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Deion Does Dallas: NFL Can't Afford to Lose a Big Star

Column by Bo Light
Associate Sports Editor

A big load of baseball and football should satisfy your sports appetite this week. If you're a hockey or basketball fan, don't fret; those sports will be covered next week, I promise.

Gridiron Report

Speaking of football, congratulations go out to the MIT football team for winning its third Homecoming game in as many years. Kudos also to Jos DeLen '97, who broke MIT's rushing yardage and touchdown records in the 352 pasting of Nichols College.

The latest news in the Deion Does Dallas saga: the NFL has announced that, thanks to Sanders' new and improved salary, the Cowboys have now exceeded the league salary cap, and must restructure their payroll. Halfway through the season is a little late to be renegotiating salaries, but Jerry Jones will undoubtedly come up with a way to get under the cap (possibly by cutting Russell Maryland again). Of course, Deion will be allowed to play while this restructuring is going on; the league can't let a big star sit on the sidelines just because he was signed illegally.

On the college front, the Bowl Coalition must be eagerly watching the Northwestern Wildcats. Why? Because the Wildcats represent a chance to have an undisputed national champion, with no grousing from the Big Ten about how their undefeated team had to play a cream puff bowl opponent and was robbed of the title.

Are you confused? Consider this scenario. Northwestern and Ohio State do not play each other this year. If both teams win the rest of their games, they will finish tied for first in the Big Ten. In this case, the team that has not been to the Rose Bowl in the longest time - Northwestern - is offered the bowl berth. The Wildcats jet off to Pasadena, leaving the 13-0 Buckeyes free to play for the national championship in a Bowl Coalition game. Neat, huh?

How likely is it that both teams will finish undefeated in the Big Ten? It won't be easy, but it certainly is possible. Ohio State plays Iowa tomorrow, but won't have another tough game until they play Michigan in Ann Arbor to end the season. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes loom large on Northwestern's schedule, as does Penn State. There is hope for the Wildcats, though; both games will be played in Evanston.

Just in from the midwest: surprise, surprise, Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips has been reinstated to the team. Phillips was arrested Sept. 10 for assaulting his ex-girlfriend, and was immediately kicked off the team. The next day, however, his status was upgraded to "suspended indefinitely," and within a week it was fairly obvious Phillips would play again. While Phillips will not be able to play tomorrow against Colorado, he will be playing in two weeks, when the Huskers play undefeated Kansas for the Big Eight title.

The message that Nebraska coach Tom Osborne is sending is that Nebraska will win at any cost. If a player happens to be a criminal, so be it, as long as he can play football. If this is acceptable in a college athletic program, it's little wonder that coaches turn a blind eye to players who take money from boosters or commit other NCAA violations. I have just one question: If Phillips were a third-string back, and not a Heisman candidate, would he still have been put back on the team?

Batter's Box

I'd love to tell you that the World Series is over, but unfortunately, my deadline is several hours before game 5 begins, so I don't know what happened. However, as the season has all but ended, it is time to give out the EA Sports postseason awards

Manager of the Year: In the National League, the Manager of the Year award goes to Don Baylor, for managing the Colorado Rockies to the playoffs in only their third season of existence. In the American League, Boston skipper Kevin Kennedy gets the nod over the Indians' Mike Hargrove and Seattle's Lou Pinella. Kennedy managed to maintain team chemistry despite the fact that the Red Sox used 53 different players during the season, and took a team everyone had picked to finish fourth in the East to the division title.

Most Improved Team: The Rockies and the Red Sox also take home the most improved awards. After playing like an expansion team for two years, Colorado has become a team to be reckoned with; they just need to learn to win without hitting home runs. The Sox, after also playing like an expansion team for two years, have finally learned how to win again, and with a strong pitching staff and good hitters, Boston could easily repeat as AL East Champs.

Least Improved Team: The Montreal Expos take this dubious honor for the NL. When the strike ended the 1994 season, the Expos were on their way to a playoff berth. Not so this year, after they were forced to unload key players to keep their payroll down. In the AL, the Toronto Blue Jays are the least improved. After making offseason trades to strengthen their roster, the two-time defending World Champions were eliminated from the playoff race around the second week of June.

Most Valuable Player: This year's National League MVP is Greg Maddux of the Atlanta Braves. The numbers don't lie; Maddux was the best pitcher in the Majors this season. Since pitching is what got the Braves to where they are, who better to be the MVP than the staff ace of the best team in the league?

The American League MVP was a much tougher choice. Albert Belle hit a lot of very long balls, but without Belle the Indians would probably have won only 85 games and clinched the Central division two weeks later. Unlike the Baseball Writers of America, EA Sports is not compelled to judge players only on regular season performance, so Mo Vaughn's playoff disappearing act costs him the award. Ken Griffey, perhaps? What about Edgar Martinez, or Randy Johnson? Can any of these players actually be said to be more valuable to the Mariners than the others? In fact, no team had just one player who carried them to greatness.

So instead of going to a player who was most valuable to his team, the AL Most Valuable Player award goes to the man who this season was most valuable to baseball: Cal Ripken, Jr. In a strike-shortened season, marred by low attendance and a national disinterest in the game, Ripken was the one man everyone wanted to watch. This was the year that he finally matched The Streak, and Cal said goodbye to Lou Gehrig's consecutive-game record in style, homering in his 2,130th and 2,131st games. Even though the Orioles finished out of the playoffs, fans still came to the games to see Ripken play. Congratulations to Cal Ripken, Jr., the man who never took a day off.

Trivia Question

The Northwestern football team has one Rose Bowl appearance. What year was it?

(Bonus points: who did they play, and who won?) Send your answers and comments to easports@the-tech.mit.edu.

As for last week's question, I apologize for yet another vague baseball question, and promise no more baseball questions this year. Martin Duke '97 sends in this (very) correct answer: "Many people will say that the greatest winning percentage in major league baseball history is the 1906 Chicago Cubs, who went 11636 for a .763 winning percentage. They are incorrect. It is only the 20th century record.

"The National Association, which existed from 187175 (predating the NL), is considered a major league by some sources and not by others, but in 1875 the NA Boston Red Stockings had a .899 percentage (718).

"Of those teams broadly recognized as Major League, the Union Association St. Louis Maroons of 1884 had a .832 percentage. (94-19). Among NL clubs the best record is owned by the 1880 Chicago White Stockings, (now the Cubs), who went 67-17 (.798 percentage). The best AL record is the 1954 Indians, who went 111-43 (.721)."