Correspondent Mike McLoughlin took down the competition last week to be AtD’s Week 3 “Ref.” Correspondents Jason Cantor and Dan Neyman and Staff Writer Chris Rotolo discuss if the NBA All-Star game needs a new system of voting, if the Phillies made a mistake trading Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay and if the NFL Pro Bowl should be moved or even abolished altogether.
1. There has been much controversy about the NBA All-Star game after Allen Iverson was chosen to start and Tracy McGrady almost did as well. Ray Allen has come forward saying the voting system needs to change so the fans have less power. Would you change the voting system, and if so, what is a better system than the one in place?
JC: Idealistically, people expect that NBA All- Star teams starting lineups will feature the five best players from their respective conferences. If this is the case, Allen Iverson and Kevin Garnett are two players that have no business starting in this year’s game. The system works because it gives the fans what they want to see. Iverson and Garnett will never be what they once were, but they’re being honored as starters based on how great they used to be. I view their wins as more a sign of respect than I do as a snub. The current voting process allows the remaining roster spots to be determined by the coaches of their respective conference (who we hope know what they’re talking about). It’s not as if the fans are determining the entire roster. To change the system undermines the biggest supporters of the league — the fans. Until the fans prove they do not deserve a vote, I do not think it’s fair to strip them of their voting power.
DN: Voting for the NBA All-Star game is, and has always been, a complete joke. Someone who is very deserving always gets left off i.e David Lee, Josh Smith and even Chris Kaman, while someone who has no business even watching the game on TV is selected as a starter such as Allen Iverson, Paul Gasol and Al Horford. If the main goal is to have the most deserving players in the All-Star game, then the voting should be a combination of votes from coaches, players and fans. The fact of the matter is that there’s no perfect system, but this current one just flat out sucks. Voting has become a hot topic this year because of the situation with Iverson and McGrady, but the system has been broken for years. There is no perfect system, but looking at the Nielsen ratings from last year’s game, ratings were up over 12 percent from 2008, so the NBA can’t just eliminate the fan vote.
CR: I will never vote to alter a voting system that encourages full-fledged fan interaction. In a sporting industry that seems to be making every attempt to distance itself from fans, owners, players and Ray Allen should be ecstatic that fans still want to take time out of their lives to cast a ballot. Ticket prices are through the roof, price gouging at concession stands is unbelievable and you can’t buy a pack of trading cards for less than five dollars. The one thing fans have left that allows them to have some sort of inexpensive interaction with their favorite sports figures is All-Star voting. These games are not for the players or Mike Francessa (the King of All-Star game hating), these are exhibitions purely for the fan and if they want to see Iverson and McGrady then so be it. If Ray Allen is so concerned with the quality of play at the All-Star game he needs to talk to his associates about playing some defense, not blame the fans for honoring their favorite athletes.
MM: Three points go to Dan for hitting the nail on the head. The starters for the All- Star game have been a joke for years, and moving away from a fan vote doesn’t mean people won’t watch. I’ve never voted, but I still watch the game. Chris and Jason had similar answers, but Chris gets the 2 points for hating on Mike Francessa. Sorry Jason — tough luck.
2. The blockbuster trade of the MLB offseason sent Cliff Lee to the Mariners and Roy Halladay to the Phillies. There has been much talk about Halladay dominating the National League (NL) more than any pitcher in recent history has. However, some would point to him throwing over 220 innings each of the past four years as a potential flag for wear and tear. What type of year do you expect Roy Halladay to have for the Phillies in 2010?
JC: I loved this deal for the Phillies. They’re getting a great pitcher with years of proven success, unlike Lee. This move was made for two reasons. The biggest reason being that the Phillies knew they didn’t want to, and simply wouldn’t be able to, commit to the long-term big-money deal Cliff Lee would eventually be looking for (it’s against the current regime’s philosophy of never signing a player for more than five years). The second reason is the sheer consistency that you get with Roy Halladay. The reason Halladay pitches so many innings is because he keeps his pitch counts low with pinpoint accuracy and doesn’t rely on a 100 mile-per-hour fastball. I do not think Halladay will dominate the NL because that’s simply not his style of pitching. In 2009 he gave up 234 hits in 239 innings compared to Tim Lincecum who gave up 168 hits in 225 innings last year. With Halladay, Phillies’ fans shouldn’t expect 14-strikeout performances nor should they expect him to dominate just because he’s playing in the National League, but they can expect an earned run average of less than three and nearly a gem every time he goes out to pitch.
DN: The Phillies’ trade for Halladay was, in one word, dumb. They not only traded an ace for an ace, but they had to give up an impressive crop of prospects for both Lee and then again for Halladay, dropping them to the seventh-worst farm system according to ESPN.com’s Keith Law. Halladay is a great pitcher, there is absolutely no questioning that. Approaching New Year’s Eve, many writers wrote articles about the best pitchers of the last decade, and Halladay was consistently on those lists. That being said, Halladay will most likely see a decline in his typical stats. While he should see a solid amount of wins due to the Phillies potent offense, he should also see an increase in ERA, due to the short porch in Citizens Bank Park. The biggest problem is that Halladay is going to end up on the disabled list because he’ll find himself having to pitch deep into every game because of the Phillies shaky bullpen. Halladay has a history of shoulder problems, and they’ve all come after years in which he’s been overworked (e.g., pitching 239 innings in 2009). Halladay will start the season as a 33-year-old pitcher, with 2,000+ innings under his belt with a history of shoulder problems, while Cliff Lee will be 30 years old, with 1,200 innings and an injury history of pulling his groin once.
CR: Roy Halladay is not a young buck. The former Cy Young award winner has been throwing complete games and long innings for the majority of his career and is used to it by now (Halladay has led the majors in complete games in five of the last seven seasons including the last three). The fact is you do not have the luxury of dealing with a pitcher and a weak hitting middle infielder at the bottom of an American League (AL) batting order. Every batter you face, especially in the AL East, is a grind. Yet every year Halladay is at the top of a short list of premier pitchers. Not to mention he has joined the only NL team with an American League type offense. I expect Halladay to win at least 20 games, lead the majors in earned run average and complete at least 15 games.
MM: Three points go to Jason for remarking on Halladay’s efficiency. When every year you rank towards the top of the league in fewest pitches per inning, you’re bound to throw a lot of innings. Two points go to Chris for remarking on the positive effect a move from the offensive juggernaut that is the AL East to a weaker NL will have on his numbers. Dan gets the 1 this time.
3. With the NFC and AFC championship games settled we have only the Superbowl left. However, before it we have the Pro Bowl. The NFL had to name quite a few replacements to the Pro Bowl rosters since no Colts or Saints player will be able to participate. Would moving the game to the middle of the season like in baseball hurt or help the legitimacy and popularity of the Pro Bowl?
JC: Moving the game to the middle of the season might help the popularity of the Pro Bowl, but it would never happen. Teams wouldn’t allow their star players to risk being injured. Another reason this event would not make sense is because in such a short season it truly does take at least 12 games to determine who the best players are. If the halfway point of the season was when the Pro Bowl took place, Vince Young would still be considered a bust and Chris Johnson wouldn’t have been a lock. I think when it comes down to it, football
requires too much practice, strategy and physicality for these games to ever be any good. Rather than put on a sports event no one cares about, the Pro Bowlers should be honored during the Super Bowl.
DN: I think that moving the Pro Bowl was a huge mistake on the NFL’s part. There will probably see an increase in ratings because fans everywhere will be going through football withdrawal between now and the Super Bowl, but it has other serious repercussions. For instance, the NFL is requiring that all of the Pro-Bowlers on the Colts and Saints make an appearance during Pro Bowl weekend. This has not only cost the Colts a day of practice, but players have expressed concerns over not being able to travel to Miami together, which many people associated with football have said is actually quite a big deal. The main problem is that no one gives a shit about the Pro Bowl. It’s a meaningless game (unlike the MLB All-Star game), and you’re lucky to see the starters play more than one quarter. SportsCenter has absolutely nothing to cover in regards to the Pro Bowl, and they’ve resorted to interviewing Chad Ochocinco on his burning desire to be used as a kicker during the Pro Bowl. When the Pro Bowl is after the Super Bowl, no one cares because it is coming after the biggest sporting event of the year. When the Pro Bowl is before the Super Bowl, players get pissed, and 14 players (seven from both the Colts and Saints) can’t play. The Pro Bowl should just be canceled — no one would even know.
CR: If the Pro Bowl was moved to the middle of the season it would be because it has no legitimacy and is severely lacking popularity in the first place. The game has no legitimacy and little popularity because the players do not compete at a high level. Football is the only sport that does not need an all-star exhibition for the soul purpose that players can lose their careers or their lives on any given play. No defensive player wants to come off the edge and bust a quarterback’s knee, nor do they want to shatter their own spines on a tackling attempt. Football is a dangerous sport that you need to play hard 100 percent of the time. Players lose their edge in this game and it shows. The NFL needs to stop holding this event before somebody gets seriously injured.
MM: Dan and Chris had similar answers, as both wanted to cancel the Pro Bowl outright. Dan edges them out by remarking on how the placement of the game has screwed over the Colts this year. Two points go to Chris for saying that when players lose their edge, it shows, and the game suffers. Jason picks up the 1 again.
Dan wins 7 – 6 – 5