Dojo Sparring 7/8 – 7/14

Joe to Greg

Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander

Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander

With the All Star break looming, it seems like the first half of the season has lived up to our expectations. I feel like we’re obligated to talk about the All-Star selections for each league. Your Orioles sent four, three of which are representing a solid core for the starters. The Tigers on the other hand showcase some of the power their lineup has to offer sending Miguel Cabrera (Starter), Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, and Jhonny Peralta (Reserves). That does not include their aces, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. What are your thoughts on the makeup of both teams? Also what are your predictions for the Home Run Derby and winner of the All-Star game?

Greg to Joe

I definitely think there could have been some interesting things done with the rosters if the lineups were not selected by the fans. Here are my AL and NL starting lineups:


1. Jacoby Ellsbury CF

2. Mike Trout LF

3. Miguel Cabrera DH

4. Chris Davis 1B

5. Jose Bautista RF

6. Robinson Cano 2B

7. Evan Longoria 3B (if not healthy, Adrian Beltre)

8. Joe Mauer C

9. Manny Machado SS (SS is weak in the AL with Hardy winning that vote. Machado could play good defense and have great offensive production and help turn over the line up)

SP: Yu Darvish (My First Half AL Cy Young)


1. Andrew McCutchen LF

2. Carlos Gomez CF

3. Joey Votto 1B

4. Giancarlo Stanton RF

5. Paul Goldschmidt DH

6. David Wright 3B

7. Troy Tulowitzki SS (since injured, I would put Ian Desmond here with Andrelton Simmons as the defensive replacement)

8. Yadier Molina C

9. Matt Carpenter 2B

SP: Matt Harvey (My First Half NL Cy Young and its at Citi Field)

I think these lineups would lead to a game that would be one to remember. Unfortunately, these are not the lineups. I do think that the AL will win. It is a stacked team and should be able to take a lead and hold it with the great relievers in the ‘pen. I think Mariano Rivera gets a save in his final All Star game, and it just so happens to be in New York.

Home Run Derby quick prediction: Yoenis Cespedes over Bryce Harper in the final round

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard

In basketball, there have been some big moves made. Dwight Howard made his decision to go to Houston, as I predicted. I think he and The Bearded One (my new nickname for James Harden) will make a tremendous 1-2 punch. I know the Rockets have looked at all of the advanced statistics and determined that this combo would one of the best in the league. I trust advanced stats; I think they are very useful in baseball and are growing in the basketball community. I am excited to see that team. I do think it will be the best video game team because you can just chuck up 3’s with Harden, and if he misses, Howard will just get the board. It’s too bad that Josh Smith went to Detroit… He would have been a great third in a Houston Big 3.

What’d you think of the Howard deal and how do you think the All Star game will shape up?

Since the NFL season is fast approaching, who do you think the NFC playoffs teams will be? We can do AFC next week because I think we will be debating more about that since we both have horses in that race.

Joe to Greg

Like you’ve noted, the All-Star game is full of star studded lineups. I give the edge to the AL because of their bats and raw power. By no means will it be a blowout, but the AL has that ability to put up a big inning very quickly. Shifting gears a little, I don’t know what to think of the Dwight Howard trade. There are a lot of “What ifs” in this case but one of the most interesting questions that was brought up throughout the Howard sweepstakes was who handled their decision better, Howard or LeBron? While I thought that LeBron’s decision was madly over hyped, after seeing the ways rumors fluttered the headlines everyday leading up to Howard’s decision, I’m obliged to side with LeBron’s tactic to come out with a formal decision at a set time. Although I hope Howard doesn’t pull one of these out of his hat.

Howard’s decision was masked by sources saying, “He’s still 50-50 between Houston and LA” and people questioning his motives. In terms of handling the free agency situation, Howard could have done better, and Houston is an interesting choice as well. As soon as I heard Houston was Howard’s new home, I thought it was a great fit for him. After letting things soak in for the past couple days I’ve changed my mind a little. I don’t question Kevin McHale‘s coaching ability or the structure of the current Rockets’ roster but the Rockets play similar to how the Lakers play. Howard didn’t embrace Mike D’Antoni‘s pick-and-roll system in Los Angeles but the Rockets system is based off of the same ideas. James Harden gets the ball and a pick and he makes plays; something quite similar to Kobe in LA. I think something that played into Howard’s decision was the fan’s lack of appreciation for him, which in turn shied him away from the spotlight. He needs to feel wanted and that’s something LA never really displayed. In the end, Houston is the best team and fit because it gives him a place where the team’s future had a lot of potential before his arrival and their chances only got better since. Houston has the same feel that Orlando provided for Howard earlier in his career so I think this decision is the best for Howard, regardless of the X’s and O’s.

Quick NFC predictions for the playoffs:

1. Green Bay Packers (Rodgers, Manning, Brady in no order for top QB)

2. San Francisco 49ers (Look for another competitive 49ers team this year)

3. Atlanta Falcons (The Falcons will not be the last undefeated team like they were in 2012, they better look behind them, their division is quietly growing stronger)

4. Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson wins games)

5. Washington Redskins (September 9th can’t come faster [Home vs Philly, 7:00 pm ESPN], will RGIII be ready?)

6. New Orleans Saints (Saints finish the season with Panthers, Rams, Panthers, Bucs, I’m hoping Brees can make a late push)


7. Chicago Bears (I like seeing Jay Cutler struggle)

8. Philadelphia Eagles (Nice try Chip Kelly)

Just for fun, who do you think will have the better transition as a college coach turned professional coach? Chip Kelly going from Oregon to the Eagles or Brad Stevens going from Butler to the Celtics? Also your NFC predictions?

Greg to Joe

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James

Oh, Howard did a much worse job of making a decision than LeBron. Howard was a whiney baby and couldn’t make up his mind, and he dragged it out over two years. LeBron made it one summer and one decision that no one in Cleveland liked. Yet, for some odd reason, LeBron is a evil human being and that everyone hates when Howard did the same things except much worse than LeBron did. It’s because LeBron James is the most talented basketball player to ever live. Yeah, I said it. His physical gifts make him so unique on a basketball court; he can do ANYTHING. So everything he does is magnified. And back to the Cleveland comment, those fans are gonna be kicking themselves if he decides he doesn’t want to come back to Cleveland even though their future is looking much brighter than Miami’s (when looking at each team without LeBron). Especially, if he says the reasoning is all the hatred he received from them when he left.  I realize that I am changing topics again, but Howard and Houston should work out well. I’m excited to see it.

For the coaches… Chip Kelly will have a better transition. He is so innovative and I think he’ll be great, but that team has no talent. He better hope they finish as the bottom 1 or 2 teams so he can get Teddy Bridgewater to run his offense and if he isn’t available at 2, he should take Jadeveon Clowney. Stevens will fair well from the beginning I think. He has a 6 year contract so I think they are going to stick with him for awhile. I just wonder if they are going to tank this year to try and get a ping pong ball. If the Celtics tank and get a top 5 pick, they’ll be back in the thick of things quickly.

Now NFC playoff picture… First comment on yours… Eagles are a bottom 5 team in the league. BEST CASE SCENARIO for this year… 7-9 and they won’t sniff the playoffs.

1. Seahawks (Wilson is great and that team is so dominant around him)

2. Saints (Sean Payton and Drew Brees come back with a BANG)

3. Packers (Aaron Rodgers is a stud and he has a running game this year!)

4. Redskins (Team was banged up last year and still won the division, and that division is really bad… will be close with Giants I think)

5. 49ers (They’ll have the second best record in the NFC, but won’t win their own division)

6. Rams (Jeff Fisher‘s second season, sleeper team. They will be able to go on a big winning streak at the end finishing off against Seattle because they’ll be resting their starters after locking down the 1 seed)

Just missed…

Bears, Lions, and Giants

Jadeveon Clowney's hit in the 2013 Outback Bowl

Jadeveon Clowney’s hit in the 2013 Outback Bowl

So I wanna hear what you have to say about the coaches. I realize you have a SLIGHT bias with Stevens coaching the Bawston Celtics. And who do you think will finish in the bottom of the NFL this year? Who will get to draft Jadeveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 NFL Draft?

Joe to Greg

I threw the Eagles up high just for the fun of it, I predict they’ll have a losing record but I think they end the season having a good feel for the following season. I’d watch out for Chip Kelly’s second year but who knows, maybe he’ll surprise us all. The Brad Stevens acquisition to the Celtics is interesting but I like the move. It is clear that the Celtics are in a “rebuilding” mode and I think Stevens is one of the perfect people to enter this situation. The Celtics will be competitive but they are going to endure a tough year ahead. I’m predicting they’ll wind up getting a top 10 draft pick in next years stacked class. This upcoming draft class is going to be one of the best we’ve seen in the past 20 years. Its going to be a deep draft with multiple future franchise players (Andrew Wiggins for example). I see Kelly having the better first season because some of his core players are still there, whereas Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were shipped to Brooklyn, making it a tougher roster for Stevens to manage and work with.

In no particular order I’d group these teams in the bottom of the league for the upcoming season…

-Oakland Raiders (My pick for #1 in the draft next year)

-Cleveland Browns (Trent Richardson will be a nice ray of sunshine on another cloudy season)

-New York Jets (Mark. Sanchez.)

-Jacksonville Jaguars (They’re a confusing bad team because they play in such a weak division but they don’t have a reliable quarterback, also my #2 pick for the draft)

-Buffalo Bills (Going to be tough to compete with a rebuilt Dolphins team and established Pats team)

-Philadelphia Eagles (Although I projected them high in the NFC Playoff picture, still too many questions until Week 1 rolls around, so to be safe, they have a spot on this list)

Your thoughts on the NFL’s bottom tier teams for next year’s draft? Also, does the arrival of Andrew Bynum help attract LeBron James back to Cleveland next summer?

Greg to Joe

My bottom teams are similar. The Raiders are tied for worst team with the Jets. They literally have no talent. It is unbelievable how they are able to do that. I think the only reason that the Browns will be low is because they are in one of the best divisions in football. I actually think they are pretty good and Chud (former Panthers O-cordinator) could really turn that team around. That was one of my favorite head coaching hirings this off-season. Eagles are gonna be bad, but I talked about that before. I do think the Bills will be bad, but the Dolphins won’t be good. The Patriots (and their fans) have nothing to worry about. My two other bottom feeders would be the Jaguars and Titans. The Jaguars have no quarterback and no talent in all honesty. The Titans are pretty bad too. If Jake Locker is not the solution at quarterback, they definitely do not have an answer on their current roster. Also, their defense gave up the most points out of ALL defenses last year. It just does not look good for them.

Read one of my Daily Dojo’s from last week for my response on that Cleveland and LeBron question. Lemme know if you wanna take the bet.


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