Ancient baseball titan and NLCS MVP Howie Kendrick of the Washington Nationals did a very cool thing during Game 7 of the World Series Wednesday night and then followed it up with a very good, team-wide dugout dance party.
On paper, this is what the 2016 New York Mets look like. They’re just numbers, sure, but in the era of sabermetrics, these are some damn good numbers. These numbers represent the skills and know-how that, we hope, will bring us glory this fall. These are the players who carry the promise of greatness, the clubhouse that could win it all. All of our hopes and dreams, summed up in two innocuous spreadsheets – fourteen players, nine positions, 140 statistics.
Do you feel the tables mocking you? Those perfectly ordered, neatly typed grids? Those consistently high batting averages and promising ERAs?
Do you have nightmares about Daniel Murphy in a Nats jersey? Is Chase Utley’s arrogant smirk burned into your retinas? Do you shudder when you think about having to watch Royals players receive their rings – while our team stands just yards away?
No? Okay, maybe it’s just me.
If the Major League Baseball All-Star Game had a place in American History curricula, 11-year-old me would be a figure taught alongside Boss Tweed. The democratic nature of electing the Midsummer Classic’s starting lineups was intoxicating to the dorky kid who watched coverage of the 2000 Florida recount every day after school. I was a conniving little bastard and when it came to finding ways to stuff the ballot box, I took my lessons less from old Joe and Jane Stadium Usher, who’d hand out ballots at the ballpark than I did from Chicago’s Daley clan.
No strategy was beneath me. Paying friends a few quarters to punch out the bags of ballots I’d bring home from a trip to Candlestick? Check. Fabricating email addresses to run up totals in the early days of online balloting? Yep. I was a foolhardy kid who thought that my dirty tactics made a difference in who’d trot out to represent their league each summer, and I took that shit seriously. It probably would’ve been good practice for a career in politics.
Over the years, the dynamics of voting in players for the ASG have changed. Over the years, online ballots have eclipsed voting at the ballpark as the preferred way to select the game’s starters. Teams now solicit fans to pull out their smartphones, click an app a few times, and presto, send the hometown nine’s best to the game. The speed of voting online has made it more effective than even the most mischievous fan could manage via the old-fashioned, Bush v. Gore-inducing, punch card manner.
“And then? And then, when I walked down the street, people would’ve looked, and they would’ve said, ‘There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in this game.'” – The Natural
Exceedingly rare in sports is the career in which a player maintains a world-class level of dominance through a retirement on his or her own terms. Only a handful of players can even lay any valid claim to that. Wayne Gretzky scored 90 points in his second-to-last NHL season only to fall down to 62, a perfectly formidable number for a 38-year-old center in professional hockey, in his final season, 1998-’99. In the same sport, legendary Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak retired at the age of 32 in 1984 after accumulating dozens of accolades and medals with the Soviet national team and CSKA Moscow and also without ever playing a minute in the NHL. Michael Jordan managed to average 20 points per game in the 2002-’03 season during his second and final comeback, with the Washington Wizards. He even scored 43 points as a 40-year-old, a task suburban dads in driveways everywhere wish to check off the Saturday morning to-do list. Depending on how the next half-decade or so shakes out, Kobe Bryant could be there too. John Elway finished his career at the very peak of the mountain, with two straight Super Bowl victories in 1998 and ’99. A few European footballers, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Xavi Hernandez among them, also had or are having satisfyingly lengthy careers in which they maintain high competitive levels.
The Yankees have used 45 different players this season. Many of them are awful, like Jayson Nix and Chris Stewart. But at least those guys are career backups who are good enough defensively to justify a spot on the roster. The guys listed below are the worst of the worst. They’re just awful, awful baseball players. “Baseball players” might be too generous. They are average citizens in baseball uniforms, masquerading as baseball players. I would welcome them with open arms to my intramural softball team, but they have no right being anywhere near a Major League Baseball field. Read More
Now that the basketball season is a wrap, and with hockey soon to follow, only one of the four major North American seasonal sports, Major League Baseball, will be in session. While the great American pastime certainly carries with it a tradition which is engraved in the hearts of millions, the dog days of summer can get repetitive in the nationally-televised sports world, as diving catches and cannonball home runs take sole possession of center stage on ESPN. By the third instance of a 4-6-3 double play in the SportsCenter Top 10, viewers find themselves rolling their eyes with the reluctantly accepting frustration of Lester Freamon in the pawn shop unit.