City's Best: Cleveland's Top Five Athletes
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The Browns last won a championship in 1964. The Indians have to go back to 1948 for a World Series title. And the Cavs ... well, despite a finals appearance a few weeks ago, they're still looking. Whatever, no need to dwell on the negative. There are plenty of great players currently in the city, and our aim here is to highlight the good stuff. So let's get to it. (By the way, many thanks to Alex and Corey, the guys behind Mistake by the Lake. Without their indispensable insights this list would have LeBron James and Leigh Bodden. Weird, I know.)
5. Leigh Bodden: You knew that was coming, right? I wrote last week that according to Pro Football Prospectus 2006, Bodden was one of the NFL's best coverage corners, something that isn't immediately obvious from casually watching the Browns games. Not too shabby for an undrafted free agent from Duquesne.
4. Travis Hafner: Since becoming a full-time player in 2004, Hafner has 113 home runs and 386 RBI, all while hitting close to .300. That's pretty impressive for a dude nicknamed "Pronk" ("The Project" + "Donkey" = "Pronk"). Other fun facts: Pronk was high school valedictorian (class size: 12), he's a big WWE fan, and he loves long walks on the beach while listening to Yanni on his iPod mini. (That last one may or may not be true.)
3. Grady Sizemore: Easily the best player in Major League Baseball named Grady. "Sanford and Son" jokes aside, Sizemore is one of the best centerfielders in baseball, and he's also got some pop: 50 homers the last two seasons, 11 more in '07. His biggest issue -- especially as a lead-off hitter -- is striking out. After 185 Ks in '05-'06, Grady's already racked up 76 this season. Still, his on-base percentage is around .370, he's a base-stealing threat, and, well, there's this.
2. C.C. Sabathia: Yeah, a lot of Indians on the list, but the Browns haven't exactly been stringing together winning seasons recently. Plus, Sabathia has been the team's best pitcher during his seven-year career. Since arriving in Cleveland, he's never had a losing record, never won fewer than 11 games, averaged 194 innings per season, and if not for Ichiro, would've been 2001 Rookie of the Year (C.C. went 17-5). Other stuff you probably knew: he dated tennis player Serena Williams; according to Wikipedia, he's the second heaviest MLBer after Walter Young; and he signed with the Indians in 1998 for $1.3 million. Ah, the good 'ol days of seven-figure signing bonuses.
1. LeBron James: Does anybody on Planet Earth, other than Kellen Winslow, dispute this?
6. Victor Martinez - If he played in New York or Boston, everybody would know him.
7. Kamerion Wimbley - A great football player and an even better person.
8. Andra Davis - Underrated linebacker, but maybe the most important player on Browns' defense.
9. Drew Gooden - Balding, headband ... what's not to like?
10. Ryan Pontbriand - from Alex at Mistake by the Lake: "Not only is he the highest drafted long snapper in N.F.L. history, but he hasn't botched a snap since his freshman year. His freshman year of high school."