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 XX: Aroldis Chapman Arrives and Chris Sale Destroys)

Written by :
Published on : July 29, 2016

 

 

Man, I thought that with the trade deadline still a few days away, this week would end up being a snooze. But Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were officially inducted into the Hall of Fame, Aroldis Chapman was traded to the Chicago Cubs and Chris Sale joined the fashion police and went all Mark Fuhrman on some throwbacks. So let’s get in to it.

 

The first major shoe to drop before this year’s trade deadline was Aroldis Chapman going to the Cubs for Gleyber Torres (the #26 prospect in the Majors), Adam Warren, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford. And it may be giving up a lot, but it looks like Theo Epstein believes this is the year and is going all in. And Addison Russell also exists, is only 22 and doesn’t leave a lot of room for any potential shortstops in the Cubs’ farm system.

 

Chapman does come with some baggage, to say the least. Last December, he allegedly choked his girlfriend and then shot up his garage, although no charges were filed and he already served a 30-game suspension earlier in the year. And those allegations are horrible. But honestly, the better he does in Chicago, the more the Cubs’ fan base will be willing to let them slide and give the flamethrower a second chance to be a better person.

 

 

All of that aside, Chapman was the biggest name in the deadline talks. The Cubs acquiring him also means that the Nationals and Giants didn’t. And they didn’t have to give up Kyle Schwarber in the process of addressing their most glaring weakness. Chapman debuted at Wrigley Field on Wednesday and threw 103 mph, so I’m guessing most of the critics on the North Side will be willing to move foreword. It’s not ideal for me either, but I know that sometimes shitty people are great at baseball.

 

As far as Chris Sale goes, wow. He didn’t want to wear the infamously hideous 1976 collared throwbacks because he said they were uncomfortable so he took a pair of scissors and destroyed them. Those are the same jerseys, mind you, that the White Sox wore with fucking SHORTS for the first game of a doubleheader that same year. I’d guess they’re on every short list for the ugliest jerseys in baseball history. Although it’s amazing that it happened, Sale’s antics earned him a five-game internal suspension and sparked a sea of trade rumors with the Dodgers, Red Sox, Rangers, Blue Jays and virtually every other potential playoff team. And I’ll go ahead and say that it’s probably not even the weirdest clubhouse incident to happen to the White Sox in 2016. But this is the type of awesome scumbag baseball lore that will stick around for a long time.

 

chicago-white-sox 1976

 

Over the weekend, Griffey and Piazza were formally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. And that led a lot of baseball pundits to ask the yearly question of, “Which current players could retire and make the Hall of Fame right now?” And I always shake my head when guys like Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout and Buster Posey are even brought into the conversation. You have to play 10 years in the Majors to even be considered for the Hall of Fame, everybody. So that rules all of them out.

 

Then you have to assume that anybody with a PED suspension is also eliminated, which takes care of Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, whether or not they would have made it in otherwise. David Ortiz also tested positive in 2003. So unless views on steroid use softens in the next decade, those guys aren’t getting in either.

 

So, who would get in? Good question. Here are the 10 most-likely if everyone’s careers were over right now.

 

1. Albert Pujols

579 career Home Runs. 3 MVP Awards. I can just stop talking there. But I’ll also tell you that JAWS ranks him as the second-best first baseman of all-time. Definite.

 

2. Miguel Cabrera
2 MVP Awards. 2 HR titles. 4 batting titles. A triple crown. JAWS has him as the 11th best first-baseman of all time. Definite.

 

3. Ichiro Suzuki
He’s closing in on 3000 hits. An MVP Award. 2 batting titles. 10 Gold Gloves. Definite.

 

4. Adrian Beltre
427 HR. 2862 hits. JAWS ranks him as the 5th best third baseman of all time. Very Probable.

 

5. Carlos Beltran

I talked about him earlier this year. But 412 HR. 2554 hits. JAWS says he’s the 8th best center fielder of all time. Probable.

 

6. Joe Mauer
3 batting titles. An MVP award. JAWS ranks him as the 9th best catcher of all time. Maybe.

 

7. Robinson Cano
261 HR for a second-baseman. That’s 6th all-time. He’s also 20th in hits. And JAWS says he’s the 14th-best second baseman of all time. Probably Not.

 

8. Chase Utley
242 HR at second. That’s good for 10th all time. JAWS says he’s 11th-best at second base. Probably Not.

 

9. Joe Nathan
He’s 8th all-time in saves. JAWS says he’s the 18th-best reliever of all time. No.

 

10. Dustin Pedroia

He’s got an MVP award and 2 rings. JAWS says he’s the 21st-best second baseman of all time. No.

 

Okay. As you can see it’s pretty bleak. So I’ll give you the next 10 guys on my list, based on Bill James’ Hall of Fame Standards Ranking. And just note that a 50 is the average for a Hall of Famer.

 

CC Sabathia (42), Matt Holliday (42), Jimmy Rollins (42), Victor Martinez (38), David Wright (36), Troy Tulowitzki (36), Hanley Ramirez (36), Joey Votto (34), Jose Reyes (34), Brian McCann (33). By the way, Yadier Molina has a 26. So everyone can shut up about him.

 

Okay. Let’s go around the league.

 

The American League

It looks like the Blue Jays and Red Sox are going to make some more moves. And that the Rays will be unloading some pitching. But even with Chapman gone, the Yankees are still in the best position to benefit before the deadline. You could still argue that they’re not dead yet (6.5 back in the division, 4 back in the Wild Card), but Andrew Miller’s trade value went up even higher. And he’s the new #1 on everyone’s list. Well, except for the Cubs.

 

Miller

 

I think it’s funny that on Tuesday, Chris Tillman, Steven Wright and Danny Salazar all had bad outings, so people started asking who the AL Cy Young should be and if anyone even wanted it. ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor has Zach Britton, Tillman, Sale, Cole Hamels and Salazar in their top 5. Here’s mine.

 

1. Masahiro Tanaka    3.3 WAR    3.25 FIP    3.00 ERA
2. Aaron Sanchez       3.0 WAR    3.36 FIP    2.72 ERA
3. Corey Kluber          3.7 WAR    2.91 FIP    3.44 ERA
4. Jose Quintana        3.1 WAR    3.46 FIP    2.97 ERA
5. Danny Salazar        2.7 WAR    3.31 FIP    2.89 ERA

 

Also, Prince Fielder is out for the year. But I’m sure we’ll know a lot more about the state of teams like the Rangers and Indians and whoever else after Monday’s deadline. Saying anything else would just be wild speculation. Let’s move on.

 

The National League

It looks like the Nationals are losing faith in Jonathan Papelbon, so if Andrew Miller lands anywhere, Washington is just as good of a guess as any. The other main names still on the market in the NL are Jeremy Hellickson, Jonathan Lucroy, Jay Bruce, Carlos Gonzalez, Will Smith and Andrew Cashner. The Cubs could still go after a veteran bat. And the Dodgers want the entire Rays’ pitching staff, since they don’t have one of their own. Who’s ready for Monday?

 

Okay. That does it for this week. If you need more baseball, check me out on Comedians Talking Sports with Joe Kilgallon on iTunes. And in the meantime, Ichiro needs 3 hits and the Cubs’ Magic Number is 56.

 

 


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