Some Parting Thoughts on the 2014 MLB Season

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.

My Application for MLB Commissioner

Good afternoon, owners, magnates, and grand pubas of Major League Baseball,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am applying to the position of “MLB Commissioner”, as seen on job website MLB.com.

I feel that I am a strong candidate for this position, and my diverse resume and experiences equip me with the tools to not only fulfill my duties as Commissioner, but thrive and take the MLB to unprecedented heights.

As a (heretofore) underemployed recent college graduate, I am adroitly aware of the importance of maintaining MLB’s budget, and have extensive experience in watching my friends with cushy accounting jobs spend a lot of money on things they want in the moment, then decide they don’t want and trade mere months later. Once, my friend was immensely stoned and wanted to buy a $350 sculpture of a scarab beetle, and I talked him out of it; this proves I am capable of vetoing any contract not in the best interest of the players, owners, and MLB as a whole.

A strong disciplinarian is important to the health and image of MLB, and as an older brother with years of wiffle ball experience, I understand the essential nature of maintaining the old-school tradition of firing baseballs at the heads of those whom anger you, and vow to keep this dangerous and juvenile practice in place for my term.

I watched all of “Breaking Bad” in, like, 2 weeks, so I have a deep and thorough understanding of the television industry, and will be able to operate in the new world of MLB cable contracts with facility and faculty.

My zeal for baseball has yet to dim since I got a couple twitter favorites from a twitpic of a snapchat of myself crying after the Red Sox won the World Series last year, and I hope to lend my expertise and maintain an already-strong MLB flex, despite any anti-trust regulations establishing a dedicated No Flex Zone.

Attached you will find my proposals and platform as Commissioner. I thank you for reading this letter and reviewing my application, and I look forward to speaking to you again.

Sincerely,

@TheZaharaDesert

—————————————————-

As Commissioner, I will enact the following policies:

  • Complete revamping of Joint-Drug Agreement. Together with the MLB Player’s Association, I will work to enact a comprehensive performance-enhancing drug program, in which all players are given equal and equitable access to any and all PEDs they wish to take.
  • Regulating stadium concession prices. The owners’ hegemonic tyranny with respect to the price of beer and cased meats has gone on too long, and I will mandate hard caps of $3 on hot dogs and all beers – domestic, imported, craft-brewed, etc. It’s time to put the purchasing power in the hands of the everyfan.
  • Enforce pitchers’ delivery time limits more strictly. Jesus God fuck damn shit balls, just throw the goddamn ball, Papelbon. Please. For all our sakes. It’s 12:37 am, I gotta be at work in 6 hours, you’re 11 games back in the division, and I’m only watching this ’cause they’re letting Bartolo hit in the 9th for some strange reason.
  • Improve the plumbing in Oakland’s O.co Coliseum. Actually, never mind – Mr. Wolff, tear down this park!
  • Universal DH. Here’s the thing about pitchers hitting: it’s awful and terrible and anyone who actually enjoys it may require a lobotomy and/or chemical sterilization.  Bunts are entertaining in the same way root canals, traffic jams, and excise taxes are: not at all. Home runs are for all in the Zahara era.
  • Outlaw All Chanting of The “Seven Nation Army” Bassline. A seven Oriole fan army couldn’t hold me back from establishing this policy.
  • Instant 1000% pay raise for the MLB Commissioner. These Commissioner yacht trips to Ibiza for “baseball outreach” aren’t gonna pay for themselves! (Neither are the mountains of cocaine and strippers.)
  • Changing my middle name to BearWrangler. Kenesaw Mountain Landis was a great name. Bart Giamatti was a great name. William BearWrangler Zahara will forever be the greatest name.
  • Summary executions of any Red Sox fans who cheer the next retiring Yankee. Thankfully, the Yankees won’t have any “legends” retiring for the next couple geologic eras, but the warm receptions and ovations Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter received are unforgivable. I hope David Ortiz receives a gentle shower of used MetroCards, broken glass, and homeless person urine upon his last career at-bat at Yankee Stadium, as it should be.
  • Play all baseball games on Twitter. With the increasing shittasticness of real life threatening to consume us all in a hail of Israeli/Gazan/Russian/Ukrainian/Police brutality bullets at any minute, and with the #millenial proclivity to waste all their time* on the internet, I will end the primitive practice of actually playing games outdoors, and instead upload all baseball players to the Cloud and play via social media!
    * waste all their time = escape the hellificent debt-and-sadness double stuft world the boomers left us to flounder in
  • Clone Vin Scully. 32 more should do: 28 for every team besides the Red Sox, one for ESPN, two for FOX, and one for TBS’s obligatory random NLDS coverage.

You’re a wizard Girardi

The Yankees made a bunch of good moves this offseason. They said they were going to get under the luxury tax threshold. But hey, they’re the Yankees the words “luxury” and “tax” were the first works Hank and Hal Steinbrenner ever said. So that went out the window. Good move #1. They went on a spending spree, giving Jacoby Ellsbury 153 million dollars over 7 years and the countless tears of Red Sox nation. They gave Brian McCann 85 million to make sure that nobody ever breaks the unwritten rules of baseball and to look really really weird without any facial hair. Carlos Beltran got 45 million to hit the DL a couple times and let Ichiro get time in right field. Brett “Godner” Gardner even got in the act receiving a juicy 52 million dollar extension. And just when you thought they were all done shopping they went to Japan and threw money at young superstar Masahiro Tanaka in order to get him to come to the Bronx (Speaking of Tanaka, dude hired a private Boeing 787 to fly him and his family out from Japan. He truly is a Yankee). 

It may surprise you to read that I only consider all of those merely good moves. That’s because the Yankees front office made their greatest move this offseason by locking up manager Joe Girardi for 4 more years. You may be wondering why this is such a great move, considering Girardi only won 85 games and missed the playoffs last year. Well in the 6 seasons that Girardi had been manager of the Yanks he led the team to the best record in baseball at 564-408 including a World Series title in 2009. Last year was his greatest feat yet, squeezing 85 wins out of a roster that was starting Jayson Nix, Vernon Wells, Chris Stewart and Travis Hafner for most of the year. Not exactly the names you expect to see leading an 85 win team. Even the pitching staff was led by 41 year old Andy Pettitte and 38 year old Hiroki Kuroda. The 2013 Yankees had no business being a winning baseball team let alone in the wild card hunt until the beginning of September.

Fast forward to 2014 and the Yankees are still defying all expectations. The mighty rotation that started the year featuring Tanaka, Sabathia, Kuroda, Nova and Pineda has been destroyed. Just one of those 5 pitchers is still pitching for the Yankees right now and it’s not the young guns nor the seemingly rubber-armed CC. No its the 39 year old Kuroda, pitching on a one year contract leading the way. Last week the Yankees hosted the Tigers for a 4 game set with Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander all taking the hill consecutively. Naturally you would think the past 3 AL Cy Young winners would put on some masterful displays of pitching and completely shut down the inept Yankees offense. Except that didn’t happen. In fact Scherzer got beaten by a suddenly resurgent mid-season acquisition Brandon McCarthy, Verlander was outdueled by Chris Capuano (yes really) and Price spun a gem but wasn’t able to walk away with a decision as the game went to extras. Even in the final game, Rick Porcello, the team’s ERA leader could walk away with a win as Shane Greene went 8 scoreless and handed the 1 run lead to David Robertson who’s been so good in the closer role that Yankee fans don’t even remember what Mariano looks like (no that’s a lie, we miss you Mo). Even the rest of the bullpen has been stellar with flamethrowing righty Dellin Betances (102 K’s in 68.2 IP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and Adam Warren being the main setup men.

The scary part of this season is that even though 4 of our 5 Opening Day starters are out with injury, the pitching staff is still the highlight of the team. That’s how bad the offense has been. The aforementioned Brett “Godner” Gardner has been maybe the only bright spot leading the team in SLG%, OBP% and runs while being just behind fellow outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (ok there’s another bright spot) in average, hits, and RBI’s. He’s second on the team in homers behind Mark Teixeira. He’s been a 4 WAR player this year for the Yankees, completely living up to his nickname and his big contract. Chase Headley has also been a great mid-season pickup for the Yanks, playing 3rd base. I’m currently salivating at the thought of Alex Rodriguez moving back to shortstop full time next year once Jeter is out of the way. Can you imagine that? I can and it’s incredibly exciting.

Like the title of this post states, Joe Girardi has truly been a wizard this year. In fact I’m surprised nobody has carried him off and threatened to burn him at the stake yet. It’s incredible watching him juggle lineups day in and day out as well as the constant media circus around Derek “RE2PECT” “GOAT” Jeter. Much like the 2013 Yankees, today’s Yankees have no business being 5 wins over .500 and only 1.5 games out of the second wild card spot. I mean they have a -25 run differential. I guess when they lose they lose BIG. That’s the only way the Bronx Bombers know how to do things.

The biggest free agent acquisition of this offseason for the Yankees wasn’t any player, it was the man who can take all these square pegs and somehow shove them into round holes to make things work the right way. Joe Girardi may not be the best in-game decision maker but on a nightly basis he comes up with a way to squeeze every last drop of talent and effort out of his players and make this worn down, beaten up team a contender. And that’s why he’s the most important person the Yankees have got. 

Letting Go: The 2014 Red Sox and You

A few weeks back, I was visiting my grandparents overseas and my grandfather’s cousin from Iran had come to stay for a night at their house.  In a conversation between myself, her, and my mother, she was fooling around with some random beads laying around, and told my mother that she would thumb the beads, inventory stressors in her life, and with each bead she would say “let it go” and cut them out of her day.  I don’t remember the word in Farsi (but I can tell you it isn’t the word in the Persian “Let It Go” s/o to spoken dialects i guess) and my mother is asleep and would not take kindly to being woken up for this reason.

39-51. Last place in the East with no improvement in sight. It’s time to let it go.

piano

The losses loom large on the scoreboard tonight.
Not a rally to be seen.
A kingdom of underproduction,
And it looks like AJ’s the king.
Trade winds howling like this swirling storm outside,
Couldn’t keep ‘em out, heaven knows Ben tried!

Trade Peavy, call up Rubby
Can we get something for Holt? Maybe
DFA Drew, like Capuano
Also Breslooowwwwwwww

Let him go, let him go
Can’t let AJ catch anymore
Let him go, let him go
Vazquez’s pop time aint slow!

I don’t care
About AJ
Let’s play Swihart…
He probably walks more anyway

It’s funny how half this roster
Is under six feet tall
Including Jackie Bradley
Who seems to catch them all

It’s time for Mookie to play right field
Test his limits, hope he succeeds
Thanks, I’ll miss you Jonny G…but seriously…

Let him go, let him go
Sell Mujica to the team in Lehigh
Let him go, let him go
His WHIP is really high

Here I stand
And here I say
Let’s dump Doubront…

Their power flurries like a leaf falling onto the ground
Their hopes for playoffs spiral like a helicopter also falling to the groouuuundd
They have to think, the trade deadline’s comin real fast
We’re never goin back,
2013’s in the pasttttt…

Let him go, let him go,
Please just tell me Pierzynski’s gooone
Let him go, let him go,
That’s the only way I can keep on…

Here the O’s stand,
In first place,All our hopes are gooooonneee!!!!!
Post-Punto trade 2012 never bothered me anyway…

Okay, time for a little ~serious analysis~.

As I type this, second-have savior Jake Peavy is standing squarely in the forefront of the trade deadline rumor mill firing squad, the first among many roster upheavals to come before the all-star break and a presumably busy trade deadline.

Here’s a list of open questions the defending World Series champs have to answer in a very short period of time:

  • Jake Peavy – it’s not an if at this point, but where? Cards’ Randal Grichuk and/or Allen Craig have been tossed around as returns – with the latter, how does the contract situation come into play?
  • Jon Lester – will he be re-signed? If not, is a trade going to net anything better than a qualifying offer compensation pick?
  • John Lackey – at his putative peak value – can he land a sizable return?
  • Brock Holt – playing out of his mind, could he bring something of greater value back a la Jose Iglesias and Peavy?
  • Stephen Drew – if this team isn’t going to contend for a playoff spot, what function will he serve on a bridge team?
  • Will Middlebrooks – Should be returning from injury soon – where will he fit into the major league roster, if at all?
  • Jonny Gomes – is he a luxury a gutter team can afford? Will his services benefit a contender?
  • Koji Uehara – :( but…no…we can’t move Koji…can we?
  • Henry Owens – he has nothing else to gain from AA – how will they free a space for him in AAA?
  • And many more…

Taking this team from underachieving frigate of dead weight to playoff contender would require feats of roster construction only possible in video games with the option to turn off fair trades.  While a Giancarlo Stanton for Heiker Meneses trade appeals to all my senses, the universe is unfair and will not allow me to experience the greatness of that circumstance. They’re stuck in a position where their most tradeable pieces are either bringing back marginal or medium returns at best (Peavy, Uehara, etc), or herald the loss of a current or potential future franchise lynchpin (Lester, any high-end prospect).  They can’t trade their way into a playoff spot.

They can’t hit their way into one, either. AJ Pierzynski has been a vacuum of non-production.  Xander Bogaerts has shown a sadomachistic inability to do anything with the slider away.  In fact, the only respectable offense has come from last year’s up-and-down utility infielder turned nü-Zobrist, Brock Holt and his .311/.359/.425 line.

Not hitting, pitching spottily well. This team is all but unsalvageable.  Time to let it go.  I’m at the point where I can let this season go, regardless of what they do.  Except Pierzynski.  Please let him go away.

 

The USMNT: Why You Should Care

I want to preface this with me stating that I don’t know too much about soccer. Sometimes I still get angry about offsides (because it still doesn’t make any sense to me). In fact, I’ve conditioned myself to consider every single goal scored as offsides, because I’ve seen it so many times called.

Soccer, futbol, footy, whatever. It is by far the most dominant sport in everywhere in the world except the USA and Canada. But there’s reason for that. Soccer never really caught on in the States. Despite a history of consistently being underdogs at the national level, even beating England in the World Cup, there was never a league in the US that could really grab local attention. Sure, there was the NASL, but like so many other leagues, it went defunct due to revenue losses and lack of support. It has only been recently that Major League Soccer has made an impact on the way the world sees this country (Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley coming home, etc.). I’ll be honest when I say I didn’t really care for soccer as a whole, save those USA-El Tri games, until about seven or eight months ago. But even then, I only truly support domestic.

This USMNT is a lot different than its predecessors. For one, coach Jurgen Klinsmann isn’t a US citizen, though he has lived in Los Angeles for a long time, is married to an American woman, and his kids are as American as they can get. Second, this is probably the first team to really take advantage of “The American Dream”. The Dream being the fact that this nation is comprised of so many different backgrounds. Klinsmann did what really hadn’t been done before by previous US coaches: he imported the talent. Four of the 23 men on the roster weren’t even born in the country and multiple others hold dual citizenships, which meant that they could have very well played with other qualified World Cup opponents.

Another component to this team was looking at players within our own league. Klinsmann has a certain disdain for MLS, and the way we view sports, in its current state: MLS plays games in the summer, meaning that they cut right into the World Cup, the competition within the league is no where near EPL, but it IS growing at a rapid pace, and he puts a huge emphasis on not what someone has done, but what someone can bring. Regardless of these opinions nearly half the roster is comprised of guys straight from MLS, including Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC) and Michael Bradley (Toronto FC). Kyle Beckerman, the captain of Real Salt Lake, is finally getting to go to his first World Cup at the tender age of 32.

Klinsmann infamously said that the USMNT would not win a World Cup this year. I’m sure 99% of the people watching the tournament would have the same sentiments. In America, we want to be the best at everything, especially sports. We want to be the best in basketball (the NBA Finals, the NBA being the best league in the world), in baseball (the World Series), and everything else that could possibly be considered a competition. We did not make up this sport and our leagues are just now being filled up with guys who waited for their mom’s SUV to pick them up for soccer practice. I truly believe that one day we have a realistic shot at winning a World Cup, but there’s no way in hell that day comes in 2014.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t support our nation. This year is an opportunity to hop on a bandwagon and not get off. We aren’t quite the superpower that Brazil, Spain, or Portugal are. But we can get there. Our team is built around a very excellent group of people. Altidore, Dempsey, Bradley, Howard. Those are obviously the biggest names on the team, but it’s going to be very interesting seeing guys like Diskerud, Yedlin, Johannsson, Brooks and Green develop right before our eyes.

I can understand reasoning behind contemporaries for wanting to root for the country that their fathers and mothers are from. Despite my family not really enjoying soccer, I still hope that Mexico does well. I do feel a sense of pride when I hear the Mexican National Anthem right before the game gets started. So yes, I can completely understand. However, to me, I can’t claim that as “mine”. I am American by birth so my ties to this country are far more powerful than those of my parents. It’s always seemed interesting to me when people root for a country they have no connections to, but that’s an entirely different rant post.

I keep reading that this is Brazil’s World Cup–both by geography and the fact they are the clear favorites to win it all, but personally this is my first opportunity to really immerse myself in the culture that has been growing stateside. This is really my first time being able to say “wow, that’s MY team, MY country”. And just like I’ve always been with all my teams (RIP Texas Rangers), I’m with them until the very end.

We might not be number one now, but the US always has a knack for getting there. We’ve been doing it for 250 years.

Ben Revere, Home Run Hitter

(Apparently MLB.com video doesn’t embed on WordPress, so click on that to watch.)

It happened. In the bottom of the 7th in last night’s Phillies-Rockies game, Ben Revere got a 1-1 fastball on the inner half of the plate from Rockies reliever Boone Logan, turned on it, elevated it, and hit it over the right field fence at Citizens Bank Park, snapping a streak of 1,565 homer-less plate appearances.  There is a small chance the apocalypse is on us already, but my loins are heretofore free of locusts and the cereal I’m eating is relatively radiation free (not fully free because, as we all know, most Aldi brands are so cheap because they were made with hard water runoff from nuclear power plants).  No meteorites have struck.  Will Smith has yet to introduce any aliens to Earf.  We’re in the clear, for the near future.

Here’s a gif of the hit from the good folks at Fangraphs.  You see Boone Logan, with the obligatory post-Yankees beard, rearing back and missing a spot, leaving the pitch middle-in.  Revere turns on it, knowing off the bat it had double potential, and scampers down the line.  The ball carried, and carried, and carried, and carried some more, just enough to sneak it over the notoriously short CBP wall.  Guys, this actually happened.  A classic entry to the magnificent Hall of Post-Home Run Dugout Silent Treatments punctuated this historic moment.

It took Ben Revere 1,565 times digging into the box to do this. Mike Trout has ~200 more PA, and 71 more homers. Bonds hit 122 homers in 1271 PA in 2000-2001. Ben Revere is no Trout.  He is no Bonds.  But he is Ben fuckin Revere, home run hitter, and nobody can take that away from him.  Some people go their entire lives never hitting a home run.  That one double that one-hopped the fence in Little League is not a badge of honor, it is a scar.  It was the peak of their career, a hilltop upon which they stood and looked out at the monstrous mountains of the kids who already started shaving and hit 30 that season, and they knew they would never measure up.  In that moment, a 12 year old’s hopes and dreams of baseball stardom were fractured and pulverized into a fine powder, which the wind blew away. Revere’s situation is a little different, but the home run is a magical and powerful sportsthing, and its ability to change the tide of a game/season/career/life is real.

Ben Revere finally homering doesn’t have to signal the end of society as we know it.  It could mean the beginning of a new, greater MLB, one where the home runs flow like a river of milk and honey, the strikeouts are plentiful, bat flips are social currency, and every team has their own Hank.

After the game, Revere said, “When I got to second base, I didn’t know what to do, especially when I got to third…It’s past me. I’ll try and get 400 more.”  For his sake and ours, I hope he does get 400 more.

The last time Masahiro Tanaka lost….

The world changes so quickly these days. Even in a game like baseball, change can happen before you know it. One day you could be winning a World Series and just 7 months later you could be second to last in the AL East with a -17 run differential (looking at you Red Sox). In any case, carrying on a streak like the one Masahiro Tanaka just ended is nothing short of incredible. Coming into this year, the last time Tanaka lost a regular season game was August 19th, 2012. Sure there was a loss in game 6 of the Japan Series last year, but he made up for clinching game 7 for the Rakuten Eagles one day after throwing 160 pitches in the aforementioned game 6 loss.

 

Tanaka started the year confusing major league hitters with his dazzling splitter on his way to 6 wins in his first 8 starts with a 2.17 ERA and 66 strikeouts. Tuesday was the first time he had faced a major league team twice. On April 16th, Tanaka threw 8 shutout innings, striking out 10 batters on the way to a 3-0 win for the Yankees. On Tuesday, Tanaka’s pitches did not have the same sharpness that he had shown in his previous starts. It could have been the rain, but in my opinion it was just a rare off night for a pitcher who’s already making a case to be considered one of the best in the league. 

 

So how long has it really been since Tanaka last lost a regular season game? Well let’s take a step back to August 19th, 2012…

 

…The #1 song in the country was Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen

…The #1 movie in the country was The Expendables 2

…The average gas price in America was $3.72 (it’s currently $3.65)

…The Washington Nationals had the best record in baseball at 75-46, followed closely by the Reds (74-48), Yankees (72-49) and Rangers (70-50)

…Miguel Cabrera was on his way to a triple crown with 31 homers, 104 RBI and a .331 batting average and rookie phenom Mike Trout was batting an insane .343 with 24 homers, 70 RBI and 39 stolen bases (ok those 2 are still pretty good, that hasn’t really changed)

…NL MVP Buster Posey was hitting .330 with 19 homers and 77 RBI

…Yasiel Puig was playing Class-A ball in Rancho Cucamonga around 2 months after defecting from Cuba

 

As you can see, lots of things changed from August 2012 to Tuesday night in Chicago, but one thing was the same. Masahiro Tanaka was one of the best pitchers in the world, dominating hitters in two leagues on two different continents. As a Yankee fan, I feel incredibly lucky to have him on my team and to be able to watch him pitch every 5 nights.