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How Badly Would You Hurt a Team for a Week?

Let’s be honest. I’ll start. I’m not a very good baseball player. I used to be much better than I am now, but even back when I was better, I was not good. I fit in with my high school competition and, later, adult league, but in the grander scheme I was, sadly, not good. You are also probably bad at baseball. I know because you are reading this and not playing baseball. That’s okay. It’s what joins us together, you and me.

But what if you had to play? What if you were sitting in the bleachers at Camden Yards and all the Orioles came down with 168-hour food poisoning. What if the team bus blew out a tire between the airport and the ballpark and there were no other buses available because the Pope was in town for a week and he loves buses. So, you need to play!

The team needs you, but it also knows you are terrible. You have to play, but you have to play as little as possible while playing. Where could you play with out hurting the team? Well, nowhere. You’re going to hurt the team. Badly. You’re going to really hurt the team because you are awful. Terrible. The worst. You’re just barely better than me, although that’s like saying rotten food is better than poo. It is, but it’s also what Olympic announcers refer to as a “low bar.”

The worst part is that you have to play for a week’s worth of games. And you’re starting. All six games (there’s an off-day but it’s in Baltimore [sad face emoticon]). That’s one long monster truck rally! You have to hit and play the field. No DH for you. Maybe you’re stuck playing for the Red Sox and David Ortiz is like, “No way, bro. Get out there.” Maybe the other people who are forced into duty are older, fatter, and worse than you. Maybe I have to play DH!

So. Now we have to figure out where to put you. First things first: let’s figure out the batting order. Course, it’s actually not hard to figure out the batting order. You’re batting last. The less you bat the better. Because you’re horrible. Sorry to dwell on the fact; I just don’t want you to forget. It’s sort of the point of this article. But it’s probably for the best, batting ninth. I mean, really, do you want to stand in against 95 mph heat? I sure as hell don’t. I don’t want to tell you what I’d do in my pants in that situation, pun sadly intended. I’d bat 10th if I could. I imagine, whether you admit it or not, you would too. But you can’t. You’re hitting ninth. Congratulations. Hope you can foul one off, maybe. Also try not to mess your pants too noticeably.

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Selecting Baseball Teams for the Presidential Candidates

If you have been exposed to media anytime between January 2015 and today, you’re likely aware there is a presidential race at hand. Those are exciting enough on their own (the whole “future of the country” thing), but this version seems to contain excessive amounts of chaos. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton, who everyone knew would waltz to the nomination with ease, is once again up against a grassroots insurgence from the left. On the Republican side, the clear frontrunner since they started talking about this stuff six years ago, Jeb “!” Bush, just finished fourth in the New Hampshire primary. Like the rest of the GOP field, he’s getting crushed by businessman and former reality TV star Donald Trump. You can’t make this stuff up, though it might be nice if someone had.

All this craziness isn’t unlike the 2016 baseball season. The teams are about to report to spring training and the predictions are all over the place. Coming off a World Series win, forget repeating, the Royals aren’t projected for a winning season by many (including us). The big-money teams are coming off of varying degrees of failure and have conducted themselves this offseason not unlike a fish flopping about in a boat. The National League, despite a clearer caste system in place of haves and have-nots, might be even worse. The Dodgers look like favorites in the West, but the Giants could be fantastic, and if you’re buying what the Diamondbacks are selling then… okay! Then there’s the Nationals and Mets in the East, and the Cubs, Pirates, and Cardinals in the Central. Good luck figuring all that out.

The thing is, we are trying to figure all that out. We’ve got projections and odds for the baseball teams, and there are sites that are doing projections and odds for the presidential candidates. A couple days ago at the Sporting News, Jesse Spector wrote a piece assigning Simpsons pictures to baseball teams. I figured I owe it to the internet, nay the country, to write a piece in assigning baseball teams to their corresponding presidential candidates. So I am writing that piece. And you are reading it. And I’m sorry.

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David Ortiz and the Greatest Age-40 Season Ever

We’ll start with a man made of straw. You might think that David Ortiz’s stated intention to retire at the end of the upcoming season would mean he’d be limping to the end, a shell of his former self, a one trick pony without a trick, but that, Dr. Strawman, is decidedly not the case. A few months ago the venerable yet vulnerable (stab him and does he not bleed?) Jeff Sullivan wrote a piece titled David Ortiz Has Refused to Decline. At the time Ortiz was flat out refusing to decline, and since the piece was written in November and no games have been played between then and now, the thesis statement still holds true.

The 39-year-old version of Ortiz from the 2015 campaign was almost a carbon copy of his age-38 season. WAR hates him because he’s a DH (that’s a topic for another time) but by wRC+, Ortiz was roughly as good (or better) at the plate last season as Buster Posey, Manny Machado, Kris Bryant, and Yoenis Cespedes. Depending on the stat you use, Ortiz was somewhere within the top-20 hitters in baseball. Did I mention he was 39?

Now that Ortiz has announced his retirement, we are set once again for a year-long farewell party, not unlike the one Derek Jeter received. And in fact, that will be an interesting comparison to make considering Jeter’s accomplishments will make him a guaranteed first ballot Hall of Famer while there is some debate about whether Ortiz ever gets in at all. But I digress. Considering the success of Ortiz’s age-38 and age-39 seasons, I wonder if we might be in line to witness one of the best age-40 seasons of all time.

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Some Thoughts on the New Spring Training Uniforms

You may have noticed Major League Baseball unveiled new spring training jerseys. This is important. Spring training gets going in a few weeks and what would we fans be without new spring training jerseys to wear over our winter parkas while we shovel pile after pile of snow, hoping our hearts don’t give out in the process. But, if we do go down, at least we go down with our teams on our chests. And like your proverbial mother and her proverbial obsession with clean underwear, you wouldn’t want to go down with an outdated spring training jersey on. These are the stakes and they are high.

As such, I have viewed the gallery of new jerseys and I have some thoughts which is why this article is called Some Thoughts on the New Spring Training Jerseys. Because we prioritize truth here. It’s above other things, like lies, and candy corn, which, let’s face it, is just terrible.

First Thought: Diamondbacks, Why?

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If your team name is too long for the front of your jersey then there are acceptable solutions. For example, you could write it like a signature, emphasizing certain letters joined by scribbles. For example, you might render my name as follows: “M [scribble] H [scribble] K [scribble] y.” Who says team names need be legible? Or, like the A’s do, you could just go with a single letter. The point is, there are options. But what you can not do is this whole “D-backs” thing, because it’s kind of awful — and, as you can probably tell from the first couple paragraphs of this piece, I am personally acquainted with awful. Going with “Arizona” and turning the “i” into a snake would let us leave the “D-backs” in the cul-de-sac of uniform design where it belongs. Good gosh, do I have to do everything, people?

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Pablo Sandoval and Bouncing Back

After finishing in last place in their division in 2015, the Red Sox plan to bounce back in 2016. You know this because they’ve done things like sign David Price to a seven-year contract paying him a swimming pool filled with doubloons. Similarly they’ve dealt prospects to the Padres, which means “Wait, what?” in Spanish, for reliever Craig Kimbrel. They also dealt a starting pitcher, Wade Miley, to the Mariners, for reliever Carson Smith. Unless you subscribe to the idea that the Red Sox can’t abide a player who loses a cow milking competition — a reasonable position to take I’ll grant you — all of these are win-now moves. The Red Sox think they can compete in 2016.

However, in order to win now, these new players will have to perform better than last year’s new players, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, did in their first seasons in Boston. After producing a collective 6.4 WAR in 2014, the last season with their previous clubs, Ramirez and Sandoval recorded a cumulative -3.8 WAR in 2015 with Boston. That’s a drop of over 10 wins in total from two players aged 31 and 28, respectively — not exactly ages at which you expect players to fall off a cliff. Perhaps more surprisingly, a large portion of that negative production came from the players’ defense.

As you know if you read these same electronic pages, Ramirez was a mess at his new position of left field in 2015, so much so that there are no more jokes to make about him. Literally all of the jokes have been made. As a result (of his defense, not the joke thing), the Red Sox are moving him to yet another a new position this coming season. That was surprising because we all figured a guy who had played shortstop in the majors would be able to handle left field. Apparently not. And yet this isn’t an article about Hanley Ramirez. It’s an article about Pablo Sandoval’s defense. Who would have guessed?

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One City Producing a World Series and Super Bowl Winner

They say you shouldn’t start out an article by insulting your audience’s intelligence, and it’s probably not a great idea to start out by pointing out that you’re about to insult your audience’s intelligence, either, so we’re just breaking rules all over the place. Watch your feet, people, there are rule shards all over the floor!

In any case, this is a baseball website. You know that. I know that. Together we know things! The thing is, this isn’t baseball season. I mean, it is in the sense that it always is — at least in part because of sites like this — but really right now it is football season. They’re having games now and everything. Lots of games and now they’re in the playoffs with only four teams remaining. This gave me thoughts: when was the last time a baseball team and a football team from the same city were both crowned champions in the same year? That depends on how you calculate these things. Oh, before I get into the specifics, figuring out if that can happen this year is what this article is about.

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The NL Needs the DH, And May Finally Get It

Today we’re starting with a bunch of numbers. Ready? Duck! Last season, third basemen hit .260/.318/.420. They were good for a wOBA of .319 and a wRC+ of 101. Outfielders were slightly better. They hit .260/.325/.418, for a wOBA of .322 and a wRC+ of 103. First basemen were even better! They collectively hit .259/.336/.444, a .014 improvement in wOBA and 10-point jump in wRC+ over outfielders. Know who was even better? Pitchers! Just kidding, they were horrible!

Last season, pitchers hit .131/.158/.168. That’s a wOBA of Are You Kidding Me? and a wRC+ of Nope. It’s quite striking to look at the effectiveness of pitchers hitting compared to other positions. It’s a bit like taping your first grader’s artwork up next to a painting in the Louvre. One is the work of a world-renowned artist and the other is a nice try by someone who has no real business facing that kind of competition and quite possibly made an accident in their pants during production.

Pitchers have never been good hitters. This makes the tweet sent out by Derrick Goold of the St.Louis Post-Dispatch a few days ago good news. Goold quoted Cardinals GM John Mozeliak as saying there is “more momentum” to add the DH to the National League.

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A Modest Proposal: Making Second Base Optional

Look, I don’t want you to think me unserious. I very well could be, quite possibly I am, but I don’t want you to think it. So you should know I debated with myself over writing this article. And I won that debate. So here I am. Here we are. Because it’s January. And we ain’t got nothing to do.

I asked myself this question a while ago: how do you improve the structure of baseball? We’ve been so focused on fixing small bits here and there, forcing a pitcher to do this little thing, or the batter to keep his foot there, but how do you take the general rules of the game and make it more interesting? Do you make pitchers throw with their opposite hands. No. Do you add little spikes to the ball? No. Do you put each base at the top of a small flight of stairs? Well… I’ll get back to you on that one. Otherwise, though, all of the above are ridiculous suggestions. They might be funny (or not), but you couldn’t implement them because they’re too silly and too painful.

However, there is one way you could change the game and create, at the same time, grounds for more strategy — as opposed to more injuries. The answer is, you eliminate one of the bases. Think about it. There are four bases. There could be two, or three, but for some reason, there are four. I’ll blame Old Hoss Radbourn. It’s odd to think about, but it takes forever to get around the bases and baseball, as baseball itself acknowledges, takes too long. What baseball needs is an HOV lane, an express lane, and a way to add some choice. Let’s give players options and watch them make mistakes!

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Nomar Garciaparra: Four Years a Hall of Famer

The Hall of Fame voting was revealed last week. Maybe you heard the shouting. There’s nothing that brings out some good internet shouting like the Baseball Hall of Fame. Pretty strange when you think about it. People don’t typically freak out over museums or old baseball players, but put them together and things get all crazy like a conversation about sandwiches on the internet up in here. Watch the heck out!

But with regard to the voting. As it turns out, two players were voted in, both deserving, and one other specific player, Nomar Garciaparra, was not elected. Because he was not deserving. But oh, he could have been because, oh, what could have been! Garciaparra — a name I just had to force my computer to learn due to it inexplicably and repeatedly trying to change it into “Garcia parrot” — received just 1.8% of the vote. By rule, players receiving less than 5% of the vote are dropped from the ballot.

So. This is it. Nomar is officially not a Hall of Famer, meaning he’s officially not as good as Derek Jeter. The day much of South Boston literally believed would never come has come. But that doesn’t mean Nomar wasn’t Hall of Fame-good. He was. Just not for long enough.

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Your 2016 Spring-Training Trip: A Moderately Helpful Guide

Welcome to the new year. The Chinese calendar says it’s the year of the monkey, the baseball calendar says it can’t possibly be the Royals year again, but most importantly, it’s the year you’ll finally do that thing you’ve been telling yourself for a long time that you’re going to do. “I’m going to do that thing,” you say to yourself. Go you! And what is that you’re talking about? It’s hard to tell with your mouthful of Cheetos-brand corn puffs so I’ll say it for you: you’re finally going to go to spring training!

Yay! Who cares about the kids? The husband and/or wife will be there when you get back, no matter what they say, probably. As for the job? You won’t have that for long anyway. Abuse it while you can! What’s more, you have vacation days for a reason, and nobody, not some highfalutin “boss,” is going to tell you when you can use ‘em!

So this is happening, dammit. The first step is go figure out who is coming. Call up your buddies! Email ‘em. Text ‘em. Record a message on a wax cylinder and strap it to a carrier pigeon. Round ‘em up! Figure out who you can goad into joining you, because this will be important information for the next step. You may want to start with a nice email. Something like this:

Hey jerks,

Hope you’re not dead yet. I’m going to spring training and you should come with me to help defray the cost. Also, because we’re friends! We’re going to see my favorite teams because I thought of this first. Baseball is baseball though so you should be happy, but even if it wasn’t I’m not interested in your opinion. Can’t wait to go! Send me a check ASAP.


The point is, get in touch with your peeps. You’ll need someone with intelligence, someone with money, and someone with the ability to behave like an adult occasionally. And it would be nice if all those attributes were found in one person so as to open up more spots for your actual friends.

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