The New York Yankees signed prized Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to a mega-deal today, adding a key cog to what has become an iffy starting rotation. Tanaka went 24-0 for Japanese club Rakuten last season, and should have success from the start in MLB.
The Yankees have spent a lot of money this offseason to upgrade a middling squad. With Mariano Rivera retired, Robinson Cano in ShermanLand, and Alex Rodriguez out of the picture until 2015 (hopefully forever for everyone’s sakes), the Yanks definitely needed to buy some starpower – and that they have.
The Tanaka signing got me thinking about where he fits in among the best current athletes among NYC teams from the four major sports. So here is my Top 10 ranking of The Big Apple’s Best Athletes.
Honorable Mention: Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Jacoby Ellsbury, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith…(just kidding folks), Victor Cruz, Antrel Rolle, Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, Brad Richards, Rick Nash
Dishonorable Mention: A-Roid
10. David Wright – Third Baseman, New York Mets
He’s been Mr. Met personified pretty much since his arrival to the big leagues. At 31 years old, Wright is already a seven-time All-Star with two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers. He is a career .301 hitter who has finished in the Top 10 for NL MVP voting four times. However, his power numbers have decreased since the Mets moved into pitcher-friendly Citi Field, and has missed a significant amount of time due to injuries in two of the past three seasons. He also has only been to the playoffs once in his career. He’s everything a franchise could ask their star player to be on and off the field…but his injuries and lack of postseason experience prevent him from being even higher (or I guess lower, depending on how you view it) on this list.
9. Masahiro Tanaka – Starting Pitcher, New York Yankees
Is the hype for real? We will soon find out. But his numbers in Japan are freaking dazzling. 24-0 last season for league champion Rakuten. Career ERA of 2.30. Career WHIP? 1.108. 99 career wins by age 24. Yowza. No one should expect Tanaka to have a seamless transition over to America. He may struggle like any other rookie in his first season. But the upside here is incredible, and he more than likely has many All-Star appearances ahead of him.
8. Eli Manning – Quarterback, New York Giants
Is the only reason he is so low (or high, depending on how you view it I guess) on this list because of his post-apocalyptic nightmare of a season in 2013? Or is the only reason he is even on the list due to his two Super Bowl runs? I don’t know! We’ve seen him play at an eli(te) level and guide the G-Men to titles. We’ve also seen him get picked off more than a scab on a kid with OCD. Who is the real Eli? I don’t know!
It remains to be seen how the departure of longtime offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will affect Eli’s play. Will a new offense lead to his rejuvenation, or will Eli fall further away from his glory days? Maybe he’ll just be average enough to keep basking in the glow of his Super Bowl rings without the Giants looking elsewhere at QB. I don’t know! What I do know is that he likes football on his phone and potassium-rich fruit. And that he is probably not the biggest fan of Justin Timberlake.
7. Nick Mangold – Center, New York Jets
As of the past two seasons, Nick Mangold is better at football than Eli Manning. Yeah, their jobs are entirely different, but Mangold is an All-Pro again this season, so he gets the nod over Eli. This is the fifth time Mangold has been selected to the Pro Bowl in his illustrious career. He is a stud lineman who is crucial to whatever remnants of an offensive game the Jets still have. He’s been a pillar of consistency for a maddeningly inconsistent team. Centers aren’t flashy, but Mangold has constantly delivered at the highest level for his position despite having Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith putting their hands on his butt for the majority of his career.
6. Deron Williams – Point Guard, Brooklyn Nets
He used to be in the discussion for best point guard in the NBA. That may no longer be true, but D-Will has been the best player on the Nets since he was traded from Utah in 2011. He has struggled this season with injuries, and that is a big reason why the Nets have started the year so poorly. His overall and three-point shooting percentages this season are above his career average, but he is scoring well below his career average this year as well. With Brook Lopez out for the year, there is no question that Williams will have to play like the D-Will of the past for the Nets to make any sort of noise in the playoffs. He’s still 29 years old, he’s been playing better in January, and if he stays healthy, he’s arguably the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. He’s still a star player, and the Nets need him to play like one.
5. John Tavares – Center, New York Islanders
Ok, so the Islanders still play on Long Island and aren’t technically an NYC team, but they are moving to Brooklyn soon so don’t start with that, Dad. The Islanders are awful once again after finally reaching the playoffs as an 8-seed last season. Tavares, however, is not the problem. The former #1 overall pick was a Hart Trophy finalist last season at age 22. Now 23, he is currently second in the NHL with 62 points, trailing only Sid the Kid, and will be playing for Canada at the Sochi Olympics. He is a superstar who should get more attention – I mean, he plays for a New York team, hello! If the Islanders are ever good, this guy could rise to the #1 ranking on this list. The only reason he’s stuck at #5 is because of how atrocious the Islanders are. Help the kid out, Islanders front office!
4. Carlos Beltran – Right Fielder, New York Yankees
Another free agent to ditch his old team in favor of the pinstripes, Beltran is one of the greatest playoff hitters in the history of baseball. In 51 career playoff games, Beltran has batted .333 with 16 home runs, 40 RBI, and a loony 1.128 OPS. Somehow, the man has never won a World Series, and while I hope that stays the same as long as he is a Yankee, he probably deserves a ring more than any current player who does not have one. Oh yeah, he’s been pretty good in the regular season too, notching eight All-Star selections, three Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, and the 1999 Rookie of the Year Award.
The one knock on Beltran is that he has a long history of injuries, and at the age of 36, probably can’t be trusted to last an entire season without missing a large chunk of games. He’s been relatively healthy the past two seasons, missing only a combined 28 games, but there’s always a risk of him going down. However, he should take advantage of the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium for some big numbers as long as he is healthy. Even with his awesome playoff stats, he is one of the more underrated great players in baseball, and is easily one of the best NYC athletes today.
3. Henrik Lundqvist – Goaltender, New York Rangers
This season may not have started off the way Lundqvist wanted, but when he is at the top of his game, he is one of the most dominant players, not just goaltenders, in the NHL. He pretty much single-handedly led an offensively-dysfunctional Rangers team to a playoff series win over the Capitals last season. Lundqvist won the 2012 Vezina Trophy for best goaltender in the NHL, and was also a finalist for the Hart Trophy that year, as the Rangers clinched the best record in the Eastern Conference thanks largely to him. He also led his native Sweden to the gold medal in the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. He has saved the Rangers time and time again, and should continue to do so until they get some more dynamic offensive players.
2. Matt Harvey – Starting Pitcher, New York Mets
If not for his season-ending, and likely 2014-ending-before-it-began injury late last year, Harvey might be #1 on this list. The man started the All-Star game last season at the age of 24. In his brief yet fantastic career, he has a 2.39 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and has amassed 261 strikeouts. At his best effort, he is unhittable. At his average effort, he is pretty much unhittable. Everyone should hope he fully recovers from Tommy John surgery, because he is obviously destined for the Hall of Fame if he stays healthy, and it would be a huge shame if is career were to be derailed by injuries. He might already be the best starting pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. Oh yeah, he’s pretty funny, too.
1. Carmelo Anthony – Small Forward, New York Knicks
Despite the Knicks having a turrible, just turrible season filled with lots of really not good stuff, Melo is scoring over 26 points per game because 1.) He is a superstar, and 2.) Somebody has to score the points even on bad teams, or as my Dad calls it, the Bubbles Hawkins Situation. However, Anthony may not be on this list for long, as trade rumors have swirled around him. He may very well leave the Knicks in free agency after this season, and I don’t think anyone can blame him. He has done everything he can to help the Knicks, and currently seems to be the only Knick playing at any sort of high level other than Tim Hardaway Jr. His shooting percentage is down because he has to jack up more shots than he normally would (which is a lot). Still, his 2.3 turnover per game this season are a career low, and he’s playing more than 39 minutes per game, which is a career-high. It’s a toxic situation at MSG right now, but Carmelo is not to blame here. Like former teammate Al Harrington, Melo just gets buckets.
So there are my Top 10 NYC Athletes. If you like the rankings, or hate them, or you just want to be a social human being, tweet at me! @d_d_d_d_DANIEL