The Mount Rushmore of My Generation

What makes sports such an enjoyable medium are the [sometimes] healthy debates that arise from them. Every couple of years or so, the “Who’s on the Mount Rushmore of [insert sport]” comes up and intense debating begins.  Given how in last week’s post I wrote about how my generation was losing its athletes to retirement left and right, that this would be a good time to create a Mount Rushmore for my generation’s (I’m 28) top athletes in major sports.

Two quick points of order:

  • Michael Phelps would be on this list but swimming isn’t a major sport.
  • Jordan doesn’t qualify because he retired when I was in grade school.

My Mount Rushmore picks are:

Tom Brady

Tim Duncan

Derek Jeter

Tiger Woods

Brady is the most decorated (active) football player in the NFL. His 4 Super Bowl’s and 2 Super Bowl MVP’s are unmatched by any quarterback of my era. While Peyton Manning owns almost every passing record and won 2 Super Bowl’s in his own right, he never eclipsed Brady when it came to clutch performances. Since Brady became the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots in 2001 (15 seasons), the team has missed the playoffs twice (2002 & 2008); and in one of those years, Brady only played in 1 regular season game. He has an absurd postseason record of 22-9 (most wins all time) and has thrown for 56 postseason TD’s; which is a record that might never be broken. At the end of the day, if I had to pick one quarterback to win me a game, there’s no way I’d choose anyone other than Brady.

Duncan [Mr. Fundamental] is one of a handful of greats who have played every game of their career in one uniform. He just finished his 19th (and possibly last) season with the San Antonio Spurs, where he helped lead his team to a regular season [team] record of 65-13. Given the fact that San Antonio is in a small market within NBA circles, Duncan has been one of the most overlooked superstars ever, in any sport. It’s a damn shame too, given all that he’s accomplished. In 19 seasons, Duncan is a 5-time NBA Champion, a 3-time NBA Finals MVP and a 2-time NBA MVP. Now, I know that there will be plenty of believe that Kobe Bryant should be on this list over Duncan; and while I understand the argument for Bryant, I believe that Duncan has not only been more consistent but has found ways to make his team/teammates better. For my money, Duncan is easily one of the 10 best players ever and the best power forward to ever play the game.

Woods was the best golfer on the planet for over a decade and arguably surpassed Jack Nicklaus as the best of all time. I’ve never seen another athlete dominate his/her sport more than Woods dominated golf. Woods didn’t just dominate; he became his own brand, and made the sport relevant. Golf has never seen as a major player in the public medium in the same manner as baseball, basketball and football; that is, until Tiger. What he’s accomplished on the golf course is incredible; 79 PGA Tour wins (2nd all time), 40 European Tour wins (3rd all time), 14 Majors and was awarded PGA Player of the Year 11 times. Now with him [way] past his prime, commentators are constantly searching for the “next” Tiger. It’s a futile search because what he did, will never happen again.

Jeter [The Captain] spent his entire 20 year career with the New York Yankees where he won 5 World Series Championships, a World Series MVP (2000), and recorded 200 postseason hits (most all time). From 1996-2012, the Yankees never missed the postseason. In his career, Jeter played in only 1 game in which the Yankees were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. He set the Yankees all-time record in hits with 3,465 (6th most all time), doubles (544), games played (2,747), stolen bases (358), times on base (4,716), plate appearances (12,602) and at bats (11,195). There’s no doubt that there have been better all-around players than Jeter; but in my lifetime, there has never a more iconic, marketable or likeable star in the game than Jeter. He’s one of the few athletes that were not just a spectacular player on the field, but a respectable ambassador off of it.

Honorable Mentions:

Kobe Bryant

Lebron James

Peyton Manning

 

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New York Yankees Continue to Slide; Playoffs in Jeopardy

I’ve been spoiled as a Yankee fan, there’s no doubt about it.  During the course of my fandom (I started following baseball 20 years ago) the Yankees have reached the postseason 17 times, making a World Series birth 7 times, and capturing 5 championships.  Those numbers are staggering when you sit back and think about it.  Over 20 years of being a die-hard baseball fan, I’ve watched my team in the postseason 17 out of those 20 years; it’s truly remarkable.

This season, the Yankees have looked promising and have a great chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 2012.  Currently, the team is sitting in 2nd place in the AL East behind the surging Toronto Blue Jays while maintaining a 4 game lead in the Wild Card.  There have been moments this season where they’ve looked like the second best team in the majors (St Louis is by far the best team in baseball), and now they’re playing worse than some AA ball clubs.

The most frustrating part of this team’s downward spiral is that pitching [for the first time in 5 years] isn’t the issue, it’s the offense.  If you ask any Yankee fan, they’ll tell you that pitching was by far the biggest question mark for this team heading into the season.  This year, despite injuries, the starting pitching has been fairly decent and the bullpen has been brilliant.  The offense on the other hand, has been uncharacteristically inconsistent and there’s no definitive answer as to why.

Gone are the Yankees of old led by the core four of Jeter, Posada, Rivera, and Pettitte; the former champions who used to feast on the opposition this time of year.  Now the team is led by Gardner, Ellsbury, and Rodriguez; none of whom are showing the leadership qualities a championship team needs.  Both Rodriguez and Gardner are on cold streaks and Ellsbury has found himself out of the lineup with a hip injury.  At least one of those three players needs to assert themselves as a leader if the team has any hope of ending this skid.

If the Yankees can finish out the rest of the regular season strong and make the playoffs, I believe that they have has as good a chance as anyone in the American League.  With that said, they need to get healthy and start hitting before they dig themselves into too deep of a hole.  Toronto is playing like gangbusters right now and if the Yankees aren’t careful, they’re going to lose that 4 game cushion for the wild card.

It’s going to be a rough winter for Yankee fans if this team misses the playoffs after showing flashes of brilliance throughout the season.  Hopefully the players can band together like the great Yankee teams before them, and put together another exciting postseason run.

Pete Rose & The Hypocritical Baseball Media

It’s a slow week in sports when a retired MLB player is making headlines, especially when that player has been banned from the game since 1989.  This week Pete Rose dominated the sports world because of a report done by ESPN which stated that he bet on baseball games while he was a player-manager for the Cincinnati Reds.

For those who are unware, Rose finally admitted in an interview with ABC News back in 2004 (after lying for 15 years) that he had bet on baseball, but only as a manager.  Two months ago during an interview with ESPN Radio he reiterated that sentiment and stated “I never bet on games while I was a player; that’s a fact” (ESPN.com).

This report all but seals the deal for Rose’s chances on getting reinstated with the MLB and getting elected into the Hall-of-Fame.  There was no guarantee that even before this report surfaced that Rose would be reinstated, but there were many speculating that since the All-Star game would be held in Cincinnati this year, that this would be the perfect opportunity to do it.

Baseball writers are an interesting group, not to mention a bunch of hypocrites.  They believe in the “purity” of the game and have extremely specific standards for those that they vote into the Hall-of-Fame.  However for many, their standards have dropped a bit in recent years with the nomination(s) of accused steroid users; who have received votes for the Hall.  There are still many writers who refuse to vote for anyone associated with steroid use, but there have been quite a few who have softened their stance and believe that a player should be voted in for their performance on the field; regardless of “suspected” steroid use.

*Before I continue allow me to make the obvious statement; steroid use and gambling are not “technically” the same thing however, under the surface they are.  If someone is taking steroids or performance enhancing drugs they are giving themselves an advantage over the competition.  If another person is gambling on the game, they can also have an advantage by “throwing” their at-bats or committing errors on the field [if they’re a player] or “fixing” certain defensive or pitching changes [if they’re managing].*

**The following is with the assumption that Rose is reinstated and is allowed to be nominated for the Hall-of-Fame**

Now, those same voters who softened their stance with steroid users refuse to vote or allow Rose to be mentioned in the Hall-of-Fame; I’m sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.  You can’t soften your stance with steroid users but on the other hand ban someone else because they gambled on games that they were involved with.  Regardless of how you try and slice it, steroid use and gambling have the same fundamental advantage for those involved.  Cheating is cheating, period.  If those writers want to come out and admit that they don’t like Rose, I can respect that; but you can’t change your voting requirements to fit your narrative.  Just be consistent.

As far as I’m concerned Pete Rose shouldn’t be in the Hall-of-Fame.  He’s a gambling degenerate, a liar, and a cheat.  His numbers are incredible and he’s easily one of the three greatest hitters (if not the best) ever; however, he should be punished for what he did.  I’m one of many who believe that anyone who’s been linked to performance enhancing drugs doesn’t belong in Cooperstown either.  With that being said, if voters start voting in players like Bonds, McGuire and A-Rod; then they have to vote for Rose as well, and my view on Roses’ candidacy will change.

I believe in fair play; which is ironic because not of the players with questionable careers do/did.  Baseball writers have all the power in electing Hall of Famers and there’s no reason to allow their lunacy and hypocrisy to go unnoticed.  Vote for steroid users [and Pete Rose] or don’t vote for them at all; it’s not a difficult criteria to set nor should it be up for debate.

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.