Open Bar: Ranking Seattle's best athletes
Posted by Jerry Brewer
NOTE: Because the Cliff Lee trade might happen today, the first Open Bar will be shortened. Instead of the planned four posts, this will be the only post of the day. The other selections will roll over to next Friday. I apologize, but when big news happens, I have to take off my blogger hat and be a columnist.
Also a reminder: I'm accepting offers for the next batch of ideas right now. Remember, Open Bar is your opportunity to tell me what to write. Just leave a comment or e-mail me at email@example.com, and you instantly become my boss. The deadline for next week's ideas is Tuesday, July 13.
Now, onto today's idea, which was suggested by Nathan Parsons. He wrote this story suggestion:
You should do a story on "Top ten athletes in the Seattle area." Have that your sports include Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders, Storm, UW football, and UW basketball.
This would be great because of the slow sports news in the coming month.
Well, Nathan, I decided to expand the idea a tad. I'm retaining the spirit of your request, but instead of 10 local athletes, I ranked 20 and also did an honorable mention list. And I made everyone involved in local team sports, even the smaller ones, eligible.
My criteria: The players had to participate for a Seattle team during the 2009-10 athletic season. I might do a top 20 list that includes all athletes with local ties later, but this one was specific to Seattle team sports. I took into account the following: sheer excellence, impact on the city, total accomplishments as opposed to how they're currently performing, winning, star power and dominance as it relates to their sport.
So, here we go.
Honorable mention: Katie Follett (Washington track/cross country), Kendra Schaaf (Washington track/cross country), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Seahawks), Marcus Trufant (Seahawks), Jenn Salling (Washington softball), Kasen Williams (Skyline), Chris Polk (Washington football), Jermaine Kearse (Washington football), Mason Foster (Washington football), Donald Butler (Washington football), Charles Garcia (Seattle University), Tony Wroten (Garfield high school, sat out with knee injury this past year), Niki Williams (Washington softball).
20. Jessica Pixler, Seattle Pacific
Comment: The distance-running star won 12 Division II NCAA titles in cross country, outdoor and indoor track. She also won the CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America of the Year award for women's track and cross country. Now, she heads to the University of Colorado graduate school, and she still has some eligibility to compete in Division I for the first time.
19. Jake Heaps, Skyline High School
Comment: He chose BYU over Washington, but don't hate on what the nation's best prep quarterback has already accomplished. He led the Spartans to a 40-2 record as a starter and three straight state titles.
18. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Washington football
Comment: The defensive end is the Huskies' all-time sacks leader with 30.5, and if not for all the losing, he'd be appreciated even more. His production was rewarded in the NFL draft when Philadelphia selected him in the third round.
17. Kasey Keller, Sounders FC
Comment: The local goalkeeping icon enjoyed a great international career and participated in four World Cups. Now, he's a big reason the Sounders have become a popular start-up franchise.
16. Tamari Miyashiro, Washington volleyball
Comment: The libero was a three-time All-American and two-time national defensive player of the year for the Husky volleyball team. Along with former Husky setter Courtney Thompson, Miyashiro recently helped the U.S. women's national team win a bronze medal at the 2010 Pan American Cup.
15. Swin Cash, Storm
Comment: The All-Star forward is also an Olympic gold medalist and a two-time NCAA champion. She won a title with the Detroit Shock and may be on her way to doing the same with the Storm this season.
14. Lofa Tatupu, Seahawks
Comment: Injuries the past two seasons have made us almost forget that he's one of the best middle linebackers in the game. And he was a rookie starter in 2005, the year the Seahawks made their only Super Bowl appearance.
13. Franklin Gutierrez, Mariners
Comment: He's acclaimed by many as best defensive center fielder in baseball. He's only 27 and still developing as a hitter. And the ladies love him and call him "CUTIE-errez." Sorry, though, he's married.
12. Isaiah Thomas, Washington basketball
Comment: The Tacoma native has already established himself as one of the greatest Husky basketball players ever -- and he has two more seasons left. He's a 5-foot-8 scoring machine who has become a better distributor. If we do this list next year, he'll be in the top 5.
11. Quincy Pondexter, Washington basketball
Comment: As a senior, he led the Huskies to the Sweet 16 this past season, capping off a career of gradual growth over four years. He was selected No. 26 overall in the NBA draft last month. He'll start his pro career in New Orleans.
10. Freddie Ljungberg, Sounders FC
Comment: The Swedish midfielder is an accomplished international star who played his prime years for Arsenal. He's 33 now and is helping the Sounders franchise develop.
9. Sue Bird, Storm
Comment: She's one of the faces of the WNBA, the best point guard in the league, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and helped the Storm win a title in 2004. And she doesn't turn 30 until October.
8. Cliff Lee, Mariners
Comment: He could be an ex-Mariner in minutes. He's only made 13 starts in Seattle. But how incredible have those 13 starts been? It's not his fault the Mariners couldn't put a better team around him. Too bad he couldn't stay longer, however. He could've been a legend here.
7. Nick Taylor, Washington golf
Comment: He developed into the best amateur golfer in the world as a Husky. Enough said.
6. Jake Locker, Washington football
Comment: Montlake Jake is the best pure athlete in the city. Now, as a fifth-year senior, he's a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and the possible No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL draft. The only thing missing on his resume: a winning season. The upcoming season is huge for his legacy.
5. Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Comment: At 24, he has appeared in one All-Star Game and finished second in the AL Cy Young voting last season. And we know he can get better. Fortunately, he signed a five-year deal to stay with the Mariners earlier this year.
4. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks
Comment: He's a three-time Pro Bowler and the leader of the only Seahawks team to make it to the Super Bowl. That makes him the best quarterback in franchise history. But he'll be 35 in September and enters the final year of his contract. Appreciate him for as long as you can.
3. Lauren Jackson, Storm
Comment: The versatile Aussie star is a seven-time WNBA All-Star and a two-time league MVP. She has three Olympic silver medals. She led the Storm to the 2004 title. She's on pace for another MVP and championship season this year if the team can stay healthy. And she's only 29.
2. Danielle Lawrie, Washington softball
Comment: The overpowering pitcher is perhaps the most dominant Husky athlete ever. She's a three-time All-American and two-time national player of the year. She rewrote almost every Husky pitching record, helped the team make three Women's College World Series berths and led the Huskies to their first national title in 2009. If the athletic department really wants to create a buzz, not to mention honor her in a special manner, it should retire her No. 15 jersey for all sports.
1. Ichiro, Mariners
Comment: The Japanese superstar has a .332 career batting average. In 2001, he won the AL MVP as a rookie. He's on his way to his 10th straight 200-hit season and set a record with 262 in 2004. He's almost 37 and showing few signs of age. He'll be an effective player into his early 40s, which means he will join the 3,000-hit club. A surefire future Hall of Famer.
What do you think of this list? Give me your top 10 or 20 now. I can't wait to learn how differently (or similarly) we think.
Fed up with my long-winded ways? Follow me on Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer. Sometimes, I don't even use all 140 characters there.
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Feb 3 - 9:47 AM Wishing Steve Kelley the best in retirement
Jan 25 - 4:31 PM Jerry Brewer hits the red carpet at Sports Star of the Year