By Dan Walk
1 A lot is riding on the next couple days for a number of MLB teams. These next two days — and the decisions that are made by Wednesday’s trade deadline at 4 p.m. — could be the difference between a playoff berth or the end of a team’s season on Sept. 29. It’s a pretty exciting time for fans — buyers and sellers alike. Buyers are looking for one or two missing pieces to reach the World Series, while sellers are in search of superstars of the future. Nothing too big has happened outside of the Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano trades, but things could really heat up today.
2 There is one thing that could lead to a quiet trade deadline, however. Now that each league has an extra playoff spot, many teams are still in the running. Kansas City, for example, is 51-51 — yet it’s just five games away from a postseason berth. Not many teams have given up hope in 2013. With two added playoff spots, the MLB should consider pushing the trade deadline back two weeks in order to weed a few teams out of contention.
3 There are a few deadline moves that I’m pretty certain will occur, starting with the first-place Braves adding a starting pitcher now that Tim Hudson is out for the year. I also feel the Pirates will let their fans down and not sign a big bat at the deadline. I believe doing so would be crucial, even if Garrett Jones disagrees. I believe the Pirates didn’t do enough to improve their team at the trade deadline the past two seasons — and look where that got them. The Pirates may also be interested in adding a top-flight reliever now that closer Jason Grilli could be out until late September.
4 Of all 30 MLB teams entering the trade deadline, Philadelphia’s situation stands out the most to me. The Phillies (49-56) have two pitchers (Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee) and three infielders (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins) in their 30s and all of them are either past their prime or injury prone. If Philadelphia was smart, it would ship all five players for prospects or young talent. The past two years have proven that Philadelphia’s core of veterans isn’t of champion caliber anymore.
5 The year of the sports hoax continues. After being busted for performance enhancing drugs before winning his appeal on a technicality two years ago, Ryan Braun admitted to his illegal ways once the most recent PED proof was laid on the table. Braun added “liar” to his resume, which was quite noteworthy considering he’s won rookie of the year and MVP awards, five Silver Sluggers and is a five-time All-Star before turning 30. It’s a shame that the rest of his career will be played under a cloud of cheating and lying. If I was a Milwaukee fan, I wouldn’t even want him back after he serves his ban for the rest of the 2013 season.
6 These are the current penalties for being caught using PEDs: first offense, 50 games; second offense, 100 games; and third offense, lifetime ban. No one has been busted three times yet. Simply put, these penalties are not strict enough to deter players from juicing. The fact that Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon were signed after being busted last season proves that owners and general managers don’t seem to care if they cheated. If the MLB’s penalties were a full season suspension after the first positive test and lifetime ban after the second, things may be different. Once the initial player is banned from the sport, especially a superstar, cheating will decrease incredibly.
7 Unless linebacker Von Miller wins his appeal of a four-game suspension, the Broncos will be without his services for the first quarter of the season. But Denver will be all right. The Broncos play in what is currently the worst division in the NFL. I still expect them to run away with the division — they just might lose a game or two to start the season. But let’s not act as if they’re no longer title contenders because they’ll miss their best defensive player for a few games.
8 Switching to combat sports, reports have said all week that a boxing match between former UFC star Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and boxing legend Roy Jones Jr. is in the works. And plans are for this fight to take place Dec. 28 — opposing the UFC card featuring Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva. Jackson vs. Jones sounds like a snooze fest between two fighters past their primes. Jones, 44, is 7-7 since starting his career with a 49-1 record. Once an exciting fighter, Jackson has become a bore, losing his last three UFC bouts while seemingly not caring.
9 I feel bad for those who tuned in to UFC on Fox on Saturday and received a pair of co-main events that were quite disappointing. I expected Demetrious Johnson’s defense of his flyweight title to be uneventful, but never in a million years did I think Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger wouldn’t engage in somewhat of a slugfest. MacDonald stood back, used his reach and won a unanimous decision, but the UFC shouldn’t be clamoring for him to get a welterweight title shot after his sometimes listless approach on Saturday.
10 The fighter who did stand out on Saturday was welterweight Robbie Lawler, who used a second-round head kick knockout to win his second straight fight since returning to the UFC. That’s after an unimpressive 3-5 run in Strikeforce. The fight I’d like to see next is Lawler vs. MacDonald. At this point in his career, 31-year-old Lawler will stand right in front of MacDonald and will give MacDonald his best competition since he was TKO’d by Carlos Condit a few years ago.
The preceding was The Walk Talk 10, which runs in the Tribune's sports section every Tuesday. Assistant news editor Dan Walk can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.