It’s a new set of questions, and a new set of contestants. After winning the AtD season opener, Managing Editor Bobby Olivier is back to challenge veteran staff writer Duncan Slobodzian, WTSR Sports Director Mike Leatherwood, and newcomer Dan Neyman. This week, our contestants will weigh in on the Jets starting quarterback, the Red Sox acquisition of Billy Wagner, and which athletes they want to see in a different spotlight.
1. The New York Jets have named Mark Sanchez the starting quarterback for the upcoming season. Is this the right move? How do you think Sanchez will perform in his rookie year?
DS: Sanchez has the chops and the chutzpah to be a long-term answer for the Jets. He’s got franchise quarterback written all over him. I can’t fault Rex Ryan, Mike Tannenbaum, or the Jets’ brain trust for making this move. The fans whose enthusiasm will help finance the new stadium and new practice facility want to see the best possible product out on the field. Kellen Clemens’ ceiling is probably above average backup, so it doesn’t make much sense to have Sanchez stand on the sidelines with a clipboard as losses build up. He might as well get some game action, and be on the bottom of the pile as losses build up. Of course, I’m a Jets fan so those last couple sentences were just reverse psychology.
DN: This was a huge mistake on the Jets’ part. I think that with time, Sanchez will develop into a productive NFL quarterback, but the Jets are rushing him. As unproven as Kellen Clemens is, he still has more NFL quarterback experience than Sanchez, and should have been number one on the depth charts. The Jets have a team that is good enough to get into the playoffs and the fans are hoping that Sanchez will be the second coming of Joe Namath. The only problem is that for a quarterback with only 13 collegiate starts to his name, the Jets might be asking for too much, too soon. Sanchez looked impressive in his preseason start versus the Giants, and has the potential to be a superstar, but I can’t see that happening this year. Just because it worked with Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco doesn’t mean it works with everybody.
ML: Rex Ryan got this one right in selecting Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback for the New York Jets. First of all, Sanchez has outplayed Kellen Clemens in practice as well as in the preseason. Second, Clemens has had many chances to prove himself a capable starting NFL quarterback, and he has disappointed (60.9 QB rating in 10 games in 2007 and 59.3 career QB rating). Finally, the Jets are projected to be toward the top of the AFC East this year with the Patriots. Sanchez will take a few games to get settled but once he does, I think he gives the Jets the best chance to win this year and top the Pats. Plus, we all know what happens when an Oregon Duck is your starting quarterback (cough … Joey Harrington … cough).
BO: As a Jets’ fan, I must side with Duncan on this one, as I agree that it’s a waste of time to have Sanchez on the sidelines while Clemens gets his teeth knocked out. Dan gets 2 points for noting Sanchez’s lack of college football experience. Mike gets 1 point for ruling out the Bills and Dolphins as AFC East contenders as well.
2. The Boston Red Sox recently acquired Billy Wagner from the New York Mets, adding a veteran presence to an already fearsome bullpen. Does the addition of Wagner put the BoSox in the playoffs, or is it too little too late?
DS: Last time I checked, the Red Sox were still in the driver’s seat in the AL Wild Card race. The team has the batting and pitching, it just hasn’t all come together yet. To me, the Wagner saga was more posturing than anything else. It was the Red Sox trying to make a splash in a season where the team has otherwise stood pat. In fact, arguably the team’s biggest move was the letting go of a pitcher when ties were cut with John Smoltz. At the end of the day, Boston has a roster of gentlemen that are rich with playoff experience and clubhouse chemistry. I’m thinking of guys like Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, plus reigning MVP Dustin Pedroia. Wagner can be a good complement to the back end of the bullpen, but I would be more wary of him disrupting that oh-so-essential chemistry than the Red Sox front office has been as of now. If Wagner’s vision is to replace Jonathan Papelbon as the closer, then Boston might be in over its head. Regardless, I don’t see the 2009 squad missing the playoffs.
DN: The addition of Billy Wagner will have no significant impact on the team’s chances of getting into the postseason. While Wagner has appeared sharp in both of his appearances since coming off of the DL, the fact is, he is a 38-year-old pitcher coming back from Tommy John surgery. Wagner can definitely contribute, and might solidify Boston’s bullpen, but Theo Epstein should have addressed other needs first. If the Red Sox doesn’t make the postseason, it won’t be because the bullpen was lacking another lefty. The team should have looked into an end-of-the-rotation starter to help replace the holes left by the likes of Brad Penny, John Smoltz, and Tim Wakefield. The fact that the organization has Daisuke Matsuzaka and Paul Byrd waiting in the wings should not be reassuring for any Red Sox fans.
ML: Boston’s acquisition of Billy Wagner will no doubt help the bullpen down the stretch. He is a hard-throwing left-hander, which you don’t find too many of to begin with — let alone a guy who has done it for years. However, Wagner alone will not automatically put the Sox in the playoffs. To start, Wagner comes with a couple of concerns. He is coming off Tommy John surgery from less than a year ago, a procedure that usually takes more than 18 months of recovery. Also, he just turned 38-year-old, which is longer than most fire-ballers last in the majors. If Wagner holds up, he can help the Sox, but I don’t think he’s a big enough difference maker to put the Sox in the playoffs right now.
BO: You all said pretty much the same thing — Billy Wagner will not have a significant impact — but I like Dan’s answer best, the team should have addressed the back of the rotation. Duncan gets 2 points for mistakenly calling the Red Sox “gentlemen,” and Mike gets 1 point because there actually are plenty of hard-throwing lefties.
3. Lately, there has been talk of what it would be like to have Usain Bolt in the NFL or Chad Ochocinco in the MLS. Give me another athlete you would like to see playing a professional sport other than their own, and why.
DS: I’d love to see LeBron James play any sport. Literally, any sport. I think the dude is the most athletic specimen in the NBA without question, and his physical skill set could translate to virtually any sport where superior hand/eye coordination, leaping ability, speed, strength and/or vision are involved. So all of them. Obviously people want to see James in the NFL, citing his high school football playing glory, but I’d like to see what he could do in the MLB. I’m thinking he could get his Bo Jackson on for at least six or seven seasons. The baseball and basketball seasons complement one another nicely and baseball isn’t particularly physically demanding. I see him playing a smooth outfield, again à la Jackson. I’m pretty sure James could know more than just basketball, if he put his mind (and indestructible 6’9,” 270-pound frame) to the task.
DN: If I had to pick any athlete that I would want to see crossover, it would be LeBron James playing in the NFL. James is built like a tank, and is a prototypical tight end or linebacker. He’s big, he’s strong, and he would put on a show. From jumping up 10 feet to block a kick, all the way to breaking someone’s ankles with a crossover, James would dominate the sport. There are only a handful of athletes that have had success in multiple sports and there are those who have failed miserably. Just ask Michael Jordan. Jordan is one of the greatest — if not the greatest — NBA player of all time, but damn did he suck at baseball. While Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson are arguably the greatest two-sport athletes ever, having had success in both the NFL and MLB, LeBron James could easily make it into that elite group if he gave football a chance.
ML: This question is a no-brainer for me, and for many sports fans in America. I would love to see LeBron James play wide receiver in the NFL. The reason I say James is because he is a physical freak, and that’s putting it lightly. At 6’9’’ he is no matchup for any defensive back in the league, not to mention he could probably out-run most of them. If he wanted, James could also be a dominant linebacker in the NFL because he is strong and quick enough for offensive linemen who could never move their feet quick enough to block him. Honestly, James is so athletic that he could play almost any position on the field. Well maybe not kicker, let’s leave that to Mr. Ochocinco.
BO: First off, I cannot believe that you all said LeBron James. In any event, Duncan made the best and most original argument by citing James in baseball. Dan, I like your argument too, you can have 2.5 points. Mike, here’s the 1.5 spot for you.
Duncan is victorious, 8 – 7.5 – 3.5