In this week’s edition of Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Matthew Ajaj, asks our panel of experts three questions: Should the MLB introduce a salary cap? What NBA team will surge in the second half of the season and which new NFC East coach is primed for success soonest?
1. With MLB teams throwing money at non-superstar talents like Jason Heyward and Justin Upton, is it time for pro baseball to incorporate a salary cap?
Matt: No, MLB will not implement a salary cap anytime soon. It’s not like the fairness of the game depends on a salary cap. All of the best teams build through the draft rather than throw money at free agents. Last year’s World Series teams — the Mets, and the Royals in particular — are small market teams that prove winning is possible without breaking the bank. Even the Yankees, who have long been known to outbid any team, have cut back on spending in recent years. Money like Heyward and Upton received should only be spent to add that final piece that will put the team over the top, as is the case with the Cubs, who gave Heyward a boatload of money. He’s still young and is a complete, five-tool player on who the Cubs rightfully splurged.
Sydney: Two years ago, Heyward and Upton were the Braves’s corner outfielders. Today, it costs almost $317 million to employ the both of them. MLB has a number of price controls in place right now. There is no obligation to pay more than the minimum until a player qualifies for it. That means being eligible for salary arbitration, hard slots in the draft and the MLB luxury tax. These systems of control clearly aren’t enough, though, especially considering free agents’ salaries. The easiest way to fix a roster is to snag a free agent, so it’s mind boggling that they’re paid so heavily. Let’s look at Heyward and Upton individually. Heyward is an elite defender and a talented base-runner. Upton is a more-than-decent hitter and was a tremendous improvement to the Tigers lineup. But ultimately, they aren’t worth such a high cost. It’s time for a salary cap.
Jessica: Having a salary cap would be beneficial for MLB. It’s been shown that teams who spend heavily, like the St. Louis Cardinals who spend upward of $130 million, end up in the playoffs and often make it to the World Series. In the past few years, the only teams that have competed in the World Series have been teams that have a high payroll. Teams that can afford better players just keep stacking the deck and it doesn’t give any other teams a chance to make it the World Series when they are up against these teams. Another issue is that, at this point, players expect that they can get a high salary if they’re worth it. This leads to players that are basically playing for money. When Robinson Cano left the New York Yankees to sign with Seattle Mariners it was clear that the $240 million deal was the number one reason he chose to leave. It goes to show that many players are not as worried about the wins and successes in their careers as they are concerned with their salary. With a cap, it could put more focus on the players and not on the dollar signs that come with them.
Sydney gets 3 points for mentioning the system’s faults. Jessica gets 2 points for talking about players’ intentions and Matt gets 1 point since the Yanks haven’t won with cutting back.
2. The NBA season is halfway over. Which teams do you expect to surge or slump in the second half?
Matt: The Heat currently sit in fifth-place in the dreadful Eastern Conference, and are only three games back of the second seed. The Cavaliers will have the top spot locked up, but after that, the conference is a mess. With experienced leaders like Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh leading the way, the Heat have the veteran playoff experience needed to make that late season push. With the emergence of center Hasan Whiteside as a great third option, the Heat have multiple ways to beat teams. Look for them to make a surge for a top-three seed.
Sydney: The top of this year’s Western Conference is a bloodbath. In any other year, the Oklahoma City Thunder would coast in the regular season to a No. 1 seed. Now they’re going to have to play through the end and will struggle down the stretch. A team that relies so heavily on its two stars, the oft-injured Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, can’t expect to keep up the Olympic pace required in the West this year. With the red-hot L.A. Clippers right behind them, I expect the Thunder to drop down to that fourth seed. Meanwhile, it’s easy to see the team directly ahead of the Thunder in the standings, the San Antonio Spurs, enjoy a second-half surge that propels Gregg Popovich’s well-oiled machine into first place. This team knows how to grind out wins better than anyone. Some nights it’s the tried-and-true triumvirate of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili carrying the team and in other games, it’s low-profile players like Jonathon Simmons and MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard. This is a roster built for a full season.
Jessica: In my opinion, the Golden State Warriors are definitely the team to watch. They’ve been successful so far this season, entering the second half with a record of 40-4. They recently fell into a slump, but with the return of Stephen Curry, the Warriors are back on track to how they began the season. Their defense is unstoppable. With Andrew Bogut stepping up to help, the defense is one of the best in the league. They are able to move the ball around the court and have had games where they’ve garnered over 30 assists, something that is one of their goals each time they play. On the other end, the L.A. Lakers continue to disappoint and with a 9-36 record leading into the second half of the season, things don’t look like they will get better. They have games where they may have a chance to take home a “W,” but seem to fall short. The Lakers need to step it up if they want a chance in the playoffs.
Sydney gets 3 points for in-depth analyses. Matt and Jessica each get 2 points for predicting the Heat to get hot and the Warriors to get hotter, respectively.
3. New NFC East coaches Ben McAdoo and Doug Pederson have tough tasks ahead, but who has the better chance of leading their team to a division title next season?
Matt: I would give the nod to Pederson and the Eagles. Former head coach Chip Kelly gutted the roster of talented players, but the Eagles are better positioned than the Giants, who had the worst defense in the NFL last year. One or two players in the draft cannot fix that defense, and with coordinate Steve Spagnuolo returning, it shouldn’t be much better. The Eagles were equally terrible, but coordinator Bill Davis is gone and a new 4-3 scheme has been implemented, which much better suits the team’s personnel. Both offenses are comparable now that Kelly is gone and Pederson will tinker his system to the team’s strengths. For these reasons, give me the Eagles.
Sydney: I’d have to put my money on McAdoo. He has what Pederson wants — defensive coordinator Spagnuolo. While the Eagles don’t necessarily need Spagnuolo to succeed, the blow of rejection puts the new coach at a disadvantage before next season even begins. On top of that, Pederson was likely a fallback choice for the Eagles in the first place, who were interested in McAdoo and perhaps even prepared to offer the position to him before he was snagged by the Giants. McAdoo has been with the Giants since 2014 so he’s familiar with the team. That familiarity should give him an edge over Pederson, who served as the Eagles offensive quality control coach for a few years. He’s been with the Chiefs since 2013, so he’ll definitely need a refresher.
Jessica: Honestly, both coaches have a tough road ahead of them. Pederson is going to have a tough time with the Eagles since he is essentially rebuilding the team. Last year, former Head Coach Kelly tailored the Eagles to what he had wanted after being appointed head of Player Personnel. Kelly had such an idiosyncratic system when it came to coaching the team. This will make using the players Kelly chose difficult in Pederson’s system. On the other hand, McAdoo was the offensive coordinator for the Giants and he made their offense look good during the past couple of years. The expectations will be lower for Pederson, but at the same time people will want to see if he can make the Eagles a winning team.
Matt mentions the disparity between the teams’ defenses, Sydney acknowledges the Eagles settling and Jessica talks about the coaches’ future troubles. Each get 2 points.
Sydney wins Around the Dorm 8-6-5.