All posts by Drew Potolsky

Time Heals All: An Alex Rodriguez (Yankee) Career Reflection 1 Year After His Retirement

As Drake once said in Fancy, “time heals all, and heels hurt to walk in.”

Well, I don’t know how much “heels hurt to walk in”, but I do know that time does heal.

This is not true in every Situation, as he still seems to hate Angelina (Jersey Shore reference), OBVIOUSLY, and 5 Summers later KG and Paul Pierce are still talking shit about ole pal Ray Allen (side note: I know these 2 personal rivalries have nothing to do with each other, but the Celtics one came to mind 1st, and the Situation pun was a must).

It does reign true in a lot of circumstances, though. Yogi Berra hated George Steinbrenner after “The Boss” assured Yogi he’d manage the full 1985 season, and then was subsequently handed his pink slip after 2 weeks of ball games; 15 years later, George hosted Yogi Berra day at the Old Yankee Stadium, and Yogi became the most recognizable old timer for the slew of 2000s Yankee kids, seeming to show up more during the Playoffs than ARod.

Which actually transitions me to my point…

Continue reading Time Heals All: An Alex Rodriguez (Yankee) Career Reflection 1 Year After His Retirement

Why Robinson Cano is Even Better Than People Think

Robbie Cano, Don’t Ya Know.

Damn, I miss hearing that.

Earlier this week, Robinson Cano was named All Star Game MVP after crushing a homer to left off of a curveball from Chicago Cubs Closer Wade Davis, putting the American League ahead 2-1 in the top of the 10th inning, ultimately sealing the victory.

This got me thinking about Cano today for the first time in a while, and I realized how fucking good of a career he’s had. I mean this guy has been really, really good for a long time now. And I really don’t think people appreciate his play enough.

When I first started watching baseball, which was right before Cano got called up, it seemed that there was this unwritten rule about second basemen that went something like this; “good glove, make contact, run fast”. They were hitting either 1 (maybe 2) in the lineup, or at the bottom of the order, known for their gloves, not their bats.

Prior to Robinson Cano, the Yankees 2nd baseman was Tony Womack. Most people have never heard of Tony Womack, and he was solid, maybe even above average…for the time.

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In his 1st full season in the MLB, with the Pirates in ’97, he made the All Star team. He stole 60 bases, hit .278, but only had 6 homers, which led to his measly .700 OPS. He would not be an All Star in today’s game.

Now, Womack my be an extreme example of the old, prototypical 2nd baseman, but you get my point. Look at every single primary 2nd baseman who’s career was before Cano. Very few of them hit for power for the majority of their careers. Some had a few years where they did, but it was extremely rare.

Cano is already 3rd all time in home runs by a second baseman, trailing Jeff Kent and Rogers Hornsby (tangent: he might be the best 2nd baseman of all time. His statistics are unbelievable. Granted, he played from 1915-1937, but still, his WAR is 127, has over 1,000 career walks [compared to under 700 strikeouts], his career average is .358 (!), and his OPS is 1.010 [!!!]. He might not only be one of the best 2nd basemen ever, but players ever.). And some of the guy’s a few spots behind him are Hall of Famers like Ryne Sandberg, Craig Biggio, and Joe Morgan, but others are guys who would be impossible to hit a home run with in a video game, like Ray Durham and Damion Easley.

Look at slugging percentage and you get most of the same thing. Cano is a nearly .500 slugger, and no one else (besides Hornsby and Jeff Kent) is. His OPS is not that high, compared to others, because he does not walk a lot, which has always been one of the few flaws in his game, as his his base stealing, with only 51 in his career.
But that’s my point. Cano has not only been the best 2nd baseman since he became a regular, he has changed the nature and outlook of the position.

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Take a look at the position since he broke into the league.
2nd baseman have consistently been hitting for power. 20 home runs for a 2nd baseman is not that rare anymore.

Last year, 13 2nd basemen hit 20 home runs, almost 1/2 of the league’s starters. 5 2nd basemen had over .500 slugging percentages. All the while, only 4 stole more than 20 bases.

The 13 2nd basemen with more than 20 home runs is more than Catchers and Center Fielders, and the same as Right Fielders and Shortstops. And even positions like Left Field and 3rd base don’t have too many more.

And as the saying goes, “chicks dig the long ball”, setting up these 2nd basemen to be their team’s leader, and even the face, or one of the faces of the franchise.
Jose Altuve is the 1B to Carlos Correa’s 1A. Daniel Murphy will go down as a Mets legend for what he did in the 2015 Playoffs, and he’s very popular amongst his Nationals teammates. Brian Dozier is probably the most popular Minnesota Twin other than Joe Mauer, and Jason Kipnis is combining with Francisco Lindor to form one of the most dynamic double play duos in the MLB.

These players are all part of the current crop of MLB’s power hitting 2nd basemen, and they’re only trending up. Their home run power is translating into star power, which is exactly what happened with Cano.

Cano was the best player on the Yankees his last few seasons. He finished with MVP votes in 2006, and then his last 5 seasons with the team from 2009-2013. He may not have ever been the team’s biggest star, thanks to some guy named Derek, but he became a household name, not only in New York, but across the country.

In those seasons, he hit at least 25 home runs, and slugged at least .515. He was as feared a power hitter as the next guy, all while still hitting for a high average and playing solid defense.

Aside from the juiced up numbers of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, 2nd baseman have never hit for as much power as they did last year, and seem poised to continue in the future. And these players seem as legit as ever, a far cry from the steroid-taking guys like Brett Boone and Miguel Tejada (who were very talented,but tainted   legacies only go so far and probably had something to do with their sharp declines). These players can be the face of their teams for years to come, and maybe one day they’ll be the power hitting 2nd basemen that the next generation of players look up to, just like Robinson Cano.

The East is Going to be Really Bad, and LeBron Needs to Take Advantage

The sand in the NBA offseason hour glass is beginning to settle. All of the premier free agents have signed, and the blockbuster trades have been made. Most teams have a good idea of who will be playing in their rotations at the beginning of the season, and much of the roster is complete at this point.

Take a look at all of the NBA’s rosters; some are vastly different from last year (Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers) and some are nearly identical (San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors).

Most of the impactful movements have been from the East to the West, making a historically weak East last year even worse, while also setting up the West to have a one of the most competitive seasons ever in single conference history.

Paul Millsap, Paul George, and Jimmy Butler have all gone from East to West, with all three acquired to push their teams to the next level, whether that is Millsap getting the Nuggets to the playoffs, PG helping the Thunder compete with the best of the West, and Jimmy Butler elevating the Timberwolves youngsters to relevance. CP3 stayed in the West, but teaming him with James Harden (and maybe Melo) adds another dimension to the Rockets already lethal offense.

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Jeff Teague joins Jimmy Butler as a more superior scorer and shooter than Ricky Rubio, who stayed in the West in going to the Utah Jazz, in a move that Utah thinks will pay off as they build around Rudy Gobert. Swaggy P adds more shooting (as if they need it) to the Warriors, and Rudy Gay joins the Spurs as a veteran to take some of the offensive pressure off of Kawhi.

Now move on to the East and you have the Celtics getting a star player they coveted in Gordon Hayward, who won’t push them over the Cavs by himself, and, well…NOTHING.
I mean, Tim Hardaway to the Knicks was one of the biggest transactions the Eastern conference has seen…the same Tim Hardaway they gave up for Jerian Grant (!) a few years ago, who they gave up for DRose (!!) last year! Classic Knickerbockers.

The Raptors resigned Kyle Lowry, who is really good, but that hasn’t done shit for them in the playoffs. Oh yeah, the Bulls got Zach Lavine and Kris Dunn (lol).

Which leads me to my main point…

LeBron James should not suit up for more than 55 games this season.
And it’s not even to preserve him for the Playoffs, since they’ve rolled through the Conference the past few seasons facing superior competition throughout the Playoffs, going 36-5 against the Eastern Conference.

And it’s not like it will help against the Warriors, either, as LeBron has averaged at least 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 8 assists in each Finals series.  I’m looking at the long term, here.

LeBron has been playing at the NBA level since he was 18 years old. He is now 32, and will be 33 in December of this upcoming season.

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He has never played less than 69 regular season games, except for the lockout shortened season, which he played 62, totaling 1,061 career regular season games, at an average of about 39 minutes per game, equaling over 41,000 minutes!

Add another 217 playoff games, at 42 minutes per game, equaling over 9,100 more minutes, and these aren’t regular season minutes (well some games, especially recently, have been on par with regular season intensity), but playoff minutes.

And don’t forget about his play for the USA National Team, which is usually scrimmage-like, but still…that’s another 1,500 minutes, or about 1/2 a season.

Add all those totals up and LeBron’s legs have endured over 50,000 competitive, on-court minutes!

He is already 28th all time in regular season minutes, with everyone in front of him retired or about to retire, and 2nd all time in playoff minutes, and will surely pass Tim Duncan next season.

Now, LeBron is super human. He’s a Tight End playing in the NBA. He’s had the health of Cal Ripken. He’s a physical specimen of which the world has never seen.  And his training is absolute savagery, with a work ethic and training regimen that few athletes can seem to equate to, or even if they can, make it pay off the way he has, which is why he’s been playing at the highest level of the sport since he’s been a teenager. I mean, this guy get’s back in the gym days after he finishes the Finals, win or lose. UNREAL.

But, there is 1 “athlete” who’s been undefeated for eternity, and I’m not talking about Floyd Mayweather…I’m talking “Father Time”.

The human body can only endure so much physical (and mental) pressure for so long. The intensity of professional sports, combined with longevity, ALWAYS catches up with the athlete. It’s inevitable.  And it will eventually catch up to LeBron, especially since he is not slowing down and will be playing deep into the playoffs for years to come.

So, if the Cleveland Cavaliers, and LeBron for that matter, since he’s up for Free Agency next Summer and may wind up playing somewhere else, were smart, they’d both take advantage of what seems to be a historically bad conference, and let this guy get some damn rest.

Why Russell Westbrook is Not the MVP

Russell Westbrook was named the 2016-2017 NBA Most Valuable Player this past weekend. He received 69 1st place votes, which was 47 more than Runner-up James Harden, 60 more than the most complete 2 way player in the NBA, Kawhi Leonard, and 68 more than the King…which is absolute insanity because Russell Westbrook is NOT the most valuable NBA player.

First off, let me give credit where credit is due: Russ had a historic season, becoming the 1st player since Oscar Robertson in the 1970’s to average a triple double, while also seeming to hit big shot after big shot and playing with a passion every night that is unseen in today’s NBA. For that Russell, I congratulate you, as many players seem to take games off here and there, whereas you won’t even take a possession off in a game you’re winning by 30 points.

But c’mon voters, is Russ really the most valuable player in the NBA?

The answer is no.

Believe me, I fully understand the arguments for him. Without him, the Thunder are a Lottery team. Their roster is pretty barren and lacks any sort of depth. Victor Oladipo was aquired to be a lethal scorer, but can’t really shoot in a 3 point driven league. Andre Roberson is invisible on offense. Steven Adams is overrated because he’s a badass who looks like Aqua Man and is one of the more notable enforcers in the League. And then you got Enes Kanter, who’s NBA career is notable for absolutely nothing. Oh, and Douggy McBuckets comes off the bench.

So yeah, Russ is surrounded by a bunch of pretty average to below average NBA players, and is the reason they made the playoffs.

Big. Fuckin. Deal.

What does a playoff berth even mean in today’s NBA anyway?

The best teams sit their best players many times throughout the regular season. There’s no chance you’ll see LeBron touch the court for all 82 games. When was the last time Pop let his starters play a full season? Golden State can sit their starters for 10 full games and still be the 1 seed in the West.

The best teams don’t give a damn about the regular season. They don’t even seem to care about the 1st round and 2nd round of the playoffs. Did anyone really think the Cavs and Warriors weren’t going to make their Conference Finals with ease? It was almost a foregone conclusion that the Finals were going to be a rematch of the previous 2 years. The fans knew it, and so did the players.

Which leads me to say that winning should play a major factor in the MVP award. I know, I know. It’s a regular season award. But value in the NBA means wins, not stats.

At the end of the season, Russ was worth a 6 seed, and 1 playoff win. Now, as I said before, he did this with a barren roster doing most of the heavy lifting himself. But are you really going to tell me that this makes him the most valuable NBA player?

Let’s pretend every NBA player was a free agent right now, and there was no salary cap, but every player had to sign a one year deal. Would you give Russ the most money of any player in the League? Would he even crack your top 5?

The correct answer is no.

LeBron. KD. Steph. Kawhi.

Those 4 players right there are one hundred and ten percent more valuable than Russ, and I can even argue for guys like Draymond, Klay, and Kyrie.

And I understand the argument against them is that their teams are so strong that they can’t possibly be more valuable than Russ. But since when does “most valuable” exist in a vaccuum?

Those players individual talent is what comprises their team’s greatness; the Warriors aren’t amazing just because the Death Lineup exists, but because each player in the Death Lineup is so unbelievably talented, that it makes them almost unbeatable, displaying the true value of each of those players, and resulting in the most wins this past season, and the Championship.

So, Russell Westbrook may have won the 2016-2017 NBA MVP award, but he is not the NBA’s most valuable player.