Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Awards

Photo from clintsalter.com
Ah, we've reached the end of 2013. Finally. After 12 long months. 365 grueling days of failure and triumph, winning and losing. It's been quite the ride in the world of sports this year, and it's time to look back on the best, and the worst moments and performances over the past calendar year in the world of sports.

Let's begin with some of the smaller awards.

Worst Team
  • Houston Texans. Everything just fell apart for this team which looked like a Super Bowl contender in the preseason. Matt Schaub regressed mightily, and the team had to eventually bench him for undrafted Case Keenum. After starting 2-0, they lost 14 straight, even having to fire their coach, Gary Kubiak after their Week 14 loss. 
  • Charlotte Bobcats. They didn't have the worst record in the 2012-13 NBA season, but they certainly were less talented than the Orlando Magic. They were just bad; there wasn't much talent, at least before Al Jefferson showed up, and the pieces didn't fit well at all. Fun times. 
  • Florida Panthers. Awful goaltending and defense and, outside of Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky, and Jonathan Huberdeau, inept offense led to the Panthers having the fewest points in last year's lockout shortened NHL season. 
  • Houston Astros. Wow, tough year for Houston! Not only did their football team fall apart at the seams, their baseball team was far and away the worst. But at least there's a direction for this franchise...
And the winner is...

The Buttsliding Houston Astros! That play by Jonathan Villar epitomizes an absolutely awful year for his talentless team. 

Best Moment
  • Ray Allen's shot in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Within seconds of losing the NBA Finals, this amazing shot gave the Heat hope, and they eventually went on to win the game in overtime, and win the series in Game 7. Incredible stuff. 
  • Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scoring two goals in 17 seconds in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Blackhawks were 1 minute and 16 seconds away from being forced into Game 7 in Chicago before Bickell's goal to tie it. Then, a mere 17 seconds later, Bolland gave them the lead, and the Cup. What a shocking way to end the season.
  • Chris Davis' 109 yard kickoff return in the Iron Bowl.  Now, I don't usually care about college sports, but this was fascinating. Auburn tied the game with 35 seconds left, seemingly propelling the game into overtime. But not so fast, Alabama missed their fourth field goal of the game, and Chris Davis returned it for a touchdown, ending Alabama's winning streak, crushing the Tide's national title hopes, and jolting him Auburn team into a possible national championship berth. What a finish. 
  • Mariano Rivera's final game at Yankee Stadium. The entire game was centered around Mo. The Yankees lost, but absolutely nobody cared. A pregame ceremony, complete with Metallica performing Rivera's (and Billy Wagner's, I might add) entrance song, and Enter Sandman, an actual baseball game that was basically relegated to the undercard, and Mo's final two outs, along with his final farewell. Overall, a perfect way to say goodbye to a legend. 
  • Flacco Fling. This play kept the Ravens in this playoff game, which they went on to win in Double Overtime, and won the Super Bowl just three weeks later. 
And the winner is...
Ray Allen. Just watch this again. The stakes were the highest here. At least the Blackhawks could have clinched the Cup in Game 7 at home. At least Joe Flacco had fourth down to take a shot deep to win the game. Sure, the Ravens and Auburn plays eventually led to success further down the road, but the Spurs were literally 5.2 seconds away from their ultimate goal. As for Mariano Rivera, it was fun to watch, but it didn't have any bearing on the field, which puts it a step below these other moments. All great choices, but, in a tough choice, I'm going to have to go with the Heat and Ray Allen. 

Worst Moment
And the winner is...
Photo from sports.nationalpost.com
The Toronto Maple Leafs. It's hard to top this. One of the worst collapses ever. 

Best Rising Star
  • Mike Trout. The best player in baseball, deserved to win MVP (however, it's not egregious that Cabrera won again), and he's only 22. He was born in the same decade as I was. How ridiculous is that? 
  • Matt Harvey. This 24 year old started the All-Star Game, and before getting injured, was a real contender for the NL Cy Young Award. And he plays for my Mets! 
  • Jose Fernandez. This 21 year old rookie...ROOKIE was as good, if not better than Harvey. They both dominated hitters all year. 
  • Yasiel Puig. Yet another Cuban rookie who burst onto the scene and took the league by storm. He was absolutely fantastic, and, at only 23, has a very bright future ahead of him. 
  • Russell Wilson. As the 25 year old signal caller for one of the best teams in the NFL, Wilson was able to show off his talent with both his arm and his legs. 
  • Colin Kaepernick. While this 26 year old struggled at certain points throughout the year, Kaepernick finished the year strong. Also, it was in this calendar year that he took his 49ers team to the Super Bowl, along the way setting the quarterback record for the most rushing yards in a game, with 181 against the Packers in the Divisional Playoffs. He totaled 444 yards of total offense, including his passing yards, and four touchdowns, two rushing and two passing.  
  • Andrew Luck. He displayed his talents at various points this year, including beating his predecessor, Peyton Manning, in Week 7. Still only 24, we saw why he was so highly touted coming out of Stanford. 
  • Paul George. Throughout last season, George seemed to have been getting better, and finally put everything together for the 2013-14 season, propelling himself to the discussion as one of the best players in the league. A great two-way player, at only 23, it's going to be interesting to see how his career advances. 
  • James Harden. After finally leaving the shadow of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, Harden blossomed in Houston. At 24, he's already one of the better scorers in the league. 
And the winner is...
Photo from msn.foxsports.com
Mike Trout. I don't think there has ever been a player who was this incredible, this quickly. 

Worst Coach
  • Vinny Del Negro. Though he was finally let go by the Clippers, it will be hard to forget Del Negro's complete inability to manage a game. 
  • Jim Schwartz. Despite being handed a very talented roster, the Lions collapsed down the stretch with Schwartz at the helm, losing 6 of 7 to close out the year. 
  • Jason Garrett. Yet another coach of a talented team, he, much like Schwartz missed the playoffs, disappointing many. 
And the winner is...
Photo from usatoday.com
Vinny Del Negro. He's so bad that even after a 56 win season, the first division title in franchise history, and the fourth seed in the conference, he was fired. Now he's probably busy on his couch grooming his hair. Actually, I just found out that he's an analyst on NBA TV. That should be interesting to watch.

Oh no...
Too many bad coaches for one screen! My eyes! He and Isiah could use some help from analytics... you see Isiah talking about his "history of education in the sport." Where was that when you were running my Knicks, huh? Huh, Isiah? Found it!
Photo from kingmorland.com
Why did you do this to my childhood? Ugh. Hold on, I'm off to cry into a pillow.

While I'm gone, take this time to wash out your eyes after having just seen Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury, and Eddy Curry on your screen at the same time.

Okay, I'm fine. Let's *sniff* move on.

Biggest Disappointment
  • Brooklyn Nets. So far, the Nets, who were forseen by many to be one of the best teams in the conference, if not the league, are sitting at an ugly 10-21 record, and near the bottom of the league. 
  • New York Knicks. After a 54 win 2012-13 season, the Knicks were thought to be a solid team throughout the year, and eventually make the playoffs. Instead, they are a half game worse than the Nets at 9-21 so far. Nothing looks good in the Empire State right now. 
  • Los Angeles Lakers. After acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to go along with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, everyone and their mother, grandmother, and long lost seventh cousin thought that the Lakers would at the very least be one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA. Instead, they backed into the postseason as the seventh seed at 45-37, and got swept out of the first round. 
  • Houston Texans. As I said earlier, the Texans were widely thought to be one of the best in the league. Nothing went right, and they ended up with the worst record in the NFL. 
And the winner is...
Photo from usatoday.com
The Los Angeles Lakers. Just take a look at that roster. The second best shooting guard ever. One of the greatest point guards ever. A pretty good offensive talent and great second banana Pau Gasol. Dwight Howard, who at the time, was thought to be the best center in the league, and is certainly one of the most athletic players to play his position. And don't forget Metta World Peace, who is a pretty good defensive player. How did they not have even a prayer in the playoffs? Disgraceful. 

Biggest Surprise
  • Boston Red Sox. No one expected this team to bounce back from the Bobby Valentine disaster this quickly. And even so, they weren't expected to immediately win the World Series. A great year by a great team. 
And the winner is...
Photo from overthemonster.com
The Boston Red Sox. They took their beards straight to the franchise's eighth Championship. 

Worst Contract

B.J. Upton is so lucky that he signed his deal in November of 2012...
  • Hunter Pence: 5 Years/$90 Million. This contract, along with the next one, set the tone for an offseason full of really weird deals. Pence is a really good player, but not for this amount of money. The Giants were bidding against themselves here, and they lost, big time. 
  • Tim Lincecum: 2 Years/$35 Million. Even worse, the Giants decided to follow that up with another massacre of a deal, re-signing Lincecum to this behemoth. Why? Well, ask General Manager Brian Sabean. I couldn't begin to tell you why he thought this was a good idea for a pitcher who is yes, only a few years removed from back to back Cy Young Awards, and being one of the most dominant pitchers in the game. But at the same time, He's posted a 4.76 ERA over the last two years. Brian Sabean...c'mon man. 
  • Ricky Nolasco: 4 Years/ $49 Million. 
  • Joe Flacco: 6 Years/$120 Million. After winning them a Super Bowl in February, the Ravens were forced to re-sign Flacco to a ridiculous amount of money.

And the winner is...
Photo from ngngsports.com
Joe Flacco. Note to all General Managers, never sign somebody to a huge contract if they think that mustache is a good idea. Remember, there is a salary cap in the NFL, so the Ravens roster is, and will be hampered by Flacco's deal. At least in baseball, it all depends on how flexible the owner is willing to be. Oh, and the most important note is that, other than one great month from January through February of this year, Joe Flacco hadn't, and still hasn't proven that he's anywhere close to worth being the highest paid player in the league.

Biggest off the Field Story
  • Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin Bullying Scandal.  This story took over the league in the middle of the season, resulting in Incognito's release from the Dolphins, and Martin leaving the team to deal with personal issues. 
  • Manti Te'o Girlfriend Hoax. This story was much less important than the above, because, really, it was just a guy getting pranked by another guy who didn't have anything better to do with his time. Yet, it took a national spotlight, appearing all over every network, and even on Dr. Phil.  
  • Steroid Suspensions. Unsurprising that baseball players were linked to steroids, but this case involved big names, and one insanely long suspension. Of course, Alex Rodriguez appealed his suspension, and is probably going to get off without punishment, but when the news broke, it was initially huge. 
And the winner is...
Photo from isportsweb.com
The Manti Te'o Girlfriend Hoax. If I, and two of my friends can make a joke about this in our theater class to our middle aged, technologically unsavvy theater teacher, and our teacher understands us, then this was a huge story. 

Best Game 
  • Game 6 of the NBA Finals. This game had it all, a story, drama, back and forth swings, one of the greatest moments in the history of sports, overtime, and of course, a live blog by me
  • Divisional Playoffs: Ravens at Broncos. This game was also great, as both teams traded scores all throughout the evening, culminating in a rare double overtime victory for the Ravens. It was fun to watch, and, much like the above game, included a historic moment. 
And the winner is...

Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Props to the Spurs too for an amazing game. 

Best Player
  • LeBron James. After finishing off his best season yet with his fourth regular season MVP award, his second championship, and his second straight Finals MVP award, he decided he would start this season by shooting close to 60% from the field. Ho hum. 
  • Mike Trout. He does it at the dish, on the bases, and in the field, and he does it at a historic level. 
  • Miguel Cabrera. Okay, so he ended up winning his second straight AL MVP award, by having the best season of his career so far. He too had one of the best seasons ever. 
  • Peyton Manning. In case you were wondering if Peyton Manning lost a step due to spinal fusion surgery two years ago, I think his NFL record 5,477 passing yards, and his NFL record 55 touchdown passes will speak for themselves. 
  • Alex Ovechkin. Finishing first in the league in goals, and tied for third in points in the strike shortened 2013 season, Ovechkin continued to be one of the best playmakers in the NHL, leading to third Hart Trophy. To continue the run, he's currently tied for eighth in the league in points, and first in goals for the 2013-14 year. Great stuff from him. 
  • Sidney Crosby. Coming back from an injury riddled 2011-12 campaign, questions loomed about Crosby's effectiveness coming into 2013. Well, much like Peyton Manning, he answered the doubters with spectacular play. He was tied with Ovechkin for third in the league in points, and came in second in the assists category last season. So far, he's far and away the points leader, 6 ahead of Patrick Kane, and 15 clear of third place, Ryan Getzlaf. He's currently second in the NHL in assists, and tied for fourth in goals. He's shown quite the ability to set up his teammates, and has lifted his Penguins to the top of the Eastern Conference. 
And the winner is...
Photo from 1045theteam.com
LeBron James. It's hard to pick against him these days. He's a unique physical talent who seems to be improving by the day. It's fun to watch. 

Best Team
  • Baltimore Ravens. Riding the wave of Ray Lewis' retirement tour, and Joe Flacco's emergence, the Ravens ripped through the AFC, eventually capturing the Super Bowl in New Orleans. 
  • Denver Broncos. Setting all kinds of offensive records, it was hard for anyone to stop Peyton Manning and the Broncos this year. 
  • Seattle Seahawks. Nearly unstoppable at home, the Seahawks are the most well-rounded team in football, and look to continue their success in the playoffs. 
  • Miami Heat. After winning their second straight title, the Heat are still one of the scariest teams in the NBA. 
  • Chicago Blackhawks. Coming off of their victory in the Stanley Cup, this juggernaut only improved by adding Kris Versteeg (second time mentioned in this article. Have yourself a day Versteeg), and with 63 points already, are the best team in the NHL so far. 
  • Boston Red Sox. After a disastrous 2012, the Red Sox re-tooled, and ended up tied for the best record in the MLB before eventually winning the World Series. 
And the winner is...
Photo from baltimore.cbslocal.com
The Chicago Blackhawks. The reason why I couldn't go with the Heat is because, I'm not sure if they are even the best team in the league this season. They were last year, but the Pacers could be better right now. The Blackhawks were able to sustain their success into this season, and have asserted their dominance thus far.

So, with that, I wish you a Happy New Year. I hope you enjoyed 2013, and for many more great stories and moments in the sports world in 2014.