Sports Beat, 9-26-08
--USC's 27-21 loss to Oregon State was absolutely stunning. I saw Oregon State lose to Penn State, and saw how they simply lacked the speed on defense to keep up with the Nittany Lions' Spread HD offense. Given USC's speed, it seemed reasonable to believe that the Trojans could points on the board, especially considering how they moved the ball against a very tough Ohio State defense.
How Oregon State slowed down USC is still a mystery to me. Somehow, every receiver looked covered. Somehow, the line broke down. Surprisingly, Mark Sanchez looked lackluster under pressure. And there wasn't much consistency to the running game.
Defensively, USC just couldn't stop Jacquizz Rodgers to save their lives. The Trojan defense may have a lot of big bodies and hard hitters, but none of them could get low enough to tackle the tiny Rodgers. His longest run was only 15 yards, but he consistently earned sizable gains on the ground, milked the clock, and kept the Trojan offense off the field.
When USC lost to Oregon State two years ago, it was because they committed too many turnovers. Last night, the Trojans got flat-out beat. It's a bit unfair that college football doesn't have a playoff system, and that it doesn't allow title contending teams to have a bad day. But considering how awful the Pac-10 has looked this season, it would take a tidal wave of losses like last year for USC to have any hope of a national championship.
In the meantime, the Trojans have to be very concerned about injuries. Shareece Wright is already out, but Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, Zack Heberer, and Taylor Mays are also on the injury report.
--The Dodgers are in pretty good shape heading into the playoffs. They'll open on the road, but unless the Brewers win the Wild Card, they'll face an NL East team that will probably be operating on short rest with a pitching rotation that is out of sync. The Phillies and Mets both have something to play for this weekend, and both will have to deal with bad weather which could extend their seasons.
Right now, the Dodgers are looking to use Derek Lowe in Game 1 and Chad Billingsley in Game 2. As great as Greg Maddux is, he's done nothing this season to show he belongs on the playoff roster. Hiroki Kuroda will probably pitch Game 3, but if Joe Torre needs a fourth starter in the NLDS, then one would hope he'd pick Clayton Kershaw.
It seems like the Phillies or Mets would be the best the matchup for the Dodgers in the NLDS, and the Cubs would likely be the toughest. But frankly all of the NL playoff teams have holes and anything can happen in a short series.
--There's been a number of changes in LA sports talk radio over the past few weeks. KLAC 570 will replace Joe McDonnell's local show with a new syndicated program hosted by Tony Bruno. I have two reactions to this.
First, it's disappointing to see that KLAC now has only two original weekday shows that cover local sports. That's the same number as 710 AM ESPN Radio. Is there a belief that local sports fans aren't interested in talking about their teams on the air? Does LA have so many sports fans from out of town that we'd rather have more national sports shows? Or is this all about finances? I'm not sure of the answer, but I would love to listen to more local sports talk radio, particularly in the morning when Dan Patrick and Mike & Mike are currently heard.
Second, I think Tony Bruno is as good as any sports talk host in the country. I understand that people might not agree with that. But I'm thrilled he's back on the airwaves. His show offers a very unique perspective on the sports world and he's often very funny on the air. Also, while I'm not sure how much of his show will cover local sports, he will broadcast out of the KLAC studios in Burbank with Tim Cates who was on McDonnell's show. Bruno had a particularly revealing interview on Deadspin over the summer that I recommend reading.
As for McDonnell, he will almost certainly be on another station in LA soon enough. He's never off the air for too long here.
In other local sports talk, Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton has stopped doing his Saturday show on KLAC, and he has also left XTRA Sports 1360 in San Diego after he came to a "mutual" agreement with ClearChannel to not renew his contract. Reportedly, he appears to be moving to satellite radio and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo's new station.
I, for one, will miss Hacksaw on the local airwaves. His shouting of random SoCal suburbs, his unbridled passion, his oddly pretentious comments, and his bizarre and seemingly made up rumors were all oddly endearing. Hacksaw was one of the few sports talk show hosts out there who really tried to carry his show on substance, yet his style was certainly one of a kind. It's a shame that Hacksaw has made some offensive comments on the air over the years and that he burned bridges with the San Diego Chargers, because he is one of the most underrated play-by-play announcers out there. He's done the Chargers, USC football, Seahawks, and several other teams over the years, and technically and stylistically, he's excellent at calling the action.
There was a time when Hacksaw dominated the local airwaves, when XTRA 690 was the only sports talk station here. The San Diego Union & Tribune has an interesting article measuring his impact on local sports radio. And of course, Hacksaw had some very unsurprising words for Jay Posner, who wrote the story.
“I had one more quote I wanted to give you,” Hamilton said. “Who wants to hire the best sports talk show host in America?”
In the meantime, you can listen to my own sports talk show, every Monday from 12 PM to 1 PM on KSCR 1560 AM and KSCR.org.