Tuesday, August 30, 2016

J-Speaks: USA Men’s Basketball Team Captures Gold Again

Yes there was a lack of serious star power. Yes there moments where the cohesion on both ends of the court. However, when the chips were on the table, Team USA stepped up to the challenge. Two Sunday ago led by the newest member of the Golden State Warriors and the newest decorated player of USA Olympic basketball, they accomplished their ultimate goal.

Led by the 30 points of the newest member of the Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant on 10 for 19 shooting, including 5 for 11 from three-point range, the United States in their most complete game on both ends defeated Serbia 96-66 in the Gold Medal came to capture their third consecutive gold medal at Carioca Arena 1 in Rio de Janeiro winning all eight of their contest won all eight of their games.

This was their 25th straight win in Olympic competition and their 53rd consecutive victory in major competition, which includes the Olympics going back to 2008; the 2010 FIBA World Cup and FIBA Americas games.

For Durant, this was his second Gold Medal in Olympic competition. New York Knicks’ forward Carmelo Anthony won his third Gold Medal and fourth overall medal. For the rest of the team, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green of the Warriors; Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls; DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers; Harrison Barnes of the Dallas Mavericks; Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors; Paul George of the Indiana Pacers; DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings and Kyrie Irving of the World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers won their first Gold Medals.

This game encapsulated the entire run by the United States, especially in last three games of the tournament.

They got off to a rough start leading by just four (19-15) after the first period as they were plagued once again by too much isolation at the offensive end and not enough ball or man movement.

It was those same issues that Team USA faced in their nail biting wins versus Serbia in the four game of the preliminary round against Serbia (94-91) back on Aug. 12 and against France (100-97) in the fifth game.

That all changed in the second quarter this past Sunday where the US outscored Serbia 33-14 in the second period. There was plenty of ball and man movement and that resulted in Durant outscoring the entire Serbian team by himself in the second quarter 18-14, which gave Team USA a 52-29 lead at intermission and they never looked back.

With the victory, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who had seven points and seven rebounds on Sunday won his third straight Gold Medal, establishing a new record for most Olympic gold medals won by a single player. He also became the first four-time Olympian.

“We fought. It wasn’t always pretty. We came together on July 17 and awe all committed for this one reason right now and it was a special moment for me,” an emotional Anthony said to NBC’s Ros Gold-Onwude after the victory back on Aug 21.

That emotion came from a very sour first experience in the Olympics back in 2004 in Athens where the United States went just 5-3 in that tournament and received the Bronze.

It was from that point that Team USA Men’s Managing Director Jerry Colangelo set to put together the team using a different plan. He wanted to construct the team going forward based on a team concept. Of star NBA players that were not just about themselves, but about playing together on both ends. That would represent the best of the United States of America.

An important part of structuring the team was having the right head coach to lead the charge and Colangelo chose Hall of Fame head coach of Duke University Mike Krzyzewski, who was an assistant on the 1992 Dream Team.

Among the things that Coach K did was he would have special guest like having former Olympian and color analyst for NBC during the Olympics Doug Collins and other times he asked members of the U.S. Military to come and speak to Team USA the last three Olympics.

What Coach K was trying to show from these speakers that in order to accomplish a great feet which the team has done in the Olympics and the World Cup over the past few years is that they have to play together on both ends. That they each had to sacrifice some part of their game so that the team can flourish together.

That occurred in Team USA’s run to gold. In the Gold Medal contest, Cousins of the Sacramento Kings, who had some struggles with foul trouble during the tournament was a big spark off the bench with 13 points and 15 boards.

Thompson, who could not make a shot to save his life for much of this tournament had a solid performance two Sundays ago with 12 points.

That commitment to putting the team first and playing together as one has resulted in a 75-1 mark under the direction of the Hall of Fame head coach of Duke University and three Gold Medals in the Olympics.

That teamwork was on full display in the aforementioned Gold Medal Game two Sundays ago when Team USA had 30 fast break points, scored 26 points off of Serbia’s turnovers and held Serbia to 38 percent shooting from the floor.

The rise back to greatness has been a nice site to see for Team USA, especially since for nearly the past decade because the world has caught up in terms of that they do not fear and Team USA’s opponent Serbia back on Aug. 21 is the perfect example.

In the 2014 World Cup Gold Medal Game, Team USA dominated 129-92. Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers scored 26 points in that game going 6 for 6 from three-point range. Team USA shot 58 percent from the field and outscored Serbia by a plus 30 from long range.

In their aforementioned first encounter of the 2016 Olympics back on Aug. 12, the contest was much closer because former NBA player Miroslav Raduljica and forward for the Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic combined for 43 points going 17 for 28 from the field. Serbia as a team shot 52 percent from the field and they were a plus-nine from three-point land against the U.S.

Unlike Olympics from before, teams across the globe have NBA representation and that is in part thanks to the 1992 Dream Team.

With that being said, Team USA has proven that they are still the best team in the world and even though this was the last run for Coach K, who for certain will be replaced by five-time NBA champion head coach of the San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich and Anthony, this is not the end for U.S. Men’s National Team.

While Popovich will bring a different style of coaching to the team in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the standard and the goal will remain the same.

The roster will be different and have more star power like past Olympians like LeBron James, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook to name a few, but the same team mindset of we and not me.

The journey to Gold in Rio was not an easy one for Team USA. They had many close games where they could have been on the wrong side of the scoreboard. There were times they did not share the ball on offense and they were not cohesive on defense. Still at the end of the day, they made to the Gold Medal Game and won it as a team. That certainly meant a lot to Anthony, who as mentioned earlier earned a bronze in his first Olympics in Athens 12 years ago and has won Gold in his next three opportunities.

“I’ve seen the worst and I’ve seen the best and I stuck with it and I’m here today three Gold medals later,” Anthony said to Gold-Onwude.

“I’m excited for me, but also for the other guys who never experienced this. Coach K. Myself. Jerry Colangelo and everybody else whose been a part of USAB since I’ve been here, I just want to say thank you for allowing me to be one of the leaders of not just our team, but our country. Despite everything that’s going on right now in our country, we got to be united and I’m glad I did what I did. I stepped up to the challenge, but this is what it’s all about. Representing our country on the biggest stage that you could be on. America will be great again. I believe that. We got a lot of work to do.”
Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of 8/21/16 2:15 p.m. Gold Medal Fame of Basketball at Olympics in Rio United States versus Serbia on WNBC (Ch. 4 in New York) with Marv Albert, Doug Collins and Ros Gold-Onwude; www.usab.com/mens/national-team/roster.aspx; 8/21/16 www.nbcolympics.com article, “Team USA Romps To Third Straight Gold Medal,” by Bill Leopold; www.usab.com/mens/national-team/olympic-schedule.aspx; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Colangelo#Basketball; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Krzyzewski#National_team.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

J-Speaks: The Continued Dominance and Lessons from U.S.A. Women’s Basketball

When was the last time that the United States of America’s Women’s Olympic Basketball team sustained a loss? It was on August 5, 1992 to the Russian Women’s National Team 79-73 in Barcelona in the Semifinals. Since then, the United States Women have been on an impressive winning streak and have won Gold Medal after Gold Medal. That continued on Saturday afternoon as well as cementing their own legacy.
The USA defeated Spain 101-72 to capture not just their sixth consecutive gold in the XXXI Olympiad in Rio, but they won their 49 straight Olympic contest and improved their all-time mark to 66-3.
After hanging around against the mighty USA women for about a quarter and a half, USA head coach Geno Auriemma pulled his secret trump card by plugging in all five of his former University of Connecticut Lady Huskies players in Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Maya Moore, Tina Charles and Breanna Stewart, for the first time during the tournament. That quintet sparked a 22-8 that put the game in the USA’s favor and they never looked back.
“It was pretty incredible. We had a goal to win the gold medal,” Taurasi, who hit five more three-pointers to finish with a team-high 17 points said to NBC’s Kerith Burke after the game on Saturday.
Moore, who was the ultimate Swiss army knife for Team USA had 14 points, five boards, six assists, a steal and a block shot.
The reserves for the US also had a major hand in the victory with 55 points, with backup guard and Minnesota Lynx All-Star Lindsay Whalen scoring 17 points. In comparison, the Spain reserves who totaled just 23 points.
To bring the sheer dominance of the US Women’s National team into clearer focus, coming into the Gold Medal contest on Saturday, they averaged 102.3 points per game in the Pool round and in the quarterfinal and semifinal games. Their average margin of victory in the first seven games was 38.4, while holding their opposition to just 37 percent from three-point range, while they, shot 58 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point range. Team USA out-rebounded their opponents by a +17.3 and their assist to turnover ratio was 195-104.
The victory also meant that Taurasi, Bird who play for the Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm respectably in the WNBA and Tamika Catchings of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever captured their fourth gold medals, which ties Teresa Edwards and Hall of Famer and two-WNBA champion with the Los Angeles Sparks Lisa Leslie. Edwards, who played on the 1992 team has five Medals all-time.
This was the first of what will be many gold medals for Taurasi’s teammate with the Mercury Brittney Griner; Bird’s teammate with the Storm in Stewart, who became the first player, man or woman to win four straight NCAA titles, which she did at UConn followed by a gold medal and 2015 WNBA Most Valuable Player for Chicago Sky Elena Delle Donne. This was the third for Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles and the second for Tina Charles, Angel McCoughtry Moore and Whalen.
In their journey to winning gold, Team USA set a number of records. They scored 100 points or more in three straight contest. Their 65-point win against Senegal (121-65) in the preliminary round set a U.S. record for largest margin of victory and the 121 points they put on the board are the most in U.S. women’s Olympic game. They recorded 40 assists in one of the earlier games broke their old record of 36, that they tied earlier in the tournament.
As mentioned earlier, Taurasi was as hot from the three-point line in this tournament as the weather in New York the past few days. The two-time WNBA champion with the aforementioned Mercury not only set an Olympic tournament record for three-point connections with 33, but added to the all-time record for connections from long range with 71 in her Olympic career.
Taurasi, Bird, Stewart, Charles, Moore also continued a legacy of UConn Lady Huskies to make the Olympic team. That legacy began with the likes of Kara Wolters, current WNBA analyst for ESPN and former New York Liberty player Rebecca Lobo, Asjha Jones and Swintayla “Swin” Cash.
Auriemma, the all-time leader with 11 NCAA titles also made history as the first head coach for the Women’s National team to led his team to back-to-back gold medals and has continued the amazing legacy of greatness that began with Billie Moore back in 1976, with one of his players being Hall of Famer Ann Meyers Drysdale. That legacy then moved onto the late Sue Gunter in 1980; the late great Hall of Fame head coach of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers Pat Summitt in 1984; the late Kay Yow in 1988; Teresa Grentz in 1992; Stanford Lady Cardinals head coach Tara Vanderveer in 1996; Nell Fortner in 2000; four-time WNBA champion with the then Houston Comets Van Chancellor in 2004; Former WNBA head coach and player for Team USA Anne Donovan.
This greatness that was on full display during the 2016 Olympics is no accident. Eight of the players on the roster have won a WNBA title. Seven of the players have won an NCAA title; Seven were named College Player of the Year when they were in school and that same number were named WNBA Rookie of the Year in their first respective season’s in the league. Eight of the player were No. 1 overall picks and two were No. 2 overall picks.
The great thing about this talented, highly accolated group is that in each game, they put an A+ performance on the court from start to finish. Offensively, they looked for the open woman at the offensive end time and time again. Defensively they made it very difficult for the opponent to get into their offensive sets with any kind of consistency.
Each player brought something to the table that helped the team win. Griner showed throughout the tournament her ability to score in the paint at the offensive end and be a great rim protector on the defensive end. Augustus knocked down 15 and 16 foot jump shots time in and time out. Moore presence on the perimeter on both ends was exceptional. Whalen and Bird complimented each other very well at the lead guard spot with the former Minnesota Golden Gopher able to change the pace of the game when she replaced Bird and the former UConn guard provided a steady presence on the court with her ability to run the team without scoring a point. McCoughtry also provided a major spark of the bench with her ability to also be a Pitbull on the perimeter defensively and score from the perimeter or attack the basket offensively.
Having great basketball minds in assistant coaches Doug Bruno, head coach at DePaul University; Lynx three-time WNBA champion head coach Cheryl Reeve and University of South Carolina head coach and a member of the 1996 Team Dawn Staley next to Auriemma was a major plus.
Catching more than any of the players really showed her greatness as a teammate throughout the tournament. The 37-year-old WNBA champion, WNBA MVP, perennial All-Star and five-time Defensive Player of the Year, who will retire at the end of the WNBA season did not play a lot of minutes, but her energy on the bench and how she communicated with her teammates showed the kind of unity that this team had and resulted in winning gold in Rio and carved their own legacy, while continuing what the 1996 team started in the Olympics in Atlanta, GA and will continue into the future.
“There was something else you wanted to get across. That this is probably the best team sport that you can play and we made it that the whole time,” Taurasi said. “It’s not about one person. One coach. It was about how can we make this the best basketball team ever? And it wasn’t easy. Doesn’t matter what the scores were. A lot of people had to sacrifice to get to what we did today and it just feels really good.”
Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy from coverage of XXXI Olympiad on NBC from Aug. 5–Aug. 20, 2016; 8/20/16 article “Stay Golden: USA Tops Spain for Sixth Straight Olympic Title,” by Bill Leopold on www.nbcolympics.com; 8/20/16 2 p.m. EST Women’s Basketball Gold Medal Game between Spain versus USA on NBC commentated by Marc Zumoff, Ann Meyers Drysdale and sideline reporter Kerith Burke; www.uasb.com/womens/national-team/roster.aspx; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basketball_at_the_1992_Summer_Olympics#Women; Http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamika_Catchings.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

J-Speaks: The Passing of a Well Respected Broadcast Legend at ESPN

One of the most important aspects of being a great broadcast journalist is to be versatile. To be knowledgeable in many areas of your field of this particular kind of journalism. For 30 years, ESPN had that and then some from an Ontario, Canada native who knew the game of college football as well as he did the game of hockey. No one was better at hosting halftime shows as well as one of the ESPN’s biggest shows on Sunday mornings. He was also a proud mentor to many at ESPN and was a founding member of the board of directors of a major foundation for cancer research. Last week without warning, we said goodbye to this great on-air personality.

Last week, John Peterson Saunders, who worked for “The World Wide Leader in Sports” since 1986 passed away. He was 61 years old. He is survived by his wife Wanda and their two daughters Aleah and Jenna.

“This tragic news brings us unspeakable sorrow,” the family said in a statement a week ago. “John was the patriarch of our family, and we can’t believe he is gone. We are sincerely touched by the outpouring of support and sadness, which is a reflection of the character and integrity that defined him.

This passing is very shocking because according to reports Saunders did not have any serious health issues and just the week before appeared at the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) convention in Washington, D.C.

Although the family also did say in their issued statement a week ago that Saunders was not feeling well physically in recent days and was unresponsive early on the morning of his passing.

Nowhere was that more so than from the colleagues of the Sunday morning ESPN show, “The Sports Reporters,” which Saunders had hosted since Sept. 2001 succeeding Dick Schaap, the father of ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap.

Saunders absence was very much felt during this past Sunday’s episode where regular hosts in author and journalist Mitch Albom; New York Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica; former sports columnist for The New York Times William C. Rhoden and former sports writer for The Boston Globe Bob Ryan each took turns expressing their condolences as well delivering well deserved tributes about how Saunders touched their lives.

“The phenomenal public outpouring of grief and love for him speaks for itself,” Ryan said during his tribute this past Sunday. “Yes, he was a very good guy. We will miss our friend, most all. ESPH has lost a first-ballot Hall of Fame TV talent.”

Those same feelings were echoed by many of his colleagues within ESPN that he was very popular with and say him as a mentor as well.                            

“He was a big brother. A father figure,” Stephen A. Smith, co-host of ESPN’s First Take with Molly Qerim and Max Kellerman, weekdays from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. on ESPN 2 said while shedding tears last week about his colleague who he worked with on NBA Countdown in the middle of the 2000s.

“Somehow, someway he always had the strength to give guys like myself the level of guidance. That big brother that we all needed. We talk a lot about great individuals that worked at this company, especially my man Stuart Scott, who I still miss to this day, but I always called John Saunders, ‘The God Father,’ because he was one of the originals… He always was a mentor and an advisor. He meant so much to me.”

ESPN College Basketball analyst Dick Vitale said that Saunders, “represented everything that was good in a human being. “He was all about family and helping people. He was as good as it gets, and he had deep loyalty and love for others.”

NFL Insider analyst Chris Mortensen, who is currently on leave being treated for throat cancer said on Twitter, “The news of John Saunders’ death could not be more crushing. We all loved him dearly. We grieve. We will miss him. Can’t replace the man.”

Co-host of ESPN’s “His and Hers” weekdays on ESPN 2 Jemele Hill alongside Michael Smith also expressed their feelings about what Saunders meant to them.

Smith said on the show last week that he was late for church on many occasions to catch Saunders and Schaap before him on “The Sports Reporters.” He even said that last in August of last year, he got to host the show as Saunders’ replacement that Sunday and he even got to sit in his chair.

“It’s really hard not just for me, but a lot of people here,” Hill who was just with Saunders at the NABJ last Friday for a panel discussion along with fellow ESPN colleague Jay Harris said. “For him to tell his story and share with a lot of people who want to work at ESPN, we can only be so lucky the kind of lengthy and prominent career that he’s had in sports broadcasting. For them to hear him go through what he’d been through on his journey was very inspiring and motivating.”

That motivation and inspiration for sports began for Saunders in his aforementioned place of birth in Ontario where he had a particular fondness for Canada’s famed sport hockey.

He was an all-star defenseman in the Montreal junior leagues. Both Saunders and his brother Bernie received scholarships to play hockey at Western Michigan University from 1974-76.

Saunders transferred to Ryerson University in Toronto where he played for the Rams hockey team from 1976-78. In his last year, he was named to the Ontario University Athletic Association All-Star team.

His broadcast journey began as a news director for CKNS Radio in Espanola, Ontario in 1978. Saunders then became a sports anchor at CKNY-TV in North Bay, Ontario from 1978-79 and then took the same position one year later at ATV News in New Brunswick. The next two years, Saunders was the lead sports anchor for CITY-TV in Toronto.

His first sports broadcast job in the United States was the lead sports anchor at WMAR-TV in Baltimore, MD from 1982-1986.

He would then move on to join ESPN, “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” and became not only one of the most versatile broadcasters in the sports world, but a trail blazer that showed many people of color that they can make their dreams of doing what he did a reality.

His legendary resume of work at ESPN consist of hosting the aforementioned ESPN Sunday staple show “The Sports Reporters,” since September 2001. From 1987-89, he co-hosted “NFL Primetime” alongside the recently retired Tom Jackson.

For 12 years, Saunders hosted the network’s National Hockey League (NHL) coverage and then became the studio host of the American Broadcasting Company’s (ABC) coverage of college football. He also hosted ABC’s coverage of baseball under the Baseball Night in America banner.

Saunders also served as anchor of 1995 World Series for ABC between Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians. The Braves won their third World Series in team history in six games.

During that time frame, Saunders worked as the play-by-play commentator for Canada’s new professional basketball team the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1995-2001. He was eventually replaced by Chuck Swirly.

From 2002-2004 and on occasion in 2007, Saunders was a play-by-play commentator for ESPN’s NBA coverage mainly on Sunday evenings. He also did NBA broadcast when they were on ABC, which parent company is Walt Disney as well as being the studio host for ESPN’s pregame show “NBA Shootaround,” from 2004-2006 alongside Stephen A. Smith.

Saunders called most of the Team U.S.A.’s games on ESPN during the 2007 FIBA Americas Qualifying Tournament.

One year later, he began hosting the 7 p.m. Sunday night broadcast of ESPN’s flagship show “Sportscenter,” during the NFL season with “Sunday NFL Countdown” host Chris Berman and Jackson.

John Saunders was our friend, and he was your friend. You were immediately comfortable with John in 30 seconds,” Berman said. “I was fortunate enough to be comfortable with him for 30 years. We knew him for his understated demeanor and understated smile, but we also knew him for his firm commitment to getting things right and treating people right. John was old school, even Old World. Maybe because he was Canadian. May because he was John.”

While he became well known for his greatness as one of the most versatile broadcasters both in the U.S. and in Canada, Saunders greatest work came off the television set where he was a founding member of the board of directors for The V Foundation For Cancer Research, which is named in the honor of the late great basketball coach of the North Carolina State Wolfpack and close friend of his Jimmy Valvano, who passed away from bone cancer 17 years ago.

The charity has raised nearly $90 million dollars with all of the money going to fund a cure for cancer.

“His work with The V Foundation was so special,” Vitale said. “He loved Jimmy V and poured his heart and soul into the cause. He was always willing to share and give, and he played a vital role in the success of helping so many.”

John Saunders was many things as a broadcaster. He was knowledgeable. He was precise. He was exceptional. He was human. Saunders was a relentless worker. Someone with great character, demeanor and heart and most of all, he had the bravery to be himself on camera and had the willingness to share his knowledge with others. Because of that, we get to see and listen to the likes of Stephen A. Smith, Michael Smith, Jemele Hill, Jay Harris and many other people of color tells what is going on in the world of sports each day.

John Saunders was a special man who had a special gift and he used that gift very well and earned the respect of his colleagues that he worked with and even became close friends with those that he worked with.

If ESPN had a Mount Rushmore it would consist of Chris Berman, Bob Ley, Dick Schaap, Stuart Scott and John Saunders.
Information and quotations are courtesy of 8/10/16 edition of ESPN’s First Take with Molly Qerim, Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman on ESPN 2; 8/10/16 edition of “His and Hers,” with Michael Smith and Jemele Hill on ESPN 2; 8/11/16 New York Newsday article “Popular ESPN Host, Mentor,” by Neil Best; 8/11/16 espn.com news service article, “Longtime ESPN Host John Saunders dead at Age 61;” 8/14/16 Tampa Bay Times article on www.tampabay.com/sports, “ESPN’s Sports Reporters Airs Appropriate Tribute To Classy John Saunders;” 8/15/16 article on www.theundefeated.com, “Hosts of The Sports Reporters Remember John Saunders in Touching Tributes,” by Maya A. Jones;  http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Saunders_(journalist); http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlanta_Braves.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

J-Speaks: Tex and A-Rod Say Goodbye

For a long time, the New York Yankees have been one of the most recognizable and winningest franchises in baseball history, especially in the late 1990s and early and late 2000s. Those recognizable players that led the “Bronx Bombers” to World Series titles include future Hall of Famers, who also were known as the “Core Four” Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte. Over the last few years, we have said goodbye to the “Core Four,” with Jeter being the last to retire after the 2014 season. In just the last few days, the most polarizing Yankee in a long time and a former prize free agent from a few years ago announced that they are going to hang up their pinstripes.

It all started this past Friday when Yankees’ first baseman Mark Teixeria, who signed with the team back on Jan. 6, 2009, announced that his 14th year in the majors would be his last.

Throughout the press conference, the three-time All-Star shed tears on several occasions at Yankee Stadium with many of his teammates on hand.

“After 14 years, it’s time for me to do something else. After this season, I’m going to retire and do something else, “Teixeria said.

“But this felt like it was the right time for me to step away from the game. I want to finish this season on a high note. I know my teammates want to finish this season on a high note. We’re going to do everything we can to win games and leave it all out there. That’s one of the reasons I’m announcing this now. I don’t want to be a distraction. I know we’re a team in transition, but I don’t want to be a distraction, and I don’t want anyone to think that I’m thinking about next year or my future, because this is it. This is it for me.”

A little over two days later, an unexpected retirement was announced as the Yankees’ most controversial player Alex Rodriguez announced that at weeks end, which is this Friday will be his last game as a member of the team.

The 41-year-old third baseman/shortstop, who also played for the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers in his 21-year career, with the last 12 in New York talked about the challenges he has faced over the past few years both on and off the baseball diamond.

The retirement of A-Rod was something that had been going around the Yankees organization the past few weeks and it all came to ahead at the start of the week, with the farewell of the 14-time All-Star and three-time American League MVP this Friday at Yankee Stadium versus American League East rival the Tampa Bay Rays. After that he will be released by the team.  

“I want to thank mom, whose watching at home and my daughters. Thank you for your support. You’ve been through so much with me,” Rodriguez said on Sunday as he was holding back tears.

Following his finale in pinstripes, Rodriguez will be released by the team and in a big surprise will move into a new role as Special Advisor and Instructor to Young Players of the Yankees.

According to A-Rod, the idea was first brought to the 10-time Silver Slugger Award winner by Yankees’ Managing Partner Hal Steinbrenner earlier this week. Rodriguez also said that he was not given an ultimatum by the organization to accept this role or that he would be given his walking papers, which was reiterated at Sunday’s press conference by general manager Brian Cashman.

“Based on listening to both of them, can I tell you my guess would be I don’t think it would be a forced situation? I think you got to take Alex’s word for that as well.”

Cashman also said that Rodriguez would be paid the remainder of the 2015 season and a total of roughly $21 million next season, which is the final of the 10-year $275 million contract he signed on Nov. 15, 2007 as he slides into his new position.

When a player reaches the end of their career we take a look back to see what brought them to this point of saying goodbye to the game they gave their blood, sweat and tears to.

For Teixeria, it was the injuries he has sustained over the past few years, which has caused his numbers to decrease.

Seven years ago, he officially signed an eight-year $180 million contract on Jan. 6, 2009 his 39 home runs and 122 runs batted in were a major reason he finished second in the AL MVP balloting of that season.

The last few years for Teixeria have been marred by injuries so much so that he has not played in more than 123 games over the past five seasons, which includes just 15 appearances three seasons back due to surgery on his wrist.

He continues to battle the injury bug with the latest aliment being torn cartilage in his right knee, which he says will require surgery. At the 77-game mark coming into the Yankees most recent action during the week, he was batting just .177 with 10 homers, 27 RBIs and head scratching .627 on base percentage. This is on the heels of what Teixeria said back in spring training that he would like to play in the majors for five more years.

“I was far from perfect… But I gave everything I had,” Teixeria, who said out the finale of the “Subway Series” with the Mets because of a sore shin he sustained by getting hit from a pitch by Steven Matz the night prior last week said. “It wasn’t always enough, but I tried my best.”

In the case of Rodriguez, the back nine of his career with the Yankees has come from things that were in his control.

Back in 2009, it was discovered that A-Rod tested positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs), which he admitted to doing from 2001-2003 after a report in the Feb. 7, 2009 edition of Sports Illustrated where Rodriguez’s name appeared on a government sealed list of 104 major leaguers tested positive.

His alleged frosty relationship with the most beloved Yankee in Jeter; his inability to perform in the postseason where many Yankee legends names are forged and many other forms of drama defined Rodriguez’s time with the team.

With that being said, it is those lessons he had to learn the hard way, which included being suspended for the entire 2014 season by Major League Baseball can help him in his new role.

“For a guy like me that’s been to hell and back and made every mistake in the book, I think they can learn equally from all the mistakes I’ve made and hopefully not make them,” Rodriguez said.

There is one thing that both Teixeria and Rodriguez can hang their hats on in their career as Yankees, they did help the team win the World Series in 2009. While it was their only one in their time with the “Bronx Bombers,” it was one more that they had in their entire careers up to that point.

Most great players in MLB, NHL, NFL and NBA do not even get one and they were able to help lead the Yankees to one.

What makes it even more special is that they accomplished that for an organization that is expected to win, especially when “The Boss,” the late great George Steinbrenner was breathing.

“There’s something about the Yankees and once I put on the pinstripes, I just felt it, I understood it,” Teixeria said.

Nobody understood more than the fans, who had great appreciation for both players, especially A-Rod despite all the self-inflicted drama. They said as much to WCBS2’s Brian Conybeare this past Sunday.  

“It’s sad to see him go. I’m in mourning today,” one lady fan said this past Sunday.

“I’ve been a Yankee’s fan all my life and probably my favorite player would be him [Rodriguez],” a young boy said.

“If it’s not working out for him to remain playing for the Yankees as a team, then having him as an advisor for the young up and comers is awesome,” Michelle Amin of Livingston, NJ said.   

The next question for both Teixeria and Rodriguez is are they going to go into the Baseball Hall of Fame one day in Cooperstown, NY?

While the numbers for Teixeria of 404 homers, 1,839 hits, 402 doubles, 1,282 RBIs and .269 hitting percentage are solid, they do not jump off the page. Also he was not a game changer to the point where you do not remember a certain play in a big game where he made the difference, like what Jeter did many times.

Meaning, he did not have many more jump out of your chair moments like when he hit a walk-off home run against the Minnesota Twins in the 2009 American League Division Series.

In the case of Alex Rodriguez, his numbers are remarkable with 696 homers, 2,084 RBIs, 547 doubles, a .295 hitting percentage and a .550 slugging percentage.

To put the amazing talent of Rodriguez displayed on the baseball diamond into perspective, he likely will finish just four homers shy of 700. They only other players to hit 700 balls out of the ball park in MLB history are Hall of Famers Babe Ruth (714), Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762), whose call to Cooperstown, NY may or may not come because of his involvement in the 2003 BALCO scandal which alleged that he took steroids, even though it was never proven.

His obstacle of getting into the Hall of Fame are the fact that he used PEDs, which has also kept the likes of Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro from getting into the Hall and the fact that with all his great skill he never put the Yankees or the Texas Rangers or Seattle Mariners over the top in terms of winning titles.

In 48 hours the Yankee faithful will be saying goodbye to Alex Rodriguez the player and at season’s end, they will be saying goodbye to Mark Teixeria.

These were players that when they signed in 2004 and 2009 respectably were supposed to lead the Yankees to multiple championships for many years. Because of injuries, inconsistency on and off the diamond, particularly for Rodriguez they only won one title. They did bring an excitement to New York. They left it all on the diamond and gained an appreciation for what it meant to wear and represent one of the greatest franchises in pro sports history.

“I’ve been lucky enough to play for the Yankees, the greatest organization in sports history,” Teixeria said. “What I’ll take from my time here is an unbelievable city, a great fan base, World Championship and a lot of winning.”

“This is a tough day. I love this game and I love this team and today I’m saying goodbye to both,” Rodriguez said on Sunday morning.

Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of 8/6/16 New York Daily News article "Tex Message: Cry and Dry," by John Harper; 8/7/16 6:30 p.m. edition of “CBS 2 News at 6,” with Jessica Moore, reports from Mark Morgan and Brian Conybeare; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Yankees; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Teixeria; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Rodriguez; www.espn.com/mlb/player/stats/_/id/4937/mark-teixeria; www.espn.com/mlb/player/stats/_/id/3115/alex-rodriguez; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babe_Ruth; www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/700_Home_Run_Club.