It’s been a while, hasn’t it?
If anyone actually read this at any point ever, my apologies for not writing more often. I moved back home after graduation, quickly became inundated in a deep, turbid pool of irl stuff like a job and petting my dog and didn’t find the requisite muses to discuss the flaming porch poo that the 2014 Red Sox devolved into. I haven’t been in touch with the other two all that much off twitter, but I assume they drifted away from here for the same or similar reasons.
Can’t let this season close without some parting thoughts, though.
First, let me start by conveying the extent to which my mind vexed by the passing of Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend. He was an immensely promising player, ostentatious power swing portending a fruitful career for many years. It’s heartbreaking to lose them, two people with full lives ahead of them, appreciated and adored by so many. My heart is with their families, friends, loved ones, and the Cardinals community.
We’ll always have that Game 2 homer, though.
A changeup that caught a little too much plate and a beautiful swing met for a moment that, sadly, stands as the apex and peak of what should have been an illustrious 20 year tour de baseball force.
It’s a shame, too. Using the patented Twitter Trash-Classic Evaluation Spectrum, this NLCS rated as Classic. Nobody alive with any semblance of a Judeo-Christian soul wanted to see another Giants-Cardinals series, but we got some phenomenal baseball. I am excited to rediscover the NLCS Game 5 box score in 10 years and marvel at it for twenty whole minutes in jaw-gaped awe.
*screen blacks out, fades to Slightly Balding 5:00 Shadow Me*
“Honey! Come here! Remember the 2014 baseball playoffs? Travis fucking Ishikawa!!!!! Hahahahhaha”
Futurebae did not reciprocate the enthusiasm. “I’m leaving you.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Can you believe Michael Wacha gave up the walkoff? Bumgarner just decided to stop allowing hits altogether! Remember Mike Morse??!?!?”
“I’m serious. I’m taking the kids with me to my sister’s. I can’t do this anymore.”
“Before you go, can you just look at this Rangers-Red Sox game from 2008? I still can’t believe Charlie Zink won IL Pitcher of the Year and his only ever major league start was this stinker! Leadoff JD Drew?? When was Frank Catalanotto a Ranger?”
*door slams in background*
The Even Year Bullshit wave crested over the ~scrappy~ ~overachieving~ Royals, letting them surf strong pitching performances and timely hitting just long enough to force seven, allowing Alex Gordon to pop a backflip off Gregor Blanco’s glove, then finally rolling violently and engulfing the Royals whole. The Death Star stays intact, Hydra defeats Captain Planet and takes the world as its own, Sauron eats the lil hobbit dudes, Django stays chained, the mean bass from that one episode of Spongebob never has the pickles under his tongue discovered and Spongebob permanently loses his mojo, the Giants win another fucking World Series. So it goes.
Now that we’re staring down a winter bereft of Mike Trout airplane tweets, Bartolo Colon at-bats, Juan Lagares breaking physics, Aroldis Chapman sniffing supersonic velocities, etc etc etc, it’s a good opportunity to look back and see what we learned in this past season.
- Exploiting inefficiency doesn’t just mean lots of walks and high OBPs. The Royals forced a Game 7 by *coughs up hairball* manufacturing runs. With a high-achieving and healthy starting rotation (everyone made 30 starts except Danny Duffy, who made 25) and that ineffable and indefatigable bullpen (s/o to SAT words), they didn’t need to score 11 runs a night. They didn’t hit as well as other teams, nor did they score as prolifically, but relative to their pitching staff they were able to use steals, bunts (both more powerful in the era of defensive shifts), and a little bit of situational luck to win a crapton of important baseball games.
- Good baseball teams will win eventually. Laid to rest are the panic attacks about the 2013 Nationals and Angels. Both were really good squads with injury/underachievement problems that benefited from a bit of progression to the mean in 2014. Good baseball teams are not immune to the evil machinations of the sadistic baseball goddesses and gods, but are in better position to weather it than bad baseball teams.
- Every team needs a Hank. Here you are.
- Mike Trout is a deity. We already knew this, but a third consecutive year of stupidly phenomenal MVP-level performance cements it. .287/.377/.561, 167 wRC+ is Damn Good, and by fWAR he’s two wins under his past two seasons, but this wil be the season he wins MVP because nothing at all makes any sense in the entire universe. This is the baseball version of the lifetime achievement Oscar given to some actor with eleven fire movies and performances under her/his belt but no hardware to show for it because of various machinations and grand fanutions of the universe.
- And many more! I’m not making any money off this, so I won’t expend any more time thinking about ~*~lessons~*~.
Let’s discuss some free agents!
- Max Scherzer. He wants $200 million, and he’s probably gonna get it. Marie Antoinette dreamed of a heterochromatic strikeout/groundball phenom with 200 inning durability and front-end talent. “Scott Boras, you over baby, Robinson Cano you comin’ with me” was only half true – Boras still has a knack for siphoning every last penny out of major league squads like a ne’er-do-well teen down on his luck and out of gas. Just now realizing that Marie Antoinette said “let them eat cake” not “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Literally every single baseball team in the history of the game would benefit from having Scherzer, but teams with supermassive black holes at the front end of the rotation will likely pursue most ardently.
- Jon Lester. Coming off the best season of his entire life, and not attached to any draft pick stipulations as a result of his midseason trade, Lester is in prime position to coerce a lot of baseball teams to fall over themselves and fistfight in an effort to catch the wedding bouquet that is the next six years of his life. Considering I fall in a heap of blubbering sadness every 14-16 hours when I remember he’s not under the employ of the Red Sox and thus potentially destined for pinstripes, I’m foreseeing a return to the Back Bay for my own mental health. Cubs and other teams who need pitching (all of them) all dark horses. Gordo came thru with the missive straight from the plug and restored my desire to live.
- Victor Martinez. He’s a top 20 hitter in the game right now by most metrics, and while likely limited to the AL and those teams without full-time DHs, looks conspicuously like the kind of piece that takes a good team to the highest of offensive echelons. Tigers obviously need him back, and essentially every team besides the Red Sox and maybe Yankees (assuming Alex Rodriguez slides into the role) in the AL have vacancies at the DH position.
- Pablo Sandoval. Predictions range from 5 yrs/$100 million to…well…not very much less or more than that. Panda’s bat is a catalyst, his penchant for attacking pitches slightly outside the standard designation of “hittable” or “strikes” or “remotely worthy at even pretending to think about swinging at” can really carry a team (e.g. 2014 playoffs), but also really drives down OBP and drives up O-Swing% and strikeout rates. Not the kind of player that can rescue a franchise with his massive frame alone, but the kind of player who settles into an already solid run creating offense and lies in wait for the moments where his talents are needed in the wee moments of a 2-1 deficit against some stupid junkballing rookie lefty that flummoxed the beautifully constructed saber-minded lineup the baseball ops department spent 27 consecutive days pre-emptively pleasuring themselves to during spring training. Plus defender when healthy and not pushing actual panda weights. Giants really want him back, but there are a lot of teams who could use third basemen. I would like to see an actual panda trained in the ancient art of kung fu attempt to play baseball.
- James Shields. Okay, so he sucks in the playoffs. So do I. In my last little league game ever, I Wacha’d hardcore. Bottom of the 6th, two outs, up three runs, one on and I came on for the save despite having pitched a total of zero times in three months. Single, walk, three run triple, and strikeout later, I scribbled professional baseball off my list of career aspirations. I’m still a nice person with some value and worth to those around me! So is James Shields, I presume. A very good pitcher not quite at the Scherzer/Lester echelon but pawing optimistically at their threshold from a few feet below, he’s still got a dick-numbing slider and changeup combo and lots of ~intangible clubhouse presence~ and a flawless wedgie-clearing technique from the stretch position. Teams who need multiple pitchers may come up on him in a 1A capacity to some other frontline presence.n
- Hanley Ramirez. Easily the best pure hitter on this list, when he’s healthy. He said he’d be willing to play both third and short. Red Sox and Yankees bidding war approaching Teixeiran levels incoming.
- Yasmany Tomas. Following the Law Of Cuban Outfielders, he’ll be a phenom and also draw the ire of many a white beat writer for not playing the game the “right way” or whatever who even cares I hope the Phillies sign him and bench him for Ryan Howard in right field or something
- Russell Martin. He takes walks, he hits quite a few home runs as far as catchers go, he’s quite handy with the glove (I’m so sorry for that pun), and Canadian. Still have no idea how he only go two years in Pittsburgh compared to recent catcher deals – McCann with six years, Salty’s 3/$21 – and he’s primed to make a Lot Of Money (American Dollars $ USD Money) and probably fanute four years. Cubs, Mariners, Jays, Pirates (incumbent [sorry still in election mode]), Dodgers all really need a top catcher, and other teams have options that hold a measure of uncertainty that Martin quells.
- Nelson Cruz. Not really suited for a full time defensive role anymore, but very very very adept at hitting home runs, so he’ll find gainful employment, likely with whomever came in second place in the V-Mart race.
- Melky Cabrera. He’s good again??!??!! He literally built a fake website to try and get out of Biogenesis suspension so I will never doubt his dedication to the baseballian turnup. Fangraphs looked at what he may get and thinks he may pull the Cherington Special 3/$39 or could finesse a fourth year??? The outfield market is so flukey this year that teams are primed to spend way too much money, which favors those teams with lots of cable deal revenue and lack of things to trade to the Dodgers for Ethier/Kemp or Rockies for CarGo or Red Sox for any of their eleven outfielders.
- Brandon McCarthy. He righted whatever issues plagued his performance in Arizona, settling back into the groundball mold that brought him success in years past. As it stands, he’s one of the best middle-of-the-order options available this winter, and definitely the firest of tweetera™ available on the market.
- Andrew Miller. Arguably the best reliever available on the market, his high-90s fastball coupled with two-plane heartbreaker of a slider and unassailable follicular status make him an enticing pickup for any team looking for a closer or late-inning guy.
- Ervin Santana. Good pitcher, but not a great one I guess? I can’t believe I have maybe 60 more years of life if I’m lucky and I’m spending any of that time considering the merits of Ervin Santana.
- Hiroki Kuroda. Source says he’s literally liable to do anything short of a complete occupational fanute into table tennis. Definitely a guy who could help on a one-year deal, but not so much a franchise savior.
- Chase Headley. Perennial trade deadline wunderbaby gets actually traded during his worst season, and hits free agency right after. Good on base presence, great defensive player, primed for a comeback from a not-so-good season. Yankees seem to want him back Very Badly, and whoever loses out on Panda/Hanley (3B mode) will be in the hunt.
There’s a lot more, so here’s some random potential under the radar value picks.
- Luke Hochevar. Starter turned reliever who had a quietly phenomenal year in the Jeopardy Champion’s Tournament that comprised the Royals bullpen this year. Righty relievers are a dime a dozen, late-inning arms that can go two or three without a second thought are not. *points to the past three or so years of watching Junichi Tazawa*
- Asdrubal Cabrera. Sitting around .300ish OBP-wise is great for a shortstop! Many teams could benefit from this production, if they don’t want to go near the durability issues of Jed Lowrie or the suckability issues of Stephen Drew.
- Josh Johnson. That six month stretch of healthiness with the Marlins was beautiful. Some franchise has to have the pokecenter plug sitting in the home clubhouse to keep him healthy and maybe even cop the rare thunderstone and bring him back to the Cy candidate he was poised to be.
- AJ Pierzynski. Please euthanize me for even suggesting that his career deserves anything short of a pillow over the face, but he is a better backup option than most teams have rn.
- Franklin Morales. A shift back to a LOOGY role could help recover some of that lost velocity and play to his strengths a little better – he likes to pound the zone, generate chases with the slider and whiffs with the fastball, and hope any contact doesn’t leave the ballpark.
- FHOFRI (Raul Ibanez). Good player-coach option? If ur tryna capture that fire 1910s swag then absolutely the guy to call. Cap Anson flow. Lou Boudreau, Leo Durocher, Bob Ferguson status. If it’s not apparent I have consumed a couple Beer Alcohols and am excited for this thing to derail even further than it has at this point.
- Josh Willingham. If some team could really convince him to stay on as a platoon/bench righty bat, he’s instantly better than Jonny Gomes and Delmon Young and maybe even Cuddyer, but if he wants a starting role then I don’t know if it’s a prudent investment.
- Burke Badenhop. I watched ~150ish Red Sox games this year and think he had a good season, if that counts for literally anything at all. Good solid middle-relief option for pretty much every team that isn’t the 2014 Royals. Do you like mitigating home runs and comical hops after pitches??? You do??? Neat! Sign this dude.
- Nori Aoki. Speaking of the Royals…solid leadoff guy, power seems to have gone and defense can be suspect but a good contact hitter who plays really well in a 100-start/platoon situation if that’s what he’s willing to do, especially in a thin outfield FA class.
lets talk about year end awards (the ones that arent announced yet – cy and mvp)
al cy: felix
nl cy: uh well madison bumgarner had a pretty great season jk obviously kershaw
al mvp: trout because he so deserves it come on hes basically another 5 singles away from the hall of fame just let him have it
nl mvp: the legendary tulo….a man with parts unknown get it thats an injury joke
ok that was fun
i kind of want to discuss the red sox now in all lowercase if you may indulge me
first: i will lose a limb if it means bringing back jon lester. pick a limb, larry lucchino. it’s yours if i can have jon lester back. my right hand is my primary tweeting hand so i’d prefer to keep that one. but you make the rules so pick the one you prefer.
second: im cool with a lot of options at third base and have resigned myself to will middlebrooks being traded for ptbnl and hitting thirty home runs in oakland in 2016, but chief among them is adrian beltre. he’s great and good and also super fantastic at baseball doing. plus in the even garin cecchini’s eye sockets become any less pronounced and gaunt and he somehow finds a power stroke while in the woods voyaging one day we dont have to be like “welllllllllllll chase headley is here thru 2018 sooooooooooo………….”
third: im so okay with trading everyone except xander (duh do i even need to justify this his swing really found its balance around august and his defense is rounding into serviceable form especially the all-important confidence aspect) and mookie. mookie has shown an advanced knowledge of the strike zone, ability to hit to all fields, surprising power, and literally picked up the outifield in the matter of six months. seriously. put physics in front of him and i bet he bodies Known Fuccperson Neil DeGrasse Tyson in a matter of weeks. cant wait for him to learn latin so we can discuss the 18 levels of satire/parody that ovid goes thru in the ars amatoria. wonder if he could fanute cold fusion if he tried hard enough.
i have no idea what else to discuss and we are encroaching on three thousand words. just know this: i am very sad to have baseball dissipate into the fall, fading into background twitter noise with the exception of the winter meetings and occasional Dope Rumor. baseball always signifies happy time for me, i.e. the times when sun is up and warmth is here and i can find a thing to actually bond with my dad with and agree on for once and an excuse to talk to my brothers and sister, who i feel growing apart from me (in a good way!) every single day. the only times ive cried in 2013 and 2014 was the day that “real and true” by future and miley and mike will and regrettably mr hudson came out, the last night i was visiting family this summer overseas as we were driving home around three am and the coast was beautifully lit up (and the sunrise two hours later as we left for the airport) and i realized how much of myself and my identity and my familial presence i’ve neglected and how many people fuck w/me off the strength of my bloodlines, and when david ortiz hit that home run in the alcs and when the red sox won the world series. i can’t quite articulate how much i enjoy the quiet background din of don orsillo and jerry remy / joe castig and/or dale arnold, sitting in my living room or car, genuinely being a part of my life and giving me three hours of their night to chat. i’m not quite ready to settle into another five months of perpetual colddarkness, but there hasn’t been a season where i truly was. here’s to a short and easy offseason for all of you, and see you next april. for now, i’ll be going to bed with visions of jon lesterplums dancing in my head. wake me up in march.