Monday, May 29, 2017

Predators vs. Penguins

Most people are picking the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.  I don't blame them.  It's the logical pick.  Pittsburgh is the defending champions, had the second-most points in the entire league during the regular season, and boasts the best player on the planet.  The Penguins are understandably the favorites against Nashville as they look for their third Cup of the Crosby/Malkin Era.

But I'm a believer in the Predators.  I don't just think Nashville can win the Cup.  I think the Predators will.  They dispatched the top two teams in the West, including a sweep of Chicago, and they've got the defense to stop the Penguins' offense.  More importantly, playing on the road doesn't phase them at all.  As the 16th-best of the 16 playoff teams, they knew there were gonna have to win on the road to keep playing, and so far they've done it.  (We also saw the Kings win the Cup as an 8-seed a few years ago.)

For the Predators to win, they really just need to keep doing what they've been doing.  Their defense has been incredible, and Pekka Rinne is playing out of his mind.  And you can't really argue that the Penguins have a better offense than the teams Nashville has faced already.  Because the Predators played the Blackhawks and Ducks!  So, their offense has been shutting down some pretty good offensive teams.

They haven't been all defense, either.  The Predators have scored just enough to not have to rely strictly on Rinne.  Consider: outside of the six-goal clincher against Anaheim, Nashville went 10 straight games scoring three goals or fewer, and went 6-4.  If they get three and Rinne keeps playing at the same level he was at in the first three rounds, that should be enough,  And, no offense to Craig Anderson, but he's not Pekka Rinne.

One of the great things about Nashville's defense is that they have enough horses to stick with multiple scorers.  Kane and Toews did nothing.  Getzlaf and Perry did nothing.  Sure, Pittsburgh's more than just Crosby and Malkin.  They'll have to shut down the likes of Phil Kessel, as well.  But Nashville's formula has worked so far, and I don't see them changing it.  And I think the reason it's worked is because they don't have to rely on just one defensive stopper, which is essentially how Ottawa tried to beat Pittsburgh.

I also wonder how much the rest factor is going to come into play.  The Penguins have played 14 games in the last two rounds.  The Predators had one of only two sweeps in the entire playoffs, which gave them a six-day break before the St. Louis series.  Then they got five days between the Blues and Ducks (while Anaheim got one).  Now they head into the Final with a full week of rest, while the Penguins went to double overtime on Thursday night.  Everyone's tired at this time of year.  Nashville's had all that extra time off.  That can only be a good thing.

It's obvious who's got the goalie advantage, too.  Pekka Rinne is probably the leading candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy right now.  He's the anchor of Nashville's team.  The Penguins have long been successful despite their goalie(s).  They started the playoffs with Marc-Andre Fleury, until he had a very Fleury-like performance in Game 3 against the Senators and was replaced by Matt Murray.  This is a typical scenario for the Penguins, who usually find a way to overcome their goaltending issues.

Of course, the Penguins know that while goaltending might be their Achilles Heel, they generally need it to just be good enough.  Especially with the quality of their offense.  It took that offense a little while to come around, but they finally turned the corner with that 7-0 win in Game 5 of the Senators series.

Although, some of their early struggles against Ottawa were due to the Senators' style of play, which is basically lulling you to sleep.  And that strategy almost worked.  Nashville 's strategy has been similar to Ottawa's.  Except, in addition to being an overall better team than the Senators, the Predators have the offense to back up their outstanding defense.  The defense that they used to shut down the top two teams in the Western Conference.

As I've said through each successive round of the playoffs, Nashville was a very popular Stanley Cup pick in the preseason.  The Predators have shown why over the last six weeks.  They didn't just get lucky.  They're a good team that got hot at just the right time.  If they stay hot for the next two weeks, the Predators might very well be skating the Cup around their home ice at Bridgestone Arena.  Because I think the team that's 5-3 on the road in the playoffs will get to clinch it at home in Game 6.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

It's Time For Indy

With all of the centennial celebrations now over, there was significantly less hype heading into this year's Indy 500 than there has been in a little while.  It even extended to qualifying.  Only 33 cars entered, so qualifying amounted to little more than setting the starting positions.  Although, it did feature that scary accident where Sebastian Bourdais broke his hip and pelvis.

But there's still something about Indy that just gives you that rush.  They call it the "Greatest Spectacle In Racing" for a reason.  And it really is the highlight of what always is the greatest DAY in racing.  It starts in Monaco with one of the biggest Formula 1 races and ends at Charlotte with the Coca-Cola 600.  All three are staples of Memorial Day Weekend (even though Memorial Day has absolutely no significance in Monaco), but Indy's the one that I always make a point to watch every year.

Speaking of the race at Monaco, there's a full-time F1 driver skipping that race so he can race at the Brickyard instead.  And Fernando Alonso ended up qualifying fifth.  He's not a "rookie" in the same sense Alexander Rossi was last year, but Alonso making it back-to-back rookie winners doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility.

Although, you can't count out Rossi turning the same trick as Helio Castroneves and going 2-for-2 in his first two trips to Indy, either.  His win last year was a surprise.  To see him defend wouldn't be.  He's starting third on the outside of a front row that includes pole-sitter Scott Dixon, who looked really good in qualifying, and Ed Carpenter, who somehow always ends up with a front-row starting position.  You'd have to think one of these years he'll turn his great solo runs in qualifying/practice into a great Indy 500.  That would be really cool.  He's an Indianapolis native.

Rossi and Dixon are two of the seven former winners in the race, and they seem to be in the best position to put their face on the Borg-Warner Trophy for a second time.  Tony Kanaan did make it into the "Fast Nine," though, and we all know how much success he's had at Indy throughout his career.  Ryan Hunter-Reay will be right behind him, but I think Juan Pablo Montoya is starting too far back to be a factor.  Likewise, I'm not sure this is the year Helio becomes the fourth four-time winner.  Buddy Lazier is the seventh former winner, but he's simply just another driver in the race at this point in his career.

For some reason, I don't think we're going to see a former winner make his way to Victory Lane again.  There are so many good drivers that have come close recently, and I think one of them is poised for a breakthrough.  Sorry, Andretti faithful, I don't think Marco's going to be that guy.  They say about Indy that "the track decides who wins," and she's made it perfectly clear time and again that she doesn't want an Andretti to win.

J.R Hildebrand knows all about that whole "the track decides who wins" thing.  He had the lead around the final turn at his 2011 debut, only to hit the wall and finish second behind the late Dan Wheldon.  Carlos Munoz probably feels the same way.  He's finished second twice, including last year, when Rossi had just enough gas left to cross the line first.

The driver I'm picking, though, is Will Power.  He's the best driver in the field that's yet to win Indy, although he did take second behind Montoya two years ago.  Power's remarkably consistent.  He's starting ninth, which is actually his worst position since 2009, when he also started ninth.  Oh, and Power's placed in the top 10 in each of the last three years (and five times in his career).  The smart money's on Dixon, the pole-sitter and IndyCar Series points leader.  But I like Power, who already has a win at Indianapolis this month to his credit (on the road course inside the oval).

A total of 70 different drivers took the checkered flag over the first 100 runnings of the Indianapolis 500.  Will we see the 71st as Indy begins it second century?  If we do, will Power be that guy?  Or will it be someone else?  Or will one of the seven former winners in the race make it two?  Or three (Montoya)?  Or four (Helio)?

One thing we do know for certain.  The track is going to decide.  And she's not going to make it easy.  The Bourdais injury was a reminder of that.  Hopefully Race Day won't be as eventful.  We'll take competitive, though.  Somebody's gonna earn it.  Which is the way it should be.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Can Anybody Beat Nadal?

Rafael Nadal used to win the French Open every year.  It was more automatic than LeBron James playing in the NBA Finals (more on that next week).  Then Rafa started letting some other people win.  Stan Wawrinka was the 2015 champion, and Novak Djokovic completed that incredible Djoker Slam with his victory here last year.

A lot has changed in the last 12 months.  Djokovic suffered early exits at Wimbledon and the Australian Open and Nadal looks like the Nadal of old.  He's been the best player on tour not named Federer this year, and with Roger opting to sit out the entire clay court season to prepare for Wimbledon, it looks like this is Rafa's tournament to lose.  And how important was Roger's win in Australia?  That gave him an 18-14 lead over Nadal in career Grand Slam titles.  Had Nadal won that match, it would be 17-15, meaning he'd pull within one with his 10th Coupe des Mousquetaires.

I'm not saying a Nadal victory is guaranteed.  I'm just saying he enters the tournament as the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament he won nine times in 10 years from 2005-14.  Especially because Nadal is once again the clear-cut best player on clay.

So who can beat him?  Well, let's start with the two guys that have lifted the trophy more recently than Rafa has.  Djokovic finally won the title last year after losing in the previous two finals.  He's played for the title in four of the last five years, so he's no stranger to an extended stay in Paris.  However, Djokovic has had some puzzling results this year, starting with his third-round loss at the Australian Open.  And he wasn't done any favors by drawing Nadal in the semis.  The last time they played at the French, Djokovic won a 2015 semifinal, only to run out of gas against Wawrinka in the final.

Don't be surprised if the same thing happens again this year, as you've got Nadal and Djokovic on one side, with Wawrinka and Andy Murray on the other.  Murray is ranked No. 1 and made the finals here last year, but this is his toughest Grand Slam.  He's got a tough draw before he gets to Wawrinka, too (although Wawrinka could face two of the three seeded French guys back-to-back in the fourth round and quarters).

Should Wawrinka get through Gasquet/Monfils and Tsonga, and I think he will, I give him the edge in that semi, regardless of who he plays.  Meanwhile, I see Nadal winning that marquee semifinal against Djokovic.  That sets up a Nadal-Wawrinka final, which I see Nadal winning.  And if he does, that would mean each of the last five Grand Slam tournaments would've been won by a different member of the Big Five.

On the women's side, there's no Serena, who incredibly won the Australian Open while two months pregnant, and no Maria, who wasn't granted a wild card after returning from her suspension.  The two of them spent four years passing the trophy back-and-forth from 2012-15, only to see Serena upset by Garbine Muguruza in last year's final.

With the two biggest names in women's tennis missing, this has to be one of the most wide-open Grand Slam tournaments in recent memory.  I guess Muguruza should be considered the favorite as the defending champion, but there's any number of women who can win this thing.  Angelique Kerber is ranked No. 1, but her best result here was a quarterfinal (once, five years ago).  That was the only time she's even made the second week at the French.  She's lost in the first or second round five times, and she lost in qualifying once, too.  I'm not saying Kerber should be counted out, though.  She's No. 1 for a reason, after all.

But I'm looking at the bottom half of the draw.  Specifically I'm looking at No. 3 seed Simona Halep.  She almost won the tournament in 2014, losing 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 to Sharapova in the final.  Halep then went on to make the semis of Wimbledon.  She lost in the first round at the Australian Open (which has little relevance), but won the big French Open tune-up in Madrid.  She looks ready to make a run.

Unfortunately for Halep, her potential quarterfinal opponent is the hottest player on tour--Elina Svitolina.  Svitolina has won four tournaments this year, including the Italian Open last week, where she beat Halep in the final.  The winner of that quarterfinal is my pick to win it all.  As for which one will win the quarter, I'm going with Halep.

This tournament is so wide open, though, that it's got surprise semifinalist, or even surprise finalist, written all over it.  Maybe somebody like Lucie Safarova, who wouldn't actually be that big of a surprise since she almost beat Serena in the final two years ago.  But Safarova enters the French Open unseeded, so if she does, make a deep run, it'll probably turn some heads.

Meanwhile, other than Halep and Muguruza, most of the top women have no real French Open success to speak of.  That's going to make it fun to watch.  No result will really be that big of a shock and nobody has any idea who's going to win.  I just have a feeling about Halep, though, so she's my pick.  And for some reason, I think Dominika Cibulkova will be the other finalist.  Don't ask me why.  For a change, I expect by prediction for a Grand Slam event to be way off.  On the women's side at least.  I fully expect to see Rafa win the men's tournament.  Again.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Who Goes First: LA or Paris?

It's becoming more and more clear that the IOC wants to award both the 2024 and 2028 Olympics to Los Angeles and Paris (or Paris and Los Angeles) when they vote in September.  What's unclear is which city will get which.

They've both insisted that they're only interested in 2024, but IOC Vice President Juan Antonio Samarach, Jr. (the son of the longtime IOC President) has indicated that for the joint-award to work, somebody's got to take the later edition.  And he'd like the two cities to agree which one gets 2024 and which one waits until 2028 prior to the vote.  That could be where things get complicated.

I've long believed that Paris is the IOC's preferred choice for 2024, for a number of reasons.  After two recent failed bids, Paris feels it's finally their turn.  Likewise, 2,024 will be 10 years since Sochi, the last Olympics in Europe, and 12 since London, the last Summer Games in Europe.  That's way too long for the mostly-European IOC membership.  Not to mention the fact that it'll be the 100th anniversary of the last time Paris hosted the Olympics in 1924.

However, the IOC is also weary of once again leaving the USOC out in the cold.  The Olympics haven't been in the U.S. since Salt Lake 2002, and the Summer Games haven't been here since Atlanta 1996.  That's also the last time any North American city hosted the Summer Olympics.  Since then, there have been failed bids from New York and Chicago.  Do you really want to reject the first, second AND third most-populous cities in the country whose broadcast rights produce the greatest portion of your revenue?

The IOC is in a very interesting (and unenviable) spot.  Both bids are strong.  They want them both to host.  They know that the "loser" won't come back for 2028, and probably won't bid again for a loooong time.  That's why they're trying to figure out a way to make both cities happy, which is where this joint award idea came from.  And the joint award makes a lot of sense.  As long as they can figure out which city goes first.

While remaining publicly committed to 2024 without talking about 2028, Los Angeles certainly appears to be more receptive to the idea of taking the later Games than Paris does.  Paris has listed all kinds of reasons why it can only host in 2024 and flat out rejected 2028.  LA hasn't.  Since LA's venue plan calls for permanent arenas/stadiums that already do or will exist (the Rams/Chargers stadium), the four-year delay seems like it would be less of a problem in Southern California.

Is some of this willingness because LA views itself as the underdog in this race?  Perhaps.  But it could also be that the LA organizers welcome the opportunity to have 11 years to get ready for an Olympics instead of seven.  Think about the number of cross-promotional opportunities that exist between now and then.  LA's going to have at least one Super Bowl, and you'd have to figure the final of the 2026 World Cup will be at the Rose Bowl.  Those are two huge events for a sponsor to attach itself to.

Of course, there are still a lot of steps to be taken before the joint 2024-2028 plan comes to fruition.  First and foremost, the main job of IOC members is to vote in host city elections.  For many, that's their only real function.  So, they understandably want to keep it.

How would this double-awarding work anyway?  Do they vote for 2024, with the loser getting 2028 as a consolation prize?  Or do the cities agree prior to the IOC Session, rendering a vote pointless?  Likewise, if they're awarding 2028 now, what do they do at the 2021 IOC Session, when they would normally choose the host?  (Although Thomas Bach's eight-year term as IOC President expires in 2021, so maybe they'll have a Presidential election if he doesn't just get automatically reelected, which is what usually happens.)

Some critics have pointed to the potential dual-awarding as a response to the last two bid cycles, which only saw two finalists each.  Samaranch quickly shot down that notion, suggesting that Madrid, Istanbul and Australia are all possible bidders.  Are any of them as strong as Paris and Los Angeles, though?  I don't think so.  And I think that's the real reason for this push to make sure both cities get an Olympics.

Both Paris and Los Angeles are capable of putting on a great Olympic Games.  The IOC understands that and wants to make sure they take advantage of the opportunity they have in front of them.  And, if they can stabilize themselves for more than a decade while they figure out a way to improve the bid process, that's just a bonus.  That might be part of their motivation, but it's not the only one.

If I had to put odds on it, I'd say there's a 75-80 percent likelihood that we'll see the IOC award both the 2024 and 2028 Olympics in September.  They wouldn't be talking about it if they weren't going to do it.  The order is the real question.  Although, my feeling is that Paris will go first, followed by LA in 2028.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Full National Suspensions?

The World Anti-Doping Agency was upset that the IOC didn't follow through on its suggestion to ban the entire Russian Olympic Team from the Rio games.  Instead, the IOC left the decision up to the individual sports federations, which, with the notable exception of track & field, for the most part, let the Russians compete.  WADA doesn't want that to happen again in PyeongChang, and they've taken steps to make sure it doesn't.

Even though the WADA code isn't due to be updated until 2021, they hope to have their proposals put into place by early next year, which would mean in time for the PyeongChang Olympics.  And the main change that they seek is the ability to suspend entire nations for egregious anti-doping offenses.

Obviously Russia is the most notable country that has a doping problem (in a separate move, WADA forced RUSADA to remove Yelena Isinbayeva as their anti-doping head, which was a questionable move to begin with).  But they're far from alone.  There are a significant amount of doping issues in weightlifting, and nine different countries have had their national teams banned in that sport, Russia being one of them.

Under this new code, WADA would have the power to suspend a country's entire Olympic delegation for major doping violations.  It would obviously be subject to appeals, but the decisions would no longer be made on a sport-by-sport basis.  Either the entire national team is suspended or the entire national team is eligible.  No more gray area.  No more questions about the "guilt" or "innocence" of one team from a particular country.  And, hopefully, no more athletes being jeered simply because they're from that country.

I don't think we're talking about mass suspensions at every Olympics here, either.  I think WADA was simply looking for an option that would be the ultimate deterrent.  Their own version of the NCAA "death penalty" that shut down SMU football in the '80s.  And there's no better deterrent in international sport that telling an entire national team that it's not allowed to participate in the Olympics.

This is the nuclear option.  Everyone knows that.  That's the whole point.  In many people's eyes, Russia got off easy.  Basically it was only the Russian track team that was kept out of the Rio Games.  A vast majority of sporting leaders felt that wasn't enough.  They didn't want the Russians there at all.  Neither did WADA.  And considering the lack of progress Russia has made in cleaning up its act, they needed something on the table that would motivate them to get their act together.  The threat of a complete ban might be the only way to do that.

Keep in mind that there isn't a single person that wants to see an entire national team banned from an Olympics.  The boycotts of 1980 and 1984 proved how damaging (and incomplete) it is when the whole world isn't there.  But this new code is a good thing.  Because that threat needs to be there.  Sadly, that might be the only way to guarantee the necessary reforms in the countries in question.

And, again, we're not talking about isolated cases of one team from a given country.  We're talking about systematic doping at the state level.  And all indications are that Russia's problems run from the top down.  It's this type of government-sponsored doping that would be grounds for an entire national team to be prohibited from Olympic participation.  In cases involving individual sports, I'm sure that would still be left up to the individual federations.

For their part, each international sporting federation would have to adhere to the new WADA guidelines, which would be standardized across the board.  This uniform code would hopefully make things easier to follow, since the same rules that apply to archery would also apply to wrestling.

Perhaps most importantly, they would establish a new Independent Testing Authority.  No longer would it fall strictly under WADA's umbrella to administer tests and dole out punishments to violators.  This five-person ITA would consist of a President, an IOC member, an athlete, a representative from an international federation, and a neutral expert.  Everyone would have a seat at the table, so it will be clear to all parties.  The ITA wouldn't be required, and federations could use it as often or as little as they wish.  But the sheer fact that you're not relying solely on WADA is good for all involved.

While the tight time frame means this system probably won't be in place before the PyeongChang Games, it does look like it's going to happen.  Which, I think we can all agree, is a good thing.  Because no one wants to see an entire country banned from an Olympics, and the threat of that possibility should be enough to scare the violators straight and pave the way for the reform that's so desperately needed.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

There's Concussion Protocol For a Reason

Gisele Bundchen made headlines earlier this week when she said Tom Brady suffered a concussion at some point during the 2016 season, then Brady went on to basically confirm it, saying he's had several concussions throughout his career.  Now we've got Drew Brees saying that he wouldn't tell his wife if he suffered one, which leads you to wonder if he'd even tell the Saints.

And that's why the NFL needs to be concerned about comments like that.  Both Brady and Brees are in their late 30s, and they've both expressed their desire to play for a few more seasons.  But we also saw Brett Favre's career end because of multiple concussions during his final season in Minnesota (including that one on the frozen turf on a Monday night that ended his career for good).  Favre had a lot of concussions in his career, several of which went undiagnosed.  Now, judging by the comments made by Bundchen and Brees, it looks like we've got two more Canton-bound quarterbacks that might have undiagnosed concussions.

Concussions are a serious problem in the NFL.  They're the player safety issue that gets the most attention, and rightfully so.  That's why there's an independent doctor at every game...who has the power to pull out a player he feels may be concussed.  And once a player enters concussion protocol, they have to pass it (meaning, show no symptoms) before they're allowed to resume football activities.  That process can sometimes take weeks.

So, if the NFL has independent doctors at every game, for the purpose of preventing concussions, then how are there still players continuing in games after suffering one?  Let alone two of the marquee faces at the league's marquee position!  (I'm not saying that did happen, but it wouldn't surprise me.)

The concussion protocol was set up so that everyone would be evaluated using the same criteria.  And the independent doctors started administering the tests so that the team can't influence the decision on whether or not a player is truly OK to go back in.  It would also, presumably, prevent players from talking their way back in.  Although, Brees made it sound like that still happens.

From the players' perspective, I get it.  They're getting paid a lot of money to play a very violent game, and NFL careers are short enough.  Besides, they're competitive.  No one wants to pull himself out of a game.  Even if they're hurt, the adrenaline takes over and they insist on playing through it.  Sometimes even after they start to feel concussion symptoms, they might chalk it up to "getting their bell rung" and stay in the game.

Except that's exactly what the concussion protocol is for!  It shouldn't matter who you are.  If the doctor determines that you have a concussion and need to be pulled from the game, that's it.  No discussion.  No exceptions for Tom Brady or Drew Brees or anybody else.  If Tom Savage is hit hard enough to be removed from the game with a concussion and Tom Brady is hit just as hard, Brady should come out too.  I don't care if it's Sunday Night Football against Pittsburgh or a 1:00 CBS regional game against Buffalo.  The standards exist for a reason.

What's most disturbing, though, is that when Brady was listed on the Patriots' injury report last season, it was for his leg, thigh or ankle.  Bill Belichick is notorious for not always being 100 percent truthful with his injury reports, so it's really difficult to say whether Brady had a concussion at any point in 2016.  The NFL reviewed the reports, too, and they concurred that Brady hadn't suffered a concussion or complained of concussion-like symptoms at all.

This could all be much ado about nothing.  It's also entirely possible that Gisele doesn't know what she's talking about.  But it does bring to light a bigger issue.  Because the whole point of the concussion protocol is to prevent guys from playing when they shouldn't, which, by extension, extends careers.  (It's been documented that the likelihood of suffering a concussion increases if you've already had one.)

If Brady and Brees are serious about wanting to play into their mid-40s (which people have no reason not to believe), they should be taking every precaution they can so that they're healthy long enough to last a few more years.  And being forthcoming about a possible concussion is one way to do that.  Because the last thing anyone wants is what happened to Brett Favre on that Monday night in Minnesota to happen to one of them.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

10 Days On the DL

As a part of Baseball's new CBA that was signed in December, DL stays were reduced from 15 days to 10.  The theory behind this made a lot of sense.  In the past, there were countless situations where a player was injured enough to miss a few days, but teams were hesitant to put him on the DL in hopes that he wouldn't be out for the entire two weeks.  Being down a man for a few days was often preferable to sitting a guy out for two weeks when he might've been good to go in one.

Of course, with position players, a trip to the DL is often longer than the minimum length, so whether it's 10 or 15 days is somewhat irrelevant.  But this season we've seen teams take advantage of the new DL rules in very creative ways (as noted in an article I read earlier today).

The article focused on the Dodgers and how they've been able to manipulate it to their benefit.  They've basically figured out a way to keep an extra reliever in their bullpen while still keeping the regular allotment of five starters.  How are they doing this?  By utilizing their off days and the 10-day DL to essentially skip starts for the pitchers not named Kershaw.

Skipping starts for the fifth starter isn't a new thing.  A lot of teams often don't even use a fifth starter until mid-April because they don't need to with the off days around Opening Day.  And if you think about it, most teams have a similar stretch at some point in the season.  If you have two off days in a week (or Thursday and Monday off around a weekend series), you can skip your No. 5 starter and keep the other four on their regular rest.  Likewise, if a starting pitcher gets suspended, his team can usually work it so that he doesn't really miss a start (which kinda defeats the whole point, but that's a topic for another day).

LA did it a little differently.  They're doing it to give guys extra rest while still giving all their starters work.  The Dodgers recently skipped a Kenta Maeda start by putting him on the DL.  Who replaced him?  Hyun-Jin Ryu, who had just spent exactly 10 days on the DL himself.  And when Maeda comes off the DL, you can bet the Dodgers will put another starting pitcher on in his place.  And since there's no rule about how many times a player can be put on the DL over the course of the season, they can theoretically do this until the rosters expand in September.

Some of the "injuries" used to put pitchers on the DL may appear somewhat dubious, but you can't dispute the brilliance of the strategy.  Not only are they keeping their pitchers fresh, they've basically found a way to have a 26-man roster.  I applaud them for figuring it out.

Now, the Dodgers are a bit of a unique case in that they have six starting pitchers, so this is a way to give them all "regular" work, even if it means they won't be making the standard 32-33 starts apiece.  But having everybody healthy going into the playoffs is much more important for a team like the Dodgers, and limiting their pitchers to 27-28 starts each is one way to do that.  And if the rules allow for them to finagle DL stints to make that happen, why not do it?

This obviously wasn't the intent of the DL change.  But I wouldn't be surprised to see other teams start doing it, too.  Because it makes total sense.  And I don't see the Union having any sort of an issue with it, either.  It gives more guys Major League service time, starting their free agency clocks, and puts a Major League salary in two players' pockets instead of just one (you collect your regular salary while on the DL).

We've obviously seen more DL trips in the first six weeks of this season than we did last season.  That's part of the point.  Teams are more likely to put a guy on the DL if they don't have to wait two weeks and can get him back in a week and a half instead.

But we also might be seeing a bit of a DL revolution.  You can use any minor "injury" to take a guy out of commission for 10 days, which lets you use somebody else in his place.  And that seems preferable to the Triple A shuttle.  For everyone.