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Monday, August 31

   by Larry Ness - 07/31/2006

And the last shall be first! The Pittsburgh Pirates entered this past weekend as MLB's biggest "moneyburners" with a mark of minus-$2,283 at $100/game. However, the team's three-game sweep over the Giants gives Pittsburgh MLB's longest active winning streak (five games) as of Monday morning. The Cubs' four-game sweep of the Cards ties the Mets for the second-longest streak. What's going on here?

My free play for Monday is on the Az D'backs over the Chi Cubs at 8:05 ET. I have just one play for Monday, as I follow my 22* winner (Twins) on Sunday. It's another of my exclusive Las Vegas Insiders, on a three-month 64% run. Get it now!

The NL West seemingly owns a stranglehold on losing streaks these days, as the Dodgers entered the weekend with an eight-game losing streak and having lost 13 of 14 games since the break (had been outscored 81-29). While the Dodgers swept the Nationals in a three-game series at Dodger Stadium this weekend (by the way, Washington had entered the weekend with a six-game winning streak!), fellow NL West rival the Giants open the new week with the majors' longest active losing streak (seven games).

Pittsburgh's recent hot streak has allowed them to climb out of the cellar of the "moneyline" standings, as the Cleveland Indians assume the 'top' spot. The Indians are minus-$2,145 on the season while the Pirates sit at minus-$1,921. The Indians own by far the AL's worst moneyline record, as the 43-62 Devil Rays own the league's second-worst mark at just minus-$550.

The Tigers took two of three from the Twins this weekend. Detroit has owned MLB's best overall record for quite awhile now and as of this morning, its 70-34 mark is seven games better than that of the Mets, who own MLB's second-best mark at 63-41. However, Detroit's moneyline advantage is even more impressive. The Tigers own MLB's best mark at plus-$3,224, almost double that of the majors' second-best mark, held by the Twins (plus-$1,684).

The Mets place third at plus-$1,335 and the Red Sox are fourth-best at plus-$1,168. They are the only four teams showing a profit of more than $1,000 (at $100/game) for the season and believe it or not, the 53-31 Arizona Diamondbacks own MLB's fifth-best mark, at plus-$647.

Monday's MLB schedule features just 10 games with the Indians/Red Sox airing on ESPN at 7:05 ET. The game features the return of 43-year-old David Wells to the mound. Wells went 15-7 with a 4.45 ERA last season, his first with the Red Sox. He is 20-4 with a 3.52 ERA in his career vs the Indians but will be making just his third start of the year, in what has been an injury-filled season.

It should be noted that Boston went 11-1 in his home starts last year and that Cleveland starter Paul Byrd, despite a 3.52 road ERA, has seen the Indians go just 3-7 in his away starts in 2006. However, the night's marquee matchup is the opening game of a three-game series in Anaheim between the A's and Angels (10:05 ET). The 55-50 A's have held at least a share of the AL West's top spot for 45 of the last 46 days but the 54-50 Angels own MLB's best record in July, at 19-6 (Haren vs Santana).

NFL notes

The 2006 NFL preseason opens in less than a week, when the Raiders and Eagles meet this coming Sunday in Canton. My countdown to the upcoming football season begins today and will continue daily.

The Jets finished in last place in the AFC East in 2005 with the Browns and Ravens finishing in a tie for last in the AFC North. The Texans finished last in the South and the Raiders in the West. Over in the NFC, the Eagles finished last in the East, the Packers in the North, the Saints in the South and the 49ers in the West. Why bring this up?

Because in each of the last three seasons, two teams which had finished in last (or tied for last) in their respective divisions, have rebounded to make the playoffs the following season. The Chiefs and Panthers rebounded from last-place finishes in 2002 to make the playoffs in 2003. The Chargers and Falcons were last-place teams in 2003 but were playoff-bound in 2004 and then last year, the Bears and Bucs followed last-place finishes in 2004 to make playoff appearances in 2005.

Will two (or more?) of the above-mentioned teams follow suit in 2006. Over the next month or so, this will be one of the many issues I'll deal with in my NFL previews. The Seattle Seahawks made their firs-ever Super Bowl appearance last year, losing Super Bowl 40 to the Steelers (21-10). Can the Seahawks avoid the recent "curse of the Super Bowl loser" in 2006?

The Tennessee Titans lost Super Bowl 34 to the St Louis Rams but came back the next year and went 13-3. That marks the last time a Super Bowl loser has followed their Super Bowl loss with a playoff appearance. In fact, none of the last five Super Bowl losers have even been able to post a winning record the next year.

Beginning with the Giants, who lost Super Bowl 35 to the Ravens and then went 7-9 in the 2001 season, the list includes the Rams who lost Super Bowl 36 (then went 7-9), the Raiders who lost Super 37 (then went 4-12), the Panthers who lost Super Bowl 38 (then went 7-9) and the Eagles who lost Super bowl 39 (then went 6-10).

Much more to come this week.

Ness Notes is available Monday through Friday by 1:00 ET.

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