Chin Up, America: baseball is back

Hey, everybody! I’ve been under a rock since Game 7, what’d I miss?

Duke! Not much, man. We elected Donald Trump (that guy we used to watch on “Raw”) President. Also: everyone, everywhere hates each other. And Russia? So hot right now. We could really use a distraction.

I’ll be perfectly honest: I’m having a had time getting amped for Opening Day this year. In the words of Frank Costanza, I got a lot of problems with you people. Time to air some grievances:

  • Commissioner Rob Manfred’s desire to turn watching a baseball game into a bastardized version of “Supermarket Sweep” is beyond messed up and will be the death of Major League Baseball. I’m pretty sure Bud Selig doesn’t know how to turn on a computer, yet he was somehow able to not screw this up. Back away from the consultants, Rob.
  • MLB’s best team is the Chicago Cubs, and look, I love Bill Murray and Joe Maddon, Hipster Manager™, as much as the next fan, but their entire front office and ownership group is a flaming example of why nepotism will eventually kill the American Dream. I didn’t think it was going to be this easy to turn on the Cubs, and yet, here we are.
  • MLB’s new labor agreement is kind of a joke: all the things that desperately needed fixing were either ignored or just got a fresh coat of paint. There are still major fundamental issues that need addressing: the draft, baseball’s expanding wage gap, the lunacy of the luxury tax, and the proliferation of tanking. Players Association leader Tony Clark seems like a bright guy, but our nation’s best labor leaders are lawyers for a reason.
  • Did you see MLB let New Era put their stupid little flags on the side of the hat? If that wasn’t bad enough, they also signed a deal with Under Armour to provide on-field uniforms and Fanatics to provide fan gear. A couple things: Under Armour is overpriced crap and their logo will be on the chest of all MLB jerseys starting in 2020, which is actually worse than the New Era flag debacle. Secondly, the Fanatics shopping experience is awful — their website is slightly easier to use than one of those sites that sells fake Louie Vuitton bags. Buy your gear now: the new deal is for TEN YEARS.
  • Why did ESPN mess with Buster Olney’s blog? Where the hell did the daily roundups go? For awhile he was posting them on Facebook (blech) but now they’re completely gone. This should be Rob Manfred’s top responsibility for 2017. I need those roundups every morning.

That being said, baseball is back! Lazy summer days, cold beer, and 162 dates with Gary Thorne. My body is ready.

I used to write these ridiculously long previews, but I’ve been inspired by our new commissioner to make everything faster. So, I’ve decided to distill team-by-team previews into mini-sound bytes in order of how good I think they’ll be. It’s totally arbitrary, but I’ll call it the HYPE LIST so we should all feel better about it.

1) Chicago Cubs: They’re so good and they have so much depth, it would take a miracle for them not to make the playoffs for the next 2-3 years. Get used to this.

2) Boston Red Sox: Can Dave Dombrowski mess the Red Sox up already? I know he’s doing his best, but it’s not happening fast enough.

3) Los Angeles Dodgers: Julio Urias is 20 years-old and he’s the Dodgers #3 starter. When I was 20, I was a starter for my fraternity’s softball team and we won the Intramural championship. Kind of the same, right?

4) Cleveland Indians: The Cleveland Renaissance continues into 2017. Not sure how I feel about that.

5) Washington Nationals: Don’t be deceived by this ranking — they won’t win the World Series in 2017 or 2018 and Bryce Harper will leave because the Lerners won’t know how to defer $400M dollars before the year 3000. DC sports are the worst.

6) San Francisco Giants: The Mark Melancon signing addressed a need, but the Giants still have great pitching and a solid lineup. They’re probably one bat away from the top three. #Analysis

7) Houston Astros: The Astros had that cool SI cover a few years back and now everyone thinks they’re due for a title. Someone ask Elijah Dukes and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays how that worked out for them.

8) Texas Rangers: As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less patient in most facets of my life. That includes thinking injury-prone players will no longer remain injury-prone. The Rangers are hopeful three injury-prone pitchers will meaningfully contribute to their 2017 starting rotation. Good luck.

9) New York Mets: Speaking of injury-prone pitchers…

10) Detroit Tigers: I think the Tigers are very underrated: their rotation could be really good and their lineup is still tough in a mediocre division. It’d be bittersweet if the Tigers made a deep run a year after Mike Ilitch died, but the universe seems intent on making us all miserable for the foreseeable future, so bet on it.

11) St. Louis Cardinals: I saw that picture of the Cardinals fan with the Nazi tattoo and I got really bummed out. Then I saw the fan response to Dexter Fowler’s comments about the travel ban and I died a little on the inside. I hope they lose 100 games.

12) Pittsburgh Pirates: I think people take for granted how much talent is on this team.

13) Seattle Mariners: Now that the Cubs and Red Sox have won titles, baseball needs a new cursed franchise. I’d like to nominate the Seattle Mariners (last playoff appearance: 2001) and call it the “Curse of Ichiro.”

14) Toronto Blue Jays: Josh Donaldson is awesome, but he’s already 31 years-old and won’t be a free agent until 2019. I wonder if bothers him that he played the prime of his career for relative peanuts. Probably not.

15) Baltimore Orioles: The O’s are doing everything they can to remain relevant, but the fact is they’re really just counting the days until Manny Machado leaves, the old man gives up the team, Dan Duquette can legally quit, and they can just blow the whole thing up. Until then: dingers!

16) Kansas City Royals: Watching the Royals in 2017 will be like watching a season-long memorial for the 2015 title team.

17) New York Yankees: Two things I thought I’d never say: 1) I miss Big Stein; and 2) baseball’s a lot less interesting when the Yankees are lousy. I guess that’s the price we pay for finally getting rid of A-Rod (who, by the way, is much more like-able on TV).

18) Tampa Bay Rays: Here’s a hot take: fielding stats are BS and the Rays will regret the Kevin Kiermaier contract.

19) Colorado Rockies: Supposedly the Rockies have pitching now? What universe am I in?

20) Miami Marlins: Poor Marlin fans. First, they have to endure the tragic death of Jose Fernandez. Then, when it looked like they were finally rid of owner Jeffrey Loria, the deal fell through.

21) Arizona Diamondbacks: Look at this roster! Would you be surprised if they won 80-85 games this year and Tony LaRussa undeservedly took all the credit? Me neither.

22) Los Angeles Angels: Baseball fans should start a petition to get Mike Trout and Albert Pujols out of Anaheim. It’d be better for everyone involved (except Angels fans, but I don’t really know any of those).

23) Atlanta Braves: R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon are a combined 85 years-old, yada, yada, yada. I hope one of them wins the Cy Young.

24) Philadelphia Phillies: Here’s where we get to the teams that have just given up on making any kind of impact in 2017. Full-on tank mode, whether they know it or not (see below)

25) Minnesota Twins: They’re tanking; just not sure if anyone in Minnesota knows it.

26) Chicago White Sox: Tank Johnson.

27) Milwaukee Brewers: Tank McNamara.

28) Oakland Athletics: Tank Girl (Also: Moneyball is dead; long-live Moneyball).

29) San Diego Padres: Tank Jackson.

30) Cincinnati Reds: Tank Abbott.

I hope you enjoyed the HYPE LIST. Happy Opening Day!

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