This week in Around the Dorm, we have another close finish between Signal sports editor Brandon Lee, Signal managing editor Lauren Kohout and Correspondent Adam Mamawala. This week’s battle royale focuses on former Yankees, the unflappable Guillermo Canas and MVP honors in the NBA. Signal sports assistant Justin Jez mans the reffing position again.
1) Randy Johnson is back with the Diamondbacks and had a promising preseason, and Gary Sheffield is playing well for the Tigers. Which ex-Yankee will be the more productive addition to their new teams?
BL: Sheffield will add power to the DH position and will probably get some time in right field to give Magglio Ordonez some fresh legs. Sheffield can still hit for power and draw walks even though he’s getting up there in age. Fortunately, he has a good relationship with Jim Leyland from their Florida Marlin days and won’t get benched during the playoffs. Whether the Johnson of old or the Johnson from the Yankees shows up is anybody’s guess. I doubt that Johnson can regain the 4 mph he’s lost on his fastball and the three inches he’s lost on his slider. Without an amazing offensive lineup behind Johnson, he will fail to be a double-digit game winner this year.
LK: Sheffield has been getting progressively better at the plate in the past few years, even if it’s just a few points. Obviously not as good as he used to be, he should still be a good leader since he has 19 seasons under his belt; that goes for Johnson, too. Sheffield didn’t play too much last year, so there should be an increase in his numbers anyway just from consistency. However, Johnson is 43 years old and he still gets 17 wins in a year. Though it’s hard to compare a pitcher and a fielder, Johnson’s ERA has dipped significantly (above 5.0) even with those 17 wins last year. Johnson is going back to his World Series Championship team where he was MVP and Sheffield has never played for the Tigers. I guess I’ll go with Sheffield though since he has no history of screwing with the press’ cameras and because the Diamondbacks are wearing red. What’s that about?
AM: Sheffield will be the more productive player with his new team. Some people simply can’t cut it in New York (Jeff Weaver), but that really doesn’t apply to Johnson or Sheffield. In this case, the stats don’t lie. Look at Johnson’s ERA over the past three seasons: 2.60, 3.79 and 5.00 last year. Wins and losses are unimportant. Sheffield, on the other hand, has had problems with injuries but has remained a force in the middle of the lineup who will bat around .290 or .300 and give you 35 home runs. Playing predominately DH in Detroit, his inability to cover ground in the outfield won’t be a problem either. Look for Johnson to win around 12 or 13 games with a slightly improved ERA, maybe between 4.00 and 4.50, but Sheffield will have the bigger effect on a Detroit team that may very well get back to the World Series.
JJ: In a sweep for Sheffield, Brandon takes the round with 3 points. My usual inside information man tells me that Leyland and Sheffield are on good terms and Johnson’s season will be a crap shoot. Mamawala gets 2 points. I like the projections for the each player. Kohout, I don’t think jersey color and off-field problems are considerations – 1 point.
2) Guillermo Ca?as, No. 55 in the world, has beaten the dominant Roger Federer twice this year. What is it about Ca?as and his game that has allowed him to take down Federer twice?
BL: Ca?as is a former top-eight player but also was suspended for allegedly taking performance-enhancing drugs. Whether Ca?as is still taking that is a mystery. The way he won against Federer was by covering the court like Ed Reed in the secondary. Nothing got past him and he ran down every shot from Federer. Perhaps, performance-enhancing drugs gave him the ability to run down those shots. However, it’s not like Ca?as was a nobody beating the great Federer. He had to have some skill besides running like a gazelle. In those two matches, Federer also had several unforced errors which added to his demise.
LK: He is ranked No. 55 for a reason. It isn’t so much anything about Ca?as’ game. He just has Federer’s number. They have sort of the same kind of playing style, and he is returning a lot of balls Federer usually fires past guys. Federer got frustrated and had a lot of unforced errors in those matches, hitting the balls long and into the net. Federer has gotten the best of all the other players, but Ca?as just has him figured out. Federer will be fine once he can get into his groove and leave the errors to Ca?as. If he plays more defensive the next time he plays him, I don’t see why Federer wouldn’t turn things around.
AM: Relax, tennis fans. Federer has not lost his invincible aura. Despite losing to Ca?as twice in the past month, there are many factors to look at. First of all, don’t let Ca?as’ rank fool you. He’s only ranked No. 55 because he was suspended from tennis for 15 months after a drug violation. Not to take anything away from Ca?as, but he didn’t beat Federer nearly as much as Federer beat himself. Usually the model of unwavering consistency, Federer’s forehand let him down in both matches, and he committed more unforced errors than he usually commits in the course of an entire tournament. Ca?as joins Spaniard Rafael Nadal as the only other player to have beaten Federer more than once since he became No. 1 in the world. That being said, if Federer plays like he is capable of playing, he will have no problem defeating Ca?as the next time they face off. Ca?as better enjoy his two recent victories because his success may stop there.
JJ: Kohout and Mamawala are each awarded 3 points – Kohout for saying that both guys have the same playing style and Mamawala for putting the losses into perspective. Brandon takes 2 points for putting a little too much emphasis on Ca?as’ speed.
3) The race for NBA MVP has heated up recently. Who do you think deserves the award and why?
BL: Kobe Bryant is the MVP this year because of his threat to erupt for 50 points during any given game. Steve Nash also deserves consideration but has so much to work with on the team. Kobe doesn’t have teammates like Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa. The Lakers are doing well because Kobe takes so much heat off of his teammates. The only other real threat the Lakers have right now is Lamar Odom and an improving Luke Walton. However, neither player can win a game on his own. Without Kobe, the Lakers could possibly be overshadowed by the Clippers.
LK: Kobe is without a doubt the best player in the league. When you put up stats that mimic no one else but Wilt Chamberlain, you know you’re doing something right. He scored 50 points and shot over 50 percent in four straight games. I mean, c’mon, that’s just sick. He has put the past behind him: a new number, a new identity, a “balanced” Kobe if you will. Why would we give the award to an old-fashioned Canadian for the third time in a row? You take Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki off those teams and they are still decent teams. Dallas would still be in first without Dirk. But take Kobe away from the Lakers and they’d be running for a good lottery pick right now. Phil Jackson said it himself: the Lakers can’t win if Kobe doesn’t score. Doesn’t that say MVP?
AM: I never thought I’d say this, but Kobe deserves to be the MVP. Nash and Nowitzki are unbelievable players and their effect on the success of their teams is not to be underestimated. However, Nash also plays with Stoudemire, Marion, Barbosa and Raja Bell, perhaps the best defender in the NBA with the exception of San Antonio’s Bruce Bowen. Likewise, Nowitzki is surrounded by a talented core of Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse and Josh Howard. Obviously, Nash and Nowitzki make everyone around them better, but even without them, the Suns and Mavericks are teams that could still make it to the second or third round of the playoffs. Kobe is surrounded by a talented group including the oft-injured Odom and Smush Parker? Without Kobe’s unparalleled productivity, the Lakers would be getting out their golf clubs and trying to decide between Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Kobe has scored over 50 points in five of his last six games. Not even Jordan pulled that off. Kobe is the Los Angeles Lakers. The MVP should mean exactly this: the player whose team would suffer the most with their absence. If that isn’t Kobe, I don’t know who is.
JJ: Mamawala and Kohout again earn the coveted 3 points. Both of you said that the Lakers would be in the Oden/Durant race without Kobe and defined what MVP really means. Kohout, Dallas would not be in first without Dirk, but I do agree that Canadians, by rule, should not win MVPs. Brandon gets 2 points. You are right in saying the key to the Lakers’ success is Kobe’s ability to take pressure off his teammates.
With a score of 8-7-7, Mamawala wins this week’s title.