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.

 

Halak Jam in the Net

Many Islander fans have been surprised to hear that the Islanders put Jaroslav Halak on waivers.  While it is no secret that the team has been looking to trade Halak due to the fact that they have three goaltenders on the active roster, this move still comes as a shock.  Halak is a very good goaltender.  Islanders general manager Garth Snow knows that a good goalie would be very valuable to competing teams.  One would assume that rather than just waiving Halak, Snow would at least trade him for talented young forwards or draft picks.

One possibility as to why Halak was waived could be that Snow was having a hard time finding good trade partners.  Many teams may have been turned off by Halak’s contract.  He is owed $4.5 million this year and next year.  Halak also supposedly has a reputation of being a negative presence in the clubhouse, which could explain why the Islanders are the third team he has played for since 2013.  Earlier in the season, Halak’s agent criticized the Islanders organization for carrying three goalies on the roster.  As a result of these comments, the Islanders put Halak on the trade block, but haven’t found any good suitors to their liking.

The Islanders organization thinks very highly of Jean-Francois Berube and Thomas Greiss.  Greiss took over the starting goaltender spot last season after Halak suffered a groin injury that sidelined him for the rest of the regular season.  Greiss ended up playing very well for the Islanders for the rest of the season, including some of his best play occurring in the first round of the playoffs when the Islanders beat the Florida Panthers in 6 games.  Greiss has continued his strong play so far this season, splitting playing time with Halak.

While Halak has been placed on waivers, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Islanders won’t trade Halak.  In fact, this may increase the likelihood that he gets traded, assuming another team doesn’t claim him first.  Clearly, the organization views Halak as the least valuable of their three goaltenders.  With Halak gone, Berube will be able to get much more playing time behind Greiss.  This will also open a roster spot for the Islanders to add a forward or defenseman.

I strongly believe that Halak should be traded for some young forwards.  The Islanders have been lacking in the scoring department.  While Andrew Ladd has begun playing better, the Islanders are still in need of more forwards that can help move the puck around.  We’ll see if Halak can get the Islanders a player of this caliber.

What Should the Mets do About Their Bullpen?

With spring training less than two months away, the Mets are still in need of bullpen help.  With Jeurys Familia likely being suspended for at least the first 30 games of the season, the Mets are without a setup man since Addison Reed will be stepping in to the closer’s role for Familia.  While Sandy Alderson has expressed a desire to lower the Mets payroll to under $140 million.  As it stands now, the Mets payroll stands at just over $150 million.

It’s no secret that the Mets are currently trying to trade Jay Bruce for a good reliever or good prospect.  This would potentially allow for the Mets to get their payroll under $140 million while also solving their problem with relief.  Unfortunately, Jay Bruce’s value dropped due to the Jason Bay-like performance he had as a member of the Mets when he was acquired at the trade deadline.  However, I believe that his value will rise when the free agency outfield market gets thinner this offseason.  The Mets need to remind potential trade partners that Bruce hit over 30 homers last season while driving in 99.  In addition to this, Bruce will only be 30 years old by early April.  He is in the prime of his career.

I feel that the perfect trade partners for the Mets would either be the Orioles or the White Sox.  I feel the Mets should offer Bruce and Kevin Plawecki to the Orioles for Brad Brach, whom the Mets have already expressed interest in.  I would offer the same two players to the White Sox for David Robertson.  The issue for the Mets with Robertson is that he is making a little more than what Bruce is currently making.  The Mets would have to keep their payroll between $140 and $160 million.  Both the White Sox and Orioles are in need of an outfielder and a long term catcher.  In the White Sox’s case, they could flip Bruce at the deadline for high-level prospects assuming he raises his value.  I feel that, in the White Sox’s case, they could get a lot more at the trade deadline for Jay Bruce than they would for David Robertson.  In the case of Plawecki, while the Mets have just about given up on him, there are still other teams that may believe he can still live up to his potential.  This is evident in the fact that his name was brought up during the winter meetings.

Another option the Mets have for their bullpen would be to try to re-sign Jerry Blevins.  As it stands now, Blevins is demanding a 3-year deal, which Alderson doesn’t want to commit to with a reliever.  If I were Alderson, I would offer Blevins a 2-year deal in the $15-$25 million range.  He may be willing to accept this kind of offer since he doesn’t seem to be valued as highly by other teams due to the fact that he is still on the market.  Many teams, like the Mets, may be reluctant to give Blevins the third year.  I would love for the Mets to be able to hang on to Blevins.  He reminds me a little bit of Pedro Feliciano in that he has the ability to get both lefties and righties out.

As it stands now, it is probable that the Mets would have Zack Wheeler and either Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo pitching the 7th and 8th innings.  While these options aren’t bad, I feel that getting a more accomplished reliever would be a better option.  This would allow for more flexibility for the Mets in the back end of their starting rotation.  The 2016 season taught the Mets that they need as many good starting pitchers with them as they can get.  Gsellman and Lugo played key roles in getting the Mets to the playoffs in 2016.  The Mets may end up asking them to do the same thing again in a different way in 2017 if they can’t fill out the hole in their bullpen from external options.

Turning a new Leef?

While the 2016-17 New York Islanders season has been a disappointment so far this season, one of the few bright spots for the team has been the performance of Anders Lee.  His team-leading 13th goal of the season proved to be the difference last night in the Islanders 4-3 victory over Washington.  While Lee has experienced success in the NHL before, scoring 25 goals in his rookie season in 2014-15, 38 of his  42 points that season occurred during his first 63 games of the season.  Lee, like many of the Islanders current young players, has been very streaky throughout his career.

While it can be argued that Lee is just going through a hot streak right now, scoring 12 of his 13 goals of the season since mid-November, it can also be argued that Lee has changed his approach.  When Lee is at his best, he is usually found right in front of the opposing goaltender, screening them and deflecting shots.  Lately, Lee has been doing this, but he has also been handling the puck much better and getting himself in good positions to score.  His hot hand has been rewarded with some power play time alongside John Tavares.  Lee has 3 power play goals this season, and has been productive since being moved to the Tavares line.

Lee has also been playing with more grit.  Just last night, he fought through a strong check on a one-on-one break and was able to get a strong backhand shot to the net that went just wide of the post.  It is this kind of physical toughness that will allow him to get right in front of opposing goaltenders and be able to deflect shots past them.

If Lee is able to sustain success and prove that this is more than a hot streak, it could allow for the Islanders to finally have another consistently powerful offensive weapon for opposing teams to worry about other than John Tavares.  Maybe Lee’s strong , tough, and gritty playing can be the inspiration the team needs to go on a hot streak, and maybe even a playoff run.

Welcome!

This blog multiple New York sports teams, primarily the Mets, Jets, and Islanders.  The articles that will be published will include game summaries, offseason rumors, and my opinions on trades and signings as well as what each team should do regarding trades and signings.  As a warning to potential readers, this blog may contain very opinionated articles, but I welcome feedback and criticism as well as the opinions of others.  I will try to respond to emails sent to me regarding questions or ideas.