NBA - Miami is within one game of winning the championship as I write today. I did call for Miami to win it this year, which was not a big surprise to anyone, but hardly a sure thing. The Oklahoma City Thunder is coming up a bit short in the Finals, which is normal for a young team in the last round for the first time. It happened to LeBron with Cleveland, and with the Big 3 in Miami last year, though Dwayne Wade won the championship, with Shaq behind him, in his first shot. The Thunder clearly have enough talent to win it all, as well as the heart--as they showed against the Spurs in the Western Conference Final, or against the Lakers in the second round--it's just a matter of maturity.
Euro Soccer--The first round had some surprise results in individual games, but for the most part--with one exception, the Netherlands--the big-name team/countries made it through. Looking at my picks for the teams coming through the first round, I had five correct, one wrong (Croatia), and I abstained from guessing on the fate of the French and the Dutch. Holland was in a very tough group and underperformed (Portugal got the spot), while France came in as everybody's surprise pick and held up fairly well (though they dumped their last game, 2-0, against a Swedish team that had already been eliminated).
Italy was the team that did better than I expected; their rebuilt squad showed some decent offensive punch--and they still have one of the best, Buffon, at goalie. They will be a tough opponent for my surprise pick, England, in the next round. If England should get by them, only more trouble awaits, probably in the form of Germany, and, after that, Spain. I will earn major pointage if that call turns out right.
Baseball--It's starting to be late to be too early to draw conclusions, so I will do what I must and assess my preseason picks and the remainder of the season. Basically, my groupings will be a combination of how good I thought they would be, how good they've appeared to be, and how good (or not) they really are.
Even Better than I Thought - Yanks, Rangers, Reds. Yes, the Reds (my team), which doesn't mean they will go anywhere in the postseason, as their starters are not consistent enough, but I am feeling even better than I was at start of year about their winning the division (largely a function of the weakness of their chief competition). Meanwhile, the Yanks are successfully overcoming the lack of depth in their starting rotation and the injury to Mo Rivera, which isn't too surprising considering the rest of their squad.
Really Are Good After All--Dodgers, Nationals Which doesn't mean either will even make the playoffs, but I am now convinced of their quality.
Coming up to Where I Thought They'd Be -- Angels, Tigers, Braves, Rays. I had all these teams making the playoffs; if the season ended today, none of them would, but their trends are good and my best estimate is that three-fourths of them will, though none is certain.
Don't Give up on Them Yet--Phillies, Cardinals, Giants, Marlins. Out of these, I actually picked only the Phillies to make the playoffs. Despite the standings and general belief, I still would. I think the others are all still legitimate contenders for the playoffs, though I am not picking them (maybe the Giants, now, if the Dodgers fall off their pace).
I Am Giving Up on Them (at least for 2012) - Diamondbacks, Brewers, Royals, Red Sox. I had Arizona winning the division and Milwaukee in a wild card spot. I probably shouldn't write off Botox, but I think their divisional competition/competency is working against them in the long run.
Really as Bad (or Worse) Than I Thought--Rockies, Cubs, Padres, Astros, A's, Mariners, Twins. Especially the Rockies and Twins. Astros in the AL in '13 could break some all-time records for futiility.
Don't Believe in them Quite Yet - Pirates, Indians, Orioles, Blue Jays, Mets, White Sox. I don't believe any of these teams will make the playoffs, though most have been in nominal playoff slots at some point this year, and all (except the highly-touted 'Jays) have played above expectations.
I had the Tigers beating the Phillies in the World Series; I am not walking away from that prediction yet, not until I see how the Phils do when Utley and Howard are back (and that should be less than a month from now).
BCS: Bites Crushed Sand
(a/k/a: "dust") I considered whether to include the death of the Bowl Championship Series, or whatever the stupid college football championship thing was called, in this sports report or in a soon-to-be-posted obit dept. posting. I guess (sigh?!) it is sports.
Of course, they didn't do the new version right: either they should have gone to an eight-team format, with the seven games required for it being sited and filling in for six of the traditional bowl games (the seventh being the Stupid Championship Game), or the four-team format should feature the winners of four of the most prestigious bowls (either automatically, or, to give them a little of the traditional leeway and fan-engaging debate, with some choice involved about which bowl winners to include). Instead, there will be a committee, no mention of computers, too much mention of "conference champions"--meaning, winners of those stupid, artificial, greedy conference championship games the big groupings have set up.
Still, it is improvement. It was totally necessary with the virtual collapse of ACC and Big East football, and I hope it will bring the eventual demise of those conference championship games, and, within a few years, that they will move to one of the improved approaches I describe above.
As I said, though, at least it (sort of) fulfills one of President Obama's promises: that something must be done about the annual BCS mess.