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15 Pro Athletes Who Need A Better Year In 2014

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15 Athletes Who Need Better Years

Sports
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

2013 was a very good year for some athletes and teams, especially the teams that won championships like the Chicago Blackhawks, Miami Heat, Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Ravens.

For others in sports, this was not the best year. The best part about sports is that there is always redemption. Ray Lewis had a bad year in 2000, but why don't you ask him how the rest of his career went? Sports fans can be forgiving when they want to be. When it comes to sports, especially football, fans seem to forget athletes' flaws off the field when they perform well on the field.

Then there is the redemption that comes on the field play. As forgiving as fans might be, they also jump to conclusions. One bad game will make fans want certain athletes or coaches to be replaced, no matter how good they were prior to that.

There are way more than 15 athletes who really need a better year in 2014, but some were more obvious than others. MLB and the NFL have to wait until next season, but the NHL and NBA players can turn it around right now. They still have time to salvage a season that started off badly.

All these athletes have been very good. They faced a certain level of expectation that was not met in 2013. Now they have an uphill climb in 2014. Will these 15 athletes be able to redeem themselves?

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15. Blake Griffin

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Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

2013 was the year Blake Griffin went from a once-in-a-lifetime talent to just some guy who can jump over a Kia. People started looking at his game a lot closer and started to say he was the problem for the Los Angeles Clippers. They brought in Doc Rivers to take away the coaching excuse. Now he is thrown around in trade rumors. Griffin would no doubt love to get his 2011 reputation back.

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14. Geno Smith

Jets
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Geno Smith came into the draft thinking he was a surefire first-round pick. After an embarrassing sit in the green room, he waited all night just to see his name not being called. He ended up going to the New York Jets in the second round, which is bad news in itself. Then Mark Sanchez went down and he was propelled into the starting spot without a chance to learn the offense inside and out. After 21 interceptions and counting, I am sure Smith can't wait to get to next year.

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13. Henrik Lundqvist

Rags
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Henrik Lundqvist got paid this season. He is now the highest-paid goalie in the NHL. He thinks he is worth it. He is currently ranked 30th in the NHL with a .908 save percentage and 28th with a 2.71 goals against average. Even though he wasn't terrible in the lockout-shortened season, the New York Rangers fell way below expectations. He needs to prove he is worth the money he got.

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12. C.C. Sabathia

Yanks
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

C.C. Sabathia saw his worst season in pinstripes in 2013. It was also the first time since 2006 that he didn't pitch in the playoffs. Without Andy Pettitte in the rotation, he needs to be the rock for this team. His 4.78 ERA needs to go down by about a run. 2014 will be an important year for Sabathia's legacy.

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11. Ray Rice

Rav
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Ray Rice was on the Super Bowl Champion Ravens and could be on his way to the playoffs once again. So how is he on this list? He went from being one of the best weapons in the NFL to worthless in less than a year. The Rutgers product saw his yards per rush drop 1.3 yards. His touchdowns were cut in half and his fumbles doubled. If he wants to continue his career, he has to bounce back next season.

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10. Martin Brodeur

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Martin Brodeur probably really wants 2013 to end. Beyond his awful year personally, he missed the playoffs for only the second time in his career. He dealt with a back injury in the lockout-shortened season that saw his team lose almost every game when he was out. Then he watched their other star player "retire" and another key piece in David Clarkson leave in free agency. The New Jersey Devils were the last team in the NHL to earn a win. This may be his last season, and he will want to go out on top.

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9. Josh Hamilton

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Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Hamilton went to his former team's rival, the Los Angeles Angels, for a boatload of money. His first year left much to be desired. He only hit .250, 48 points under his career average. He hit 21 home runs, which is 27 less than the year prior. He had 49 fewer RBIs than the year before. $25 million does not pay for what it used to.

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8. Robert Griffin III

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Griffin III came into 2013 as possibly the most popular athlete in all of sports. His two way quarterback play along with his infectious smile took the league by storm. 2013 did not go so well. He tore his ACL in the first game he played in the year. He rushed himself back, only to play at a very low level for a four-win team that doesn't have a first-round pick. Now he is benched for the rest of the season. He has an uphill climb to prove he is a franchise quarterback.

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7. Dion Waiters

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David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Can you have a worse year than having a media report that you punched your star player in the face?

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6. Aaron Hernandez

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Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

... okay, this is worse.

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5. Eli Manning

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Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

Take your pick as to why this is a bad season for Eli Manning. His New York Giants failed to take advantage of a bad division. He leads the league with 25 interceptions, four more than anyone else. Hakeem Nicks doesn't seem to want to play. His offensive line is just plain offensive. Also, he is watching his older brother break NFL records at 37 while he can't seem to get it together. Maybe Peyton will give him some pointers in the offseason.

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4. B.J. Upton

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Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

B.J. Upton could have had the worst offensive season in baseball history. He hit .184 in 126 games. He only had nine home runs. He could only steal 12 bases. He had a .559 OPS. His WAR was negative. If he can't get better, he might be a minor leaguer.

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3. Derrick Rose

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Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Derrick Rose was supposed to return at some point during the 2012-13 season, but he never did. When he finally came back, he only lasted 10 games when he went out for the season with an injury to his other knee. Oh well, I guess he can try again next season.

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2. Nail Yakupov

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Nail Yakupov went from surefire talent to trade bait in less than six months. His attitude has soured in Edmonton and his play has been affected by it. He is dead last in the NHL with a -24. He may have arrived in the NHL too young because it doesn't seem like he can handle the pressure just yet.

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1. Alex Rodriguez

Yanks
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Rodriguez was named in the Biogenesis scandal. He was caught trying to buy evidence. He was injured for most of the season. He returned to a great run, only to fall short of the playoffs. Now he is fighting a 211-game suspension and it isn't going well. He is walking out of meetings with Bug Selig. He just looks like a total diva. He may not get a chance at redemption if the suspension is upheld.