Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Head to Head

For the latest round of banter on Within Reason, we'll be checking in with our friend Randy again, to talk a little NFL, a little MLB, and for a quick round of "Over rated, Under rated, Spot on."

As always, feel free to weigh in by posting a comment, and enjoy.

Within Reason: Alright Randy, let's get to it. If The Steelers win the next Super Bowl, and The Patriots and Steelers end this decade with 3 Super Bowl wins a piece, who would get the nod as 'the team of the decade'?

Randy: So let me set the record straight about my allegiance first. I'm a Seahawks fan first and foremost. Ever since the Mayflower moving van moved the Colts from Baltimore, the Hawks are my team. But when I moved to Boston in '01, I did get swallowed up in the whole hoopla. My issue with the Pats is their fans and their blind allegiance (see Spygate - though I think this was far overblown).

With that said, in my opinion, the Pats would be the team on this decade. My four main reasons are:
Only 1 year of 8-8 or worse (Steelers had two years)

16-0 in a year that they did not even win the Super Bowl (but were clearly the best team)

They have the best QB of the era

They have the best coach of the era

And the "Bettis" Bowl still haunts me with all those brutal calls against my Hawks!

No knock on the Steelers, but they just aren't the team when I think of this decade.

WR: Absolutely agree. There is only one kink that could potentially arise - and that's if The Steelers go through The Patriots to win next year's Super Bowl. That would still put the Pats ahead in head-to-head AFC Championship showdowns (2-1) - but in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of sports opinions, it would be a big step towards The Steelers laying claim to the crown.

The other, uglier side of the debate is Spygate. Regardless what you think of the events that transpire, you cannot ignore the fact that - if we encounter the scenario of a third SB title for The Steelers - Pittsburgh fans will by crying at how their team won "fair and square", etc. I personally think it's hooey - but it would be an interesting debate nonetheless.

Let's move on to a related topic and play a little OUSO: Ben Roethlisberger.

R: Big Ben, huh.

Ok, here is my take. Unlike Brady and Manning (the two best QBs of this era), Ben is a truly a system guy. I honestly don't think he is all that different from a lot of QBs out there. I think he is solid, but given the praise he has received of late, I would say he is overrated. I dare anyone to watch the "Bettis" bowl over again and tell me that he is as good as Brady or Peyton.

Straight up, with all things equal, I would take Brees, McNabb, and even Rivers over him. May sound crazy. To be fair, I did think Ben took steps forward last year. So this year will be critical in how I look at him in terms of the all-timers of this day and age.

WR: Once again, we agree - but would use different examples to illustrate our points.

I certainly place Roethlisberger in the second tier of NFL QBs, just below 'elite' status. The way I determine 'elite' is as follows: If you took QB 'X' and placed them on a bottom level team - we'll use St. Louis as an example - would the addition of the QB instantly turn the team into a contender?

I think there are only a few QBs who can be placed in the "yes" category. First on the list is Tom Brady, slightly ahead of Peyton Manning. Reason for Brady getting the nod is his record of performing well not only when surrounded by a very good to great offense - as Manning has for nearly all of his career - but also doing well when surrounded by average, to slightly below average offensive talent. While Manning might be the best pure QB in the league, Brady tops my list for his ability to elevate those around him. I'm going to reserve judgement on Drew Brees until he puts up solid numbers for 1 more year. While I think Reggie Bush was over-hyped, he is certainly a QB's best friend - a la Marshall Faulk (see Kurt Warner and Peyton Mannin) - in that he is such a threat to receive the swing pass out of the backfield. McNabb has consistently been the most under appreciated QB in the league, but I think he's past his prime, and has fallen from the ranks of the truly 'elite.'

Roethlisberger fits somewhere in here. I don't think if you placed him in St. Louis, the Rams would contend - at least not any more so than if you placed Philip Rivers or Matt Hasselbeck there. Even on his own team I don;t think Big Ben is irreplaceable. When Byron Leftwich got snaps last year, The Steelers looked fine to me.

Trent Dilfer is probably the best analogy I can cone up with. When people call Dilfer the worst QB to ever win a Super Bowl, I always think "How was he any different than Big Ben? The 2000 Ravens were, essentially the model upon which the Steelers of this decade were built - and both Ben and Trent are game-managers with pedestrian stats who's best attribute is avoiding catastrophic mistakes - they are virtually the same to me..."

I think we both agree that Ben is a fine QB, and if we weren't lucky enough to have Brady, we'd be happy to have him. The problem with calling some one over-rated is that it's perceived as a knock on their ability - but when Michael Wilbon, or any other talking head calls Roethlisberger "the best QB in the league right now" - it can't be taken seriously.

One more OUSO: Derek Jeter

R: So I agree with your comments below, but be careful about burying McNabb. I think the 2009 season may be his final shot...and I am rooting for him in a weird way (yes, Westbrook went to Villanova, and that may be the reason!).

Jeter? Really? This may sound like sour grapes coming from Boston, but here goes.

First off, he is a smart, heady player who I respect for the way he plays the game and carries himself.But the gushing over the almighty Jeter is to quote Lee Elia "sickening". It's not that I can't see past pinstripes either. I mean I think Mo is the best closer ever (even with a blown World Series on his record). It's just that those 90s teams were STACKED. I am left wondering if Michael Young played in the Bronx, would he be destined for Cooperstown?

Well you are looking for a rating right...I would have to say overrated. But I would take him on my team in a second...just like I would with Paul O'Neil.

Back to Jeter, can we agree that he has a sub-par arm and limited range. Only some of that goes away with his ability to "read" the game. And while HRs are not the end all, he is a singles/doubles hitter. Personally, I think Ichiro is far less appreciated for having more talent.

But seriously, I am not bitter...

WR: Here goes; well, first a disclaimer: Where I consider myself a rational enough football fan to feel comfortable that there is concrete reasoning behind my giving Brady a nod over Manning, when it comes to the Yankees, an intense dislike for the organization has occasionally blurred my judgement. That said...

I think Derek Jeter is the single most over-rated athlete of all time. In 15 seasons - on the STACKED teams you mention (come to think of it, The Yankees are still stacked now, they just don't win titles...) he has cracked 100 RBI once. He has cracked 20 HR only 3 times. I agree with you, HR are not the be-all, end-all, but still...

Here's an interesting view of Derek Jeter: According to (using Bill James' system of similarity scores, basically the most statistically similar batters to any given player), here are the 10 players to whom Derek Jeter most closely compares (in order): Barry Larkin, Alan Trammel, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, Ray Durham, Lou Whitaker, Julio Franco, Joe Torre, Johnny Damon and Bobby Doerr. While that's certainly a decent list, it's not chock full of Hall of Famers (only 2, Sandberg and Doerr) like you would expect to see if you believed all of the Jeter-buzz.

If you took Jeter and put him in any other market, he toils in relative obscurity - unless you put him in Boston, they'd just trade him.

R: Like the list of comparable players. I think Trammell is a perfect comparison. SOLID player, just not a lock for the Hall. Nevermind their own wing for God's sake!

Straight-up, and I have no issue saying this, Robbie Alomar is a much better all around player than Jeter. The eye-test does not lie. Just don't ask Susan Waldman!

So how much do his looks play into his appeal? If he looked like Lugo (not picking on Julio, just the first SS I thought of...sadly enough), would he have the same appeal.

p.s. Why didn't Jeremy Giambi just slide??? Just saying!

WR: We could go on and on, but he's a New York pretty boy who's managed to find himself on several champions over a 15 year period.

To draw one more analogy - Troy Brown is not one of the great wide receivers of the last 15 years, but if he played in New York, and The Giants or Jets had played in 5 Super Bowls since 1996, and won 3 - he would probably be a Gatorade sponsored Hall of Famer.

Again, just saying.

R: I really don't like that he is baseball's version of Federer and Tiger. They are all-time greats and he is not even close! Then again, he is from NY and with limited power comes less steroid noise.

WR: And here's the other thing - you know that The Yanks will coronate his successor as soon as he has his tearful who is next in line to be 'Mr Yankee'? Should we be preparing ourselves for the onslaught of "Brett Gardner is among the greatest outfielders in the game" era?

R: Or Joba the putz?

WR: Man, I really do hate The Yankees.


  1. The Patriots definitely get team of the decade. Maybe it's due to my New England blinders, but I feel like the Steelers' Superbowls were won much more quietly than were the Patriots'. The Pats just became dominant, and the Steelers never really matched that M.O.
    As for Jeter, he's the only Yankee that I can comfortably say that I like. He's a good player and a team player. Yeah, his talent is overrated but I don't hold him responsible for that.
    Actually, I think Jason Giambi won me over with that awesome mustache a while back. Make that 2 Yankees that I like. I think all steroid users should adopt huge mustaches as a symbol of pennance for their transgressions.

  2. It's odd how closely my Giambi comments now apply to David Ortiz, right down to the hair on the upper lip.