Who’s on first? - Part II

The NFL Network still lists the Denver Broncos as one of the two wild card teams in the AFC, and the Ravens as being “in the hunt” with an identical record.

Shouldn’t that be reversed, since the Ravens beat the Broncos earlier this season?

I understand that it’s a complicated formula, but the Ravens are in if they win.

Picking winners against the spread is especially challenging in the final week of the regular season, with teams that have clinched first-round byes often choosing to rest their starters.

Mark Brunell has replaced Drew Brees at quarterback for New Orleans in today’s game against Carolina. And how long before Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell is accepting volunteers from the crowd to take snaps in the second half against Buffalo?

Looking back at that last paragraph, I noticed that I typed “New Orioles” before making the correction. This team is haunting me.

As we debate who should start at first base on Opening Day, I’ll repeat that you can’t simply move a player to that corner and assume everything will work out. The position isn’t that easy.

Keith Hernandez would be insulted.

Javy Lopez didn’t have the footwork or instincts for it, and he’s just one example. You need the ability to field balls - sharp grounders, bunts - to execute a 3-6-3 double play, to know whether to pursue a ball hit to your right or cover the bag, to decide in an instant whether to throw home or take the easy out at first, to get in proper position for the cutoff.

It’s not rocket science, but it’s much harder than it looks.

Rafael Palmeiro is one of the many success stories. He played 147 games in the outfield for the Chicago Cubs in 1988, 147 at first base with the Texas Rangers the following year.

Albert Pujols didn’t become the Cardinals’ regular first baseman until 2004, but he played 43 games there as a rookie, 21 in 2002 and 62 in 2003. You could say he dabbled in it.

Brandon Snyder is making the transition from catcher to third baseman to first baseman. His defense has improved, but he’s still a work in progress.

Winter ball and spring training are good times to evaluate players at new positions. The Orioles gave Luke Scott a brief audition as the season wound down, but I’m sure he would appreciate taking another shot at it in Sarasota.

Some fans keep suggesting that the Orioles move Nolan Reimold to first, or trade for Dan Uggla and put him there, without knowing whether they would be the next Rafael Palmeiro or Javy Lopez.

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