The Spurs Leading the Pack Debate Verdict

February 10, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

The San Antonio Spurs are off to one of the best starts in NBA history. And when you consider that their historical company has each gone on to win the championship in the respective seasons they started so strongly, it makes you wonder if the Spurs are destined for the same fate.

But we are not trying to gaze into a crystal ball, today.

This debate is not about whether the Spurs will win the NBA Finals, it is about whether they are the best team in the league. And based on what I have read from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer, it seems clear to me that the answer is – Yes, they are (congratulations to Loyal Homer)!

Babe Ruthless does raise some key questions about the Spurs performance to this point in the season. Specifically, he calls into doubt the Spurs record by pointing out that they have what many would consider an easy schedule. And while it is true that they have won the vast majority of those cupcake games, they have faltered when stepping onto the hardwood against steeper competition.

Although I can agree with that assessment, the exact same statement can be made about those other top tier teams that Babe Ruthless points to as challengers to the Spurs. The Boston Celtics have losses to the Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic, New Orleans Hornets, and Chicago Bulls, as well as the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors. Likewise, the Heat have lost to the Celtics twice, the Mavs twice, and have also lost to the Magic, as well as Memphis and Indiana.

The same can be illustrated by dissecting the records of the Maverics, Magic, and every other team in the league. Each organization has played more than 50 games, and none are undefeated. And so the fact that the Spurs lost a couple of their 52 games played thus far to other good teams is just not enough evidence to refute their claim as the best in the NBA.

On the flip side, though, Loyal Homer points to some statistics that CANNOT be matched by any other teams in the league.

Only once so far this season have the Spurs lost consecutive games, and that was simply a two-game skid on the road against the Knicks, then in Boston against the Celtics (a very understandable couple of losses). And while those consecutive losses have not been repeated by the Spurs, one feat they have duplicated is following their losses up with a LONG series of consecutive wins.

It should also be noted that their schedule may on the surface appear to be one of the weaker in the league, but the actual average winning percentage of their opponents (.506) has statistically posed a tougher strength of schedule than what the Heat (.477), Celtics (.485), Magic (.493), Lakers (.479), and the Bulls (.482) have each faced.

In all reality, there are still plenty of games left in the season, and the fact that the Spurs have the best record in the NBA right now is no guarantee that they will win the Finals. But teams like the 2007 New England Patriots will tell you that the best team doesn’t always win the championship.

No one can look into a crystal ball and predict which team will win the championship, but you can look at the records and see who has been most dominant – the San Antonio Spurs.

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The Spurs Leading the Pack Debate

February 9, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

Well, another NFL season is officially in the books. For those of you now shifting your focus to basketball, let me get you up to speed on how the season has gone thus far…

The Denver Nuggets decided to trade, then not trade, then trade, then not trade Carmelo Anthony.

Cleveland Cavaliers fans were shocked when Zydrunas Ilgauskas and some other guys decided to play ball in Miami with the Heat.

Speaking of the Cavs, that team is plunging the depths of failure to find out just how deep rock-bottom really is. The Cavs are well on the way to becoming the worst team not only in NBA history, but in the entire history of American professional sports with a historic 25-game losing streak.

Finally, with the All-Star break looming on the horizon, the team leading the standings with the best record in the league is… (pause for dramatic effect)… the San Antonio Spurs.

Through the first half of the season, the Spurs have rocketed to an impressive record of 42-8, a full 4.5 games ahead of any other teams in the league. But with the experienced and team-oriented Boston Celtics, the superstar-laden Miami Heat, or the two-time reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers out there – Are the San Antonio Spurs REALLY the best team in basketball at the season midpoint?

According to Loyal Homer, the Spurs record is an indication of the fact that they are the best team in the league while Babe Ruthless feels the Spurs are not the best team, despite their current spot in the standings.

How do you measure the worth of a team? Let the arguments begin!

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The All-Star Selection Process Debate… Power to the Player

November 15, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Optimist Prime.

All-Star games are intended to serve two purposes. The first is to serve as a means for recognizing the league’s top players, and the second is to be an opportunity to entertain the fans with an exhibition, and hopefully generate a little extra revenue for the league.

Where is it written that an All-Star Game has to be arranged so that the two teams are divided by league or conference? Yes, it is ONE way to split the teams, and it is an EASY way to split them, but that does not mean it is the only way, or the correct way.

One problem with that format is that it mandates there MUST be an equal number of All-Stars from each conference, which is not always the case.

The NFL this season is the perfect example of this problem, where the AFC as a conference is loaded with powerhouse teams, while the NFC has only one or two clubs that are playing noteworthy football. That is not to say that teams like the Arizona Cardinals (who have lost four in a row) are a talentless organization, but does Larry Fitzgerald (for example), REALLY deserve a Pro Bowl invitation this season?

Fitzgerald entered yesterday’s performance with only 42 catches (tied for 18th in the NFL) for 510 yards (22nd in the NFL) and four touchdowns (tied for 21st in the NFL), while AFC receivers like Brandon Lloyd, Reggie Wayne, Terrell Owens, Andre Johnson, Chad Ochocinco, and Dwayne Bowe all have to compete for the restricted number of roster spots allotted only for the AFC. Compared to his AFC counterparts, is Fitzgerald truly stacking up as a Pro Bowler? I don’t think so.

Another issue I have with this format is that it makes it inherently impossible for us, as fans, to see how certain superstar athletes would match up against each other, or how they would complement each other if they played together.

Hockey fans can see Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins play together 82 times each year. Why do they have to play together AGAIN in an exhibition match that is intended as a reward for their individual performances on the ice?

Likewise, just imagine a line that featured a legend like Mike Modano at center, with Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin on the wings. Well, based on the “standard” format, that could never happen, since Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals are not in the same conference as Modano’s Detroit Red Wings, or Kane’s Chicago Blackhawks.

It is for those reasons that I am thrilled to hear about the unique new format that the NHL has decided to implement for determining which players will skate on each side of their All-Star game. Instead of restricting eligibility to geographic regions the NHL has opened it up so that All-Stars – as determined by a combination of fan vote and committee selection – will be randomly assigned to sides in the ultimate fantasy draft.

This is really the perfect format for establishing the pool of All-Star players, and determining the rosters for the game itself.

First, and most importantly, the voice of the fan will still be heard. As the paying customers for the business of hockey, they absolutely deserve the right to name which players will start in the exhibition game that celebrates the best in the league.

But where this gets interesting is in how the rest of the squads will be selected.

The first improvement made with this new process is that the remaining All-Stars will be selected by a league committee to establish a pool of 54 players, including 12 rookies. And although each team is guaranteed to have a representative in the pool of All-Star players, there is no restriction on the All-Star ballot by conference, which means that fans can vote for the best or most deserving players without any caveats. If the fans feel that the six best goalies in the NHL are all from the East, then they will have the opportunity to voice that opinion (and have it heard).

Then, from that pool, the players who were selected as the best of the season will get to be rewarded with a little control of their own. They will get to choose among themselves the All-Star captains, who will then draft from the remaining players to fill out their rosters regardless of which team they play for, and which conference they play in.

This new process adds a little gamesmanship – and a whole lot of intrigue – to a process that was previously a mere formality. Now, it’s not just about finding out which players were selected as All-Stars, but instead the fans will be treated to a fantasy draft that will surely generate copious amounts of analysis and water-cooler talk as the matchups and lineups are determined.

The new format will help stir up more of the players’ competitive juices by giving them control over which sides each superstar will play for, and will create a far more entertaining game and skills-challenge than has ever been seen in previous NHL seasons, or in any sport for that matter.

The All-Star game is not an outlet to determine something as important as home field advantage in the league championship. It is a break from the action for the league’s best to have some fun, and do what they do best – entertain the fans.

Leagues like the NFL, NBA, and MLB should take note, because this is one time where the NHL is the leader of the pack.

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The Trading Carmelo Anthony Debate

August 26, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer.

As Carmelo Anthony enters the final year of his contract the Denver Nuggets are faced with a huge dilemma. Anthony, a three-time All-Star with impressive stats, could (and in all likelihood probably will) walk away from Denver in free agency. His departure would leave a huge hole on the Denver roster – and the Nuggets would have nothing to show for it. If the team signs ‘Melo to a long-term deal and then trades him, maximizing his value, the Nuggets would be taking huge strides at building for a stronger Anthony-less future.

But, Anthony has been instrumental in leading the Nuggets to the playoffs. As a matter of fact, Denver has made the playoffs each season since Anthony joined the team. Can the Nuggets really afford to trade away a star of Anthony’s caliber, especially when he took the team to within two games of the NBA finals?

Bleacher Fan thinks so. He believes that it is in the Nuggets’ best interest to move ‘Melo now because it is not likely Denver would keep him in free agency. Bleacher Fan must prove that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Loyal Homer, however, is not convinced. He believes the Nuggets need Anthony to be competitive now and in the future. Loyal Homer has to prove that the Nuggets will emerge better in the end by hanging on to Anthony for one more season.

Gentlemen bring your best arguments – the future of a team hangs in the balance.

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The Stephen Strasburg All Star Debate Verdict

July 7, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

There are essentially two ways a baseball player can be named to an All-Star roster.

The first is by way of fan vote. This is my personal favorite as a method for selection because it recognizes the unique problem inherent in identifying the “best” performers. There are no specific criteria for determining an All-Star. The criteria could be a great hitting, a great fielding, or a great personality. Each reason is just as viable as the others. So, in a way befitting the great nation of America, the voice of the public is called upon to decide. If the fans want to see you play, you get to play – no strings attached.

The second method for being named to an All-Star team is by way of player or manager selection. In order to earn this type of honor a player must not only prove to the fans, but to peers and coaches, that they are the most deserving player for the recognition.

These are the hurdles that any professional baseball player in MLB must overcome to be named an All-Star, and Stephen Strasburg is no exception.

Babe Ruthless makes a very strong argument for Strasburg’s candidacy. If the attention that has surrounded Strasburg since his fashionably late debut in the majors serves as any indication, he almost certainly would have received enough fan votes to have been named to the NL All-Star squad if he were on the ballot.

Along with that exceedingly high level of fan support, he goes on to discuss that “talent is talent.” And, with a 2.45 ERA and 54 Ks in only six appearances, it is quite obvious that talent is one category in which Strasburg is not lacking.

Unfortunately for Strasburg, he was not active in the majors long enough to appear on the ballot for fan selection. Whether he WOULD have gotten enough votes if he had been eligible since day one is irrelevant. He DIDN’T get them – end of argument.

If the Washington Nationals felt as though Strasburg was not yet ready to start for the team at the beginning of the MLB season, why should he be eligible to receive fan votes for the All-Star game?

And so with one door closed, Strasburg’s only viable option for All-Star selection is by way of garnering enough support from his peers and the coaches around the league.

Loyal Homer addresses this point specifically by quoting Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel, who ultimately holds the responsibility for filling this year’s NL All-Star roster. When asked about whether or not he would consider Strasburg for the All-Star team, Manuel responded that Strasburg would need to “earn his way.”

Manuel is not implying that rookies are undeserving of All-Star selection. Instead, he is simply highlighting the fact that Strasburg has not played enough to warrant serious consideration.

For an average starting pitcher, six appearances amount to only 20 percent of the total they will make over the season. That is not nearly enough time to provide any real indication as to whether or not Strasburg is the real deal over the course of an entire season.

Baseball, more than any other sport, is a game of numbers. That is why the fan voting process begins so early, and plays out for such a long period of time. Some players may start out hot in the first six games of the season, but fade over the grueling stretch of the summer months. Likewise, it is possible for a player to start slow, but them come on strong as the season progresses.

Also, it should be noted that Strasburg’s first six appearances were not all boast-worthy.

Although he does claim a 2.45 ERA and 54 Ks, Loyal Homer points out that he has not won a game in three weeks (during which time he made four of his six total starts), and has only a 2-2 record to show for his hard work.

When you compare that pallid mark with those of other NL pitchers who also fell short in fan votes, such as Jaime Garcia and Mike Pelfrey, a 2-2 record simply cannot justify admission onto an All-Star roster.

It was that point that ultimately carried the day for Loyal Homer.

Stephen Strasburg is one of the brightest stars in baseball. He is loaded with potential, and the early indications are that he will live up all of the expectations set before him. The All-Star game is not about showcasing potential, though. It is about showcasing the best talent that IS in the game of baseball, not the best talent that COULD BE.

I have very little doubt that Stephen Strasburg will go on to a very successful career as a major league pitcher. He should earn for himself many opportunities to represent his respective league many times over as one of the best pitchers in the baseball.

The 2010 season is just not going to be one of those years.

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The Stephen Strasburg All-Star Debate

July 6, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

Despite the latest rumors, Stephen Strasburg CANNOT walk on water.

But, just about all of the other stuff that has been written about him since his entrance into the Major Leagues is absolutely true.

This season has been one giant coming-out party for the Washington Nationals frosh pitcher, and he appears at this point to be worth every single penny of the record-setting contract he signed last season.

He was virtually unhittable in his appearances in the minor leagues before FINALLY being called up early in June to step make his professional debut. And if not for a complete absence of run support, he could very well be sitting undefeated today (but alas, that’s the price you have to pay for being on one of the worst teams in baseball).

His supporters, such as Babe Ruthless, feel that his performance warrants All-Star recognition. But others, like Loyal Homer, feel that he is not yet worthy of such high praise (at least, not this year).

Which leads us to today’s debate topic: Should Stephen Strasburg be an All-Star?

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The MLB 2010 Best First Half Player Debate… A Texas Ranger Who Hits Harder Than Chuck Norris

July 5, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Babe Ruthless.

Now that the 2010 MLB All-Star rosters have been announced, who among them is THE All Star of the All Stars? That’s easy – Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.

While Hamilton may not boast the “most” home runs or the “best” batting average to this point in the season, he has turned in the best overall hitting performance of the first half, not just in the American League, but in all of the Majors.

Most impressive was his absolute tear through the month of June. Beginning on June 1, Hamilton proceeded to collect 49 hits in only 108 at bats for an average of .454. He also ripped nine home runs and 31 RBI, for a slugging percentage of .815.

Those totals propelled him onto the leaderboard for every single major hitting category, something that no other starting All-Star can claim (Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera COULD have claimed this, but he was edged in voting by the Twins’ Justin Morneau).

Here is a breakdown of where Hamilton’s hitting ranks today:

    Batting Average: .339 (fourth in both the AL and the Majors)

  • Hits: 106 (third in the AL and fourth in the Majors)
  • Home Runs: 20 (second in both the AL and the Majors)
  • RBI: 61 (fourth in the AL and fifth in the Majors)
  • Slugging: .617 (second in both the AL and the Majors)
  • OPS: 1.001 (third in both the AL and the Majors)

Along with those dominating totals, Hamilton has also racked up 23 doubles (only two behind the AL leaders), two triples, and has an on-base percentage of .385.

It is a performance worthy of the most fan votes for any American League outfielder, and it earned Hamilton his third consecutive starting nod.

But the REAL All-Stars aren’t just those who turn in big individual performances. Instead, the REAL All-Stars are those who not only perform exceptionally well, but they always seem to step it up a notch even further when their team needs it. After all, baseball is a TEAM sport, and individual accolades mean nothing if they are not in support of the team.

And that is precisely what Hamilton did. His Ruthian performance during the month of June may have added some value to his personal resumé, but the TRUE value of that performance was realized by the entire Texas Rangers organization.

As the month of May closed, the Rangers were riding a four game losing streak and they sat in second place in the AL West, one game behind Oakland. But when the calendar turned, and the Rangers began the month of June with a series against the Chicago White Sox, Hamilton kicked his performance into high gear.

He started off the month with a “quiet” 3-5 performance against Mark Buerhle, as the Rangers ended a four-game skid by beating the White Sox 9-6. That was just the beginning, as Hamilton’s bat would ultimately lead the Rangers on to a 21-6 record during the month, including an 11-game win streak during Interleague play against the top teams in the NL East (much to Loyal Homer’s chagrin).

And when the calendar flipped again as June rolled into July, the same Rangers team that started June on a losing slide finished it with a 4.5 game LEAD over the rest of their division.

The Rangers managed that impressive run by way of offensive explosion. During the month the team would go on to outscore opponents by a combined 173-100. It was Hamilton who led that offensive charge.

Being an All-Star is not just making yourself look good, it is making your TEAM look good by providing exactly what the rest of the team needs exactly when they need it most. Josh Hamilton did that.

He has proven to be the league’s best all-around hitter, and he stands poised at the All-Star break to now lead his team to its first postseason appearance since 1999.

That is what makes Hamilton the Most Valuable Player from the first half of 2010.

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