Shanoff's WUC: Pujols, Strasburg, Pau, Lance

Today's Calls: Albert Pujols vs. Stephen Strasburg, Lance Armstrong vs. Floyd Landis, Pau Gasol vs. Suns defense, LeBron vs. Mikhail Prokhorov, Hanley Ramirez vs. the Marlins, Brandon Marshall vs. the Dolphins, USC football recruiting vs. Kentucky basketball recruiting, Kobe vs. "Modern Family" and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: Where's Stephen Strasburg? ↵

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↵I mean: I know he is in AAA, dominating hitters just as he has his entire pro career. Last night was just the latest example: 9 Ks and only 3 hits in a little more than 6 innings. Zero earned runs, obviously. ↵

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↵No, when I ask "where's Strasburg?" I mean on Sporting News' list of the Top 50 players in baseball. ↵

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↵Obviously, Albert Pujols is No. 1, for the second straight year. There were a couple of high-risers -- Mauer moved up 37 spots to No. 2, Ichiro moved up 22 spots to No. 8, King Felix moved up from "Not Ranked" to No. 12. ↵

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↵But let's use as a proxy for "top" the relative concept of "Would you rather have ...?" Let's define it even more narrowly, removing long-term upside: Would you rather have them this season. ↵

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↵Because if that is your standard, then it seems crazy that Strasburg isn't in the Top 50. ↵

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↵Sure, you wouldn't take Strasburg over Pujols or Mauer. But how about A-Rod (No. 3)? Or Jeter (4)? Nos. 5 and 6 are where it gets interesting: Lincecum and Halladay, two proven aces, where Strasburg is entirely potential. ↵

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↵But, say, Chris Carpenter is No. 20. I think the Cardinals would trade Strasburg for Carpenter in a nano-second -- not just for the decade of pitching Strasburg could give them, but if only for what he could deliver for them this season. ↵

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↵I'm not ready to agree with Curt Schilling's hyperbole that Strasburg will be the best pitcher in MLB the minute he gets called up. But after yet another dominant start, I'm entirely comfortable saying he is a glaring omission from the Top 50. ↵

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↵OK, enough dawdling. Let's get to Lance ... ↵

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↵Scandal of the Day: Lance Armstrong implicated in PED use by admitted cheater Floyd Landis, whose evidence is entirely hearsay -- but not without its believability. Expect some strong denials from Lance. ↵

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↵At this point, the entire sport of cycling is so rife with PED use -- especially in the early part of the decade -- that, on the one hand, it is impossible not to presume that everyone -- everyone -- was doing it. On the other hand, precisely because it was seemingly so widespread (and because cycling is a minor sport, even if its biggest name is a HUGE star), it just doesn't feel like a big deal. ↵

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↵NBA Playoff Mania: The Lakers sliced up the Suns’ D -- again -- and Pau Gasol (29 pts, 11/19 FG, 9 reb, 5 ast) proved why he is LA's non-Kobe MVP this offseason, in the process making Amare look silly on D. At least the Suns kept it closer this time -- and they get a respite from the road -- but the Lakers feel entirely in control. Could both conference finals series end in sweeps? Yikes. ↵

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↵(Not sure why the NBA would leave the schedule entirely open tonight and tomorrow. The game-a-night rhythm of the playoffs is part of its charm. I guess at the current pace, it would end the conference finals by Sunday -- leaving a gaping hole between that and the hard-scheduled start of the NBA Finals.) ↵

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↵LeBron Watch: He wins SN's player-voted Player of the Year award -- 2nd straight year for that -- but it feels a little hollow given that LeBron is watching the playoffs from home (and that his only intrigue is where he will take his talent). ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points: ↵

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↵• Hanley sorry: Can we move on? ↵

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↵• Strasburg Watch: Dominates AAA again. ↵

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↵• LA streak ends: Gonzo 6 RBI. ↵

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↵• Injury Watch: Jorge Posada ↵

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↵• Oddity: Mets' triple-play and ITP HR. ↵

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↵NHL Playoffs: Home-ice advantage! Hot goalie theory! Momentum exists! The regular season matters! These playoffs have totally undermined some long-held theories about playoff hockey. (This is a very fun column.) ↵

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↵NBA Draft Combine: The top players like Wall, Turner, Favors and Cousins won't do much more than some team interviews, basic measurements and non-competitive athleticism testing. But in a draft as deep as this one, players can get onto draft boards with surprisingly good showings. I like that Patrick Patterson is all in at the Combine, despite being a lock for the top half of the draft. He might not have the ridiculous upside of a Favors or Cousins, but he can contribute immediately and solidly. ↵

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↵NFL Offseason: Lots of confusion and uncertainty about Brandon Marshall's hip surgery. The question, as always: What did the Dolphins know and when did they know it? ↵

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↵Recruiting: ↵

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↵• CFB: USC lands one of the (if not THE) top-ranked RBs of the 2011 class, De'Anthony Thomas of (where else?) L.A. There is every expectation that Lane Kiffin will pull together the nation's best class this cycle. ↵

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↵• CBB: Kentucky gets a late recruiting snag, in Terrence Jones of Portland. That puts Calipari's class as "only" the 3rd-best in the country this season, which includes the best PG and the best foreign big man. Only 3rd? Well, Cal's GOTTA leave for the NBA now! ↵

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↵Business: Mikhail Prokhorov, lousy Lottery luck aside, seems like an ideal NBA owner: Rich, knowledgeable, not too hands-on but with a clear sense of what he wants (a title). He also threw down the gauntlet that he plans to take market share from the Knicks in New York City. Once the Nets move to Brooklyn, that will absolutely happen. It would help if the Nets -- or whatever their new name will be -- could land a superstar or two over the next few summers. ↵

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↵Pop Culture: Anyone else catch Kobe's cameo on "Modern Family" last night? Love that they worked the in-arena "Kiss Cam" into the plotline. ↵

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↵The Last Word: "A lot of players are terrified." -- NFL union honcho DeMaurice Smith, on the looming lockout. ↵

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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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