The Around the Dorm Playoffs have arrived. Two contestants will be eliminated, leaving a one-on-one showdown for the finals. This week features the College’s softball team, A-Rod’s hot streak and trading places in the NFL Draft. The contestants are Signal sports editor Brandon Lee, Signal nation & world editor James Queally, Signal managing editor Lauren Kohout and Signal sports assistant Justin Jez. Signal editor in chief Andrew Grant will ref the playoffs.
1) Last year the College’s softball team posted a 25-16 record and its 8-10 conference record was good enough for a postseason bid. This season, the Lions are 14-14 overall and a dismal 4-10 in the conference. What’s missing from the team this year and what does it need to do to turn things around?
BL: The offense is struggling and recently the pitching has failed. Senior pitcher Jess Kohut has only made two appearances and got rocked in both of them. Her absence from the rotation has been obvious after recently dropping three out of four games. The offense reminds me of the Phillies right now. The solid bats that propelled them last season are awfully quiet this season. Junior Christina Lizzi and senior Julianne Lajiness each are batting under their career averages. If your offense can’t score runs for your pitchers, there’s no way you’ll win games.
JQ: The Lions’ softball squad isn’t missing anything roster-wise. They returned 14 players from last year’s 25-win team, including what was supposed to be one of the deepest pitching rotations in the NJAC. The team just hasn’t played up to its potential. Lajiness, Heather Hoffman and Ashley Minervini have all pitched well up to this point in the year, but the Lions have failed to give them any kind of run support. The Lions’ bats have been silent in several important conference matchups. The absence of Kohut from the rotation has weakened their “deep” rotation, limiting it to three pitchers, with only Lajiness sporting a plus-.500 record.
LK: For some reason, they aren’t producing runs. They are last in hitting, RBIs and runs scored in the NJAC. Not to mention they have the second-worst OBP in the league. Their BA with two outs is an unsatisfying .238 and only .256 with runners, last in the league in RBI opportunities. It’s confusing because Lajiness is having a great year on the mound and Tara Harrigan is hitting everything. Unfortunately, they’ll both be gone next year along with half the team. Minervini could do some damage once she gets comfortable in the No. 1 pitcher role and the Lions will look to Lizzi and Danielle Hagel for hits. A strong bullpen and good recruits should also help next year.
JJ: The Lions are not playing as poorly as their record might indicate. If you look at the quality of teams they have been playing against it is easy to see why they are in this midseason slump. Five of their six conference losses have come to the defending national champions and the No. 12 and No. 13 ranked teams in the nation. They returned 14 upperclassmen from last year’s team, including senior first baseman Vicki Blevins, who led the team in batting average and hits last year. Their pitching is also just as good as last year. Talent and experience are not concerns for this team. Look for the Lions to take the majority of their remaining games against weaker teams, bringing their record up to last year’s standards.
AG: Kohout gets the 4 points for a good analysis of the team’s problems as well as an outlook for the future. Queally gets 3 points for highlighting how the Lions’ offensive woes have cost them close games. Jez: I love the point about the schedule, but it’s just too late in the season to drastically improve their conference record – 2 points. Brandon settles for the 1 point.
2) Yankees star Alex Rodriguez has already put up one of the most impressive Aprils in baseball history, temporarily earning him the love of New York fans, but we know it all comes down to performance in the clutch. Will A-Rod finally lead the Yanks to the Promised Land, and how much will that determine whether he stays with the Yankees for next year?
BL: If the fans embrace Rodriguez, he will stay. This really depends on how he performs in October or if they begin to boo him when this torrid streak comes to an end. He said it himself: it’s up to the fans. I believe that he will stay. He’s the game’s best player and will prove his doubters wrong. In the first game of the season, A-Rod was booed for making errors at third, but eventually made up for it with his bat. Last year, his fielding problems would affect his batting – his head was totally screwed up last year. This year he seems to have a good head on his shoulders. The Yanks’ quest for a championship really begins and ends with pitching, but A-Rod seems to be bailing out the patch-work pitching with clutch hits.
JQ: The Alex Rodriguez we’ve seen come storming out of the gate in New York this year is one baseball fans, especially the ever- fickle New York kind, have sorely missed. Fourteenth home runs in just 18 games? That ties him for the fastest start in MLB history. If A-Rod can feed off the fan support and keep this pace up, there’s no telling where he can take the Yankees this season. Does it keep him in New York after this year? His friendship with Lou Piniella and the opportunity to move back to shortstop may persuade him to jump to the Chicago Cubs in the near future. It’s up to the fans. If they keep showing him love (and the front office keeps throwing him money) he’s staying in the Big Apple. If he falters or if the Yankees miss the playoffs, he may jump on a plane to the Windy City.
LK: I’m praying to the baseball gods that A-Rod will produce twice as much than now so he can pass Bonds and get Aaron’s record before him. A girl can dream. Anyway, it says a lot to New York fans and Yankee haters around the country that A-Rod is finally feeling comfortable and confident in the box. He has the talent to keep this going all year and I hope he does. As long as he keeps this up all season and in the playoffs, the fans will love him. However, if he doesn’t get that World Series ring, even if he has 75 billion home runs, he’ll still hear those boos in Yankee Stadium.
JJ: We will have to wait and see if A-Rod can deliver in October. Right now he is absolutely on fire! But he is going to have a slump, and probably sooner rather than later. By the time the playoffs come around he could be playing the worst baseball of his career. That is just the nature of the game. No one knows if A-Rod will finally step up when it counts, but I do know that he wants to be in New York. Despite the fans and the critics, he knows that being a Yankee gives him the best shot to win a World Series. If A-Rod and the Yanks do part ways, it will be Steinbrenner who makes the final call.
AG: Brandon gets the 4 points for his emphasis on the fans and A-Rod’s improved mental game this season. Kohout gets 3 for saying that it all comes down to the World Series ring, followed closely behind by Queally (2 points) for bringing up the Cubs as a possible move. Jez: Based on A-Rod’s track record I just can’t agree that winning alone will keep him from leaving the Yanks – 1 point.
3) On the eve of the NFL draft, there are lots of rumors about teams trading to get a top pick. Which teams most need to trade up to get a valuable commodity in the first few picks? Should any of the teams with the top picks (Oakland, Detroit, Cleveland) consider trading down?
BL: Detroit will trade down, while Cleveland and Oakland will keep their picks. Detriot will trade down with Tampa Bay, who will then select wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Detroit has a number of needs and can still get tackle Joe Thomas with the No. 4 pick. The Lions could use the extra picks to draft a corner, since they lost Dre Bly to the Broncos. The Dolphins should trade up as well. Daunte Culpepper is a has-been and Brady Quinn will fit in nicely. With a solid defense and offensive threats in receiver Chris Chambers and running back Ronnie Brown, Quinn will be the final piece to the puzzle.
JQ: The needs of teams like the Raiders, Browns and Lions are all so varied that it makes it very hard for me to see any of them trading down. They are all in position to sign guys that can cure their various ailments. I could see the Dolphins trading up to make sure they snare Quinn. The Dolphins may be on the verge of signing Trent Green as their new starting QB, but the injury-prone veteran is not the long-term solution to their hole at quarterback. The Dolphins won’t be able to trade up high enough to snag JaMarcus Russell, and Quinn is the No. 2 QB in this draft. If the Dolphins can grab Green and Quinn heading into ’07, the vet can carry them for the time being while molding Quinn into a future NFL superstar.
LK: I think Tampa Bay should try trading up. When the best thing you have is Jeff Garcia, you’ve got a problem. New Orleans might want to trade up so they can balance out Reggie Bush’s offense with better defense. Oakland desperately needs that No. 1 pick so it can have its choice of quarterbacks. With Detroit and Cleveland, I feel like they should only trade if they get a good deal out of it. You never know how draftees are going to turn out, especially if you base everything on Combine results and things of that matter. It really is a luck of the draw because you could get a No. 1 pick that gets hurt in the first week of next season or a third round pick that ends up in the Hall of Fame one day.
JJ: First of all, none of the teams with high picks should consider trading down for three reasons: Russell, Johnson and Adrian Peterson. These three guys all have the potential to be studs in the NFL, and trading them away would be a mistake. Russell has the talent to revive the Raiders. Johnson’s size, strength and talent is just scary and cannot be overlooked. Peterson is a solid running back who can have an immediate impact. It is easy to see why teams are looking to trade up, but NFL drafts are notorious for lower-pick steals. Amobi Okoye and Dwayne Jarrett come to mind as possible steals in this draft. You never know who will emerge as this year’s standout pick until they begin playing.
AG: 4 points for Brandon, who makes great points about the advantages of Detroit moving down and Tampa Bay and Miami trading up. Jez gets 3 points for pointing out the strength of the draft, although Peterson’s frequent injuries may drop him from the top three. I like Queally’s Miami analysis, but if the three teams’ needs are so varied, wouldn’t they want to trade down for multiple picks? – 2 points. Kohout: solid argument but I was looking for specific scenarios – 1 point.
With a score of 9-8-7-6, Brandon wins this round. Jez and Queally are eliminated from the playoffs.