Early MLB season surprises, 'The Challenge: Double Agents' finale
For the first time ever, I was a guest on somebody else's podcast! Joey Ricotta, blogger at PrimeTimeSportsTalk.com and host of the podcast, Stuffing the Stat Sheet welcomed me on to his show for a very lively two-part episode.
In part one, released Thursday, April 15, we shared our thoughts on the first two weeks of the Major League Baseball season, the question of umpiring and "robo-umps", the universal designated hitter, American League vs. National League baseball, surprise teams and players, the immediate impact of rookies Yermin Mercedes and Akil Baddoo, the Chicago Cubs' continued struggles at the plate, their trajectory for the season, the Atlantic League experimenting with the the distance between home plate and the pitcher's mound, and much more. In part two, coming later this week, we share our thoughts on the current season of MTV's The Challenge, The Challenge: Double Agents.
I made my points very clear. I do NOT want the designated hitter coming to the National League, as I feel National League baseball is far superior to American League baseball. Each day, as I use MLB.tv, I'm given the option between watching a National League game and an American League game. Most of the time, I pick the National League game, as I feel the National League plays baseball the way the sport is meant to be played. However, I do not feel that the American League should get rid of the designated hitter, as I like how the leagues are different and appeal to different audiences. Different strokes for different folks. Joey disagreed with me, and we had a lively debate over the universal DH.
The teams that have impressed me the most thus far are the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the San Francisco Giants. The Red Sox have won 9 straight, and are atop of the American League East. The Angels are also in first place, of the AL West, standing at 7-5, with the Giants lurking behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres at 8-4. I'm still not sold on any of these teams for the long haul. I don't trust them quite yet, but they've been entertaining and intriguing to keep an eye on in the early part of the season. The Giants have gotten nice contributions from what appeared to be an iffy pitching rotation entering the season. Johnny Cueto looks like he's discovered the fountain of youth, and Anthony DeSclafani pitched a gem vs. the Rockies over the weekend. I continue to be impressed with Tommy La Stella, who I believe has the tools to be a batting champ. La Stella would be a huge help to the Cubs right now, as the Cubs struggle to get on base.
The Cubs rank at the bottom of the league in nearly every major statistical category. Through the first two weeks, thee team leadoff's hitter, Ian Happ, is batting just .130. We shared our thoughts on what is going on with the Cubs. I think the Cubs are rebuilding, they just haven't told the fans yet. It's a rebuild disguised as a contender, and I'm expecting the team to be selling off parts at the deadline in July. As a loyal Cubs fan, Joey was much more optimistic than I was entering the season.
I'm not a fan of the idea of "robo-umps", as it takes away from some of the natural charm that America's pastime has. Umpires are people too, and I like the human element of the game, I just think the replay process can be improved. As for the pitcher's mound being moved back - as a strict purist, I actually don't hate the idea all that much. The game of baseball has been played professionally since the 1880s, and pitchers are throwing harder now than ever before. I remember playing youth baseball and making the leap from sixth to seventh grade, where the pitcher's mound is moved back, and it opened up a new world for me as a hitter. Obviously, that's an entirely different situation, but I don't hate the thought process behind this idea, or MLB's intention to kick the tire's on it in the Atlantic League. I doubt it actually comes to fruition at the Major League level, but it will be interesting to keep an eye on in the Atlantic League.
In part two of the podcast episode, we talk all things from MTV's The Challenge: Double Agents. Neither Joey nor I have been huge fans of the most recent season, but we remain Challenge-obsessed nevertheless. We share some of our ideas on how to improve the show. I believe that the end of The Real World and Road Rules has put the show in the position it's in now. The Challenge thrived off of the larger-than-life personalities it collected from both of MTV's original reality shows. Since it started pulling in contestants from other reality shows, including MTV's own Are You The One?, it has been setting itself up for where the show is now. The Challenge "OGs" can't stay on the show forever, as Johnny Bananas has virtually retired from The Challenge, Wes Bergmann is passing on next season, and Chris "CT" Tamburello can only hang around for so much longer. The show needs to start developing new stars, and a lot of the regulars that joined the cast from the last five years, aren't people I feel that I need to keep seeing on every season. I'm hopeful, however, that after the strong debuts of Jay Starrett and Natalie Anderson, Survivor — which has one of the most rigorous casting processes — can be the ultimate feeder system for future seasons of The Challenge.
Joey and I also feel that the production team has dedicated itself to capturing the show like an action movie, and less like a reality show. As a result, many of the challenges lack the same energy that older challenges did, and it's often difficult to see what is going on in said challenges.
We previewed the finale of Double Agents, and made our picks for who we believe will win. I don't think Fessy has a shot to win after the edit he has been given this time around. It feels like the producers are setting him up for failure. I've been rooting for Leroy the whole season, but after last week's hot tub scene with Kam, I'm fearful that he is also being set up for another heartbreak. With Leroy and Nany teamed up as partners, seeing the two finally win would be the most satisfying ending to the season for me. Leroy and Nany were on the same season of The Real World ten years ago, and have been close as siblings ever since. Their friendship has been a treat to watch, and both have given a lot to The Challenge over the last ten years. With Leroy approaching retirement, a Leroy and Nany win would be a storybook ending, and would redeem the season quite a bit for me. However, I'm predicting a CT and Amber B victory, based on editing alone. CT may not be the same animal he was when he entered the MTV universe, but he successfully ran and won a final just two seasons ago, on The Challenge: War of the Worlds 2. Even despite Leroy and Kaycee's sheer domination of the season, it's been the CT show. We're most privy to his story and his arc on Double Agents.
Make sure to tune in to Joey Ricotta's podcast, Stuffing the Stat Sheet, and subscribe to the show for more great content.