With only a handful of remaining issues, the competition is heating up as our contestants battle to lock up a position in the AtD playoffs. In this week’s AtD, Sports Editor Garrett Rasko-Martinis will ask Staff Writer Michael O’Donnell, WTSR Sports’ Mike Leatherwood and Correspondent Andrew Amadeo who they think has the best pitching staff, who is going to win the Naismith College Player of the Year and which sports movie actor gave the best performance.
1. As it currently stands, which major league team do you think sports the best pitching staff — rotation and bullpen?
MO: You have to go with the San Francisco Giants. They sported the most complete games, shutouts, and strikeouts in 2009, and the second best team ERA and opponent’s batting average in baseball in 2009. Those who pitched in (no pun intended) and helped with those prestigious distinctions are all coming back for 2010. With Cy Young-winner Tim Lincecum, 14-game winner Matt Cain, Barry Zito, who is slowly but surely coming back to form, flamethrower Jonathan Sanchez and one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, Madison Bumgardner, the Giants most definitely have the best rotation in baseball. As for the bullpen, it is a young staff that is starting to come into their own. The bullpen is anchored by top closer Brian Wilson. Wilson was third in the National League in saves at 38, while sporting an ERA under 2.75. Middle relievers Brandon Medders, Jeremy Affeldt and youngster Joe Martinez have provided solid innings without giving up much. Did I mention these kids in the bullpen are 30 or under? Yet, they all have the experience necessary to be effective at the Major League level. Put all that together, and the Giants will certainly be topping the pitching statistic charts all season long.
ML: I think the Boston Red Sox are coming into the season with the best pitching staff in baseball. They have seasoned veterans Josh Beckett and newly-acquired John Lackey at the top of the rotation, both of which have extensive playoff experience. Anytime you have two quality pitchers with playoff experience, your team will be in good shape come playoff time. They also have one of the best rising stars in baseball in John Lester. The difference between the Red Sox and many other teams is the depth of the rotation. They have five quality starters and if Daisuke Matsuzaka can be anywhere close to where he was in the ’06 World Baseball Classic, they would have a sixth. Along with Papelbon and flamethrowing future closer Daniel Bard in the pen, I’ll take the Sox staff over any other in baseball.
AA: The best pitching staff in the major leagues is the Atlanta Braves. Assuming Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner are still true to their form at the back end of the bullpen and Peter Moylan still can go just about every day in middle relief, they will have the best staff because Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami are absolutely filthy when it comes to throwing the ball.
GRM: Leatherwood picks up the 3 here. While all three teams mentioned here have excellent starting rotations, the Red Sox have a more dominant bullpen than both the Braves and the Giants. O’Donnell gets 2 here for throwing his support behind a Giant’s pitching staff that is certainly on the rise. Andrew gets the 1 here, because Saito and Wagner are both getting up there in age and I can’t see either of them being as dominant in the closer role as Papelbon or Wilson.
2. Which player do you think most deserves the Naismith College Player of the Year award and will they actually take it home? Is it John Wall? Evan Turner? Or someone else entirely?
MO: Without a doubt, Evan Turner is the Player of the Year in 2010. Turner is more valuable to his team than any other player is to all of college, and he’s not getting the best of help in making his Buckeyes the powerhouse they’ve been as of late. Turner leads the team in points per game, rebounds per game (he’s a guard/forward), and he was one of the top players on the team in almost every other statistical category. No one on the team comes close to what Turner does overall for his team. As for John Wall, he’s getting way more help then Turner. With teammates like DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson, potential top-five picks in the upcoming NBA Draft, Wall is easily getting much credit for his accomplishments. Can you name two Ohio State players besides Turner without any help? Didn’t think so. With a share of the Big Ten
regular season title, the Big Ten tournament title and a No. 2 seed in a bracket that no longer contains Kansas, it appears that Turner will be able to lay his claim for the Naismith award through the rest of the tourney. He’s the best, and he’s basically doing it without much quality help that he deserves.
ML: This year we have seen a change in college basketball in that there aren’t many real stand out players that we know will be top NBA-prospects. Many of the good teams rely on a combination of good coaching and team play rather than an individual taking over. That is why I believe that there is only a couple of deserving Naismith Player of the Year candidates. This year, John Wall deserves the honor. He has scored double digits in every one of Kentucky’s games but three, the first of which he didn’t play. Also, he is averaging over six assists per game and four rebounds as a guard. There is no player that can single-handedly take over a game like John Wall can. Yes, Evan Turner, Scotties Reynolds and Sherron Collins are good players. But I don’t think they are on the level that John Wall is.
AA: I think the college Player of the Year should be Greg Monroe of Georgetown. He is the best big man in the country — yes, he’s better than DeMarcus Cousins and he plays for a team that is not nearly as good as people think — just look at their early exit in the tournament. John Wall and Cousins because they play together cancel out and Evan Turner has David Lighty and Jon Diebler. The only other guy I can think of would be Greivez Vasquez, but because of the weak ACC this year and the tough Big East I’d give the nod to Monroe.
GRM: I’m giving O’Donnell the 3 here for bringing up an excellent point that Turner had less help than Wall in leading the Buckeyes this season to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a Big Ten title. Leatherwood gets the 2 here, even though I too prefer Wall over Turner, O’Donnell made a better argument. Andrew gets the 1.
3. Which actor in a sports movie do you think was the most believable athlete?
MO: There are many sports movies with very believable athletes in them, including “Slap Shot” with Paul Newman, “61*” with Barry Pepper as Roger Maris and Thomas Jane as Mickey Mantle, and “The Express” with Rob Brown as Ernie Davis. However, the most believable of all is Quinton Aaron, who played Michael Oher in the movie “The Blindside.” A lot of factors went into his very real portrayal of the current Baltimore Ravens lineman. Not many people are aware of the fact that Aaron grew up in a
situation very similar to Oher, where he did not have much in terms of family, food, shelter and education. And just like Oher, his life began to turn around. It clearly reflects as such on-screen. Aaron also plays off Sandra Bullock’s stunning performance of her character extremely well, and she made his character that much more of a hero and a sympathetic figure. Finally, the obvious is also what made his character believable. Aaron has the same build, demeanor and features as Oher. Aaron’s depiction of a future NFL lineman who had to push himself physically and mentally to get to that level is clear and apparent. Quinton Aaron covered all the bases of believability. He knocked it clean out of the park.
ML: I have to say that Quinton Aaron in “The Blindside” is one of the best representations of an athlete we have seen in the past 10 years or so. As much as I love sports movies and these documentary-style portrayals of sports stories, I feel like sometimes we don’t exactly connect with the featured athlete if they are played by a big-time movie star. For example, when Keanu Reeves starred as Shane Falco in “The Replacements,” I had a hard time believing that he was a real athlete because I was so used to seeing Keanu Reeves in movies such as the “Matrix.” However before “The Blindside,” no one had ever seen Quinton Aaron in a major role, which made the audience connect with the character even more. The other major reason Aaron fit the role so well was the physical size of the actor. Aaron is 6’8 and probably over 300 pounds, which really helps when playing an offensive lineman. In the end Aaron fit the role the best and in my mind, is the most believable actor in sports movies.
AA: The most believable athlete in a sports movie in my opinion is Kevin Costner in “Bull Durham.” He plays an aging ballplayer who has had a career catching in the minor leagues and his portrayal of the character is what really makes the movie. A close second and third place would go to Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky” and Robert DeNiro in “Raging Bull,” but how hard is it really to pretend to get hit in the face in a ring?
GRM: Andrew gets the 3 for mentioning my favorite sports movie ever in “Bull Durham.” I’ve been saying for years that Costner must have played baseball in his life because when he’s hitting and catching you can believe that his character is a minor league player. O’Donnell and Leatherwood both sided with Quinton Aaron but I’m giving the 2 to O’Donnell for mentioning how Aaron’s life growing up factored into his performance as Oher. Leatherwood gets the 1 – and I disagree about Keanu Reeves in “The Replacements,” whenever he was on the field I thought he knew how to move in the pocket and throw the ball and made a convincing quarterback.
O’Donnell wins 7 – 6 – 5