Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XI)

Written by :
Published on : May 13, 2016

 

Heard anything about the Nationals lately? Good Christ. It seems like every game they played this week had some sort of national news attached to it. First, they got swept by the Cubs in four games at Wrigley, in a series between the two teams with the best records in baseball. That left the 24-6 Cubs with the best 30-game start to a season since the ’84 Tigers (26-4), as well as the best first-30-game run differential (+102) in the history of baseball. In the final game of the series on Sunday, the Cubs walked Bryce Harper six times, tying a Major League record set by Jeff Bagwell in 1999. And since he also got hit by a pitch in the game, that meant Harper reached base seven times in the game without a single official at-bat. That’s also never been done before, no big deal.

 

All that led to the first time (and there will be many more) that fans started to question Dusty Baker and his decision to bat Ryan Zimmerman behind Harper instead of Daniel Murphy, since Zimmerman went 2-for-19 in the series and left 14 runners on base, while Murphy has basically been Ted Williams unfrozen from carbonite. If any manager should know how to combat a player getting the ‘Barry Bonds Treatment’, you would think it would be the guy who also happened to manage Barry Bonds while he was getting said treatment.

 

 Stasburg

 

Anyway, the very next day, all of this would be put on the back burner for two major reasons. One, Stephen Strasburg signed a seven-year $175 million contract to stay with the team. And Two, Harper got ejected from the game in the 9th inning against the Tigers for screaming about balls and strikes from the dugout. And then Clint Robinson (who actually thought it was the 8th inning), immediately hit a pinch-hit, walk-off home run, sending Harper back onto the field to scream, “fuck you” at umpire, Brian Knight, in plain view of TV cameras, while also kind of celebrating the win with the very confused Robinson. Make Baseball Fun Again, Bryce!

 

Then finally, on Wednesday (the same day we learned Harper would be getting a one-game suspension for his F bomb), Max Scherzer goes out against his former team and strikes out 20 batters. ESPN said it looked like the scoreboard operator fell asleep on the K key. More amazingly, Scherzer did that throwing 80% strikes. So not only did he have 20 K’s, he also only threw 23 balls the whole game. Sexy is right, Max! This was coming off a start against the Cubs where Scherzer was terrible. Apparently, when this guy has his best stuff, nobody is better. You know, other than the two home runs he gave up.

 

What’s even more fun is that a 20-strikeout game has only happened four other times (I’m not counting Tom Cheney’s 21 K’s in 16 innings), and Tigers’ manager, Brad Ausmus, has been there, on the losing end, for THREE of them. He was on the Astros when Kerry Wood struck out 20 in 1998. And he was on the Tigers when Clemens did it a second time in 1996. Dude is like Robert Todd Lincoln at presidential assassinations. And this has been a horrible week for his ballclub.

 

Speaking of managers, the 20-strikeout game is something that a lot of people didn’t think would ever happen again. Sure, strikeouts are up. But also pitch counts are way down. Clemens threw 151 pitches in that ’96 game. Nobody would allow that now. Then again, this is Dusty Baker we’re talking about.

 

 

So, as you can see, the Nationals dominated the baseball world this week – a week when Papi got ejected against the Yankees, J.T. Realmuto got called out after hitting a home run, Aroldis Chapman and his first-pitch 100 mph fastball returned from suspension, the Zika virus cancelled games in Puerto Rico, Bartolo Colon hit a fat person home run and Thor actually managed to hit two of them in L.A. But, somehow, all the news kept coming back to the Nationals. I mean, I’ve heard of politicians in D.C. manipulating the 24-hour news cycle, but this was ridiculous.

 

Oh, there’s one more thing about the Nationals…

 

NL MVP: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

 

Murphy is hitting .409, you guys. He’s a career .290 hitter. He’s projected at .302 – .312. So either he’s figured something out, or this isn’t going to last much longer. Either way, I’ll say it again, Daniel Murphy is currently hitting .409, you guys.

 

Moving on…

 

As I said earlier, Bartolo Colon hit a home run this week. And with the Mets scoring all of their runs on long balls anyway, it’s almost fitting. As a Mets hater, I begrudgingly admit that it was a pretty great moment. He’s the oldest player in baseball history to hit his first career home run. He’s also a big fatso, so it was hilarious. And the Mets’ dugout reaction was equally great and hilarious. As was the radio call by Gary Cohen echoing Vin Scully’s “the impossible has happened” call of Kirk Gibson’s Game 1 walk-off in the 1988 World Series. If he hit two home runs in a game like Noah Syndergaard did on Wednesday, I’d probably assume the world was about to end. And that would be a shame because I never got to see the Cubs win it all.

 

NL Cy Young Award: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

We still know absolutely nothing about the NL West, where every team has major problems and we’ve been in a big rotating jumble of mediocre teams thus far. The Dodgers and the Giants (even year!) are still favored. Yasiel Puig’s highlight reel in right keeps growing. But the Dodgers have injuries and the Giants have major problems with Matt Cain and Jake Peavy in the 4 and 5 slots in their rotation. Cain is actually winless in his last 14 starts going back to last year. Meanwhile, the DBacks have only flirted with the idea of getting better. And although Nolan Arenado has established himself as an elite player in Colorado, nobody is buying the Rockies or the Padres. If this is how it stays, I might actually start feeling bad for the Phillies, Marlins, Pirates and Cardinals, who all seem like they could win this shitty division.

 

NL Rookie of the Year: Aledmys Diaz, St. Louis Cardinals

 

Yes, the Cardinals and Pirates are heating back up, but NL Central is still all Cubs all the time. I already mentioned all their first-30-game records. But the Cubs have been so dominant thus far, that when they lost back-to-back games in a doubleheader against the Padres, it felt like the sky was falling. There’s really no shame in getting shut down by Drew Pomeranz, but it still felt really weird. It was the lowly Padres. And all my Cubs’ fan friends were calling for Jorge Soler to be traded or sent down to Des Moines.

 

Still, it took 33 games for the Cubs to lose back-to-back, which is the deepest in to a season any team had gone without doing that since the 1929 Philadelphia A’s. Odd how all these teams that keep popping up in 2016 Cub comparisons won the World Series. Odd indeed. Although I highly doubt that Connie Mack had a mariachi band in the clubhouse on Cinco de Mayo for Mickey Cochrane, Eddie Collins, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove and Al Simmons. So advantage Joe Maddon there.

 

This week, Sports Illustrated called Wrigley Field the happiest place on earth. And they also called the Cubs the ‘Last Great American Sports Story’. I’ve listened to people discuss the 116-win record. I’ve listened to Tim Kurkjian argue with Karl Ravech on Baseball Tonight about whether the Cubs will break the ’39 Yankees run differential record of +411. They’re currently on pace for +486. And it was well over +500. I’m also listening to myself argue about whether these Cubs would kill that ’39 Yankees staff, because they didn’t have any actual athletes.

 

 

Sure, I’d say to myself when nobody was looking, the rarely-used Oral Hildebrand was a basketball star and a national champion at Butler. But Red Ruffing, their Hall of Fame ace, lost four toes in a coal mining accident when he was 15 and had to learn how to pitch because he could no longer run. And Lefty Gomez, their Hall of Fame #2 pitcher who said he’d throw at his own mother, was 6’2″, 155 pounds. They eventually had to pull all of his teeth to get him to eat.

 

Plus, pitcher Wes Ferrell would refuse to be pulled from games, punch himself in the face and slam his head into walls until he was restrained by teammates. And I’d regret not telling you that Bump Hadley, their 3 starter, ended the aforementioned Mickey Chocrane’s Hall of Fame career (and actually almost killed him) with an intentional beanball in 1937. I’d doubly regret not telling you that Monte Pearson, their 5 starter, who threw the first no-hitter at Yankee Stadium in 1938, was arrested in 1962 for accepting bribes for approving shoddy septic tanks.

 

These are the conversations people are having surrounding the Cubs. Well, maybe not the last one. But Javier Baez hit that 13th inning walk-off on Mother’s Day against the Nationals. Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Jon Lester are 1st, 3rd and 4th in the league in ERA. Dexter Fowler, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist are legitimate MVP candidates. And I haven’t been to Wrigley Field this year (although I’m told it’s insane), and I know this could all go away with a key injury or a bad postseason series against the Mets or the Nationals, but this is the Last Great American Sports Story. And I hope the happy ending comes sooner than later.

 

AL MVP: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

 

Yes, Machado is bonkers. And yes, people are actually starting to notice. And yes, the Orioles are still hanging around. But this week, the Red Sox are actually worth talking about. You know, besides the Big Papi and John Farrell ejections that had people around baseball calling for robot umpires (it was a strike, guys. McCann just got crossed up). Anyway, after the Red Sox outscored the A’s 40-15 in three games, they were tied with the Cubs for the most runs scored in the Majors (with one more game played).

 

If Thursday is any indication, David Price isn’t going to have a 6.00 ERA for much longer (Dustin Pedroia found something wrong with his delivery!). But the fact that he was 4-1 before all that means that it might not even matter. Jackie Bradley Jr. is their 9 hitter. He’s got an 18-game hitting streak going. David Ortiz is retiring. He probably shouldn’t be. I’m almost ready to concede that he’s the 3rd best hitter in their franchise history after Williams and Yaz. The Red Sox are not only relevant for the first time in three years, they’ve actually convinced me that they’re the favorites in the American League for a reason. You know, other than the fact that the entire league isn’t all that good.

 

AL Cy Young: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

The White Sox still have the best record in the American League. The Royals are still below .500. And nobody can wrap their head around it. Not even White Sox fans I’m friends with are fully embracing the mid-May standings. But hey, this week ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor has Quintana at #2 behind Chris Sale. And he leads the league in ERA with Sale at #4. I’m still waiting for that Indians surge everyone is predicting, but right now I’m still saying the White Sox are legit. And you can put it on the booooo… I won’t do it.

 

AL Rookie of the Year: Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers

 

The big story in the AL West this week has not been Robinson Cano and the first place Mariners. Nor has it been the never-say-die Rangers. It’s actually been whether or not the Angels should trade Mike Trout. Their ace, Garrett Richards, needs Tommy John surgery. Andrelton Simmons is going to miss two months due to torn thumb ligaments. There’s also CJ Wilson, Andrew Heaney, Huston Street and Craig Gentry on the DL. They’re just taking too much damage. So the question remains whether to try to remake their farm system with the monster return they would undoubtedly get for Trout or learn the lessons the Milwaukee Bucks learned after trading Kareem Abdul Jabbar to the Lakers in 1975. Either way, the Angels are screwed and the Astros are probably going to be out of last place real soon.

 

 

Alright. That does it for this week’s Angelino in the Outfield. If you need more you can always listen to me on the baseball recap shows on Comedians Talking Sports, available for free on iTunes.

 

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode X)

Written by :
Published on : May 7, 2016

 

 

It might be time to start looking at the 2016 Cubs as a historically good team. That’s a weird thing to say. But after the Cubs swept the Pirates on the road, they had a +93 run differential, which is the 3rd highest ever after 26 games since 1900 (after the +103 1902 Pirates and the +96 1905 Giants). I mean, they won 97 games last year and only finished with a +81 for the whole season. Now we’re bringing Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson in to the conversation? Oh boy.

 

And let’s look at the Cubs-Pirates series for a second. It was billed as the bitter rematch of last year’s NL Wild Card Game, the budding of a great new baseball rivalry. The Pirates had been red-hot coming in. They’re a very good team. And then the Cubs murdered them 20-5 in three games. All without Jason Heyward and Miguel Montero and the grand-slam-hitting Matt Szczur, not to mention Kyle Schwarber. And all while they showed up in wacky fucking suits. You’re goddamn right Sean Rodriguez is tipping his cap. If the Cubs can stay relatively healthy (oh please, God), and actually start hitting on a consistent basis (other than Dexter Fowler and Anthony Rizzo), you could be looking at the ’98 Yankees. Or something even better entirely. I guess we’ll see what we learn after the big weekend series with the Nationals.

 

NL MVP: Dexter Fowler, Chicago Cubs

 

Oh, I forgot to tell you; the Cubs have also yet to lose consecutive games this season. And they’re on pace for that run differential to end up at +576 for the season. Which is nuts. The all time record is +411 by the 1939 Yankees. And I have a strange feeling that you might hear them get brought up more as the season goes along.

 

NL Cy Young Award: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

Your entire team is in a shit-awful hitting slump? On top of that, your middle relief is horrible? Okay. Just have Kershaw go out there against the Padres and pitch a 3-hit complete game shutout with 14 strikeouts. Oh, and also have him single in your only run. Amazing. And that’s how Kershaw edges out Noah Syndergaard and Stephen Strasburg this week. I know there’s been a whole lot of talk about what Jake Arrieta has done in Chicago since last season. And there should be, the Cubs have won his last 19 starts. He’s basically 1967-1968 Bob Gibson, if Bob Gibson also did sexy, bearded Pilates and had a better batting average than his opponents. But that being said, Arrieta is still the second-best pitcher in baseball and Kershaw remains #1. Hell, I would have given him his 4th Cy Young Award last season. And that’s coming from someone who loves Jake Arrieta and would love to have it be the other way around. But if Kershaw keeps this up for one or two more seasons, he’s a bona fide first ballot Hall of Famer and (dare I say) probably the best pitcher in the history of that franchise. Except, you know, in the playoffs.

 

Speaking of playoffs, how garbage is that NL West division right now? The Giants are technically still in first place. Even though the back of their rotation is completely no bueno. In fact, the lowly Phillies and Marlins would actually be in first place right now if they were in the NL West. Speaking of which…

 

Look at the Phillies! They’re not legit, but look at them, anyway! It’s fun to see when a team that’s supposed to be terrible is actually playing well in May. And the Phillies are playing well. They swept the Nationals last week. They’re getting some pretty decent pitching – especially from Vincent Velasquez and Aaron Nola. And no team has struck out as many batters so far this season. However, their run differential is at -27. The team just doesn’t score. And FanGraphs has them sitting at a 0.1% chance to make the playoffs. Only the Braves and Reds (with their historically awful bullpen) are lower that that. I’d love for Odubel Herrera and the rest of the Phillies to prove me wrong, but I don’t think this team will even have a winning record at the end of the year. In other words, they’re about as legit as a Dee Gordon piss test (Marlins burn!).

 

NL Rookie of the Year: Aledmys Diaz, St. Louis Cardinals

 

It’s still Diaz, but I keep forgetting that Steven Matz of the Mets is a rookie. And as it turns out, he’s a pretty freakin’ good one. I told you I thought the Mets might be in first place for this week’s post. Let me give it one more week. Those guys are playing home run derby in almost every outing.

 

AL MVP: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

 

Do you have any idea how much attention Manny Machado would get if he played for the Red Sox or the last place Yankees? He’s been lights out this season, but it seems like the only thing the media cares about in that division is how much Clay Buchholz and/or Dellin Betances suck. I’m so over it. At least Pablo Sandoval is out for the year, so I might not have to hear much about him anymore. Guys, it’s over. Travis Shaw is the Red Sox’ 3rd baseman. He’s doing okay. Just not as okay as the Orioles’ former (?) third baseman.

 

And for the love of Frank Thomas, Paul Molitor and (probably) Edgar Martinez, can we please stop referring to Big Papi as the greatest DH of all time? I know everyone loves him. I know he’s retiring. Yes, that “this is our fucking city” speech. Yes, the walk-offs in the 2004 ALCS. I get it. But come on. And, while we’re at it, can we also stop saying he’s the second-greatest Red Sock ever behind Ted Williams? Every time somebody does that I want to recreate the the Marshall McLuhan scene from Annie Hall, except I’m standing with Carl Yastrzemski, Wade Boggs, Dwight Evans, Tris Speaker, Bobby Doerr and Jim Rice. All that being said, Ortiz and the Red Sox’ bats are hot.

 

AL Cy Young Award: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

This is just about the same scenario we had last week. Except now it’s May and it’s becoming clearer that the White Sox are actually good enough to dethrone the slumping Kansas City Royals in the AL Central. The Indians are still slightly favored to win the division, even though they badly need hitting and everyone in that city is still watching the Cavs. Meanwhile, the White Sox finally cut John Danks and will be going with a fluid 5th starter going forward on their very impressive staff. I think this is shaping up to be a pretty big summer in the city of Chicago.

 

AL Rookie of the Year: Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers

 

Shin Soo-Choo can come back whenever he wants. This dude isn’t going anywhere. Did you see that ALDS rematch series between the Rangers and Blue Jays in Toronto? If you did, then you saw Mazara, unfazed by the playoff atmosphere in May, show off his power at the plate and his cannon for an arm. And I’m sure Adrian Beltre will eventually have a say in this, but Mazara might already be the best player on that team.

 

The current most interesting team in the AL West (once we finally get over the Astros being bad) is the Seattle Mariners. Taijuan Walker and Robinson Cano have been great. Kyle Seager and Felix Hernandez have not. But they’re winning. And you can smoke weed there. And like I’ve said before, a lot of experts picked Seattle to go to the World Series last year. Partially on how high they were on all four of the dudes I just mentioned. I’m going to go ahead and assume Seager (.260 lifetime AVG) is going to get above the Mendoza Line at some point this season, but there is a real concern with King Felix’ velocity. And that sucks to see a player who has been so good for the Mariners for so many years start to drop off when everything else finally seems to be falling in to place.

 

Okay. That looks like it’ll do it for this week’s Angelino in the Outfield. Last week, as soon as I turned in my post, it was announced that Paul Rudd would be playing Moe Berg in The Catcher Was a Spy movie. So I guess this column has magical powers. Or that anything can happen in baseball. Either or. In the meantime, check me out on the MLB Weekly recaps on the Comedians Talking Sports podcast with Joe Kilgallon on iTunes. Go Cubs.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode IX)

Written by :
Published on : April 30, 2016

 

 

This week has been all about the resurgent Mets, the historic disparity of the National League, as well as the semi-real possibility of an October Red Line Series between the Chicago White Sox and Cubs. But it was mostly me going down an internet rabbit hole of Japanese baseball information. Because as I was looking up Kenta Maeda of the Dodgers, the deeper I dug, the more immersed I was into a world of Jewish spies and evil judo masters and the actual Heisenberg. You know, regular baseball stuff. Allow me to ease you in with some basic info…

 

Did you know that Maeda wears #18 because it’s a tradition in Japan for the ace of the staff to wear that number? I didn’t. But you might notice that Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners wears #18. And it’s been worn by Daiske Matsuzaka and Hiroki Kuroda and a number of other pitchers from Japan – the same way #10 is usually worn by the best player on a soccer team. Maybe it is a bit presumptuous for a guy on the same staff as Clayton Kershaw to sport the ace’s number, but whatever. We don’t have that tradition. And it’s not like anybody is crying about Matt Cain wearing #18 in San Francisco.

 

 

Maeda actually earned his #18 in Japan as the two time winner of the Eiji Sawamura Award, which actually predates, but is the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young. I’m simplifying things here, but they have a checklist of sorts that a pitcher needs to meet to qualify (25 starts, 15 wins, 10 complete games, a .600 winning percentage, 200 innings pitched, a 2.50 or lower ERA and 150 K’s). And just to give you an idea, if we had those qualifiers here (because of those 10 complete games), nobody would have won the Cy Young since Randy Johnson in 1999. Nevertheless, the Sawamura Award has also been won by Matsuzaka, Iwakuma and other guys who eventually came to the big leagues like Hideo Nomo, Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka.

 

Also, the story of Eiji Sawamura, himself, and the 1934 American barnstorming tour that inspired his legend (as well as professional baseball in Japan) is so good that it’s worth retelling briefly here. In 1934, a group of American league all-stars (including future Hall of Famers, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Charlie Gehringer, Earl Averill and Lefty Gomez) came to Japan to play a group of Japanese amateurs. During one of the games, the 17-year-old Sawamura struck out Gehringer, Ruth, Gehrig and Foxx in succession, impressing American manager, Connie Mack, so much that he offered him a contract with his Philadelphia Athletics. The only issue was that, while the American baseball players were greeted as heroes everywhere they went in Japan, relations between the two countries was at a very low point, since, at the time, America was opposing Japan’s expansionist policies in Asia. And Sawamura turned down the contract saying, “My problem is I hate America and I can’t make myself like America.”

 

And this is where it really gets interesting. Because also on that American team was Moe Berg, known around the league as the brainiest guy in baseball. Berg was educated at Princeton, the Sorbonne in Paris, as well as Columbia Law. He is said to have read 10 papers a day and spoke seven languages, although teammates used to joke he couldn’t hit in any of them. The fact that Berg was such a mediocre catcher, and the fact that he later worked for the CIA (with a license to kill Werner Heisenberg if Berg suspected the Germans were close to developing an atomic bomb), has led to documentary shorts like 30 for 30‘s Spyball (I watched it) and books like, Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage & Assassination During the 1934 Tour of Japan (I’m thinking about it). I’m beginning to suspect Berg’s entire reason for being in Japan was to spy on the country. And that sounds to me like the most amazing movie that’s never been made. It’s Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own meets Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies. I mean, holy shit.

 

Sawamura

 

On the Japanese side, the team was formed by media mogul and (I’m not kidding) judo master, Matsutaro Shoriki. And besides Sawamura, their other star pitcher was Victor Starrfin, “The Blue-Eyed Japanese.” Starrfin was born in Russia, but his family fled to Japan during the Revolution. Anyway, in 1934, his father was in jail on involuntary manslaughter charges and the family was being threatened with deportation back to the Soviet Union. So Shoriki actually blackmailed Starrfin to force him on to the team or else he’d cause a scandal in his newspapers. So Starrfin agreed, Shoriki eventually turned his team professional and they’d become the Yoriumi Tokyo Giants, the New York Yankees of Japan.

 

Starrfin would go on to become the first player in Japan to win 300 games. All with the added pressure of xenophobia surrounding his life and career there. In fact, during World War II, Starrfin was placed in a Japanese detention camp and years later, he eventually committed suicide. Meanwhile, Sawamura went on to pitch the first no-hitter in Japanese baseball history, as well as two more before, in a strange twist of fate, he was killed by American forces in combat during the war. And while Ruth’s playing days were numbered by 1934, the tour made him legendary in Japan and his name became an anti-American rallying cry for the Japanese who would yell, “To hell with Babe Ruth” during battles.

 

That whole tour sounds insane to me. And that story doesn’t even include Masaichi Kaneda (aka “The Emperor”), who won 400 games in Japan between 1950 and 1969, even though he played for the Kokutetsu Swallows, who were name-appropriately horrible. Kaneda is said to have thrown so hard that a game he played in his rookie season was stopped so that the umpires could make sure the pitchers’ mound was at the appropriate distance away from home plate. And towards the end of his career, his arm caused him so much pain that he actually developed an underhand change up. Like I said, rabbit hole. But I think it was worth it. Okay. Let’s get to this week’s stuff.

 

AL MVP: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

 

Well, the Astros might be playing like total garbage right now, but you certainly can’t blame Altuve. Actually, you can’t blame Colby Rasmus either. But Altuve leads the league in WAR, wOBA, slugging and OPS. He’s also the shortest man in baseball. And he’s the only guy to be selected to an All-Star game in both leagues for the same team. I guess I’m trying to put a positive spin on things. The Astros are in big trouble.

 

AL Cy Young: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

I love the national attention that Chris Sale is getting all of a sudden. The White Sox have the best record in the American League. Sale is 5-0 and therefore we must assume he’s the early front-runner for this year’s AL Cy Young Award. And he was also my pre-season pick for the award, so I’m almost fine with it. However, if you look at advanced stats, Sale hasn’t even necessarily been the best pitcher on his own team so far this season. And I only say that because Sale’s FIP is a full run ahead of Jose Quintana’s, even though Quintana is merely 3-1. And despite Sale’s undoubtable greatness (and also the fact that I would put him neck-and-neck with David Price as the best overall pitcher in the American League), I’d say his current stats also rank behind Taijuan Walker, Price and Rich Hill as my #5 pick for the early Cy. I still think Sale will win it. But right now he’s already this year’s Zack Greinke.

 

The White Sox, by the way, are still projected to finish behind the Indians in the Central, which is kind of crazy considering Carlos Carrasco is out 4-6 weeks and nobody knows how healthy Michael Brantley is yet. But the White Sox swept the Rangers this week. And then they swept the Blue Jays, shutting out that offense for the first time this season. They also had that wacky 9-3-2-6-2-5 triple play. And they have the best team ERA in baseball. And they moved up to 19th in runs scored. All because of the loving memory of Drake LaRoche bonding them together or something. Even better for the White Sox, I don’t really know what’s going on in the rest of that division at this point, other than the Twins doing nice things for Prince (RIP) and Tyler Collins flipping everyone off in Detroit. Hey, maybe he’ll run in to Byron Buxton somewhere in the minors.

 

AL Rookie of the Year: Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers

 

So… apparently Shin-Soo Choo is feeling better. And everyone still has huge expectations for Mazara.

 

NL MVP/Rookie of the Year: Aledmys Diaz, St. Louis Cardinals

 

I told you about this guy last week, but now he’s the NL leader in wOBA, batting average, on base percentage, slugging and OPS. So I gotta give it to him over Dexter Fowler and Bryce Harper. I understand that Fowler had been getting overlooked by everybody, but between all the talk about Harper and even Trevor Story and Maeda, I haven’t even heard anybody taking about Diaz yet. Sports Illustrated just did an article on all the young shortstops taking over baseball and didn’t even mention the 25-year-old Diaz once. So few people have talked about him that I don’t even really know how to say his name. Ah-Led-Mees? Uh-Led-Mee? I guess we could all be learning it real soon.

 

NL Cy Young Award: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

 

It’s been Thor every week so far this season. Except this time, the Mets are hot as shit and somehow knocking on the Nationals’ door for first place. After Tanner Roark struck out 15 Twins this week, Nationals fans were going apeshit about how good they were because he’s only their #4 starter. They were being declared the hyperbolic juggernaut we thought they would be last season. Bryce Harper was going to break Hack Wilson’s single-season RBI record from 1930. Dusty Baker was a goddamn tooth-picked genius. And nobody seemed to mind that the Nationals had only played shit teams so far. Now Neil Walker is the most-talked-about second baseman in Mets history (with apologies to only Edgardo Alfonzo). And Yoenis Cespedes is doing impressions of Kirk Gibson in 1988 out there. The Nats also just got swept by the Phillies. They haven’t scored in 22 consecutive innings. And by the time we talk next week, the New York Mets could have actually crawled out of their early season hole and back into the driver’s seat in the NL East.

 

All that being said, the Cubs are still the best team in baseball. This week, their run differential climbed to +74, which is so insane that fans of opposing teams are starting to claim that Pilates is a PED. Even when Jake Arrieta has an off night, he only gives up one run. And Arrieta doppelgänger, Jason Hammel, might have even better stats than Arrieta at this very moment. And next up the Cubs play the Atlanta Braves, who are truly terrible. As a Cubs fan, I think I can even wear my ‘Try Not to Suck’ t-shirt around L.A. under the radar without some hoodlum Dodger fan knowing what it is and wanting to stab me.

 

Brido cubs

 

Speaking of which…

 

I went to the Marlins-Dodgers game this week. And, for the most part, it was nice. I didn’t get to see any Yasiel Puig circus throws or catches. But I got to see Kershaw pitch. I got to see Ichiro’s 2,944th Major League hit. And I also had a pretty good view of the left field bleachers, where fans were getting into drunken fist fights and aggressively screaming at other fans in opposing baseball caps, indiscriminate of whether that team was in the same division or even the same league as their beloved Dodgers. This was a Tuesday night, mind you. In fucking April. All of which reminded me that this is Vin Scully’s last season in the broadcast booth after 67 seasons. The Dodgers just honored him by renaming Elysian Park Avenue ‘Vin Scully Avenue’. And he’s a man of unequivocal class and greatness. But to see that juxtaposed with the Mad Max/Idiocracy scene in left field is truly bizarre to me and completely unworthy of the man’s legacy or his final season.

 

Plus, it doesn’t even make sense. Most of those dipshit fans were gone by the 7th inning, anyway, with L.A. only down by 3 runs. So you’re telling me you’re willing to fight people and cause physical harm to anyone opposing your favorite baseball team, just as long as you don’t have to hit any traffic? That’s so stupid. And while I used to chalk up the drunkenness at Wrigley Field to the drunken culture surrounding Harry Caray. This just proves that I couldn’t have been more wrong. This is Vin Scully we’re talking about. The only way for my theory to work with Dodger Stadium is if Tuco Salamanca from Breaking Bad was announcing the games (had to throw in Tuco since we already had a Heisenberg). Which, on some level would be pretty entertaining. But it’s not necessarily a place you want to bring your family.

 

Okay. Check back in with me next week. And feel free to listen to me talk baseball on the MLB weekly recap of Joe Kilgallon’s podcast, “Comedians Talking Sports” on iTunes, Soundcloud or www.joekilgallon.com.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode VIII: Bottom of the 1st)

Written by :
Published on : April 22, 2016

 

 

Two years ago, I took my wife to watch a baseball game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. And I pointed to center field and said, “That’s Mike Trout. He’s the best player in baseball.” That same game, Trout went 0-for-3 with a walk and my wife said, “I didn’t think he was all that good.” Now I know that what we’re dealing with now isn’t that much bigger of a sample size than my wife saw in 2014. But through the first two weeks of this season, Trout had really struggled, hitting only .220 and looking especially un-Trout-like on off-speed pitches.

 

On the other hand, Bryce Harper has been on an absolute tear in Washington. Sure, the Nationals have only played garbage teams. But still, they’re off to their best start in club history, thanks in large part to Harper, who might actually be better than he was in last year’s MVP season. And that’s truly scary. He’s improved his contact rate. He’s cut down on chasing pitches out of the zone. And that’s led him to currently have more walks than he has strikeouts. Not to mention hitting his second grand slam of the season in as many tries on Tuesday night, which was also his fifth home run in six games. Plus, having Dusty Baker in the dugout doesn’t really hinder everyone from making the comparison between Harper and Barry Bonds, who Baker managed in San Francisco from 1993-2002.

 

 

So… are we ready to officially declare Bryce Harper the best player in baseball? That was the big question this week. Which is not meant to disparage Trout, by any means. There’s no question he’ll improve. Everybody knows that. And it looks like he’s heating up as we speak. But even so, Harper’s WAR was slightly higher than Trout’s last season. And, like I said, he seems to be getting somehow better. So even if Trout rebounds to a .300/.400/.550 hitter with a 9 WAR, would it even be enough? With the NL East the way it is, I’m not so sure it will be. But as of right now, I’d say Mike Trout is still the best player in baseball. I’m not quite calling it a ‘clown question, bro’ (had to) but check back in with me after Harper is still doing this against teams that aren’t the fuck awful Braves, Phillies or Marlins.

 

And please don’t get me wrong. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Harper is legit, the Nationals are legit. They were my pick to win their division, even when everybody else was picking the Mets. Especially if they stay healthy for once. Plus, what were they supposed to do – not beat the shit-ass teams they’ve beaten? Is Daniel Murphy not supposed to try to be the Lou Gehrig to Harper’s Babe Ruth, just because I hate him so much and because he probably thinks the Iron Horse is a down low bar in D.C. where he could run in to a lot of ‘like-minded’ conservatives who are totes just there because they “play such good house music” or whatever?

 

I’ll get over Murphy and last year’s NLCS at some point. I promise. But all that being said, the best team in baseball is still the Chicago Cubs. I think that’s safe to say at this point. I just watched their 16-0 drubbing of the Cincinnati Reds where Jake Arrieta just so happened to throw his second career no-hitter (the second-most lopsided no-no since Pud Galvin of the Buffalo Bisons defeated the Detroit Wolverines 18-0 in 1884). And it’s probably the greatest Cubs game I’ve ever seen in my life. Arrieta is 15-0 in his last 16 starts. He’s had 24 consecutive quality starts. And he also hasn’t given up a run at Wrigley Field since last July 25th. It’s bananas. Actually, all of their starters worked at least six innings in their first 14 games, which is also bananas. And even Jon Lester’s crazy, blooper-reel throws to first are getting outs. Just in case you needed more bananas.

 

 

What Lester should do is take a few throwing lessons from Jason Heyward, who those hillbilly Cardinal fans can boo all they want. Did you see that throw he made to nail Matt Holliday at the plate on Tuesday? He may have been 0-for-9 in those first two games of the series and batting .170 at the time, but that D don’t slump, son. And if Daniel Murphy is reading this, I’m talking about his defense. Double burn.

 

Anyway, with that pitching and that defense, the Cubs also lead the Majors in walks. Which is why their run differential still has them looking like the ’39 Yankees, even though Dexter Fowler is the only guy on the team with a batting average north of .260. But once those bats heat up, oh man, it’s crotch chop city in the Bridenstine household.

 

Man. It’s so weird to be this excited about the Cubs in April. But, again, let me have this.

 

This Week’s NL MVP: Dexter Fowler, Chicago Cubs

 

He leads the league in wOBA, WAR and OBP. Harper and Murphy lead in about everything else. Fowler really has been the only consistent weapon for that offense throughout April (not counting that 16-0 clinic). And he’s also done it against teams that have actually won more games than they’ve lost. Seriously, there are rumors that even the Braves’ ground crew is phoning it in. I’m just saying.

 

This Week’s NL Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

There was a brief moment right after I submitted last week’s post where I could have given it to Vincent Velasquez of the Phillies. But other than that, Thor has had this on lockdown. I’m sure Arrieta and/or Clayton Kershaw (with his new 46 mph eephus) will eventually put an end to this. But any time you’re getting compared to J.R. Richard and (especially) Nolan Ryan on a consistent basis, you’re doing something right. And it looks like the rest of his team might be ready to start turning things around too. The defending National League champions are not a .500 team, no matter how much I want them to be.

 

This Week’s NL Rookie of the Year: Aledmys Diaz, St. Louis Cardinals

 

You can probably tell that I do not like the Birds on Bats, but you have to just shake your head and shrug at their next man up mentality. First Jhonny Peralta goes down. Then Ruben Tejada goes down. Then like, 17 other shortstops go down in a game of shortstop dominos and next thing you know, there’s a 20th string shortstop in St. Louis hitting .385. And it’s not like it’s just him, either. They also have Greg Garcia and Jeremy Hazelbaker doing the same shit. And then Seung-hwan Oh in their bullpen. Oh, by the way, has two amazing nicknames that you need to know. They called him ‘Stone Buddha’ for showing no emotion when he pitched in Korea and Japan. And also, ‘The Final Boss’, which as far as relief pitcher nicknames go, has got to be in the top 5. Trevor Story is still having his moment in Colorado. But in terms of overall WAR, this week it’s Diaz.

 

This Week’s AL MVP: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

With all the Harper vs. Trout talk this week, I guess everyone forgot that Manny Machado is the best player on the (current) best team in the AL and he leads in every offensive category that Josh Donaldson doesn’t. I feel like more people talk about Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo than they do Machado. And the only time this guy should come in 4th in a baseball conversation is if the first three people mentioned are Harper, Trout and Donaldson.

 

This Week’s AL Cy Young: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

That Sox staff has been insane so far. Chris Sale is 4-0. Mat Latos has been outstanding, which is odd to say. And the guy with the second-lowest FIP in baseball (and tied for the AL lead in WAR) is actually the 1-1 Quintana. Actually, his FIP is almost a full run better than the 3-0 0.00 ERA’d Jordan Zimmermann of the Tigers, who apparently gets a little bit of help from Jose Iglesias at short. The White Sox have been doing well early. And they’re probably a little annoyed by all the attention on the North Side. But just imagine what this team would look like if they weren’t also 24th in baseball in runs scored.

 

This Week’s AL Rookie of the Year: Tyler White, Houston Astros

He’s still my pick, even though everybody would rather talk about Nomar Mazara in Texas and what they’ll eventually do once Shin Soo-Choo returns. We should be talking about the regression of that Astros staff and how it’s squandering some great individual performances by White, Jose Altuve and Colby Rasmus though. Because right now, the Astros are in a category with the Yankees and Twins as AL doormats. And in a league with this much parity, that is not an ideal place to be.

 

Okay. See you next week. Where hopefully, I can be even more annoying about the Cubs.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode I)

Written by :
Published on : February 27, 2016

 

 

Last week on Monday Night Raw, Shane McMahon made a shocking return to the WWE after a six year absence. And it was soon announced that he’d be facing the Undertaker inside ‘Hell in a Cell’ at WrestleMania 32. I wonder if maybe, just maybe, Theo Epstein happened to be watching. Because just three days later, Dexter Fowler’s surprise return to the Cubs was as close to a WWE-style swerve as an actual non-scripted sport can get. The only thing it was missing was cued-up entrance music (“My Way” by Fetty Wap, would have been perf) and his Cubs teammates chanting ‘holy shit’ and ‘this is awesome’ (clap clap clap clap clap) after the big reveal.

 

Until that very moment, the consensus foregone conclusion was that Fowler had signed with the Baltimore Orioles. It was speculated and anticipated for weeks by baseball’s talking head community until it evolved into a full-blown fact. Right up until the moment it wasn’t. And after receiving a text that just said “Fowler!” from my ‘Go Cubs’ iPhone message group, I was so confused and skeptical that I didn’t believe the news until I actually saw the video of a 6’5″ dude in street clothes who looked a lot like Dexter Fowler walking onto the field with a guy who looked a lot like Theo Epstein and being greeted by a group of guys in Cubs uniforms who looked exactly like the rest of the Chicago Cubs. It wouldn’t take long for a meme to go out on social media with Steve Harvey holding the Miss Universe card and saying, “DEXTER FOWLER HAS SIGNED WITH THE ORIOLES.”

 

 Fowler will be back with the Cubs.

 

And while I could talk about what the Fowler signing means for the 2016 Cubs (the best team in baseball on paper just got better, Jason Heyward can now move back to right field where he’s won three Gold Gloves and it creates an insanely flexible lineup depth with Fowler, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber in the other outfield slots, etc.), it’s probably best to use this as further proof that conventional wisdom at the start of Spring Training doesn’t necessarily equate to actual regular season results. And everything we think we know about the 2016 season before it starts is probably just as true as the fact that Dexter Fowler is the new leadoff hitter for the Baltimore Orioles.

 

All that being said, I still can’t think of a reason why it won’t be the Cubs’ year in 2016. Yes, I’m still worried about the Cardinals. And I still think the Pirates are probably vastly underrated. And I know that saying, “Anything less than the World Series would be a huge disappointment” is a statement that is probably held equally true for the Mets and the Dodgers. And I know that the Nationals were the team that looked like the hands-down best-on-paper team last year. That is, of course, until they weren’t. But it’s still February as I type this. And hope still springs eternal. So as of right now, I’m a believer.

 

Around the League

 

The more I think about the 2016 Boston Red Sox and their high win projections, the more I have a problem with them. Pablo Sandoval showed up to Fort Myers looking like me after a cake bender. And if you combine that with Hanley Ramirez at first base, I don’t see why every team they face wouldn’t just put on a dead-ball-era bunt clinic until the Red Sox can figure their own shit out? But the good news for the Red Sox is that every team in their division has a really good reason why they won’t win either. The best one is that 5’8″ Marcus Stroman is going to become the the ace of the Blue Jays like he’s pitching’s Jose Altuve. And Jose Bautista’s contract looks like it’s already a distraction. As are the whispers that Troy Tulowitzki can’t hit outside of the thin air of Coors Field. And those two teams are the favorites in the division. If you add to that, the uncertainty of the rotation and age of the position players in New York, a possible 30-40 game suspension of Aroldis Chapman, a Tampa Bay Rays team that doesn’t score runs and an Orioles team that doesn’t prevent runs, it leaves me throwing up my hands and saying, “Let them eat cake.”

 

I’m increasingly curious to see Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios in Minnesota. Not to mention Miguel Sano and Byung-ho Park. That’s too much young talent to not pan out in a division where I’m totally ready to see something new and exciting happen. That could also occur if the White Sox can score runs and if the Indians can play defense. I just don’t want to see a scenario where these Kansas City Royals, who have the 13th-highest payroll in baseball and who will not be sneaking up on anyone this time around, can become the 1998-2001 Yankees or the 1988-1990 Bash Brother A’s. I can only take so many cuts to Happy George Brett in the owner’s box before I get sick of this double-tapered shit.

 

 Can the Royals really do it again?

 

My way-too-early AL MVP pick is going to be Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros. Especially now that they created the Chase Utley Slide Rule to protect him. Mike Trout is still probably going to be the best player in the league. But he’s going to get ‘LeBron Ruled’ out of the award until the Angels can put a decent lineup around him. The same probably goes for Josh Donaldson and even a returning Miguel Cabrera because nobody likes repeats. So that probably leaves us with Manny Machado, who probably won’t be in playoff contention and Correa who probably will. And my backup choice is obviously Dexter Fowler, the definite new right fielder for the Baltimore Orioles.

 

And while I haven’t decided on my pre-season NL MVP pick quite yet, I will say that if the Diamondbacks are really going to be in contention, then there’s no reason it won’t be Paul Goldschmidt. But you can’t rule out never-been-picked guys like Giancarlo Stanton (with his zero facial hair and his Barry Bonds) or whichever Cubs player hogs up the most attention in their historic season. Or it could even be whoever this Royce Harper guy is Dusty Baker keeps talking about. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

 

Well, we have actual Spring Training games next week. We’ll get to see Lucas Giolito and Julio Urias and Corey Seager and Byron Buxton and Joey Gallo and start forming actual thoughts about these teams as they move towards the regular season. I’ve given you my picks for World Series champion and AL MVP. And with just a little bit more information, I can form enough of an opinion to the wrong about the rest. Stay tuned.

 

 


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.

 

 

 


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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