Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Best I've Seen

Love him or hate him (not that it's truly worth hating him), Jeff Pearlman writes things that can make you think. Yes I know his anti-Yankees stance (it's bad for them to sign free agents but OK for his Mets) can drive me bonkers, but he can write. He inspires debate, and that's good.

Today he offered up a collection of the best players he has ever seen in the three major sports (a knock to hockey but that's another argument). I have to admit, I have a hard time getting too wound up about his choices. They're not bad.

So what about me? Glad you asked!

1) Ken Griffey, Jr. - It pains me to say it but he could just do it all. Sadly, he tended to do it all against the Yankees.
2) Albert Pujols - I really want to pick A-Rod. Really. But Pujols is just that good.
3) Mike Schmidt - Oh I could have taken George Brett (in the same way that Griffey, Jr. beat the Yankees, so did Brett) but Schmidt was amazing. Power, average, defense - the works.
4) Rickey Henderson - First inning...walk, stolen base, move to third somehow, and score. 1-0, just like that.
5) Don Mattingly - Yeah, whatever. Fight me if you want. I know what I saw, and what I saw was a guy who could hit in every way, shape and form, and could field first base like nobody I have ever seen (sorry, Keith). Oh what could have been without the injuries. First ballot Hall of Famer, IF. Just if.

That was tough...A-Rod, Brett, Bonds, Winfield, Bench, etc are all in the conversation. And no, I won't include pitchers here (Mo, Clemens, Pedro, Maddux, Carlton). Different topic.

1) Lawrence Taylor - redefined the linebacker.
2) Dan Marino - Dominated the quarterback position in a way that opened the door for Peyton Manning.
3) Walter Payton - Sweetness. Say no more.
4) Barry Sanders - Run. Stop. Start running. Touchdown.
5) Reggie White - I wanted more defense in my top 5, though I probably should have Jerry Rice here. But when free agency was coming aboard in the NFL, nobody was more sought-after than the Minister of Defense.

Trust me, I wanted to say Mean Joe, or Lambert, or a Steeler but I would be unfair to do so, especially since so much of their Steel Curtain years occurred before I was 12.

1) Michael Jordan - You're kidding, right?
2) Larry Bird - Probably an East Coast thing for me, because I saw more of Bird than Magic. Tough call, because of course next up is...
3) Magic Johnson - You can't go wrong either way.
4) Hakeem Olajuwon - Now don't go me wrong. I like Shaq but I just remember the way that The Dream dominated through college into the NBA. An amazing talent.
5) Dominique Wilkins - I know, I know...where's Shaq? Where's Kobe? Where's LeBron? But they didn't call 'Nique "The Human Highlight Reel" for nothing. Before the Slam Dunk Contest became made it come to life.

And yes, friends, I didn't forget the FOURTH major sports:

1) Wayne Gretzky - I pondered putting somebody else here. Honestly. Yet I just couldn't do it. He was the best.
2) Mark Messier - It wasn't just the on-ice play. I've never - EVER - seen a better leader. I hope he never gets into management. I don't want to ruin that image of him (kind of the way I feel about Rudy Giuliani).
3) Mario Lemieux - Dominated like nobody, except for Gretzky.
4) Mike Bossy - My first hockey hero. I loved watching him and the late 70's/early 80's Islanders play on channel 9. While I would define myself as a Rangers fan, I'll always have a soft spot for the Islanders.
5) Martin Brodeur - Those who are better at hockey will tell me that I'm nuts to pick him over Patrick Roy but the fact is, this is about who I've seen, and I've witnessed far more of the Devils. Brodeur is billiant.
* Honorable mention: Bobby Orr - Had I really seen him, I would have likely put him at number one. But I was so young, and so not quite into hockey that I would be a fake to list him.

OK, so who did I forget/ignore/disrespect?

Elsewhere...Golf: Tiger (duh), Jack (duh), and Watson...Soccer: Pele (I guess, I'm trying here)...Auto Racing (seriously): Jeff Gordon, Al Unser, Jr....Olympics: too many to list, but Michael Phelps does deserve props...and I'm sure there's more I could do, but we've got the idea.

This strikes me as a good Thursday "Press Box" kind of discussion. Of course then again, they'll all say Chad ChangeHisNameSoHeCanPromoteHimselfSelifhslyInATeamSport, if only to bother me.

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