Zac’s Note: The first edition of this was screwed up thanks to AC and their formatting. Please disregard the previous version.
Welcome back to the series with the longest title on all of Associated Content (I’m just assuming that’s true. If it’s not, still don’t email me). This is the fifth edition of AC’s Sportswriters, Experts and Clowns. For those of you who aren’t aware, four writers here on Associated Content have decided to create their own version of Around the Horn. Basically, we discuss some of the hottest topics in sports and then you tell us who’s right, who’s wrong and who should have strayed away from paint chips as a child. Confused? Keep reading, my friends.
Once again, our (not-so-much) highly decorated panel of AC experts (four guys who love sports so much their girlfriends/fiancées/wives have considered leaving them at least once).
Zac Wassink is still recovering from the letdown that was the 2007 Mets and Indians. At least the Giants and the Browns both have winning records (even if it’s only for one week).
Nick Meyer has probably written two articles in the time I’ve written this sentence.
Brian Joura shares my pain as a disgruntled Mets fan. Somebody convince him that the Mets don’t need A-Rod.
Jake Emen wrote a sweet article about The Contender back in September. I command all of my faithful readers to go check it out. Go!
Ok, that’s enough of trying to be witty during Monday Night Football. Let’s get to business.
Issue #1: What is the key element that will determine the winner between the Colts and the Patriots this week?
Zac: Defense. It’s as simple as that. As I wrote roughly one hour before putting together this paragraph, Sunday’s game is going to be determined by the two defenses. Which defense can keep the opponent’s passing game in check? Which defense can create the vital turnover? For all the hype surrounding Brady and company, don’t be surprised when this game is decided by a defensive score.
Nick: With two dynamic passing games going to work on less-than-great secondaries, the QB’s will put up yards and touchdowns. But the team that runs the ball better very well could win because they’ll control the clock and keep the other offense off the field. Both teams are good at running the ball when they commit to it, so the key will be which coach mixes the run in most effectively and calls the right plays at the right times.
Laurence Maroney looked better than I saw him in a while during the Washington game against a stout defense as he finally appears healthy, but Joseph Addai and the Colts’ O-line are capable of racking up some nice yards on the Patriots as well.
Brian: The Patriots have been dominating both sides of the line of scrimmage. If the Colts are to have a chance, they need to be able to pick up New England’s blitzing linebackers and they have to get some pressure on Tom Brady. If Brady has time to throw, he’s going to pick apart whatever defensive coverage teams throw at him.
Jake: The videotape quality used by Bill Belichick and his coaching staff. Err, I mean there are lots of factors that can determine this game. It would be easy to say how well Peyton Manning or Tom Brady plays. I think the real x-factor however is the play of safety Bob Sanders. This guy has been absolutely phenomenal and may just be the best safety in the National Football League right now. In a conference with Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed and Kerry Rhodes, he might not get the recognition he deserves, but believe me, he deserves it. His presence in the middle of the field can seriously disrupt the Patriots passing game, and running game as well. The Patriots certainly have plenty of targets on offense, but the Colts can certainly run up the score too. If Bob Sanders can cause a few drops, tips or turnovers, the Colts can and will outscore the Patriots.
Issue #2: Patriots. Colts. Who ya got?
Zac: The Colts are the defending Super Bowl Champions. They are undefeated thus far in the regular season. They have played a tougher schedule than the Patriots. They will be playing in front of their home crowd in front of the loudest crowd in all of football. They have the best defense that New England has seen all year. They have been forgotten about the media and fans alike. The Colts know what everybody is saying. That New England may be the best team ever. That New England cannot be stopped. The Colts prove that they’re still the team to beat in the NFL. The Colts knock off the Patriots on Sunday.
Nick: I have to go with the Patriots, based on the fact that we’re just now finding out how good Tom Brady really is with his great receiving corps. Brady’s never had guys like Moss and Wes Welker, and he’s looking more confident and decisive than ever before with the ball. Remember all the key drops Brady’s receivers had last year against the Colts in the playoffs? That won’t happen this time around. The Patriots have a better defense as well.
Brian: The Colts are the only team that has a realistic chance to beat the Patriots. But is it in Indianapolis’ best interests to show everything in Week #9 when they are destined to meet again in the playoffs? The Colts have won three straight in the series – they’ve gotten the monkey off their back as far as the Patriots go. The game means more to New England and I expect the Patriots to win by double digits.
Jake: I like the Colts… and why shouldn’t I? They are the defending Super Bowl champions, and not only haven’t given up that title, they haven’t lost a game since then. Their defense is giving up fewer points than the Patriots defense is, and of course, Vinatieri wears the horseshoe, not the flying head on his helmet these days. The Patriots running game is a question mark and if any coach in the league will be prepared to try to put the clamp down on Brady, it will be Tony Dungy. You know Peyton Manning has a burning desire to beat these guys, especially Brady. Are the Colts slighted that they aren’t receiving attention? Yes, but appreciative too. An undefeated champion, the only team in history to start 7-0 for three straight seasons is now an underdog in a game that will likely decide home field for the playoffs. I’ll take that bet.
Issue 3: Is A-Rod destined to be a Greek tragic hero – the best player in baseball, whose main crime is a desire to be loved, but one who fate has determined will never win a World Series title?
Zac: We can all thank Brian for this…interesting question. I’m going to disagree that A-Rod has a desire to be loved. I think A-Rod has a desire to get paid. If he had the desire to be loved than he would take a pay decrease to play for a team such as the Indians, Rockies, Twins, Blue Jays or any other small market team that could use his services. There’s a reason that we are only talking about a handful of teams going after A-Rod. It’s because nobody else can afford him.
Nick: It’s too hard to predict whether A-Rod will win a title now that he’s opted out of his contract and we don’t know where he’s going. I also can’t predict how he’ll be remembered when he retires at this point because this is the steroid era and all. Baseball always remembers its heroes and big-time players based on the stats they put up, but now with the cheapening of stats, we don’t know exactly how much that’s going to change. If I had to guess I’d say that A-Rod never wins a title because he takes up such a huge salary slot and he doesn’t perform well in the post-season. That’s a proven fact at this point.
Brian: It is too soon to declare A-Rod the tragic hero. If he signs with the Angels, he’ll form a potent one-two punch with Vladimir Guerrero to go along with the team’s strong pitching and will have an excellent chance to win a ring. If he signs with whatever team gives him the most money, like he did last time with the Rangers, we will know that dollars are more important to A-Rod than a World Series title. That will show he is simply greedy, rather than tragic.
Jake: Yes, A-Rod does fit the mold of a Greek tragic hero. However his fatal flaw is more likely his vanity than his desire to be loved by others. All of this stress could be relieved by taking a more modest contract instead of shooting for $30 million a year. He tries too hard to please others, he just tries even harder to please himself. But, as is the case in baseball, one player can’t win it all for his team. Ask Matt Holliday if a player having an MVP season and MVP playoff campaign can bring home the World Series if his other teammates simply don’t perform.
Issue 4: Is A-Rod worthy of a pay raise after yet another forgettable postseason?
Zac: I don’t see how anybody can justify paying Alex Rodriguez anymore than he made last season, regardless of how pathetic he looked against Fausto Carmona in the ALDS. When are general managers and owners going to learn that mortgaging the future of a baseball team on a bat is not going to win a World Series? Would I want A-Rod on either the Indians or the Mets? Sure. But I wouldn’t want them to have to sacrifice 30 million dollars and the players they would lose from having to pay A-Rod in order to have him.
Nick: Absolutely not. 25 million is good enough, and I wouldn’t go over that amount unless I’m running the Yankees because it’s simply too much money for a guy who has proven to be a post-season liability. A-Rod is literally a different player in the post-season and it’s been proven time and time again, plus he’s not a leader in the clubhouse. If anything, he might be a detriment to a team’s clubhouse because of all the attention (sometimes negative) he attracts.
If I’m a GM, I’m spending money on pitching first. Always. With the kind of money big-name starters command, it’s wise to save up to sign your star young pitchers or to make a run at the right free agent pitcher to put your team over the top.
Brian: It is the height of foolishness to base someone’s contract on the outcome of 15 at-bats, which is what Rodriguez had in the 2007 post-season. If one is to argue that A-Rod does not deserve a pay raise based on batting .267/.353/.467 then what does that mean for impending free agent Jorge Posada, who batted .133/.235/.200? Should he sign an NRI and have to go to Spring Training to compete for a job? What about Derek Jeter and his .176/.176/.176 line? Should he offer to play for half his salary? Should Melky Cabrera have to go back to the Minors based on his .188/.188/.375 line? Perhaps we can deport Hideki Matsui because he had just two singles in 11 at-bats.
Rodriguez had bad post-seasons in 2005 and 2006. But does that wipe out the four previous playoff series, where he combined to go 26-70 (.371) with six doubles, four home runs and 11 RBIs?
A-Rod is one of the best players in baseball and deserves to be paid accordingly. If the Angels thought that Gary Matthews, a player released four times in his career and coming off a fluke season, was worth five years and $50 million, I see no reason they wouldn’t think the reigning MVP (and three-time winner in the past five years) is not worth significantly more than that.
Jake: Is the guy with the richest contract in the history of sports worthy of a pay raise? Well, no, he isn’t. He wasn’t worthy of the money he is currently making – NOBODY is. That being said, he is still the best everyday player in baseball. He’ll earn that money back for whichever team caves in and pays him. Ticket sales, television ratings, jerseys and memorabilia as his homerun totals approach those of some guy named Barry will more than make up for his contract. While his postseason wasn’t great, it wasn’t dreadful either. It’s clearly time for a change from New York, and he can shine in a new place where fans appreciate him. Manny Ramirez, now touted as one of the great postseason hitters of all time, has a lower career postseason batting average than much maligned postseason dud, Alex Rodriguez. Food for thought.