Thursday, May 14, 2020

11 Shows Nickelodeon Needs to Bring to the Streaming Game

Coming off the heels of the wildly successful Disney+ launch, Nickelodeon announced its plans in November to partner with Netflix, and bring some of its shows to the ever-expanding streaming landscape.

For the past six months I've been eagerly anticipating the return of many of my favorite Nick shows from the first decade of the new millennium. Growing up in the 2000s, you were either a Disney Channel kid, or a Nickelodeon kid. I was (and still am) a Nick kid.

Since my sister purchased Disney+, I've seen some old Disney Channel shows that just don't quite hold up for me as a 25 year-old man in the year 2020. Sure, Even Stevens, Lizzie McGuire, and many of the Disney Channel Original Movies have cemented their greatness over the years, but apart from them there really isn't a whole lot from Disney Channel to be excited about.

Nick on the other hand holds up wonderfully. In recent years I've gone back and watched episodes of several shows, and was pleasantly surprised at how funny and thoughtful the shows were, and how appealing they still are to me as an adult. I even had a [brain]blast podcasting on the original Jimmy Neutron movie last summer.

While it still remains unclear what Nick's partnership with Netflix will entail, how many shows will be brought to Netflix, or if throwback Nick shows will instead be going to CBS All-Access, I can't help but create my own wish list of the 11 shows Nickelodeon should bring to the streaming game, especially now, during this temporary period of social-distancing.

*Note: All of my selections come between the years 2000 and 2008. In the fall of 2008, I entered high school, and suddenly became "too cool" or "too busy" for kids shows. Or something like that. So if a show existed pre-2000 or post-2008, chances are I haven't seen it and cannot judge it fairly. Doesn't mean it wasn't a great show, however!

11) Spongebob Squarepants (1999 - Present)

The first entry on our list is a pure gimme. It's impossible to imagine a Nickelodeon streaming service without its flagship show. The creators of Spongebob have been churning out new episodes for well over 20 years now, amazingly, keeping the show fresh and relevant to three different generations (Gen Y, Gen Z, and Gen Alpha).

10) Blue's Clues (1996 - 2006, 2019 - Present)

This incredibly charming and adorable show that premiered in 1996 is one of the most important programs Nickelodeon ever created. Blue's Clues was a smash hit. What other Nick programs had a live stage show that traveled from city to city, around the country?

Steve Burns retiring from his Blue's Clues gig sent shock-waves across the nation, as millions of people wondered what happened to him, many coming to false conclusions. Rumors of his death circulated. The world was a different place in the early 2000s, with no smartphones or social media. Fortunately nothing bad happened to Steve, but the excessive tabloid rumors showcased how big of a wide-ranging reach Blue's Clues had. In the year 2002, everybody knew who Steve was.

While this show might not hold the same appeal it once did for its initial viewers, many of those viewers are now parents, and Blue's Clues is an excellent show for their preschoolers to watch! In fact, in 2019, Blue's Clues made a comeback! With the show on its third different host now, Blue hasn't aged a day; she's still up to her old tricks. Steve, along with his successor Joe, even showed up in the premiere of Blue's Clue's and You.

Even 25 years after its launch, Blue's Clues is a fantastic educational vehicle for today's youth.

9) All That (1994 - 2000, 2002 - 2005, 2019 - Present)

No Saturday night in the mid 90s and early 2000s was complete without All That, essentially Saturday Night Live for kids.

All That was a fun sketch show and an unintentional feeder system for many of the network's stars, such as Amanda Bynes, Nick Cannon, Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell. Thompson's career would ultimately come full circle when he joined the cast of SNL in 2003 as a featured player, leveling up from the for-kids version of SNL.

Like Blue's Clues, All That made a 2019 comeback, only this time with Mitchell and Thompson behind the project, serving as executive producers.

8) The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2002 - 2006)

In the aftermath of Nickelodeon's prosperous gains from the Box Office (garnering $103 million!) for their Oscar-nominated, 2001 film, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, the titular character received his own series.

In the early 2000s, just as there was a split between Nickelodeon kids and Disney kids, there was a similar fracture among Nick kids at the time. You were either a Jimmy Neutron guy, or a Fairly Odd Parents guy. Whether you preferred your zany cartoons to revolve around magic or science can reveal a lot about a person (just kidding — they're just cartoons!). I think you can infer which side of the Jimmy-Timmy Power Hour I was on.

Even in a silly, ridiculous and sometimes disturbing cartoon (I can think of a couple of episodes that fit that bill), episodes of Jimmy Neutron regularly centered around a mentally stimulating, scientifically-based plot to a certain degree. This show matched its smarts with cartoonish goofiness in a healthy and enjoyable balance. On top of that, Jimmy's pie-loving father, Hugh Neutron, might be the best Nick character of them all.

7) Nick GAS (1988 - Present)

Originally a programming block, Nick Games and Sports for Kids would become its own cable network as a part of an expansion of Viacom in 1999. Over the years, Nick has created several engaging game shows such as Legends of the Hidden Temple, GUTS, Figure It Out and Double Dare.

Admittedly, these shows were not very prominent in the network's programming during my childhood; they came a little before my time. That hasn't stopped me from catching some reruns over the years. Nick GAS was shutdown as a cable network in 2011, but like several other shows on this list, it's attempting a comeback. In November 2019, NickGames, a free, network filled all-day-long with classic GAS programming launched on PlutoTV. PlutoTV is an entirely free service, loaded with hundreds of other enjoyable and worthwhile channels. Nevertheless, having Nick GAS programs available in an On-Demand format would be a welcome addition to any streaming service.

6) Kenan & Kel (1996 - 2000)

Following the success of Good Burger and their infectious and well-matched synergy on All That, Mitchell and Thompson received a show of their own.

Kenan & Kel was in a lot of ways, Drake & Josh before Drake & Josh. There isn't a better show from the late 90s to kick back and drink an orange soda to.

5) Zoey 101 (2005 - 2008)

Just as All That cast-members would go on to flourish in other Nick series, so did the show's co-creator Dan Schneider. Schneider has called the shots on several of Nick's most popular shows for the last 20 years and counting. In 2005, he brought Jamie Lynn Spears over from All That for a pilot about a girl attending a formerly all-boys boarding school.

Filmed on the beautiful campus of Pepperdine University, Zoey 101 created a false illusion for children that boarding school was as fun as summer camp. Seeing junior highers and high schoolers living life like college kids was very enjoyable, and like any of Schneider's works, Zoey 101 is light-hearted and comical.

4) Rocket Power (1999 - 2004)

Whatever happened to this one? Of all of the shows on this list, Rocket Power appears to be the most difficult to view on the web for free. It is also the only show on this list I haven't seen since its original run ended (16 years ago). Nickelodeon needs a streaming service for a reason; and there's a reason I'm making this list. But I truly have no idea how good this show was, or how well it holds up, as I haven't seen it through the lens of an adult.

If my nostalgia-clouded vision is 20-20, this was a pretty rad show. In the late 90s and early 2000s, few things were cooler to pre-teen boys than the rebelliousness of extreme sports. A series about four California kids surfing, playing street hockey, skateboarding and snowboarding encapsulated that time period wonderfully. I'll never forgot how excited I was for the first Rocket Power movie, Race Across New Zealand.

3) The Amanda Show (1999 - 2002)

Schneider's genius was once again on full display when he took Amanda Bynes from one feeder/sketch show and created another feeder/sketch show centered around her.

I personally liked The Amanda Show even more than All That (and that's saying something!). The sketches are more memorable for me. Judge Trudy? Totally Kyle? Tony Pajamas? In three short years Schneider created a fresh batch of sketch characters that viewers can vividly remember 18 years later. Who could forget mock drama 'Moody's Point'? In the year 2020, I still hear "Amanda please" and "bring in the dancing lobsters" on a seemingly monthly basis.

As if this show's lasting impact wasn't enough to garner the number three spot on this list, the wildly talented Bynes was backed by a spectacular supporting cast, including Drake Bell, Josh Peck and Nancy Sullivan (more on them in a bit).

2) Hey Arnold! (1996 - 2004)

Hey Arnold! abruptly ended in 2004 on one of the biggest cliffhangers in television history. In one of the series' final episodes, Arnold finds a journal containing important information relating to the whereabouts of his lost parents. A few episodes later, the series ended with no payoff. No finale. Nothing.

In 2017, the show's creator, Craig Bartlett returned to Nickelodeon to release a Hey Arnold! made-for-TV film that would pick up where the series left off in 2004, and effectively wrap the series up neatly. Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie was everything a Hey Arnold! fan could want. But Bartlett might not stop there. He has since hinted that a Hey Arnold! reboot could be in the works.

For those that are unable to wait until Nickelodeon infiltrates the streaming game, all five of the original seasons of Hey Arnold! are currently on Hulu.

1) Drake & Josh (2004 - 2008)

As Amanda Bynes began to establish herself as a star on the big screen, The Amanda Show came to a close in the fall of 2002, unintentionally paving the way for Schneider's finest work and Nick's greatest hit of the 2000s.

Drake Bell and Josh Peck developed exceptional chemistry together on The Amanda Show, but it wasn't until they received their own spin-off show 'Drake & Josh' in 2004 that they became household names. For four seasons, America's favorite stepbrothers cracked us up in a Seinfeld-ish style of humor. The foam finger episode brought on shades of Seinfeld's classic "second-spitter" Keith Hernandez spoof of the JFK assassination. It was true brilliance on full display. Miranda Cosgrove's character "Megan" was the ultimate parody of the troublemaker little sister archetype. And even some of the minor characters (Helen, Crazy Steve, Craig and Eric) are memorable.

Half of the show's episodes have been on Hulu for the past few years, and through rewatching them, it's clear that this show holds up remarkably. The jokes are still funny, the stepbrothers' room is still cool, and Drake Bell's music is still fantastic. Nickelodeon needs to get the full series out on a streaming platform pronto.

For more entertainment and sports analysis, follow me on Twitter @JackVitaShow, and subscribe to the Jack Vita Show on iTunes or wherever podcasts are found.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

10 Seasons of Reality TV to Watch During Quarantine

I can still remember where I was in the summer of 2000, watching Sue Hawk deliver her iconic "snakes and rats" speech in the final tribal council of Survivor's premier season, enabling Richard Hatch win a million dollars, and paving the way for an entirely new genre of network television.

In the immediate aftermath of Survivor's unprecedented success, networks would turn to reality TV as an instant cash cow. The shows were relatively inexpensive to produce, the drama was real, and the genre was in high demand.

While the popularity and viewership of competition reality television has significantly diminished since its heyday, its overall impact continues to be felt, and many reality TV junkies such as myself remain hooked.

If you find yourself bored during this temporary period of social distancing, allow me to help. In honor of Survivor's 20th anniversary, here are my picks for the "10 reality TV seasons to watch during quarantine".

Please note that my selections only consist of reality *competition* shows. So, my apologies to The Real World, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Real Housewives, and many others. Better luck next time. It's also important to note that I haven't seen every season of reality TV. I can only speak from my own viewing experiences.

10) Madden Nation, Season One (2005), ESPN

Before ESPN settled into its current iteration of programming, the worldwide leader filled its airwaves with a wide variety of original shows. In addition to highlight, news and sports talk shows, ESPN produced its own scripted shows, games shows, and reality series'. Remember Playmakers? The Bronx is Burning? That Dale Earnhardt movie? How about Stump the Schwab or 2 Minute Drill?

In an effort to cash in on the reality TV boom of the early 2000s, ESPN would create two of my all-time favorite reality shows, Dream Job and Madden Nation. In Dream Job, people from all over the United States would audition and compete to become a real-life SportsCenter anchor. Sadly, this show cannot be found anywhere online. If anyone can somehow find it, tweet me! On another note, is there any way ESPN can throw all these classic shows up onto ESPN+? The people pay enough for it!

With Dream Job out of the question, try Madden Nation! In Madden Nation, the best Madden players in America travel via bus across the country, visiting one NFL stadium after another, playing the popular sports video game. Competitors were eliminated in each episode, and at the end of the trip, the last Madden player standing takes home $100,000.

I'm one of "eSports"' biggest critics ("eSports are NOT sports!), and even I enjoy this fun, silly show. Reality TV shouldn't be taken too seriously. This show understands its goofiness and embraces it. It also serves as a fun time capsule for the sports world. Watching Jake Plummer throwing touchdowns and Willis McGahee breaking off long runs is a true throwback unlike any other.

Each season is just eight episodes, with episodes running no longer than a half hour. It's a quick watch. Very enjoyable, but if you don’t like sports, this one may be worth skipping. Season one is far and away the show's best. Season two, not so much.

Where to watch: YouTube

9) The Celebrity Apprentice, Season Four (2011), NBC

Please remove all political bias while reading this list. Before Donald Trump was the president of the United States, he hosted and produced one of the most successful reality shows on the planet. After six seasons of The Apprentice, the Donald decided to freshen up the format, having B and C-list celebrities compete to win money for charity, instead of vying for a job working under Trump. The result was glorious. A wonderful mish-mash of flamboyant characters graced our TV screens with regularly hilarious interactions and unsurprisingly poor business ideas, followed by weak execution (with some exceptions).

Season four has one of my all-time favorite reality TV cast lists. Where else can you see Richard Hatch and Jose Canseco going toe-to-toe in the boardroom? Or Gary Busey throwing slices of pepperoni on the streets of New York, labeling himself "the pepperoni prophet"?

One of the perks of watching any season of The Apprentice is that it can easily be seen for free! Check out the Tubi app on your smart TV, or go to the Tubi website. Every season of the show is on there; you don't even need to set up an account.

Cast (in alphabetical order): Gary Busey, Jose Canseco, David Cassidy, Hope Dworaczyzk, Richard Hatch, LaToya Jackson, Star Jones, NeNe Leakes, Lil Jon, Marlee Matlin, Mark McGrath, John Rich, Lisa Rinna, Niki Taylor, Dionne Warwick, Meat Loaf.

Where to watch: Tubi

8) Survivor: Marquesas (Season Four, 2002), CBS 

Our first Survivor entry on this list comes in the form of its fourth season. Taking place in the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia, it features the debut of one of reality television's most iconic personalities, Boston Rob Mariano.

This season doesn't get nearly the amount of credit it deserves. I won't spoil or give anything away; just watch this season and trust me!

Where to watch: CBS All-Access

7) The Amazing Race, Season 7 (2005), CBS

After watching Boston Rob's first appearance on Survivor, check him and his wife Amber (of Survivor: Australian Outback fame) out on The Amazing Race. One of the coolest things about The Amazing Race is that while shows like Survivor, The Challenge, and Big Brother take place in a tight, confined space, perfectly apt for filming, The Amazing Race takes place in the world. The race requires its contestants to interact with locals and experience rich cultural traditions firsthand as they travel the world, one country at a time.

There's no possible way for contestants of the Race to be secluded. Random strangers in airports and local marketplaces can unintentionally wander into a game show and contribute help, conflict or laughs. On top of that, the race serves as an educational vehicle for its viewers to learn more about world history, geography, different cultures and wondrous places to travel to!

Like just about every other season of The Amazing Race, season 7 features great story-telling, an excellent cast of characters, and exotic locale. What makes this one a personal favorite of mine is watching Rob and Amber's Survivor-like strategic approach to a race around the world. Love or hate this dynamic duo, they certainly stir the pot and keep the show fresh and interesting the entire way through.

Where to watch: Hulu, CBS All-Access, Amazon Prime

6) Survivor: Borneo, (Season 1, 2000), CBS 

The season that started it all is a must for any reality TV fanatic. There hasn't been a more important or influential single season of any reality competition show. If you've ever been curious as to how this whole genre got started and what the genesis of reality TV looked like, then watch Borneo.

Borneo is unlike any other season of Survivor. It's more similar to a documentary about a reality show, than it is a reality/game show itself. And that's part of what makes this season so fascinating. There's something very charming about the sheer innocence of the contestants. In a game that asks the question, "How far will you go ethically to win a million dollars?", the castaways' reluctance to form alliances and stab their new friends in the back on national television is about as authentic as reality TV can get. I love it.

See how Survivor found its footing, established itself as a juggernaut, and laid the groundwork for the dozens of shows that would come after it.

Where to watch: Hulu, CBS All-Access, Prime

5) The Apprentice, Season 2 (2004), NBC

While I view peak-Survivor as the gold standard of reality television, the early seasons of The Apprentice are pretty dang close to it. And it's really no wonder, considering executive producer Mark Burnett masterminded both projects, cementing his place as the GOAT of reality TV. The original version of The Apprentice focuses on a group of 16 highly qualified individuals pursuing a high-paying job for billionaire businessman Donald Trump. Each week they must complete tasks and challenges, testing various businesses skills. The contestants that can't hack it are given the proverbial pink slip from the boss.

The Apprentice has Mark Burnett's fingerprints all over it, with many Survivor-like touches. Just as "the tribe has spoken" entered mainstream lexicon, the Donald's "You're fired!" quickly became one of America's favorite catchphrases in the mid-2000s. Each Survivor episode culminates in Tribal Council, but The Apprentice's climactic "Boardroom" is even more tense, and dare I say, better?

If you like Survivor, this show is 100% worth a watch, and season 2 is a great place to start. While season 1 holds a special place in my heart (it was my toughest omission from this list), season 2 is even better. Phenomenal cast and challenges.

Where to watch: Tubi

4) Survivor: The Amazon (Season 6, 2003), CBS 

Before the "battle of the sexes" twist became a fixture on The Apprentice, Mark Burnett would test the formula first on Survivor. The result was humorous, crazy, unpredictable and golden TV.

The Amazon is an excellent setting for a season of Survivor. None of the previous five seasons of the show were anywhere as chaotic as this one. Strap yourself in a for a wild ride!

Where to watch: CBS All-Access

3) The Amazing Race, Season 31 (2019), CBS

The most recent entry on this list, Amazing Race 31 was an absolute treat for every reality TV fan. What made it so special? How about the fact that the 11 teams racing around the world were all made up of former Survivor, Big Brother and Amazing Race contestants!

While all-star seasons of other reality series have flopped hard, this reality clash was magnificent. Seeing reality TV hall of famers from different shows was a dream come true for reality fans. Even if you have no idea who any of these people are, you still should love this season.

Where to watch: Hulu, CBS All-Access, Prime

2) The Apprentice, Season 4 (2005), NBC 

I didn't think The Apprentice could get any better after season 2, until season 4 came around. Wow, what a season this one is! Featuring an outstanding story and a shocking twist. Must-see TV.

Where to watch: Tubi

1) Survivor: Pearl Islands (Season 7, 2003), CBS

One of the many reasons that I strongly favor classic Survivor over the show in its current form is that in the early days of Survivor, the show's production team put an incredible amount of care into every little detail, making the adventure of the show seem even bigger and more surreal. The stakes felt larger.

This season would follow its pirate theme to a tee. The tribes were named "Morgan" and "Drake", pirate-style music played in-between scenes, and other unexpected twists (that I won't spoil) along the way would follow the theme perfectly.

One contestant would boldly go where no reality contestant had gone before, and where no one has been since. Jonny Fairplay (who I had the great fortune of interviewing back in February) is an all-time reality TV great. Throw two other Survivor legends onto his tribe in Rupert Boneham and Sandra Diaz-Twine, and you already have an outstanding cast. If there's only one season from this list you are able to watch, make it this one. You can thank me later.

Where to watch: CBS All-Access

Hope everyone is making the best of this period of social distancing and staying safe. We will get through this time! God bless, and happy watching!

Follow me on Twitter @TheJackVita, and subscribe to the Jack Vita Show on iTunes.

Monday, December 2, 2019

MLB All-Decade Team (2010s)

It's hard to believe that in just a few weeks, the 2010s will have come to a close.

The span between 2010 and 2019 proved to be a great decade of baseball. It produced dozens of new stars, five World Series game 7's, a baseball dynasty from the Bay Area, and a tortured franchise finally breaking through and shattering a 108-year curse. The 2010s were good to baseball fans.

As we reach the end of one decade and prepare to turnover to the next, it's time to assemble the All-Decade team for the 2010s. I have carefully put together a team of players that I think best reflects excellence on the baseball field between the years 2010-2019, but not without one guiding rule.

If your best stretch of play came between the years 2005-2013, caught in between two decades, sorry  you're out of luck. In order to appear on the All-Decade team, you need to have played at least seven seasons between 2010-2019. That disqualifies storied veterans like Derek Jeter, who retired in the middle of the decade. That also disqualifies young stars that debuted midway through the decade. Oh well.

Here are my selections for the 2010s All-Decade Team.

Catcher: Buster Posey

Perfectly fitting to start the All-Decade Team, Posey's first full season in the big leagues came in 2010, when he won Rookie of the Year and helped the Giants win their first World Series in 56 years. Since, he's made six All-Star appearances, won an MVP, four Silver Sluggers, a Gold Glove, a batting title, and was the best position player on two other championship teams. In addition to the MVP that he won in 2012, Posey received MVP votes five other times. Despite his injury-shortened, mediocre 2019 campaign, he still boasts of a batting average of .302 on the decade. With my apologies to Yadier Molina, the best player on the team of the decade deserves a place on this roster.

Honorable mention: Yadier Molina

First Base: Joey Votto

In his third full season in the bigs in 2010, Votto took home the National League MVP hardware with an excellent campaign where he batted .324, logged a .424 OBP, 1.024 OPS, 37 homers and 113 RBI's. Since, the veteran has quietly continued to put up numbers in an often overlooked market in Cincinnati. Votto has finished top 3 in MVP voting three other times and top 7 in the award's voting six times. His 2017 campaign in my opinion should have warranted a second MVP. Nonetheless, Votto's six All-Star honors, 2011 Gold Glove and cumulative OBP of .428* (between 2010-19) make him a lock for the All-Decade team. At the start of the 2010s, this Canadian's career was just beginning to take off. A decade later, Votto's put together a resume worthy of the Hall of Fame.

*To put this into perspective, Christian Yelich's .429 OBP led the National League in the category in 2019. Votto essentially averaged Yelich's MVP-caliber OBP every year for a decade!

Honorable mentions: Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman

Second Base: Jose Altuve

Robinson Cano had just as much a case for this position as Altuve does. However, Cano got caught juicing, and juicers shouldn't make these kinds of lists (sorry; my list, my rules!). One of the great things about this sport is how its stars come in all shapes and sizes. Altuve is listed at 5-foot-6, which means he's really closer to 5-foot-4 or 5-3. Since his 2011 mid-season call-up, Altuve has brought home three batting titles, an MVP, six All-Star appearances, five Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove. Altuve's also a lifetime .315 hitter. Even with a dark cloud hanging over the Houston Astros' organization, this Muggsy Bogues-sized star's remarkable start to his career deserves recognition.

Honorable mentions: Dustin Pedroia, DJ LeMahieu, Daniel Murphy

Dishonorable mention: Robinson Cano

Third Base: Adrian Beltre

At a crowded position where many stars have blossomed at (Josh Donaldson, Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado, etc.) in the 2010s, it was the eternally underrated Beltre whose resume shined brightest. After a disappointing stint in Seattle, Boston took a flyer on the former budding star that the Mariners had previously thrown $64 million at, offering him a one-year deal in 2010. Beltre returned to All-Star form, hitting .321 and finding himself in the MVP conversation once again.

Beltre's career is best comparable to that of future NBA Hall of Famer Steve Nash. Neither started to play their very best ball until they got into their early 30's, playing on the third team of their respective careers. That is when the late bloomers entered their prime and helped their teams become championship contenders. Following his resurgent 2010 campaign, Beltre signed with the Texas Rangers, where he became a staple of consistency for the organization. He batted .307, made five All-Star appearances, finished top 7 in MVP voting on four separate occasions, won three Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers all in his 30's between 2010-2018.

Honorable Mentions: Donaldson, Arenado, Machado

Shortstop: Brandon Crawford

Picking a shortstop for this list was perhaps my greatest challenge. The shortstop position has evolved so much since the beginning of the new millennium. Traditionally the position has been populated by mediocre hitters better known for their defense and ability to create 'web gems' on a nightly basis. But gone are the days of Baseball Tonight on ESPN (R.I.P. 1990-2017) and Major League Baseball teams expecting minimal offensive production from this position.

In addition to the position changing, the timeline for the league's shortstops just doesn't coincide as nicely with the 2010-2019 theme we have going as well as it does for other positions. The old guard of top-tier shortstops passed over to the new guard in the middle of the decade. The likes of Derek Jeter, Rafael Furcal, Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco were all out of baseball by the end of 2016. However, conveniently, that group has been replaced by a fresh batch of young stars at the position. There are eleven shortstops that have been brought up to the show no earlier than 2014, that have already played in an All-Star game.

As much as I wanted to pull the trigger and pick Franky Lindor, Trevor Story or Xander Boegarts, they just simply didn't have enough years logged in the 2010s to meet the proper criteria.

This left with me only a few viable options. After sifting through the numbers and weighing defense, I ultimately sided with Brandon Crawford. Crawford made two All-Star games, won three Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. His excellent defense and solid bat helped the Giants win the World Series in 2012 and 2014. I was tempted to pick Elvis Andrus, but ultimately sided with Crawford's championship defense.

Honorable mentions: Elvis Andrus, Andrelton Simmons

Left Field: Christian Yelich

Since his 2013 call-up, Christian Yelich hasn't wasted any time in the bigs. Even before transforming into the National League's version of Mike Trout in Milwaukee, Yeli was quietly putting up consistent numbers down in Miami. On the decade, he's hit .301 with a .383 OBP, posed as a great threat on the basepaths, won a Gold Glove, two batting titles, three Silver Sluggers, made two All-Star appearances, won an MVP in 2018, and was criminally robbed of an MVP in 2019.

Yelich ended the decade with more momentum than anyone, putting together a historically great two-year stretch between 2018-19, leading the National League in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS and OPS+ for two years straight.

Center Field: Mike Trout

He's Mike Trout; the player of the decade. Need I say more?

Right Field: Andrew McCutchen

Cutch started the decade as a Gold Glove center fielder and ended it as a full-time right fielder, so he qualifies for this spot.

Were you expecting Bryce Harper? While Harper may have emerged as the most recognizable brand name from the 2010s and the game's highest paid player, his track record doesn't quite measure up to that of others', such as Cutch's.

From 2012-2014, Cutch placed top three in MVP voting three years straight (2012-2014), winning the award in 2012 and finishing fifth in the voting again in 2015. By contrast, Harper has only finished top 10 in MVP voting once  the year he won it in 2015. Harper has only batted better than .275 twice in his career and has only hit more than 35 homers in a season twice. Harper has put together two fantastic years (2015 and 2017), but until he puts does it more frequently, he won't show up on lists like this one. He's displayed elite talent in the past, so maybe he will show up on my 2020s list ten years from now?

McCuthchen's a 5x All-Star, 4x Silver Slugger, Gold Glover and MVP.

Outfield honorable mention: Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Bautista

Outfield dishonorable mention: Ryan Braun

Designated Hitter: Miguel Cabrera

Tricked ya, didn't I? You thought I had forgotten about Miggy. Would you blame if I did? You would, but it seems Miggy's excellent career hasn't been talked about in recent years with his Tigers in no man's land, at the bottom of the atrocious AL Central.

Let me remind you real quick. Miggy took home two MVPs, four batting titles and a freaking Triple Crown(!) in the 2010s. He finished top 11 in MVP voting the first seven years of the decade! And despite a couple "down years" towards the end of the decade, he posted a cumulative .317 BA, .399 OBP and .943 OPS between 2010-2019. Miggy's played several positions over the course of his 17-year career, but has transitioned over to DH, where he looks to spend most of his time for the remainder of his career, qualifying him for this spot.

Starting Pitchers: Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander

This pitching staff wasn't too difficult to assemble. Kershaw easily posted the best regular season resume of any pitcher (8x All-Star, 2014 MVP, 3x Cy Young, 2013 pitching Triple Crown, 2013 Gold Glove) from the decade. He finished top 3 in Cy Young voting every year from 2011-2017, excluding 2016 - when he finished 5th. That season he had a 1.69 ERA. For some weird reason, everyone has seemed to have written him off, making claims that he's "over the hill" at the age of 31. He posted his highest career ERA of the decade in 2019 at 3.03  it was the only season of the decade where he didn't post a sub-3.00 ERA. The pitcher of the decade logged a cumulative 2.31 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in the 2010s.

Kershaw's postseason struggles have been somewhat overstated (remember when he shutdown the Cubs' at Wrigley in the 2016 NLCS?), but Madison Bumgarner's postseason success hasn't been. If Kershaw was the regular season pitcher of the decade, Mad-Bum was far and away the postseason pitcher of the decade. This southpaw beasted the Giants to their third championship in five years to the tune of a 0.43 ERA and 0.48 WHIP through 53.2 innings in the 2014 postseason. He hasn't received enough recognition for his regular season success, however. Bumgarner logged a sub-3.40 ERA for the first nine years of the decade (with a sub-3.00 four times) before hitting a career high 3.90 in 2019.

Max Scherzer's 2015 $210 million deal with the Nationals is on-pace to go down as the best $200+ million contract of all-time. Scherzer has somehow pitched his best in his 30s, after he left the Tigers midway through the decade. Dating back to his days in Detroit, he's finished top 5 in AL or NL Cy Young for the last eight years and counting. He's won the award three times, made seven All-Star appearances, and helped the Nationals win their first ever World Series.

Zack Greinke excelled in all six uniforms that he wore in the 2010, hopping from team-to-team and collecting five All-Star bids, six Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers and an ERA title. Cumulative ERA from 2010-2019: 3.18.

Verlander appeared to be past his peak in 2014 (4.54 ERA) before finding the fountain of youth in Houston a couple years later. He finished the decade off with his second Cy Young, adding to the 2011 MVP in his trophy case, right next to his trophy wife.

Honorable Mentions: Chris Sale, Corey Kluber

Closing Pitcher(s): Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel

For the bullpen, I picked the three lights-out closers that sustained the most success over the course of the 2010s. Relievers have been known to come and go on a yearly basis, but Aroldis Chapman (6x All-Star), Kenley Jansen (3x All-Star) Craig Kimbrel (7x All-Star) have stood the test of time. Sure, Kimbrel didn't close out the decade as strong as he started it, but that doesn't take away from his excellence. Chapman was even able to shake off Joe Maddon's attempt to kill his arm forever in the 2016 playoffs. The flamethrower has pitched in the last two All-Star games donning the pinstripes.

Manager: Bruce Bochy

No other manager came close to achieving what Bochy did in the 2010s. Though the Giants' dynasty came to an abrupt ending following their 2016 NLDS exit (very similar to the Chicago Blackhawks' abrupt drop-off after their 2017 first round exit in the Stanley Cup playoffs), they left their mark as the team of the decade. The only other organization to win more than one World Series this decade was the Red Sox, and they did so using two different managers and front offices. Take a look at the Giants' rosters between 2010 and 2014. Neither team was the proverbial "super-team". No, the Giants (past Posey, Crawford and Bumgarner) for the most part, were a scrappy, wily group of veterans that understood timely hitting and not making costly mistakes. And they were led by the right man.

Honorable mention: Joe Girardi

Front Office: Los Angels Dodgers

While the NL West team from the Bay achieved the most postseason success in the 2010s, the NL West team from LA achieved more regular season success than any other team during this decade. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has put together a juggernaut in southern California since coming over from Tampa. The Dodgers will be entering 2020 with seven straight NL West division titles, a run reminiscent of the the Atlanta Braves, who took 11 straight NL East pennants from 1995-2005.

The key to the Dodgers' sustained success has been holding on to prospects (instead of using them as chips to go all-in) and plugging them into their system when the time is right. This has extended their championship window and put them in the mix every single year. The downside? The Dodgers have yet to strike gold and have no championships to show for it. We'll see what the next decade holds for them.

Honorable mention: Tampa Bay Rays

Dishonorable mention: Houston Astros

And with that, we have our 2010s All-Decade Team. Perhaps ten years from now, I'll be creating the 2020s All-Decade team, writing about the likes of Fernando Tatis Jr., Ronald Acuna Jr., and Juan Soto etching their names in baseball history. Whatever the new decade has in store for us on the baseball diamond, I'll be here for it.

Follow me on Twitter @JackVitaShow.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Podcast: 7.5.19 MLB All-Star Picks + London Series + What is Going On with the Cubs and Phillies?

Jordan Morandini returns to the podcast to share his All-Star picks (0:00 - 28:35), talk All-Star game rules + stakes (28:35 - 36:00), London Series (36:00 - 45:10), Cubs' June woes (45:10 - 1:15:25), Phillies' struggles (1:15:25 - 1:25:00), potential second half shockers (1:25:00 - 1:30:00), Home Run Derby (1:32:15 - END), and plenty more!

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Jordan: @RealJMorandini
Jack: @TheJackVita

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(Image via CBS Sports)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Podcast: 6.23.19 NBA Finals Wrap-Up, NBA Trades + Draft, and MLB Talk with Connor Boehm

Connor Boehm makes his podcasting debut to talk about takeaways from the NBA Finals (0:00 - 22:05), the Lakers acquiring Anthony Davis (22:05 - 35:50), the NBA Draft (35:50 - 49:20) and news from around the MLB (49:20 - 1:12:45).

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(Photo via CBS Sports)

Podcast: Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001) with Barry Dunn

In a special bonus episode, Barry Dunn visits the podcast to talk about one of his favorite childhood movies, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius with Jack! Together they discuss everything from alien abduction, a lawless society run by children, Jimmy's inventions, wacky friends and of course, Hugh Neutron!

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Jack's Twitter: @TheJackVita

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(Photo via Paramount Pictures)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Podcast: NBA Finals Game 2 Reactions + MLB Talk with Bair Kothmann

Bair Kothmann makes his podcasting debut to talk about takeaways from the first two games of the 2019 Finals (0:00 - 43:25). Does Toronto have hope? How will they bounce back from their game 2 loss? What can the Warriors expect from Klay and Durant? Then, Bair and Jack discuss the latest news in Major League Baseball (43:25 - 1:13:35), including Cubs-Cardinals, Phillies-Dodgers, AL West teams, the emergence of Lucas Giolito, and much, much more!

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Bair's twitter: @Bairkothmann21

Jack's twitter: @TheJackVita

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