Sunday, December 13, 2015

How Strong Is Each New York Athlete's Case?

As I wrote earlier in the week, I've opened a poll for fans to vote on the New York Athlete Championship Belt winner for 2015. Which individual player mattered most in the city the past year? Who had the most significant campaign, both on and off the field?

Before I publish the winner at the end of December -- as decided by the electoral college that consists of myself -- I thought I'd run through the 10 candidates and lay out the case for and against each one. Please vote if you haven't already done so.

Henrik Lundqvist
The Case For: He's been the Rangers' MVP for the past half-decade and he led the team on a deep playoff run last year. He's also got the celebrity (and blue eyes) to rival a certain New York legend who would've turned 100 this year. King Henrik already donned the Belt in 2013, proving that he's got the chops to handle this fake award.
The Case Against: He plays hockey, which will always be a borderline niche sport in the city. The Blueshirts could cancel out that disadvantage with one parade down the Canyon of Heroes, but Lundqvist still hasn't won a Cup.

John Tavares
The Case For: As a 24-year-old last season, Tavares finished a close second for the NHL lead in points while leading the promising Islanders to the playoffs. Like Lundqvist, he's got the looks -- if not quite the fame -- of a New York household name.
The Case Against: By his standards, he's gotten off to a slow start this season, notching just 22 points in 29 games. Tavares isn't even the most recognizable hockey player in New York, let alone the most important athlete.

Kristaps Porzingis
The Case For: Porzingis is making Knicks fans believe again. The Garden gets euphoric every time he hits a few shots in a row, and the 20-year-old has New York hoops junkies changing their drink of choice to Stoli. He was also given an unbelievable nickname, "The Lativian Gangbanger", by Michael Rapaport on the Bill Simmons Podcast a few weeks ago.
The Case Against: Once upon a time, Stephon Marbury made Knicks fans believe again, too. The bottom line is that Porzingis has still played fewer than half a season. He was also booed on draft night. Although Knicks fans have done a quick 180 on him, I can't think of any Belt-winner who was booed that same year.

Yoenis Cespedes
The Case For: When the Mets traded for him, Cespedes got a shout-out from quintessential New Yorker Jerry Seinfeld:
And that was before the Cuban slugger mashed 17 homers for the Mets and generated MVP buzz (albeit ridiculous) within a few weeks of joining the team.
The Case Against: He spent just three months in the city, and the last one was a dud. In October, Cespedes vomited out a .222/.232/.584 playoff line.

Daniel Murphy
The Case For: Murphy produced a scorching two-series stretch during the playoffs, culminating in a Sports Illustrated cover that probably increased his fame by ten thousand percent:

The Mets probably wouldn't have made their magical World Series run without Murphy's out-of-body experience.
The Case Against: The Mets lost the World Series and Murphy plummeted back to Earth. Most casual fans knew very little about the second baseman before his hot streak, and now the Mets seem content to let him walk in free agency. He's an average player, and average players don't steal the Championship Belt.

Jacob deGrom
The Case For: The tall, mop-headed righty was the ace of the Mets' amazing rotation. He's pretty much come out of nowhere to become one of the best starters in baseball.
The Case Against: It's irritating to type his name, especially at the beginning of a sentence. deGrom* also lacks the off-field celebrity common to most Belt-holders.


Matt Harvey
The Case For: He's been poised for a few years to take over Derek Jeter's corner as the city's biggest celebrity baseball player. This year, he continued to live his high-profile life on and off the field. He loves the city (Sorry, his actual quote was, "Man, do I fucking love this city.") and the city loves him back.
The Case Against: The Dark Knight wasn't even the best pitcher in the Mets' rotation. (See above.) He was also part of an unseemly episode concerning a potential innings limit. Scott Boras often makes his clients more interesting, but he just made people irritated with Harvey this fall.

Odell Beckham
The Case For: Odell, who might be the best athlete in the world right now, has made the Giants can't-miss TV for sports fans across the country. He gave us the Catch of the Year...
...and those other catches...

The Case Against: His team didn't make the playoffs last year, and their only hope this season hinges on the fact that they play in one of the worst divisions in NFL history.

Alex Rodriguez
The Case For: He had a renaissance season, swatting 33 home runs as a 40-year-old. He also notched his 3,000th hit, a personal high from the 2015 sports year.
The Case Against: He's still A-Rod. In spring training, most fans and members of the Yankees organization were plotting ways to have him buried in the swamps of Jersey.

Dellin Betances
The Case For: The towering right-hander was the most fun Yankee to watch, baffling hitters with a delightful fastball-curve combination unlike anyone else's in MLB. He comprised half of the Yankees' two-headed relief monster, one of the biggest reasons the undermanned Bombers secured a postseason berth.
The Case Against: Betances regressed a bit, posting stats that look pedestrian next to his dominant 2014. He might not have even been the best reliever on his own team.

Honorable Mention: Curtis Granderson, Ryan McDonagh, American Pharoah

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1 comment:

  1. New York is a good place for athletes. Encouraging is needed for athletes. The sports schools and general school activities are there for that.
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