Who Wore it Best? 59-50

Photo: Dr. Odd

The dog days are over, the dog days are done, and “Who Wore it Best” has returned. In this edition, we’re checking out the GOATs of the 50’s.

59 – London Fletcher

Photo: Pinterest

One of the most underrated players in NFL history. Fletcher racked up 2,031 tackles, four Pro Bowls, and a Super Bowl ring in 16 seasons. He also never missed a game, which is incredible considering the beating an NFL linebacker takes season in and season out.

Honorable Mentions: Luke Kuechly, Carlos Carrasco, Jack Ham

58 – Jack Lambert

This man was MEAN. One of the stalwarts in the Steel Curtain Defense of the 70’s, Lambert racked up pretty much any award that was available. Six time first team All-Pro, NFL Defensive Player of the Year, NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Honorable Mention: Jonathan Papelbon

57 – Johan Santana

Johan Santana had some nasty stuff. Over his 12 year career, he won 139 games while maintaining a career 3.20 ERA, was a two-time Cy Young winner, and tacked on a Gold Glove in 2007. “No-han” threw an unbelievable 134-pitch no hitter in 2012.

Honorable Mention: Rickey Jackson

56 – Lawrence Taylor

Photo: Seriable

Lawrence Taylor was an absolute DAWG. We’ve gushed over LT in previous blogs, but he’s that good that we’re going to do it again. Two Super Bowls, an MVP, three Defensive Player of the Year awards, and eight first team All-Pros are just a fraction of what Taylor accomplished over his incredible career.

Honorable Mention: Mark Buehrle

55 – Dikembe Mutombo

Dikembe Mutombo was way more than his infamous finger wag; he was a defensive stud. Mutombo lead the NBA in blocks three times and rebounds twice. He made eight All-Star games, won Defensive Player of the Year four times, and has his number retired by two different franchises in the Nuggets and Hawks.

Honorable Mentions: Junior Seau, Orel Hershiser

54 – Brian Urlacher

Brian Urlacher was the epitome of a Chicago Bears middle linebacker. He played his entire 13-year career in Chicago; tallying 1,361 tackles, two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, and four first team All-Pros. The eight time Pro Bowler was also named to the NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team.

Honorable Mentions:
Goose Gossage, Horace Grant, Randy White, Zach Thomas

53 – Artis Gilmore

Photo: NBA.com

Artis Gilmore was a stud in both the ABA and NBA. If you combine his career between both leagues, he was the Rookie of the Year, an MVP, made 11 All-Star games, and scored a shade under 25,000 points.

Honorable Mentions: Bobby Abreu, Mick Tingelhoff

52 – Ray Lewis

Photo: Zimbio

Say what you will about the overzealous speeches, or don’t say anything about the off field issues, but Ray Lewis could flat out ball. Two Super Bowls (including MVP in one), two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, and a seven time first team All-Pro.

Honorable Mentions: CC Sabathia, Patrick Willis, Clay Matthews

51 – Randy Johnson

The Big Unit! Easily one of the most dominant pitchers we’ve seen. Johnson ended his 22-year career with a 3.29 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 303 wins, a perfect game, one no hitter, five Cy Young trophies, and was the MVP of one of the biggest World Series upsets when the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in 2001.

Honorable Mention: Dick Butkus

50 – David Robinson

The very rare story of a service academy athlete becoming one of the best to do it in professional sports. Robinson reached the rank of lieutenant during his three years of service in the Navy, a great achievement. He wasn’t a bad basketball player either; in three separate seasons he lead the NBA in points, rebounds, and blocks. The Admiral also won Rookie of the Year, MVP, and two championships.

Honorable Mentions: Mike Singletary, Corey Crawford

A lot of solid athletes in the 50’s; strong showing by football and baseball. A severe lack of hockey here; will they recover in the 40’s? We’ll have to wait and see…

Sunday State of Mind: May 17th-May 23rd

Photo: Golf Pass

An absolute smorgasbord of sports this week. We review in this week’s SSM.

Everybody in the world loves Phil Mickelson
He won the PGA Championship, big consensus grin
Phil set the all-time record as the oldest major champ
The old man held up all weekend, no broken bones or cramps

The NBA Playoffs are off and running, a sight you love to see
The Association’s yearly tournament to award the Larry O’Brien Trophy
The regular season and play in games are finally behind us
We’re all going to sit on the couch and watch basketball, don’t mind us

More playoff action over at the NHL
For the Avs, Knights, Bruins, and Lightning, things are going well
The Oilers are in trouble, same with the Panthers, Blues and Caps
Playoff hockey is the best, no chance of boring gaps

We have our latest entry in strange baseball injuries
Kevin Kiermaier hurt by an eyelash, this one’s history
This one’s pretty funny, Rays are probably saying “oh geez”
Still not as bad Sammy Sosa’s back injury via sneeze

An Albert Pujols Appreciation Blog

Shocking, though not terribly surprising news dropped on Thursday. The Los Angeles Angels announced that they would be releasing Albert Pujols. Pujols had been with the team since 2012, signing an at the time 10 year, $240 million mega deal.

Pujols, a missed nomination for the funniest names in sports, continued a completely understandable late career downtrend this season. Through 24 games in 2021, he is hitting .198 with a .622 OPS. For reference, his first year in LA he hit .285 and .859, respectively.

However, we are not here to kick Pujols while he’s down. Father Time is undefeated (unless you’re Tom Brady), so the declining numbers we’ve seen from Pujols is nothing short of expected.

We’re here to celebrate what may be the end of one of the most spectacular baseball players in the modern era. Hand up; I’m a Cubs fan. I think enough time has passed that myself and fellow North Siders can appreciate Pujols for what he was, an absolute tank who refused to not rip your heart out at any given moment.

Let’s just break this down. In his 11 years in St. Louis, Pujols hit 445 home runs, knocked in 1,329 RBI, maintained an 1.037 OPS, and was an unearthly 86.6 WAR. I’m not a math guy, but we’re looking at averages of about 40 HRs, 121 RBI, and 7.9 WAR. That’s an average year. Just bananas numbers.

Now, the numbers did dip once he left The Cardinals for the West Coast. Even so, the numbers are still pretty impressive for a guy entering the back half of his career. During his 10 seasons with The Halos, Pujols racked up 222 HRs, 783 RBI, a .758 OPS, and a 12.8 WAR. I won’t bore you with averages here, but you can see the production was still there.

A sure fire Hall of Famer, and seemingly a pretty good guy off the field. Albert Pujols deserves the appreciation from any baseball fan lucky enough to watch him in the past 21 years. If this is it, here’s to an incredible career.

Dear Baseball: Welcome Back, We Love You

Dear Baseball,

You made it. You’re back. Every year, Spring rolls around and you reappear in our lives just when we’re all at our wit’s end with Winter.

Your debut is upon us, and league-wide hope is at a premium. Spring Training has wrapped, and all thirty teams have traveled back home to start the long, arduous road to a pennant. The weather is starting to turn; summer is creeping around the corner, and with it, thoughts of cold beer and hot dogs dance in our heads.

Opening Day is a time and feeling unlike any other. It’s like waking up in the middle of the night thinking your alarm’s about to go off, to find you’ve only been asleep for an hour. It’s like taking out your contacts after a long day, or hitting every green light when you’re running late. It’s hard to exactly describe it, but have you ever found a $20 bill in your pants that you forgot about? That’s what it feels like having you back.

From Wrigley to Fenway, Yankee Stadium to Petco Park, let the hum of fastballs and pop of catcher’s mitts fill the air for the next seven months. Let the home runs fly out of Coors Field, pop ups die in the acres of foul territory at RingCentral Coliseum, and Bernie Brewer take all of the home run slides his heart desires.

Who cares if the pace of play is a little slow? Who doesn’t want to to piss in a urinal trough, pay $12 for a mini helmet full of ice cream that melts in five minutes, or step in dropped neon yellow nacho cheese while awkwardly scootching past eight of your fellow attendees all while squeezing into undersized seats in 98 degree weather?

We definitely don’t get embarrassed when our favorite players get injured in hilarious ways while playing a noncontact sport. We don’t care that you make a bunch of old men squeeze into baseball uniforms, or that your Hall of Fame voting is incredibly flawed, or that your fields of play aren’t equal in size like every other legitimate professional sport. No reason to complain about the fact that the DH rule isn’t universal, unwritten rules are dumb, and that hitting at this point is either home runs or strikeouts.

Baseball, we could not be happier that you are back.

Love,

Baseball Fans Everywhere

Sunday State of Mind: February 8th-February 14th

Happy Valentines Day! A holiday associated with poetry is a perfect time to drop this week’s SSM.

The Tampa Bay Bucs had their Super Bowl parade
Appeared the entire team was drinking vodka lemonade
The visuals from the entire day were just so great
Who says no to next year Brady getting number eight?

The Houston Texans have released JJ Watt
An organization in flux, change happening a lot
A formerly great offense, and that defense was mean
Next year looks like it’s trending towards 0-16

The Cubs and Jake Arrieta are running it back
The Cy Young winner, rejoining the pack
In a rotation that’s lacking, Jake could be a guide
And stabilize a weakness next year on the North Side

We got old school Melo this week, absolutely silly
Sixteen fourth quarter points in a win against Philly
Carmelo had 24 points as the Blazers sixth man
Portland fifth in the West, things going to plan

Sunday State of Mind: December 1-December 6th

Sunday is here, and so is another week of SSM.

Baker Mayfield had himself a day
Four touchdowns, 334 yards, to the Titans’ dismay
The Browns moved to 9-3 on the year
Once in a blue moon the Dawg Pound can cheer

A few big name changes, on Chicago’s North Side
Kyle Schwarber is gone, and Len Kasper has gone for a ride
To The White Sox radio both, Cubs fans were surprised
What’s going on with the Cubs? It’s hard to surmise

A big name trade in the NBA
John Wall for Russell Westbrook, what the hey?!
A few bad contracts, who both wanted to change teams
This trade will only change things in Wizards & Rockets fan’s dreams

Alabama football rolled their rival LSU
The Crimson Tide won by 38, Tigers didn’t have a clue
In this weird COVID season, one thing remains the same
Alabama is good, and they’ll probably win every game

Theo Epstein has Resigned as President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs and I Am Sad

Photo: SFGate

Damn…what a ride.

This morning, news broke that Theo Epstein would be stepping down as President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs, effective immediately. Epstein joined the Cubs in October 2011, and completely transformed an organization known for being long time losers into consistent post season appearances, success, and of course, World Series champions.

Epstein noted in his press conference this afternoon that the original plan was to transition out of his position in October 2021. However, with important roster and organizational decisions coming this offseason, he believed it best that those who would be with the Cubs longer-term should be making those decisions.

The now former President of Baseball Operations has always maintained that 10 years is about the maximum he would ever stay at job, and he is holding true to his word. In his presser this afternoon, he noted there was “no sense of burnout. I enjoy building, transformation, and accomplishing. Maybe I’m not as great at maintenance. After a while, I need a new challenge, and with the Cubs in a state of change with the roster, it felt like the right time.”

This sucks. Epstein has been the face of the Cubs for the past nine years. His list of accomplishments and the stories that have come out of his tenure is as impressive as it is long. I watched the press conference this morning, and wanted to outline some of the best moments and quotes.

  • When asked about his overall feelings about his time with the Cubs: “A life changing experience, the best part being the relationships and connections I’ve made along the way.” Epstein continued “Our goals were to build a foundation of sustained success and build a team that would win a World Series for the Chicago Cubs. It was not perfect, but we did it.”
  • Describing Cubs fans: “The depth of the connection with the fans, how intimate and easily shared…is really is different here, thanks to [the fans]. Right as we started to turn the corner, walking home from a game, I could ease drop on conversations that were so optimistic, it was such a special time. The lines between fans, team, and front office members were blurred. We all knew what was going to happen before it did.”
  • On the 2016 World Series victory: “Such a privilege to run into strangers and hear what the World Series meant to them.”

Jed Hoyer, current Cubs General Manger, will take over as the new President of Baseball Operations. Hoyer joined the Cubs with Theo initially as GM, and has more than earned this promotion. Epstein believes he is leaving the Cubs in incredibly able hands: “[Hoyer] ensures great continuity, and is also realistic in ways we need to change and get better” he said.

Additionally, Theo ensured Cubs fans that Hoyer “does not need me over his shoulder…he is ready, willing, and able.” He supported his claim by giving an anecdote on the now famous trade with the Baltimore Orioles that brought a struggling Jake Arrieta to the North Side, and as we now all know, to the MLB Awards stage as the 2015 Cy Young Award winner. Epstein said that Hoyer kept “banging the table” for an additional throw in on the trade, saying that the throw in must be included in the trade or the Cubs would walk away from the trading table. That throw in at the time, was a relief pitcher with a woeful career 4.82 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. That “meaningless” throw in was named Pedro Stop, who like Arrieta, resureccted his career in Chicago to become one of the best relief pitchers in team history.

This, and many other reasons, has Epstein feeling confident that the Cubs are in great long term shape as he proceeds with a peaceful transfer of power. Epstein noted that while he anticipates he will eventually return to baseball, for now, he and his family will continue to live in Chicago, and be Cubs season ticket holders moving moving forward. He noted that now he can enjoy the bleacher bum experience, and when he does, “it will feel like home.”

While this is a sad day, I also cannot help but feel happy. This nine-year stretch has been the best in Cubs history, and I feel lucky to have been able to see it from the foundation to the peak of baseball. Thank you, Theo Epstein, for putting all that you did into the organization for as long as you did, and bringing Cubs fans like me success that we only dreamt of before you came to Chicago.

Sunday State of Mind: October 26th-November 1st

Photo: Annie Nyle on Unsplash

Fall is here, friends. The leaves have changed, the sweaters have been donned, and the clocks have moved back. Let’s all get comfortable and enjoy this week’s SSM.

Tua Time in Miami, the rookie made his debut
A surprise win over the Rams, the Dolphins feel anew
Tua didn’t have a big game, or put up many stats
But if the Dolphins keep winning, they’ll no longer be AFC East cellar rats

We crowned a new World Series champ this week, the Dodgers from LA
Emerged victorious over the Rays of Tampa Bay
A lot of talk on the internet on the decisions of Kevin Cash
If he kept Blake Snell in longer, it could be the Rays throwing the championship bash

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson’s long-haired quarterback
Tested positive for COVID, by the disease he’s been sacked
The best QB in the NCAA missed this week’s game
It was also announced he’ll miss Clemson’s next contest against Notre Dame

This week the Chicago Cubs declined Jon Lester’s option for 2021
Unless he’s brought back on a cheaper deal, his time with the Cubs is done
Big Jon did something very cool this weekend, something very dear
He’s buying the entire city of Chicago their first rounds of beer

Sunday State of Mind: October 5th-October 11th

Photo: Amanda Phung on Unsplash

SSM after dark! Some late night sports poetry to send you into your week.

We’ve crowned a new champ, The Lakers have won
LeBron, AD, and the squad made sure The Heat were done
With the win comes the end of the NBA bubble
King James lead the way with a series winning triple double

Huge comeback story in the NFL
Alex Smith is back, that’s a buy, not a sell
Even if his team lost, him being back was a great scene
A rare feel good story for The Washington Football Team

Opposite Alex Smith, poor Dak Prescott
His seasons over, and the ankle’s shot
If you haven’t seen the video, I would suggest not
The pressure on Jerry Jones now has to feel quite hot

Moving on to the MLB
The bracket’s down to four teams to see
Who will take home the World Series Trophy
Since it won’t be The Cubs, it doesn’t matter to me

Sunday State of Mind: September 28th-October 4th

Sunday evening: a time to sit back, reflect on your weekend, and read this week’s SSM.

The NBA Finals is in full swing
The Heat are decimated, The Lakers are getting the ring
It probably was always going to end this way
With only Jimmy Butler for Miami, and LeBron and AD for LA

The MLB playoffs have advanced a round
Only half of the playoff teams are left and still taking the mound
It is a bit sad, that we won’t have a chance
For a Cubs/White Sox World Series, since neither advanced

Russell Wilson continues to be
In this blogger’s opinion, NFL MVP
He balled out again today, carved Miami with a knife and fork
Don’t think we forgot though, he’s still a dork

The big NFL story, another COVID outbreak
Cam Newton tested positive, a sad truth to take
The cases are clearly rising in the NFL
I think we all wish this virus would just go to hell