By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — ESPN just can’t get enough when it comes to making lists. That place just loves a good list.
The latest list, “The Dominant 20,” set out to rank the 20 most dominant athletes of 2018. The results of this endeavor are … likely not what you may have been expecting.
According to the methodology applied to make the list, here were the top 12 on ESPN’s most dominant athletes of 2018:
1. Simone Biles, gymnast
2. Eliud Kipchoge, marathon runner
3. Daniel Cormier, MMA
4. Ariya Jutanugarn, LPGA
5. Katie Ledecky, swimming
6. Chloe Kim, snowboarding
7. Breanna Stewart, WNBA
8. Luka Modric, soccer
9. Simona Halep, tennis
10. Novak Djokovic, tennis
11. Yuzuru Hanyu, figure skating
12. Lewis Hamilton, F1
Clearly, the worldwide leader in sports took a worldwide approach to this list, considering most of those sports receive very little attention in the United States. (Though, really, what a year for Yuzuru Hanyu and Katie Ledecky. Unbelievable stuff, really.)
While sports fans in bars around the country are sure to be debating and fighting for years to come about Lewis Hamilton ranking three spots behind Simona Halep, it was at No. 13 that some more familiar names and sports started to arrive on the list.
13. LeBron James, NBA
14. Mookie Betts, MLB
15. Drew Brees, NFL
16. Justify, (he’s a horse)
17. Alex Ovechkin, NHL
18. Patrick Mahomes, NFL
19. James Harden, NBA
20. Mike Trout, MLB
It’s an interesting list, one might suppose. One could probably quibble over some of the names and the standings. But one should know this: it’s a list generated “by grading athletes by the strongest performance measures available in their sport over their most recently completed season … including timed scores, earnings and, wherever possible, advanced metrics.”
But that’s not all!
More: “Then, to put those achievements into historical perspective, we compared the top athletes in a sport to the best in their field each year since 1998 and adjusted the results to put those athletes onto one common baseline, yielding our ratings.”
Anyway, this wild-and-crazy statistical experiment determined that Mookie Betts was the most dominant baseball player in 2018, and he was also the second-most dominant athlete in North American “Big Four” sports. For a 26-year-old who’s technically still on the rise, that’s not bad.
Probably, though, the ranking on this cockamamie list probably won’t rank quite as high on Betts’ list of accomplishments this year. He of course won a World Series with the Red Sox, and also earned his first American League MVP trophy. He also won the second Silver Slugger of his career, and his third straight Gold Glove. Betts was also named the AL’s Most Outstanding Player in the Players Choice Awards. He also became a father for the first time.
Sure, we can add a spot on a list made by some guy who just a few months ago listed Peyton Manning as the third-most dominant athlete of the past 20 years (on a list where Tom Brady ranked 20th) to the pile of awards and accolades. Why not?
But, Betts now knows that despite how great his 2018 performance appeared to have been, he’s got a long way to go before he’s considered to be on the same level of Ariya Jutanugarn (who won three tournaments, twice in a playoff and once by a single stroke) and Daniel Cormier (who won three fights). Of course, Betts even being mentioned in the same breath of Luka Modric (two goals in the World Cup) or Eliud Kipchoge (set a marathon record) is probably never going to happen. But it at least gives the superstar something to strive for as he continues to try to improve his all-around abilities on the baseball field.
Mookie, if you’re reading this: Keep at it, kid. The world may some day look at you the way it looks at Lewis Hamilton.