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It was one of the most compelling postseason games in baseball history. Jakub Voracek Jersey .Too bad much of the nation had surely dozed off by the time it ended.Simply put, the Los Angeles Dodgers beating the Washington Nationals in the decisive contest of the NL Division Series epitomized everything thats great about the playoffs -- and everything thats wrong with a national pastime that drags on far too long.When Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw improbably ended the interminable classic with a strikeout for his first career save, Thursday had become Friday. The clock showed 41 minutes past midnight on the East Coast -- a ludicrous time to conclude a sporting event when most fans surely had to be at work or school just a few hours later.One of the best games in history is how Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez described it for those still awake, and theres no arguing that point. If nothing else, youve probably seen a couple of replay highlights by now.But it shouldnt have taken 4 hours and 32 minutes to complete, making this the longest nine-inning game in postseason annals. The seventh inning alone was like its own little game, taking up 66 minutes as the Nationals paraded one pitcher after another to the mound, six of them in all, in a desperate attempt to get three outs.The drama was undeniable.Too bad it was interrupted by all those trips to the mound, all those pitchers trotting in from the bullpen, all those requisite warmup tosses, all those batters stepping out of the box between every pitch, all those commercials filling up the dead air time for those watching at home.As good as this game was, it raised a question that baseball has been grappling with for years: Why is this taking so long?Lets start with Washingtons Dusty Baker, who provided a textbook example of Overmanaging 101 in the seventh.Hes got his best pitcher on the mound, 20-game winner Max Scherzer, and a 1-0 lead as the inning begins. Granted, Scherzer had shown some signs of tiring, pitching out of a base-loaded jam in the fifth and giving up another hit in the sixth.When Scherzer surrendered a leadoff homer to Joc Pederson in the seventh on his 99th pitch of the night, Baker decided that he no longer wanted his best pitcher in a 1-1 game. Who could blame him? This has become standard practice in an era of bloated pitching staffs filled with far too many guys playing specialized roles -- an inning here, a batter there, all of it leading to endless pitching changes, double-switches and other time-consuming matters.Afterward, Baker didnt have to defend whether he yanked Scherzer too soon.Just the opposite.With Max at 98 pitches going into the seventh and a lefty at the plate in Pederson, did you at all consider pulling him then? a reporter asked, reflecting the way the game is played these days, to its detriment.No, I didnt think about pulling him then, Baker said. Max said he was still good. We were hoping to get another inning out of him. ... Its easy to say after the fact. If somebody had told me and Max that the guy was going to hit an opposite-field home run, wed have taken him out then. But how do you take out your (best pitcher) ... in a 1-0 game? And Max is capable of going 100-some-odd pitches.After one bad pitch, he was done.Marc Rzepczynski walked the next guy on four pitches and quickly got yanked. He probably didnt even need to shower. Blake Treinen faced two batters and retired one of them before he was pulled. Sammy Solis also faced two hitters, giving up the go-ahead hit to Carlos Ruiz. Shawn Kelley was summoned next, a move that totally backfired when Justin Turner tripled to the deepest reaches of center field, bringing in two more runs. After Kelley hurt his arm, it was left to Oliver Perez to get the third out.The Dodgers took a totally different approach.Less was more on this night.In the bottom half of the seventh, after Washington scored a pair of runs, Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts went against the book -- kudos for that -- by going to his closer, Kenley Jansen, two innings earlier than normal. Jansen made it to the ninth with a 51-pitch outing, the longest of his career, before Roberts went totally off script by bringing his best pitcher out of the bullpen to get the final two outs.Just 48 hours after throwing 110 pitches in Game 4, Kershaw finally ended the series by whiffing rookie Wilmer Difo, the last position player remaining on Washingtons bench.The craziest game Ive ever been a part of, a downcast Scherzer said.No one would disagree with that.This was baseball at its best.And its worst.---Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberryBrian Propp Jersey . -- Brandon Jennings made the most of his first game with the Detroit Pistons on Sunday night. Custom Philadelphia Flyers Jerseys .Y. -- Marcell Dareus and the Buffalo Bills defence made life miserable for Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco. http://www.nhlflyersproauthentic.com/claude-giroux-hockey-jersey/ . If ever they start actually putting pictures beside words in the dictionary, the Blue Jays left-handers mug will appear beside “Consistency. Noble as they might have been, aging legends who have accepted steep hometown-discount deals didnt do so for charity.Future Hall of Famers such as Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan, men who have cashed NBA paychecks worth well more than $200 million each, simply valued winning with the only franchise they ever played for more than maximizing their wealth.The negotiations with Duncan and Nowitzki have always been handled quietly, devoid of the kind of drama and public posturing that ultimately led to the stunning divorce of the Miami Heat and Dwyane Wade, whose Chicago honeymoon officially began Friday with his introductory news conference.The hometown discounts werent as steep for Wade, who was never the Heats highest-paid player, but they started at a much earlier stage of his career. They each sacrificed financially for the sake of the franchise, but Duncan and Nowitzki never felt the kind of disrespect that Wade did during his last couple rounds of contract talks with the Heat.For Duncan, the financial sacrifice paid off in playoff dividends. In his final four seasons, when his salaries were a fraction of his market value, the San Antonio Spurs averaged more than 60 wins per season, won eight postseason series, advanced to a pair of Finals, and floated down the river for the fifth time as the featured attraction of a championship parade. Duncan made about $35 million during the steep-discount stage of his career, including the player option for next season he exercised a couple of weeks before announcing his retirement in what amounts to a $5.6 million farewell gift from the franchise.For Nowizki, leaving more than $30 million on the table the past two seasons didnt work out nearly as well. The Dallas Mavericks won a total of two playoff games in that span, increasing that tally to five in five seasons since the franchises lone title run in 2011.No wonder Nowitzki decided to opt out of the final season of that three-year, $25 million deal. He was more than willing to take less money to give the Mavs a chance to compete for championships in his twilight. Competing for the No. 6 seed? Pay the man.Mavs owner Mark Cuban did just that, giving Nowitzki a two-year, $50 million deal after negotiations that essentially consisted of handing the longtime face of the franchise a blank contract, seeing his suggested price, then suggesting Dirk beef up the numbers a bit more.Its a deal that prompted comparisons to the last contract of another one-team legend: Kobe Bryant, whose two-year, $48.5 million extension drew criticism. Not that Kobe cared.Its the popular thing to do, Bryant said of hometown discounts when asked about the topic during a Dallas visit in the first month of the 2014-15 season. The player takes less, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I think its a big coup for the owners to put players in situations where public perception puts pressure on them to take less money. Because if you dont, then you get criticized for it.Its absolutely brilliant, but Im not going for it. I know the new head of the players association aint going for it, either.Two years later, Nowitzki aint going for it, either. Not under these circumstances, at least.Asked that day about Bryants comments, Nowitzki explained that he willingly took a massive pay cut because his priority was to compete my last couple of years at the highest level. He cited the signing of Chandler Parsons and the trade for Tyson Chandler as good moves by the Mavs made possible by his discount deal.We feel like weve got a good group, Nowitzki said at the time, and hopefully we can make it work.We all know how that worked out. Parsons is gone to the Memphis Grizzlies after two injury-marred seasons with the Mavs, who werent willing to make a long-term investment in him after the forward had more knee surgeries (two) than playoff game appearances (one) during his Dallas tenure. Chandler left last summer when the Mavs wanted to put him on hold while pursuing DeAndre Jordan in free agency. Dave Schultz Jersey. It would have been a much different story if Jordan didnt jilt the Mavs after temporarily committing to Dallas. The Mavs probably would have been battling for home court in the West last season and may have become an intriguing destination for free agents this summer. In that case, Nowitzki likely would have been comfortable playing out the final season of his discount deal, allowing the Mavs front office to use every possible dollar to upgrade a team with real hopes of a long playoff run.But reality for the Mavs is constant shuffling of a roster around Nowitzki, who had grown frustrated after following up a title run with five years of failing to make it out of the first round. Hes not a hypocrite for cashing in on this contract; hes a realist.Dallas isnt in nearly as dire straits as the Los Angeles Lakers were when Bryant signed his last deal. The Lakers were coming off a 27-55 campaign in which Bryant played only six games while recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon. Over two seasons, they won a combined 38 games while Bryant made $48.5 million, but his presence was a box-office bonanza, especially during his 2015-16 farewell tour.In other words, it could be argued that Bryant was a bargain for the Lakers as the leagues highest-paid player the past two seasons. And Bryant, whose career earnings of more than $328 million rank behind only Kevin Garnett, knew that would be true.I think youve got to look at the business of basketball, Bryant said during that November 2014 visit to Dallas. I think for a lot of writers, for a lot of fans, they have a very tough time distinguishing the two.This is a business, and you have to look at individuals and what they generate and the market that theyre generating revenue in. And you cant separate those. People have a hard time separating that stuff. From a business perspective, you have to take that stuff into account, and you have to try to -- as a player -- be in situations where it can be a win-win for everybody.A win-win for Nowitzki and the Mavs would have been using his discount deal to construct a legitimate title contender. It worked once, when Nowitzki took $16 million less than a maximum contract during the summer of 2010 to ease the luxury-tax burden on Cuban, who immediately invested the savings into acquiring Chandler on a salary-dump deal.It wasnt for a lack of effort, but the Mavs couldnt find a way to parlay this most recent Dirk discount into a roster that was a threat in the West.Nowitzki, whose two-year deal -- with only $5 million of his salary in the second season guaranteed as essentially retirement insurance for the Mavs -- ensures that he wont have to hear any noise about possibly leaving to chase a ring in his 20th season, settled for more money and a chance to keep competing for a spot in the playoffs.His previous deal still helped the Mavs during their annual roster remodeling, as his $12.5 million cap hold made it relatively easy to create room to sign Harrison Barnes to a four-year, $94 million deal and trade for Andrew Bogut in a salary-dump deal. This contract will make it tough for the Mavs to be aggressive bidders in next summers free-agency market if Nowitzki returns, but thats a small price to pay after two decades of legendary service.The Mavs are good enough to fight for a playoff berth. They wont have to watch Dirk, who hopes to join Kobe as the lone members of the NBAs 20-year, only-one-team club, suffer the indignity of playing in meaningless games as his career winds down.Duncan was rewarded for his financial sacrifice by being able to compete for a championship until he rode off into the sunset. Precious few get that luxury. Nowitzki wont be on that list. The end of his career will likely be more lucrative and less fulfilling than he wanted. ' ' '
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