2010 Year-End Sports Review: What We Already Knew

Let’s be honest: Sports bloggers know everything. Just ask us. As part of our 2010 Year-End Sports Review, our list of things we already knew this year includes Brad Childress’ biggest fail, Wade Phillips’ demise in Dallas and John Calipari’s troubles. We also knew Kevin Durant was the next great superstar (who didn’t see that coming?), Roger Clemens is the ultimate windbag and that “Matty Ice” knows fourth-quarter comebacks. We should have gone to medical school…

Contributors: Anthony Stalter, John Paulsen, Paul Costanzo, Drew Ellis and Mike Farley

LeBron is a frontrunner.

We all were a little surprised that LeBron left Cleveland, but the writing was on the wall. Growing up, LeBron didn’t root for the local teams. He followed the Yankees, Bulls and Cowboys, which in the 1990s constituted the Holy Triumvirate of Frontrunning. He wore his Yankee cap to an Indians game and was seen hobnobbing on the Cowboy sidelines during a Browns game. He says he’s loyal, but he’s only loyal to winners…unless they only win in the regular season, of course.

July 08, 2010 - Greenwich, CONNECTICUT, United States - epa02241974 Handout photo from ESPN showing LaBron James (L), NBA's reigning two-time MVP, as he ends months of speculation and announces 08 July 2010 on ESPN 'The Decision' in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA, that he will go to the Miami Heat where he will play basketball next 2010-11 season. James said his decision was based on the fact that he wanted to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Brad Childress’ biggest flaw cost him his job in the end.

There were many reasons why the Vikings decided to fire head coach Brad Childress roughly a year after they signed him to a contract extension. One of the reasons was because he lost with a talented roster. Another was because he never quite figured out how to best utilize Adrian Peterson, which is a sin given how talented AP is. But the main reason “Chilly” was ousted in Minnesota was because he didn’t know how to manage NFL-caliber personalities. He didn’t know how to handle Brett Favre, which led to blowups on the sidelines and multiple face-to-face confrontations. He also didn’t have a clue how to deal with Randy Moss’ crass attitude, so he released him just four weeks after the team acquired him in a trade from New England. Childress was hired in part to help clean up the mess in Minnesota after the whole “Love Boat” scandal. But the problem with a disciplinarian that hasn’t first earned respect is that his demands fall on deaf ears. In the end, Childress’ inability to command respect from his players cost him his job. You know, on top of the fact that he was losing with a talented roster, he didn’t know how to best utilize Adrian Peterson, he…

Love him or hate him, George Steinbrenner will forever be one of baseball’s icons.

You may have hated his brash attitude, the way he ran his team or the way he conducted his business. You may even feel that he ruined baseball. But regardless of how you may have felt about him, there’s little denying that George Steinbrenner will forever be one of Major League Baseball’s icons. Steinbrenner passed away in July of this year. He will forever be a man known for helping revolutionize the business side of baseball by being the first owner to sell TV cable rights to the MSG Network. When things eventually went south with MSG, he created the YES Network, which is currently the Yankees’ very own TV station that generates millions in revenue. During his tenure, he took the Yankees from a $10 million franchise to a $1.2 billion juggernaut. In 2005, the Yankees became the first professional sports franchise to be worth an estimated one billion dollars. While many baseball fans came to despise the way he ran his team (mainly because he purchased high priced free agents with reckless abandon due to the fact that he could and others couldn’t), don’t miss the message he often made year in and year out: The Yankees are here to win. He didn’t line his pockets with extra revenue (albeit he generated a lot of extra revenue for his club) – he dumped his money back into the on-field product. Losing wasn’t acceptable and if the Bombers came up short one year, you could bet that Steinbrenner would go after the best talent in the offseason, regardless of what others thought of the approach. How many Pirates and Royals fans wish they had an owner with the same appetite for victory?

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After Red Sox sign Crawford, Yankees feeling the pressure to ink Lee

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cliff Lee pitching in the 1st inning of game 1 of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Wednesday, October 27, 2010. UPI/ Bob Larson Photo via Newscom

The Yankees better land Cliff Lee or else they could be in a world of hurt next season.

Offensively, they’ll continue to be dangerous. Thanks to Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada, they won’t have to worry about scoring runs again next season (although it’s important to note that Jeter is coming off a career-low year and Posada struggled at the dish as well.)

But their offense wasn’t the reason they fell short of reaching the World Series: their pitching was. That’s why they set out this offseason to acquire Lee, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to land him with the Rangers trying desperately to retain him.

After Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford each received seven-year contracts, the Yankees had no choice but to add another year to their offer for Lee. They wanted to stay at six years, but the Rangers have amped things up and are reportedly sending a contingent to Arkansas on Thursday in order to get Lee to re-sign. The Yankees had no choice but to take an at-all-costs approach in signing the 32-year-old ace.

Chances are Texas won’t be able to match New York’s final number, which is good for the Yankees. But Lee enjoyed playing with the Rangers last year and spoke after the World Series as though he was coming back. If Texas can get close to the Yankees’ asking price, then Lee may re-sign with the Rangers in order to stay in familiar surroundings.

That would be devastating for the Yankees, who now are suddenly looking up at the Red Sox in the AL East. Just this past week, Boston traded for slugger Adrian Gonzalez and signed Crawford to a whopping $142 million deal. Instantly the Red Sox have added power, speed and defense to their roster, all while the Yankees have impatiently waited for Lee’s answer. If they can’t sign Lee and they go into next year having to rely on A.J. Burnett being one of their top arms, the Bombers are in trouble.

They may want to add on an eighth year if that’s what Lee wants.

After adding Gonzalez and Crawford, Boston’s lineup suddenly looks potent again

August 10, 2010: Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Carl Crawford ( ) during pregame action between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. The Rays defeated the Tigers 8-0.

After they lost Jason Bay to free agency last winter, Boston’s offense looked about as dangerous as a ball-pit in a kid’s indoor playground. But after trading for Adrian Gonzalez and signing Carl Crawford to a massive seven-year contract, the BoSox have suddenly become the team to beat again in the AL East.

Gonzalez finished the 2010 season with a .298/.393/.511 batting line, 31 home runs and 101 RBI over 591 at-bats. And he posted those numbers at spacious PETCO Park, so one can only assume that he’ll have plenty of success hitting at smaller Fenway.

Crawford, who inked a whopping $142 million contract with the Red Sox late Wednesday night, battled .307 with 19 home runs and 47 stolen bases for the Rays last season. He immediately adds speed, defense and a little pop to Boston’s much-improved roster and should do incredibly well hitting in the same lineup as Gonzalez, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis.

Considering the Yankees have major pitching issues, the Red Sox have to love what they’ve been able to do this offseason. After they lost Victor Martinez to the Tigers, fans were worried that Theo Epstein may strike out this winter. Instead, he’s answered with the best offseason of any club and it’s not even the middle of December yet.

Red Sox pursing Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford

Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth bats against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 2, 2010 in Denver. The Phillies lead the NL Wild Card race.   UPI/Gary C. Caskey Photo via Newscom

Apparently Boston GM Theo Epstein is out of his slumber and ready to make some moves. Losing yet another middle-of-the-order bat like Victor Martinez will do that to a GM.

According to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, the Red Sox have stepped up in their pursuit of free agent outfielders Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford. Epstein met with Crawford in his hometown of Houston, Texas and apparently came away “very, very impressed” with the meeting.

Crawford is a favorite of the organization and why shouldn’t he be? He hit a career-high 19 home runs last season and battled .307. He also drove in 90 runs, swiped 47 bases and plays outstanding defense.

Werth falls right behind Crawford in terms of best available outfielders this offseason. Werth has better overall power numbers than Crawford, plays a solid right field and would be cheaper than the former Rays’ outfielder. But if the Sox are looking for the complete package, Crawford is it. The only question is whether or not they’ll commit to Crawford (who is reportedly seeking an eight-year deal and $20 million per season) and if they do, whether or not the Yankees will step in at the final second and steal him like they did Mark Teixeira). (I guess that’s two questions.)

The Red Sox have yet to make an offer to either player, but one may be forthcoming soon.

A very early look at the top 5 free agents in baseball

August 10, 2010: Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Carl Crawford ( ) during game action between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. The Rays defeated the Tigers 8-0.

The Giants haven’t been World Series Champions for 24 hours yet, but it’s never too early to take a look at which names will dominate the headlines this winter.

Here’s a very preliminary look at the top-5 free agents in baseball for 2011.

1. Carl Crawford, OF, Rays
Mark my words: The Yankees and Red Sox will be battling over this guy for the next couple of months. The Bombers could fall behind as they focus their attention on Cliff Lee, but you know their wallets are deep enough to best any offer that teams come to the table with for Crawford. There’s little to no chance he returns to Tampa next year and I fully expect him to man one of the outfields in either New York or Boston next season.

2. Cliff Lee, SP, Rangers
He probably cost himself a couple of million by throwing a 2-0 cutter in the zone to Edgar Renteria (who put it over the wall) in Game 5 of the World Series, but every team knows Lee is one of the best. And he’s certainly the best free agent pitcher on the market this offseason. Will he take the money and head up to the Big Apple or will he stay with the Rangers? Texas probably has a leg up, but it needs to put together a decent offer because in the end, money talks. The Yankees will do everything they can to get Lee in pinstripes next season.

3. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Red Sox
Beltre continues to be one of the best defensive third basemen in the league and he’s coming off a solid season in Boston. He has a player option for the 2011 season, but chances are he’ll move on and try to sign a multi-year deal elsewhere.

4. Jayson Werth, OF, Phillies
Personally, I think Werth is a tad overrated. I think he’s Aaron Rowand re-born and some team will foolishly overpay for his services. But he’s a middle-of-the-order power threat, so he’s worth the shot. The question is whether or not the Phillies pony up to retain him or if he heads off to greener pastures. Call it a hunch, but I think he stays in the NL.

5. Victor Martinez, C, Red Sox
The Tigers have already been linked to V-Mart, but the Red Sox could wind up re-signing him when it’s all said and done. At 32 his skills are declining but he’s a .300 lifetime hitter with a little pop, which is always big from the catcher’s position.

Other names to keep an eye on: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Aubrey Huff, Paul Konerko, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Adam Dunn.

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