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Monday, October 1, 2007
Updated: October 2, 5:35 PM ET
Baseball's Holliday season off to rousing start

By Tim Keown
Page 2

For you young ballplayers out there, Matt Holliday just showed you three reasons why you never, ever, under any circumstances slide headfirst into home plate. For one, you can break a bone -- a hand on a shin guard, a finger on a spike, a jaw on a shoe. For two, you can chin-butt the ground, never a good idea. And for three, you can miss the plate and be out.

But besides Holliday's Tom Emanski moment -- or maybe because of it -- things might not get any better than the first day of October. Typically, there are one or two signature games of the postseason, and although Padres-Rockies wasn't officially a postseason game, it will be remembered.

It'll be remembered for bad umpiring (definition of outfield umpiring: a night off), great pitching (Matt Herges, Heath Bell, Joe Thatcher) and poor but persistent pitching (Jake Peavy, who seemed ready to stay out there as long as it took to get it right).

It'll be remembered, maybe most of all, as the pinnacle of the Rockies' end-of-season comeback, a stretch of 14 wins in the final 15 games.

So Monday night was the good news, and maybe the start of a month of late-night fun. The bad news is, the wild-card era has created more memories in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and fewer in the World Series.

Why? The Rockies are a perfect example, and something tells me the Phillies will be, too. Teams that rally into the postseason rarely have the emotional endurance to carry it through to the end of October -- or, in this year's act of scheduling genius, perhaps the first day of November.

The past two World Series winners? The White Sox and The Cardinals, two teams that sagged late in the season and played their best baseball in the postseason. Sample sizes being what they are, it might be more coincidence than trend, but more likely it's an unintended consequence of a longer postseason.

Still, we already have a game to remember. Not a bad start.

This Week's List

Proof that sometimes everybody thinks too damned much: Remember when we all wondered whether fumbling the snap was going to scar Tony Romo for life?

Somewhere along the line a new unwritten rule was enacted and Vai Sikahema can't believe his eyes: The new trend in the NFL and college football apparently calls for punt returners to field everything inside the 10, sometimes inside with 5, without giving a thought to a fair catch.

With the possible exception of Stanford football, of course, but that might be a category all its own: There's not a sadder sight in sports than two bad baseball teams playing their final games of the season.

And before long, they'll be airing the Super Bowl on tape delay at 11:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night: In a move bound to bring the NFL to its knees, a law firm is filing a class-action lawsuit against the Patriots and Bill Belichick on behalf of swindled Jets fans.

Hot at the right time: Alfonso Soriano and Travis Hafner.

To which you must ask whether the man is ignorant, or willfully ignoring the power of dye: On the Sunday night telecast, Cris Collinsworth looked at Bob Costas and said of Brett Favre, "He has more gray hair than you and me combined."

Paging Nolan Richardson: With their offense, the 49ers should change their team slogan to "Three hours of hell."

Oh, no, not again: Kobe.

This year's really tiresome coaching trend: Coaches whispering timeout calls to an official standing right next to him a nanosecond before the ball is snapped on a field goal.

The way to fix it: Go back to the old rules -- only a player on the field can call timeout, so at least the players on the field can hear and see the call.

I mean, sure you're a pro and all, but how would you like to be Tom Glavine and wake up Monday to this headline in the New York Post: "Terrible Tom drives final nail in Mets' coffin."

Just to reiterate: Seven games up on Sept. 13.

However, lost in the rush to anoint the Mets as history's worst chokers: In order for the Mets' run of 12 losses in 17 games to mean something, the Phillies had to win 13 of 17.

Watching Ben Roethlisberger throw and throw and throw in a practice last week, a question arose: Why don't quarterbacks get sore arms the way pitchers do?

By the way: Ben didn't have an answer either, but he said he's thought about it, too.

There have been some who have suggested it was karma at work, but more than likely it was simply a matter of pride: There's a decent chance the Marlins might have gone down a little more quietly on Sunday if the Mets hadn't made such a mockery of them on Saturday.

Well, at least he's come to a pretty fair assessment of the situation: Before his final game with the Giants, Barry Bonds told a group of reporters, "I broke the home run record, and then they fired me."

And to commemorate the occasion: He didn't dress Sunday, and he left in the first inning.

I don't really care about women's soccer, or the strategy employed by the American team's coaches, or the resulting firestorm of ego it might ignite, but there's one thing I know for sure: Hope Solo is a really cool name.

I know it worked out in the end, and I know Clint Hurdle didn't have a whole drawer full of options, but there's one definite rule: You don't want to trust your season to Jorge Julio.

There are a lot of questions left to be answered in the NFL this year, but none more pressing than this: Roger Goodell destroy any good evidence this week?

And finally, a special thanks to: Norv Turner, reacquainting us with the importance of coaching in the NFL.

Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Tim here.