MLB All-Time Team: Rotation/Bullpen

New York Yankees, Mariano Rivera

As a Part 2 to my MLB All-Time Team, I will list my pitchers, which I am allowed 13 of. I will go with 5 starters and 8 relievers, and so it may not be the 13 best pitchers of all time as there wouldn’t be 8 relievers in that list, it’ll really be the 5 best starters and then 8 best relievers of all time. For reference to who the batters were click here, and with that being said, let’s get on with out historic squad.

#1: Pedro Martinez

Yes I’m a Yankees fan putting a Red Sox legend as the best pitcher of all time, and that’s because I think he simply is. Yes he’s 15th in fWAR but that’s in only 2720.2 innings pitched compared to the people ahead of him who all have at least 1,100 innings more on their career. In the steroid era he had a career 2.95 ERA and 2.91 FIP and is one of three pitchers (minimum 2,000 innings pitched) who had a 10 or higher K/9 in their career. He also has the 5th best WHIP of all time at 1.05 and the best FIP- of all time and second best ERA- of all time, two stats that compare a pitcher to the average of that stat in their playing time, meaning that when you adjust for the era you pitched in, no one was more dominant in their era than Pedro was in his. Disgaree with me if you want, but he’s my GOAT pitcher.

#2: Roger Clemens

Had it not been for PEDs, I would’ve put him at one, but you take his stats with a grain of salt because of his PED usage. 3rd all time in FIP- and 8th in ERA- and the best fWAR of all time amongst pitchers. I think Clemens is a shoe-in for a starting five and that having that rocket arm in this rotation will be able to give me some serious firepower. Analytically speaking he’s undoubtedly an all-time great, and he’s my second starter

#3: Randy Johnson

Our first southpaw, Johnson is one of the best strikeout pitchers per 9 of all time, with a 10.61 K/9 and a whopping 110.4 fWAR. His 3.29 ERA and 3.19 FIP in the over 4,000 innings is amazing especially since you consider that he pitched from the 1989 season to 2009 which puts him directly in the steroid era, so his FIP- and ERA- metrics give him more justice and show he was an absolute stud on the mound. He’s the best lefty of all time in my opinion, and he’s perfect for this squad.

#4: Walter Johnson

The Big Train is a premier pick for this squad, with a 2.17 career ERA and a 2.42 FIP, he’s elite by any metric you’d like to bring up. He has a 117.1 fWAR and a ERA- of 68 and FIP- of 76 along with a 1.06 WHIP and was one of the best right handers of his era. He does have the best ERA and FIP out of all starters but his era adjusted stats bring him a tick below our top 3, but he’s still going to be a monster on this squad.

#5: Sandy Koufax

The second southpaw on this list, there are few stretches of baseball more dominant than from 1962-1966 as he had a better than 1:1 strikeout to inning ratio, with a 1.95 ERA and 2.00 FIP  in that span. He won 3 Cy Youngs, 1 MVP, 5 ERA and FIP crowns, 4 WHIP crowns, 3 strikeout crowns, all while averaging 263 innings per SEASON. He’d be higher on this list had his health issues not derailed his career, but he’s more than deserving of a spot in this ultimate rotation.

Bullpen:

Aroldis Chapman: A present day reliever? This isn’t only one on the list but Chapman is going to be a HOFer one day, with a 2.23 ERA, 2.01 FIP, and a 2.36 xFIP with a 14.84 K/9 is insane, and I think he’s one of the 8 best relievers of all time, being a fire-baller and a historic strikeout machine. He’d be higher on this list but his limited body of work holds him back (for now)

Lee Smith: A Hall of Fame reliever, Lee Smith has a 3.03 ERA and a 2.93 FIP over 1289.1 innings and is one of baseball’s best relievers being a 6’6 225 hurler who was reliable as they get. He was able to toss multiple 100+ inning seasons as a reliever and was durable. He’s an electric reliever and a mainstay in the best relievers conversation, so I have to put him in this bullpen.

Trevor Hoffman: I know that I have him here at 6 and that’ll upset people, but saves aren’t the best metrics for a reliever. He has a 3.08 FIP and 2.87 ERA which is really good but the people ahead of him either had lower ERA and FIP metrics, or had longer careers and therefore had more overall value. Yes Hoffman is a great reliever but he’s not better than the 5 ahead of him.

Rich “Goose” Gossage: A staple in talks of some of baseball’s best relievers, Gossage pitched 1809 innings and had a 3.01 ERA and a 3.18 FIP. The reason I have him above Hoffman is because of his 500 innings more of relief work, I won’t count his innings as a starter but it’s just part of how Gossage was more durable and was as good as Hoffman arguably but for longer.

Craig Kimbrel: What? Above Gossage??? Above HOFFMAN? HE DOESN’T KNOW BASEBALL” Yes I know this is very upsetting for people who only look at names and not metrics. In his career Kimbrel already has a 2.08 ERA and a 2.19 FIP and 2.26 xFIP. That’s beyond elite, and while he doesn’t have the 600 saves, saves are a product of being up by 1-3 runs and finishing the job, things beyond the control of a pitcher as they can’t force a team to only be up by a score of 1-3 runs. Kimbrel had a rough 2019, and people will use that to say he’s washed but that’s without the context of how he didn’t have a healthy season or a spring training. He’s a top 4 reliever all time, to not have him top 8 is to ignore analytics in favor for bias.

Billy Wagner: Billy is so underrated, being one of the best fire-ballers of the reliever class and with his 2.31 ERA and 2.73 FIP he’s one of the most sound run preventer as well. He posted a n 11.92 K/9 and sported a 1.00 WHIP. He’s one of those pitchers that can do it all, with prevention of runs and base-runners, good velocity, great body of work to go off of, AND great strikeout metrics. He’s a shoe in at number 3.

Rollie Fingers: In over 1,500 innings of work, Fingers has a 2.84 ERA and 2.88 FIP, and while Wagner and Kimbrel have better numbers, I think the body of work argument truly does matter here as the gap between Hoffman and Kimbrel was 500 innings but here it’s 1000 so I won’t put Kimbrel higher on the list, and Wagner has 600 less innings with a similar FIP so I have to give Fingers the edge here. A deserving HOFer and a classic for relievers.

Mariano Rivera: My fellow Yankee fans you can breathe a sigh of relief (get it) now that I have Rivera at one. My little monologue on why saves don’t matter as much probably scared you guys into thinking Rivera wouldn’t be number one, but come on guys I wouldn’t do that. A 2.06 ERA and 2.67 FIP as a reliever (not using his starter stats), he was as dominant as they came. He had the best ERA- on this list (second all time behind…Zack Britton) and he’s 10th in FIP- and third on this list (Behind Kimbrel and Chapman.) I won’t even bring up saves, I’ll actually defer to his insane stats in the postseason that speak for themselves. He’s the best reliever of all time, and if I need to close out a game, even with all the talent in this bullpen, I’m bringing out the Sandman.

What do you guys think about this list? Would you change this team at all?

Former Net Vince Carter Officially Retires: One of the Greatest Athletes to ever put on an NBA Uniform

Brooklyn Nets, Vince Carter

In the history of the NBA, how many players can say that their career spanned over 4 decades? The answer is only one: Vince Carter. The 8 time All-Star officially retired earlier today on The Ringer’s “Winging It” podcast. The decision did not come as a surprise, as Carter has been hinting at his retirement all season and the Atlanta Hawks were not invited to participate in Orlando when the NBA resumes in late July. You can see his official retirement statement in the tweet below:

Recapping Vince Carter’s Prolific NBA Career

Vince Carter was selected #5 overall in the 1998 draft by the Golden State Warriors, but was instantly traded to the Raptors for his teammate and the #4 pick in the draft, Antawn Jamison. Carter bust onto the scene with Toronto, averaging 18.3 ppg and 5.7 rpg in his rookie season, and quickly became known for his high flying, earth-shattering finishes at the rim. These finishes would usually result in a highlight-reel dunk but occasionally, Carter would opt for the acrobatic layup instead. Carter instantly became one of the most popular players in the league among young fans and garnered the nickname “Air Canada.” He was responsible for one of the greatest Slam Dunk contest performances of all time and also delivered one of the most disrespectful in-game dunks of all time during the 2000 Olympics, both videos can be seen below:

In Carter’s second year, his ppg ballooned up to 25.7 and alongside his cousin Tracy McGrady, and the two brought the Raptors to their first ever playoff appearance. After McGrady was dealt in the following season, Carter established himself among the top #2 guards in the league, averaging a career best 27.6 ppg in just his 3rd season. Carter even had a cameo as himself in the movie Like Mike (2002), as the player Calvin Cambridge (main character in Like Mike) had to make a play against in order to send his fictional team, the LA Knights, to the playoffs, despite losing his ability to play basketball “like Michael Jordan.” Like Michael Jordan, Carter had played his college ball at North Carolina, and the two (at their peaks) shared an elite athleticism trait rivaled by few in the NBA. In 2003, Carter gave up his all-star spot so Michael Jordan could play in the final all-star game of his career.

After 6 stellar seasons in Toronto, Carter was traded to the New Jersey Nets in the after 20 games into the 2004 season. The Nets, coming off back to back Finals appearances the two years prior, needed to fill a scoring void after losing Kenyon Martin to the Nuggets, and believed Carter was the man to do so. While the Nets never returned to an NBA Finals with Vince Carter, the combination of Carter/Kidd/Jefferson proved to be a dominant force in the East. VC benefited substantially from Kidd’s play-making ability and the two connected on so many beautiful ally-oops, as seen below:

Nets fans fell in love with “Vinsanity” since they had never been witness to such an athletic monster on their team. In other words, Carter was the closest thing to MJ that Nets fans would ever have the privilege of watching. Carter would go on to play 5 seasons with the Nets, averaging 23.6 ppg over that span. The Nets made the playoffs 3 out of the 5 seasons Carter was there, but unfortunately the team fell apart after the 2006-2007 season, as Jason Kidd was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2007-2008 season and Carter was dealt to the Magic in the summer of 2009.

While many believed Carter’s career to be over after his tenure with the Nets, VC continued to defy the odds. Carter was able to be a great complement to Dwight Howard and in two seasons with Orlando, managed to average 16.3 ppg. In the 2009-2010 playoffs, Carter helped the Magic reach the Eastern Conference Finals, before losing 4 games to 2 against the Boston Celtics. It was the only time in Carter’s career he would reach conference finals series.  After his stint in Orlando, Carter would go on to play for 5 more teams, including the Suns, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Kings, and Hawks.

While he never won a championship, he was always viewed as a great teammate and an overall positive contributor to every team he’s ever been a part of. Carter was able to last as long as he did in the NBA due to his ability to adjust his role according to whatever the team he was playing for at that time needed. Even in the last several years, he developed into a great 3 and D player, mixing in the occasional highlight reel dunk/layup. He is no doubt a 1st ballot Hall-of-Famer and will be go down as one of the greatest athletes to ever play the sport of basketball.

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Who should be the next Islander to go into the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Tomorrow afternoon, the Hockey Hall of Fame will announce its newest inductees for the class of 2020. There will be no New York Islanders getting that distinct honor.

In fact, the Islanders organization hasn’t had the chance to see one of their own be bestowed such an accomplishment since 2003. That ’03 class — featuring goalie Grant Fuhr, the late Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Illitch, and Brian Kilrea, who played an instrumental role in the development of the NHLPA (National Hockey League Players Association) — was headlined by Pat LaFontaine.

LaFontaine, who was drafted third by the Isles in 1983, played eight seasons for the franchise before a contract dispute sent him to Buffalo. He would go on to play for the hated Rangers as well, but it was the Islanders where LaFontaine became an American hockey legend, built his Hall of Fame resume and earned his place as one of the top 100 greatest players in NHL history for which he was named in 2017.

The Islanders haven’t had a player of LaFontaine’s stature in the past few decades besides John Tavares. It remains to be seen whether Tavares will get the call to the Hall one day. He had some excellent seasons in orange and blue and it has translated to his new home in Toronto. If Tavares does get the nod, a lot of Isles fans will have differing opinions because of how his reputation with the franchise was sullied based on his exit back in 2018.

Besides the possibility of Tavares, there’s a small list of names who could be the next to break the drought.

From the current crop, Mathew Barzal seems like the obvious choice.

Sure he’s only in his third season as a pro, but Barzal has already secured some hardware and is recognized as one of the most dynamic players in the league. He’s averaged 60 or more points each year, so keeping up that same production over a 12-15 year career would have Barzal close to 900 points. Again, this is all hypothetical, but the way Barzal continues to develop, those projected numbers could get him serious consideration for a Hall of Fame nod. A Stanley Cup or two wouldn’t hurt too.

Doug Weight and Ray Ferraro are also a possibility.

Granted he only played three years with the Islanders and did most of his numbers in other destinations, Weight has the credentials to warrant a nomination. Already inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013, Weight recorded 1,000 points in his career, over 700 assists, and won a Stanley Cup in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes. He did coach the Islanders as an assistant and head coach for six seasons, even though his record wasn’t anything to write home about.

Ferraro, part of the Isles’ rebirth in the early ’90s, was only two points shy of 900 in his career when he retired in 2002. He had some of his best years with the Islanders, most notably 1991-92 where he recorded a career-high 80 points. There have been players who have gotten enshrined in the Hall of Fame for a lot fewer points and years played; Guy Carbonneau, inducted in 2019, had only 663 points in his career. Those three Cups and Selke trophies might have been the deciding factor.

John Tonelli and Brent Sutter also deserve consideration. Both players were key elements to the Islanders’ reign in the early ’80s.

Sutter has two Cups to show for along with 829 points in 1,111 games. If not for those accomplishments alone, Sutter was a constant in the Selke Trophy conversation for the majority of his career. Although it was when he was with Chicago, Sutter was fourth in the Selke voting three straight years. One of the most underrated players of his era.

Tonelli was drafted by the Islanders in 1977 and is a four-time Stanley Cup winner. He was an All-Star twice — 1981-82 and 1984-85 — and has a 100-point and 93-point season on his ledger. Tonelli averaged no less than 55 points in a season for a long stretch of his career.

Finally, we come to Barry Trotz.

The current bench boss of the Islanders will most definitely have his name be recognized one day. Trotz is the model for coaching in the game today. He’s been behind the bench for over 20-plus years and changed the fortunes of two franchises — the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals. Trotz was the original coach in Nashville and helped establish hockey in the city and mold the Predators into a successful organization. In Washington, he led a star-laden Capitals squad to three straight Metro Division titles, five straight playoff appearances, and the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 2018.

As for what he’s done on Long Island, Trotz has already led the Isles to the playoffs back-to-back years, become the fourth-winningest coach in NHL history, won the Jack Adams Award.

No one can predict the next time an Islander will be headed to the Hall of Fame. But one thing is certain, there’s a list of those who deserve to being considered.

 

NASCAR: Matt Kenseth made his Hall of Fame case at the Darlington return

The return of NASCAR also brought the return of its 2003 champion. Here’s why Matt Kenseth’s top ten finish should put him in Charlotte.

Sunday’s NASCAR race, the Real Heroes 400 at Darington Raceway, was historic in more ways than one. American eyes were on the track, as NASCAR became the first national team sports league to return in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The first race of the social distancing era was won by Kevin Harvick, who became the 14th driver to win at least 50 Cup Series events. Rookies Tyler Reddick and John Hunter Nemechek earned the best finishes of their Cup careers to date.

To cap it all off, Matt Kenseth sealed his Hall of Fame case.

NASCAR’s return also brought about the return of Cambridge, Wisconsin native, as Kenseth has taken over Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet. The 48-year-old was called out of retirement after the disgraced Kyle Larson was ousted for using a racial slur during a streamed virtual race. Sunday marked his first race behind Ganassi’s wheel and he brought the car home in the 10th position.

The 2003 Cup Series champion may be giving fellow Badger State sports legend Brett Favre a run for his money when it comes to rearrivals. He originally departed full-time racing in 2017 but came back less than a year later to his old friends at Roush Fenway Racing to temporarily fill the vacant No. 6 Ford after Trevor Bayne’s firing. His final Roush stanzas (which included a stage win at Indianapolis and concluding back-to-back top ten finishes at Phoenix and Homestead-Miami) appeared to be the end, but fate had other plans.

If and when Kenseth’s racing career finally ends, debate will probably reign over his Hall of Fame case. Entry into NASCAR Valhalla in Charlotte doesn’t seem to have a proverbial ticket like Cooperstown’s supposed 3,000-hit plateau. Kenseth’s former Roush teammate and fellow No. 6 alum Mark Martin reached Queen City without a title in any of NASCAR’s three major series. Meanwhile, posthumous 2019 inductee Alan Kulwicki (who tragically died in a plane crash months after winning the 1992 Cup title) did make it, but, along with fellow nominee Ron Hornaday Jr. (who ran only 46 Cup races but won four titles on NASCAR’s lower-tier Truck Series level), did so with less than half of the vote. They nonetheless were brought in by the Hall’s five-inductee quota (NASCAR has since lowered the yearly Charlotte inductees to three).

The phenomenon is not to downplay Kulwicki or Hornaday’s accomplishments by any stretch. Kulwicki, for example, was one of the last drivers to successfully pull off the driver/owner double-dip. But it just went to show that a Cup trophy wasn’t the be-all, end-all for racing glory, especially in the eyes of voters.

Kenseth probably could’ve made it sooner or later, but reducing the welcome wagon’s capacity might’ve caused him to wait a little a bit longer than the three post-retirement years necessary for eligibility. His 39 wins and 330 top ten finishes are far more than acceptable, but some in fact smeared Kenseth’s illustrious title because of the mere single win it carried. Such a feat hadn’t been accomplished since Benny Parsons’ trek in 1973, the second year of NASCAR’s so-called “modern era”. So while not fully entertained, doubts still could’ve been raised about locking Kenseth in Charlotte’s halls.

Sunday eliminated any doubt.

Contrary to what its detractors may say, sanctioned auto racing is not a mere case of taking your Honda Accord to the nearest cul-de-sac and driving counter-clockwise 200 times. New innovations are happening on and off the track and the cars are in constant flux. The on-track machines of 2020 differ from the racers even two years ago, the last time Kesenth was on the courses. Such changes aren’t as drastic as what NASCAR has in store for the 2022 season (when they’re expected to introduce the new racecar known as the “Next Gen”) but it was certainly a tall task to ask a driver to keep a car competitive, even one as healthily funded as Ganassi’s No. 42, in a package he never ran with little to no practice or even a qualifying session.

DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – MAY 17: Matt Kenseth, driver of the #42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway on May 17, 2020 in Darlington, South Carolina. NASCAR resumes the season after the nationwide lockdown due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19). (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

But Kenseth consistently ran in the race’s upper portions, adapting well to the unusual situation. As it stands now, he now has top ten finishes in each of his past three Cup Series races. Work needs to be done if Kenseth is to secure a playoff berth…a win and a finish in the top 30 points is likely the ideal solution…but Sunday’s debut was a solid start. The quest continues, weather-permitting, on Wednesday night at the Toyota 500 (6 p.m. ET, FS1), where the No. 42 will start 11th.

Pleasent of a surprise as it was, Kenseth’s contemporaries may have seen Sunday’s revival coming.

“From my standpoint, I’m like, I don’t want him back,” competitor Denny Hamlin said prior to Kenseth’s return. “I know he gives great information. He can give an organization information. It’s another voice that that organization will hear that’s different than what they’ve had over the last few years. Not better or worse, but just different. So I think he’s probably going to lift that program up, similar to what he did to Roush towards the end.”

“He’s my buddy, but I prefer him just to stay home at this point. I mean that jokingly.”

Hamlin’s fears were well-founded. He and Kenseth were teammates for five seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Kenseth’s 10th-place finish was perhaps an all too poetic occurrence. His lone, one-win championship was notorious for consistency, featuring an average finish of 10.2. So monumental was his final season that some attributed NASCAR’s playoff procedures to his dominance, which eliminated most, if not all, of the drama of the 2003 session’s final stanzas.

Sunday’s winner Kevin Harvick hinted that it might not be long until we see Kenseth in victory lane again and that his prescience can bring in new fans while the series enacts a stranglehold on the American sports fan’s imagination, at least for a while.

“Here’s the thing about Matt Kenseth: he should have never quit,” Harvick said. “Matt Kenseth was winning races when he retired. I think as you look at that whole situation of when you he got kind of moved out of Gibbs, Matt Kenseth is going to be a huge part of that race team and making Chip Ganassi Racing better. He’s going to be great for the sponsors.”

“I think as you look at that, I mean, experience and skill go a long way in our sport. If you have those two things, like Matt does, you’re going to be successful. You don’t just forget how to do that.”

Darlington will come first in the immediate future for Kenseth. Charlotte does as well…after all, the series travels there for a doubleheader next week…but his Myrtle Beach exploits should keep the latter in his potentially distant NASCAR hereafter as well.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

David Cone: A Hall of Fame Pitcher?

When people think about David Cone they think about good but not great, not among the elites of the MLB’s history. He’s in the Hall of Very Good at best to most people, but is that really fair to the New York icon? He isn’t just one of the pretty good pitchers of his era, in fact, I’d like to argue that he was a HOF-caliber pitcher who wasn’t given a fair chance at the Hall of Fame for reasons that make no sense, such as his Win-Loss record, which is one of baseball’s worst stats. Looking at David Cone from an objective point of view, he was a much better pitcher than people make him out to be.

HOF-Caliber Numbers

David Cone’s 3.46 ERA and 3.57 FIP are pretty darn good numbers, with those numbers being better than pitchers such as Mike Mussina. His ERA+ (which is park-adjusted and compared to league average) was 121 which was better than Tom Glavine, who was considered one of the greatest pitchers to ever do it. These numbers don’t discount Glavine or Mussina as they are HOF caliber pitchers, but it helps show that David Cone was just as good as the other HOFers he pitched against and is compared to. His 56.0 fWAR is above legends such as Bret Saberhagen and Whitery Ford, so how can you say his numbers aren’t HOF worthy?

Not Having Enough Wins Is Dumb

Why does his 194-126 Win-Loss record even matter at all? You mean to tell me that he can control what the 9 people in his lineup do night in and night out? Oh wait, HE CANNOT CONTROL HOW MANY RUNS ARE SCORED. Who cares if he only won 20 games once? He pitched great year in and year out, and to hold the fact that he pitched 112 starts with only 0-2 runs of support (26.7% of all of his starts) against him is asinine. If you think Win-Loss record matters you must not think Jacob deGrom is great then, which is also a really dumb take. Hold pitchers accountable to the runs they give up, not the runs scored.

One of Baseball’s Most Accomplished Pitchers

Everyone seems to forget that David Cone pitched in an era where everyone and their brother was doing steroids. In spite of that he went on to win 5 World Series titles, go to 5 All-Star games, win the Cy Young award, and put up a 2.12 ERA in 29.2 World Series innings. He also has a legendary perfect game to go with it, so the accomplishments and numbers are there but what about the Hall of Fame induction? It’s up to people who love the game and New Yorkers who watched David Cone shine bright for 13 total years in the Big Apple to keep his name afloat for the Veteran’s Committee to one day give him his well-deserved induction.

There is always room for discussion in sports, but there’s one thing that’s certain: the numbers don’t lie.

ESM EXCLUSIVE: Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Morten Andersen

Andersen, the former leading scorer in the NFL, spoke with ESM about his specialist exploits and the role sports can play upon its return.

Morten Andersen achieved a lot over a football that lasted nearly 30 years. He was denied a Super Bowl ring, but his ledger features nearly everything else a kicker can accomplish at the professional level.

Among the accolades are a pair of All-Decade Team nominations, six All-Pro invites, seven more to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, and two All-American nods during his early 1980s college days at Michigan State. To date, no player has appeared in more NFL games than Andersen. He formerly held the record for the most points in NFL history, though Adam Vinatieri stole that one away in October 2018. Andersen nonetheless beat Vinatieri to the Hall of Fame. His Hall call made him the second placekicker to enter Canton’s hallowed gates.

Even in retirement, Andersen, who spent the 2001 season with the New York Giants, is still updating his resume. He was recently informed by friends and family that he emerged as an answer on the game show Jeopardy!. The Copenhagen native was told he was part of a category labeled “Great Danes”.

“I was one of the answers…it was cool,” the Hall-of-Famer says with a laugh. “My phone blew up about a month ago. I don’t watch Jeopardy! on the regular, but my friends apparently do. They took screenshots and told me, ‘dude, you’re on Jeopardy! right now.”

Newfound syndicated glory was just one of the many topics Andersen covered in an exclusive sit-down with ESM…

(This interview was made possible with help from NJ Online Gambling)

Q: What do you recall about your time with the 2001 New York Giants, who played their games in the midst of September 11’s aftermath? 

A: It was a weird time with 9/11. I had literally just won the job from Brad Daluiso at the very beginning of the season. I had one preseason game against Baltimore. The following week, we opened the season in Denver on Monday Night Football September 10. Of course, the next day, all hell broke loose and we all know what happened then. So it was a weird time. My wife and two-year son Sebastian was supposed to come down on that Tuesday to look for a house. I was just staying in a hotel at the time and everything got locked down.

It was a very powerful time to be a Giant, to understand how sports really, eventually, galvanizes people, really pulls people together. I think New Yorkers, people were searching some sense of normalcy. I think, in some way, that fell on us to provide that peace after so much devastation.

That was great to be a part of. We had some great characters like Michael Strahan, Tiki Barber, Kerry Collins. We had a good football team. It was the year after the Giants lost to Baltimore in the Super Bowl. I enjoyed (head coach) Jim Fassel, I really enjoyed the big stage. I think that’s one thing I take away from the New York Football Giants, besides really great ownership with (Wellington) Mara and (Steve) Tisch, was the fact that it was the biggest stage in the world. We were practicing in East Rutherford, looking over at Manhattan going ‘holy crap…this is a big as it gets’.

Q: On the theme of sports being a great normalizer, do you think they can play a similar role when this current crisis ends?

A: Yes, I think there are a lot of parallels. Right now, it seems like there’s a lot of doom and gloom. It feels like an entertainment cemetery, where it’s a desert. There’s nothing out there to engage us in a normal fashion. We actually have to think about what to do every day now. It can become a bit of a Groundhog Day situation.

I think sports will bring everybody together and signal to us that things are back to normal. We can follow our favorite teams again. We can now make a friendly wager with our buddies, we can get out there and engage again, get to social media and start bantering, restart your fantasy football leagues, all those things that signal that we’re back to business as usual.

That’s what I hope happens. I think (sports) are going to come back more strong than they were before. I think people now, in these months where this void has been hemming, I think we’re all realizing, if you’re a sports fan anyway, how much you miss it, how much you miss that daily interaction. Not only with your buddies, but with your favorite team, following your favorite players, and engaging not only on social media, but just watching the games. Interacting with families, with the barbecues, with all the getting together.

All of these things are Americana we’re missing right now. It hurts. We’re suffering, I feel. (But) I feel that we’ll be back to it.

Q: With the lack of live sports, have you partaken in the airing of classic games…like the 1999 NFC title game?

A: That was a huge game! The Falcons recently streamed it through their social media services. I think it was well-viewed. I’m not sure how many, but it was a significant number. That was a huge moment for me and for the team, because it was the first time we were able to go to the Super Bowl.

I also saw the Saints-Falcons game after (Hurricane) Katrina a couple of weeks ago. That was my first game in a public park after 20 months unemployed. I had been out of football for 20 months and that was my game back with the Falcons against my old team, the Saints.

If there’s one thing that’s interesting through this coronavirus time, it’s that we get to see these historic games, these old games, some of which I was a part of. It kind of dates me! But we get to see other great players, some of the Niners games, the Giants games, it’s been fun to watch some of the games from the 80s, from the 90s. Some of the games you forgot who played. You can sit back and, if you want to TiVo it, you can fast forward through the slow time. It’s cool, it’s a good idea. They’re doing it in all the sports. I’ve been watching replays of the Rio Olympics, which is fun to watch. I love the Olympics. Old Masters highlights. I’ve always watched a three-hour Seve Ballesteros documentary. His whole story is fascinating to me.

Q: As a European native, how can the NFL continue to increase its footprint in the continent in a constructive way?

A: They’re doing it right now with GamePass and their partners. GamePass is significant because of the way the younger generation engages and watches sports. I’m 59, so I’m a linear media guy. I like to watch television. Give me a big screen, high-def with surround sound all day long. My kids, on the other hand, are 15 and 20 years old. They don’t engage that way. They’re on their platforms. They’re on their phones, their iPads, and that’s how they get their news, entertainment, and sports, which is not the way I grew up.

Having a team in, say, London would be a huge step forward. Getting a European team somewhere where you can still play games in the US would be a challenge, but having a viable NFL franchise in London would be a huge step.

When you travel from New York to San Diego, it’s a six-hour flight. London’s also a shorter flight than, say, Miami to Seattle. So, you have the time zone, it’s a five-hour difference. The NFL’s smart, so there’s a way to stage games where you two away games, two home games, where the (London) team wouldn’t fly back-and-forth, but ‘stay’.

I would love to see it. I loved NFL Europe. I actually did some games for Fox for about a month. I stayed in Amsterdam, following the Admirals. I also did a Hamburg game, a Cologne game. I thought that league was great. A lot of great players, Kurt Warner, Adam Vinatieri, James Harrison, came out of it. You can go on, and on, and on about the talent that was given the opportunity that they otherwise would’ve never had.

Q: Could the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas move to Las Vegas help, particularly be attracting British tourists? 

A: I think it’s going to be great and sold out every single game. The Raiders were stuck in Oakland and the deal with the city could not be worked out for the stadium. Every stadium now needs luxury suites, large LED screens, amenities, parking and a general positive feeling about playing or spectating – and I don’t think you had that in Oakland.

“It was authentic for the fans and the Raiders are an iconic franchise with an iconic logo. But the truth is it was a small stadium in a bad neighborhood. Half of the pitch was dirt, half of grass. You could only put 50,000 people in there and it wasn’t sold out at all when I played there.

Vegas is going to be much more dynamic, they already had a huge store in the airport when I went through there in October. You’re going to a global city now from a commercial standpoint so it’ll be an amazing opportunity for the Raiders to grow their fanbase with all the Brits and Europeans coming in.

Q: In current NFL affairs, how the Patriots go about replacing Tom Brady?

A: I didn’t see Tampa coming at all, it’s a head-scratcher I think he has a place in Florida, but it really surprised me. I thought it was going to be the Chargers in their new stadium or the Raiders, although I knew Tom didn’t deep down want to go to Vegas. It’s too flashy for him.

“While he’s not the player he once was, this whole thing shows that the sport is a business. That you can be the greatest quarterback of all time, without question, and you still don’t get to finish the team you won all those Super Bowls with – it is mind-boggling to me. It’s not about the money, he doesn’t need the $30m that’s for sure!

“Belichick and Kraft must have told him that they wanted to go younger and cheaper in the QB position. And Tom knows his skills have diminished, he is 42 and time stops for no one. Maybe he thought change is good, even at the end of his career.

Maybe Tua Tagovailoa falls to them in the draft, but there are 32 teams, with many needing a good quarterback. I don’t think Cam Newton or Jameis Winston is fitting in with Belichick. Joe Flacco got cut and is out there so he may be a good option and he might get a look if they go for the experience they are known for. But there may just not be enough free agent quality so they will have to start over and hope Belichick continues his knack for developing young guys.

The Patriots will still be good, but they won’t be the same old Pats any more. While they’re in a bad division with the mediocre Dolphins and the terrible Jets, I think the Bills may win the division this year. But every team has to rebuild at some point and the Pats have been at the top for so long.

Q: How Brady can rejuvenate the Buccaneers and be a mentor to some great young players?

A: I think this move can rejuvenate Brady…not that he needs it, he is in good shape. But it’s just that different environment. Remember, Tampa has some really good receivers which Brady can unlock.

You also have the notion that Jameis Winston, who is still really young, could improve if Brady came in. He could really impart some wisdom on how to be a good pro if he wanted to, as long as they don’t ship Winston off to New England!

Same goes for Mike Evans. He and Winston still need to mature especially with some off-the-field stuff, and Brady could help them to do that as a father figure and bring an air of professionalism to the whole franchise.

I’m not sure Brady makes the Bucs contenders, given the Saints are in their division, and they are better than Tampa even with Brady there. A lot of people think Brady is washed up and doesn’t have the mobility anymore. He also has to learn with a totally new team. But for me, he can only be a positive influence.

Q: What were your thoughts on the DeAndre Hopkins trade? 

A: I am lost for words. The Texans have just wholesaled their squad and, in trading DeAndre Hopkins, must have done one of the stupidest pieces of business in NFL history, it’s crazy.

Take the Stefan Diggs trade from the Vikings to the Bills. The Vikings got way more for their player who is nowhere near as good as Hopkins compared to what the Texans got. It’s ludicrous.

This could get Bill O’Brien fired down there. Everybody is going ‘what is this guy thinking?’ They’ve traded away their best player for a second-round pick. It defies all logic, unless it was a personality issue…although I’ve never heard a bad word said about DeAndre Hopkins who is meant to be a great team player.

Of the big free agent moves recently, including Brady and Rivers, for me, Hopkins will make the biggest impact by his absence in Houston. He is easily one of the top three receivers in the league and he will be a difference-maker.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Yankees: Roger Clemens deserves to be a Hall of Famer

New York Yankees

With the upcoming Hall of Fame class being inducted into Cooperstown this July, pending any coronavirus setbacks, It gives us a chance to reflect on the storied careers of the best athletes in baseball. Each inductee is judged on their performances with many of the voters split one way or another on their decisions. Some of the former players in question are more controversial than others.  I’d like to take the time to give my opinion on one former New York Yankees player who I believe has earned a right to be considered one of the best of the best. Look no further than the man they call Rocket. I’m talking about Roger Clemens.

Growing up as a kid in the 90’s and 2000’s, I idolized Roger Clemens.  I thought he was the greatest pitcher in baseball. His statistics definitely backed me up on that as well.  Who else could say they won 7 Cy Young awards, 11 All-star game selections, 2 World Series Championships, 2 pitching Triple Crowns, and an American League MVP award?  He demanded the attention every time he stepped on the mound. He had a bulldog mentality on the mound where he was going to attack every hitter right from his first pitch.  He pitched with a fire in him that made him a fierce competitor. Win or Lose, he put it all out on the table. Watching him pitch is what made me want to be a pitcher myself.  I wanted to emulate his pitching style in every way possible from the brim of his hat coming in just above his eyes with my glove held up high enough to just peer over, to the chest-high leg kick that allowed him to reach back and blow a fastball by someone.  I loved how fearless he was. If a batter was crowding the plate, he would throw a blazing fastball high and tight to back them off. Hitters knew he had no problem giving them a little “chin music”, a phrase long forgotten now. In the back of their minds, they knew he wouldn’t back down, giving way to the idea that many of them were “out” before they came to the plate.  It was a mental game as well as a physical one.

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As we all know, when the Mitchell Report came out with their list of performance-enhancing drug users, Clemens’ name was high on that list.  Allegedly, he started taking PEDs during the 1998 season. After a lengthy trial, he was acquitted of all charges. I know this doesn’t prove one way or another of his prior transgressions, the justice system has ruled that there was not sufficient enough evidence to decide on the matter.  But if you look at his career prior to 1998, he still has a Hall of Fame-caliber resume.

While pitching for the dreaded Boston Red Sox, he managed to win the previously mentioned MVP award, 3 of his Cy Young awards, and five of his all-star selections.  To top it all off, he also became the first pitcher ever to record a 20 strikeout game. He is currently still the Red Sox all-time leader in strikeouts with 2,590. A brilliant 12-year career with the Red Sox before making his way to the New York Yankees in 1999 and then again in 2007.

I have a theory on the steroid accusations.  Most players who take steroids use them to elevate their game to another level ala Barry Bonds and his enormous head. They want to become one of the best in their respective fields and have all the fame and money and stardom that comes along with it. Roger Clemens was already a star and one of the best pitchers in the game prior to his alleged use of PED’s.  What if Clemens took PED’s to give him more longevity in the prime of his career? Most pitchers, and all players for that matter, enjoy their career highs around ages 27-32 roughly before starting to decline usually gradually. Maybe Clemens wanted to enjoy that prime for a longer period of time? Maybe the competitor in him knew that Father time would be calling his name and he wouldn’t be able to compete to the best of his abilities anymore. In this case, I find my theory more plausible given that he was already one of the best in the game.  If this really was the case, I find myself more understanding of those actions.

Now I’m not trying to say that taking steroids, or HGH or any performance-enhancing drugs is okay.  What I believe, is that Roger Clemens, whether someone likes him or not, deserves his spot in the Hall of Fame. If you look at his career in separate chapters “pre-PED’s” and “post-PED’s” it paints a picture of a pitcher at the top of his game that achieved various awards that some players can only dream of. Neither the court’s rulings or my own opinion is enough to change how others may feel about Clemens as a player but hopefully, some light has been shed on his incredible career.

New York Giants: Debunking the Eli Manning shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame debate

New York Giants, Eli Manning

Eli Manning has announced his retirement from the NFL, and the New York Giants‘ great will be immortalized in Canton.  The news of his retirement has once again sparked the debate on whether or not Eli deserves a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Many believe that if Eli Manning gets into the Hall of Fame, then almost anyone can get in.  So should Eli be inducted in Canton?  In my opinion, “yes” is the only answer.

Why Eli Manning is an unquestionable Hall of Famer

The discussions on Eli Manning’s Hall of Fame future have ramped up again, and with great reason.  Here you are with an NFL quarterback that does not have the flashiest statistics, a not so pretty resume over the last eight seasons, and let us not forget the “Manning Face” craze.

However, what does it mean to be a Hall of Famer?  By definition, the Hall of Fame is an institution honoring the achievements of individuals in a particular activity or field.  So, when it comes to pro football’s version, what achievements do we honor individuals for?

Dan Marino, Warren Moon, Jim Kelly, and Frank Tarkenton are four quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame that never won a Super Bowl.  For Jim Kelly, he made it to the championship game four times, which is an achievement in itself.  Dan Marino, Warren Moon, and Frank Tarkenton all had achievements statistically and with awards.  Their passing statistics came during eras when the passing game took a backseat to the run game.  Some of Moon’s best seasons came in the early ’90s.  Two seasons, in particular, 1990 and 1991, saw Moon throw for nearly 4,700 yards each year.  The next closest in those seasons didn’t even break 4,000.

Eli Manning, in an era where the NFL became a passing league, had seven seasons over 4,000 yards, including the 2011 season, where he threw for more than 4,900 yards.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t the leader in passing yards that year.  Of course, it’s a passing league, so being able to meet these yardage numbers is more manageable, right?

There is no taking away from Warren Moon’s ability. He is an absolute Hall of Famer, and there is no debating otherwise.  However, where would his numbers compare in a pass-heavy league?  Would he be caught up in the numbers with other great statistical seasons?  Of course, nobody knows the answer to this, and there is no way to find out.  We know Warren Moon was a great quarterback.  A Hall of Fame quarterback, without the championships, the All-Pro’s, the Super Bowl MVPs.

This same argument could be made for Frank Tarkenton.  Only two seasons over 3,000 yards passing in a run-heavy league.  He has no Super Bowl victories, but he does have the MVP season.

So why are we knocking a guy who has the rings and the Super Bowl MVPs?  No, Eli Manning’s career stats aren’t great.  At least not in comparison to those he shares Sunday’s with.  One of those counterparts being labeled the greatest of all time.  We’re going to knock a guy’s statistics because they don’t stand out significantly from some of the most exceptional passers the game has ever seen?  In a league that is all about throwing the ball around?

Andy Dalton, Josh Freeman, Ryan Tannehill, and Jay Cutler, among others, have all had “good” seasons when looking at passing stats.  If the Hall of Fame were strictly about stats, it would be that “anyone can get in” enshrinement that those who are so outspoken against Eli being in, claim that it would be with him inducted.

It is without question that the Super Bowl victories, Super Bowl MVP’s and the longevity of his career are what will get Eli Manning a Hall of Fame induction.  Why should it be anything more than that?

There have been 12 quarterbacks in NFL history that have won the Super Bowl more than once.  Eli Manning is one.

There have been only five players in NFL history that have more than one Super Bowl MVP award.  Eli Manning is one.

There are only four quarterbacks in NFL history that have started more than 200 consecutive games.  Eli Manning is one.

There is only one quarterback in NFL history to have beaten the greatest quarterback and greatest dynasty in league history twice.

These are Eli Manning’s achievements.  This is why the New York Giants great deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

New York Yankee Andy Pettitte’s Hall Of Fame Case

With the Hall of Fame results released on Tuesday, January 21st, the New York Yankees have an icon inducted into the Hall of Famer for the second year in a row. The buzz in New York seems to be surrounding Jeter however, is he the only Yankee that should’ve gone in? Fellow Core Four member, 3x All-Star, and 5x World Series Champion Andy Pettitte have a very strong case for Cooperstown.

Getting Over The PEDs

When Andy Pettitte is mentioned, the first thing that shoots his case down is the use of Growth Hormones for an elbow injury in 2002. This can deter voters from putting Pettitte on their ballot, however, the context of how it was used is important. Pettitte using the growth hormone is very different from Mark McGwire or Jose Canseco who used PEDs while playing throughout their career. Pettitte’s use was in the hopes of recovering faster, there is no report of him using it to improve his on-field performance. His growth hormone use shouldn’t dampen his Hall of Fame case, especially with how rampant PED use was. The MLB let this problem happen, and if voters could cast votes for Andy Pettitte in Cy Young races and All-Star games, then they would be hypocritical to not vote for him into the Hall of Fame.

Well Above HOFer Standard

When looking at player value, fWAR (Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement), can show how valuable a player was in their era. When you think Hall of Famer you think of greatness, and Andy Pettitte’s fWAR shows that. With a 68.2 fWAR, he ranks 32nd amongst all pitchers in MLB history. Right now in the Hall of Fame are 83 pitchers, meaning Pettitte is above a lot of Hall of Fame arms right now. He’s ahead of HOFers such as Tom Glavine, Jim Palmer, and Roy Halladay, all of whom are deserving candidates. With WAR being a major factor in a player’s value and greatness, it’s hard to believe he could be ahead of so many HOFers, yet not be in the Cooperstown.

Postseason Hero

With 276.2 postseason innings and an MLB best 19 wins, Pettite is one of the best postseason arms of all time. Despite most of his outings coming in the Steroid Era, he still was able to post a 3.81 ERA. He was a stellar postseason arm and with 5 World Series Championships he was a hero in October. Andy Pettitte’s postseason dominance has to play a factor in his case for the Hall of Fame. The Yankees’ rotation was anchored by their longtime ace for years and was instrumental for those championship squads.

No Awards, No Induction?

really despise this argument about the number of awards a player gets. Nolan Ryan, Mike Mussina, and Juan Marichal: What do they have in common? 0 Cy Youngs, yet they are still Hall of Famers and some of the game’s best arms ever. You don’t need Cy Youngs to be a Hall of Famer. What about his mere 3 All-Star appearances? Ferguson Jenkins, Robin Yount, and Bert Blyleven are all Hall of Famers with 3 or fewer All-Star appearances. Care to tell me how suddenly it’s an issue for Pettitte? Awards can’t tell the whole story of a player as no matter how many they have, it’s overrated.

Will He Get In? A Message to the BBWAA

Most likely no, the MLB voters still refuse to vote arguably all-time greats Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds in. This means Andy Pettitte being merely tied to growth hormones will keep him out. They need to move past the PEDs, as the MLB not only took a blind eye to it but these same voters cast votes for these players to win awards and praises even as it was clear as day that they were on PEDs. There were no drug tests for these substances, and therefore no accountability. When everyone is doing it, the only way to compete and provide for a family is to do the same. Let Pettitte in and allow him to join Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter in the Hall of Fame. Not only is he one of the greatest LHP in MLB history, but he was a generational talent.

BREAKING: Derek Jeter Elected To The Hall Of Fame

New York Yankees, Derek Jeter

Former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was just one vote shy of being unanimous, 396 of 397 voters voted for him

Out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Jeter played 20 seasons in the MLB. He won the rookie of the year award in 1995, his first full season. He won five silver slugger awards and five gold gloves.

Jeter won the Yankees five World Series rings in his time in pinstripes. He won the World Series MVP and All-Star game MVP in 2000. Jeter was an all-star an incredible 14 times. The only flaw in his Hall of Fame career is the fact that he never won a league MVP award.

Over his career, he had 12,602 plate appearances and 11,195 at-bats. He got hits in 3,465 at-bats with a career average of .310. Jeter drove in 1311 runs and hit 260 home runs. One of those home runs was his 3,000th career hit, the second player to ever do that. Wade Boggs was the first, and Alex Rodriguez would later become the third.

Jeter’s slugging was .440, his OBP was .377, and his OPS was .817 over his career. He drew 1082 walks.  On defense, Jeter had a .976 fielding percentage with 254 career errors. He rolled 1408 double plays.  Jeter also stole 358 career bases, as he was one of the fastest players in the MLB earlier in his career.

All of these stats combine to a career 72.4 WAR for the captain. He’s 88th all-time in career WAR.

Larry Walker was also elected to the Hall of Fame.

Congrats to Derek Jeter on a historic career. This nomination is incredibly well-deserved.