In Week Two of Around the Dorm, Kevin Lee is “The Ref.” The players, Editor-in-Chief Bobby Olivier, Managing Editor Caroline Russomanno, and Sports Editor Hilarey Wojtowicz, are asked whether they agree with the way teams are limiting the rookie pitchers’ playing time, which NBA team will be able to challenge the Miami Heat for the championship this season and which NFL veteran will have the largest impact on his new team.
1. Joba Chamberlain is one pitcher who has really suffered from the “Joba Rules,” whereas a pitcher like Tim Lincecum has been able to flourish in the role he has been given since day one. Do you agree with the way teams have handled their young pitchers nowadays? In other words, do you agree with limiting a rookie pitcher’s workload and starting them as a reliever or do you disagree and think that teams are babying them too much?
BO: I have written about and discussed this topic at length in the past, always in opposition to the “Joba Rules” and any other pitching restrictions, but this whole Stephen Strasburg thing has changed my mind. Young pitchers are in a constant state of adaptation, getting used to new stadiums, big contracts and millions of fans watching their every move. They are so pumped up just to be in the majors, they are fueled by adrenaline, and do not always have the best feeling for when they should rest, or be taken out of games. I disagree with starting future starters as relievers, due to the completely different mindset that goes with the roles, but limiting pitch counts is not a terrible idea. It isn’t babying as much as protecting a player and an investment. A million-dollar arm should be monitored in the beginning, as to avoid Tommy John surgeries or a steep decline in confidence.
CR: It’s true that Joba Chamberlain was ruined by the “Joba Rules,” no matter what he and Joe Girardi say. But then you look at a guy like Tim Lincecum and he’s had nothing but success with the Giants. But there’s a difference between the two that stems not so much from the babying as it does with the mentality of the game. Lincecum was a starting pitcher who got to start. Joba was a starting pitcher who was converted to a reliever. But at the start of the 2009 season, Joba was converted back into a starter. And he wasn’t that great. This season, he’s a reliever again — and he isn’t that great. I think, when it comes down to it, starting guys off in the bullpen seems like a great idea from a managerial standpoint, because you can protect the young guys’ arms and monitor their progress. But from a mental standpoint for the actual pitcher, their big league career is yo-yoing back and forth and they don’t ever know where they stand. And they might start to doubt their own ability because they’ve been given so many different roles. But a guy like Lincecum, who was given the role he was familiar with, and kept there, has more confidence because of that. Joba didn’t have that luxury, and because of that, his game has been affected. So, keep your pitch and inning counts, but try to keep the guys in the roles you want them for in the long run.
HW: First off, different teams have different strategies. A strong team like the Yankees can afford to set guidelines and limits with Chamberlain. He’s young and there’s no need to increase his innings by too much each season. However, he should find a team who will know how to use him considering his performance in high leverage situations. Lincecum, on the other hand, has gotten a lot of leeway from the Giants, but obviously it hasn’t been doing anything for him or the team lately. He lost five consecutive starts in August. Maybe the Giants should consider limiting his innings and starts, or putting him as a reliever if this keeps up.
KL: I award Bobby and Caroline two points for saying that innings/pitch counts are a good thing because one has to consider a young pitcher’s long term future. However, I disagree when they both said that starting a pitcher in the bullpen is a bad thing because he can pitch in low-leverage roles and then be eased into the starting rotation. Hilarey gets one point because although it depends where the team is in the standings and the team’s needs, a team cannot let a pitcher pitch until his arm falls off. Just ask Mark Prior.
2. The Miami Heat have assembled one of the greatest trios in all of NBA history and have a legitimate chance to the break record for most wins in a single season (72) by a team, which is currently held by the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls. Is there one team in the upcoming NBA season that can challenge the Heat for the NBA championship?
BO: On paper, yes, the Miami Heat have arguably the most talented starting five ever assembled, but it still remains to be seen how Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James will compliment each other
on the court. During the season, I do believe Miami should win 65-plus games and be the No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs. But, when push comes to shove, I do think the Heat can be beaten in a series, especially with its relatively shallow bench. I refuse to count out the Celtics repeating as conference champions, even if the team only grabs a No. 3 or 4 seed. Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen seem to find another gear come April, and with Glen Davis and the addition of Shaquille O’Neal in the paint, I can see Boston man-handling James, which he really seems to hate, and giving Bosh trouble on the inside. If the Heat make it past the Celtics, it’s hard to bet against a back-to-back NBA champion in the L.A. Lakers.
CR: I am so sick of hearing about LeBron James. The fact that basketball has become more about individual players and which team they’ll choose to grace with their presence than the whole team disgusts me. In no other sport is it quite like this. Yes, in baseball we have huge free agent signings like Alex Rodriquez, Roy Halladay and Matt Holliday and in football we have the obsession whether Brett Favre is going to retire or sign another season. But one player does not a team make. A team needs to mesh and work well together and not just rely on their big stars. So, the Heat’s trio of King James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade could break the record — if the players, who have only played together once, in the 2008 Summer Olympics — mesh well as a team. Despite rumors that they’re planned this move to the Heat for years, I’m not willing to say they can break the Bulls’ historic record. I think a team like the Boston Celtics, if they can stay healthy, has a shot to challenge them. The Celts beat both the Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers (with LeBron) in the 2010 NBA playoffs. I think with Shaq (who is down but not out) and guys like Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo (who was on fire last season) their proven teamwork can take down the Heat. The Celtics are back, baby.
HW: The reigning champs, the L.A. Lakers will definitely give Miami a run for the title this year. They would have taken it hands down if LeBron James had not gone to the Heat and created the “Big Three” with Wade and Bosh. The Heat do still have to deal with the Celtics and the Magic too, considering they were the Eastern Conference champs for the past three seasons. The “Big Three” make some bold statements about winning championships, but let’s see if they can get out of the Eastern Conference first.
KL: I agree that both the Lakers and Celtics have great chances to thwart the Heat’s chances of winning a championship. Bobby gets three points for pointing out more flaws with the Heat’s roster and Caroline gets two points for discussing team nucleus. The Heat might have the most regular season wins next year in the NBA, but in the playoffs it comes down to experience. The Lakers and Celtics have both been there and done that. Hilarey gets one for not discussing any flaws the Heat have. The Heat are still trying to develop team chemistry and have an inexperienced coach in Erik Spoelstra.
3. Which NFL veteran playing on a new team this season has the chance to make the biggest impact for his new team?
BO: Donovan McNabb is the clear choice for veteran impacting a team this season, simply because the quarterback position requires the largest opportunity for such leadership. If McNabb can stimulate a previously anemic Washington offense, he will be the most important addition to the nation’s capital since Michael Jordan joined the Wizards almost 10 years ago. McNabb has a boatload of playoff experience, can run an offense with efficiency, and with Mike Shanahan’s offensive mind and a system that has yet to fail with talented players, Philadelphia’s punching bag can prosper. I cannot remember a truly contending Redskins team since I have been watching football, and McNabb has the ability to make Washington relevant in a highly competitive NFC East division. I cannot wait for his first touchdown pass at Lincoln Financial Field, and the boos that will rain down.
CR: I think Donovan McNabb is going to make a big impact for the Washington Redskins this season. The Redskins haven’t made it into the playoffs since 2007 and last season bore a shoddy 4-12 record. But with the replacement of Jim Zorn with Mike Shanahan, the volatile relationship that once existed between Zorn and former Redskins QB Jason Campbell (who has been shuttled off to the Raiders, rest his soul), is no longer an issue. McNabb is a good quarterback. Heck, McNabb is a great quarterback. He brought the Eagles four NFC East division championships, five NFC Championship games and Super Bowl XXXIX, where they lost to the Patriots (the only team it’s still honorable to lose to). But his time with the Eagles was running out. He was getting complacent. Even though he had a good 2008 season, the injury ramifications were still haunting him. He needed a clean slate like Brett Favre. McNabb is no Favre, but I predict he’ll have the kind of season with the young Redskins that Favre had with the young Vikings last year.
HW: Antonio Cromartie will shine as cornerback for the Jets this season. Cromartie will be playing opposite Darrelle Revis and with Dwight Lowery, Donald Strickland and Drew Coleman at that position, too, the Jets look to have one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL this season. Although the Jets did rank first last season in the NFL in pass defense, they lost Lito Sheppard. But, with Cromartie there, it looks like New York will be able to easily get the top spot for pass defense this season again.
KL: Bobby gets three points for discussing how McNabb makes the Redskins better on the field and how the addition of McNabb has immediately made the Redskins a potential playoff team. Caroline gets two for hitting on McNabb, but for not discussing how he will fit with his new team. Hilarey gets two points for saying Cromartie. Cromartie doesn’t make the same kind of impact McNabb makes with the Redskins.
Bobby wins this week’s AtD, 8 – 6 – 4