivated from last year's BCS snub) to pummel OU more harshly. ↵

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↵Other games of intrigue this weekend: ↵
↵— No. 5 Boise St at Tulsa (Tonight!) ↵
↵— No. 8 Cincy at No. 21 South Florida (Tomorrow!) ↵
↵— No. 4 VA Tech at No. 19 GA Tech (Upset Special?) ↵
↵— No. 11 Iowa at Wisconsin (Trap Game?) ↵

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↵What about Notre Dame-USC? Charlie Weis actually thinks that Notre Dame can beat USC — not that I'd expect him to say anything else, but ND is going to get throttled, as usual. Consider this foreshadowing when the BCS wastes a bowl slot on another ND New Year's shellacking. ↵

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↵CFB Suspensions: Mike Locksley, New Mexico head coach, suspended for a week for punching one of his assistants. As Matt Hayes correctly points out: This is actually WORSE than LeGarrette Blount — who was initially suspended for the season. ↵

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↵Dez Bryant: "I just panicked." His apology is all well and good, but even if he panicked in the moment, why didn't he circle back with the NCAA to clear up his lying (either of omission or commission) the next day? Or the next week? As usual, I have less sympathy for him because his bigger problem was the cover-up, not the original crime. He had plenty of chances to come clean — before they busted him. ↵

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↵NBA Preseason: The Wizards’ win over the Pistons was meaningful for three reasons — (1) Flip Saunders beat his old team; (2) Gilbert Arenas had a game-high 24 (on 9-of-11 FG shooting); and (3) Arenas earned a $25K fine from the league for not being available to the media. If that isn't a sign this is a new Gilbert, I don't know what is. ↵

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↵SN NBA Countdown No. 15 Bulls: Derrick Rose may be spectacular, but the guy hitting all the big shots in the playoffs last year is now playing for the Pistons. We may look back on that series against the Celtics as the Bulls' high-water mark of the decade. (Rookie Taj Gibson had 15 and 10 last night in a Bulls win over the Bucks.) ↵

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↵Economy: I buy MLB's spin that attendance ONLY declined by 6 percent this year — this was just about the worst possible single-season economic climate of the post-strike era. Things should get better in 2010, but MLB teams can go a long way to bringing back fans by creating even more discount packages; they won't devalue the product by recognizing many fans still can't afford more than a game or two a year — if that. ↵

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↵Media: The audience watching baseball on TV this season shrunk from last season — but the playoff audience is up. Just go ahead and call that "The Yankees Effect." ↵

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↵Buyouts: One can only wonder what Billy Gillispie will do with $2.9 million. ↵

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↵The Last Word: Happy 99th birthday, John Wooden. My younger son celebrates his 1st birthday today. May he have as long and fulfilling a life as the Wizard of Westwood. ↵

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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. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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

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