MLB, NBA

This Year in Sports: Year of Firsts

As 2016 winds down the time where we all reflect on the year the good the bad and what we can improve on in the years to come. There is one thing I think we can all agree on sports got back to being great again there was not a scandal that distracted us from the game being played! It once again became the great escape that we all need at one time or another every year.

The best part of this year and sports was the fact that championship starved teams and cities finally got to celebrate. The Chicago Cubs, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleer’s become the sports darlings of 2016, it was fun to see these teams finally break their long title droughts.

ap-cubs-win-world-series-jc-161103_12x5_1600The Chicago Cubs 

The longest sports drought in history was finally put to bed after 108 years the Chicago Cubs have reached the mountaintop as World Series champions. They did it in style coming back from a 3-1 deficit and being part of the most-watched baseball game and 25 years. It’s one of those sporting event you are going to remember exactly where you were when the Cubs broke the curse.

Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Joe Madden will probably have children named after them because they were able to band together and make a champion out of what was previously the laughingstock of baseball. It’s absolutely amazing the transformation this team underwent in such a short period of time to reach this point.

First of all, they were able to take advantage of multiple high draft picks when the selected this year’s MVP Kris Bryant’s second overall in the 2013 draft, Kyle Schwarber fourth overall in the 2014 draft. Schwarber remarkably came back from a torn ACL the third game of the season and became the biggest X factor of the World Series. He started the rally that ultimately claimed the World Series for the Cubs. Lastly, they selected second baseman Javier Baez ninth overall in the 2011 draft. He had multiple clutch hits and home runs not to mention his gold glove defense and tagging ability.

It’s one thing to get the high draft picks it’s another thing to pick the right guy and to say the least the Chicago Cubs have hit the jackpot on their last few selections. They have also orchestrated keen trades that have helped the team reach this point. The biggest trade was when they swindled second baseman Addison Russell away from the Oakland A’s in July 2014. Russell has turned into a young stud and a part of the young nucleus that Theo Epstein has pieced together.

To all the other rebuilding teams in baseball it will be smart to take a page from the Cubs playbook because 2016 looks like the beginning of a dynasty out in the Windy City. They are poised to become one and more annoying teams in baseball because of all the winning they are going to do for years to come!

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Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James fulfilled his promise to the city of Cleveland as they overcame 3-1 deficit against the record-breaking Gold State Warriors. This was a heck of a way to break through considering Cleveland professional sports hasn’t been celebrated since Jim Brown donned a Browns uniform that’s saying a lot.

The road to the championship was a bit tumultuous not just because they were the first team in NBA history to overcome 3-1 deficit as I said, but they also fired their head coach David Blatt midseason and had to implement an entire new offensive scheme that was much faster and it took time to get used to. They also played the majority of the season without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, who was recovering from knee surgery.

It was a year full of obstacles, but lucky for they had Cleveland’s favorite son LeBron James to lead them to victory. He did everything and more averaging 27.1 points per game, 7.6 assists per game, and 9.5 rebounds per game. He put his team, the city, and his legacy on his back and brought that elusive title back to Cleveland.

This title could potentially open up the floodgates for Cleveland as they are once again the best team in the Eastern conference and last time I checked still have LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, who has quickly become a Golden State warrior killer, which bodes well for the team’s success in the future. This season title might have been the first since 1964, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re sick and tired of congratulating them in the near future because both the Cavaliers and Indians are poised for many playoff runs in the years to come.

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Coastal Carolina 

The championship  that came out of nowhere from the unlikeliest of places as Coastal Carolina shocked the college baseball world as they won their first championship in program history. It’s something all sports fans root for a magical Cinderella run that will be remembered forever and everyone on that team will be coastal Carolina royalty forever. They brought this small school a taste of glory that will last a lifetime.

This also proves that anything can happen as long as you get in the tournament Coastal Carolina entered the tournament as a fifth seed and a virtual afterthought. Despite that, they played their game and took advantage of every opportunity and misstep by their opponents and turned it into a national championship that will give hope to all small schools no matter what position they are in.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention head coach Gary Gilmore and his long journey with this university. Gilmore joined the coastal Carolina staff way back in 1979 and has held the head coaching position since 1996. I love these stories of passion and love Gilmore has shown to this university  and all the lives he touched and lesson he’s passed on during his tenure is worth  much more than this championship. That being said,it’s awesome to see Gilmore and his players experience a dream come true and reach  the mountaintop. I hope to see other small schools follow suit and crash the party in years to come.

Conclusion

This is what sports all about no one game no one season are the same anything can happen, underdogs rise, dynasties are born, and celebrations happen in unexpected places that is what 2016 has brought us. I hope that continues in the seasons to come because it just makes it a whole lot more fun to be a sports fan. Bring it on 2017!!!

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MLB

All 25 and Under National League Team

Major league baseball has had an influx of youth come up through the ranks that have made an impact on their teams win loss record. This year’s All-Star game had young guys all over the place there were 20 players age 25 and under on each of the rosters. There were also 31 first time All-Stars at this year’s game. That just shows you that baseball is in great hands for many years to come. Here are my all 25 and under squad for the National League do you agree?

Catcher– Kyle Schwarber Chicago Cubs

MLB: Chicago Cubs-Photo Day

The Chicago Cubs continue to build on their philosophy drafting young position players and they are finally seeing results of their patience sooner and sooner. Kyle Schwarber was drafted 4th overall out of Indiana and was thought to be the best pure hitter in that draft. He is proving the experts right and proving the Cubs made a great choice in just a handful of at-bats in the majors he is hitting .410 (16 for 39) three home run and ten RBIs. At just 22 years of age he is proving that he can swing the bat.

The big question is can he be an everyday catcher at the major-league level, nobody knows the answer until he gets continued starts to see how he works with his pitchers blocking balls in the dirt. He has a great veteran in David Ross show him the ropes and help him develop. There is  no question that his bat will play in the major leagues is just a question of where he fits in defensively  trust me they will find a spot this kid is going to be good.

1st Base – Anthony Rizzo Chicago Cubs

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Anthony Rizzo is another critical piece to the Chicago Cubs success in the 25 years of age; he has become a critical leader for a roster that just keeps getting younger and younger. He is just entering the prime of his career and he is one of the best middle of the order hitters in the game right now. In 2015 he has put it all together with a .294 average with 16 home runs and 51 RBIs.

Rizzo is a rare breed of hitter these days because of the fact with two strikes, he chokes up on the bat and those around in the batters box something that definitely should happen more, but today’s hitters are stuck in their routine causing a record number of throughout Major league baseball. Rizzo has only struck out 50 times this season and walked 48 an amazing accomplishment considering the mindset of many saying that a strikeout is just an out. He is very impressive in every aspect of his game and the Cubs are in good hands for many years to come at first base.

2nd base Joe Panik San Francisco Giants

World Series Giants Royals Baseball

Joe Panik at just 24 years of age has already become one of the most underrated players in baseball. Panik was drafted 29th overall in the 2011 draft and I can think of a few teams that would like to redo that, it just 161 games in the majors he has a career .310 batting average, 15 homers and 84 RBIs. He was an integral part of their world championship in 2014 hitting .273 one home run and eight RBIs driven in during their postseason run. He has also helped solidify the middle of the diamond with shortstop Brandon Crawford turning double play after double play a pitcher’s best friend.

As I said,  Panik and Brandon Crawford are a great double-play tandem Panik, has only committed 10 errors at second base that is definitely someone a pitcher can trust. So not only has he put up solid offensive numbers he can flash the leather. To say the least second base is taken care of for many years in San Francisco and he will become more known nationally as he continues to develop.

Shortstop– Starlin Castro Chicago Cubs

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Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is in his age 25 season this year notwithstanding, as he is just hitting, 241 with five home runs and 39 runs batted in. In his five-year career he is a three-time All-Star with a career average of .280 with 333 runs batted in is pretty darn good. Although he has had some mental lapses throughout his career that I put him in the doghouse, but he is one of the better players at shortstop in the majors since coming in and he is still developing.

The Cubs have suffered through countless losing seasons but it is starting to pay off with their high draft picks and patience. Starlin Castro is just another of those young position players that have helped the Cubs get to where they are today. They are just beginning to see the results of their rebuild. As a baseball fan it is great to see because the overall game is better when teams like the Cubs Pirates and Astros are relevant.

3rd Base-Nolan Arenado Colorado  Rockies

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Once again, I could’ve gone with Kris Bryant the Chicago Cubs third baseman that leads rookies in RBIs, but I am going to go with a lesser known and under appreciated player in Nolan Arenado. Arenado is just 24 years of age and he plays like a grizzly old veteran on both sides of the ball,not just because his home ballpark is in Colorado. He is hitting .287 with 24 home runs and 72 RBIs this is definitely his coming out party showing people he is pretty good at baseball. There however is a reputation hitters get when they playing Colorado because it is such a good place to hit Arenado   is a good hitter, though matter where it is, on the road he is hitting .272 with 15 of his 24 home runs and 33 of his 72 RBIs. So as you can see it does not matter where he is hitting he’s just a good baseball player.

The crazy thing is you could argue that he is a better defensive player making a highlight reel on a nightly basis. He has made 10 errors which may be a little high for him at this point in the season, but it is a good number for a third baseman and with the number of runs he has saved for his pitchers. He made his first All-Star  appearance this year I have feeling he will be a regular participant in the years to come. The hot corner is solidified for the Rockies for years to come!

Left Field-Bryce Harper Washington Nationals

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Bryce Harper is the player that you love to have on your own team, but opponents can’t stand him! He might have a swagger that annoys opponents, but he is one heck of a baseball player! This year he is breaking out to the superstar everyone expected! He is just 22 years of age and he is one of the most feared hitters in baseball. He has battled injuries to start his career because of what some have termed too much hustle, but this year he has put all together.

He is hitting .331 with 27 home runs and 64 runs batted in there is no question NL MVP at this point in the season. He might rub fans and opponents the wrong way, but he is fun to watch play baseball, I just wish as a Braves fan he was in a different division. Defensively he has a knack for breaking hitters hearts as well, making highlight reel plays. He has made just eight errors in his time in left field. He can do it all the Washington Nationals definitely struck gold with this draft pick. He is going to be a thorn in opposing sides for many years to come.

Center Fielder- Joc Peterson Los Angeles Dodgers

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Joc Peterson was in an 11th round draft pick in 2010 by the Dodgers. This off-season the Dodgers traded away Matt Kemp and his huge contract to open up a spot for this highly touted prospect. It’s been a pretty good year for Peterson he made the All-Star team and was runner-up to the Cincinnati Reds third  baseman Todd Frazier in the Home run Derby. At the plate in regular-season games he does one of three things he either hits a home run strikes out or walks  the stats show that.

He has 20 home runs, 40 RBIs and 59 walks this is all out of the lead-off spot so that’s pretty good, but like many of the young players he needs to make more contact so he can become more of a complete player and show off his abilities on the base paths. He was a 30-30 man in the minors last year a rare feat for a player nowadays. He is proving the Dodgers made the right decision with the plays that he has made in the outfield this season have been jaw-dropping he has made just three errors thus far in 2015.

He is just 23 years old and still has a very high ceiling of what he can become I think the Dodgers found somewhat of a diamond in the rough and I don’t really understand how he lasted to the 11th round,but the Dodgers are happy with their choice!

Right Fielder Giancarlo Stanton Miami Marlins

MLB: New York Mets at Miami Marlins

Giancarlo Stanton is the richest man in major league baseball after signing a $325 million contract this off-season. He has definitely earned that money this season he is hitting .265 with 27 home runs and 67 runs batted in, a pretty stout start to that contract proving that he is worth every penny. In his five-year career he is hitting .270 with 181 home runs most of them moon shots and 466 runs batted in. This guy has stupid power it doesn’t matter where you pitch him he can take you deep no matter who you are. It’s really mind-boggling to me how he slipped to the second round 76 overall in the 2007 draft trust me every single one of those teams that passed on him would love to redo that decision.

The one major concern for Stanton and the Marlins is just the bad luck injuries that he suffered over the last year. Last September he was struck in the face with a Mike Fires fastball that set him back for a little while, but he was able to come back stronger than ever.  This season on just a harmless swing he fractured his wrist having him to miss 4 to 6 weeks he has just been cleared for baseball activities, but is not expected back until mid-August. If he can avoid the freak injuries  he will be the leader for the Miami Marlins for years to come. At 25 he is entering the prime of his career the sky is the limit for this him, who knows we could be talking about him breaking the Home run record.

As you can see, baseball just keeps getting younger and younger it’s fun to see how these players have developed into All-Stars! For many of them it  has happened overnight  and changing the complexion of many franchises. These are just the position players, the young pitching these days is absolutely incredible and I couldn’t choose just one so I will do another one just focused on the pitchers. I love baseball so much and seeing the teams develop and stars born is so exciting for me a diehard baseball fan I hope you guys agree!!!

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