Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXX: The ALDS and NLDS)

Written by :
Published on : October 14, 2016

 

Did you think there would be NO drama? Come on. It’s October! We had five-hour games and extra-innings walk-offs. We had tears. We had celebrations. We had sweeps. We have one series that’s not even done yet. Let’s talk about all of it.

 

The Blue Jays swept the Rangers 3-0

Well, add Game 3 of the ALDS in Toronto to the growing annals of Blue Jays playoff history. In the bottom of the 11th, Rougned Odor (of all fucking people) botched a throw to first base on a double play (of all fucking things), allowing Josh Donaldson to race home with a head-first slide, winning the game 7-6 and the series 3-0. As the Rogers Center lost its collective mind, the broadcast cut to a homemade sign that read, “WOULD RATHER GET PUNCHED IN MAY THAN GET KNOCKED OUT IN OCTOBER.”

 

The Rangers pitching in this series was awful. Of the three starters they used, Yu Darvish actually did the “best.” And his 2016 postseason ERA is 9.00. Josh Donaldson, who looked worn down at the end of the regular season, is the hottest hitter in the American League, once again. Edwin Encarnacion isn’t far behind. Either are Ezequiel Carrera or Troy Tulowitzki, for that matter. And Marco Estrada also pitched a gem in Game 1, for a staff that I still think is underrated.

 

 

Oh, and I know that everyone hates Jose Bautista or whatever, but the way he gently sat down his bat when he hit a home run in Game 1 is being grossly overlooked by everyone. First of all, I’m impressed he even had the wherewithal in the moment to think of that. And secondly, that’s so much more shade than any actual bat flip. And it’s dog-whistle enough that dum-dums like Goose Gossage won’t call him “an embarrassment to all Latin players” or whatever garbage shit will come out of his mouth next. I kinda hope gentle bat placements become a thing.

 

Odor’s punch won the early-season battle. Bautista, the Jays and meme generators all over North America won the war.

 

The Indians beat the Red Sox 3-0

It seems like the entirety of the national sports media decided the story of the series was the tearful goodbye of David Ortiz at Fenway Park after Game 3. Not the fact that the team with the best offense in all of baseball was shut down by a team thought to be decimated by pitching injuries. Not even Cleveland’s own beat writers gave the Tribe a fighting chance to make it out of the first round alive. But let’s make sure we focus on the guy we’ve already said goodbye to a thousand times over the course of the six month season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rob Manfred personally wheels Papi out in every game of the ALCS, NLCS and World Series just so we can keep making sure everyone on the goddamn planet has properly bid this man adieu. He is the 4th-greatest DH of all time, after all.

 

 

Maybe I’m just frustrated by all the old story lines the writers and talking heads try to trot out every October, but if I was an Indians fan, this would annoy the shit out of me. The Indians held the Red Sox to seven total runs in the series. The Sox hadn’t been held to seven runs in a three game series all season long. The Indians also won Game 2 by a score of 6-0 and all anybody really cared about was that LeBron James was there. Or, I guess, that David Price is now 0-8 in 9 playoff starts with a 5.53 ERA. But that was it. Seriously, nobody wants to talk about the team doing any of the actual winning?

 

So what should we talk about? How about Terry Francona’s bullpen usage in Game 1. With Buck Showalter’s non-use of Zach Britton in the Wild Card Game still fresh on everyone’s mind, Tito brought in Andrew Miller in the 5th inning. Miller pitched two scoreless innings and then Cody Allen was brought in to get the final five outs, including Dustin Pedroia’s check swing to end the game. Nerd boners could be seen in the proverbial pants of stat heads across the country. You can dismiss the prospects of Cleveland’s staff in a seven-game series all you want (and I am too). But Miller is the real x-factor coming out of the pen. And you gotta look at a lineup that is averaging 5 runs per game this postseason and wonder what Jose Ramirez, Jason Kipnis or Lonnie Chisenhall can do against that Jays staff.

 

Or, you know, we could just talk about how wonderful it was that Boston gave Ortiz such a nice send-off (again). The designated hitter position has been around since 1973. And it’s only in the American League. And, again, it’s not every day we say goodbye to the 4th-best one of those of all-time. Jim Thome was better. In Ortiz’ prime, Travis Hafner of the Indians was better. And as he exits, the 2016 Indians’ team was better. I think it’s best we finally turn the page. Speaking of which…

 

The Cubs beat the Giants 3-1

 

God bless my patient wife. She put up with a lot over the course of four games. That includes a room full of screaming thirty-something men when Javier Baez hit the home run off Johnny Cueto in Game 1. The five-hour, blue-balls-inducing marathon of Game 3. The emotional roller coaster comeback of Game 4. And God bless her for whatever horrors lie ahead.

 

This series had everything I love about baseball and everything I hate about baseball all at once. And just when the idiotic narrative had switched back to the magical, never-say-die, Even Year Giants, the Cubs (supposedly feeling 108 years of pressure) completed the biggest 9th-inning comeback in a series clincher in the history of postseason baseball. Madison Bumgarner’s postseason scoreless innings streak also ended at 24 (thanks, Jake Arrieta!). The Giants’ winning streak in elimination games ended at 10. Bruce Bochy has finally lost a playoff series while wearing a Giants uniform. And even if the Even Year mystique of the Giants isn’t quite dead, at least I have two more years before I have to look at people with a straight face while they talk about this shit.

 

That Baez home run came in the 8th inning of an all-out pitchers duel between Cueto and Jon Lester. On a normal day, that ball lands on Waveland. But the wind made sure it was the farthest home run to ever land in the left field basket. David Ross also picked off two runners as the Cubs went on to win their first meaningful game in weeks, 1-0. Game 2 had a solo home run from Cubs’ reliever, Travis Wood. And a two-run single from starter, Kyle Hendricks. When Arrieta hit that three-run shot off of Bumgarner in Game 3, the Cubs’ pitchers had six runs batted in and the whole Giants’ team only had two. Unfortunately for me, my wife, my stress level and hearts and livers across Chicago, the series got a little more interesting from there.

 

 

Conor Gillaspie wasn’t even supposed to be playing. He was replacing the injured Eduardo Nunez when he hit that three-run homer in the 9th off Jeurys Familia in the Wild Card Game. And in Game 3, he launched an improbable two-run triple off of Aroldis Chapman’s 102-mph fastball to give the Giants their first lead in the series. Everyone in TV Land was ready to anoint Gillaspie the New Magical Even Year Giant.

 

In the 9th, Kris Bryant hit a two-run shot off of Sergio Romo, which careened off the cartoon Chevron sign and into the left field bleachers to tie the game. You could probably hear my nutball reaction from blocks away. The same goes for Albert Almora Jr’s game-saving catch in the bottom of the inning. Yeah, Joe Panik mercifully ended the 5-hour epic in the bottom of the 13th. But the fact that the Cubs fought back at the end and didn’t just roll over would be a bit of positive foreshadowing for the following night.

 

I know it’s being sold as a bullpen meltdown, but the ineptitude of the Giants’ pen is something that was right under everyone’s nose, if they hadn’t been distracted by all the magical thinking and hopes and dreams of Gillaspie, and seeing Johnny Cueto at Wrigley Field in Game 5. The 2012 San Francisco Giants came back down 0-2 to the Reds in the NLDS and won the whole thing. But this isn’t 2012. Or 2010. Or 2014. Or 1908. Or any other Cubs meltdown year. It’s 2016. Matt Moore pitched a gem. Bochy happened to take him out, leading 5-2.

 

 

He tried Derek Law. Law gave up a single to Bryant. He tried Javier Lopez. Lopez walked Anthony Rizzo. He tried Romo again. Romo gave up a two-run double to Ben Zobrist making it 5-4. He tried Will Smith. Smith gave up a two-run single to Wilson Contreras, tying the game at 5. He tried Hunter Strickland. Strickland gave up an RBI single to Baez, putting the Cubs ahead for good, 6-5. Chapman totally redeemed himself. The Cubs are a better team. And they were the ones chanting “we don’t quit” on the opposing team’s pitching mound for another group photo as they move on to the next round. As much as I love Bill Murray, I was sure glad I didn’t have to see him again until the NLCS.

 

The Dodgers and Nationals are tied 2-2

Like David Price, Clayton Kershaw also has a rep for sucking in the postseason. But who would you rather be right now- Noah Syndergaard, Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore? Kershaw hasn’t been Kershaw. But the Dodgers have won both of the games he’s pitched. Max Scherzer is going in Game 5 for Washington. And he did give up a Major League-leading 31 home runs this season. But beating him twice in five games is almost too much to ask.

 

 

I’ve learned not to weigh in on who I want the Cubs to face in the NLCS (boy did I want the Mets last year). But Daniel Murphy is hot once again. So is Jayson Werth. Trea Turner could be a nightmare for Jon Lester. I think that’s who we’re gonna get. If it’s the Dodgers, they have a red-hot Justin Turner. They have that bullpen. They have Corey Seager, who is loving the first inning. And they have whatever version of Kershaw exists in October. But I’ll just quote Jake Arrieta, when Cubs’ beat writer, Patrick Mooney, asked him if he wanted the Mets or the Giants in the first round. “Who gives a shit?”

 

The Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908. They haven’t even been there since 1945. The Indians haven’t won since 1948. The Dodgers haven’t won since 1988. The Blue Jays haven’t won since 1993. The Nationals have never won. But the Even Year Giants are done. The Big Papi Red Sox are done. Two old story lines have been killed off. And before we end this thing, somebody else’s storied drought will be over too.

 

Okay. That’s it for this week. If you want more baseball from me, check out Comedians Talking Sports with Joe Kilgallon, available on iTunes. Until then, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 8.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXIX: Bumgarner, Britton, MY Final Awards and LDS)

Written by :
Published on : October 7, 2016

 

 

For this cautiously optimistic Cubs fan, there was something oddly poetic and metaphorical about watching Madison Bumgarner walk back to the dugout after pitching yet another October gem for a team that has been there so many times before. By now you should know the long and torturous history of the Cubs, the 107 years of futility and heartbreak, the billy goats, black cats, Leon Durhams and Steve Bartmans. This version of the team needs just 11 more wins on a season where they’ve already won 103. But in the process of chasing the championship, they’re also surrounded by ghosts, whether they be real or imagined. And so in a year where Cubs fans have never been more hopeful that the wait is over, that this is ‘Next Year’, that they can finally break a curse, of course the first obstacle in their way is a magical team with magical powers in even years, with a magical pitcher whose powers are heightened when they need him the most.

 

To me, Bumgarner symbolizes more than just a star pitcher on the San Francisco Giants. He’s also the poster boy for that magical thinking, superstition and all the other illogical nonsense that will be managed and tamed the further the Cubs get into the postseason. I’ve already seen multiple posts about how Bumgarner now has 23-consecutive scoreless innings in winner-take-all games. Before the Wild Card game, picking Noah Syndergaard to be the ‘winner’ was almost seen as contrarian, even though his numbers strongly suggest he’s the better pitcher. None of that mattered. MadBum was already at legend status. And by the time this is posted, it will have snowballed to godlike proportions. Meanwhile, I’m going to venture to guess that nobody, in their analysis of the Bumgarner vs. the Mets, is going to mention that the Mets were tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for 25th in the Majors in runs scored on the season. And that his next round opponent certainly ain’t that.

 

 

As God as my witness, the Chicago Cubs will eventually go the World Series and win the whole damn thing. It will happen before the sun swells up and swallows the earth or Donald Trump nukes Lakeview. So if a curse was actually a real thing, which I assure you it is not, the Cubs would probably have to break an ‘even year’ spell or whatever else is thrown in their way in the process. Good eventually has to defeat evil. You have to go to Mordor to get rid of the Precious. The 2004 Red Sox had to go through the Yankees to break a curse of their own. Because of course they did. Curses are fiction and fiction should have insurmountable odds right before a happy ending. If this were written by Hollywood, the 2016 Cubs’ storybook ending would go ‘Even Year’ Giants, Daniel Murphy, Boston Red Sox. And all of that can happen. So what better place than here? What better time than now? Who’s ready for some playoffs?

 

The AL Wild Card Game
The Blue Jays defeat the Orioles 5-2 in 11 innings

Oh man. I’d feel bad for Ubaldo Jimenez if I thought anybody was actually focusing on him and not on Buck Showalter’s decision to not use Zach Britton in the game. Jimenez, of course, had that infamous 7.38 ERA in the first half, which basically made him the worst starting pitcher in the Majors. But he’d been better lately, I swear. He had a 2.31 ERA in September. There were real people writing actual articles on ESPN.com saying Ubaldo should be starting the game over Chris Tillman. It’s just that Britton had a 0.54 ERA on the season. He hadn’t given up an earned run since August 24th. And that was the only once since April 30th. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

In the bottom of the 11th, after Jimenez came on in relief with the score tied at 2, he gave up singles to Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson, before Edwin Encarnacion hit a 3-run walk-off to send Toronto in to the next round. Jimenez threw a grand total of five pitches. Showalter used a grand total of six different relievers after Tillman exited in the 5th. None of them were Britton. Showalter was managing for the save, a made-up statistic for a made-up position that logic should have killed off years ago. And it probably took the strategic failing of a renowned baseball strategist for change to happen. I just hope Joe Maddon and Aroldis Chapman took notice.

 

The NL Wild Card Game
The Giants defeated the Mets 3-0

 

The pitchers duel lived up to the hype, all right. Syndergaard took a no-hitter into the 6th and looked dominant before his pitch count reached its limit at the end of 7. He was aided by a fantastic catch by Curtis Granderson in center. But the slumping Yoenis Cespedes and the mediocre bats of the Mets could get nothing going against Racist Legend Boy and a team that tanked the entire second half and had to sweep the Dodgers to hold off the Cardinals at the end of the season didn’t have to use their garbage bullpen. The game was scoreless until the top of the 9th, when Conor Gillaspie, who had six home runs all season, hit a three-run shot off of Jeurys Familia, who’d only given up one all year. Racist Legend Boy’s 4-hit shutout on 119 pitches and the fact that the year ends in a 6 means something very important to people who get paid money to talk about baseball for a living. Seriously, fuck this team.

 

ALDS Preview: The Rangers vs. The Blue Jays

Well this could be horrifyingly dangerous. The epic rematch that everyone outside of Baltimore should have wanted is actually going to happen. And if drunken Canadians are willing to throw Labatt Blue cans at Hyun-soo Kim, imagine what they want to do to Rougned Odor.

 

I actually think the Jays will take the series. While both teams can definitely score, I like the Jays’ pitching depth a lot more. That Rangers +10 run differential still doesn’t make sense. But why would we talk about any of that? Jose Bautista and Roogie could square off again, you guys!

 

ALDS Preview: The Indians vs. The Red Sox

I don’t think anybody has Cleveland winning this. Boston has the best offense in the Majors. Six of their hitters are at least pretty good. And the Indians’ staff is duct-taped together. Plus, Papi is the Madison Bumgarner of hitting. David Price does have a 5.12 postseason ERA. But Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin haven’t beaten the Red Sox this season. And Corey Kluber can’t match up with Price every game. But mostly, Joey Bats might fight Rougned Odor in that other series, you guys!

 

NLDS Preview: The Cubs vs. The Giants

 

The best pitching in the Major Leagues. The best defense in the Major Leagues. The best offense in the National League, outside of Colorado. The year 1908. The years 2010, 2012 and 2014.
This is the hottest the Giants have been since the All-Star Game, which isn’t saying much. The staff is pretty formidable, especially with Jeff Samardzija pitching well lately. But the team has trouble scoring. So if the Cubs’ deep lineup can heat up, that staff should hold the Giants off.

 

Should and will are two different things, obviously. The Cubs were 7-0 against the Mets in the regular season last year, before getting swept in the NLCS. But the Cubs are the story here. The sports media may be chasing after the Even Year Miracle Hillbilly like a dumb dog chasing a mail carrier. But the Cubs are the best team in baseball. And they’re the favorite until proven otherwise.

 

NLDS Preview: The Nationals vs. The Dodgers

No Stephen Strasburg. No Wilson Ramos. A banged-up Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy. And Dusty Baker managing them. This all bodes well for the finally-healthy Dodgers. The only thing is, the Dodgers have pretty mediocre hitting after Corey Seager and Justin Turner. Especially against lefties. And Clayton Kershaw has been pretty un-Kershaw-like in Octobers past. He’s getting matched up with Max Scherzer, who doesn’t quite suck either. I’ll take Washington. Really. I need them for my Daniel Murphy curse storyline and I don’t want to get jumped in Echo Park during the presumed NLCS while forgetting I’m wearing a Cubs hat.

 

Let’s give out some awards.

 

AL MVP FINAL ANSWER: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

 

As the Major League leader in WAR, by a pretty decent margin, Trout proved once again that he’s the best player in the game. It’s arguable that David Ortiz was a better hitter this year. But there’s really no other metric to suggest the A.L. MVP could possibly be anyone else.

 

I’ve already talked about this at length. Trout has led the league in WAR his first five seasons in the Majors and has one MVP award to show for it. Willie Mays led the National League in WAR ten times from 1954-1966. And he only has two MVP awards to show for it. Those voters look stupid to us now. And, unless Trout brings home some more hardware, they’re on their way to looking stupid again.

 

Honorable Mention: Josh Donaldson, Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Adrian Beltre

 

AL CY YOUNG FINAL ANSWER: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

I was surprised too. For me, this came down to the numbers. The narrative of everyone assuming Verlander was done is nice and everything. But that has nothing to do with who was the best pitcher in the league this year. And the numbers pointed to Verlander, Rick Porcello and Corey Kluber.

 

—————————WAR   FIP      ERA

Justin Verlander      5.2      3.48      3.04
Rick Porcello           5.2      3.40      3.15
Corey Kluber           5.1      3.26      3.14

 

That’s about as close as you can get. But it’s that ERA – actual results – that settled it for me. I’d hand Verlander his second Cy. Or his third, since I probably would have given it to him in 2012 too. Just saying.

 

Honorable Mention: Rick Porcello, Corey Kluber, Masahiro Tanaka, Chris Sale, Aaron Sanchez

 

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINAL ANSWER: Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

 

I’d love to be able to give you a great reason. But this came down to Sanchez, Michael Fulmer and Christopher Devenski. Their WARS were essentially the same, regardless of if anybody had Devenski in the conversation or not. And Devenski’s Win Probability Added (WPA) was better than Fulmer’s, as were his FIP and ERA. That’s pitching 2-3 innings at a time, instead of six. But still, that’s a good argument for why Fulmer wasn’t the even best rookie pitcher in his own league. On the other hand, no other American League position player is touching Sanchez. He hit 20 home runs in 53 games, which is a 61 pace. Holy shit.

 

Honorable Mention: Michael Fulmer, Christopher Devenski, Tyler Naquin, Tim Anderson

 

NL MVP FINAL ANSWER: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

Like Trout, Bryant led the league in WAR by a decent margin. Unlike Trout, his play contributed to a winning team. Joey Votto, Daniel Murphy and Freddie Freeman were all better hitters. But they can’t hold a candle to Bryant, defensively. The title of best player in the National League has a new claimant.

 

Honorable Mention: Freddie Freeman, Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto, Anthony Rizzo

 

NL CY YOUNG FINAL ANSWER: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

 

I’m taking Clayton Kershaw out of the equation, since he pitched in 10 fewer games with 34 fewer innings than Thor. But with a full season, Syndergaard led the league in WAR and FIP, while finishing third in ERA. I love Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester (who finished 1-2 in ERA), but they also had that Cubs defense behind them. And I highly doubt Jose Fernandez would want the award handed to him (although he was right up there). Oh, and Max Scherzer is getting hype as a 20-game winner. But this isn’t 1986 and we have better ways of evaluating value.

 

Honorable Mention: Jose Fernandez, Kyle Hendricks, Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, Jon Lester    

 

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINAL ANSWER: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s really not even close. Seager is the best rookie position player since Trout in 2012. And I thought he’d be the best National League rookie since Albert Pujols in 2001 or Mike Piazza in 1993, but it’s actually Dick Allen in 1964. That’s not like, bad company.

 

Honorable Mention: Jon Gray, Kenta Maeda, Trea Turner, Trevor Story, Steven Matz, Zach Davies

 

Okay. That’s it for this week. If you need more baseball from me, check me out on ‘Comedians Talking Sports‘ with Joe Kilgallon on the podcast things. In the meantime, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 11. So nervous!

 

 


Great Expectations: A Spring Training Preview

Written by :
Published on : February 23, 2016

 

Oh no. This is a really weird feeling for a Cubs fan to have. For the first time that I can ever remember, the Lovable Losers on the North Side of Chicago seem to be both the unanimous pick to win their division and also a trendy choice for the 2016 World Series. And on paper it even makes sense. Last year, they proved that their young squad was ahead of their projected timeline, won 97 games and then went deep into the playoffs until they ran into a freakishly overachieving Daniel Murphy and a young Mets pitching staff that seems to remind everyone of the nineties Atlanta Braves. And then they went out in the offseason and got the best healthy pitcher and the best position player from their hated Cardinal rivals, and also added a guy who led the majors in WAR in 2009. Oh, and the rest of their seemingly-all-rookie lineup from last year is back and probably better than ever and still way too young and dumb to comprehend how a jaded, cynical asshole like me can still hesitate to be bullish on the prospects of a Thousand Year Cubs Dynasty.

 

This has to be too good to be true, right? There’s too much pressure. The Cubs never follow up a good season with another good season. Look at 1985, 1990 and every other year since The Year That Shall Not Be Named. And Jake Arrieta has to regress. Because he just has to. And John Lackey is 137 years old. And their bullpen isn’t quite there. And Jason Heyward isn’t a natural center fielder. And because they’re the fucking Cubs. Right? Like, why should I get my hopes up just to have them crushed again and again like I have my whole life? Why? Well… Because of Theo Epstein. And because of Joe Maddon. And because of that offense. Oh, that offense. And Kris Bryant. And Addison Russell. And Kyle Schwarber. And Anthony Rizzo. And the fact that Heyward is actually younger than Anthony Rizzo. And the fact that Heyward could win a Gold Glove in center. And because Arrieta may have pitched an assload of innings last year, but he famously stays in excellent shape. And because of how great of a story it would be if they actually did do it. And because, on paper, the Cubs just so happen to have the best team in baseball by a decent margin. Oh no, indeed.

 

 

The Rest of the NL Central

The Cubs may have kicked their ass and stolen their girlfriend, but the Cardinals are still the Cardinals. You just kind of assume they’ll be playing in October, no matter what. But even with Adam Wainwright back, the mystique feels like it’s gone, with a bad offseason and Yadier Molina needing to grow another thumb. Maybe their insane luck will finally run out. I also thought that about the Alabama football team back in September. Not that I should talk about football in the same breath I talk about St. Louis. Anyway… Then there’s the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s not like they sucked last year either. But nobody likes to talk about them because they’ll probably just get to the Wild Card and lose again, if they do anything at all. And the only fun thing about that is if Sean Rodriguez goes HAM on another water cooler. This division will inevitably be drowned out by the tidal wave of Cubs expectations. And the Reds and Brewers have probably already
drowned in it.

 

The NL East

According to EVERYONE, the Mets have the greatest pitching staff of all time, ever. And, yes, it’s horrifying. Matt Harvey is another year removed from Tommy John surgery. Jacob deGrom is a floppy-haired pitching monster. Noah Syndergaard actually is Thor. Big fat Bartolo Colon doesn’t age. Steven Matz would be a #1 starter on every other non-Mets team. And Zack Wheeler will be back in July to seal the already-done deal. Plus, all of them except Colon are 19 years old or something. The only problem is that nobody knows what type of hangover these guys will have from all those innings they ate up against Kansas City in the World Series. Or if they’ll even stay healthy. But if they do all bounce back, holy shit. Plus, they re-signed Yoenis Cespedes, which all makes for an excellent case for them to go back to the World Series. No matter how much I hate that.

 

 

Overall this division is horrible. But Bryce Harper and the dysfunctional Nationals should contend. Even though Dusty Baker is their new manager. And nobody knows what to make of the Miami Marlins quite yet. Don Mattingly is their new manager. Barry Bonds is their new hitting coach. Giancarlo Stanton will be healthy. So will Jose Fernandez. But we’ll have to see what all that means, if anything. Or if those guys can even stay healthy in the first place. And anyone looking to make a bold prediction on the division a la the 2015 Cubs and Astros might want to keep their eye on the Atlanta Braves, who are building a monster farm team, even though they’ll most likely be just slightly less shitty than the Phillies in 2016.

 

The NL West

I hate to say it, but 2016 is an even year. So we can probably throw all the analytics out the window and just hand the San Francisco Giants their fourth world title seven years. Their pitching staff picked up two possibly-great/possibly-hugely-disappointing acquisitions in Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. And that could give them an edge in what everybody seems to think will be a three team race with the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks.

 

The Dodgers lost Zack Greinke. To the Diamondbacks. They also have a rookie manager in Dave Roberts. In a market that wore out Mattingly and sent him to Miami. They also didn’t do anything with their gigantic payroll in the offseason. And any time you need to rely on Yasiel Puig for anything other than drama, it’s a pretty scary predicament. But this is a deep team with a crazy-good farm system. And they’ll probably be in enough contention by the time the trade deadline rolls around to throw money at whatever problems they have (that don’t involve lack of team chemistry). Plus they still have Clayton Kershaw. At the end of the day, as a resident Angelino, I just want to see Vin Scully go out in style. And if that means the Dodgers have to be good for that to happen, I can accept that.

 

 

Yes, Arizona got Greinke. And Shelby Miller. And they still have unrecognizable superstar, Paul Goldschmidt and equally unrecognizable AJ Pollock. But their projections aren’t too high as of now because of a lack of offensive depth (sup, Yasmany Tomas?). And it seems more likely they could be this year’s Padres and/or White Sox. As for the 2016 Padres and Rockies, I’m not wasting my time. It is an even year, after all.

 

The AL East

Every team in the division not named the Baltimore Orioles seem to have a chance this year. But the overall consensus comes down to the rebounding Boston Red Sox and the reigning division champion Toronto Blue Jays. Personally, I don’t know how acquiring David Price and Craig Kimbrel turns a 78-win last place team into a division favorite, but that’s just how the east coast media bias works. But it will be fun to see how fat Pablo Sandoval is. And if Hanley Ramirez can play first base. And it’s also the swan song for Big Papi. Plus, David Price is actually really fucking good. So I don’t know.

 

 

The Blue Jays have the best offense in baseball. And reigning MVP, Josh Donaldson. And their offense might be even better than last year since Troy Tulowitzki never got comfortable in Toronto in 2015. They’ll just have to stay healthy. And hope somebody on their team can pitch. As for the Yankees, they’re really old. And look how that worked out for them last season. Plus, you never know about that staff. And as good as their bullpen looks right now, we still don’t know what’s going to happen with Aroldis Chapman’s domestic abuse suspension. And the Rays have Chris Archer and the rest of their great starting five, but they’ll basically need everybody else on the lineup to be awesome to compete. Oh, and also the Orioles are in this division too, I guess.

 

The AL Central

The Royals won the World Series last year, no big deal. And they were one Madison Bumgarner away from being back-to-back World Series champions. Yet for some reason, Baseball Prospectus has them projected to be in last place in the Central in 2016. What gives? Maybe you can’t project things like ‘putting the ball in play and its positive consequences’ or ‘playing with a chip on their shoulder’, but whatever they did the past two seasons worked, so I don’t know why it wouldn’t work again. They have the defense. They have the bullpen. It’s just so hard to make a good enough argument for or against a team with relatively zero stars, that’s this mediocre on paper, going to three straight Fall Classics.

 

 

The hot pick in the AL Central continues to be the Cleveland Indians because of an extremely good pitching staff. Add Francisco Lindor’s defense behind them and they could be a powerhouse. Or Michael Brantley could be hurt and their offense could struggle and they won’t have the money to make acquisitions at the trade deadline to compete. And while I have a soft spot for the Detroit Tigers, they’re also getting a little long in the tooth. They got Justin Upton to aid a pretty good, but aging offense. And they picked up Jordan Zimmermann and K-Rod to help out a healthy, but aging Justin Verlander-led group of arms. Health is the key here. And if they have it, they might compete. The White Sox might also compete, even though nobody outside of Bridgeport is talking about them. They got Todd Frazier. They have Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and a full season from Carlos Rodon. It’s just that everybody is distracted by the heat of a thousand suns ™ on the North Side. And the Twins have Miguel Sano, who is going to hit 40 dongs this year. Even though they were so terrible last year, that even when they were in first place for a while nobody bought it. If that makes any sense. Not that it should. Why would anything in this division make sense? I mean, Royals went to the World Series the past two years.

 

The AL West

Even though the Astros are the unanimous choice to win the division, everybody would rather talk about the Texas Rangers. Their 2015 playoff run was nothing short of a miracle. And now they’ll have full seasons from Cole Hamels and a healthy Yu Darvish. It’s just that nobody really expected the Astros to be where they were last season either. And now nobody expects them to regress. And the former hot choices in the division seem like yesterday’s newspaper. Mike Trout has no talent around him in Anaheim. Nobody wants to get fooled by the Mariners ever again. And the A’s need too much to get anything done.

 

 

So there you have it. Now you’re ready for the baseball season. And now you know why your team probably sucks and why you should switch allegiances to the Chicago Cubs. Or at least that’s how everything looks right now. Spring training, when nothing counts. And before the actual season comes with all its shitty reality to break hearts, launch new stars into the stratosphere and ruin every expectation, rendering long-winded predictions like the one I just spent way too long typing on a nice afternoon completely worthless. But hey, that’s baseball.

 

What else were we gonna talk about, Donald Trump?

 

 

 


Fair Weather Fans

Written by :
Published on : January 14, 2016

 

 

There is a stigma in the sports world about fans who come around when the good times are rolling. They showed up to your Super Bowl Party last year in Patriots gear even though we all know they grew up in Atlanta. We’re pretty sure we saw them in 3 different jerseys during the NBA playoffs. They love the Kansas City Royals but can’t think of their favorite player’s name right now. These people are called “Fair Weather” fans and while their clothing may match the team currently in the spotlight, their chameleon-like ways are unparalleled. Many fanatics look down upon Bandwagoneers, accusing them of not being “real fans.” I am here today to argue in their defense and perhaps even admit to sometimes being one.

Palter comic
                                                                  Illustration by Natalie Palter

 

 

If we take a look at the four major American sports, (football, baseball, basketball and hockey) there are 122 professional teams that compete for a championship every year. Only four teams can win, meaning that 118 fan bases watch their team suffer a season ending loss in helpless disappointment. I suppose you could count conference championships as some kind of consolation but I don’t know many fans who brag about losing in the finals. Let’s broaden our definition of success and say that the final four teams left in each sport’s playoff have had a fan-acceptable season. The remaining 87% percent of teams have let their fans down, give or take a bottom-of-the-barrel team having a breakthrough year. Are we expected to stand behind a team for 16, 82, even 162 games and ache through loss after loss? Should I stop at the merchandise booth after watching “my team” get blown out and buy a hat? Is expensive beer and hot dogs enough of a reason to spend my hard earned cash on tickets?

 

Lions fans
                             Detroit fandom is bigger than sports. (Photo from positivedetroit.com)

 

I am a Detroiter above all other city-related commitments. Supporting Detroit sports goes beyond the teams themselves and into representing the city, waving the flag and manifesting a feeling of being home. Last year, I bought a Warriors hat. In fact, I bought two. I bought these hats for two reasons. For one, I liked the hats. Secondly, and more importantly for the context of this discourse, the Warriors are GREAT. They are fun to watch and their story excites me. I turn their games on and see an arena of yellow and blue erupt after Steph Curry hits a fadeaway jumper from half court and it beckons to me. It says “Come on, join us. This is how free time should be spent.” Now the Warriors might be the easiest sell in sports right now so let’s take a look at “fair weather” from another perspective.

 

It’s January and the NFL has been cut in half for the playoffs. The Lions are out. LA doesn’t have a team yet (but will next year!). I can’t just tune out – it’s the postseason. Come Super Bowl Sunday, the team I’m picking to win it all will probably have changed a time or two as teams continue to get eliminated. But if we were 100% ride-or-die on our teams, the NFL would gross significantly less as we approach its biggest game. Which brings me to what I think makes Fair Weather Fans most important: where they spend their money.

 

empty-seats
                                            4-76? Philly on the road to history in the wrong direction.

 

 

The Philadelphia 76ers are currently 4-36. That means I can reasonably assume that there is a 1-in-10 chance they will win. Am I buying a ticket to go see them? No. Jersey? Not a chance. Who is on their team, you ask? Exactly. And that should put a sense of urgency in everyone in that organization from the top down because money shouldn’t be coming in for them. Who is paying to see that? I’m actually shocked that it’s possible to lose that much and make money but Javale McGee is making $12M this year, and he isn’t even on the team anymore. The expectation to work all week, pay bills and taxes, then turn around and spend more of our precious income watching something bum us out in the name of loyalty is absurd. Get better, win games. Otherwise I’m going to watch the Splash Bros provide a pleasant break from my routine.

 

To spin this one more time, let’s step into a world I’m more familiar with – music. I don’t go to see bands who play songs I dislike. I can’t imagine anyone does unless their friend is the bass player. I watch bands I like and I discover new bands because their songs go on winning streaks. A band does not break through because they continually write songs that don’t catch on.

 

spurs
It’s always sunny in San Antonio: The Spurs have made the playoffs 18 years in a row, bringing them 5 NBA Championships (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE, via Getty)

 

 

I don’t intend to take meaning away from the love that exists between a fan and their team. But I do think when your team finally has everything come together and the winning starts happening, you’d be bummed to see the arena as empty as it was when you sat through that 13-game losing streak. And the fans showing up to watch your winning team are the same ones who were at the other winning affairs across town. We love sports because we love competition and we love competition because we love winning. Tell us all about how you were a fan way back when and think what you will about us jumping on the bandwagon. We are the party. We’ll be there when your team is good and when they’re not, we’ll go have our fun somewhere else. “Fair Weather Fans” are earned.

 

 


5 Big Winners of the MLB Offseason

Written by :
Published on : December 21, 2015

 

With Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings wrapped up and Opening Day just a few months away, there were a lot of big names on the move and still a handful of marquee players available. The hot stove was blazing the past few weeks, setting up for a very interesting 2016 season. Here are my 5 Big Winners of the MLB Offseason so far. The 5 teams that I think improved themselves the most from last year.

 

 

#5San Francisco Giants 

The Giants have given Bumgarner a lot of help and he is excited.

 

The San Francisco Giants are looking to get back into the post-season after missing out last year. A very successful team over the past decade, the Giants have won two World Series titles under manager Bruce Bochy and still have a very talented team. Led by ace Madison Bumgarner, they added to their arsenal by adding two solid arms in Jeff Samardzija (5 years, $90 million) and Johnny Cueto (6 years, $130 million).

 

The Giants have the potential to have the most talented rotation in all of baseball and may even be the favorites to win the National League West, if not the pennant as well. Veterans Matt Cain and Jake Peavy round out the rotation, with perennial all-star Buster Posey calling the pitches. The Giants also may be interested in signing left fielder Alex Gordon, which would move the Giants way up this list.

 

 

#4Chicago White Sox

 Robin Ventura should be very pleased with how this off season has gone.

 

The Chicago White Sox haven’t made much noise in the American League Central the past few years as they have entered somewhat of a rebuilding mode. Last year, the Chi Sox got only 13 homers from their 3rd base spot, so they went out and sought better hitting from the infield. In a 3-team deal with the Dodgers and Reds, Chicago gave a few young players to get 3rd baseman Todd Frazier from Cincinnati. Frazier is one of the better power hitters in baseball the past couple years, bringing 30+ home runs annually, and will add some major pop alongside first baseman José Abreu.

 

In a previous deal, the White Sox acquired Brett Laurie from Oakland, who is set to play 2nd base. They are hoping he will reach his full potential and be a guy that can find the seats in a hitter friendly ballpark. Lawrie is a reasonably cheap upgrade and Frazier is an absolute steal right now as he is set to make just $7.5 million, and doesn’t hit free agency until after 2017.

 

 

#3- Arizona Diamondbacks

The Greinke signing has been the biggest splash yet this off season.

 

The Diamondbacks needed to make a big move to try and compete with the likes of the Giants and the Dodgers out west, and what a splash they made. Getting potentially the biggest free agent in all of baseball, starting pitcher, Zack Greinke for 7 years in a monster deal. A signing that came out of left field, nobody saw Greinke heading to the desert. Joining Greinke in Arizona will be another quality arm as the Diamondbacks acquired Shelby Miller from Atlanta for former first round pick Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte.

 

While dealing away two potentially great players, the Diamondbacks get potentially an even better player in Miller. He is a legitimate #2 after posting solid numbers with the Braves last year but was very unlucky with what little run support he received. Also, at just 25 years old, Miller is under team control for another few years.

 

 

#2- Boston Red Sox

 Price and Dombrowski: Reunited in Boston.

 

When Dave Dombrowski joined the front office in Boston, he wasted little time in trying to build another championship roster in Beantown. Headlined by the signing of former Cy Young winner David Price, the Red Sox improved their pitching staff immensely. Coming off one of his best seasons with the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays, Price signed a 7 year deal worth $217 million but has an opt out option after 3 years. For Boston, they are back into familiar territory looking to win now and they feel they have the pieces to make it happen.

 

Joining Price on the pitching staff, the Red Sox acquired one of the best closers in baseball from San Diego, Craig Kimbrel. Koji Uehara has been lights out in that role for the Red Sox over the last handful of years but with an injury plagued season a year ago, the Red Sox now boast a nearly unbeatable backend of their bullpen.

 

In a trade with Seattle, the Bo Sox also received reliever Carson Smith and starting pitcher Roenis Elias. Smith is a very reliable bullpen arm who posted a 2.31 ERA in relief with a lot of strikeouts. Elias is more of a backend of the rotation guy who doesn’t have outstanding career numbers. He does have five more years of team control for cheaper than what Wade Miley was earning, and for arguably around the same if not slightly better numbers. Bottom line, with the offense that the Blue Jays has in that division, the Red Sox had to get some pitching to be able to shut them down, and took the ace of Toronto’s staff in the process.

 

 

#1- Chicago Cubs

 The Cubs signed Heyward to overcome his former team, the Cardinals.

 

My winner thus far in the MLB offseason has to be the Chicago Cubs. Theo Epstein has done a remarkable job since joining the Cubbies front office. After making it to the NLCS last year, it’s looking like World Series or bust for the Cubs this year. The two biggest acquisitions the Cubs made may be more about who they stole them from and not as much about who the players are. Constantly looking up in the standings to the St Louis Cardinals in the NL Central, the Cubs plucked two very talented players from St Louis to hopefully shake the standings up a bit this year.

 

The biggest splash was with the Cubs agreeing to terms with outfielder Jason Heyward for 8 years and $184 million. A pretty large contract possibly considered a bargain considering Heyward is rumored to have turned down some $200+ million offers to sign with Chicago. The other former Cardinal to join the Cubs is veteran starter John Lackey. At 37 years old, Lackey signs a 2-year, $32 million deal with the hopes of building on his already sound postseason numbers. Coming off a year in which he finished the regular season with a 2.77 ERA, Lackey appears to have plenty left in the tank.

 

A familiar face for manager Joe Maddon also joins the Cubs as former Tampa Bay Ray Ben Zobrist signed a  4-year $56 million deal. While this deal may prove to be a little steep for a utility guy at age 34, Zobrist isn’t your average utility man. He can play just about anywhere in the outfield and infield, and he was a key piece in the Kansas City Royals’ World Series run last year, as he started most of their games after being acquired at the trade deadline. He’ll see a lot time in the starting lineup again this year and may even see some time in the middle infield helping to take over for Starlin Castro, who was traded to the Yankees in exchange for a talented young pitcher Adam Warren. The Cubs are set up nicely with a lot of young talent to contend for many years to come.

 

 

 


Champ and Chump: Week 8

Written by :
Published on : November 7, 2015

 

As we reach the halfway point of the NFL season, and the first college football playoff rankings are revealed, we crown a true champion in this week’s Champ and Chump. The World Series is over, the dust has settled on the infields soon to be covered by snow in many parts of this nation and we bid farewell to America’s past-time for 4-5 months. This week we welcome a couple first timers to our Champ and Chump section, but also see a familiar face. Spoiler alert: My Detroit Lions are the definition of “Chump”. Alex always said in his NFL Spread picks, “Always bet on the Packers”, well you might as well always bet against the Lions. But before I go on a 6-page tangent that goes through all the feels, six beers, and a box a Kleenex, I’ll just cut to the picks for Champ and Chump this week.

Champ: Kansas City Royals

The Royals getting hype in the 9th inning of their series winning game 5 matchup with the Mets.

 

Not too much of a surprise here. Let’s face it, if you win the World Series, or any championship for that matter, you have a great shot at finishing as my Champ of the week. A year after losing Game 7 of the World Series to the San Francisco Giants, the Royals had one goal all season long, and for the most part they played pretty consistent baseball to get there. As a Tigers fan, I know all too well how good these Royals are and have been the past few years. Often described as a gnat, or pest, that just won’t go away, they battle for 9 innings, and most times end up on top. They made great moves at the trade deadline, and I declared them winners there, and a few months later, those moves paid off. A quick 5 game dismantling of the New York Mets gave the Royals their first World Series title since 1985. Hats off to them.

 

Honorable Mention:

Drew Brees- 39-50 for 505 yards with 7 touchdowns. 91.7 QBR and a passer rating of 131.7 begs the question, “Is this a video game?” Big win over the Giants and Eli, mentioned below

Eli Manning- Weird to have a loser from a game in the same “Champ” category but what else could you have asked Eli to do vs the Saints? 30-41 for 350 and 6 touchdowns with zero turnovers. QBR or 94.1 and a passer rating of 138.2, insane.

Andre Drummond- Pistons fans haven’t had much to cheer about the past six or seven years but they have an absolute star in the making at center. Through four games, Drummond is averaging 20/20 a game following a monster performance vs Indiana where he scored 25 and ripped down 29 boards.

 

 

Chump: Minnesota Golden Gophers’ late 4th quarter clock management

Because of the terrible clock management, Michigan once again holds the Little Brown Jug.

 

A little over a week ago, Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill had to resign due to health reasons. In a very sad press conference, Kill was emotional as he knew that coaching the game he loved was taken away from him far too soon. Kill was building a very successful program at Minnesota, a tough feat to achieve. From a 3 win season in his first year, to coming one win shy of a Big Ten West title last year. He led the Gophers to a 4-2 start before having to say goodbye. Tracy Claeys, an assistant under Kill, took over the job as interim head coach and figures to have a legitimate shot to become the long term replacement. After an emotional week, the Gophers and Gopher fans were ready to “win one for the gipper” as they say. They welcomed the Michigan Wolverines for a game on Saturday night. A back and forth game had Minnesota driving deep into Michigan territory, down 3 with under a minute to play. Then with 19 seconds left Minnesota thought they had it, a touchdown pass to win the game, but it was reviewed and called down. Minnesota had the ball, first and goal at the 1-yard line. Apparently, Minnesota spent no time drawing up a play just in case their touchdown was reversed because they got to the line, the ball was spotted, the clock began and they went on to waste a dozen seconds before even snapping the ball. Minnesota’s quarterback then ran around and threw the ball away leaving them 2 seconds left. They called timeout (yes they had a timeout) and ultimately opted for a quarterback sneak which came up short, and they lost. Two things really bothered me about this complete mismanagement of the clock: For one, call timeout as soon as the play is reversed and you would have four cracks at it from the 1-yard line, and secondly, you’re down 3, kick the field goal and force OT. Michigan was down to their backup quarterback due to an injury, so trust that your quarterback can outduel him in overtime. Also to quote Brian Piccolo from the famous Brian’s Song, “When you dedicate a game to somebody, you are then supposed to go out and win it, idiot. Pat O’Brien never said let’s blow one for the gipper.”

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Detroit Lions- Congratulations to the Lions as they now suck on two continents, a tough feat. Falling to 1-7 across the pond to the woeful Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 45-10 has led to the firing of their President and General Manager, a week after firing a couple coaches. Cheers Lions fans, it literally cannot get worse (we’ve already achieved 0-16), so hang your hat on that.

Los Angeles Lakers- The Lakers and NBA fans couldn’t wait for Kobe Bryant to return this season, and in what may be his final season he is far from riding off into the sunset on a high note. Sitting at 0-4 Kobe’s $25 million per year contract is easily the worst contract in sports right now… well, aside from Bobby Bonilla still getting paid in New York. The guy is shooting 32% from the field, and just 20% from 3-point land, averaging just 16 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game. To make matters worse, first round pick Deangelo Russell appears to be struggling compared to a lot of the other top-10 picks from this past draft.

Chelsea Football Club- In England’s Premier League, Chelsea has enjoyed much success in the 21st century and have done so while having some of the most loathsome creatures take the pitch in their all blue kits. Being a Manchester United fan, there isn’t much I enjoy more than seeing Chelsea completely crumbling right now. Currently sitting in 15th place in the table, just four points from relegation, has Chelsea frantically clawing to stay above the cut. While I am sure they will avoid relegation, it is still a bit satisfying to watch them struggle.

 

 

 


Dogpiles and Champagne Spray: A Brief History of Baseball Celebrations

Written by :
Published on : October 24, 2015

 

 

With the World Series upon us once again, it’s only a matter of time before we see that last out recorded or that final walk-off hit that leads into the ultimate dogpile celebration and champagne-spraying bash in the tarp-covered locker room. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. Billionaire team owners with beers poured over their heads. Dominican lefties wearing Oakley ski goggles and holding joke-sized bottles of bubbly. I just assumed it was a tradition as old as the World Series, itself.

 

Don’t get any in your eyes

 

But as I recently discovered while re-watching Ken Burns’ Baseball, that isn’t the case. I watched in horror as the Babe Ruth-led New York Yankees were shown in grainy footage winning the World Series and then promptly jogging off the field like nobody gave a shit. And I don’t know if it was 1923, 1927, 1928 or 1932. I just know that in all the years Babe Ruth won the World Series with the Yankees, the country was also in the midst of Prohibition. The New York Times even reported that after the ’27 Series, ”The players of both teams hurried into their street clothes after the game. …Vacation time has come for the players and their immediate aim is to enjoy it.”

 

So when did this all start? Weren’t these ballplayers just as excited to win it all in the 1920’s as they are today? I decided to look in to it. And what I found was that the not-so-spontaneous ritual we have now is probably as much a product of television as anything else. And the World Series wasn’t even televised until 1947. That year, the Yankees beat the Dodgers in seven games. The Yankee fans rushed onto the field. The Yankees jogged into the dugout. And then they proceeded to DRINK their champagne in the locker room. Or at least they drank it after they won the pennant. I can’t find anything about the ’47 Series celebration except a photo of one guy holding a fucking soda. But how were they supposed to know they were doing it wrong? Nobody had really ever seen it done right before.

 

Look at these party animals

 

Enter the 1960’s. From Nixon sweating all over the the first televised presidential debate to a man walking on the moon, the revolution would be televised. And athletes knew they were being watched. While there’s evidence of Dodger celebrations with beer in the mid-to-late Fifties, it was the Sixties when the evolution of the dogpile and champagne bash began. The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates poured champagne on Bill Mazeroski’s head after his walk-off in Game 7. The Los Angeles Dodgers did a little bit of jumping around on the field after the final out of the ’63 Series. But, oddly enough, the real tipping point for baseball celebrations would come from another sport, entirely.

 

In 1967, the all-American team of Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt won the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans, upsetting Ferrari and shocking everyone in the process. And they were handed bottles of Moet & Chandon directly after. Gurney, who didn’t drink alcohol, shook up his bottle, placed his thumb over the top and began spraying everyone in sight. That included the press, who had predicted disaster for the team, as well as the president of Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford II. Four months later, the St. Louis Cardinals celebrated their World Series victory over the Boston Red Sox by jumping around on the field as a group. And then they doused each other with champagne in the Fenway visitor’s locker room. There would be no going back from there. What used to be seen as a waste of booze, would be considered the norm by the end of the decade. It just wasn’t quite what we have today.

 

Pass the bubbly

 

The first truly modern World Series celebration came from the ’86 Mets. Just in case you didn’t think that series had enough going for it already. Jesse Orosco struck out Marty Barrett for the final out and then immediately tossed his glove into the air, dropped to his knees and was mobbed in a toppling human pile of his teammates. In fairness, the ’82 Cardinals fell to the ground while they were celebrating. So they were technically first. But the Cardinals’ celebration paled in comparison to the coke-fueled villains in Queens. That was the celebration shown on the end credits of This Week in Baseball every week for 5 years. That’s the one that became the standard-bearer for all baseball celebrations to follow. And they topped it all off with champagne spray in the clubhouse. Probably with an ungodly amount of narcotics to boot. Compare that to 1954, when the Giants won the Series and Dusty Rhodes asked the team president where the champagne was. When he was told it was on the plane, Rhodes responded, “Okay. Just so it’s around some place.”

 

That’s a big bottle

 

So blame the Mets, blame Dan Gurney or blame the advent of television. But the dogpile and champagne spraying celebrations are now an expected part of our sports culture. I’m not even old enough to remember the 1986 World Series, so it’s the only thing I’ve known my entire life. And with five teams from each league heading to the playoffs, we do it up to 19 times a season. Maybe it’s a tad bit excessive. But it sure as hell beats jogging off the field and heading straight to your vacation. Because that, my friends, is for the losers.

 


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