MH: As much as we fans hate to admit it, a professional sports team is at its very core a business. Businesses exist to make money. Roger Clemens, formerly a Cy Young-winning machine, and more recently the defendant in a trial which received a level of news coverage somewhere between that of the Dwightmare and Tim Tebow’s shirtless jogs, would be big news if he returned to the majors. Big stories equal big money in sports. So will Roger Clemens pitch in the majors again? Of course. He might pitch this year for the Astros (who have expressed interest, and could certainly use a little publicity that doesn’t mention the whole “Worst Team in Baseball” thing until at least the third paragraph), or next year for any team with bad ticket sales and nothing to lose. As for what success he’d have — if any — he’s 50 years old, has been out of the game for a while, and we all know that he’d never rely on any extra help (too soon?). So I wouldn’t expect much in terms of pitching, but from a business standpoint? Oh yeah, he’ll be successful.
PF: Roger Clemens probably has the ability to pitch for a Major League Baseball team as awful and desperate for attention as the Astros, whose primary reason to sign Clemens is to appear slightly less irrelevant to the baseball world. Whether Clemens wants to indulge them is another story. A couple weeks ago, Clemens essentially said he did not want to this year, saying “I just don’t think I’m close to pitching in a Major League game.” Throw in his age, questionable history and the dubious quality of the Atlantic League, and I can’t see a positive return for Clemens if he ever does try to pitch in the majors again. Think pitching well in the Atlantic League is any indicator of quality? Joe Thurston, who the Astros cut in spring training earlier this year and played poorly in a couple of brief stints with AAA teams, has become a star in the Atlantic League with a line of .311/.391/.503. I don’t see Clemens pitching until next season, when he will rack up a high ERA and retire again soon after.
MP: The Astros are already flirting with the idea of adding the 50-year-old vet and appear to be the only team doing so. Clemens likes the idea. It seems unlikely that he would see any major league action this season, but he has alluded to the fact that he feels nearly prepared to play at that level and should be able to train in that direction this off-season. In his initial start with the Sugarland Skeeters, Clemens hit 88 mph on the radar gun, and even said that some added work could get his fastball up to 90. 90-mph gas is plenty enough to work with at the major league level. Although it’s a little lower than the standard, I believe that with a standard fastball at his disposal, a crafty veteran with the field experience of Roger Clemens should be more than apt to challenge a Major League lineup. Do I think he will dominate? No. Do I think he will be able to compete? Yes.
Peter gets 3 for comparing how different the MLB is from the Atlantic league, and for pointing out that it’s also Clemens’ decision. Mike P. gets 2 because Clemens’ success and mentality relies heavily on the fact that he’s a power pitcher, and not a crafty veteran. Mike H. gets 1 because Clemens may not be concerned with the Astros as a business.
2. Last week we discussed the AL/NL Cy Young. This week let’s talk AL/NL MVP. Who are your picks?
MH: I guess I’ll be boring and just go with Mike Trout to win the AL MVP. Not that he’s a boring pick per se, but with everyone else saying he’ll win, it isn’t exactly an original choice. But that’s the way MVP races tend to go these days — everyone picks a player who is among those who deserve to be in the MVP discussion, hype that player up until most people are sick of hearing his name, and then make that guy the MVP anyway. Trout’s been the media darling for the last couple of months, his stats are all there and he’s a very interesting story (which is also a huge factor in MVP determination — no one wants an MVP they can’t talk about for hours on end), so he’s getting the hardware. As for the NL, the award was basically Andrew McCutchen’s to lose a month ago … only the Pirates have fallen out of the playoffs and are hovering awfully close to another losing season (that would be 20 in a row, not exactly the type of streak you want). I’m still picking him though, if only because no other candidate really stands out, and I feel bad for Pirates fans.
PF: Whether the Angels make the playoffs or not, the AL MVP should go to their 19-year-old monster, Mike Trout. Not only is he leading the league in WAR, but there has not been as significant a difference between the player with the best WAR and the player with the second best WAR since he was born in 1991, when Cal Ripken Jr. won the award despite his team going 67-95. And consider this: When the Angels called up Trout, they were 6-14, and are now well above .500 while fighting for a playoff berth. I do not believe the race for NL MVP is as clear-cut, but my vote would go to Buster Posey, the leader for the Giants in the locker room, on defense and on offense. Posey plays well behind the plate, has a fantastic arm and has an impressive stat line for a team that needs offense: 22 HR, .333 BA and 92 RBI.
MP: The AL MVP race comes down to three guys — Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera. All three have good numbers, but one stands alone. Trout is currently hitting .331 with 27 HRs, 117 runs and 45 stolen bases. He’s also arguably the best defensive outfielder in baseball right now. What sets him apart from the other two guys, aside from the fact that he’s the total package, is that he’s been a sparkplug for his team. The Angels without Trout are 8-16 and while they are 70-50 with him. In terms of WAR, a statistic that puts into consideration a player’s entire game, offense, defense and base running, the competition is laughable. Trout towers by a large margin, with a 10.3. The NL MVP is a two-horse race. You have Buster Posey, an offensive threat who also plays the game’s most demanding defensive position, and you have Ryan Braun, the last guy I think a pitcher would want to see step up to the plate right now. Both players are the cornerstones of their respective teams’ offenses, but Posey’s batting .339 while Ryan Braun is hitting .310. Braun tops Posey in HRs and RBIs, but I give the edge to Posey because of his defensive value as a catcher.
Since you all picked Trout for similar reasons (rightfully so), I’m judging this by the NL MVP. 3 points for Mike P. for discussing Braun, making his argument stronger that Posey deserves the award. 2 Points for Peter for telling me Posey’s value both offensively and defensively. 1 Point for Mike H. for not diving into why McCutchen deserves the award.
3. Peyton Manning had a fantastic debut Week 1. What’s his projection for the remainder of the season and where will he rank amongst the league’s quarterbacks?
MH: Before I predict how the rest of Peyton’s season will go, I just want to take a quick look at his debut. While it was certainly impressive, he was facing an aging and anemic Steelers’ D (literally anemic — free safety Ryan Clark could not play last week due to the conditions in Denver being incompatible with his sickle cell trait. Talk about the ultimate home field advantage). Not exactly the stuff legends are made of. Anyway, I think Peyton will have a fine year, although I do think he’ll drop off a bit in a few weeks, once the constant pounding takes more of a toll on his still-not-100 percent body. As for where he’ll rank amongst quarterbacks, I don’t think he’ll crack the top four — Rodgers, Brees, Brady and Little Brother Eli — but he’ll certainly be in the discussion for the next group under them, alongside Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers and maybe Cam Newton. No matter what he does though, it’ll sure be interesting, especially once the “Which Manning is better right now?” debates really start. (Call me crazy, but I think Cooper’s got something up his sleeve.)
PF: Partly because of the relative weakness of the AFC West, partly because of the Broncos’ complementary assets on offense and partly because Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning, he will put up great numbers — phenomenal for a man his age — this season. The NFL is a young man’s league, sure, but the Broncos’ above-average offensive line will protect Manning and allow him to dissect defenses as he always has. His perfect timing and precise throwing will give Romeo Crennel recurring nightmares, and solid receivers like Demaryius Thomas (an excellent possession target) and Eric Decker (varied skill set) will enable that. There are questions about the Broncos’ ability to run the ball, but overall Manning should be expected to win a lot of regular season games this year for Denver before the inevitable postseason crash and burn.
MP: Peyton completed 19 of 26 for 253 yards and two touchdowns against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, one of the toughest defenses in the league. The talent is without a doubt still there, and the rust appears to be minimal. He also has some serious weapons in that offense. Demaryius Thomas is freakishly talented, has a very high ceiling and I don’t think we’ve seen his best football yet. Eric Decker is a great complimentary receiver who reminds me a little of Wes Welker, and Jacob Tamme is a solid pass-catching tight end. What worries me is the neck injury he’s returning from. It seems like such a freak injury, so who knows when a random hit could land him back in a similar situation to last season? Barring an injury of some kind, I would project Peyton to put up top-five QB kind of numbers. As long as he stays healthy I believe he will remain elite.
3 points for Mike P. discussing how the Broncos team will help Manning be successful, while also saying that Manning’s success relies on his health. 2 points for Mike H. for believing that Manning isn’t a top four quarterback and for discussing a slight drop off. 1 point goes to Peter for not discussing any type of drop off that is expected.
Mike P. wins Around the Dorm 8-6-4