A New Beginning without the Captain: An Introspective Look Inside the Mind of a Yankee Fan

As a sports fan, Baseball was my first love. I can remember being 8 years old, sitting in the basement of my house alongside my father and watching the New York Yankees win the 1996 World Series. There was jubilation all over the television screen, especially on the baby faced, rookie shortstop (and my favorite player) Derek Jeter.

This is the first time in almost twenty years that I’m not excited for Opening Day. In the past, Opening Day meant the beginning of a 5 (hopefully 6) month commitment to my team and favorite athlete, in the hopes of watching them reach the pinnacle of their sport. It meant nights celebrating and arguing with my father over the play and personnel decisions of the club over the course of the season.

Next week the Yankees are going to start their season and The Captain won’t be anywhere in sight. It was a surreal (and emotional) moment watching Jeter walk off the field in Boston for the final time. This was the player that I’d grown up watching, someone I had respected and idolized from afar. He was the only player on the roster that I had complete confidence in regardless of the situation. With him gone, I now have to look for a new player or even players to put my faith in; and from the looks of this roster, I won’t be finding that player anytime soon.

Looking past all my emotions as a “Jeter fan”, the Yankees are just going to be dreadful this year. I’m not too sure who’s really running the organization, but since George Steinbrenner passed away, his sons are on pace to ruin the franchise. The personnel decisions that they’ve made since the Yankees won the title back in 2009 have been scary. The farm system that helped develop the run of excellence through the late 90’s – early 00’s is nonexistent. They’ve traded all of their young talent in the hopes of catching lightning in the bottle with a veteran all-star. The problem with that, most of those “veteran all-stars” have too much mileage for them to be worth the money that they’re being paid. Or they’ve outbid themselves for the services of a disgraced superstar who is owed over $25 million through 2017.

The Yankees currently consist of (mostly) aging veterans who are past their prime and are being paid like superstars. Starting pitcher CC Sabathia, designated hitter Alex Rodriguez, 1st baseman Mark Teixeira, and outfielder Carlos Beltran are examples of some of the many veterans Yankee fans will see play this season. The “youth” on the team consists of outfielders Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, starting pitchers Michael Pineda & Ivan Nova, and third baseman Chase Headley; all of them over the age of 30 outside of Pineda and Nova who are both 28.

I’m not saying the Yankees should have a bunch of baby faced rookies in their starting lineup/rotation but having a crew of aging veterans isn’t going to get you anywhere. I don’t expect the Yankees to win a championship every year; I just want to see them compete. It’s clear to anyone who follows baseball that this would be the perfect time for this team to begin a rebuilding period. Take the next two seasons and develop the talent (whatever’s remaining) from the farm system and slowly begin to develop those players. There’s nothing wrong with acquiring all-star talent to fix the occasional weak spots, but you can’t build a team that way; especially one with championship aspirations.

The road ahead is going to be a tough one for the New York Yankees and their fans. For those of us who grew up during their late 90’s-early 00’s run, it’s going to be a difficult transition from expecting your team to be in the hunt; to praying and hoping that they even make the playoffs. Every fan base goes through this phase, some longer than others (hello Cubs fans), but eventually your team will break through (sorry Cubs fans) and get back in the championship hunt. It’s a crucible of sorts and one that my dad and I are ready to endure; hopefully for only a short period of time.

Philadelphia Eagles & Tim Tebow: A Match Made in Heaven

NFL free agency has taken backseat this week due to the start of March Madness. However there’s one move in particular that I believe could make an offense truly prolific.

On Monday, the Eagles held a tryout for Tim Tebow. Yes, the same Tim Tebow that caught lightning in a bottle during the 2011 season and brought the Denver Broncos to a playoff berth. The same Tim Tebow that was traded from the Broncos after that miraculous season and became a side show in New York playing for the Jets. He was cut from their roster following the 2012 season and picked up by the Patriots that offseason, to only be cut before the season began.

Tebow’s career numbers are: 2,422 yards, 17 TD’s, 9 INT’s, 47.9 completion percentage, and a QBR of 75.3. He played in 34 games and started 16 of them.

I believe that if Tebow performs well in his initial workout, he will be a great pick-up for the Eagles.

Tebow is the type of quarterback that can thrive in an offensive scheme that is built around/for him. Denver catered to his strengths at times (hence the playoff run) whereas the Jets threw him in horrible situations just to appease their fans. While his numbers (especially his subpar completion percentage) may not suggest it, Tebow is a decent quarterback. By no means is he a franchise quarterback, but he has shown that he can be successful at the NFL level; he just needs the right coach.

There isn’t a coach tailor-made for catering his offense around a quarterback more than Chip Kelly. Kelly’s Oregon teams dominated on offense during his tenure and while none of his quarterbacks went on to have successful NFL careers; there was no denying their dominance at the collegiate level. Much like Kelly’s Oregon QB’s, Tebow also dominated in college but struggled in the NFL. While relatively successful as previously mentioned, he was never picked up by a coach willing to draw up offensive schemes to meet his strengths, which is what Kelly is known for.  

Kelly has already made some surprising moves this offseason; trading away McCoy and Foles while acquiring the injury prone Sam Bradford and last seasons breakout star, Demarco Murray. Signing Tebow would certainly raise some eyebrows, but shouldn’t surprise anyone. I think it’s become clear that Kelly has a vision for this team, especially on offense, and he’s making the moves that he believes will help that offense take flight (like what I did there).

Tim Tebow will be a lethal asset for Kelly and Eagles should they choose to sign him. His statistics might make him look a little rough around the edges, but there’s a drive and a determination in that kid that won’t be found on a stat sheet. He’s shown before that he has the intangibles to be a successful NFL player, and I think it’s those intangibles that will make him a consistent offensive weapon for this team.

NFL Free Agency

NFL free agency has been crazy over the past couple days. Here’s a quick recap and reaction to the big trades and acquisitions.

Jimmy Graham – Seattle Seahawks: Arguably the biggest “blockbuster” trade so far this offseason took place Tuesday afternoon when the New Orleans Saints traded Graham to the Seahawks. This is an incredible acquisition for the Seahawks who are already a juggernaut on defense and are looking to be just as formidable on offense. The two-time defending NFC Champions are once again making a case for being the team to beat in the NFC.

On the other hand, I have no idea what the hell the Saints are thinking. They’ve given up arguably their best player and received almost nothing in return. Following a disappointing season last year, it’s hard to understand what the front office in New Orleans is trying to prove by leaving their aging quarterback with a limited amount of weapons. It’s not looking like a promising year for this franchise.

Nick Foles – Philadelphia Eagles + Sam Bradford – Saint Louis Rams: If the Graham trade is the biggest trade of free agency, this one is the most intriguing. The Rams and Eagles for the lack of a better term, swapped quarterbacks and draft picks in the trade. The Rams get Foles and the Eagles fourth-round pick in 2015 and second-round pick in 2016; the Eagles get Bradford and the Rams fifth round pick in 2015.

This trade is great for the Rams who finally have a stable quarterback after years of uncertainty with the injury plagued Bradford and they still have the tenth overall pick in this year’s draft. However, I’m still trying to understand what head coach Chip Kelly is thinking trading for a quarterback who can’t stay on the field; unless his plan is to start Mark Sanchez (who just resigned with Eagles for a two-year contract) and have Bradford as the back-up.   Either way, Kelly has been making peculiar moves all offseason which leads into the next high profile trade this offseason.

LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills: If it wasn’t for the Graham trade, this would be the blockbuster trade of free agency. McCoy was traded to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker (and former Oregon Duck) Kiko Alonso in what is still a shocking development. McCoy had become the best offensive weapon for the Eagles over the past two seasons and it seems like there was more to the report of tension between he and his former head coach; then he was letting on. Regardless, McCoy is going to fit right in with Rex Ryan’s “ground and pound” offensive scheme.

Ndamukong Suh – Miami Dolphins: The Pro Bowl former defensive tackle of the Detroit Lions signed a $114 million contract ($60 million guaranteed) to play football in Miami. Suh has led all defensive tackles in sacks (36), disruptive plays (50%) and total snaps (4,107) since his debut in 2010. There’s no denying that Suh is a hell of a player, but is he really worth $60 million guaranteed? Given his on the field issues, a legitimate argument can be made that Miami might have spent a little too much on the star defensive tackle. Suh’s talent is obvious but given his track record of playing dirty and getting fined/suspended, Miami might look back on this contract and regret it. Either way, Miami made a huge splash and have certainly made their fans happy, if nothing else.

Andre Johnson – Indianapolis Colts: Johnson has been considered one of the best wide receivers in football since he broke out with the Houston Texans twelve years ago. This is a huge gain for the Colts and a devastating loss for the Texans who already rely too heavily on running-back Arian Foster, and don’t have much depth at wide receiver. Quarterback Andrew Luck, is finally getting an opportunity to play alongside a hall-of-fame wide receiver who hasn’t passed his prime (Reggie Wayne is phenomenal, but his best years are long gone). Look for the Colts to be near the top of the AFC next season.

Honorable Mention:

Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts

Demarco Murray – Philadelphia Eagles

Derrell Revis – New York Jets

ESPN : The Lebron James Network

Sports networks for a time had been our last line of defense against a bias media. Everywhere you look there’s always a brand/network trying to push their political/ideological agenda onto you, the consumer. Sports, especially sports television/radio was supposed to be a distraction from all that. ESPN has fallen prey to that type of propaganda and it’s all centralized around one particular player, Lebron James.

ESPN as a network has been extremely biased towards James since he entered the NBA. Their coverage of his games/performances are put above everything else, as though he’s the reason sports fans watch basketball. When James wins a game, nine times out of ten his highlight will be the first shown on SportsCenter. However when he loses, the highlight makes it a few segments behind that nights “leading” stories.

Sunday night James and the Cavs lost to the Rockets in a game in which James played poorly. He shot an abysmal 3-11 (27%) from the free throw line and shot 42% from the field. He did score 37 points, but it took him 35 shots to do it.

Monday, I was on twitter and listening to ESPN radio interested to hear (and read) what the “talent” at ESPN had to say about James’ performance. They barely talked about it; and when they did, they spun it to fit their narrative. Mike & Mike (6-10 ESPN Radio) did a short segment on it but quickly changed the topic to football and baseball; Colin Cowherd (10-1 ESPN Radio) defended James saying that, he (James) was tired that night from carrying the rest of the league.

Twitter for the most part was silent. Yes, there were the twitter trolls out there trying to bait people into arguing about something stupid, but all of the ESPN twitter handles were talking about everything but James’ performance.

What’s interesting is that if Kobe Bryant had put up a box score like that, he would be getting crucified by the same media members that are trying to deflect away from James’ poor performance. Colin Cowherd has been at the forefront of lambasting Bryant every chance he’s gotten this season and it’s just laughable that he’s become so biased, he’s willing to make excuses for his favorite player. So much for trying to be credible with your opinions; right Cowherd?

Now, conversely if James had won that game, these same shows (and twitter) would be talking about how great James is and that he’s clearly in the conversation (or should be) for MVP. How do I know this? Because Wednesday night the Cavs beat the Raptors 120-112 and ESPN was loud and proud about his performance. They were so excited about it that they put up a graph showing how he was “nearly perfect in the final 6 minutes” of the game.

This article isn’t meant to troll Lebron James. I know that it might seem that way, but that’s really not the point I’m trying to make. I get it and am willing to admit that James is a great player, arguably the best in the game. However I have a problem with a network that is the biggest sports network on the planet catering to one particular player. Yes, ESPN is biased towards many superstars; Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady and Derek Jeter are just a few that come to mind, but none as obnoxiously as James. It’s almost as if James is paying ESPN to be his PR firm and spin any negative story to put him in a positive light.    

Being as avid of a sports fan as I am, I’m always going to tune into ESPN to watch a game or sportscast that involves teams/players that I root for. I’m not trying to take a moral stand and say that I’m going to boycott the company, because that would ridiculous. It’s just frustrating that a network as powerful as ESPN can’t seem to hire objective journalists. It’s almost as if they’ve become a political network of sorts. For example, if you’re a democrat you’ll watch MSNBC because they cater to left leaning politics whereas a republican is going to watch Fox News because they’re catering to right wing politics. To bring this all together, if you love Lebron James, you’ll watch ESPN 24/7 because they’ll never make a disparaging comment about him (except for Skip Bayless, but that’s a whole other topic in itself).

ESPN’s love affair with James will continue, and I realize that. My hope is that at some point in the near future, sports journalism will be embraced with more objectivity and less bias. I’m not naïve enough to believe that journalism was ever THAT objective, however corporations in the past at least tried to mask it and make is less transparent then it is today.