Giants vs. Packers: How can the Giants win?

The Giants face an incredibly difficult first round match-up tomorrow against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau Field.  Containing Rodgers may be the most difficult task yet for the praiseworthy Giants defense.  The defense must bring their A-game if they want to have a chance to beat the Packers.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had yet another stellar season in 2016-17, throwing for 4,428 yards, including a league-leading 40 touchdowns, compared to just 7 interceptions.  There are many ways in which Rodgers can beat opposing defenses.  For him, every receiver is a prime target, though Jordy Nelson may be his favorite target.  Rodgers can also beat an opposing teams’ defense with his legs, rushing this season for 369 yards, including 4 touchdowns.  In order for the Giants to have a chance to win, the defense must shut down Aaron Rodgers, just like they did to Dak Prescott in week 12, when they held him to just 17 completions in 37 attempts, throwing for only 165 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions.

On the offensive side, Eli Manning needs to look like the old Eli Manning that won 2 Super Bowls for the Giants.  He needs to take advantage of the fact that the Packers defense is banged up at the cornerback position.  But he can’t just throw to Odell Beckham Jr. every play.  Eli needs to keep the Packers defense off-balance by spreading the passing around, from Beckham to Sterling Shepard to Victor Cruz to Will Tye.  Additionally, the Giants need runningback Paul Perkins to continue his strong play.  The Giants offense needs to put together long drives downfield, eating as much time off the clock as possible, in order to keep Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines as much as possible.  This was the same strategy used by the Jets in the playoffs in 2011 when they beat Peyton Manning and the Colts.  In that game, and especially in the second half, the Jets dominated with the time of possession, ending the game with a total possession time of 33:07 to the Colts’ 26:53.

The x-factor for the Packers, like the Giants, is their runningback, Ty Montgomery.  Just as Perkins has emerged late in the season for the Giants as a capable runningback, so too has Montgomery for the Packers, adding yet another threat to an already stacked and dangerous offense.  The Giants must contain Montgomery while also containing the Packers receivers and, of course, putting pressure on Rodgers.

The Giants defense, led by the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul, Landon Collins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Damon Harrison, and Olivier Vernon, faces one of their most difficult tasks yet tomorrow, when they face off against Aaron Rodgers and the high-powered Packers offense.  It will be an interesting match-up between one of the best defenses in the NFL and one of the best offenses in the NFL.  This could very well end up being one of the most interesting match-ups of the week.

How will the Mets Starting Rotation Look Like in 2017?

There are still questions as to who will begin the 2017 season as the 5th starter for the Mets rotation.  The Mets have a decision to make between Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman.  The Mets can’t go wrong with whichever one they choose.

Wheeler has shown signs of the hype around him when he was ranked as the 11th best prospect in all of baseball after the 2012 season by Baseball America.  While he was a little wild early in his career, Wheeler began to show more command of his pitches by the middle of the 2014 season.  Wheeler established himself as a pitcher with a lot of talent and potential at the major league level on June 19th, 2014, exactly a year and a day after he made his MLB debut.  On this day, Wheeler threw a complete game 3-hit shutout against the Marlins, facing only one over the minimum.  Going into that game, Wheeler had been struggling, with a 2-7 record and an ERA well over 4.00.  From this game on, Wheeler rebounded and dominated for the rest of the season, finishing his first full season with a record of 11-11 and an ERA of 3.54.  The concern with Wheeler going into 2017 is that he hasn’t pitched in a major league game since 2014, due to Tommy John surgery shortly before the start of the 2015 season and suffering multiple setbacks while attempting to come back in 2016 before being shut down.  The Mets coaching staff will likely be keeping a close eye on him when spring training starts.  Depending on how he looks during spring training and where his velocity and command are, Wheeler will likely either start the 2017 season in the bullpen or be inserted into the role of the 5th starter.  Even if Wheeler ends up starting the season in the bullpen, he may end up returning to the rotation when he shakes off his rust and returns to looking like the stud pitcher he was in the second half of the 2014 season.

With Lugo and Gsellman, it’s a coin flip for the Mets as far as who starts and who goes to the bullpen.  Assuming Wheeler starts out in the bullpen, the Mets may choose to insert the pitcher that pitched better in spring training into the 5th starter’s role, while putting the other one in the bullpen.  Going by what I saw from Lugo and Gsellman last season, I would choose to have Lugo in as the 5th starter because I thought he was better at keeping his pitch count low while also staying effective late into ballgames.  I also feel that Lugo has better off-speed pitches than Gsellman, especially his curveball, which has so much rotation on it that it set a statcast record at 3,498 rpm.  Gsellman can still be very useful out of the bullpen, either as a long man or a 7th or 8th inning man.  The same can also be said about Zack Wheeler.

The way that Lugo, Gsellman, and Wheeler perform in spring training will likely determine what role each of the pitchers will begin the season at.  In the case of Lugo and Gsellman, they need to prove to the other players and coaches around the league that their 2016 seasons weren’t flukes.  If they can establish themselves in the same way that Jacob DeGrom did in 2014, than the Mets may have one of the most dominant rotations and bullpens in major league baseball in 2017, as long as the rotation and bullpen stays healthy and consistent.

Hello Jerry?

It’s no secret that the Mets would like to bring back Jerry Blevins, but they are hesitant to meet Blevins’ asking price of a 3-4 year contract.  With a little over a month left before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, many of the remaining free agents’ asking prices may begin to go down.  As a result, the Mets seem more likely to be able to re-sign Jerry Blevins now than they did about a month ago.

Blevins had one of his best seasons of his 9 year career in 2016.  He posted a career-best 2.79 ERA, with 52 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched.  Additionally, the lefty specialist held righties to a lower batting average, at just .182, than lefties, who hit .255.  However, lefties had nearly twice as many at-bats against Blevins than righties.  Of the 4 homers Blevins allowed all season, 3 were hit by righties.  Lefties also had twice as many strikeouts against Blevins than righties.  Judging by these statistics, the batting average splits against Blevins seems to mask just how effective he truly was against left-handed hitters.

If the Mets manage to re-sign Blevins this offseason, I could see him starting the season as the set-up man for Addison Reed.  Blevins made great strides last season against right-handed batters, which may encourage Terry Collins use have Blevins pitch entire innings in relief rather than to just use him as a lefty specialist.  The Mets used Pedro Feliciano in a similar way during his tenure as a Met from 2006-2010.  Like Blevins, Feliciano was initially a lefty specialist, but began pitching entire innings when he showed that he was able to get righties out as well.

I find it somewhat surprising that Blevins hasn’t been signed yet, considering all the big contracts many other relievers have been getting this offseason.  This could very well be because many other major league teams that may be interested in Blevins aren’t willing to sign him for more than 2 years.  With the offseason dragging out, the remaining free agents may be more willing to lower their asking price.  In Blevins’ case, he may go from asking for a 3-4 year deal to a 1-2 year deal, which the Mets would likely be willing to offer him.

As far as competition is concerned for the Mets to re-sign Blevins, one team that I can think of is the New York Yankees.  However, it seems that the Yankees are a little more interested in a lefty specialist that they have had experience using before in Boone Logan.  While the Mets have also expressed interest in Logan, I believe that they would rather have Blevins, who has been a strong clubhouse presence for the team, than Logan.

As each day goes by without Blevins signing a contract, it seems more likely that the Mets may be able to re-sign him.  If I were Sandy Alderson right now, I would get in touch with Blevins’ agents and discuss a possible 2 year deal, maybe with a third year option.  Maybe Alderson can have the discussion with Jerry and his agents over coffee at Tom’s Restaurant, better known as Monk’s Cafe on “Seinfeld.”

Possible QB Solutions for the Jets

Going into the 2017 offseason, the Jets will likely be in search of a quarterback through either free agency, the trade market, or even the NFL draft.  There are multiple options the Jets have to be their starting QB next season.  One key factor that could effect who they go after on the trade and/or free agency market would be what the organization thinks of Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg.

Petty was given the role of starting QB in the middle of last season due to the poor play of Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Behind an offensive line mainly composed of backups, Petty struggled and was constantly under pressure from opposing teams.  He ended up throwing for 809 yards, with 3 touchdowns and 7 interceptions before his season was cut short due to a chest injury suffered in a loss against the Dolphins.  While there were a few times in which Petty seemed to show some potential in games, he doesn’t seem like he is ready to be the Jets starting QB next season.  He has trouble reading the defense, doesn’t seem to scramble enough to allow time for his receivers to get open, and has a lot of trouble when under pressure.

We never got a chance to see Christian Hackenberg play in the 2016-17 season.  Reports from the Jets coaching staff said that while he has potential to be a very good QB, he isn’t ready to take snaps in an NFL game yet.  Like Petty, the Jets must soon decide whether or not Hackenberg will be the QB for the franchise in the near future.  One worrying sign is a recent report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter saying that he was told by an anonymous coach for the Jets that Hackenberg had regressed during the season.  Other sources have said that Hackenberg had been struggling during practice when taking his reps.  Regardless of what kind of player he turns out to be, it doesn’t seem as though Hackenberg will be ready to be the Jets starting QB next season.

There are a couple players that may be on the trade market that I feel the Jets should pursue.  The first player is Tony Romo.  He is likely to be moved this offseason, considering the strong performance by his replacement, Dak Prescott.  There have been rumors of the Jets willing to offer Sheldon Richardson for Romo.  Romo will be 37 years old in April, is prone to injury, and is making around $18 million annually through 2019.  However, he has still shown that when he’s healthy, he is still a very talented and intelligent QB.  The Jets need to ask themselves whether or not he is worth the money and risks.  They could also hope for the Cowboys to release him if they can’t find any trade to their liking.  This would allow for the Jets to get him at a much cheaper price.  The other QB I feel the Jets should consider trading for is Philip Rivers.  Rivers is still putting together strong numbers for a San Diego team that has been so bad that they lost to the Cleveland Browns.  At this point, San Diego is in a state of rebuilding.  The Jets could offer some draft picks for Rivers.  Like Romo, Rivers is owed a lot of money over the next few years.  His average salary is $20,812,500 through 2019.  Rivers will be 36 years old in December.  However, unlike Romo, Rivers isn’t as prone to injury, making him a little more appealing.

On the free agent market, the one name that sticks out to me is Kirk Cousins.  He is coming off of a strong season with the Redskins, in which he threw for 4,917 yards, with 25 touchdowns and a completion percentage of 67%.  He is much younger than Romo and Rivers, turning 29 in August.  The problem the Jets face with Cousins is that he will be a hot commodity, allowing for his price to rise.  The Jets would have to be committed to having Cousins as their starting QB for the long term.  This would basically mean giving up on Petty and Hackenberg.

Since the 2013 draft, the Jets have drafted 3 quarterbacks in the early rounds.  These players are Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg.  If the Jets use their 6th overall pick on a QB in the 2017 draft, it may be on one of three QBs.  In the unlikely event that they haven’t been drafted yet, the Jets may choose either Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina or DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame in the first round.  So far this season, Trubisky has thrown for 3748 yards, with 30 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions.  Kizer has thrown for 2925 yards, with 26 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.  If these players are already off the table, the Jets may want to consider Deshaun Watson of Clemson.  Watson has thrown for 4173 yards, with 38 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

Just by seeing how many quarterbacks the Jets have drafted in the early rounds in recent years, one can see how much of a gamble it is for an organization like the Jets to put the faith of the franchise in the hands of a young quarterback straight out of college.  Many talented college quarterbacks have failed in the NFL.  In their desperation for a sustainable QB, the Jets could very well use their first round pick to draft their 4th quarterback in the last 5 years.  If it comes to this, both the fans and the organization will hope that the 4th time is the charm.

Jets 2016-17 Season Retrospective

The 2016-17 New York Jets season was one to forget.  Coming off an impressive 10-6 season in 2015-16, there were high expectations from the fans for a playoff birth.  While they lost Damon Harrison to the Giants, the Jets were able to lock up Muhammad Wilkerson for the long term and eventually able to re-sign QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was coming off the best year of his career, after a lengthy standoff.

Unfortunately for the Jets, injuries and poor performances contributed to a disappointing season in which the team went just 5-11.  Future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis began to show his age, constantly getting beaten by the receivers he was assigned to shut down.  He performed so badly that questions arose as to whether or not he would soon retire.  By next season, we could very well see Revis move from cornerback to safety.  Muhammad Wilkerson, coming off arguably the best season of his career in which he registered 12 sacks, struggled to stay healthy and effective throughout the 2016-17 season, registering just 4.5 sacks.  Perhaps the biggest culprit for the disappointing Jets season was Ryan Fitzpatrick.  After being acquired by the Jets in a trade with the Texans in the 2015 offseason, Fitzpatrick was promoted to the team’s starting QB when Geno Smith got his jaw broken by then-teammate I.K. Enemkpali during a dispute over money.  Fitzpatrick ended up throwing for 3,905 yards and a franchise record 31 touchdowns.  After a long holdout last offseason, Fitzpatrick and the Jets finally reached an agreement on a 1 year, $12 million contract on July 27, 2016.  However, Fitzpatrick struggled in the 2016-17 season, especially after losing one of his favorite targets, Eric Decker, for the season after just 3 games due to a shoulder injury that required surgery.  In the 2016-17 season, Fitzpatrick threw for just 2,710 yards, with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

Due in large part to Revis’s regression and Wilkerson’s poor season, the 2016-17 Jets defense regressed mightily throughout the season.  After being ranked as the 4th best defense in the NFL in 2015-16, the defense dropped to 11th.  The Jets went from 30 takeaways, tied for third in the NFL, to just 14, tied for last in the NFL.

As poor as the season has been for the Jets, there have been some strong performances by a few players.  Bilal Powell and Quincy Enunwa seemed to be the best performers this past season for the Jets on the offensive side while Leonard Willams continues to show promise for the Jets defense.  As the season went on, it felt as if Powell was used more often.  While he did show in the 2015-16 season that he could do a good job as a receiver from the runningback position, he also showed that he could run the ball too in 2016-17.  While he only had 131 rushing attempts, he ran for 722 yards, giving him an average of 5.5 yards per carry.  He also tacked on 58 receptions for 388 yards.  He would end up scoring a total of 5 touchdowns for the Jets.  Powell could very well be a huge threat for opposing defenders in the near future thanks to his improving ability to run the ball as well as getting open for passes and turning them into big gains.  Quincy Enunwa seemed to be much more dangerous early in the season, when the Jets still had Decker.  Regardless, Enunwa still had a very good offensive season for a lackluster offensive team.  He totaled 58 receptions for 857 yards, reaching the endzone 4 times.  Assuming Decker and Marshall are back and healthy next season, and the Jets find a decent quarterback, Enunwa would present a huge threat to an opposing team’s defense that may overlook him for Marshall and Decker.  Leonard Williams showed no signs of a sophomore slump in 2016-17.  Williams tallied 7 sacks this past season, while also forcing two fumbles.  While 4.5 of those sacks occurred in the first 5 games of the season, he nonetheless continued to provide pressure on the opposing team’s offense.  He has shown the ability to be extremely dangerous when he’s hot.  If Wilkerson can come back healthy and perform up to expectations next season, the Jets would have a powerful 1-2 punch on the defensive line.

There is still a lot of work to be done by Jets management over the upcoming offseason if they want a chance to be competitive next season.  Another option that management has is to just rebuild the team over the next couple seasons.  In the meantime, Jets fans need to follow their mantra: “Just Endure The Suffering.”

10 of the Biggest Sports Moments of 2016: Part 2

#5: Bart Ruth

When the Mets signed Bartolo Colon to a 2 year deal before the 2014 season, they viewed him as a mentor to the young, talented pitching prospects.  Over time, Colon became a folk hero to Mets fans, through his solid pitching and comical at-bats.  Before signing with the Mets, the only time Colon spent in the National League, where the pitchers would take at-bats, was when he was traded to the Montreal Expos shortly before the 2002 trade deadline.  The 5’11, 285 pound Colon was viewed by fans as an out-of-shape, middle-aged man who could keep up with these other athletes.

Colon’s at-bats became must-see TV, as he would wildly swing at pitches, no matter where the ball was located, with his helmet occasionally flying off his head.  His at-bats became hits on the Internet, especially during the times in which he would get hits.  The Internet was even going crazy during batting practice in spring training when it was reported that Colon hit a homer that knocked a tree branch off a tree.

On the fateful day of May 7, 2016, at PetCo Park in San Diego, Big Sexy stepped into the box against James Shields with a runner on second and two outs.  Colon belted the 1-1 pitch 365 feet, well past the leftfield wall, for a two-run homer.  The crowd, Internet, and even teammates, went crazy as Colon rounded the bases.  At 42 years, 349 days, Bartolo Colon surpassed Randy Johnson as the oldest player to hit his first career MLB homer.  As Colon finished rounding the bases, SNY announcer Gary Cohen summed up the moment, saying “This is one of the great moments in the history of baseball.”

#4: Tavares, Greiss, Lead Islanders to End Drought

The New York  Islanders entered the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Florida Panthers having not won a playoff series since 1993.  John Tavares and the Islanders were looking to end this drought.  The Islanders would be playing the series without their starting goalie, Jaroslav Halak, who had been sidelined with a groin injury.

Thomas Greiss ended up stepping up in a big way, playing solid goaltending throughout the entire series.  The Islanders, thanks in large part to overtime victories in games 3 and 5, entered game 6 at the Barclays Center with a 3 games to 2 lead in the series.  Jonathon Huberdeau put the Panthers on the board when he scored with just over a minute left in the first period.  It would remain 1-0 going late into the third period.  With a little over a minute left in the period, and the Islanders net empty, it looked as though the Panthers were about to make the empty-net goal, but Vincent Trocheck’s shot was blocked by Nick Leddy, who then brought the puck down the ice, setting up Nikolay Kulemin for s great opportunity.  Kulemin’s shot was stopped by Luongo, but the puck squirted out from under him, allowing Tavares to poke it in for the equalizer with 53.2 seconds remaining in the third period.  The game would remain tied 1-1 after the first overtime period came to a close.  With just over 9 minutes remaining in the second overtime period, Tavares took a wrist shot from deep in the right circle, but was stopped by Luongo.  Tavares picked up his own rebound and wrapped around the net, beating Luongo for the series-clinching victory, ending 23 years of playoff ineptitude.

#3: The Death of Muhammad Ali

When people are asked as to who they believe the greatest boxer who ever lived was, the odds are that most would answer with Muhammad Ali.  Ali was more than just a boxer.  Ali was an advocate for Civil Rights.  He refused to serve in the war with Vietnam after being drafted, citing religious reasons.  He even went on to make social commentary on the war, saying “I got nothing against no Viet Cong.  No Vietnamese ever called me a nigger.”

Ali was known for being very outspoken, even during matches.  He was a wordsmith as well, coming up with many mottos and terms, such as “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” and the “Rope a dope” strategy.  Despite being unable to box during his prime years, due to being suspended for refusing to participate in the Vietnam War after being drafted, Ali finished his boxing career with a 56-5 record, with 37 wins by knockout.  He fought in some of the most thrilling matchups, such as the “Thrilla in Manila” against Joe Frazier, often considered the greatest boxing match ever, or the “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman.  Ali won both of these fights.

Unfortunately, boxing took its toll on Ali over the years.  He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in 1984 as a result of all the blows he took while boxing.  By the time he lit the Olympic torch for the 1996 summer games in Atlanta, Georgia, he was a shadow of the man he once was.  For the rest of his life, he would be constantly shaking as a result of his illness.  The man who would never shut up was barely able to speak in his later years.  The world lost the man known as the greatest on June 3, 2016, at the age of 74. There may never be a more dominant, charitable, and entertaining athlete to live more than Muhammad Ali.

#2: Cleveland Finally Wins a Championship

The city of Cleveland, Ohio is home to many sports teams, including the Browns, Indians, and, of course, the Cavaliers.  However, the city of Cleveland hadn’t had any of their sports teams win a championship since the Browns won the NFL championship in 1964, when they defeated the Baltimore Colts.  Despite being home to LeBron James, arguably the best NBA player since Michael Jordan, even he couldn’t win a title for Cleveland.  Fans became outraged when James announced that he was leaving the Cavs for the Miami Heat in 2010, ruining their best hopes at ending their drought.  However, when James returned to the Cavs in 2014 after winning two titles with the Heat, he announced that his goal was to bring a championship to the city of Cleveland.

After losing to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in 2015, the Cavs were set up with a rematch the following year.  The Cavs were huge underdogs to the Warriors, who went 73-9 in the regular season, the best regular season record ever recorded by an NBA team.  After trailing 3 games to 1, the Cavs went on to win games 5 and 6, forcing a game 7 in the Warriors home wood.  Thanks in large part to a key block by an exhausted LeBron James and a three-pointer by Kyrie Irving late in the game, Cleveland completed their epic comeback with a 93-89 victory, ending the drought in Cleveland.

#1: Joy in Wrigleyville

Every sports fan knows about the how the Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908.  The Curse of the Billy Goat is one of the most notorious curses in the history of sports.  The curse was put on the Cubs when a bartender’s goat wasn’t allowed admission to the 1945 World Series.  The Cubs lost the World Series to the Detroit Tigers in 7 games.  This was the last time the Cubs were in the World Series.  From  the black cat crossing the Cubs dugout’s path at Shea Stadium as they blew their division lead over the Mets in 1969, to Leon Durham’s error in the 1984 NLCS, to the infamous Steve Bartman incident in the 2003 NLCS, to them getting swept by the Mets in the 2015 NLCS, the Cubs have been within reach multiple times of returning to the Fall Classic, only to choke it away.

Coming into the 2016 season, there were high expectations for the Chicago Cubs.  Led by a solid starting rotation consisting of Jon Lester, 2015 Cy Young award winner Jake Arrietta, and Kyle Hendricks, and bolstered by a strong lineup consisting of players like Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, and 2015 N.L. Rookie of the Year award winner Kris Bryant, the Cubs steamrolled their way to a division title, with a 103-58 season.  The Cubs defeated the Giants in the NLDS in 4 games before beating the Dodgers in the NLCS in 6 games, winning their first pennant since 1945.

The Cubs, like the Cavs, fell behind in the series 3 games to 1 against the Cleveland Indians. After winning game 5 at Wrigley, the Cubs dominated in game 6 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, thanks in large part to a grand slam by Addison Russell.  Game 7 started on a good note for the Cubs, with Dexter Fowler leading off the game with a homer.  The Indians tied it up in the third on an RBI single by Carlos Santana.  However, the Cubs struck right back in the fourth, scoring on a sac fly by Addison Russell and a two-out RBI double by Wilson Contreras.  The Cubs scored two more runs in the fifth, thanks to a homer by Javier Baez and a two-out RBI single by Anthony Rizzo, putting them ahead 5-1.  The Indians answered by scoring twice in the bottom of the fifth on a wild pitch.  The Cubs answered again in the sixth thanks to a solo homer by David Ross in his final game of his career.  However, in the bottom of the eighth, the Indians were able to rally against Aroldis Chapman thanks two a two-out RBI double by Brandon Guyer and a game-tying, two-run homer by Rajai Davis.  The game remained tied 6-6 after 9 innings.  As if the game couldn’t have any more suspense, there was a 15 minute rain delay before the start of the tenth inning. The Cubs were able to pull ahead in the tenth thanks to an RBI double by Ben Zobrist, before tacking on an insurance run on an RBI single by Miguel Montero.  The Indians didn’t go quietly in the bottom of the tenth, scoring once on a Rajai Davis RBI single.  However, the Cubs were finally able to end 108 years of suffering on a groundout by Michael Martinez.  For the first time since 1908, the Cubs were World Series Champions.

10 of the Biggest Sports Moments of 2016: Part 1

Many would agree that 2016 has been a very difficult year.  From all the celebrity deaths to the U.S. presidential election, many people just can’t wait for the year to end.  But through this difficult year came many fascinating moments in the world of sports.  Here are 10 of many notable events that occurred in the world of sports in 2016.

#10: The Rio Olympics

Many were expecting the Olympic Games in Rio to be a disaster, given the troubles facing the country, from pollution in the water to the high crime rates to the fear of the spread of the Zika virus, many athletes were hesitant to participate.  The Olympics went surprisingly well (unless your name was Ryan Lochte).  Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt continued their utter dominance in their respective categories.  Phelps broke an Olympic record dating back over 2,000 years when he won his 13th individual Olympic medal, passing Leonidas of Rhodes for the most by any Olympian.  Leonidas won 12 individual Olympic medals from 164 B.C. to 152 B.C.

Ryan Lochte became one of the most hated Americans when he, along with some swimming teammates, vandalized a gas station bathroom after getting drunk.  He later claimed that he and his friends were robbed at gunpoint.  Shortly after this incident, he got on a plane and went back home to America.  While in America, it was revealed through security footage by the gas station that Lochte was lying.  Lochte’s teammates were detained while they were still in Rio.  Lochte’s lies and his abandonment of his teammates led to him being scorned by many in the world.

#9: A Cespedes for the Rest of us

When Yoenis Cespedes was traded to the Mets at the 2015 trade deadline, nobody would have expected him to carry the team as much as he did.  Cespedes ended up batting .287 while hitting 17 homers while driving in 44 runs in his two months with the Mets.  At one point, there was even talk of him being considered for the N.L. MVP despite the fact that he had only played two months in the N.L.  He quickly became a fan favorite thanks to his clutch hits and ability to perform under the bright lights of New York.  While many Mets fans wanted him back for 2016, the ownership and management didn’t expect to get him.  Luckily for them, Cespedes fell into their laps late in the offseason.  The Mets signed him to a 3 year, $75 million contract with an opt-out after the first year.  Cespedes continued to entertain Mets fans.  In spring training, he made daily headlines thanks to his tricked out rides that he would take to the field.  At one point, he and Noah Syndergaard even rode Cespedes’s horses around the spring training facility.  When the season began, Cespedes was able to prove to fans as well as players around the league that he wasn’t a one-trick pony, batting .280 while hitting 31 homers and driving in 86.  Cespedes was rewarded by the Mets this offseason with a four year, $110 million contract, with a no-trade clause.  Ceaspedes will be sticking around in Flushing for quite awhile.


#8: The Rise Of Lugo and Gsellman

Nobody doubted that the Mets starting rotation entering the 2016 season was one of the best, if not, the best in the MLB.  The Mets had Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Bartolo Colon, with Zack Wheeler scheduled to return around July.  Unfortunately, the Mets 2015 run to the World Series appeared to have a hangover effect on many of the pitchers.  Harvey struggled in 2016 before being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome in July.  His season ended when he elected for surgery to fix it shortly after the diagnosis.  Syndergaard and Matz were both diagnosed with bone spurs in their pitching arms, with Matz’s being large and requiring surgery at the end of the season.  While Syndergaard was able to pitch through the season with little to no effect on him from the bone spur, Matz struggled to pitch as well as he did before the diagnosis, as well as to stay healthy.  Matz was eventually shut down in late September.  DeGrom had issues with his velocity early in the season.  While he eventually recovered from this, he was eventually shut down in September when he needed surgery to repair an ulnar nerve.  The 43 year old Colon would end up being the healthiest and most consistent of the Mets starting rotation in 2016.

Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman were eventually brought on to try to replace Harvey and Matz.  From the moment that they joined the rotation, they shined brightly.  Many fans had not even heard of these two pitchers before they were brought in as reinforcements.  Gsellman ended up going 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA while Lugo went 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA since joining the starting rotation.  Both pitchers were key reasons as to why the Mets clinched a playoff birth for a second straight season for only the second time in franchise history despite all of the injuries that the team suffered.

#7: The Sanchize?

Gary Sanchez burst onto the scene with the New York Yankees in 2016 after making his season debut with them in early August.  In 53 games, Sanchez batted .299 with 20 homers and 42 runs batted in.  He tied Wally Berger as the fastest player to hit 20 homers to begin his career, at just 50 MLB appearances.  Yankees fans consider him a catalyst for the upcoming youth movement for the franchise.  The fans and organization hopes that Sanzhez will continue his strong play in 2017, and that some of the other top prospects in the organization can show promise just as Sanchez did in 2016.


#6: The Farewell Tours of Kobe and Big Papi

2016 saw the end of an era in Los Angeles and Boston.  Kobe Bryant announced that his 20th season in the NBA, all of which were with the Lakers, would be his last.  Bryant won 5 NBA championships as a member of the Lakers, winning MVP in 2 of the finals.  He was an 18 time NBA all star, including 4 all star game MVP awards.  He won the 2008 NBA MVP award.  Throughout the 2015-16 NBA season, he was greeted cheerfully by opposing players and fans in opposing arenas.  Kobe added to his hall of fame career in his final game when he led the Lakers to a victory over the Utah Jazz by scoring 60 points in the Staples Center in Los Angeles.  He ended his career with one last legendary performance, cemented his status as one of the greatest to ever play the game.

Shortly before the start of the 2016 baseball season, Red Sox star David Ortiz said that this would be his final season.  He then went on to have one of the greatest final seasons by an athlete.  Ortiz batted .315, hitting 38 homers, and leading the league in doubles with 48, runs batted in with 127, slugging percentage at .620, and OPS at 1.021.

In his 14 seasons as a member of the Boston Red Sox, Ortiz was a 10 time all star, 7 time silver slugger award winner, and 3 time World Series Champion, winning World Series MVP in 2013.  Ortiz played a critical role in ending the curse of the Bambino in 2004 when he led the Red Sox to a comeback to beat the Yankees after trailing them 3 games to none in the ALCS.  Ortiz hit the walk-off homer in the 12th inning of game 4 that extended the series, and hit a walk-off single in the 14th inning of game 5.  In the 2004 ALCS, Ortiz became the first DH to win the ALCS MVP award, batting .387 with 3 homers and 11 runs batted in.

Ortiz became the face of the Red Sox franchise in his years there.  It was only fitting that he give a powerful speech in the first Red Sox game at Fenway Park following the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.  He concluded his speech as any Bostonian would- by swearing like a sailor.  He told the fans “This is our fucking city, and no one is going to dictate our freedom.  Stay strong.”  Ortiz and the Red Sox would face off against the Detroit Tigers in the 2013 ALCS.  Ortiz had another dramatic moment in him when he stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the 8th inning of game 2, representing the tying run.  Ortiz belted a game-tying grand slam homer that was just out of reach of the leaping Torii Hunter in right field.  The image of the ball landing in the bullpen and the raised hands and joyous expression of a Boston police officer in the bullpen became very iconic for the city of Boston.  The Red Sox would go on to win the game, and later, the series against the Tigers, before beating the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

David Ortiz established himself as one of the most clutch hitters in postseason history.  He finished his career with a .289 batting average in the playoffs (including a .455 average in 59 plate appearances in the World Series), with 17 homers and 61 runs batted in during the playoffs.  He transformed the Red Sox from a team that was cursed into one of the most dominant franchises of the 21st century.



Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest of this list.