The Scorer’s Table – Wolves vs. Falcons

On this final edition of the ‘The Scorer’s Table,’ Imran and Miqdad take on the final matchup of the weekend and check in on the league-leading Najaf Lions.

After an absolutely incredible season on the offensive end, many are left to wonder if Falcons’ captain Umair Ali will claim the MVP title. The debate that’s sweeping the league is whether or not an ‘MVP’ can be on a last-place team. Can a player be SO valuable to their team and still not attain any level of success in the regular season? If Umair isn’t your MVP, who is?

I: If you decide to skim this over and run to Miqdad’s response, I really don’t blame you. But for me, the Most Valuable player doesn’t always play for the best team. The best team is usually filled with better players across the board. You’re not the most valuable because you’re great AND you have good teammates.
LeBron James still deserves that 2015 Finals MVP (don’t @ me). And if there’s ever a case to compare someone’s performance to LBJ’s, it’s Umair’s 2018 JMS season. He told us from the start he would be coming out better than ever, and he isn’t a liar. If you wanna talk about most valuable… Umair made up 18% of his team’s hits, 64% of his team’s home runs, and 34% of his team’s RBIs. Before Miqdad anoints his teammate MVP, Imran Nasser made up 14% of his team’s RBIs with only four fewer ABs than Umair.
And yes, defense counts. Has Umair been as shut down as usual? No. Did he lap everyone offensively? Clearly. Just give the man his due and let’s keep it rolling.

M: So I read Imran’s opinion, and I’ve heard others. But to be honest, I think the only word I can use to describe that opinion is synonymous with a cat. (If you know, you know). He wants to use stats to make his case. So let’s present some stats – Noor Zia makes up 19.5% (more than Umair’s 18%) of his team’s hits does that make him the MVP? Not in my mind, his team is 6th. Yes, Umair had a prolific season – take him off the Falcons and what place do they finish – probably worse than they did, except that they finished in last. I just don’t see it. Yes, obviously Imran Nasser has my vote. He’s the best player on the 1st place team, hits for high average, and plays the most important position defensively at well enough a level that he’s in consideration for a gold glove. To me it’s a no brainer, but I don’t get to make those decisions. Or do I…?

If you didn’t know any better, the Wolves look like the hottest team in the league right now. Over the span of the season, they’ve dominated their competition, leading the league in run differential. And while their season hasn’t been easy, it looks like they should rampage through the Falcons. What has been the secret to the Wolves’ success this season, even through all the injuries?

I: The one constant in the entire equation, Mikael Ratansi. Is it a coincidence that he also played all 14 games? No chance. Mik showed the league the key to being the perfect assistant captain; it doesn’t have to be for the cameras. You just come and lead by example even when the captain isn’t there.

Not only has he been the only guarantee for the Wolves week in and week out, but he’s been playing the best he ever has. He’s posting the best batting average and OBP of his career. Were it not for a couple of performances at the mound (and we all know why), he could be the favourite for Pitcher of the Year. With the way he’s handled adversity and a team that’s consistently hampered by injures, he might have unknowingly auditioned for JMS future commissioner.

M: So after spending some time with Imran Virji in Moncton, he pointed out a grave injustice to me. He doesn’t get a lot of love in the articles. Barely any mention at all apparently. So let’s change that. While Mikky is the heart of this Wolves squad, Virji is its soul. Let’s talk about a guy that gives it his all on every single play he’s out there. Does he need to dive for every single ball, good God no – but that’s who he is, all out or not at all. Second, the man was on the DL, but still came to every game. He would’ve played with the cast on if he thought it was possible, but he’s still there making sure his team knows he’s got their back. He keeps things light, fun, yet intense. It’s the perfect combination and it works for the Wolves, they play together and that’s really what it takes to win. The only time they really lose is when they beat themselves.

It’s 1:30PM on Saturday afternoon. You’ve slept all day (Asad still thinks you’re up early) and the first thing you hear is that the Falcons beat the Wolves in the first round. What has to happen in this game for that to become a reality?

I: First thing I’d ask honestly is if Minhal played. And with him being hampered in reality, the Falcons must be licking their chops that the Wolves could be down such a key player. Next thing I’d ask would be if Ali Reza Merali and Damien Ramnauth are finally back. Seeing Cheema in a Falcons jersey is like seeing Dwyane Wade in a Bulls jersey; it makes sense, but there’s something just not right about the picture.

Let’s do a blind player comparison:
Player A: 46 ABs, 18 RBIs, 2 HRs, 0.587 AVG, 0.604 OBP.
Player B: 43 ABs, 20 RBIs, 1 HR, 0.605 AVG, 0.638 OBP.

Player A is the man in question: Cheema. Player B? That’s Abbas Allidina. And while he’s playing really well this season, an assistant captain should be outperforming a guy like Abbas. Cheema has long been a favourite player of mine; here’s hoping that going against his old team will bring out some of that extra fire. He’s had HORRIBLE luck with injuries, but look for Cheema to play a little loose this weekend.

M: It’s actually not that far a reality. What has to happen is that the Falcon’s need to show up as a collective unit. Hussein Allidina needs to pitch the game of his life and not start out the playoffs with 7 walks, Damien Ramnauth needs to bring the same swagger he had in the playoffs last year – puts on glasses, where you at bro? And probably most needed, these guys need to believe they can actually do it. The beauty of this season is that any and every team can win it. Regardless of who you are, you’ve won, you’ve lost, and it’s usually been a close game. The Falcons are a -7 this year, for the whole year. They have a 4-8-2 record. They’re a couple lucky breaks from a championship. Maybe they just need a couple of those breaks to go their way.

While the opponent may be unknown, the Lions have shown us more than enough during the regular season for us to claim that they should be the favourites for the title going into this weekend. Making that huge trade before the deadline most definitely added a jolt into the team and it showed; they ended the season on a six-game win streak. What’s holding back the Lions from running the table and going home Sunday as champions?

I: Miqdad. That’s all that’s holding them back. You ask why? How many times has the team lost this season? Three. And how many have they lost without him? ZERO. The team without him is on pace to go undefeated. So why mess with that? Stay home, Miqdad.

But on a serious note, injuries may be the thing holding back this team from collecting their rings on Sunday. League chatter tells us that both Abbas Nasser and Ranko Cupovic are hurting big time, and while they’ll most definitely play through it, what happens when the day drags on? With Mehboob Ajwani ineligible to play this weekend, that puts a lot more pressure on the bottom half of that team. Moe Abdalla, Kaunain Taki, Farhan Ratansi… That’s two serviceable players and Farhan. Even the reserves could get some run. Super sub Zuhair Ebrahim (did you really expect me to bash my dad?) and Shaan Shamji could be on call at any time.
In the end, the games are all best-of-one, but with the new format, the chip will go to whichever team lasts the longest. Limping into the weekend ain’t a good look, even for our regular season champs.

M: You don’t touch the trophy until you’ve earned it. And you don’t talk about the road to the end until you’ve done it. It’s the regular season. It doesn’t mean anything. Being the home team throughout and starting later on Saturday is nice, but that’s all we have so far. All season long the mantra was just to get better and make sure everyone was ready for the playoffs, but we – The Lions – haven’t proven anything. Our 3 losses and 1 tie have come against the 5th, 6th, and 7th ranked teams. So really transitive property says that everyone can beat us.

So what’s holding the Lions back from going home Sunday as the champions? Ask me again if we win it, until then – we haven’t done anything yet.

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