by Julian Spivey
I don’t have a vote for Most Valuable Player in baseball, but if I did here would be the top five on my American League ballot and the reasons why I chose these five players …
5. Jose Ramirez (Cleveland Indians)
Jose Ramirez in the span of about two seasons has gone from a utilityman to one of the most underrated stars in the American League for the Cleveland Indians. Ramirez was the Indians most consistent offensive player this year and did so playing all over the field splitting time between second and third base this year. Ramirez hit .318 (fourth in the league) with 29 home runs 83 RBI. His 186 hits were good enough for fifth in the A.L., as well.
4. Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
It’s a testament to how truly great Mike Trout is that he could only play in 114 games and still be among the five best players in his league. Trout hit .306 this season with 33 homers, 72 RBI and 22 stolen bases. Trout led the American League in slugging and on-base percentage and his 6.4 WAR was the third best in the league.
3. Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians)
Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber was arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball this year and should be the front-runner for his second Cy Young Award. Kluber led the A.L. with a 2.25 ERA and his 18-4 win-loss record was the best in baseball. His 265 strikeouts were second to only Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale in the A.L.
2. Aaron Judge (New York Yankees)
Aaron Judge came out of nowhere this year for the New York Yankees to stun Major League Baseball. There is a very good chance that Judge could join only Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki as players to win both Rookie of the Year (for which he’s a lock) and MVP in the same season. Judge led the American League with 52 home runs, a new rookie record. His 114 RBI were second in the A.L. to Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz. Judge also hit a very respectable .284 and led the A.L. with an 8.8 WAR. His only downfall was leading the league in strikeouts and a sizeable drought during the second half of the season.
1. Jose Altuve (Houston Astros)
It wouldn’t surprise me if Aaron Judge wins the MVP based on a stunning rookie season and mostly an East Coast/New York bias, but I believe Houston Astros diminutive second baseman Jose Altuve should be the MVP. Altuve has won the American League batting title for three consecutive years and is still somewhat underappreciated. He led the A.L. this year with a .346 average, which is 16 points higher than the next guy (Avisail Garcia). Altuve’s power numbers continue to rise with him hitting 24 homers and driving in 81 runs this season while also being one of the game’s best speedsters with 32 stolen bases, third in the A.L.
by Julian Spivey
I don’t have a vote for Most Valuable Player in baseball, but if I did here would be the top five on my National League ballot and the reasons why I chose these five players …
5. Charlie Blackmon (Colorado Rockies)
Sure, his offensive numbers are likely aided by playing at Coors Field in Denver, but Charlie Blackmon’s numbers from the leadoff spot simply can’t be ignored. Blackmon set the record for most RBI from the leadoff spot this season with 104, breaking Darin Erstad’s record. He also hit 37 home runs while winning the National League batting title with a .331 average.
4. Max Scherzer (Washington Nationals)
I believe Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer should be the National League Cy Young winner this season as the N.L.’s best pitcher, but I also believe he should receive some MVP votes (which I know is controversial for some). Scherzer was the league’s most dominant pitcher this year compiling a 16-6 win-loss record with a 2.51 ERA (second in the league behind Clayton Kershaw) and a league high 7.2 WAR for pitchers.
3. Nolan Arenado (Colorado Rockies)
It might be controversial to have two Colorado Rockies on my MVP ballot top five, but the Rockies did surprise many this year by winning the second wild card in the National League and making the playoffs. It’s hard to argue with Arenado’s offensive numbers and he’s also a gold glove defender. Arenado finished third in the N.L. with 37 homers and second in the league with 130 RBI while hitting over .300. Arenado has hit 37 or more homers in each of the last three seasons.
2. Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is the seemingly popular pick to win the National League MVP award this season with terrific all-around numbers that include 36 home runs (fourth in the league), 120 RBI (fourth in the league) and a .297 average. Goldschmidt led the surprising Diamondbacks to a playoff appearance this season and has been one of the most underrated players in baseball for much of his career.
1. Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins)
Some people have a bias where they don’t believe players on teams that miss out on postseason don’t deserve to win the MVP award. In most case I believe the MVP should come from a playoff team, but Giancarlo Stanton’s 2017 offensive numbers were out of this world. Stanton hit 59 home runs, the third most all-time by a non-PED user. His 59 homers were a whopping 20 more than the runner-up in his league (Cody Bellinger). Stanton’s 132 RBI also led his league and his .281 average was 13 points higher than his career average. His 7.6 WAR also led the N.L.
by Julian Spivey
I believe it was about month ago I had a Texas Rangers game on the television while I was working on other stuff, as I often do with random sporting events, and Joey Gallo – who bounced between third base, first base and outfield this year for the Rangers – launched a moonshot. It was number thirtysomething on the year for him and I texted my friend Bobby, as I often do random baseball stats throughout the day, that Gallo was on pace for the worst 40 home run season in baseball history. I didn’t have the stats before me now, but he was hitting around the Mendoza line (.200) and almost half of his base hits on the year had left the park. I couldn’t imagine a 40-homer season being any worse and I’ve lived through the career of Adam Dunn.
In the Rangers penultimate game of the season on Saturday against the Oakland A’s Gallo, who looked for a while like he might come up short of the 40 number, hit home runs No. 40 and 41 on the year. They were his 93rd and 94th base hits of the season. He didn’t play in the Rangers final game of the season on Sunday, but if he had he would’ve needed six hits just so as not to become the first player in baseball history to hit 40-plus homers without reaching 100 hits on the season.
This brings up the question I posed to Bobby about a month ago: is Joey Gallo’s 2017 season the worst 40-homer season in baseball history?
It’s not the easiest question to answer, honestly, because baseball is no longer a game of if you hit for a high average and drive a lot of runs in you’re having a good year. In the sabermetrics world you can strikeout 208 times like New York Yankees rookie slugger Aaron Judge did this season and have a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 8.0 and potentially win a MVP Award.
Still, I looked up a bunch of bad to terrible 40 home run seasons to determine what I felt was the worst of all-time, which honestly wasn’t that hard because most such seasons have been done in the last two decades of the game.
I settled upon three 40-plus homer seasons to decide upon as the worst of all-time, each of which have come within the last six seasons. Those seasons were Adam Dunn’s 2012 year for the Chicago White Sox, Chris Carter’s 2016 season for the Milwaukee Brewers and, of course, Gallo’s season this year.
Here are some numbers I’ve highlighted for those three seasons:
Adam Dunn (2012): .204 average, 41 home runs, 96 RBI, 110 hits, 222 strikeouts, .800 OPS and 1.4 WAR
Chris Carter (2016): .222 average, 47 home runs, 94 RBI, 122 hits, 206 strikeouts, .821 OPS and 0.9 WAR
Joey Gallo (2017): .209 average, 41 home runs, 80 RBI, 94 hits, 196 strikeouts, .869 OPS and 3.1 WAR
It should be noted right away that if you’re into sabermetrics and not much else you’re probably going to want to eliminate Gallo’s season from contention right away because his OPS (On-base plus slugging percentage) is quite a bit better than Carter or Dunn’s. You’ll also note his WAR is more almost two points higher than that of the other two seasons.
There are two things I absolutely can’t get over with Gallo’s season: as previously mentioned it’s the only 40-homer season in baseball history in which the batter didn’t have 100 hits. Getting hits would seem to be the most basic thing about baseball. Well, that’s actually getting on base. Gallo and Dunn’s seasons had an identical .333 OBS (on-base percentage) and Carter had slightly less .321. It should be noted that Dunn did lead the American League in walks in 2012 with 105, despite the fact he couldn’t hit a lick with a .204 batting average (the worst average of any 40-homer season I could find). Dunn also led the A.L. in strikeouts that season with 206. Gallo did not lead the A.L. in striking out this year. He struck out 196 times compared to Judge’s 208, but it should be noted that Judge had almost 100 more at-bats this season than Gallo. How many more strikeouts would Gallo have had with those extra ABs? How many more homers would he have hit too?
Many modern-day baseball stats nerds don’t value the RBI (run batted in). I understand this because it can be an inflated statistic. The number of RBI a player has is dictated by the number of teammates he has on base in front of him to drive home. Gallo only had 80 RBI this season, which is also the lowest number of RBI in MLB history for a 40-homer season and a whopping 12 fewer than the next lowest number, which was Adam Dunn’s 92 for the Cincinnati Reds in 2006 (maybe the fourth worst 40-homer season in baseball history based on my research).
Here’s the thing though the Rangers were in the top 10 in the league in runs scored this season, and have the most of any time that didn’t make the playoffs and scored more than the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, which won the A.L. East and N.L. West divisions respectively. I don’t know if the guys directly in front of Gallo in the lineup just had the bad knack for not being on the pond when he came to the plate, but I’ve got to feel he had plenty of opportunities to drive in more runs. Also, I still value the RBI more than most. Maybe I’m too old school, but that’s me.
So, how should I decide which 40-homer season is the worst of all-time? This may be a little too simplistic, but what I’ve done is I’ve taken the three seasons from Gallo, Carter and Dunn and the key statistical categories listed above and given the three hitters a rank from first to third in each category. I then added those five categories up and divided by five. The highest average of the three seasons would take the cake. Here’s how the numbers came out: Chris Carter 1.8, Adam Dunn 2.0, Joey Gallo 2.2.
It is my determination – though not scientifically as you can see – that Joey Gallo’s 2017 season is the worst of any 40-homer season in baseball history.
The Rangers have a lot of excitement about Gallo’s future, and they should. This was only his first full-time season and his numbers looked better than the cups of coffee he had the two previous years. But, for him to really have the future the Rangers hope from him he’s going to have to learn there’s a little more to the game of baseball than being an all or nothing player.
by Julian Spivey
The NASCAR playoffs begin today (Sept. 17) at Chicagoland Speedway for the Monster Energy Cup Series. Here are my rankings of the 16 playoff drivers from least likely to most likely to win the NASCAR championship:
16. Jamie McMurray
15. Kasey Kahne
14. Ryan Newman
13. Austin Dillon
In today’s NASCAR, you must consistently be a threat to win races to have any shot at winning the championship and these four drivers just don’t threaten Victory Lane often enough, despite three of these guys winning a race this year. McMurray hasn’t won a race since 2013. Newman and Dillon’s wins this season both came on pit strategy, which doesn’t exactly stoke expectations of being able to win on their own. Kahne’s win at the Brickyard 400 at Indy was impressive, but his first win in three seasons. You really must be a threat to win multiple times in the playoffs to win a championship. These guys can’t win multiple times a season.
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Coming into this season Stenhouse’s career had been a complete disappointment. In fact, I didn’t believe he belonged in the Cup Series any longer. Then he won first career race at Talladega in the Spring and backed it up with a second win at Daytona this summer. The only problem with this is he only seems capable of winning at restrictor plate tracks. To his advantage Talladega is in the second round of the playoffs if he can reach it and a win again there would automatically move him to round three. But, can any driver win three consecutive plate races?
11. Chase Elliott
Chase Elliott has yet to win a NASCAR Cup race in his first two seasons, but I’m going a little easier on him than I did McMurray, Kahne, Newman and Dillon because he’s young and I believe once that first win comes the floodgates will open much like they did for Kyle Larson.
10. Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney got his first career Cup win this season at Pocono in his second full-time season, but he may be a little too young in his career to threaten for a title now. It is fantastic to see the Wood Brothers Racing team in the playoffs, though.
9. Matt Kenseth
Matt Kenseth is the highest driver on this list who hasn’t won a race this season and, in fact, he was the very last driver to qualify for the playoffs on points. Still, there are two reasons why he’s in the top 10: 1) he’s a veteran who won’t worry much about his winless streak 2) he drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, which I believe is still the most dominant team in NASCAR. I hope Kenseth does well too because he currently doesn’t have a ride for next season and a good performance might sure one up.
8. Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch won the season-opening Daytona 500 and hasn’t won a race since then. I honestly don’t believe his chances at winning the title are very high, but I do have him in the top half of playoff drivers based on his veteran status. The champion will almost certainly come from the top seven drivers on this list.
7. Brad Keselowski
Penske Racing has seemingly been a little bit down this year, especially with Joey Logano missing the playoffs (the biggest surprise of the season maybe thus far), but Brad Keselowski is always a threat to win race, he’s won two this year, and his aggressiveness may benefit him in the playoffs. It could just as easily hinder him, as well.
6. Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick, the 2014 Cup Series champion, has been the most consistent driver in NASCAR over the last three to four seasons and it’s that consistency that has me believing he’s a major threat. However, he’s only found Victory Lane once this year, at the road course at Sonoma. There’s reason to believe the Stewart-Haas Racing switch from Chevrolet to Ford has hurt the team a bit with its four drivers only combining for two wins through 26 races.
5. Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin is my prediction for the driver to just miss out making the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway this season. He’s consistently been Joe Gibbs Racing’s second-best driver this year and recently won his second race of the season at Darlington Raceway two weeks ago.
4. Jimmie Johnson
I will never count Jimmie Johnson out. He showed us last season exactly why you shouldn’t do such a thing when he won his record-tying seventh championship. His season this year is like last season’s. Johnson has won three races this season, but all three came within the first quarter of the year. He and crew chief Chad Knaus have seemingly shown the ability in the past to be able to turn it on whenever needed.
3. Kyle Larson
Kyle Larson is a lot of people’s favorite to win the championship this year and his four wins this season are tied with Martin Truex Jr. for most in the series. I have no questions about Larson’s talent, but I do have some about his experience. Can he keep his head together and make the final race of the season? I also wonder if his team Chip Ganassi Racing can keep up with Gibbs, Hendrick and the Furniture Row team aided by Gibbs.
2. Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch is the most talented driver in NASCAR. Kyle Busch drives for the best and most competitive team in NASCAR with Joe Gibbs Racing. The 2015 champion must be considered a title threat always. Busch’s two wins this season aren’t exactly indicative of how close he’s been to Victory Lane all season.
1. Martin Truex Jr.
There’s absolutely no way I could consider any other driver a NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series championship favorite other than Martin Truex Jr., who’s seemingly made the series his playground this season along with crew chief Cole Pearn, who I believe is the actual star of this team. Why do I believe this? Truex had three career wins in a decade of racing before teaming up with Pearn. He’s won eight races in the less than two seasons they’ve been together. Honestly, Truex should have won even more than the series-leading four he’s won this season, but has experienced some late race bad luck.
by Julian Spivey
This week on his weekly Sirius XM NASCAR channel radio show 2014 NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick made waves when he accused 14-time Most Popular Driver winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. of stunting NASCAR’s growth by being the most popular driver, yet not its most successful.
Harvick said: “For me, I believe that Dale Jr. has had a big part in kind of stunting the growth of NASCAR because he’s got these legions of fans and this huge outreach of being able to reach different places that none of us have the possibility to reach, but he’s won nine races in 10 years at Hendrick Motorsports and hasn’t been able to reach outside of that. The growth in the sport has not reached the levels that it should have because our most popular driver has not been our most successful driver. He hasn’t been anywhere close to our most successful driver.”
Those comments have unsurprisingly irritated a lot of fans of the sport and were called “hurtful” by Earnhardt Jr.
Speaking to ESPN’s Bob Pockrass, Earnhardt said on Thursday (August 10): “I have an incredible amount of respect for him [Harvick]. I found some of those comments hurtful. I still respect him as a champion and ambassador for the sport. That’s just the way it is, I guess. I hate that’s how he feels.”
As for how his career has impacted the sport of NASCAR Earnhardt hoped he hadn’t negatively impacted it, while admitting that he hadn’t lived up to everyone’s expectations, but had his own.
“I put a lot into this sport, and I know that I might not have met everyone’s expectation, but I certainly exceeded my own and I’m super proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish. I hope that I brought something to the table and left a good impact,” Earnhardt Jr. told ESPN.
Earnhardt’s response to Harvick’s commentary was as gracious and professional as you would expect from the driver who may be the nicest guy in the NASCAR garage, in addition to being its most popular.
Harvick’s commentary was kind of unexpected because you wouldn’t expect anyone to take a shot at the sport’s most popular driver amidst his farewell tour, but then again that’s who Harvick is – a jerk. He speaks his mind and that can often be a good thing, but let’s face it, what he did in this instance is sheer asshole-ish. It’s also incredibly dumb.
NASCAR is in trouble as a sport. There’s really no denying that – though the sport and even some of those who cover it for a living try to or at least hide the fact. But, there is no reason to believe Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had anything to do with stunting the growth of the sport. The number one culprit for stunting the sport is the way NASCAR runs things and can’t go a year without seriously changing how the sport operates. That’s too big to get into here though.
Another culprit likely has more to do with drivers like Harvick than ones like Earnhardt. Frankly, there are more unlikable drivers in the sport of NASCAR now (and have been for a while) than there are likable ones. Drivers with prickly attitudes like Harvick, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch can make it hard to like the sport, despite their talent on the track. Many fans would probably rather root for a nice guy who doesn’t win than a winner who acts like a jerk. But, when you’re seeing the jerks win way more than the nice guys it’s hard to continue watching. Many of the up-and-coming young drivers in the sport, however, do seem to be likable with good personalities like Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney giving hope for this trend to come to an end sooner rather than later.
Harvick may just have sour grapes. He’s a champion who thinks he’s deserving of more attention and fans than Earnhardt, who has never won a title and has 10 fewer Cup Series wins in one more season.
As for Earnhardt’s career-long disappointment. It’s a shame that many do and have always viewed him this way. If Earnhardt’s last name was Smith or Jones he wouldn’t receive this distinction. He only does because he’s the son of Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt was Babe Ruth. It’s not fair to act like Dale Jr. should’ve been a champion and legend on the track just because his father was, but it’s a standard he has been held to since day one and was magnified the day his father died in the Daytona 500 in 2001. Due to his father’s death, his fan base almost certainly more than doubled. He’s always had to live under his father’s shadow and he’s not his father. He’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one helluva guy.
I’ve been watching this sport on a weekly basis since shortly after Dale Earnhardt died, during Dale Jr’s second full season. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a nicer presence in the sport and that includes my all-time favorite driver Jeff Gordon, who always seemed like a generally great guy. There’s just something incredibly approachable about Dale Jr. He’s the kind of guy you feel like you could honestly sit down, have a beer and play some Madden on the PS4 with and not feel out of place. On multiple occasions this season, which hasn’t been a fairytale farewell season for him, upon crashing out of the race I’ve seen him sign autographs for fans just after leaving the infield care center. This is something many drivers wouldn’t even consider doing (and I honestly don’t blame them). It feels like his fan base means as much to him as he has to them – which is something I don’t think you could say about Harvick and many others.
Anybody who has watched this sport over the years knows that Dale Jr.’s career hasn’t been what anybody other than himself probably envisioned. We’re all a part of that unfair comparison to his Hall of Fame father. That’s on us. It’s completely our fault. That has nothing to do with Dale Earnhardt Jr. All he can do is be who he is – and he’s been a damn good ambassador to the sport of NASCAR.
by Julian Spivey
Well, the ESPY Awards, ESPN’s annual fan-voted awards for the “best” in sports, has had a 25-year run. I think it’s time to blow it all up and start over again.
I don’t believe ESPN actually has any desire to blow up the ESPYs and start anew. From the looks of things, the network only wants to let go of the good stuff going on like respected reporters Jayson Stark, Tom Farrey, Ed Werder, John Clayton and others let go as part of a massive layoff a few months back.
But, the ESPYs have lost their meaningfulness, if the awards ever had any to begin with – and that’s because it’s voted upon by the fans. I know, I know it sounds too high and mighty of me to bash the popular vote. It’s just that allowing novices to vote for awards essentially turns them into a popularity contest and popularity contests don’t always lead to deserved winners. In the case of the ESPYs it almost always leads to NBA or NFL players or teams winning the big awards.
The asininity of the ESPYs being fan voted popped up on numerous occasions on Wednesday night during the show’s milestone 25th anniversary. The most egregious of the winners this year was the Golden State Warriors, fresh off their second NBA championship in three years, winning Outstanding Team over baseball’s Chicago Cubs, who snapped their 108-year championship drought by winning the World Series last November. The Warriors are a team that I would’ve agreed with almost any other year, but you can’t make any sense of this team – one that was expected to dominate and win the championship from the start – winning this honor over a Cubs team that did the unthinkable. It’s interesting to note that no baseball team has won this honor since the 2005 Boston Red Sox, and their drought wasn’t nearly as long.
The anti-baseball bias of the ESPY awards, thus the fans doing the voting, showed up earlier in the night when Super Bowl LI between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons won the ESPY for Best Game over Game 7 of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians, the teams with the two longest title droughts in all of sports, which went to extra innings before being won in dramatic fashion by the Cubs. It was a game that many baseball experts and fans alike called the “greatest baseball game of all-time” (and this sport has been around since 1876), but it was beaten out by a Super Bowl, that while amazing, was in all actuality really only great from the fourth quarter on.
Speaking of the Super Bowl, I understand that Tom Brady is likely the most hated player in the NFL (which doesn’t suit well for a fan-voted award), but him not winning Best Championship Performance for a comeback that we will probably never see the likes of again to win his fifth Super Bowl is unbelievable. Kevin Durant’s performance in the NBA Finals would’ve been worthy most years, but Brady’s performance was potentially the greatest in NFL history, and he did it in just over a quarter.
There were other crazy winners during the night, but these three really explain the stupidity of what the ESPYs have become – and quite possibly may have always been. I have had similar thoughts after the last few years, as well, but none of the past winners have been quite this egregious.
So, what should be done about this?
For any awards to really mean squat there must be a selection process for winners that includes experts in the field. You have academies choose winners of entertainment awards like the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys. The medium of sports really needs to find a way to create such a body for the awards to ever really mean anything.
Because the awards are owned by ESPN the best way for such a voting body to be created would be to allow the professionals who work for the network to choose the winners, if they haven’t already fired all the best professionals they have. Otherwise it would just be the ESPY Awards presented by Stephen A. Smith. You might think fans wouldn’t be interested in such awards if their voice is taken out, but they still watch the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys, don’t they? I believe sports fans want a credible sports awards show that represents the best in sports – and all sports. The ESPYs aren’t that. It’s time to blow it up.
by Julian Spivey
The milestone 25th annual ESPY Awards will be broadcast on ABC on Wednesday, July 12 at 7 p.m. and will be hosted by NFL legend Peyton Manning, who surprisingly never won the ESPY for Male Athlete of the Year despite his popularity (the awards are fan voted) and having won nine other ESPYs.
Despite his legendary career, Manning doesn’t make this list of the 5 Greatest Athletes to not win an ESPY Award for Male Athlete of the Year over the last quarter-century.
It’s somewhat amazing to me that none of these athletes on this list have ever won the award, but let’s face it fan voted awards are basically a popularity contest (thus kind of bogus), making this honor less prestigious than say Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year, an honor two of the athletes on this list have won.
5. Miguel Cabrera
You could certainly argue that Miguel Cabrera isn’t the greatest baseball player to never win the ESPY for Male Athlete of the Year (Albert Pujols has never won either), but he’s on this list for one specific reason – he became the first baseball player in almost a half century to hit for the Triple Crown (one of the greatest feats in all of sports) and he didn’t win Athlete of the Year (the honor went to LeBron James). That’s the most egregious Male Athlete of the Year ESPY snub I’ve ever seen. Cabrera has won two ESPYs for MLB Player of the Year (2013, 2014) and has been nominated twice for Male Athlete of the Year. Sadly, baseball doesn’t seem popular enough to win this honor anymore with no baseball player winning the award since a steroid-aided Mark McGwire did in 1999.
4. Roger Federer
Roger Federer is arguably the greatest tennis player of all-time with a record 18 men’s Grand Slam titles and previously holding the No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings for a record 302 weeks. However, surprisingly Federer has never even been nominated for ESPY’s Male Athlete of the Year (his career rival Rafael Nadal was once in 2011), which is truly a sports awards travesty. Federer, however, has won more overall ESPY’s than anyone else appearing on this list with seven in total, most of those coming for Male Tennis Player of the Year. Federer not being from America likely negatively affected his chances. NBA’s Dirk Nowitzki (from Germany) in 2011 is the only non-American to ever win this award. No tennis player has ever won the award. Federer is nominated for three more ESPYs this year: Best Male Tennis Player, Best Comeback Athlete and Best Game.
3. Tim Duncan
Just about every NBA expert ever has Tim Duncan ranked as one of the 10 greatest NBA players of all-time, yet Duncan never took home the ESPY for Male Athlete of the Year despite basketball being a sport that has won this award seven different times among five different players (including the last six years consecutively). Duncan likely didn’t have the personality factor to win a fan-voted award, but his stats and championship stature should’ve stood for themselves. The five-time champion, two-time MVP and three-time NBA Finals MVP was nominated for the honor twice and won three overall ESPY awards, two for Best NBA Player and one for Best Male College Athlete.
2. Jimmie Johnson
It’s not too surprising that record seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson has never won the ESPY for Male Athlete of the Year with auto racing not exactly being one of the most popular or most watched sports in this country, but it may surprise you to know he’s been nominated for the honor on three different occasions, which is more than any of the other athletes on this list. No auto racer has ever won the honor. Johnson has taken home four ESPY Awards for Best Driver throughout his career. Johnson is once again nominated for Best Driver this year.
1. Tom Brady
For many years Tom Brady has likely been the most hated player in the NFL so it’s not wholly surprising that he’s never won a fan-voted award, despite possibly being the greatest quarterback (surely America’s favorite star-making position in sports, though Steve Young and Drew Brees are the only two to ever win) to ever play in the NFL. Brady has been nominated for the honor twice and has won two ESPYs overall, once for Best NFL Player and once for Best Breakthrough Athlete, which is a travesty (but, again these are fan-voted and he’s pretty disliked among NFL fans). Brady is nominated for two awards this year for Best NFL Player and Best Championship Performance (which he should win). Despite the NFL clearly being America’s most-watched and favorite sport only three times has a football player won this honor (Young, Brees and LaDanian Tomlinson).
by Julian Spivey
The 2017 NBA Finals begin tonight on ABC at 8 p.m. and for the first time in NBA history we have a trilogy – the same two teams (Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers) matching up for a third consecutive year. Both teams have taken a title over the last two years, so to borrow terminology from baseball, this year’s Finals is essentially the rubber match.
I’ll fully admit that I hope the Warriors win the championship. The team has won me over the last few seasons with their stellar team play and exciting long ball style and I’ve become quite the fan of many of its players – most notably Stephen Curry, who might be the most likable athlete in any sport right now. I also feel bad that the greatest season in NBA history was destroyed last year when they fell to the Cavaliers in seven games and that the team is somewhat owed one.
But, this isn’t about which team I want to win the NBA Finals, but rather the team that I believe will win. And, despite being statistically considered heavy underdogs when you look at things like ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) which only gives them a seven percent chance at beating the Warriors I truly believe the Cavaliers are going to go back-to-back.
The Warriors are probably a better team this year than they were last year, despite the regular season record not being as good. That’s owed to one thing – signing Kevin Durant as a free agent last offseason. This is part of the reason they’re so heavily favored to win the title. The Warriors are also playing the best basketball right now that they’ve played all season winning 24 of their last 25 games and sweeping through the entirety of the Western Conference playoffs, though they did get a huge boost in the Western Conference Finals with Kawhi Leonard’s devastating injury for the San Antonio Spurs. But, all the pressure is on the Warriors. Not only are they given a 93 percent chance at victory, but they’re trying to avenge losing in such dramatic fashion last year, Durant has a mountain of pressure on him (although he’s going to get blasted by fans and even some media win or lose) and team leader Curry has pressure on him because he didn’t play well during last year’s Finals.
The Cavaliers virtually have no pressure on them. They are supposed to lose. It seems like a great advantage for them as a veteran team to be considered such underdogs. They have their sights set on disproving everybody – or really just the statistic nerds and their computers – because actual fans and analysts believe this will be a much closer series than the BPI suggests.
The biggest reason why I’m predicting the Cavaliers to win back-to-back NBA titles is LeBron James. He’s still the greatest basketball player on Earth and he’s playing like a man determined right now. There’s no athlete in any sport I’d want on my team when he’s in full determination mode. It’s almost like he can will himself and his teammates to do whatever it takes to win the big game and we saw that last year when the Cavaliers were down 3-1 in the Finals before becoming the first team in league history to win three in a row to clinch the title. The Cavaliers winning streak last year came right after Warriors power forward Draymond Green referred to James as a “bitch” to his face. I knew that exact moment the Cavs weren’t going to lose that series. I don’t think James has forgotten about that at all.
The Warriors may have the most best players on the court at any one time, but I can’t bring myself to pick against LeBron James.
by Julian Spivey
We’ve all seen the horrifying image of “The Falling Man.” The World Press Photo Award winner taken by Associated Press photographer Richard Drew of an unidentified man leaping to his death from one of the World Trade Center towers on the morning of 9/11. It’s one of the most controversial photos in journalism history as it shows a man plummeting to his death. But, it’s also one of the most important photos in journalism history because it gave the tragedy of 9/11 a more human feel. Sure, we knew people were dying in the World Trade Center buildings, but the image of someone who’d rather die from leaping from one of the building’s upper floors than die in an inferno showed the event as horrific as it truly was. Recording that type of history is important for us to get the full extent of it.
This is an image I remember seeing a couple of times in textbooks during my college days minoring in print journalism in my News Editing and Media Ethics courses. The topic was about journalism ethics and what should and shouldn’t be shown in print. Basically, it’s a photographer’s job to capture an event – even if it’s a horrible or graphic one – and then it’s up for the editor of the publication to decide whether to run the image. That decision is one I respect and whenever an image is published that people believe shouldn’t be I’m almost always going to side with the media, because I have the schooling and knowledge based on my minor degree to know and understand why these images have been chosen for the public to see.
This controversy arose during the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway on Saturday night, May 13, when a terrifying three-car accident involving Joey Logano, Danica Patrick and Aric Almirola resulted in Almirola having to be cut from his car and removed via a backboard and stretcher. He was conscious and alert, but photos captured by the media, which could be seen on the live Fox Sports 1 television broadcast standing on the wall outside of the track’s catchfence taking photos, showed the driver to be in obvious pain while being removed from his car. Almirola would be airlifted to a local hospital where as of last report was in stable condition, but was to be held overnight for further observation. These images immediately drew the ire of many on social media sites like Twitter with people stating they believe the act of taking photos of this situation to be disrespectful and inappropriate.
Why is it important for images of Almirola to be taken and published?
It’s a simple answer really – because it’s something that happened. Almirola’s stature as an athlete involved in a sporting event makes his accident, his unusual (for these days in NASCAR) removal from his vehicle and his injury status news worthy. It’s the same reason that the accident led the late night ESPN “SportsCenter” broadcast. If Almirola had been killed in the accident you wouldn’t have seen images from the incident. I’m confident of that. Though, it would’ve been at an editor’s discretion and photos like this from the horrific 1955 Le Mans tragedy have been published before. The response from fans irritated by the media doing its job in showing the incident was dumbfounding to me. I couldn’t help but wonder if these fans dislike it when images of football players being removed from games, in obvious pain, after tearing up their knees or receiving helmet-to-helmet hits. That may be the case, but if so it’s not something I’ve ever seen or heard about. Nor did I see much outcry when NBA star Paul George was removed from the court via stretcher after a gruesome broken leg playing for Team USA. I wonder why it’s seemingly different for the sport of NASCAR?
I’m not, by any means, telling people that they can’t take issue with a photograph being published. I just ask that these people realize why these images are published and that in the profession of journalism it would actually more likely be considered more unethical to not publish something news worthy than to skip it for fears of disrespecting the injured. We all have jobs to do and had these photographers at the NASCAR race not opted to photograph Almirola being extricated from his torn-up racecar on Saturday night they likely would’ve received an earful from their editors and might have even been replaced.
by Julian Spivey
Nearly two weeks into the 2017 World Baseball Classic the tournament has been thrilling as hell with numerous close games and great play from some of the greatest players in the world. However, despite the terrific play on the field the continued feeling of “the World Baseball Classic just doesn’t interest American baseball fans” has been bandied about quite a bit online, especially social media.
Simply put, it’s hard for me to believe one could be a great baseball fan and not have thoroughly enjoyed the on-field product of the pool play during the tournament’s first two weeks. After all, it’s baseball that’s played at a high level and means something at a time where the only other baseball is Spring Training to prepare for the Major League Baseball season.
But, even though the actual games have been great I know the reason why many American fans don’t care so much for the tournament – it’s because the United States doesn’t have a chance at winning and they never have won the tournament. Americans don’t tend to enjoy things dominated by non-Americans. Hence many act like the World Baseball Classic is a waste of time or a joke, when in all actuality, it’s a great tournament.
Who should we blame for the American fan’s lack of interest in the WBC? Should it be the fans themselves? I think that’s a bit too easy and wrongheaded. I think the actual blame comes down to the American players. I salute players like Adam Jones, Buster Posey, Daniel Murphy, Andrew McCutchen and others who suit up to represent their country, but the fact is many of the best American players aren’t in the tournament.
Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant, Josh Donaldson, Mookie Betts are all considered among the top 10 players in the game per MLB Network’s recent rankings. Yet, none of these players are on Team USA. More importantly for the roster is it doesn’t feature Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Max Scherzer or really any starting pitcher that puts the fear of God into the opposing hitters. So, the United States ends up with Marcus Stroman giving up six consecutive hits and four runs before a single out is even recorded against a Puerto Rican team filled with All Stars.
Jose Altuve, Miguel Cabrera and Manny Machado are also listed in the MLB’s 10 best players by the MLB Network, all three of those players suited up for their respective countries. As did Robinson Cano, Adrian Gonzalez, Felix Hernandez, Adrian Beltre, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and more. The lineups from other teams in the event, particularly from South American or Caribbean countries are a who’s who from those nations. And, because of this the WBC isn’t the Olympic basketball tournament where the Americans could show up 12 of their B-level stars and still take gold. They need their best to compete and win.
This is proof that players from other countries simply care more about representing their homelands more than players from America, who are either too worried about injury, their money or other reasons to suit it up for the red, white and blue. This lack of enthusiasm for performing for their country leaves American baseball fans less than excited. Many realize pitchers like Stroman, Tanner Roark and Drew Smyly, who likely isn’t even one of the 30 best American starting pitchers in the MLB, aren’t going to win multiple games against lineups like the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico so they don’t tune into these games, many of which aren’t ending until 1 or 2 a.m. in their time zones despite being played mostly in America (another key issue the WBC needs to fix).
When the American superstars like Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout start giving a damn about representing their country then their country will be competitive enough to compete and then the American fans the tournament really needs to thrive will show up.