Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXI: Crazy Trade Deadline. Crazier Cubs Game)

Written by :
Published on : August 5, 2016

 

 

Well, the trade deadline has come and gone. And it was a wild one. Maybe the craziest one ever. Since we last spoke, the Rangers got Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran. The Indians got Andrew Miller. And they didn’t get Lucroy. The Giants got Matt Moore and Will Smith. The Dodgers got Rich Hill and Josh Reddick. And they couldn’t unload Yasiel Puig. The Nationals got Mark Melancon. The Mets got Jay Bruce. The Marlins got Andrew Cashner. Chris Sale’s scissors stayed in Chicago. And now we can finally talk about what’s actually going on on the field. Yay!

 

On Sunday, the Cubs and Mariners played in one of the wackiest, most amazing games I’ve ever seen in my life. First of all, it’s best that we don’t speak Brian Matusz’ name ever again. The first three innings were essentially batting practice for Seattle and they went up 6-0 on homers before Theo Epstein shipped Matusz off to Siberia, or wherever starters with 14.00 ERAs go to repent. Maybe Baltimore?

 

Anyway, Carl Edwards Jr. came in in the 4th and 5th to stop the bleeding for the Cubs, striking out five of the six batters he faced. At this point, I was getting text messages from my brother-in-law as if the Cubs were somehow back in the game. I’d already received multiple texts on the disaster Siberia Boy had caused. But now I started hearing some optimism from my multiple Cubs text messaging groups. You read that correctly. Anyway, the Cubs did manage to get on the board in the bottom of the 5th when Felix Hernandez walked Ben Zobrist with the bases loaded and then plunked Addison Russell while they were still loaded, making it 6-2.

 

 

In the 6th, it looked like the Mariners were going to tack on to their lead after Joe Nathan came in and decided he was too old to be of any use. So Travis Wood replaced him on the mound and, after walking Seth Smith to load the bases, he promptly struck out Shawn O’Malley and Leonys Martin and got Robinson Cano to pop out. It was still 6-2 and Wood was out of a jam. The fun part was, in the 7th, Pedro Strop came in to relieve Wood, but Joe Maddon didn’t take Wood out of the game. He sent him out to play left field. And that same inning, he happened to make a spectacular catch into the ivy on a Franklin Gutierrez line drive. And that’s when Wrigley Field went nuts and my phone started to blow up. Oh, and apparently, when Wood came back to the dugout, Cubs’ catcher, David Ross, jokingly gave Wood some guff for not hitting the cutoff man after his catch. To which Wood just replied, “Fuck you.” Amazing.

 

In the bottom of the 7th, Zobrist tripled in Dexter Fowler, making it 6-3. And then in the 8th, Wood came back in from left to pitch. Because Maddon is apparently a tortured artistic genius. And was just getting started. Wood then picked off O’Malley as he tried to steal second for the 3rd out in the inning. Out of left field, indeed. Fuck you, indeed.

 

In the bottom of the 9th, with one out, the Cubs rallied with a double by Anthony Rizzo and singles by Zobrist and Russell, making it 6-4. Jason Heyward was then hit by a pitch, loading the bases. And then Wilson Contreras beat a throw to first on a bases-loaded double play attempt, making it 6-5. At this point, my wife did not want to watch the game. But when Seattle reliever, Steve Cishek, unloaded a wild pitch to the backstop, scoring Russell to tie the game, even she was like, “Oh my god!” as Wrigley, my phone and my mouth started screaming in unison. I guess Seattle was screaming too, since Cishek has since lost his job as closer. But that’s not my problem.

 

 

Fast forward to the bottom of the 12th, still tied 6-6. And say what you want about Jason Heyward’s season at the plate. He’s still the best defensive outfielder in the National League this year (and probably 3rd overall, after Kevin Pillar and Adam Eaton). And yes, he’s hitting .231, with an OPS+ of 73 (jesus). But he still has a 1.4 WAR and he was about to show some offensive value. With an 0-2 count, Heyward cranked a double off the top of the wall in right-center that came about a foot away from ending the game. Then he made his way to 3rd on a Contreras sac fly. And I don’t think a majority of Major Leaguers are beating that throw.

 

What happened next was full-on bizarre. With Hector Rondon’s spot in the order up next, the only pinch hitter Maddon could use was a starting pitcher. And instead of going with Jake Arrieta (who is hitting .279 with 2 home runs, but also strikes out half of the time), Maddon went with Jon Lester, who has a whopping seven career hits, but also only strikes out 30% of the time. I really don’t know. I just stopped questioning Maddon.

 

 

With two strikes on him, Lester actually laid down a perfect safety squeeze, scoring Heyward with the perfect head-first slide and the winning run. And nothing will ever be the same again. Lester got mobbed. Maddon kept doing his Beautiful Mind baseball math equations in the dugout. Everybody else lost their own minds. And it’s probably going to be a game I revisit for years to come.

 

Hey, you might not like the Cubs as much as I do. But at least that’s not trade talk. Let’s go around the league.

 

The AL East

Dylan Bundy might be the savior of the pitching-starved Orioles this season, as well as the most exciting American League rookie not born in Germany. And with the addition of Wade Miley, they might actually have a real 5th starter for the first time. I still think the Blue Jays are going to win the division. Especially if Troy Tulowitzki’s thumb doesn’t fall off. Aaron Sanchez is a legit Cy Young candidate. And it turns out they’re not moving him to the pen, after all. The Red Sox are waiting for any of Dave Dombrowski’s moves to pay off. And just when you thought we could finally stop talking about the Yankees now that they dealt Miller and Beltran and Aroldis Chapman, they have to figure out how to break up with Alex Rodriguez.

 

The AL Central 

One of the most interesting playoff scenarios (besides Texas-Toronto) is probably going to be between Cleveland and Texas, since Lucroy shut down the trade that would have made him battery mates with Miller and Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco and Jeff Tomlin and Trevor Bauer and whatever other awesome arm he didn’t feel like catching. Until he went to Texas, I just assumed that Lucroy was an idiot. Either that or he saw the RNC and pictured Cleveland as a dystopian wasteland. But as of now, he might be getting the last laugh because Salazar is on the DL and Cleveland might not even win their division.

 

 

That’s because the Tigers are creeping. They’ve won eight of their last ten and are only 3 back of the Indians. Because while the Indians are 26-8 against the rest of their division (including 11-1 against the Tigers), they just cannot beat the Twins. So maybe if the Eastern teams beat up on each other down the stretch and Cleveland goes on another cold streak, the Motor City Kitties can slide in to the playoffs. 1908 World Series rematch, baby!

 

The AL West

A few weeks ago I was SURE the Astros were going to overtake the Rangers in the standings or at least move in to a Wild Card slot. But they got swept by the Tigers and now it looks like the Rangers are running away with this thing once again. I know AJ Griffin and Cole Hamels were their only starters to win in July. But with Lucroy and Beltran and a returning Shin-Soo Choo, that lineup is sick. The baseball pundits keep trying to sell me on the Mariners as a team to watch. And I’ll buy it as long as every game is as good as Sunday’s against the Cubs.

 

The NL East

The Nationals are viewed as trade deadline losers because they couldn’t land Chapman or Miller, but if that’s the case, why aren’t 27 other teams deadline losers? Mark Melancon is still a strong reliever. And they didn’t have to give up Lucas Giolito to get him. Then again, I’ve waited all season for Daniel Murphy to cool off. And now it’s August and he’s still hitting .358. The second best batting average in the league belongs to Wilson Ramos at .331. All that has to make them feel better about Bryce Harper hitting .234. What happened, breh?

 

The NL Central

 

Clayton Kershaw hasn’t pitched since June 26th, so he’s about to fall off all the NL leader boards due to inactivity. When that happens, Kyle Hendricks might actually have the best ERA of any starter in baseball. We can hold off with any Hendricks Cy Young talk for the time being. But these are the types of things I can talk about while the Cubs are hot. The Cubs were 11-17 without Fowler in the lineup. Now he’s back. The bullpen is upgraded. And John Lackey didn’t come here for a haircut. He came here for jewelry.

 

The NL West

The Giants have only won 5 games since the All-Star break. But with Hunter Pence and Joe Panik back in the lineup, as well as the additions of Eduardo Nunez, Moore and Smith, they might start to look like that Even Year team everyone seems to want. I don’t want it. But like, people who say words on TV seem to. But man, the Dodgers really need to take advantage of the Giants’ skid. I know they went 15-9 in July. And that they scored a lot of runs during that stretch. But only the Dodgers, who have seemingly had every single one of their starters on the DL this year, would actually go out to acquire another injured starter. But mostly everybody wants to talk about Yasiel Puig’s demotion from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Oklahoma City Dodgers. And then if he’s not careful, to the Tulsa Drillers, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and then the Great Lake Loons. Then maybe on a flight back to Cienfuegos. Remember 2013? Sigh.

 

The Rockies also got hot and were creeping up the division standings, as well as the Wild Card, but then Trevor Story went out for the season, destroying the worldview of every baseball fan who also loves shit-awful puns. I’m just thankful Jose Reyes went to the Mets and not Story, because of all the new lows the New York Post‘s headlines haven’t had to sink to yet.

 

 

Okay! That does it for this week. If you need more baseball, be sure to check me out on “Comedians Talking Sports” MLB recaps with Joe Kilgallon, available at all the podcast places. Until then, Ichiro needs 2 hits and the Cubs’ magic number is 46.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XIX: The Damn Yankees)

Written by :
Published on : July 22, 2016

 

 

Heard any good rumors lately? I don’t know about you, but this trade deadline can’t come soon enough for me. And it still won’t be here by the time I post next week. So I’m gonna have to be patient, even though it’s only so much fun to keep hearing, “The Indians need a catcher… something, something, Jonathan Lucroy.” The only fun part about the wait is that the Yankees have gone from an also-ran in the American League East to The Most Interesting Team in the World. Joe Girardi said their game on Sunday with the Red Sox was must-win. And not only did they win that game, they also took three in a row from the Orioles. So the “Will They?/Won’t They?” scenario for Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman and whoever else they’d be unloading became even cloudier.

 

Sure, there’s a logjam of three teams (the Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays) ahead of them in their own division. But on Wednesday, the Yankees were two games over .500 for the first time since they were 4-2 on April 12th. And they’re still only 6.5 back in the division, and 5.5 in the Wild Card. If I’m being completely honest, as a Cubs fan, part of me hopes they do absolutely nothing. Just sit there and go down with the ship. I’d love it if the Cubs found a reasonable way to get either of those guys, but I also know how un-fun it’s going to be when I wake up some morning next week and see that Chapman was sent to the Nationals and Miller went to the Giants. So yeah, I kinda want Brian Cashman to be an idiot here. Pride of the Yankees, baby!

 

 Miller

 

If I’m being completely objective, the Yankees totally need to sell. They’re only projected at 11% to make the postseason anyway, according to FanGraphs. And their upcoming schedule isn’t making it any easier on them. Plus, the amount of quality prospects that so many other teams would be willing to give up for Miller and/or Chapman and his 105.1-mph fastball should have them salivating. But this is the Yankees we’re talking about. They’re having a hard enough time admitting that a roid-free, 40-year-old A-Rod probably shouldn’t be their DH of the future.

 

To paraphrase Marsellus Wallace from Pulp Fiction, “The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That’s pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts. It never helps. You fight through that shit. Cause a year from now, when you kicking it in the Caribbean, you’re gonna say to yourself, ‘Mike Bridenstine was right.'”

 

Okay, lets go around the league…

 

The AL East

 

The verdict still isn’t in on the Drew Pomeranz trade. Some people think his acquisition means the Red Sox are World Series-bound. Other people think they gave up too much in Anderson Espinoza just to get a back of the rotation guy who will probably suck in the division. If his first start in Boston is any indication, it’s actually a little bit of both. Pomeranz got chased in the 4th on Wednesday against the Giants, after allowing five runs. But then Hanley Ramirez hit three home runs and the Red Sox won the eighth game in their last nine chances. But hey, the Blue Jays are surging, the Orioles will get over their stomach bugs at some point and the Red Sox are just one more bad start from David Price away from thinking the sky is falling once again.

 

The AL Central

The Twins fired their GM this week and yeah, they’re probably going to be the first team in the American League to be mathematically eliminated. It’s only July, but that elimination number is 48 in the division and 51 in the Wild Card. Meanwhile, the Indians are running away with the Central. We know they’re gonna be buyers (they actually need relief pitching, a catcher and a bat), but I’m just as interested to see what the Tigers (4.5 out in the Wild Card) and White Sox (7 back) decide to do. Also, I’m probably going to have to say the same thing next week because this stretch of games between the All-Star break and the trade deadline is really just a bullshit holding pattern. Oh, but I guess Ned Yost has met five Presidents. So that’s cool. No word on if he’s met Trump yet.

 

The AL West

The Rangers are banged up, they have a 4-14 record since June 28th and they actually have lower playoff projections than the Astros do now. And the Astros just picked up Yulieski Gurriel from Cuba, even though they also have Alex Bregman and might not have anywhere to put him. And the Angels haven’t lost since the break, which is a terrible time to finally get hot. But at least Rich Hill and his blisters probably saved a lot of teams from dumping hotshot prospects to the A’s just to get a 36-year-old journeyman with a 4.23 career ERA.

 

The NL East

 

Well, Stephen Strasburg finally lost. Not that pitcher wins and losses matter to me. But at this point, it’s almost settled business that the Nationals are going to win the division. And the projection gods aren’t in love with the Marlins or Mets the rest of the way. Even though Giancarlo Stanton has to get better at some point (right?). And even though Jacob deGrom is quietly becoming a Cy Young candidate in New York once again. But mostly everyone wants to speculate on where Jeremy Hellickson of the Phillies is going to wind up. Like I keep saying, August 1st can’t come fast enough.

 

The NL Central

The Cubs finally have their swagger back. As well as the best record in baseball (thanks Giants!). And everybody seems to love this Mike Montgomery trade. And with Clayton Kershaw out for the foreseeable future, it frees up Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo to win co-MVPs and Jake Arrieta to get hot and win his second Cy Young. Now we just have to wait for Dexter Fowler to come back, Jason Hammel to eat more potato chips, Kyle Hendricks to keep things up and the Cubs to land one of those Yankees closers without giving up the farm. Then we got it made! See, I can play best-case-scenario make believe too. I just don’t know what to make of the Cardinals, who the projections gods do love. I just have to hope that their hacker karma gets the best of them.

 

The NL West

The Giants haven’t won since the All-Star break, which has to be frustrating. The last team to go in to the break with the best record in baseball and then lose five in a row after were the ’91 Dodgers, who didn’t end up making the playoffs that year. Uh oh. The Giants’ starters haven’t been good. They almost got no-hit by Drew Pomeranz’ replacement in San Diego. They had that balk-off the night before. And don’t forget Yangervis Solarte’s nacho cheese ball during the three-game sweep. By a team that’s aggressively selling, mind you. It has to be equally frustrating for them that the Dodgers are somehow 13-7 since Kershaw went down with his back injury. They were seven games under .500 without him, prior to actually losing him. So I guess that means the Dodgers’ offense has to keep them afloat until they decide whether or not Kershaw needs season-ending surgery. And remember: Kershaw can’t blow it for them in the playoffs if he’s not there. Watch them win the whole thing now.

 

 

Okay. That does it for this week. If you need more baseball, you can listen to me on Comedians Talking Baseball with Joe Kilgallon, available on iTunes. Until then, Ichiro needs 6 hits and the Cubs’ magic number is 62.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode II)

Written by :
Published on : March 8, 2016

 

 

Yoenis Cespedes is almost single-handedly making me want to root for the Washington Nationals in the NL East this year. After the Mets gave Cespedes a $27.5 million salary ($22.5 million more than the hated-but-much-better Bryce Harper makes in Washington), he’s turned their Spring Training camp into a a daily episode of MTV Cribs, with multiple custom cars, two tricked-out Polaris Slingshots and a fire-breathing Lamborghini Aventador. All custom-designed by some guy in Miami who is probably not a total douchebag of the worst kind or anything. Now Cespedes is buying $7,000 grand champion hogs at county fairs, slaughtering them and riding horses to work. We get it, you’re MC Hammer.

 

The thing is, for all the love that Cespedes, the Mets and their pitching staff is getting right now, it was the Nationals who were in their same position this time last season. Now the Nats have Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman back for full seasons. And while Max Scherzer and a healthy Stephen Strasburg may not be deGrom-Harvey-Syndergaard, they’re still pretty fucking formidable. Especially since Scherzer is the best pitcher in the National League not named Clayton Kershaw. And despite all the fanfare, Steven Matz’ projections are pretty pedestrian, Bartolo Colon will be 43-years-old in May and Zack Wheeler’s stats don’t really inspire awe right now either.

 

Hate you.

 

There’s a bit of a drop-off in the rotation after the Mets’ Big Three. So I could see an argument why Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross actually round out a better overall rotation than the pitching Murderer’s Row/Greatest Staff Ever in Queens. And I haven’t even talked about Lucas Giolito yet. Call me crazy, but with identical Vegas odds (89.5 wins) and my growing hatred of the 22nd-best hitter in baseball (Cespedes), I am thinking the Nats’ luck can’t be nearly as bad as it was last year. Now somebody just needs to call Dusty Baker and remind not to do to Strasburg what he did to Mark Prior back in Chicago.

 

Around the League

Last week, I named Carlos Correa as my pick for AL MVP. This week, I’ve also made up my mind on my AL Cy Young choice and it’s Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox. If you ask me, he should have won the award last year since he had the best FIP and second-highest WAR in the league. But as of now, he’s the best pitcher of the past 2-3 years who still hasn’t brought home the hardware. I think he’s due. And it’d be nice if his teammates scored some runs for him to help in his cause. I’m sure Sox teammate Jose Quintana feels the same way since it’s probably not fun for someone with a 3.18 FIP to go 9-10 on the year. That’s approaching 2015 Corey Kluber-level ridiculousness.

 

In the National Leauge, the Cy Young is always Clayton Kershaw’s to lose. I know that. You know that. Everybody knows that. But what do you want me to do – actually pick Clayton Kershaw? That’s no fun. That’s like picking Mike Trout to win AL MVP. It’s actually probably even easier than that. You gotta go bolder sometimes. And so I’m going to chose somebody else who’s never won it, and that’s Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. His projections are among the league leaders (with Kershaw, Scherzer, Jake Arrieta, Strasburg and Jose Fernandez), but MadBum is also looking at a league-topping 17-18 wins for the Giants. And that’s how Arrieta and Dallas Keuchel put the award away last year. I’d love to think another very-good-but-never-won-it player, Jon Lester of the Cubs, could have been my choice. But I already got my miracle pitching season out of Arrieta last year, so I can’t be too greedy. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija may be bust risks in San Fran this year, but Bumgarner never is.

 

Death, taxes and MadBum.

 

Also, since the Red Sox-loving media has spent about as much time as it could the past two weeks gushing over David Price and Craig Kimbrel and then crying about Pablo Sandoval’s tummy, this week they seem to have moved on to gushing over Mookie Betts. Next week I assume they’ll move on to Xander Bogaerts. But for now, did you know that Mookie Betts is also the greatest bowler of all time? You didn’t? Well he is. I don’t know how that will help the Red Sox to not finish in last place for the third straight year, but anyway, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts. If you’re a Yankees fun, your current Mookie Betts is Andrew Miller. He’s the reason you can rest assured that the same Aroldis Chapman you were super excited to have signed in the offseason is also the guy you can now be like, “30 game suspension? Pffffff. We have Andrew Miller!” My own personal Mookie Betts this week is Addison Russell of the Cubs. I love my Barry Larkin Starter Kit. And did you see the monster bomb he hit in Arizona in the second game? It went so far that it totally didn’t make me give a shit if he could bowl at all.

 

Alright. We’ve got four weeks to go before the season starts. And I need all of this to distract me from whatever insane shit happened in the 2016 Presidential race this week. I might even suggest Yoenis Cespedes as a third party write-in candidate. A Cuban-born New York billionaire who loves publicity? He’s like all the GOP candidates wrapped into one. Which gives John Kasich another reason to drop out since he doesn’t fit into this equation either. I’d actually be hard-pressed to think of many things inside the Yoenis Cespedes/John Kasich venn diagram. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try. Four more weeks of Spring Training, baby! And I’ll be heading to Arizona to see the Cubs in three. If you see a Polaris Slingshot in the parking lot, it’s totally mine.

 

 

Angelino in the Outfield (Episode 1)

 

 


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