The choice for NLCS MVP was never in doubt

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The choice for NLCS MVP was never in doubt

From Comcast SportsNetSAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Marco Scutaro looked up through the pouring rain, caught Matt Holliday's popup for the final out and punched his ticket to the World Series for the first time at age 36.In an NL championship series that saw Scutaro absorb a hard and admitted late slide from Holliday that strained the second baseman's left hip, what a fitting ending.Scutaro tied the NLCS record with 14 hits to earn MVP honors, capping off his remarkable run with three singles and a walk in San Francisco's 9-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night in the decisive Game 7."I was just like praying, Please, you got to catch this ball,'" Scutaro said. "It was kind of tough. I was kind of concerned. The flight of the ball, the rain kind of stopped it a little bit. Another minute, I don't think I would have a chance."After the kind of series he had, Scutaro came through in almost every way possible.He batted .500 with two walks, scored six runs and drove in four. Hideki Matsui (2004 Yankees), Albert Pujols (2004 Cardinals) and Kevin Youkilis (2007 Red Sox) also had 14 hits in an LCS. And Scutaro's 10-game hitting streak ties Cody Ross and Alvin Dark for the longest in Giants postseason history.Starting Wednesday night in San Francisco, he'll have a chance to break that mark when the Giants host the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the World Series."It took him a couple days to adjust to us, but he really has been a leader since he got here," said pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, who won Games 2 and 6. "He's played great. He's played great defense. He's a true professional. He knows the game. He does all the little things right. Everything you'd lay out on a table for a guy to do, he does."The Giants acquired the Venezuelan native in July at the trade deadline. It turned out to be one of baseball's best moves, and easily one of its most overlooked.While the rival Dodgers' spending spree made headlines from coast-to-coast, the Giants took on just 2.1 million of Scutaro's salary from Colorado in exchange for minor leaguer Charlie Culberson.All Scutaro has done since is make opponents pay -- and he earned a 75,000 bonus for winning NLCS MVP honors in the process."That's the best thing that's ever happened so far," said Giants ace Matt Cain, who threw 5 2-3 innings of five-hit ball in the clincher. "That's why it's The Blockbuster.'"He had a major impact even before October, batting .339 after the All-Star break to power the Giants' playoff push. Scutaro has delivered in the biggest moments in the postseason, and in many ways, has become the 2012 version of Ross.The Giants plucked Ross off waivers in August two years ago and watched him capture MVP honors in the NLCS against Philadelphia and help lead them to the first World Series title since moving from New York in 1958. And just like in 2010, general manager Brian Sabean's move made the biggest noise at the most key time.Scutaro became just the fifth midseason acquisition to win a postseason MVP award."When we acquired Scutaro, a great job by Brian Sabean, making that blockbuster deal, as we say, that's his nickname," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I knew he was a good player. But to see him day in, day out, you really appreciate the talent that this guy has. I don't know if it was possible for him to raise his game, that's how well he's played, his level. But he did after that slide."Scutaro was hurt on Holliday's slide in the first inning of Game 2. Scutaro got even a few innings later with his own big blow that helped the Giants even the series and end an 0-3 home slide in the postseason when he singled home two runs in San Francisco's four-run fourth inning.Another run scored on the bases-loaded hit when Holliday misplayed the bouncing ball in left field. Scutaro left after the fifth of that 7-1 win because of his damaged hip on a play Bochy felt was illegal.Scutaro never missed a game, and he never stopped played all-out, either.His sliding stops were part of a spectacular defensive effort that backed Barry Zito in San Francisco's 5-0 Game 5 victory. He even threw his arms in the arm running backward after grabbing Pete Kozma's spinning hopper in the fourth inning of Game 7.He also delivered a two-out, two-run double to highlight a four-run second inning of the Game 6 win. And even in the Game 1 loss, Scutaro's single to left leading off the fourth was San Francisco's first hit off 18-game winner Lance Lynn.He had long been a super-sub in four seasons across the bay with the Oakland Athletics from 2004-07, filling in wherever he was needed in the infield -- and, on occasion, as an outfielder.Scutaro, who turns 37 on Oct. 30, played for Mets (2002-03), Toronto (2008-09), Boston (2010-11) and 95 games with Colorado this season.No matter what happens now, he will always be remembered in San Francisco."I kind of thought I had a really good opportunity to make the playoffs with this team," Scutaro said. "We just started playing good, and here we are in the World Series."

Despite discord, Goodell's reign may not be nearing end

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Despite discord, Goodell's reign may not be nearing end

Monday may have marked a low point in the relationship between the NFL and its on-field employees.

The fight between the league and its best player of the past two decades was in the headlines again. Tom Brady, tied to the NFL’s bumper and dragged around for almost 500 days, had his NFLPA legal team baring its teeth again in the Deflategate mess. The eye-gouging and hair-pulling in that imbroglio over a puff of air allegedly being removed from footballs has cost the league and the PA about $25M so far.

Meanwhile, NFLPA President Eric Winston was saying the league "cannot be trusted to do the right thing when it involves players.” That comment flowed from a Congressional report alleging the NFL tried to exert influence over who would conduct studies regarding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the condition that’s been blamed for a myriad of former players winding up addled, incapacitated or dead.

I say “may have marked” because the relationship between the two sides has cratered so frequently over the past two years, it’s hard to know exactly what the low point has been. Or how much lower it can go.

And, with the 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement only half done, there is ample opportunity for things to get worse. Because, really, why would they get better?

With the NFL’s owners safe knowing that their emperor/puppet/human shield is still in place to take the hits and do their dirty work, there’s seemingly no groundswell among that group to relieve Roger Goodell of his duties. Despite reports of growing owner discontent over Deflategate, the Ray Rice investigation, and an appeal of a case in which the league was found to have withheld $100M from players, there is no Sword of Damocles dangling over the league to cut ties with Goodell.

He was able to oversee the league’s re-entry in Los Angeles (though that “triumph” was fraught with owner acrimony), is going to get a game played in China, keeps edging closer to getting a franchise based in Europe and may even land one in Las Vegas, has enhanced the league’s reach on social media (the announcement of some games being aired on Twitter) and keeps making billions hand over fist.

Goodell’s presence won’t be an impediment to a new labor deal getting done for another five years. By then, when the issues of Goodell’s role in player discipline, drug testing and his relationship with the union come to the fore, the owners might feel compelled to cut him loose after 15 seasons in charge.

But even then, the league’s owners will be in the business of pointing out to the players how good they’ve had it under the current CBA. The league’s salary cap structure – decried as a disaster in the first years of the deal – has seen the cap grow from $120M in 2011 to $155M this year. Players’ practice time and the wear and tear on their bodies has been reduced thanks to the new limits on contact enacted. Benefits are better. Retired players are getting better care. Players have more off-field marketing opportunities with companies that want to affix themselves to the most popular sport in the United States.

As bad as the headlines have been for Goodell, in five years (or probably fewer since negotiations on a new CBA will begin in 2020) who will remember the disaster that’s been Deflategate? How inspired will players be to miss games and paychecks for the satisfaction of knowing Goodell can’t be his own arbitrator anymore?

To sum it up, Goodell’s dark disciplinary reign may well continue unabated for a few more seasons. But as long as the league rains money on its players through the end of this decade, the clock isn’t ticking on Goodell and the owners in the form of labor strife.

Smith: Brady made an 'incredibly generous offer' to settle Deflategate

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Smith: Brady made an 'incredibly generous offer' to settle Deflategate

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith joined the Dan Patrick Show -- hosted by Ross Tucker on Monday -- to discuss the petition that was eventually filed to the Second Circuit requesting a rehearing for Tom Brady's case. 

During the discussion, Smith insisted that Brady made a settlement offer long ago that might've resolved things. But because the NFL wanted more, a deal was never struck. Now here we are, almost 500 days since the AFC Championship Game in January of 2015, and Deflategate is still a living, breathing thing. 

"Tom's a standup guy," Smith said. "And I think he made a settlement offer to resolve this. The league chose not to take it, and that's where we are . . . I don't want to go into details, but it was an incredibly generous offer to resolve this. The league asked for something that no man should agree to do."

Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran explained on Monday's episode of Quick Slants that Brady was willing to accept a one-game suspension for a lack of cooperation at the outset of the investigation. But the league was looking for a face to take the blame, Curran explained. 

Both Jim McNally and John Jastremski were willing to take the heat off of Brady, but Brady insisted that he would not throw anyone else under the bus because he believed that there was no wrongdoing on his part or anyone else's when it came to the preparation of game footballs. 

With no one offered up to shoulder the blame, the NFL declined to agree to any proposal from Brady's camp. At that point, it would have been almost impossible to predict that this case would one day be only a step or two from getting the US Supreme Court involved. 

Yet here we are.