July 4, 2008

Peachtree Road Race 2008 (plus a T-Shirt)

After waking up before dawn, riding the most crowded MARTA train I've ever seen, and waiting over an hour, we finally started the 2008 Peachtree Road Race from Time Group 5, 40 minutes after the elite runners. The course was packed the entire way, though what else should I have expected? It's the largest 10K in the world at 55,000 runners. The term "runners" should be used loosely. I would say at least 1/3 of the participants walked over 2 miles. But that's fine, it's not really a race. It's more of a community event. There was music, there were fire hydrants spraying water, churches distributing food... It was cool and fun, and best of all there's a T-shirt!

A couple recommendations for first-time runners in the future:

1. Don't plan on running a good time from the back, there's just no space. We walked almost the first half mile because there wasn't room to actually run. If you want to run a good time, you have to submit a time and get into one of the groups in the front.

2. Even if the forecast says 70, it's still really warm and humid. It wasn't too bad, but be prepared.

3. Don't try to get on the MARTA too close to the race. The train was almost full by downtown going north, and it was packed long before we got to the last station, where the entire platform was three-deep in runners.

4. Don't take it too seriously and just have fun!

Federer vs. Nadal at Wimbledon: A Historic Matchup

There are only a few times in sports when you know history will be made before the event even happens. Sure, each champion in any sport will be duly recorded, but certain games and matches are always remembered as being classics or changes of the guard. Some events transcend the normal interest in the sport. Decades from now, the 2008 Wimbledon final Sunday between Federer and Nadal will be remembered. Even if the match itself isn't outstanding or doesn't go 5 sets, the result will be monumental for the victor and put either man even more decisively in the record books.

Is Federer the best tennis player ever?

Roger Federer has dominated men's tennis for the past 5 years. He is poised to win a record 6th straight Wimbledon Championship, thrusting himself within one of the record for Wimbledon Championships and career Grand Slam titles. With a victory in the French Open, Bjorn Borg would have declared Federer the greatest player ever. However, this year has been relatively tough for Roger. His record streak of 10 consecutive Grand Slam singles finals was broken at the Australian Open, and he was beaten badly by Nadal in the final at Roland Garros. Winning at the French would give Federer the Career Grand Slam and probably secure his status as best ever, but Nadal seemed to have stretched his advantage over Federer on the clay. In addition to the records, a win by Federer reaffirms his status as the #1 player in the world, a status which is in danger for the first time in years.

Will we see this scene again or with the trophies transposed?

Rafael Nadal is the young upcomer, dominant at the French Open, expanding his game and dominance ever outward. Last year, he took Federer to the absolute limit in 5 sets in the Wimbledon final. A victory by Nadal would make him the presumptive #1 player in the world, winner of 2 Grand Slams this year to Federer's 0. Nadal would be the first player since Borg in 1980 to win the French and Wimbledon in the same year. This is already his 7th Grand Slam final at the age of 22, all of them at Wimbledon (3) and the French (4).

Sampras and Agassi was the greatest individual rivalry of my childhood.

In addition, Federer and Nadal is the greatest current individual sports rivalry. This is the modern version of Sampras and Agassi, except not as popular here because neither player is American. This is the third consecutive year that Federer and Nadal have played each other in both the French Open and Wimbledon finals. How awesome is that? That's the kind of drama and intensity we want from Tiger and Phil. It's what we could have hoped for from the Williams sisters. Federer, the older, composed veteran with all the titles, against the young Nadal, full of emotion and raw power looking to take the older man's crown.

Bjorn Borg was the last to win both Wimbledon and the French in the same year.

On the court, both men have been at the top of their games, losing only 1 set combined throughout Wimbledon. Nadal's punishing pace looks just as effective as it was on the clay, and he's served great. Federer has won 5 straight in London, and even though he struggled earlier this year, he's been in top form so far this fortnight. Both men have confidence, both know they are capable of winning. There is no underdog angle to play, even Vegas has it pretty much even money. For most Americans, this is a great opportunity to sit back and enjoy some incredible tennis, at a level at which only 2 players can perform. This could be the match of the decade. You just have to wake up early to watch.

Nadal over Federer, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 6-7, 10-8. Don't forget there's no tiebreaker in the 5th set.

July 3, 2008

Every Weekend is a Great Sports Weekend (7/4-7/6)

This is the first in what will hopefully become a weekly feature on ECB.

Every weekend of the year there is something interesting happening in the sports world. We'll let you know what you need to do to spend the entire weekend watching sports. Think Deadspin's "What to Watch Tonight" but with previews of the events.

This weekend is packed with great things to watch, so fire up the grill, grab a cold beer and enjoy the show.

Nationwide Series Winn-Dixie 250 (Friday 7PM, ESPN2)
Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 (Saturday 6:30PM, TNT)

  • NASCAR goes to Daytona this weekend, and that always makes things a little more exciting.
  • Ryan Newman's season hasn't gone quite the way he expected after winning the Daytona 500, but that won't stop him from trying to complete the Daytona Double in what may be his last race there for Penske.
  • Kurt Busch will try to follow up on his 2nd place finish in the Daytona 500 and his win last week at New Hampshire.
  • No matter what Kurt does, he'll still be the second fiddle Busch brother this season as Kyle tries to keep his unbelievable momentum going. Lil' Busch has 5 wins already this year and leads the championship.

Mens Semifinals (Friday 7AM, ESPN2)
Ladies Final (Saturday 9AM, NBC)
Mens Final (Sunday 9AM, NBC)
  • The Ladies final could be Williams vs. Williams and the Mens final could be another Federer-Nadal matchup. That's about as good as you're going to get with the current state of tennis.
  • Marat Safin has a chance (albeit a small one) to upset Federer and make the final. That would be a pretty amazing accomplishment since he hasn't made the finals in any event since October 2006 and hasn't won an event since he won the Aussie Open in 2005. His kid sister made the finals in the French Open, so that must have been the motivation he needed to get back on his game.
  • Even though the past few years have fallen into the "Nadal wins the French, Federer wins Wimbledon" routine, recall that last year's Wimbledon final was a very close match. I wouldn't count out Nadal if he makes the final against Federer.
Tour de France
Stage 1 (Saturday 8:30AM, Versus)
Stage 2 (Sunday 8:30AM, Versus)
  • The first day of the Tour de France is normally a meaningless prologue stage (essentially a time trial that no one cares about). Thankfully that has been changed this year, and we start out with a real stage.
  • Both stages are fairly flat, so we'll see breakaways, chases, and sprint finishes. Nothing this weekend will have much of an effect in the overall race for the yellow jersey.
  • See ECB's Tour de France Preview for more.

UFC 86 (Saturday 10PM, PPV)
  • The two coaches from the just-completed season of The Ultimate Fighter face off for the Light Heavyweight Championship. Rampage Jackson and Forrest Griffin also happen to be two of the most popular fighters around.
  • I think you have to consider Rampage the favorite in this one, just based on his experience in PRIDE. (I just checked the odds, and sure enough, Rampage is -260. I don't think he should be that heavy of a favorite, but he'll probably win).
  • The undercard is stacked with former competitors from The Ultimate Fighter. If you've watched the reality show at all, you'll recognize most of the undercard fights.

Formula 1
British Grand Prix Qualifying (Saturday 8AM, SPEED)
British Grand Prix (Sunday 1PM, FOX)
  • The race for the Drivers Championship is as close this year as it's ever been. The Ferraris look great, but McLaren is still nipping at their heels and BMW looks better every race.
  • This is Lewis Hamilton's home Grand Prix and the crowd will be quite enthusiastic in its support for him.
  • FOX will show the race in HD, which is really, really cool.
Cubs at Cardinals (Sunday 3PM, TBS)
Teams TBD (Saturday 3:30PM, FOX)
  • Chicago and St. Louis are locked in a battle for the top of the NL Central, and this game could conceivably vault the Cardinals into first place (if they sweep the series).
  • The Fox game will probably be Yankees-Red Sox, which will annoy half of the country. But really, what's more American than Baseball on Independence Day weekend?

Hot Dog Eating Contest
Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest (Friday 12PM, ESPN)
  • Personally, I have no interest whatsoever in this event, but some people clearly do.
  • I guess the big question this year is whether or not Joey Chestnut was a one-hit-wonder or whether he can defend his crown (er, mustard yellow belt).
  • Takeru Kobayashi will try to claim his 7th belt and avenge his loss to Chestnut last year.
  • The Over/Under on hot dogs eaten is 68.5 (-250) which would be a new world record. The contest has been shortened to 10 minutes (from 12 minutes) so the under is a safe bet here.

July 2, 2008

Rays Sweep Sox, Bandwagon Rolling

For the second time this year, the Tampa Bay Rays have swept the Boston Red Sox, this time establishing a 3.5 game lead in the AL East and improving the best record in the majors. With Hershiser declaring their 7th inning rally a turning point for the whole season, the Rays put up 6 on the Sox bullpen to take a 3 run lead. It's time to start believing that the Rays might actually be able to win the AL East, and take the defending champs' crown. And the fans are suddenly appearing at the Trop in droves. The Rays bandwagon is rolling, and that crowd was loving the sweep of the Nation.

Evan Longoria is living up to the hype.

Calling all fans of the Mariners, Nats, Padres... Are you in need of a competitive team to root for? Maybe one that isn't too trendy or crowded (Cubs)? How about one that doesn't have recent titles or an empty stadium for the World Series (Marlins)? You're in luck! What's not to like about the Rays? A team full of young talent and rising stars, the Rays seem to have imitated the Marlins' business model, and it's paying off. Crawford and Kazmir are established top-tier players. Longoria and Upton have tremendous All-Star potential, and veterans like Pena and Cliff Floyd keep things in perspective. Plus everyone already hates the Yankees and Red Sox, what better way to stick it to them than to join the Rays bandwagon? In addition, the Rays' payroll is under $50 million. Too bad the Sox and Yankees' money aren't leading to victories.

As a Braves/Orioles fan, it's not quite that team of year yet, but you can bet I hate the Red Sox and Yankees. Go Rays!

A Review of Angels Stadium from Amtrak Train 572

So as most of you know, East Coast Bias (well at least 1/4 of ECB) traveled west last week for a little taste of Southern California. Specifically, it was this quarter of ECB.

I didn't make it to Dodger Stadium. However, I was able to "visit" the other "Los Angeles" stadium when suddenly the Amtrak train that I was taking from L.A. to San Diego pulled into the Anaheim station and staring me down from directly across the parking lot was this:

Only a sports geek grabs their camera for a picture like this from inside a train.

Unfortunately the picture quality of the post isn't as good as the picture quality on my computer. But what you see before you is Anaheim Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

So initial point... when Artie Moreno insisted on tagging the team with the Los Angeles moniker to try to prank the rest of the country into thinking the Angels are also L.A.'s team, he pulled one of the biggest jokes ever. Granted, I'm no west coast native. But Anaheim seems to be practically a totally different city from L.A. to me. Hell, it was almost an hour by Amtrak train from downtown L.A. At that rate, Baltimore and DC would be the same city. If Moreno thought that tagging the team with the L.A. moniker would get him lots of play in the Los Angeles media.... well he seems to have guessed right based upon my observations during my week there.

Anyway, on to the stadium. Despite Amtrak and Metrolink servicing this station, really the only way to get there is to drive and park. Any game that goes past 10 p.m. means that there will be no train service home. Hence the ginormous parking lots that surround the stadium. I can't say for certain, but it wouldn't surprise me if Angels fans also park at the Honda Center (home of the Mighty Ducks) which is just on the other side of the railroad tracks from the stadium.

Basically, the only thing separating the stadium of 2008 and the stadium of mid-1980s Naked Gun is a few coats of paint to the outside and some Disneyfied landscaping on the inside (which is visible from the outside but not really in this picture - look at the palm tree inside the stadium just above the sign on the train platform... you can see the fake rock formations on either side of that in person). At left of the picture you can see the famous giant A that is even larger in person. The scoreboard is large and also looks like it has been renovated in recent years.

One of the funniest 4 minutes ever on film actually filmed at Dodger Stadium but who's counting?

Bottom line is the stadium seems cavernous for only holding 45,000 people. I can't really tell what would draw people to Angels games unless they live in Orange County and don't mind dealing with lots of traffic to get to the game and if they want the cheaper beer that Moreno started selling at the stadium as a promotion. It would be pretty cool to see Vladimir Guerrero at every game.

Aside from that, the stadium gets a C-. From the outside. From a few hundred yards away. From the inside of a train.

MLB Career Stats Quiz

How well do you know the members of the 300 win club? How about the 500 HR club? ECB is proud to present a test of your stats knowledge. Don't forget to brag about your score in the comments. Good Luck! (You'll need it.)

Tour de France Preview

The 2008 Tour de France starts on Saturday, and this year promises to have lots of drama. Can Floyd Landis avenge his 2006 loss due to doping allegations? Can Alberto Contador defend his title? Will Michael Rasmussen prove that he's not just a climber and can actually win the overall classification? Can Alexander Vinokourov finally make the jump that so many have been predicting for him? Can Johan Bruyneel duplicate his success with US Postal and Discovery at his new team, Astana? Will Levi Leipheimer be the next great American cyclist? Can Tom Boonen defend his Green Jersey?

Unfortunately, we already know that the answer to all of those questions is no. None of those riders will be competing in the tour this year. Some are banned for doping and some are on the Astana team, which wasn't invited to this year's Tour due to doping allegations against the team.

We're ten years down the road from the Festina scandal and two years have passed since Operation Puerto, but no one still seems to have any good ideas for how to deal with doping in cycling. At this point, many of the biggest names in the sport have been left out of its biggest event, but even so the winner is often thought to be the best rider who didn't get caught. Something needs to change, but I'm not sure what.

Even with all its problems, the Tour de France is still one of the greatest annual events in sports. It's an unimaginable test of mental and physical endurance, with the riders pushing themselves to exhaustion almost every day for 3 weeks.

Every year I try to convince people that the Tour de France is actually great television. Pretty much no one listens, but that doesn't stop me from trying. The coverage on VS. is great, featuring an entertaining announcing crew of Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, Bob Roll, and Craig Hummer. I was disappointed to see that Al Trautwig won't be covering the Tour this year, presumably because he'll do the Olympics for ABC.

So who's going to win? With so many favorites either retired or banned, this shapes up to be the most wide open Tour in recent memory. My money's on Spain's Carlos Sastre. He has a strong team behind him (CSC), and even though he's fallen short in recent Tours, this should be his best chance to win.

Stay tuned for more updates as the Tour de France progresses. I probably won't do daily updates or anything, but I'm going to try for more comprehensive coverage than last year.

Photo Credit: NielsB, Wladyslaw Sojka

July 1, 2008

Random Links

We don't do link posts around here too often, but these were too good to pass up.

  • Tirico Suave has one of the funniest things (and definitely a "wish I had thought of that moment) I've read in a while.
If you don't get the joke, go here.
  • Drew Magary (a.k.a. Big Daddy Drew) once again proves why he's the best sports writer in America today (not just on the Internet). His message is similar to my sentiment in the Why We're Sports Fans series, but of course he expresses it in a much funnier and better written manner.
  • INRCP has a nice post on James Gist getting drafted. I'll admit that I hadn't even been looking for Maryland players on the mock drafts because I didn't expect anyone to get picked. Congrats, James, and good luck on making the Spurs. We'll all be rooting for you.

ESPN Sells Out for Wipeout

Last night on Sportscenter, sports fans worldwide saw the ultimate sellout by tWWL. We've all felt it coming and some have been more vocal about it than others, but it's now official. In the Top 10 last night, #8 was a blatant, unmitigated ad for Wipeout, as seen below.


As you can see and hear, they announce the date and time the show is on ABC. They don't even show a single "good play" from the show, but just a montage. Where is the justice for whomever was bumped from the Top 10 to make room?

There are so many other ways that ESPN could have advertised their new show. "Good luck John with your new show Wipeout which debuts tomorrow on ABC" or "Check out Wipeout tomorrow on ABC" at the end of the show. Neither of those are pretending to be something they're not. Or ABC could have run an actual ad for it. But it's certainly not part of the top 10... it hasn't even been aired yet! What's next, a kiss from Desperate Housewives in the top 5? ESPN is obviously owned by ABC and Disney, but whatever sports integrity they had is disappearing quickly under the thumb of their corporate leadership.

The worst part is that the show is Spike's Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (MXC) without any of the funny. Someone over at Disney thought people would watch MXC without hilarious Japanese people and funny voiceover. What's worse is that the networks have proven they get that Japanese game shows are funny, as CBS debuted their own "Help, I'm Stuck in a Japanese Game Show".

Seriously, why am I not in charge of anything?

J-Red and Russell contributed to this post.

June 30, 2008

Why the NFL Cannot Survive in L.A.

Having just returned from an 8-day road swing through California (6 days in L.A., 2 in San Diego), having explored large parts of L.A. from the coast through to the valley (convienently leaving aside Compton, Crenshaw, South Central L.A., and a few other Wire-ific spots), and having seen what makes L.A. tick from the perspective of somebody with an East Coast Bias, I now present to you the reasons that lead to what I now understand - that the NFL just won't survive in Los Angeles. It's not for any one of these reasons alone. All of them have some play in it:


Long before the NFL ever arrived, there was college football in L.A.. The college sports scene is as actively followed in L.A. as it is in Columbus, Lincoln, or Tuscaloosa. USC stories lead the sports section, with the Dodgers and Angels a close second. USC players like Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart are celebs in the town. UCLA has thousands of alums in the L.A. basin who follow Bruins athletics religiously. The two teams each routinely play in front of sold-out crowds in 100,000+ seat stadiums (Bruins in Rose Bowl, Trojans in Coliseum). The season is shorter (three months as opposed to four months) and there are generally only six home games instead of ten (including the preseason), which appeals to the shorter attention span of L.A. sports fans. The combined support for these two teams strongly eclipses and draws away from the potential support for any future pro team.

Too bad Los Angelians only saw Dan Fouts' Merlin Olsen's beard on TV and not in person at this L.A. Raiders game vs. Kansas City.

2) Traffic

The only way that L.A. could support an NFL team is to build a new stadium. The land is there. Apparently some 600 acres 20 miles east of L.A. form the site for a proposed stadium. But what people not from L.A. don't necessarily realize is that there is really no such thing as a centralized downtown L.A. The metropolitan area has millions of people spread out over large neighborhoods. L.A. is separated by the hills and there are the parts of L.A. west and south of the hills (downtown, Sunset Strip, Venice), and there are the parts of it east and north of the hills (Studio City, Burbank, Pasadena, Calabasas). For those east and north of the hills, there would at least possibly be some back roads to take to the stadium. For those west and south of the hills, crossing the hills and avoiding the roads through the canyons that are one lane in each direction necessarily involves taking one of L.A.'s notorious freeways. There are no plans to extend public transportation to the proposed site of the stadium which wouldn't matter anyway because nobody would take it (see #3 below).

Granted, hundreds of thousands make it to the college games, but the tailgate culture is engrained already so you don't have those thousands descending on the stadium 60-90 minutes before kickoff. Anyone familiar with L.A. need only imagine about 90,000 cars on the 405 or the 101 at the same time. Not so much fun.

3) The culture

The one thing that I took away from my trip to L.A. is that the most important thing to gain status in L.A. is not just to have money - but it's just as important to show people that you have that money to spend. That's one reason why BMW's, Acuras, Mercedes, Lexi, Escalades, Hummers, and other brands of luxury cars seem to flood the L.A. roads at a way higher per capita rate than any other place I've ever visited in the country. That's one reason why public transportation just isn't an option for Los Angelians despite gas being near $4.75/gallon - they want to be seen driving.

Now let's compare football to basketball and baseball. In basketball and baseball, there are a limited number of premium seats. And in those courtside seats or in those seats in the front row behind home plate, you are visible to everyone else in the venue. You're guaranteed to be on the Jumbotron. The folks at US Weekly, People, and TMZ have an easy time snapping your picture to show you out relaxing the week your movie is set to premiere.

Let's think football for a moment... the most premium seats are either skyboxes where you are hidden from sight, or about halfway up the lower deck at the 50 yard-line, where you'd just blend into the crowd. No celeb wants to blend into the crowd. That's why despite the fact that all of the L.A. hotspots have dedicated back entrances for celebs to avoid the paparazzi (yes, I plunked down a lot of money at Koi and The Ivy among other places), on most occasions, celebs opt to go in and out the front door, knowing full well they are going to be crushed by a blinding array of flash bulbs popping.

Simply put, the demand won't be there for the premium seats because while they might be nice for an exec or an agent to be able to wield to talent, what the talent really wants is to be part of the scene. And you can't really be part of the scene at an NFL game because the scene at an NFL game is what's going on on the field during the game and in the parking lots before the game. It's very seldomly who's in the stands. So in other words, those who will be spending money on the premium seats won't necessarily stand out doing so. And that defeats the very notion of what is most important to many Los Angelians, particularly those in the entertainment industry.

yum fake titties

L.A. Blows
Other Random Advice for East Coasters in L.A.:

1) Don't bring dress slacks or socks. Nobody in L.A. wears these, even to a place like Koi where dinner will set you back way more than you ever want to spend. The look is "shabby sheik." [J-Red's note: I'm leaving this in. Obviously he meant shabby chic, but his way is funnier.] I'm not kidding you. At many exclusive restaurants (Koi), you'll blend in way more in $400 tapered jeans, a fitted t-shirt and flip flops than you will in khakis and a polo shirt. Don't try to wear shorts out though to a club or nice restaurant. Gotta be jeans.

2) Hit Barney's Beanery just off Sunset. There's a reason why it's Adam Sandler's favorite bar and the favorite bar of just about every transplanted East Coaster out there. Cheap pitchers of beer, an awesome jukebox, tons of TVs showing every sports game, and air hockey, foosball, and old school video games.

3) Bring money for valet. Since everybody drives their cars, most parking lots after 8pm, even a parking lot at a simple strip mall, become valet so that more jobs are created seemingly. This is about the only rationale I can have for it. Some places I get. The shopping center parking lot where Katsu-ya is? Yes, it's Justin Timberlake's sushi go-to spot. Have valet available if I want it. Don't make me pay $5 so you can park my car for me.
dick in a box

4) Don't take a picture of celebs when you cross their paths. Better to observe them in their natural habitats. And it's way harder to spot a celeb in person in their natural habitat than you might think because damn near everybody in L.A. dresses glam. At various times on my trip I saw Nancy O'Dell, Nas, Billy Walsh from Entourage, the youngest kid from Home Improvement, and Goldie Hawn. Only Goldie Hawn stuck out and that's because she happened to be wearing a big white hat on the beach in Malibu so that our attention was drawn to look at the woman wearing the funny hat. The funny thing is I'm certain that at The Ivy, Koi, Barney's, and in Malibu, along the Sunset Strip, and at various other times I was in the presence of celebs. Really, they just sort of blend in. They don't all have giant flocks of paparazzi around them.

5) Watch the late Sportscenter as you're going to sleep and appreciate that there are no games that are just getting underway as you're going to sleep. All the scores are in, all the news of the day is wrapped. Turn on the TV just once for a live event like the NBA Draft and realize how funny it is that it's nighttime where the event is taking place and you just got back from the afternoon at the beach.

6) Get iced coffee from The Coffee Bean. Starbucks better pray that The Coffee Bean doesn't spread to the East Coast. Their monopoly already got crushed in the Northeast by Dunkin' Donuts.

NL East: Best Division for Fans

The NL East may not feature any team with a fabulous record, but it certainly provides endless entertainment. Here are 10 reasons why the NL East is the most interesting division in baseball to watch and follow.

Jurrjens could be the NL RoY. (AP Photo: John Bazemore)

10. Great Pitching: The Braves feature the best ERA in the NL, and the Phillies are also in the top 3 in the NL in runs allowed. With only 7 career starts before this year, Jair Jurrjens is 5th in the NL in ERA. Cole Hamels and Johan Santana are two of the best young aces in baseball. On the other end of the age spectrum, future Hall members Smoltz, Glavine, and Pedro might all be pitching their last seasons.

9. Close Games: The Braves have already played (and lost) 16 one-run games on the road this year. The Phillies are one of the 4 teams in baseball with a winning road record this year.

8. Parity: The NL East has 4 teams within 4 games of the division lead. No other division has 3 teams within 4 games. In addition, how many other divisions had 3 teams on the preseason short list for a World Series appearance?

7. Newest Stadium: The Nats might suck on the field, but at least there's a field, right? The newest stadium in baseball looks nice on TV and makes it more official that baseball is back in the nation's capital. Featuring views of the Capitol and local food joints, the new stadium has been a hit. The Mets will have a new stadium next year, as well.

6. Comeback Stories: After tearing up his arm in his first start in the majors a couple years ago, Jorge Campillo has made his way back to the Bigs at 29, posting a 2.54 ERA in 67.1 IP. I'm sure there are others, but...

Chase Utley might make it 3 Phillies MVPs in a row with no duplicates.

5. Home Run Hitters: The NL East features the two sluggers tied for the lead in HRs, both of them second-basemen! When was the last time a 2B had the home run crown? Both are on pace to set the record for the most HRs by a 2B in a single season (currently 42). Uggla and Utley might be pursued by Teixeira or Howard later in the year. The NL East has 6 of the top 11 HR hitters in the NL.

4. Past MVPs: The NL East has 3 of the past 5 NL MVPs not named Barry Bonds (Rollins, Howard, Pujols, Kent, Chipper Jones), and they're all still in their prime. Chipper Jones is hitting .394 at the halfway point of the season and has been nothing short of incredible this year.

Tex will be major trade bait this summer.

3. Big Trades: Mark Teixeira will be the focus of lots of trade rumors this summer, while the Mets' deal for Santana was the biggest deal of the offseason. With so many stars in the division and the Marlins permanently poised for a fire sale, no division has more interesting trades.

2. Endless Managerial Entertainment: The Mets have been a circus this year, especially with the firing of Willie Randolph after his racial comments to the media. Jerry Manuel's success or failure will certainly bear watching the rest of the year, and Bobby Cox is the all-time ejections leader.

1. The Marlins: In any given year, out of nowhere, the Marlins are capable of winning it all. Consistently the best at acquiring and developing talent, is there any franchise more enjoyable to watch operate? This year, once again on a shoestring budget, the Marlins are only one game out. Can they go all the way again with a bunch of nobodies and a few blooming stars?

So there you have it, the most entertaining division in baseball. I just hope you're lucky enough to see their games and watch the goings-on.