Sporting G.O.A.Ts by Distance

25 07 2021

This will be an analysis based on zero actual fact about the greatest athlete in their respective professional sport and how far ahead of the second-place person they are.  Of course, I know there is no point in comparing players across generations and that any metrics applied are totally subjective, but such is life and I have decided to do it anyway. 

I will be looking at the consensus GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) for any given sport.  How does one determine the GOAT?  By looking at the work of other sports scholars who have already done the work.  There is any number of top lists done by various media outlets and personalities who have spent much more time determining rankings than I would have.  I am scouring these lists and applying some minor updates based on date of publication (for example Brady was rated as low as 26th on lists dating back to 2010 and 2nd on lists from 2018….his accomplishment since then obviously increase his overall GOAT ranking). 

After pulling the data I am applying my very scientific personal ratings to the players in contention to rank their level of GOATness.

Here are the consensus GOATs we will be looking at, in no particular order, to determine which are safest in distance from second place and most likely to hold onto GOAT status for the foreseeable future.

Basketball – Michael Jordan

Hockey  – Wayne Gretzky

Baseball – Babe Ruth

American Football – Tom Brady

Tennis – Roger Federer

Soccer – Diego Maradona

Basketball 🐐 – Michael Jordan

30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.3 SPG

6 NBA championships, 6 Finals MVP awards, 5 league MVP awards, massive social and economic impact worldwide

Challengers for 🐐status?  Lebron James, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlin, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird

On the court there has never been a player as competitive or as dominant as peak Jordan. His performance on both ends of the court changed the way the game was played.  No athlete has achieved his level of worldwide fame and his effect on media and business changed professional sports forever. On his best nights Jordan often achieved the impossible and on his average nights he was still the best player on the court. 

As for those chasing him Jordan has lapped all other retired players already and only LeBron is in the discussion, but he has been unable to maintain the championship pedigree that made Jordan so special.  While LeBron may eventually pull ahead in the minds of people from a statistical perspective unless he can turn things around and win some titles in LA he will remain a somewhat distant second place.

Lead: Jordan by 27 GOATs

Hockey 🐐 – Wayne Gretzky

894 Goals, 1,963 assists, 2,857 points

4 NHL championships, 9 Hart trophies, 10 Art Ross trophies, 2 Conn Smythe trophies, grew game in the USA

Challengers for 🐐 status?  Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux, Maurice Richard, Bobby Hull, Jean Beliveau

Much of the statistical damage was done in his days as an Oiler from 78-88 after they merged into the NHL from the WHA.  His bigger impact on the game may have come after his trade to the LA Kings which led to a period of growth for the NHL in the US increasing visibility and fanbase South of the Canadian border. The best scorer to play the game he was an offensive force but could not win another Stanley Cup after leaving Edmonton.

While Gretzky is the consensus number one there is already a camp of people who would say Howe was GOAT based on his longevity, Orr for his changing of the way Defensemen played the game, or the raw talent level of Lemieux.  His lead over retired players is much smaller than some of the others on the list.  As for current players the only realistic challenges to his title would be Crosby (need to maintain for longer and win another cup), Ovechkin (needs longevity and 2 cups), or McDavid (longevity and win something finally) who all have some issues and have quite a lot to prove to jump into the mix for GOAT.  For now, Wayne feels pretty safe as long as you aren’t a huge Howe fan.

Lead: Gretz by 7 GOATs

Baseball 🐐 – Babe Ruth

.342 avg, 2,873 hits, 714 HR, 2,213 RBI, 94-46, 2.28 ERA

7 World Series Champs, 12 time HR leader, 6 time RBI leader

Challengers for 🐐status?  Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig, Cy Young

Unlike some other sports baseball is obsessed with history and stats so it is fitting that the best of the best played so long ago.  Ruth was effective as a pitcher with Boston and a beast of a batter with the Yankees and performed like no major athlete will even have a chance to do in the day of specialized baseball players.  Even separating his stats he compares favorably to all the greats and it isn’t particularly close.

No modern player is in this discussion.  Ruth is likely one of the more untouchable GOATs

Lead: Ruth by 35 GOATs

American Football 🐐 – Tom Brady

92k passing yards, 664 TDs, 97.2 QBR, 346 games played

7 SuperBowls, 5 SB MVPs, Only player to win SB with AFC and NFC team

Challengers for 🐐status?  Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor, Jerry Rice, Reggie White, Joe Montana, Walter Peyton, Peyton Manning

The newest GOAT but he is nearing the end of his time to extend that lead.  Arguably he only took over first place with the Tampa SB last season but either way one would be had pressed to argue against him now.  He is a total winner regardless of the talent around him or the situation he has been in.  No player has had the poise, swagger, and ability to back it up quite like TB12.

Up until this year this was a muddled mess and I might have argued there was no consensus GOAT but the SB puts him over the top.  He is in the lead but it is still pretty close.

Lead: Brady by 12 GOATs

Tennis 🐐 – Roger Federer?

20 Grand Slam titles (9 Australian, 1 French, 5 US, 8 Wimbledon)

103 total titles

Challengers for 🐐status?  Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal

Tennis fans right now should recognize they era they live in.  By the time they are done playing all three of these guys will be considered the best three of all time.  With all currently on 20 total Grand Slams they are quickly moving away from the next pack including Sampras, Laver, and Borg. While the gap between the three and Sampras will be immense the gap between these will be super tight for now.  I am not even convinced Federer should be considered the GOAT and it could change from tournament to tournament.

As an aside Federer would compete with Gretzky for the most boring GOAT on the list.

Lead: Federer by a hoof…or horn.

Soccer 🐐 – Diego Maradona

354 total career goals, 42 International goals with a 0.51 goal per game average

1986 World Cup Champ, 1986 World Cup Golden Ball, 1985 FIFA player of the year, 1 UEFA cup, multiple league titles, FIFA goal of the century

Challengers for 🐐status?  Pele is the only one close

Maradona transcended team sports and remains the only player to win a World Cup essentially singlehandedly.  For GOATs of team sports only Jordan has carried even close to as much weight with a team as Maradona ti was on a bigger stage and with less talent around him.  He is revered as a hero in his home country and despite being somewhat controversial, he delivered the best goal (or two) in history and won at all levels.  No player was as electric or as dominant as this guy.

You can argue that Pele was more consistent and more important, but Maradona is exceptional and transcendent.

Lead: Maradona by 24 GOATs

In Summary – for the sports here Ruth, Jordan, and Maradona stand on top with comfortable leads over the second-place contenders.  Brady and Gretzky likely not to be passed in the near future and Federer may already be passed.

NHL Playoff Qualifier Picks

29 07 2020

Here we go folks. 

Nothing quite like the NHL playoffs.  16 teams 24 teams enter and 16 (or 19?) wins later a cup champion is crowned.  The play in round this year adds another few games to what is already one of the hardest tournaments to win in professional sports. 

Let’s look at the play in series and how I read each one.

Pittsburgh Penguins (5) vs. Montreal Canadiens (12)

Pittsburgh was one of the most burned teams by the new format just missing out on the safety of passing the play in round.  They now get to face one of the best goaltenders of the past decade in a short 5 game series to determine who moves on.  Luckily Price has not been playing well for the past 12-18 months but that isn’t to say that he thought of him having a hot series isn’t making the Penguins sweat a little.  Under Julien the Habs play a tight and disciplined game so they will by no means be a pushover even though they are outclassed dramatically on both defense and forward positions.  Sullivan is the stronger coach and will be able to adapt quickly should he need to but with a healthy roster for the first time in over a year he should be able to coast on skill alone.  Assuming Murray starts the biggest concern for the Penguins will be if his experience outweighs the fact that Jarry has been significantly better this season.  Murray has two cups and over 40 playoff wins while Jarry has not even dressed for a playoff game so Murray will get the nod but be on a short leash.

Habs win if Price returns to form.  Pens win if he doesn’t.

My pick: Pens in 4, I have a hard time seeing the Habs overcoming the difference in talent on F and D but can’t see the Pens keeping their heads straight enough for a sweep

Carolina Hurricanes (6) vs. New York Rangers (11)

The Hurricanes are building an exciting team to watch and have a ton of young talent.  They are well balanced and finished ahead of the Rangers this season.  The Rangers offense is dangerous and they own the Hurricanes lately with a 4-0 record head to head before the pause.  I want to think the Hurricanes are going to get over the hump and push into the playoffs but the difference in goal is drastic.  I would take any of the three Ranger goaltenders before a Hurricanes goalie.  Be it Shesterskin, Lundquvist, or Georgiev they outshine Mrazek or Reimer. Cannot shake the feeling that the Rangers are feeling no pressure and have the Hurricanes number.

Carolina wins if Mrazek plays better than whoever the Rangers start.  He won’t.

My pick: Rangers in 4

New York Islanders (7) vs. Florida Panthers (10)

First thought here is that this is a matchup of offense, which Florida has, and defense, which the Islanders have.  In net Varlamov and Griess do not inspire a ton of confidence but they should be able to perform better than a not-what-he-once-was Bobrovsky. Most interesting matchup here for me is the ‘stache Quennville against Barry Trotz. You never bet against the ‘stache in the playoffs, until you do.  Trotz has the Islanders playing an organized system and the edge in net will make the difference.  Florida couldn’t take advantage of all the opportunities the Leafs gave them to make the original playoff cutoff and I doubt they can take advantage of the play in here.

Florida wins if Quennville can find a way to break the Islander defense.  The Islanders win if they can control the Panthers top two and win the goaltending matchup.

My pick: Islanders in 5, but I don’t love it.

Toronto Maple Leafs (8) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (9)

Way too much firepower on the Leafs to even compare the forward groups. Columbus has a distinct advantage with a deep defense, but it will still struggle to control the potent Leaf offense. In goal Andersen needs to be a little better, the Leafs will score so he doesn’t need to be great but better than he was in the paused season.  Torts will outcoach Keefe and to be honest I think the bubble will be more entertaining if Torts can find a way to hang around for a bit. In the end the Jackets will try to play a tight game and hang in there keeping it close to let a great goaltending performance or a timely goal decide the series.  The pressure on the Leafs is immense but I think they can do just enough, even if I am rooting for it to go the other way.

Columbus wins if they can keep the Leafs to under 2.5G a game (they were at 3.4 in season).  Leafs win if they keep regular season scoring pace or if Andersen settles into a groove early.

My pick: Leafs in 5 but I really hope it goes the other way just for the Torts interviews

Edmonton Oilers (5) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (12)

After so many years of failure the Oilers finally seem ready to take the next step.  Yes, the power of McDavid and Draisaitl help to hide some concerns on defense and in net but these are not the Blackhawks of 2014.  Kane, Toews, and Crawford could possibly find a way to step up and deliver here but it feels like the window has closed already.  If Crawford doesn’t raise his game to the playoff beast as he has before it won’t even be a long series.

Chicago wins if the hotel hot tub takes them back to 2016 or earlier.

My pick: Oilers in 3

Nashville Predators (6) vs. Phoenix Coyotes (11)

Nashville forwards have been inconsistent and Rinne has been just terrible.  At what point do we start to label Duchene a team killer?  After this series likely.  Phoenix seemed to get worse as the year went on but showed some promise early in the season.  Hall is playing for a contract and Kessel could show up for the playoffs like he did for the Penguins after just 14 goals in season.  Neither team can be relied upon and it will likely be one of the ugly series so I will take the Coyotes goaltender to win in ugly fashion.

Nashville wins if Rinne remembers who he is and actually plays net. Coyotes win if Hall and Kessel have any pride left.

My pick: Coyotes in 4

Vancouver Canucks (7) vs. Minnesota Wild (10)

Any time a young team overperforms I like to pick against them that first year since they need to learn to lose before they can really win.  The Canucks are that young upstart team this year and they play a fast paced game that is very entertaining.  Markstrom has proved to be the real deal on the back end and with a rookie of the year candidate they fit in as that team that needs to lose almost a little too well.  The wild pulled it together and had an acceptable season but not a remarkable one.  They have a good group of players up front and on the back end playing a solid if boring style of game.  I would lean towards the wild if they had a consistent goaltender but they do not. Dubnyk will drop a game or two early and they will compete but not be able to fully recover.

My pick: Vancouver in 5

Calgary Flames (8) vs. Winnipeg Jets (9)

I really wish these guys weren’t playing one another.  Calgary is fun to watch.  They have big talent in Gaudreau and Tkachuk with a strong defensive core to back them up.  The Jets can be explosive in their own way with Laine, Connor, and Scheifele.  While Calgary maintains a slight edge on defense, and likely up front, in net it is a whole different story.  No matter how well Calgary plays they are likely to be shut down by Hellebuyck on his way to the Vezina trophy. In a short series I will lean toward the goalie when everything else is close to equal as it is in this case. It will be interesting to see if the Jets can go on a run away from their white rush at home.

Calgary wins if Hellebuyck goes down or plays like an average goaltender.  Jets win if he performs even 80% of what he did in the regular season.

My pick: Winnipeg in 4

Good luck to whichever team you are cheering for and enjoy the return! May the power of the bubble prevail.