2014 Sports Year In Review: Who Was Naughty And Who Was Nice

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Nice list:

Oct 1, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; The Pittsburgh Pirates stand for the National Anthem prior to the 2014 National League Wild Card playoff baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates management– Pittsburgh Pirates management has proven these past two seasons that it knows how to build a team. The payroll is projected to rise over $90 million which is a welcomed edition. The current starting rotation projects to include Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano along with many other options which include Charlie Morton, Vance Worley, Stolmy Pimentel, Brandon Cumpton and Brad Lincoln. It also should be considered a big win that the Pirates won the bidding rights for Jung-Ho Kang, a shortstop that has shown the ability to hit for power. How that will translate in America is anyone’s guess but it was nice to see the Pirates put up $5 million knowing if they fail to reach an agreement that they will get that money back.

Earlier this season I wrote about how Neal Huntington has earned the fans trust (https://cityofchampionssports.com/2014/07/31/neal-huntington-pirates-fans-trust/) and was met with a rather negative reaction. The article was written the day of the trade deadline but prior to its conclusion with many fans voicing their frustrations that the Pirates did next to nothing. The Pirates have no reason to trade their farm at this point, they are contenders as is and the past two years have lost to a World Series finalist and World Series champion respectively. I understand some fans are still skeptical since the Pirates have not succeeded yet in the playoffs, however it will come. Those who wanted AJ Burnett back so desperately now know he was damaged goods last season but that he is determined once again while pitching at a place he wants to spend his final season. Are there still questions marks? Sure, but what team does not have question marks? The Pirates will finish above .500 once again in 2015 against an NL Central that will be the most competitive from top to bottom in years.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I believe in the Pirates again and more importantly so do the fans. This team should be considered a legitimate threat to win the division this season and several holes have been filled. Antonio Bastardo will fill the void Justin Wilson created as a second lefty in 2014. No Russell Martin is not back but I do trust that Francisco Cervelli will remain healthy. Pedro Alvarez will have no more mental hurdles at third base and Corey Hart was a great addition in that he can provide a bat against left-handed pitching as well as reps at either first base or the outfield. I also believe this will be a breakout season for Jordy Mercer both offensively and defensively. This team is built to win and fans should stop making Bob Nutting is cheap jokes and instead buy in if they haven’t already.

2. Todd Haley– Who ever would have envisioned this happening? Fans led by Snoop Dogg wanted Haley out of Pittsburgh immediately. Tickets to Monday Night Football against the Houston Texans were practically being given away both by scalpers and Stubhub alike. The stadium took a while to fill up and when the Texans led 13-0 with 7:06 left in the second quarter, those same fans convinced they were watching a familiar script filed out of Heinz Field. Other fans voiced their frustrations in the offense which was rather stagnant. All of a sudden the Steelers came back to life and led 24-13 at halftime. Steeler football was back. Haley like many on the Steelers coaching staff were only blamed and never credited.

Put it this way, Ben Roethlisberger is having a breakout season thus far with career highs of 4,635 passing yards, 309.6 yards per game and a 67.4 percent completion rate. Furthermore, Roethlisberger is two touchdowns away from tying his career high in a season at 32 and 0.3 percent away from tying his career high quarterback ranking of 104.1. The Steelers are second in the NFL in passing yards per game. In this past this would have meant the end of the Steelers running game, but Le’Veon Bell is having anything but a sophomore slump leading the 13th best rushing attack which averages 114.9 yards per game. For all of the Steelers’ draft woes, do you still think Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin made a mistake selecting Bell over Eddie Lacy? This is the most balanced the Steelers have been in a long time.

Haley deserves credit for not letting the criticism affect him and instead made the Steelers offense more balanced than it ever had been in his time with the team. While fans love to criticize Haley, he also deserves praise when he is right. This is a time for that.

3. Kevin Durant– Being one of the best players in sports, it is easy to let the fame go to your head, however Durant has done anything but that. Need proof? His MVP speech involved endless praise of his teammates, all of whom were named as well as those who got him to where he was in a position to receive the award. Durant is also smart off the court staying with Nike for a deal believed to be worth $265-$285 million through 2024. Durant also has a good heart helping fulfill several Make-A-Wish requests as well as recently giving a child whose Kevin Durant shoes were a prized possession an autographed replacement. Durant’s heart is as big as his game and that merited him a spot on this list.