- The NL is wide open for just about every team:
The Nationals have some interesting young talent (much of it listing toward the juvenile delinquent side), but it's a question as to what GM Jim Bowden's plan is; last season the Nationals succeeded in rejuvenating the careers of Dmitri Young (who had personal and professional issues that made him toxic to most teams), and Ronnie Belliard (who couldn't find a big league job after winning a ring with the Cardinals); but instead of taking the veteran players who were playing solidly for a non-contending team and maximizing their value by trading them to contenders for youngsters, Bowden lavished lucrative extensions on them. Belliard has been awful this year and Young is overweight and injured. This year they have some veterans who have value. They could get something for Cristian Guzman, Aaron Boone, Odalis Perez and Tim Redding; are they going to make the same mistake as they did last season and hold onto players who are unlikely to be around if and when the Nationals are contenders?
As for the rest of the league, even teams like the Reds and Pirates have an excuse to make some intelligent, under-the-radar moves for veteran help (if it doesn't cost that much) to see if they can loiter around the Wild Card race. The only team that looks like a lock to make the playoffs right now is the Cubs; Lou Piniella has them running on all cylinders similar to the way he molded his Mariners teams into well-oiled machines. He's gotten surprising contributions from his veterans like Jim Edmonds and Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood has handled the closing duties as well as can be expected. That being said, the Cubs are certainly not guaranteed to blow through the playoffs to the World Series. Who knows how Wood will react to being on the mound in a game 5 or game 7 of the playoffs; when the whole season is riding on his right arm? The Cubs aren't under any circumstances a guarantee to even get out of the first round of the playoffs, which should be all the more reason for the other NL teams to go for improvements and try to win now.
Every contending team has their needs; even the teams that are playing very poorly and having trouble staying over .500 have reason to make a deal for an impact player. If the Brewers or Braves get a starting pitcher; if the Dodgers or Mets get a power bat; if any of the teams still in contention get one player who provides a spark, they could find themselves in the playoffs; and the absence of a team head-and-shoulders above everyone else makes the National League wide open and ripe for whichever team gets hot at the right time. Two years ago, the Cardinals overcame a woeful final month and proved that the regular season means nothing in the playoffs; there could be a similar situation this year if the right team gets the right guy to light a fire.
- The possible breakup of Mike and the Mad Dog:
I've never been shy to unload on Francesa and Russo when they've deserved it for insipid gaffes or arrogant bluster in the area of sports; and I've certainly never been shy to unload when they've gone over the edge in saying things about other people that are borderline slanderous or simply offensive and disrespectful; I've also given them credit numerous times for good work they've done, specifically in interviews. This may be a situation where the two want to be their own entities; don't need to deal with the tension that is poisoning the relationship and is quite possibly stirring the interesting dynamic between them; and don't want to be aggravated by the quirks of the other anymore; they're both in their 50s with young children and lives away from the studio. Maybe they just don't want to deal with everything anymore.
One thing that both should remember before committing to a breakup is that they'll never be as popular as individuals as they are as a tandem. Their audience will never reach the apex it reaches as they work together and they're not going to have the influence (positive and negative) that they do now. Even with all the ancillary aspects to such a combustible partnership, that power (such as it is) is very difficult to walk away from over some issues that might be able to be ironed out with time and a brief separation.
If I was asked to guess what would happen, I'd say that they're going to look at all the positives and negatives of staying together versus splitting up and wind up continuing with the show. Francesa will be able to handle a solo act far better than Russo especially if the newspaper account of Russo heading to satellite radio is true. Francesa, for all of his pomposity, condescension, arrogance, self-importance and clinging to untenable beliefs, has enough of a viable take on sports and sober (especially compared to his partner) approach to be able to function alone. If Russo thinks he's going to go to satellite radio and approach the audience that he's able to attract now (even when he works alone on Saturdays), then he really is the Biggest Idiot in the World. Howard Stern, giant that he is in the radio industry, was only able to attract a fraction of his audience to satellite radio; people are not going to run out and start paying for radio to listen to Christopher Russo. On his own, he'll get a big contract, as will Francesa; they'll get a lot of money, but that may not satiate the appetites that both have for being the voices of the angry and unhinged sports fan every weekday afternoon in New York City. If they're willing to live with that, then they should by all means go their separate ways; the question is whether the money is more important than their cachet; that's what they have to weigh more than any of the other details of their staying together or splitting up.