by Julian Spivey
When the NBA All-Star starters were announced on Thursday, Jan. 19 there was immediate controversy over the fact that Oklahoma City Thunder point guard and likely MVP front-runner Russell Westbrook wasn’t voted in as a starting guard for the Western Conference.
Houston Rockets guard James Harden and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry were voted in as starters, with many believing Westbrook should’ve been in Curry’s place.
There’s really no doubt that Westbrook should be in the West’s starting lineup for next month’s All-Star Game as he’s averaging a triple-double for the season thus far. However, his snub doesn’t mean the All-Star voting system is broken, as many critics have said in the last few days it is.
In fact, the All-Star voting system has never been better.
People are complaining about the voting system this year, which is a weighted system where the fans, media and players all have a say in the All-Star Game starters. The fans account for 50 percent of the vote, the media 25 percent and the players 25 percent. But, never in the history of the game would Westbrook have been voted in. In previous years, the starters were selected solely by the fan vote. The fans had Curry and Harden as the top two guards. In fact, this weighted system that debuted this year kept the Western Conference starting lineup from including Warriors center Zaza Pachulia from being selected as a starter. Surely, we can all agree that alone makes this a better and fairer system?
Westbrook’s omission from the Western Conference starting lineup came down to a tiebreaker in the new voting system. Westbrook was ranked No. 1 in the media and players ranks, but No. 3 in the fan rank. Curry was voted No. 1 in the fan rank, but No. 3 in both the media and player ranks. Harden was voted No. 2 in all three ranks. The weighted score for all three players was 2.0. The method for deciding a tie goes to the fan voting, which had Curry and Harden with more votes than Westbrook. This tiebreaker system also resulted in Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan making the Eastern Conference lineup over Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas.
Essentially Westbrook being less likable than Curry and Harden has kept him from a starting All-Star berth he deserves, which has bugged many fans (though obviously if it bugged them enough he’d be starting in the first place) and those in the media. But, here’s why the tiebreaker is fine by me. All-Star Games are great honors for athletes, but they essentially were created in every sport for the fans. This is why fan voting for All-Star lineups exists in every professional team sport. If the fans would rather see Curry start than Westbrook that’s what they should get.
The NBA’s new All-Star voting system is easily the best system I’ve ever seen for selecting lineups, because it gives the fans a large say, but also allows for things like the entire country of Georgia voting non-stop for Pachulia to be eliminated by the media and players using more objectivity. It is unfortunate that the league’s best player this season didn’t receive an honor he deserved, but he’ll still be an All-Star and really that’s what matters in the long run.
by Julian Spivey
Meryl Streep made quite a few waves on Sunday night at the Golden Globe Awards during her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award, for lifetime achievement. The eight-time Golden Globe winner made the decision to go political in her six-minute speech calling out President-elect Donald Trump, without ever once mentioning his name.
Streep called out Trump’s hateful and bullying rhetoric during her speech. She said: “There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good, there was nothing good about it, but it was effective and it did its job. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter.” She later added, “When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”
President-elect Trump responded on Monday with a tweet calling Streep “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood,” even though he called her one of his favorite actresses in an interview in 2015.
I’ve always been in support of celebrities speaking their minds on important topics. After all, if us regular Joes believe we have the right to do so, why shouldn’t famous people? I also agree with a lot of what Streep said last night and believe she mostly did so eloquently.
But, she made one big mistake and it honestly has nothing to do with politics.
Streep, who definitely had her speech either memorized or on the teleprompter, in trying to prove the point about how Hollywood wouldn’t exist without many of the people President-elect Trump seems to take issue with said, “Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if we kick ‘em all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”
So, in this great, eloquent speech about understanding others and how one shouldn’t bully others she in fact makes the mistake of both not understanding those different than her and her ilk and stoops to bullying rhetoric by running down the skills of athletes.
This almost throw away statement on her part may have played well to the room at the Globes, but it instantly stood out to me as something that took away greatly from her overall point and it has riled up fans of both football and MMA and rightfully so.
First, Streep’s statement is incredibly inaccurate – almost as if it were something coming straight from the mouth of President-elect Trump. There are many foreign fighters in mixed martial arts, in fact five of the 10 current champions in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) were born outside of the United States. Maybe Streep should’ve done some research before making this idiotic claim?
Second, saying that football and mixed martial arts “are not the arts” is just as rude and hateful as someone bashing acting, and is obviously just a matter of opinion, but she says it as if it’s fact.
Streep’s little jab at athletics comes off as a bitchy statement from someone who after 40 years of winning numerous awards, basically everything an actor could possibly win, still seemingly takes issue with that fact that football players and other “jocks” get more attention in high schools and colleges than theater kids.
Many on Monday were bashing Streep’s speech for being either holier than thou or out of touch with much of America – and many of those bashing Streep are doing so for the wrong reasons, in my opinion – but if they want to pinpoint this particular sentence that struck a nerve so much with me than they might have a point. After all Mrs. Streep, when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.
by Julian Spivey
12. Oakland Raiders
For most of the season the Oakland Raiders were one of the two best teams in the AFC and looked to be a solid contender to reach the Super Bowl, as such. Then late in the season quarterback and MVP candidate Derek Carr went down with injury and with it the Raiders hopes up in smoke. Who I really feel bad for is the Raiders fan-base, who’ve waited years for the team’s return to glory only to see it end this way.
11. Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins surprised many this year on their way to a 10-6 record on the back of surprise rookie running back Jay Ajayi, but their chances – what little ones they had – also went up in smoke late in the season when quarterback Ryan Tannehill went down. It also doesn’t help that the Dolphins have the fourth worst defense in the NFL and are playing in the first round against the high-powered offense of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
10. Houston Texans
The Houston Texans were, by far, the worst division winner in the NFL this season out of the woeful AFC South. They’ll probably still win a playoff game anyway, as they got lucky and drew the Oakland Raiders for the first game at home. It’s to be seen who starts at QB for the Texans as intended starter Tom Savage is in concussion protocol. Don’t expect Houston to go further than the wild card round.
9. Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions saw a floundering finish to their season and a red-hot finish by the Green Bay Packers drop them out of the NFC North title. The Lions have lost three games in a row and will probably be one-and-done in the playoffs facing the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle. The Seahawks offense hasn’t been stellar, but the Lions defense has given up 73 points in its last two games.
8. New York Giants
It always seems like a risk to sleep on the New York Giants in the postseason. After all, the two times in the last decade the Giants won the Super Bowl it seemed to be during a season that looked just like this one. The offense always seems mediocre led by quarterback Eli Manning and it’s one true highlight in wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The offense hasn’t scored more than 20 in a game in five straight weeks. The Giants defense has been good, but they’ll have to be really good against the Green Bay Packers offense this weekend to escape a one-and-done playoffs.
7. Seattle Seahawks
Despite how great the Seattle Seahawks have been over the last few years they just don’t look to be quite the same team this year. Their record was benefited this season by playing in the horrible NFC West. The always terrific defense has been battered a bit with the season-ending injury to safety Earl Thomas. Quarterback Russell Wilson and the entire offense has been shaky at times this season too. They should beat the Detroit Lions in the opening weekend, but there are three better looking NFC teams than them at this point.
6. Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs are one of the most underappreciated teams in the NFL and I can’t help but feel that ranking them as the sixth most likely team to win the Super Bowl here is playing into that, but even at 12-4 they just don’t seem like a champion. Most of the reason I feel this way is it seems like it will take a better quarterback than Alex Smith to win the championship. Sure, we’ve seen great game managers lead teams to victories before in the big game, but I’d rather have a Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger on my side.
5. Dallas Cowboys
I feel the need to admit that I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan and I’ve loved every bit of this season. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Cowboys were the best team in the NFL from start-to-finish. But, the fan in me is telling me that the season has been too good to be true. The skeptic in me is saying that I don’t trust a team that’s ridden two stud rookies at quarterback and running back in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to be the same team when the playoff pressure is high.
4. Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons have had one of the most high-powered offenses in the NFL this season, ranked first in scoring, second in total offense, third in passing and fifth in rushing. This is a good thing, because the team’s defense was only the 25th best in the league, despite having league sack leader Vic Beasley. I believe Falcons QB Matt Ryan should be the NFL MVP this season, even though I don’t think it’ll happen. If the offense stays like it did all season the defense might only have to be average for the team to win it all.
3. Green Bay Packers
For at least half of the season it didn’t even seem like the Green Bay Packers would make the playoffs, let alone being my favorite to reach the Super Bowl from the NFC. But, there’s something to be said about a team riding a hot streak throughout the end of the season and into the playoffs. The Packers, led by a seemingly rejuvenated Aaron Rodgers, have won six games in a row and might not lose again until next season.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Much like the Green Bay Packers, there was a time about midway through the NFL season it looked like the Pittsburgh Steelers might not even make the playoffs. Then they got red hot and have entered the playoffs on a seven-game winning streak. I think they could continue to ride that hot streak until at least the AFC Championship game. The trio of Ben Roethlisberger, La’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown is without a doubt in my mind the scariest threesome in the NFL. The Steelers defense isn’t great, but at 12th in the league it also wasn’t bad.
1. New England Patriots
The New England Patriots finished with the NFL’s best record at 14-2, which is kind of remarkable when you remember that star QB Tom Brady didn’t even play a quarter of the season due to suspension. Then when the league’s best tight end Rob Gronkowski went down with injury many said they’d be finished – that wasn’t the case either. The Patriots have a better defense than they’ve had during previous trips to the playoffs, as well. Basically, I would never count against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in the playoffs.
by Julian Spivey
The National Baseball Hall of Fame inductions always seem to be the subject of controversy, even though out of all the sports hall of fames, the baseball one is actually the best in terms of getting thing right. But, controversy surrounds the process, because baseball’s fans and media alike take the sport more seriously than those of other sports seem to do. It also doesn’t help that the constant controversy of performance enhancing drugs and players who either used or supposedly used PEDs remain on the ballot with some believing no PEDs user should ever be inducted, others thinking they should and even some writers who believe some PED users should be inducted, while others should not. Let me be clear, I do not believe PED users belong in the hall of fame so you won’t see Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens on my fictional ballot (because I obviously don’t have a real vote) below.
I do, however, believe there are 10 worthy players (actually there are more than 10, but I’ll follow the rules the BBWA writers must for my ballot) who should be in the hall – some of them will almost certainly get the call on Jan. 18, while others unfortunately won’t even get close.
Here is my ballot:
Vladimir Guerrero was one of the most feared hitters in baseball for the entirety of his 16-season career with the Montreal Expos, Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. Guerrero was the 2004 American League MVP with the Angels and a nine-time All-Star who finished his career with a .318 average, 449 home runs and drove in more than 100 runs on 10 different occasions. Guerrero should be a no-brainer first ballot hall of famer and interestingly could be the last ever Expo to enter Cooperstown.
Ivan Rodriguez caught more games than any other catcher in baseball history and is one of the five greatest to ever play that position. That should make him a no-brainer first ballot hall of famer, but there are unfortunately some unfounded PED rumors surrounding him that could impact his chances. They shouldn’t. There’s absolutely no evidence he cheated. He did, however, make 14 All-Star teams, win the 1999 American League MVP and win a catcher record 13 Gold Gloves. I-Rod finished his career hitting .296 (terrific for a catcher), with 311 homers, 1332 RBI and almost 3,000 hits.
Tim Raines just missed hall of fame induction in 2016 by about six percent on the ballot. With 2017 being his final year of eligibility there’s a great chance he’ll bump up to the 75 percent number he needs. Raines played 23 seasons, but what’s hurt his chances of the years has been the fact that only about the first 10 to 11 of those years were really hall of fame caliber and he hung around for the second half of his career collecting stats. But, what he did in the first half of his career, especially on the basepaths stealing the bulk of his 808 career bases (fifth all-time) has him deserving the honor.
When you finish your career as the all-time leader in the most important statistical category in your field you deserve enshrinement into the hall of fame. Lee Smith did that with 478 saves, which is now third all-time. The three-time reliever of the year, who also finished as a reliever in the top 10 in Cy Young voting four different times isn’t going to make the hall of fame in his final year on the ballot this year, I know, but he gets a spot on my ballot.
Trevor Hoffman is one of two all-time great baseball closers on the ballot this year, in his second year of eligibility, who finished his career as the all-time MLB leader in saves with 601. This alone should make him worthy of enshrinement. Hoffman was a seven-time All Star, who finished four times in the top 10 in Cy Young voting. Hoffman, along with future no-brainer hall of famer Mariano Rivera, is likely one of the two greatest closers in baseball history.
Jeff Bagwell was the closest player to induction in 2016 not to get elected, missing out by just 3.5 percent. This should make him a virtual lock to be induction this year. Bagwell, who spent his entire major league career with the Houston Astros, was one of the most feared first basemen of his era. The four-time All Star was the unanimous choice for National League MVP in 1994 and won the NL Rookie the Year award in 1991. Bagwell finished his career with an Astros franchise record 449 homers, which barring late career injuries would’ve probably been over 500, and a .297 career average.
Edgar Martinez is likely one of the two greatest designated hitters in the history of the American League, alongside the recently retired David Ortiz. The fact that he mostly spent his career as a DH has hurt him among hall of fame voters. Paul Molitor is the only current hall of famer who played most his games as a DH. With only three years remaining on the ballot Martinez has never come within 30 percent of induction and that number will only rise by a small margin this year, if it does at all. Martinez was a seven-time All-Star with five Silver Slugger Awards and finished his career with a terrific .312 average.
Fred McGriff is maybe the most screwed player in the history of baseball, in my opinion, outside of arguably Joe Jackson and Pete Rose. He will not ever get anywhere close to receiving the 75 percent needed to be a hall of famer, with about 21 percent being the closest he’s been. He should be in the hall of fame, but gets screwed by the era of PEDs he played in. Because he wasn’t a PED user his numbers aren’t as impressive as some of the first basemen of his era, but he finished just seven homers shy of the 500-club, which might have given him the boost he needed to make the hall. By the way, those 493 career homers were the same amount Lou Gehrig finished his career with.
I truly don’t get why Jeff Kent isn’t getting more love from the BBWA. For the sheer fact that Kent finished his career with the most home runs of anybody to ever play his position (second base) he should be getting more than just the 14 percent he’s been hovering around on ballots. Kent was the 2000 National League MVP for the San Francisco Giants who made five All-Star teams and won the Silver Slugger Award four times. The issue with Kent is likely that a lot of voters don’t trust him. From 1992-1996 he was average at best, but starting in 1997 when he teamed with PED user Barry Bonds with the Giants his power numbers went up.
The final spot on my ballot comes down to between two worthy pitchers: Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling. The career numbers between the two are similar, with the exception that Mussina won 54 more games and Schilling had about a 20-point lower career ERA. You could argue that Schilling is more worthy because he led two different teams – the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks and 2004 Boston Red Sox to World Series titles, but I’m going to go with Mussina for two reasons. I like Mussina’s 54 more wins and better winning percentage a little more and Mussina is just more likable. Neither will make the hall this year, if ever.