Shanoff's W.U.C.: Strasburg, Paulus, VickNabb

Today's Calls: Stephen Strasburg vs. the Nationals, Greg Paulus vs. Syracuse, Mike Vick vs. Donovan McNabb, Brett Favre vs. Ugh, Rick Ankiel vs. Vlad Guerrero, Tom Cable vs. Randy Hanson, Pat White vs. Chad Henne, Rick Pitino vs. Kelvin Sampson and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: Sometimes, symbolism matters more than anything else. ↵

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↵When the Nationals signed Stephen Strasburg -- touted as the greatest pitching prospect in history -- the team gave its fans the most precious commodity in sports for any losing team: Hope. And, along with it, a face for the franchise. Plus, it puts the Nats at the top of national baseball conversation, if only today. ↵

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↵Anyone else underwhelmed by the final number: $15.1 million over 4 years? I kind of want to say: Is that all? But the point is that when Strasburg finally makes his MLB debut -- when he makes all of his starts -- all eyes will be on the Nationals. He (and they) will be THE story that day. ↵

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↵Meanwhile, up in Syracuse, the Orange named Duke point guard Greg Paulus the starting QB. Maybe that says something about the incumbent comp. Maybe Paulus is a lot better than anyone was crediting him. ↵

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↵Or maybe, new ‘Cuse coach Doug Marrone figured the team would stink in his first year regardless, so he might as well do something that has the rest of us talking about -- even watching -- the Orange. (Yes, perhaps we will watch because of the "freak show" factor, but who cares? We're watching.) ↵

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↵Consider that: It is the heart of the college football preseason, and we are talking about Syracuse football. We will WANT to watch the Orange. It is the final 6-week stretch of the baseball season, and we are talking about the Washington Nationals. We will WANT to watch the Nats. ↵

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↵We live in the "attention economy": You can't put a price -- or a win total -- on what these two needle-moving moves mean for these lowly teams.  ↵

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↵Favre Returning? Oh no. No no no no no. Please no. Sigh. OK: If this HAS to happen, can we at least make it quick? Can he do it now? (No? In a week or two? Oh for crying out loud.) Yes, this makes sense for all the same reasons it did 3 weeks ago. But can we just keep chanting "yada yada yada" until the day he arrives? ↵

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↵Vick Watch: My favorite part of the Vick/McNabb dynamic? That McNabb is the one who is saying, "I'm going to line up at tight end!" Given that McNabb has historically not been one to enjoy running, it would be hilarious to see him snagging TD passes from Vick. I'm calling it the "VickNabb" offense. ↵

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↵Tom Cable vs. Randy Hanson: From all accounts, it sounds so much more entertaining (and competitive!) than the highly touted MMA weekend match-up between Cyborg Santos and Gina Carano. You just don't get that kind of quality coach-on-coach violence anymore. That's Raiders football. 1970 Raiders football. ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points ↵

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↵• NLCS preview? Cards top Dodgers w/Ankiel power. ↵

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↵• AL Wild Card: Red Sox lose ground to Rangers. ↵

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↵• Smoltz released: Next stop, HOF? Or 1 more shot? ↵

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↵• Rookie Watch: Hanson wins 8th. ↵

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↵• Fantasy Stud: Vlad Guerrero (2 HR, 5 RBI). ↵

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↵NFL Preseason: Memo to coaches and fans -- it is not a truly "bizarre ending" if the game doesn't count. (The real bizarreness is that anyone would take the end of the Giants-Panthers game seriously.) ↵

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↵Pat White's NFL Debut: Eh, it's not like he displaced Chad Henne (who looked sharp). White was 2/7 passing for 14 yards and an INT... and ran 6 times for 20 yards (a paltry 3.3 ypc average), with one of those runs accounting for 10 yards. Nope, he's not ready yet. ↵

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↵(Related: Florio does the roster math and, yes, carrying a Wildcat specialist as a backup QB -- to the detriment of one less level of depth on special teams or elsewhere -- is worth it.) ↵NFL Lockout '11 Mania! Is the union blustering? Or foreshadowing? ↵

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↵USC loses star center Kris O'Dowd: Dislocated kneecap could keep him out a month. With a new QB -- the injured Corp or the erratic Barkley -- this was the last thing that USC needed. Their Top 5 status has been a given; is it possible that they are vastly overrated? ↵

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↵(Meanwhile, Penn State loses another key player on defense, LB Michael Mauti.) ↵

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↵CFB Countdown: No. 18 Notre Dame. Isn't that cute! People keep insisting that Notre Dame is a Top 25 program. Still. I think it is pretty clear now that Charlie Weis is not just overrated, but that his contract is so out of whack with his ability (and results) that it is laughable. ↵

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↵CFB: If I was a New Mexico State fan, I would absolutely donate a couple of Little Debbies to the football team. But in exchange, I want an autographed jersey or something. (Too much to ask in these troubled economic times? OK: I'll settle for a seat in the coaches' box during the game. I'm a Food Booster!) ↵

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↵CBB: For some perspective, Mike DeCourcy doesn't even put Rick Pitino's scandal in the Top 10 worst for college hoops this decade. (I will disagree with him dismissing Kelvin Sampson at No. 10 -- it wasn't about the phone calls; it was about the phone calls ... again.) ↵

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↵NBA Offseason: Sure it SEEMS like a dead zone, but all the more reason to be reading Bethlehem Shoals at The Baseline. His latest: On athletes and social media (per Haywood vs. Marbury) and on his newfound appreciation for the WNBA. ↵

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↵The Last Word: "Dancing With the Stars" has always been a showcase for athletes, who have dominated the competition with five titles in eight seasons, one of the great active dynasties in sports today. ↵

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↵Think about the champs: Emmitt Smith. Helio Castroneves. Kristi Yamaguchi. Shawn Johnson. Apolo Ohno. (Jerry Rice, Jason Taylor and Warren Sapp were runners-up.) ↵

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↵So when the new season's DWTS lineup is revealed, it is always notable for the athletes who are participating -- odds are, one will finish as at least a finalist, if not the champ. So: We've got Chuck Liddell (no way); snowboarder Louie Vito (no way); Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin (no way); and ... ↵

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↵Michael Irvin, who I am predicting right now will win the title (if he can tamp down his impulses to be a clown long enough to channel his NFL ability to follow directions and execute routes -- Jerry Rice brought Rice-like determination to the competition; can Irvin do the same thing?) ↵

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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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