Last week, CBS aired the 50th Anniversary Special of the Beatles performing on the Ed Sullivan Show and that got me thinking about one of their songs as it pertains to what took place in the world of sports over the past couple of weeks. Some big time names will be coming, some will be saying goodbye and some don’t know whether they are staying or going. A host of new Yankees and Michael Strahan will be saying hello. We will be saying goodbye to David Stern, Derek Jeter and Ralph Kiner. And who knows if Carmelo Anthony will be staying or goodbye.
After missing the playoffs for only the second time since 1995, the Yankees went out and revamped their lineup. Earlier this winter, they signed free agents Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Brian Roberts and Jacob Ellsbury. They were some of the big names that Bronx Bombers brought in to help them get back to the top of the American League East. Most Yankee supporters hope that they can just stay healthy for the majority of the season. To bolster their aging pitching staff, GM Brian Cashman went out and secured the services of Japanese pitching sensation Marashiro Tanaka.
Cashman gave this kid top of the rotation money while penciling him in as the third or forth spot of the unit. Some Bronx Bombers fans think that Tanaka will be the ace of the staff based on the amount of money the Yankees will be paying him (155 million over 7-years) and his success in Japan. I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble but we have been down this road before. The Yankees have brought in a number of Asian pitchers with much fan fare only to see them bomb. However, some say this kid can’t miss.
He is not your proto-typical power pitcher. His fastball tops off at 92-3 miles per hour but couple that with his dominating change up, Tanaka was able to shut down Japanese batters with surgeon-like precision. Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japan Pacific League, which some compare the US Triple A ball. Now if any organization had a prospect in AAA that went 24-0, I guess they would be excited too. Many have compared Tanaka to former Yankee killer Curt Schilling. If he can give the Yankees anything near what Schilling did over the course of his career, I will take it.
David Stern left the NBA in much better shape than he found it. When he took over as League Commissioner. the NBA Finals games were on tape delay and prior to that some were not even aired. The average player’s salary was around $350,000. Now the average salary is well over $5,000,000 and the NBA has several lucrative TV contracts as well as their own network. He has also globalized their brand making the League one of the more popular sports entities in the World. However, Stern’s impact on the League goes well beyond the financials.
Folks forget what he inherited from the previous Commissioner Larry O’Brien. The NBA had a serious image problem. Many saw the NBA as League full of over paid, selfish drug users. The League was also on the brink of financial collapse. Through some tough legislation and working with the Players Association, he changed the image and the fiscal status of the League to the point that they are turning away sponsors and the players are among the more popular individuals on the planet. It also helped that he had Julius Erving’s, Magic Johnson’s, Larry Bird’s and Michael Jordon’s images to build upon. But it took a marketing genius to exploit these players’ positive images to the max.
Then we have The Captain. Derek Jeter announced last week that the 2014 campaign will be his last. That sent shockwaves throughout MLB not just the Yankee Universe. He owns several Yankees records including most hits which is saying something when you consider all those who have donned the pinstripes. But when it comes to Jeter, one thinks of the clutch plays and the intangibles.
You remember the flip play or have visions of him crashing into the stands to snag a foul ball while his contemporaries Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciparia looked on. He also has the clutch hits on his resume including the first HR hit in November or going yard for his 3,000 hit.
But when you think of Jeter, you have to be amazed at the fact that this guy with his matinee idol looks, deep pockets and popularity avoided trouble of the Big Apple. This city has swallowed up young superstars in the past, see Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Somehow, Jeter was able to navigate these shark invested waters for nearly twenty years. Baseball will not be the same without The Captain. Enjoy this year Mr. Jeter and thanks for all of the memories.
We would be remised if we did not acknowledge the passing of Ralph Kiner. For many of us, he was the voice of summer as he was broadcaster for the Mets games since their inception in 1962. Most Mets fans looked forward to his postgame show, Kiner’s Korner, more then the game itself. Some forget that he was a Hall of Famer playing most of 10-year career with Pittsburgh Pirates. He was also a playa off of the field having dated Elizabeth Taylor and Janet Lee during his bachelor days. He was Jeter before Jeter. Rest in Peace Mr. Kiner.
Former New York Giant Michael Strahan retired years ago. However, he will be saying hello to some new teammates as he was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame prior the Super Bowl weeks ago. He will walk into Canton as one of the most productive DEs in NFL history. The four time All Pro and seven time Pro Bowler still holds the single season NFL record for sacks with 22.5 and spent his entire career terrorizing offensives. He wasn’t just a pass rusher. He was just as effective against the run.
I was so happy that he ended his career with a championship. I don’t care what Warren Sapp thinks. There was no doubt that the Hall of Fame was making space for Strahan as soon as his retirement speech was over. The guy with the wide gap between his two front teeth will go down as the third best defensive player in Giants history trailing only Lawrence Taylor and Sam Huff. The funny thing is that for some, he be remembered for his post career as the Co-host of The Kelly and Michael Morning Show. More retired women from the Midwest will know of him from here on out than football fans.
Finally we have the Carmelo Anthony saga. Some say that the Knicks will trade him before the trade deadline. Others feel that he will walk after this season and test the free agent market. It is my humble opinion that he will be here come next season. No team will have the cap room to meet his salary demands so there are no greener pastures out there. The Knicks will not get fair trade value for him in return. So he aint going nowhere.
As we say goodbye to some who are near and dear to us, we cherish the memories they have provided us over the years and acknowledge what they have accomplish in the world of sports. I hope that Jeter and Stern smell the roses and enjoy their retirements. I wish Tanaka and Strahan the best in their new endeavors. Look forward to seeing Melo working his magic in the upcoming years at the Transformed Madison Square Garden. And Rest in Peace Mr. Kiner.