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Sports in the Big Apple

Latest opinion and news on New York Sports By Joel Langstein

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With the trade deadline looming, the New York Yankees are faced with a tough decision; Sell or stand pat. There are two sides to the argument, but in a year that the Yankees are stuck in mediocrity, the answer has never seemed clearer for the Pinstripes. 

The pros of selling: The Yankees are old, uninspiring, and attendance at "the stadium" is down. Sure, they may be in it until the last month, but this team is not built for long term success. Their is one bright spot. The Yankees have a surplus of relief pitching, headed by their three flamethrowers in Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, and Andrew Miller. With several aging players that can't seem to avoid injury on their roster, it is hard to imagine what the Yankees record would be this season without their bullpen arms. Many teams in contention like the Texas Rangers and the Chicago Cubs are a strong reliever away from solidifying their roster, and a guy of LHP Andrew Miller's ilk could bring back huge returns. The point of having a surplus is to use it to acquire something you lack, and in this case, the Yankees lack young starting pitching and position players. The Yankees are in a textbook position to sell. They must ask themselves if they rather continue on the same trend, and that is being mired in a mediocre campaign, or, alter their team and re-tool for the future. Selling would be an admission by the Yankees that they are waving the white flag, but every great run comes to an end. The Yankees must swallow their pride and realize they aren't invincible. They had a great run, but its time to start fresh. The Bombers may have to endure a few last place seasons to regain league supremacy. Before the late 90's dynasty of the Yankees, they were noncompetitive, but they cultivated a farm system with the likes of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Petite, and Jorge Posada. We all know how that story ended.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The cons of selling: The Yankees sport a record of 46-46 to date. They trail the Baltimore Orioles by 7.5 games and are 5 games back from the second spot in the A.L. Wild Card race. These deficits are by no means insurmountable. For the mighty Yankees to sell while still mathematically alive, well, that is not something we have become accustomed to. The Yankees are always buyers at the deadline. They always go for it. As a Met fan, I can recall countless times of marveling at the Yankees aggression while the the Amazins talked about winning ten years down the road. Oh how times have changed. The Mets rebuilding actually paid off; Maybe the Yankees should take a page out of their book.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Verdict: It seems as if the only plausible reason for standing pat on July 31st for the Yankees is pride. Every reasonable baseball mind can see that it is time to get younger and sell. The Yankees can't buy away their mistakes anymore, but rather, they have to live with the consequences of their poor contracts.  GM Brian Cashman has a lot on his plate the next two weeks. Will he be pressured by ownership to hold onto his bargaining chips? Will he sell a bullpen arm for a future star? These questions will all be answered in two weeks. In the meantime, the Yankees have a grueling stretch against the first place Orioles and Giants to prove to ownership that they want to go for October baseball. 

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When Matt Harvey came up at the end of the 2012 season for the Mets they were in a fragile state. They hadn't won in years, and they were desperate for answers. Met fans were restless, and there were more questions than answers. Matt Harvey changed the culture. He came up with a look in his eyes signaling he would not be denied. He quickly rose to the top of the league in performance and stature. He was the guy to bring the Mets back to the promise land, he became known as "the dark knight." Met fans fell in love with his refusal to lose, something that had been lacking since the Mets made the playoffs back in 2006. 

Harvey was the starter of the all star game the next season in the 2013 mid summer classic at Citi Field. He was the talk of the town, and arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Then came his Tommy John injury. His elbow required surgery that took him off the field until the beginning of the 2015 season. When he came back, people wondered if he could replicate the performance he had put forth before his injury occurred. Harvey silenced many critics with a 13-8 record and a 2.71 e.r.a. Harvey also had a great postseason leading up until the World Series. It had appeared that the Dark Knight had risen again.

However, in game five of the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, Matt's big ego got the best of him. He forced Terry Collins to let him pitch the ninth inning where the Mets eventually blew the game, overshadowing the brilliant eight innings he threw prior to that point. 

Ever since, Harvey has been anything but himself. Since that ninth inning, the wheels have come off the bus. Starting this Spring Training, Harvey has been very shaky. He lost a lot of his velocity, and his breaking pitches are flat as could be. He has struggled to this point in the regular season, sporting a 3-6 record with a brutal 5.77 e.r.a. Tonight, Harvey clashes against the first place Nationals, whom the Mets trail just by a half a game. Matt has been the recipient of much criticism to date, so any slip up tonight for him could spell major chaos in the Mets organization. There is no doubt that Harvey's ego has been humbled, but the Mets need him. It can only get better from here, so lets see what Harvey is made of tonight. It will be fascinating to watch. Can the guy who brought a winning mentality to the Mets save his season?

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    Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

In sports, we often rank the elite by the number of championships they have won, and, as such, NBA star Carmelo Anthony is the subject of these debates. Is Carmelo a top-5 active player? Is he the best pure scorer we have ever seen? These questions asked by many are valid and deserve answers. But the most important question is does Melo’ need to win a title to validate his legacy as one of the NBA’s elites? Many say yes, but I would say that he does not. While it would enhance his legacy, he is still a great individual talent. You may omit him from your top 10 NBA players like Lebron James, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and others. But Melo’ is an all time elite talent nonetheless.

This begs an even larger question that we debate in sports today: is it fair to only judge athletes by how many titles they have won? NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, who never won a super bowl, is still widely considered to be a top 5 all time quarterback. Why? Because he performed at an elite level year after year, and although he didn't have a title to show for it, there is something to be said for weekly, regular season dominance over your opponents. Why should players who’ve never won anything be penalized for playing on a lesser team than other greats? While it seems unjust to harp on the negatives of a great player who never won, that is what we sports aficionados often do. We are all guilty of trying to place players in a category based on titles achieved. We do this because society at large is results driven. We don’t care how someone does it, we just want results. There is even debate today as to whether Eli or Peyton Manning has had the better career, noting that Eli has two rings while Peyton has one. The problem with these arguments is that they are absolute, neglecting the whole picture. If we review both Eli and Peyton’s entire body of work, as great as Eli has performed, the better resume belongs to Peyton.

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Now, back to Carmelo Anthony, who happens to play in Gotham City. New Yorkers want to win, and anything short of a title is unacceptable. Carmelo is judged solely off of his wins and losses, rather than his whole body of work. He has scored over 20,000 points in his career, and has averaged nearly 25 points per game over his career spanning 13 seasons. Title or no title, these numbers put up by Melo’ place him in a rarified class. Carmelo Anthony is an example of someone who we need to start judging by what he has contributed to the game of basketball, and not just by how many rings he has on his finger. We need to understand that winning is very hard, and very few have won actual championships. Winning is a large part of the equation, but it is not everything. Carmelo Anthony is a once in a generation scorer, and to question his entire legacy because, to date, he has not won the brass ring, would not do justice to a remarkable basketball player.

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