Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Great Debate: 5/19

Welcome to the May 19th edition of the Great Debate. Today, Andrew Leff and Jake Adams discuss some of the most interesting sports topics of the day. Today, we talk about the never-ending NFL lockout, the recent Heat-Bulls contest, a frustrating start from the NL East favorites, and a surprising comeback in the NL Central. Hit the jump for the discussion!

NFL Lockout Continues
Jake: The NFL owners got a big boost with the stay on the lockout from the 8th circuit court. If I'm the players I'm banging on that courtroom door in outrage. It's already been two months. Things aren't getting any better, in fact you could say they're worse. I'm starting to think we won't have a full season.

Andrew: Yea, or at a minimum it means we won't have a full off-season. This especially hurts the rookie class because they have had no (official) contact with coaches, teammates, or playbooks to date--and they won't until the lockout is over. That's especially bad news for teams, like the Titans and the Jaguars, who are looking for immediate contributions from rookie QBs. On the flip side, this helps coveted free agents, like WR Braylon Edwards, who will be subject to a frenzied bidding war the second the lockout is lifted.

Jake: Still. These vets can't tell me that they can go right out on the field after not practicing for months and playing like nothing happened. Things will be sloppy, very sloppy. From a fans perspective, how the heck to you bicker over $1 billion? This is getting insane. They better figure this out soon or $1 billion won't be there next year.

Andrew: I'm as frustrated with the owners as you are, Jake, but I still think that money will be there on the other side of the lockout. This isn't the NHL, a league that was barely hanging onto relevance in this country before their lockout. This is the National Football League, a media and marketing powerhouse that has every single game on national television. The money will be there when play resumes...I just hope that's soon.

Miami over Chicago in Game 2
Andrew: This was a must-win for the Heat, and they got it by actually outplaying the Bulls in the second half for once. A bad shooting night from D-Rose tends to doom the Bulls to defeat, and that's what happened last night. He shot 7-23 (30.4%) from the field, including 0-4 in the fourth quarter. That's not gonna cut it when LeBron and Wade shoot 54.1% (20-37) for the game.

Jake: As much as I've struggled with whether to not like this team or not, I have to say that right now this is looking really smart. Yeah, the Bulls are darn good, but Wade, Bosh and LeBron did this intentionally. And this is when it will shine through. This could very easily go seven games but I just can't see the Heat losing. Especially if Wade and LeBron continue that pace.

Andrew: Whether or not I like the Heat is not a struggle for me at all: I hate them. Not that I blame the Big 3 for what they did, it's just the way they went about it that was manipulative, narcissistic, and unbelievably selfish towards anyone other than those three human beings. I still see that selfishness when they step on the court as well, which is why I thin they will struggle to win without great shooting performances. Can the Heat win without both LeBron and Wade shooting 50% or better? I don't think so.

Jake: No they can't win that way, but they did this to put themselves in a unique situation. If LeBron has an off night there's still Wade and Bosh. If Wade has an off night there's still LeBron and Bosh. If Bosh has an off night, doesn't matter. They have the incredible luxury of three stars. If one of them has a bad night and the others don't they're still better than almost any team. They just can't afford two of them to go down on a consistent basis. But if LeBron plays the way he did last night, boy, watch out. Mike & Mike had a good point, he can play more relaxed because he knows he doesn't have to carry the team. Rose can't say the same and it's starting to become to much stress for him. I say Heat in six.

The Phillies' Underwhelming Start
Jake: The NL frontrunners have stalled. Big time. They may be the most disappointing 26-win team in recent memory. As a fan, I can't watch half the time because I don't know if Halladay, Lee or Hamels will get more than two runs of support. It's frustrating. It's becoming very apparent that they sorely miss Utley. Is he their knight in shining armor that will make everything better though?

Andrew: As frustrating as the Phillies might be for a fan--because we all know that you people had starry-eyed dreams of 162 complete game shutouts this season--they still have 25 wins without (arguably) their best position player. When Utley returns, the Phillies will again look like the deep offensive team everyone expected them to be. Howard, Rollins, & Co. just have to hold the fort down until they get back.

Jake: But I think every Phils fan would agree with me that they imagined "holding down the fort" would be more than two runs a game. Those two will get a standing ovation simply for wearing their uni's and walking on the field. That's how desperately the fans want to see them. Not that they aren't any good of course. But I'm starting to wonder if that's all they need. Two guys don't necessarily make everything better.

Andrew: You're right that the Phillies can't keep hitting like they have been--nobody's pitching is good enough to survive two runs/game from the offense. However, the Phils really just have to stay healthy and the runs will come. I said all offseason that the Phillies are quickly becoming an old team, with no real contributor (except Cole Hamels) under the age of 30. Even Ben Francisco, who has done an incredibly underwhelming job replacing Jayson Werth, is 29-years-old. The Phillies will win if everybody stays on the field, but with their age, that's becoming a more difficult proposition everyday.

Lance Berkman's Hot Start
Andrew: After the worst statistical season of his career, Lance Berkman has spent all of 2011 raking for his new team, the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2010, Berkman hit .248 with 14 home runs, 58 RBIs, and a .781 OPS--all career worsts. Through a quarter of this season, though, Berkman leads the league in RBIs (35), slugging percentage (.683) and OPS (1.148). He's been keeping the Cardinals afloat while Albert Pujols' average languishes below .270, but I just wonder how long the 35-year-old Berkman can keep it up.

Jake: He's obviously going to level off. That's why they call it an average. But this is exactly what they need. If Pujols gets himself back together--which I think he will, although it may not be quite as high as it used to-- who cares if Berkman slides a bit. My intrigue with this is does it give him added credentials as a possible Hall of Famer. He's only been playing for a half-century it seems and this is how he rebounds at such an age. I'm impressed.

Andrew: For his career, Lance Berkman is a .297 hitter with 1719 hits, 338 home runs, and 1134 RBIs. Those numbers don't really suggest HOF status, but maybe if he can cross the 1500 RBI plateau then we'll have something to talk about. I think the concern for the Cards is whether Pujols will pick it up in time to offset Berkman's eventual drop-off. Dave Duncan has worked wonders with the pitching staff, but the lineup is dangerously top-heavy right now--the Cardinals cannot afford to slip up.

Jake: He's a fringe Hall of Famer. If he plays at his normal level, I could see it. He was the face of the Astros for too many years to not be considered, at the very list. But I do believe Pujols will be back. Everyone's entitled to an extended slump, this is just getting overplayed because he's the top free agent this winter. Every move he makes is being watch. But I won't count him out. He's like the Peyton Manning of baseball. For as long as he plays, you cannot count him out, no matter what he does, because he is that gifted. The day you count him out is the day he retires. He'll be back. Just watch.

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