Tuesday, June 12, 2007

King Of Pain

"But I'm-a wishin' and-a hoping
That just once these doors weren't locked."

Yes, that's from "Dirty Water," and I just want to report that the Charles is a little cleaner than it was when The Standells wrote about it (they were from Cleveland too...maybe they just moved to Boston and called it home?). Ok, so with the summer in full swing, the Sox back at home, and rumors abound, it really helps a guy like me out in terms of material. Here we go now:

So I was reading an article on ESPN about the 32 athletes who are "now," and frankly, it was insulting as a fan of sports to read it. Does Page 2 even have any kind of feel for what is actually going on in sports. In one of the sections, it lists guys who don't have the "it" factor going for them, and David Ortiz was one of those guys. Are you kidding me? I'm not saying he necessarily has to be on the list, but to say he doesn't have something "extra" going for him is crazy to me. Papi is second-in-line to the throne of Boston sports behind Tom Brady, and is one of the most beloved players in not only baseball, but sports in general. He doesn't have the "it"...please, get real. Anyway, I went out and did the alternative sports writing world a freggin' service and made a list of my own (Goulet!). This is my list, and again, I'm not trying to hate on people who do the exact thing that I do, but make money by doing so, it's simply a difference of opinion. I just feel like this list was thrown together at the last minute, and they were attempting to appeal to everyone. This is my opinion on who's the glitz of the sports world right now (by the way, here's the article for your viewing pleasure...I know there are a bunch of duplicates...they did get some of them right):
  1. LeBron James- Clearly, with LeBron reaching the Finals, his career milestones continue to stack up. Sure, the Cavs are getting killed by the Spurs right now, but James has had one of the more brilliant playoff runs in recent NBA history, and now, the NBA actually is getting some exposure, and this time, it is in the positive sense, unlike the usual talk about how the league is filled with "gangsters," and that the fundamentals of the game have been thrown out the window. LeBron has brought back what was great about the game, and put a modern spin on it that is just what this league needed.
  2. Sidney Crosby- This guy is in just his second year in the league, and he already has a scoring title to his credit. What is next for "Sid the Kid?" Well, perhaps a Hart Trophy, and maybe, if the Pens stop worrying about moving out of the Steel City and spend more time, and money, in getting free agents, like Chris Drury, and keeping their core of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, and Marc-Andre Fleury in tact, they could be able to make a run at a Cup as soon as next year.
  3. Reggie Bush- Already, this guy is probably the most electrifying player in the league, and it only took him one year. Bush capped off his outstanding rookie season in the NFC Championship game in Chicago, ripping off a gigantic run that was topped off by a $5,000 wave at Brian Urlacher, and a somersault into the end zone. The message was simple: "I've arrived." Not to mention the fact that Bush will be playing with a chip on his shoulder for perhaps the rest of his career after Houston passed on him at #1. How's that workin' out for ya? (too easy, still, had to)
  4. Lorena Ochoa- So ESPN's rep for women's golf was Michelle Wie. Oh yeah, remind me of these two things: What has she won and who cares? If you want to get into someone that people may actually give somewhat of a damn about on the LPGA, Ochoa is definitely the pick. She has 11 career tour wins, and right now, she is the #1 ranked female golfer on the planet. Not Annika, or any other women's golfer you can't name, but Lorena Ochoa. Although she has not won a major yet, her time will come very shortly.
  5. Rafael Nadal- So are there any more questions about if this guy can hang with Federer? Nadal, who has never lost in the French Open, captured his third consecutive open title over the weekend. Sure, Federer is not as great on clay as he is on other surfaces, but at least with this win, it further cements Nadal as the rival for Federer, which is exactly what tennis needed, as Federer was seemingly winning majors at will. If Nadal can prove to be a worth adversary, and perhaps beat him one of these days on something other than at Roland Garros, then we may have a Sampras/Agassi thing going on.
  6. Martin Truex, Jr.- With another Junior leaving DEI, the pressure falls squarely on the shoulders of Truex to carry on the legacy of the late Dale Earnhardt's team. After dominating the Busch series (champ in 2004 and 2005), Truex took over the #1 car last year and finished 19th in points. This year, Truex has come out hot in his sophomore campaign, as he sits in 11th place, which would make him a part of "The Chase." Along with his two top fives and five top 10s, Truex captured his first Nextel Cup race in Dover, winning by nearly seven seconds over Ryan Newman, so Truex has responded to the pressure quite well thus far.
  7. Vince Young- Last year, Young had the Midas touch, and it followed him from his National Title win in Pasadena to Nashville, as after landing the starting job, Young went 8-5, including running off six straight wins before their season-ending loss against your New England Patriots. Young will now be put in a bit of a quandary now, as not only did he lose his best running back (Travis Henry) and wide receiver (Drew Bennett), but he also has to dodge the Madden cover "curse." So if Young can come out of this without taking too much damage, then he truly will have a place amongst the best quarterbacks in the league.
  8. Chris Bosh- Did anyone else notice the sudden turnaround with the Raptors? This team had the #1 pick in last year's Draft, and went 27-55. Although the additions of T.J. Ford, Andrea Bargnani, and Jorge Garbajosa certainly helped the overall depth of the team, but the way Bosh stepped up his game this season was the biggest factor in the Raptors improving their record by 20 wins and grabbing the #3 spot in the Eastern Conference. Although they were bounced in the first round, Bosh has established himself as a marquee player, and averaged 22.6 points, 10.7 boards a game, and 42 double-doubles, all career highs.
  9. Michael Phelps- After medaling eight times in the 2004 Games in Athens, including six golds, you would figure that there was not a whole lot more that the 21-year old could do. Well, think again. At the 2007 World Championships, Phelps placed first in all seven events he took a part in, including five world records. Phelps is already being considered as the greatest American swimmer to ever live, and has the resume to back it up with 31 U.S. titles, six American records, and six world records.
  10. Jake Peavy- Despite getting almost no exposure on the east coast, Peavy is widely considered to be one, if not, the best pitchers in the game today. Sure, Johan Santana has the hardware, but in terms of right now, I would have to give the nod to Peavy and his 7-1 mark, along with a 1.97 ERA and 95 K's, both of which are tops in the NL. His stuff is unbelievably electric, and has one of the best breaking pitches I have ever seen.
  11. Shaun White- I have to agree with Page 2 on this one, because White is the face of "extreme" sports right now, and has everything covered, from skating, to snowboarding, to surfing, White has extended himself beyond what many before him had ever dreamed of doing, and has stamped his name onto popular culture. Further more, he's just 20, so the sky is the limit for this kid.
  12. Greg Oden- After the NBA Combine, it has become clear on who the #1 player is going into the Draft. Oden was dominant in workouts, and has the physical prowess to be an NBA center already. There is no talk about him needing to gain/shed pounds, or put on muscle. Oden, physically, already has all the tools to make an impact for Portland, who is going to make him the #1 pick a couple of weeks from now. Not saying that Portland will be making any title runs in the near future, but Oden will certainly have an impact on both the city of Portland and the Northwest Division.
  13. LaDainian Tomlinson- Sure, he wasn't exactly high on my list after his post-Divisional Playoff game comments, but still, you have to give the guy credit. He is the best player in the NFL right now, and did score 31 TDs last season, so you have to give it to the guy, because he is great, and potentially still hasn't reached his ceiling yet, which is quite scary.
  14. David Wright- Wright is becoming the face of the Mets, and for good reason. He is the premier third baseman in the NL, and without that guy in the Bronx, would easily be the best in baseball. He does have some ammo that you can bring into a gunfight with an A-Rod backer. Last year, he had a 20/20 season, along with a .311 average and 116 RBIs in just his second full season in the bigs.
  15. Jose Reyes- I tried to separate between Wright and Reyes, but I couldn't choose just one, so I figured I might as well throw both of them in the list. Reyes simply went bananas last year, also his second. While leading the majors in steals with 64, he showed tremendous power from the shortstop position, belting out 19 homers and driving in 81 RBIs from the leadoff spot. Couple that with a .300 average and a flair for making the tough plays in the field, and you are looking at one of the best five-tool players the game as seen in quite a while.
  16. Carl Crawford- Everyone seems to forget about this guy, and I would put about 100% blame on the fact that he is playing in Tampa. If Crawford were playing for a contender, his name would be all over the MVP ballots. To sum everything up, this year, he's hitting over .300, with six homers, 39 RBIs, and 19 steals, and this can be called an off-year for Crawford. Although he may never get the recognition he deserves, he, along with Reyes, is one of the best all-around players in the game today.
  17. Shawne Merriman- Hey, he did the time, and even though the guy juiced a little on the side, he is still the best outside linebacker in the NFL. The #56 serves him well, because he reminds a lot of people of another certain linebacker that played his home games off of Exit 16W in Jersey.
  18. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.- People love him, people hate him, and there's very little in between, but still, the guy makes headlines, and he is the most popular driver in NASCAR today. With the recent announcement that Junior would be joining Hendrick Motorsports, you're talking about a three-headed monster of Junior, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson that is going to be a menace for other teams to compete with.
  19. Floyd Mayweather, Jr.- How can you really forget about the guy who just won the fight of this century? It wasn't the best fight ever, but Mayweather, along with Oscar De La Hoya, put boxing back on the map, if only for a few weeks, as the drama of their reality show on HBO built up the fight even more than the already giant expectations the fight was going to bring, and brought in record sales from a pay-per-view audience.
  20. O.J. Mayo- A firestorm of controversy has followed Mayo to Southern Cal, and his name has been brought up among top prospects for years, so now, Mayo will finally strap it up for his first, and perhaps his only, college season of his career. Is there any way he can possibly matched the hype that has gone along with his name? Well, the last two players that were in his situation (LeBron and Oden) have done just fine with all of the attention they received.
  21. David Beckham- That's a lot of money for one guy, but there is the chance he could create the kind of buzz the MLS has lacked since Freddy Adu's debut with D.C. United a few years ago. Do I think it will become a trend for European players to come to American soil? Probably not, but at least soccer fans now know that it's possible, you just need to pool a lot of money together, and even your team could end up with a star.
  22. Peyton Manning- Fine, fine, fine, he's on the list. You know I hate to do it, but you can't discount the fact that the guy is the best at what he does, and that he won the big one...finally, so now he has that monkey off his back. Enjoy it while it lasts...
  23. Tom Brady- Because this guy is coming for you. Brady already has three rings, and his team has put him in a great position to win a fourth in seven years. Although football is the ultimate team game, Brady and Manning have become the figureheads of this brewing rivalry. It's not that the NFL needed any help, but they are sure getting a boost when these two old AFC East foes throw down.
  24. Kobe Bryant- Are you coming, or are you going? Kobe may never even make up his mind, and could end up staying in L.A., then bolt in times of trouble. Who knows what this guy is capable of? The only thing anyone knows is that Bryant is the best pure scorer in the NBA, and has shown many-a-time that he can hit a shot from literally any spot on the court, whether it's an open jumper, a contested drive to the basket, or being doubled from behind the arc, Bryant can do it all. The split with Shaq may not have helped out his championship total, but it has forced Bryant to become a better all-around player now that he shoulders basically all of the burden of the Lakers.
  25. Steve Nash- This guy is basically your default MVP for the time being. Without Nash, the Suns are simply just a mediocre team that has potential. Nash's ability to get everyone involved and keep everyone happy is unparalleled, and along with creating opportunities for others, he does take time out of his busy schedule to help himself out (18.6 ppg, 53.2% FG, 45.5% 3PT)
  26. Jason Kidd- So why is it that this guy gets absolutely no credit? Is there some kind of coincidence to the fact that teams he has been on have reached the playoffs 10 seasons in a row? When he was with Phoenix, the team went from 40-42 in '96 to 56-26 in '97 upon his arrival. The Nets went from 26-56 in '00 to 52-30, tops in the East. So are the triple-doubles becoming mundane to people, because I'm pretty sure he's at about the skill level as Steve Nash is, if not better, and yet all you hear is Steve Nash this, and Steve Nash that. Maybe I have an east-coast bias on this, but Kidd absolutely tears it up on a nightly basis. Maybe it's me, but I would want a guy that is almost good for a triple-double a night (13.0ppg, 9.2apg, 8.2rpg)
  27. Chuck Liddell- I personally am not into it, but I have to recognize that mixed martial arts is quickly becoming the alternative sports genre of choice for kids of my generation. Liddell is "the guy" right now in this field, even though he recently lost his title fight to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. That particular fight was the highest rated ever for the UFC, who have shown that they have a fan-backing that is growing with every day, and that this has the chance to supersede boxing with relative ease.
  28. Tiger Woods- There's really no way to keep this guy off the list. His career speaks for itself, and even though he hasn't gotten off to the best start this year, this is more like a "Lifetime Achievement Award" for him. He'll win more majors, and remember, if you are playing a sport, and the question of "who do you think will win, Tiger or the field?" is brought up, you're doing something right.
  29. Alex Rodriguez- He is the best player in the game, but brings a losing cancer to wherever he plays, so this is much more an individual award. Great numbers, no rings. Hey, I can deal with that.
  30. Dwight Howard- I think he has a coach now, so with Van Gundy in place, Howard is going to have an even bigger year than he had this past season, which is hard to imagine considering Howard, 21, vaulted himself into an elite group of big men, much like the previously-mentioned Chris Bosh did (17.6ppg, 12.3rpg, 1.9bpg, 60 double-doubles).
Ok, so that was only 30, but the more I was making the list, the more I thought "well, that was kind of an opinion piece that ESPN did, and it's basically fueled to strike up debate, which they definitely accomplished...and sure, some of their picks were a little off, but I've been known to be off too sometimes, so no worries." So apparently, once I slept on it for awhile, I actually figured out that people are entitled to their opinions, and I'm bitter that they're getting paid and I'm still unemployed.

Anyway, one more note before I leave you. Another Celtic rumor is picking up steam, as it has come to my attention that disgruntled Sonics forward Rashard Lewis has been rumored to be involved in a sign-and-trade with the Celtics. If I have learned anything throughout the years, here it is: The more popular and rampant the rumors become, the less likely it will happen, so I'm going to keep my opinions on this brief, because building myself up has been an excellent way to let myself down. In any event, sure, Lewis would be a fantastic addition to the C's, but realistically, how good is the deal going to be for the Sonics? Most likely, they are going to have to part with one of three guards (Tony Allen, Delonte West, Sebastian Telfair), the #5 pick, and Theo Ratliff? If you were Seattle, would you really think that is enough for a guy who is, not only young, but is a perennial All-Star, and will be for years to come? See, this is why I think the Celts are going to be stuck here. They have almost nothing that is prized by other teams, except of course Gerald Green and Al Jefferson, the two guys they are dead-set against trading. So the C's really find themselves in a hard place here, as they want to get better, but yet are unwilling to part with the building blocks of the franchise...the future, in order to do so. It's not as though teams are out there saying "you know, the Celtics haven't been good in awhile, so I think we should help them out by taking a decent guard, and pick that will be spent on someone who will likely be a bust, and a guy making $11 million that probably won't play next year off of their hands for one of our superstars...yeah, that seems fair." This is one of the things I hate about sports radio (sorry to tangent here). When people call up and propose trades that seem ingenious to them at the time, they aren't really thinking about the other end of the trade. It's merely a selfish aspect only giving consideration to your team, and the other team apparently will just give in to an incredibly lopsided trade because your team is the only one that matters. You need to step into the light and realize that this is a two-way street. Again, you can voice whatever you want to, you have the right, but just realize you may sound a little ridiculous with some of this. So, really, I am trying to convince myself to not believe in any of this, even though all of this is rather enticing.

Justin Verlander just threw a no-hitter, so I perhaps will be commenting on that at a later time. Until then, I'm going to enjoy the rest of my Tuesday night, and hope you do the same. Peace.


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