Comparisons govern our society. The value we place on things is entirely determined by contrast. Who is better, what is preferred? Sports is the most significant world of comparison and competition; the numbers don’t lie. The Greatest of All-Time conversation in sports lingers over sports fans daily.
Every barbershop/salon conversation, bar debate, even amongst the kids in the classrooms, the G.O.A.T. discourse will always reveal itself. Who is the greatest of all time? This question is asked on an individual level but also on a team level. The stats, number of playoff appearances, championships won, career longevity, etc., are all taken into account. But one of the most significant factors is the era and time. Those apart of the older age have specific thoughts and views for the younger, and vice versa. The older and younger generations rarely align, which is evident in everyday life. This paradigm is the most apparent in the world of sports.
The older generations struggled, showed strength, went through hardship, worked hard, exhibited patience, and even a clean and conservative public image. There’s an appreciation given but also expected to older eras. There’s a sense of entitlement, separating the older age from those who are a part of this new era and the younger generations. Historical moments in time that identify with those before could give us a sense of obligation to provide those before us the edge, primarily The Civil Rights Movement amongst African Americans, as it’s more evident in the world of sports and amongst sports fans when comparisons considered.
Many sports fans, analysts, and some athletes give the edge to older athletes and teams when compared to today. Regardless of numbers, people identify with what they think of when they think of older generations. That filter impacts how they view today’s game and today’s athletes. These new athletes are spoiled, don’t work hard, have it much more comfortable, don’t have a genuine love for the game; all of these are lines we’ve heard before.
The previous era had stricter competition, and the game was pure, players worked harder, the obstacles outside of sports were much more challenging for men and women to overcome. Honestly, most of us would agree. In most people’s eyes, the integrity of the game isn’t necessarily the way it was back in the 90s and beyond. Many people are inclined to agree with those statements. The game has gotten softer across the board; a champion’s title doesn’t mean as much. Through filters, the older era is to be revered; there is no comparison. But what does this look like through the eyes of the new generation and today’s age?
Are athletes from ‘back in the day ‘the pillars of greatness? The current era, the modern-day generation, usually refers to those apart of the Millennials, Gen Y, and beyond. We are often associated with being the ‘microwave’ generations, the need for instant gratification, ruled by technology, soft, easily offended, not used to hard work, always looking to take the easy road.
Many people from previous eras don’t necessarily feel that today’s generation deserves respect, we live in the time of participation trophies, and nothing we’ve gained is respected. The old ideologies have corrupted the integrity, the purity of the world of sports, and the appreciation for hard work. But how does this look from the perspective of those within our generation?
We aren’t afraid of taking on challenges. We can’t be shown something and told to take it for what it is without convincing ourselves. While we understand all that those did before us, we aren’t quick to fall and reverence them just because it has always been the mold of everyone before us.
We explore, ask questions, and rise to the challenge. We reflect the imperfections that previous generations swept beneath the rug to keep their image clean. This mindset carries over into the world of sports. Today’s athlete is seen as faster, stronger, further advanced at younger ages, and even smarter when it comes to the game, regardless of what sport it is. Perhaps it’s due to more knowledge, technological advances, and the different resources available to perfect our craft. All of which, something no one seems to mention, are factors the new era has no control over.
The two eras rarely align; there’s always friction because they see the world and the game through two different lenses of experience and expectation. There’s a hint of respect, but even more a competitive animosity. There’s a challenge to the new kids on the block to show they’re deserving of respect. There’s a challenge to the old heads to show that their way still works today. It’s a tale of two eras that keeps the world of competition going.
Fernando Tatís Is Ready To Be The Face of MLB
For years, sports fans in America have criticized MLB’s lack of exposure, reach, and publicity compared to the NBA and the NFL. All three sports are prevalent in the country, yet there is always that feeling that MLB lacks a valid player with legendary skills and a marketable persona. The sport lacked someone like what LeBron James represents to the NBA. But fear no more.
Ever since he was a prospect, talent evaluators rated Fernando Tatís Jr. highly. The San Diego Padres knew all along that they had a unique player in him, a true five-tool hitter capable of hitting for average and power while boasting blazing speed, excellent defense, and a great arm at shortstop. Thankfully, the performance and numbers were there for him as he tested his skills against major league pitching.
In his first exposure, in 2019, Tatís hit .317/.379/.590 with 22 home runs and 16 stolen bases in just 84 games. But he struck out in 29.6% of his plate appearances, and people thought he would struggle the following season. Boy, they were wrong. His average did dip to .277, but he kept hitting dingers at a torrid pace: 17 in 59 games, and the essential improvements came in his plate discipline, as his walk rate increased from 8.1% to 10.5%, and his strikeout rate dipped from 29.6% to 23.7%.
The Padres saw Tatís talent might have made him virtually unaffordable if they went the traditional year-to-year salary route with him. The Padres offered him a 14-year, $340 million extension on February 17, which he accepted. The Padres know they can build around him for the long haul, and he helps put people on the seats of Petco Park like no other player. You could say he is one of the league’s very best assets on the field and from a revenue standpoint.
Tatís may not be better than Mike Trout, but he does have something that the Los Angeles Angels outfielder lacks; swag and charisma. And that’s not a knock on Trout. People are different, and there is nothing wrong with Trout’s quiet confidence. That doesn’t make him a worse person or player than Tatís. Perhaps if MLB had made a genuine sustained effort to use Trout’s image to promote baseball in America at all levels, we wouldn’t be talking about the Padres’ shortstop as the current and future image of Major League Baseball. It’s unclear if they will make that effort with Tatís, but he does make it a bit easier to sell the product, in my view.
Tatís stellar performance, coupled with his confident demeanor, captivating bat flips, tape-measure home runs, league-leading exit velocities, and evident love for baseball, gives him the edge over just about every other young star in the circuit. He plays the game the right way, even if his style has gotten him in trouble from time to time.
Do you think it is a coincidence that Tatís will be on the cover for MLB The Show 2021? Not a chance. He earned that with blood, sweat, and tears. Now we can enjoy stealing bases, making impossible plays at shortstop, and hitting long dingers while pretending to be Fernando Tatís, the new face of Major League Baseball.
The Fatal Four-Way by Scott Lewis
It’s my favorite time of the year; winter is over, and the weather is getting better. It means one thing, it’s time for some baseball. The crack of the bat, smell of grass on the field, the optimism for your team in the air, I love it. Last year MLB fans were robbed of an entire 162 game season due to the pandemic hitting the country right in the middle of last year’s spring training. All the players were sent home and wouldn’t pick up a bat or glove for another four months before a truncated 60 game season started, which eventually led to the Los Angeles Dodgers winning the World Series for the first time in 32 years. As the Dodgers begin their quest to defend this title, there are so many storylines, but I want to focus on not just the Dodgers but the three teams that are the most equipped to derail them.
Let’s start with the team in the Dodger’s backyard, the San Diego Padres. Last season the Padres were one of the most exciting teams, led by superstar shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr.
The Padres made the playoffs for the first time since 2006 last year, running into their division rival, the Dodgers, short-handed with injuries in their starting rotation.
The Padres got swept at the hands of the future defending champions—Padres general manager A.J. Preller went to work this past winter by adding not one but two former Cy Young pitchers in Yu Darvishsefa and Blake Snell. Darvishsefa is coming off a big comeback season last year with the Chicago Cubs, where he posted a 12-3 record with a 3.33 ERA. Blake Snell was the ace of the American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays; he was also the focus of the considerable World Series controversy. He was pulled too early in game six after shutting the Dodgers down just for the Dodgers to feast on that Rays bullpen and eventually win the championship.
With newly acquired pitcher Joe Musgrove, a healthy bullpen, and one of the most explosive offenses in the majors, the Dodgers are going to have their hands full with not just winning the division against the Padres but a potential first-round matchup.
Now let’s head to the Bronx, home of the New York Yankees, aka the “Evil Empire,” aka “the Bronx Bombers,” aka those damn Yankees! The Yankees are coming off a disappointing 2020 campaign filled with injuries to key players, leading to them finishing 2nd in the AL East behind the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Yankees had a late-season push, getting them one of the final AL Wild Card spots where they would sweep the Cleveland baseball team—following that, they lost a very hard-fought division series to the Rays. The Yankees are coming into this season healthy for the most part, led by MVP candidate Aaron Judge; the Yankees are supposed to have one of the league’s most potent offenses that can carry them to a pennant and maybe even a World Series.
The Yankees Achilles heel this season will be their starting rotation. The starting rotation consists of perennial Cy Young candidate Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgomery, and Deivi García.
There are a lot of questions about the Yankees’ rotation and just how bad or how good this unit will be outside of Cole. Former Cy Young winner Kluber was signed this winter after spending a season with the Texas Rangers where it was cut short due to a tear in his throwing shoulder. The Yankees are hoping for Kluber to return to his old form when he was dominant in Cleveland.
One can only hope that Taillon finds his old form after coming off Tommy John surgery. Severino is not coming back until mid-summer because of the same injury; this may derail the Yankees’ chances of not only beating the Dodgers but even coming out of the American League.
Now I want to take a trip to my favorite place globally, the South Side of Chicago. The Chicago White Sox are coming off a season where they made their first playoff appearance since 2008, led by the reigning AL MVP José Abreu and 2019 AL batting champion Tim Anderson.
The White Sox were eliminated in the Wild Card round by the Oakland Athletics due to the lack of a consistent third starting pitcher and a manager who could not manage a bullpen to save his life. Despite White Sox fans’ claims that the front office doesn’t spend money, White Sox GM Rick Hahn went to work to address the three main issues that led to elimination. The White Sox hired Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa to lead this young ball club. Hahn also acquired All-Star pitcher Lance Lynn from the Rangers to solidify that 3rd starter spot in the rotation and signed the closer who ended their season, Liam Hendricks from the Oakland A’s, to give them a bonafide closer in that bullpen.
The South Siders now have former Cy Young winner Lucas Giolito, World Series Champion Dallas Keuchel, Lance Lynn, and the promising Dylan Cease. Cease is a pitcher who can be solid if healthy in Carlos Rodon and stud prospect Michael Kopech.
On paper, the White Sox have the best bullpen in baseball with young flame throwers Garrett Crochet, Codi Heuer, Aaron Bummer, and Liam Hendriks. Despite the White Sox losing stud left fielder Eloy Jiménez for most of this upcoming season, the White Sox have one of the best lineups. José Abreu, Tim Anderson, Yasmani Grandal, Yoan Moncada, and the guy many refer to as the Cuban Mike Trout, Luis Robert, the White Sox are the best equipped to come out of the American League and challenge the Dodgers.
Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about the defending Champions. The Dodgers begin this season with the monkey off their back after failing in October and keeping the core pieces that won the championship. They added 2020 NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer this winter to bolster that already deep rotation of Walker Buehler, David Price, Julio Urías, Dustin May, and the future walking Hall of Famer, Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers have the best offense in the entire major league, lead by former MVP Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and the returning Justin Turner.
There will be many challenges to the throne, especially the three other teams I highlighted and the yearly surprise teams that nobody saw coming. When it’s all said and done in late October, the Dodgers are best equipped to become the first team in over 20 years to repeat as champions and have a party that Los Angeles has been on hold for 33 years.
Is The Brooklyn Nets’ Offense The New High Powered defense? by Chris Allen
They say offense wins games and defense wins championships, but there’s a new Brooklyn Nets roster that might change this ancient philosophy in sports. The Nets are sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference.
I’ve been watching the revitalized Nets with James Harden’s addition in one of the biggest blockbuster trades this season. With the addition of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and now Harden, the Brooklyn Nets arguably have three of the top 7 most unguardable players in the league. This causes a nightmare for defenses. After all, you can’t double-team anybody because you’re going to leave another prolific scorer open. Blake Griffin’s addition to the roster will make it challenging for defenses to have a scheme other than one on one.
With their lineup’s construction, no one would be surprised if they got a bucket on every offensive possession. It must be demoralizing from a defensive standpoint to try to do your best to contest a layup from Irving as he can put your best defender on skates. Or try and put an undersized defender on 7’0 Durant because your bigs don’t have the quickness and agility to stay with him. Last but not least, you have to try not to foul Harden, who recently hacked the officiating rule perfecting his step-back three.
With the focus on those three, how are the rest of your team not subject to being a poster prop for the year’s dunk with DeAndre Jordan and Griffin.
From a sport psychology standpoint, you can’t go an entire fourth quarter in a close competitive game when every possession they do some lack of a better term “2K Hall of Fame Shit” without losing your competitive edge. Essentially their offense is so good that it puts pressure on the opposition to defend them on the defensive side and attempt to keep up with them on the offensive side, adding more stress to each player on the opposite team to make a play to stay in the game. This allows the Nets to be essentially mediocre on defense, and if they get a stop or create turnovers, you not only lost possession, but you put the ball back into their hands which is what you don’t want to do late in the 4th quarter.
At this point, the only thing that can stop the Nets is a COVID protocol or injury. If the Nets stay healthy and work together as a team, it’ll be a tough challenge for anybody in the West, let alone in the East, to take down such an offense of powerhouse. With Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni on the sidelines just inflating the offense, even more, this team is dangerous.
Irving can drop 40 on any night; Harden can get as many four-point plays as he wants, and Durant receives the green light whenever he touches the ball. Even if they miss their shots, they still have pretty solid rebounders in Nicolas Claxton, Jordan, and Griffin to reset the offense.
Let’s not forget that they still have one of the best three-point shooters in the league, Joe Harris, waiting on defenders to make a mistake the man almost can’t miss. If the Nets make it to the NBA finals, they could threaten the Los Angeles Lakers’ chances of repeating. Then again, I guess there’s only one way to determine if the offense can win you a championship.
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