In this week’s matchup of Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Chrissy Onorato, challenges staff writer Mike Pietroforte, correspondent Joe Caputo and Editor-in-Chief Brendan McGrath to answer questions about World Series favorites, the rising interest in NASCAR, and which NFL players could use a change of scenery.
1. Since Spring Training began, we have seen some exciting MLB action. With Opening Day drawing closer, who are your picks out of each league for the World Series this year?
MP: From the National League, my selection is the Cincinnati Reds. They saw young starting pitchers Aroldis Chapman, Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey all flash some dominance and put together solid year last season. I expect those pitchers to take another step forward this year. Cincinnati boasts a lineup containing Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. They added another all-star caliber bat in Shin-Soo Choo. They’re a team that finished with the second most wins in baseball last year and they’ll only be better this year. There are a few teams in the American League with ridiculously scary lineups, the Los Angeles Angels and the Toronto Blue Jays being two of them. However, the Blue Jays seem to have the questions about starting pitching answered while the Angels do not. The Jays have two hitters in their lineup that threaten to hit 40 home runs in a season with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. They also have serious up-and-coming prospect Brett Lawrie at third base. After they committed highway robbery this offseason and took Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle and Emilio Bonifacio from Miami, they went out and got R.A. Dickey from the Mets to add to an already potent pitching staff. My money is on Cincinati to win in six games.
JC: To me, baseball is all about pitching. Although scoring runs is how you ultimately win games, holding the opposing team down makes it so much easier to manufacture runs on the offensive end. With that said, I have Detroit returning to the World Series out of the American League. Not only do they have one of the best pitchers in baseball in Justin Verlander, but the rest of their pitching staff may be one of the most underrated in baseball. Max Scherzer is primed to be a star in the league, coming off a season in which he boasted an 11.08 strikeout per nine innings ratio, which was easily the best in baseball. Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez have consistently posted excellent advanced numbers that continue to improve, including high strikeout and low walk rates. Oh, and their offense isn’t too shabby either, as they’ll add Victor Martinez back from injury to the lineup that already consists of triple-crown winner Miguel Cabrera. From the National League, I have the Washington Nationals. To this day, I believe that Washington would have made the World Series last year had they let Strasburg pitch in the postseason. He’ll be out there this year, and the team will only be better than it was a year ago. Budding young stars in Harper, Ramos and Desmond coupled with arguably the best rotation in the National League will give them an edge and bring them to the Fall Classic. In that matchup, I’ll take Detroit in six.
BM: As a Mets fan, it pains me to say this, but the National League is going to come down to the Nationals and the Braves this year. I think the Braves will surprise a lot of people by overcoming a deep Washington team and show that their starters can rival any rotation out there. Plus, if the Braves are winning after six innings, they’re nearly guaranteed a “W” thanks to what is by far the best bullpen in the game. Throw in the most dynamic outfield in a generation, and this team has what it takes to win it all. The Blue Jays will be the team the Braves beat in October, as Toronto’s exciting offseason comes together to pull them ahead of the rest of the American League. Dickey, Morrow, Johnson, Buehrle. Reyes, Cabrera, Bautista, Bonifacio, Encarnacion. This team won 73 games in a really good division last season, and Encarnacion is the only player listed here who played a full season for the Jays. Couple this surge of talent with weaker (though still very good) divisional foes, and the Jays will be in great shape to make the playoffs, where their top heavy rotation and great offense will carry them through AL play.
Brendan gets 3 points for talking about the Blue Jays’ stacked lineup. Joe gets 2 points for talking about how pitching is the key to winning games and for mentioning the talent in Detroit. Mike gets 1 point for talking about prospects and trades for the Blue Jays and how they will come to dominate this season.
2. With NASCAR back in full swing, Danica Patrick is taking the media by storm. Nascar is not normally seen as an interesting “sport” but with the addition of a female driver, do you think it can expand its fan base and get over its normal stereotypes?
MP: There are some places in the country where NASCAR is a really, really big deal. Hundreds of thousands of people go out to see some of the bigger races and they truly are a rabid fan base. There are also some places that have almost no interest in NASCAR. I, along with most of the New York/New Jersey area, groan whenever I see a segment about NASCAR come on ESPN. Danica Patrick has seen some mild success along with some overbearing publicity. She’s definitely changing the perspectives of a lot of people who don’t think women can compete in sports dominated by men, but I don’t see that growing the national fanbase that NASCAR already sees. You either love NASCAR or you just really wish it would stop showing up on ESPN.
JC: Contrary to popular belief of people living in this part of the country, NASCAR actually does have a pretty large fan base as they attract nearly 130,000 fans to each race. However, the problem is they cannot seem to expand to certain parts of the country, and I do not believe there is much hope to do so. The people of the metropolitan areas (including myself) have pre-conceived notions about NASCAR that I don’t think they will be able to shake, not even with the addition of Patrick. A major problem for NASCAR, in my opinion, is that there are too many other sports that cities like New York follow, and there is not enough available attention that can be paid to NASCAR. NASCAR will continue to attract its usual fan base, but the chances of the addition of Patrick actually expanding the sport’s interest seem very slim.
BM: I’m not sure about the interesting part. I think a lot of people find it interesting and, though I’m not crazy about it, I see why some people love NASCAR. In terms of stereotypes, I think Patrick could help a lot of people in the Northeast get over the thought that car racing is in some way not worthy of their attention. I understand sports fans who don’t enjoy NASCAR, but I think a lot of people judge it more in terms of culture than entertainment. The fact that this sport features a woman competing directly with men, something that no prominent sports league I can think of has, may make people think twice about how they characterize it. As Patrick continues to compete and propel herself into the limelight, the sport will gain a greater base of fans just from the additional coverage it gains. Throw in the fact that huge sections of the country will be forced to confront their stereotypes about NASCAR, and this will prove to be a boom for the sport.
Mike gets 3 points for recognizing how Patrick has overcome many stereotypes. Joe gets 2 points for mentioning how NASCAR needs to expand its fan base to other parts of the country. Brendan gets 1 point for saying how we are now more compelled to listen to NASCAR coverage because of the publicity Patrick gets as a female driver.
3. With multiple trades and changes occurring in the NFL, which player, rumored to be in the process of a change, would you most like to see go to a different team?
MP: The highest profile player rumored to be on the move this offseason is the N.Y. Jets’ Darrelle Revis. Before a knee injury ended his season early, Revis was widely regarded as the best cornerback in football. The latest rumors suggest a trade to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the most interesting landing spot was the team that was the early on favorite to land him, the San Francisco 49ers. The Jets handcuffed themselves when it became clear that they would not be re-signing Revis and at this point it doesn’t appear that the Jets will get back the value that they’ll be trading. It would be crazy to imagine the league’s premier shutdown corner going to one of the most intimidating run defenses. San Francisco allowed only 155.7 rushing yards per game last year, and they get after the quarterback with elite pass rushers like Justin Smith. It would be very interesting to see a team like that add a player like Revis.
JC: Darrelle Revis MUST be on a different team before this season starts for various reasons. To start, the Jets are, or at least should be, in a rebuilding stage, and they should be trying to acquire as many top picks as they can, and there are certainly teams out there that are willing to part with first-round picks for Revis. When you’re in a rebuilding stage, you need volume and competition at nearly every position, and keeping Revis will not allow you to have that. Why? Because the guy is going to ask for near $15 million next season. The Jets cannot afford to pay a defensive back $15 million while they watch their quarterback finish top-five in the league in turnovers, and their offense perform as one of the worst in the league. Therefore, since the Jets should not be planning to re-sign Revis, whose contract expires after this upcoming season, it would make the most sense for them to trade him now, while he still has pretty high value on the trade market.
BM: Darelle Revis. I love the Jets. I love Revis. But this team has become so full of problems that there does not seem to be any hope of a good season this year. If he walks and the Jets don’t capitalize on his value, they’ll just cut down their chances of turning it around. They need to squeeze some draft picks out of him. If they do this and chop out all of the bad players in their clubhouse, they can put themselves in decent position to bounce back next year. They have a good coach, and they finally have a good general manager, who won’t trade away all of their picks. If they trade Revis now, they have a shot at being a good team in 2014 and getting back on track If they hold on to him, they’re just going to hold themselves back.
Brendan gets 3 points for stating how the Jets must trade Revis and set themselves up for better seasons in the future, as there isn’t much hope for them currently. Joe gets 2 points for recognizing how Revis will be demanding a huge amount of money next year and that the Jets need to capitalize on that. Mike gets 1 point for predicting Revis’s move to the 49ers.
Brendan wins Around the Dorm, 7-6-5.