Welcome to the second installment of The Immaculate Inning’s Master Debaters. Today, I will be acting as moderator while Agent Swag and Xenod answer some of the pressing questions of the day. Let’s get right to it.
1) A-Rod has 8 homers in 12 games: Will he break Roger Maris' AL HR record?
Xenod: A-Rod is off to a great start, and he has a good chance to make a run at the record, but I wouldn't put it any higher than 5%. His career max is 57HRs in 2002 a which shows he's certainly physically and he hit 48 HR a couple years ago, so he's certainly physically capable. The chances of him getting hurt or going through one slump too many is just too great. Look at Pujols last year. He was off to a phenomenal start and was crushing everything he swung at, but he got hurt.
Agent Swag: No, that's a ridiculous pace to keep up, and it's absurd to be discussing this two weeks into the season...if he's still on pace in a couple months, then we can talk. Besides, when the games actually matter later in the year, he will just strike out, right Yankees fans?
Mehmattski: Actually, no. I would say most Yankee fans are, like me, supportive of A-Rod and would like to see the trade rumors, the booing, the opt out talk all vanish. Regardless, this is still a hot start of historical proportions, one that has not been seen in the 100 year history of the New York Yankees, who I think have had some pretty good sluggers, I hear.
2) Should Bud Seilig and Hank Aaron go to Bonds' games when he gets close to 756?
Xenod: Hank Aaron can do whatever he wants, because he's Hank Aaron. I think he's certainly earned the privilege to take the high/non-committal road and not be at the crucial game. Bud Selig on the other hand, is the commissioner of Major League Baseball. In a game of statistics and records the Career Homerun Record is the big daddy of all records. This is way too important for Selig to downplay and avoid. Bonds breaking the record will force him to take a stand and either show up to the game and give his best Fake-Bud smile as he hands Bonds some plaque, or announce that due to the use of performance enhancing drugs Barry Bonds is forever disqualified from the career homerun record. I think that the time to stop Bonds from breaking Aaron's record was 3 years ago. Unless a syringe falls out of Bonds' pants as he rounds third on the way to 756, Selig has lost the window to ban Bonds from baseball.
Mehmattski: Agent Swag agrees with you, Xenod, and I do too for the most part. What strikes me as a bit odd is that Aaron has repeatedly said that Bonds hasn’t been convicted or officially accused of anything, but then he also says that he doesn’t approve of Bonds breaking his record. When it comes down to it, all it may be is that Aaron is just a weird old man. After all, it’s not like Babe Ruth came to Aarons 715th homer…
3) What is the most compelling story in the NFL Draft? Who will make the most immediate impact for his NFL team in 2007?
Xenod: The most compelling story is that there is no big story. There's no Vince Young or Reggie Bush in this draft. I'm not saying there's no good players, just that there's nobody nearly as heralded as those two were last year. It's a blah year for the NFL draft, but I'm sure great players will emerge, we just don't know who yet.
Agent Swag: I really don't find much about this draft that compelling. There are no ready-made superstars like last year, although Calvin Johnson is likely to turn into a very very good player. Joe Thomas seems like a nice guy...he's going fishing with his father during the draft instead of attending it in person like every other Top 5 pick ever. So I'm going to have to go with the most compelling story being the over/under on the amount of fish he catches and their combined weight, which I'm going to expertly place at 4 fish and 80 lbs. Takers?
4) The NBA playoffs are about to start, and so players like LeBron James will start to give a care. Who ya got? And is there any chance that any of the top three seeds in both conferences are upset in the first round?
Agent Swag (AKA our “NBA Guy”): I'm really excited about the playoffs this year...the Western Conference is going to be an absolute dogfight, and I could see any of the top five teams in it winning the whole thing. The East...well, not so much.
In the first round, as much as I'd like to pick the lower seeds, I think the only ones that actually will win their series are the two five seeds, who both actually have better records than the four seeds, and therefore homecourt advantage. Utah has been struggling lately, and with the way McGrady and Yao are playing right now, I think the Rockets have more than enough firepower to take out the Jazz. The Bulls are simply a much better team than Miami, especially with Wade at less than full strength. I'd pick Orlando to beat Cleveland, but the Pistons are just too good for them, so not pulling themselves out of the eight seed really hurt the Magic. The Nets (6 seed) definitely have the talent to take out the Raptors (3 seed), but I just can't see them pulling it together for an entire series, and Chris Bosh is having a great season. However, if there is one big upset in the first round, I've got to think it will be in that series. In the West, the top three are just too good to go down early. As much as people want you to think the bottoms teams have a chance (and if anyone does, it's Denver, as their great 'Melo-AI experiment is finally coming together), the Big Three are just too dominant. As much as I want to pick Denver, San Antonio was 25-3 in their 28 games before the last week of the season (during which they lost two because they stopped concentrating on winning with their seed locked up and a third because of the Crawford-Duncan incident), and they are going to be hard to stop in the playoffs.
As for the rest of the playoffs, look for the eventual champion to reside in the Lone Star State. Any of the three Texas teams could win this thing. Everyone knows how great the Mavs and Spurs are, but the Rockets are also more than capable of doing some damage. With T-Mac having perhaps his best season and Yao turning into a dominating inside force, the Rockets are playing at an incredibly high level while staying just under the national radar. The key for them will be the play, particularly the shooting, of Rafer Alston. If he can hold up his end of the deal, the Rockets certainly have the tools to go all the way with the two superstars and Battier, Head, Howard, and Mutombo.
If truly pressed to give a champion, I would have to say the Mavericks, but none of the Texas teams would surprise me, and of course the Suns have as good of a shot as anyone. It should be a great playoffs, and I can't wait for it to get started.
5) The Great NBA Draft Debate: Oden or Durant?
Agent Swag: Almost impossible to say. Neither played under a coach in college who was able to utilize their talents to their fullest potential. Durant seems to have more competitive fire and potential, but you can't teach size, and Oden has it in spades, as well as good mobility and athleticism for his size. I really don't think the team with the first pick can go wrong either way, so I would pick based on the biggest need for my team.
Xenod: I gotta go for Durant. I just don't see the intensity in Oden that is needed to be great. It's true that you can't teach size, but I don't think you can really teach passion either, and both are needed. I'm sure he'll have a good NBA career, but the Bill Russel comments are very, very, premature.
6) Which baseball player acquired this off-season has had the biggest impact for his team in the first two weeks?
Agent Swag: The best offseason acquisition so far has been Carlos Lee of the Astros. He has single-handedly been responsible for at least 2, and probably 3 or 4 of the team's 7 wins on the season. While his teammates have struggled at the plate (even Lance Berkman), Lee has hit .327 with 5 HR and 17 RBI. He has also meshed well with his teammates and loosened up a very professional clubhouse. If he can continue to contribute as he has so far (and the thus-stellar starting pitching holds up), look for big things from the Astros this year.
Xenod: Gary Sheffield.
Mehmattski: But… are you going to offer any explanation? Is it his .132 batting average? Or his one home run?
Xenod: But it was a big ‘un.
Mehmattski: Yeah. In the first inning. Of an April game. Against the Royals. Clearly you know nothing about soccer.
7) Bigger surprise: That Tampa Bay has scored the most runs (75) or that Chicago and San Fransisco have scored the least (39)?
Agent Swag: I've got to go with Chicago and San Francisco, if only because Tampa Bay has an extraordinary collection of athletes. They are young, so I don't see them winning their division or anything (especially considering who's in it...), but they certainly have a nice collection of talent down there that can mash with the best of them.
Xenod: The bigger surprise is Chicago. Any team can get off to a hot start, but it takes talent for a whole team to suck. Tampa isn't known for its Major League pedigree, but it was common knowledge that Delman Young and B.J. "throw the ball into the stands" Upton had bright futures in the majors.
Mehmattski: If only they could put some pitching together, the Devil Rays could be a formidable team. Chicago may actually improve now that Scott Podsednik is on the DL, although with Darrin “automatic out” Erstad leading off, any kind of mediocrity is possible. The Giants entire roster, meanwhile, is known to tank afternoon games so they can shower in time to make the early bird specials at Denny’s.
8) Ian Kinsler (.333/.429/.847, 7 HR): great mid round fantasy draft pick, or greatest mid round fantasy draft pick?
Agent Swag and Xenod: Two words: Chris. Shelton.
Mehmattski: Shelton was a rookie. This is Kinsler’s second year. Clearly he’s not going to keep slugging that well, but second base is a weak fantasy position full of young, inconsistent players. Kinsler’s at the top of the game for now.