Category Archives: Ack Blog Post
For people of a certain age, there is almost no argument over what is the best and most rewatchable comedy series. The Office was appointment viewing as it was released and has become the best Netflix-and-chill comedy. Over the course of 9 seasons we were introduced to Schrute Farms, Threat Level Midnight, and the Scranton Strangler. I think the only thing I’ve watched more of at this point in my life is baseball and every listener or reader of mine knows that I have thoughts on everything in the game of baseball. The 2018 season had so many ups and downs, funny moments, and memorable storylines just like my favorite show of all time. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine the two by telling the story of the 2018 MLB season through quotes from The Office. These will be the Adam Dunndies and they will be given out, like The Office’s Dundies, at the local Chili’s, where we will be having a live awards show later tonight.
(Takes phone call)
Turns out I don’t have the budget to rent out Chili’s so I’ll just share all the winners here:
“It all happened so fast. So…Fast”
-Kevin Malone / The 2018 Chicago Cubs
On September 18, 160 games into the season, the Cubs had the best record in the National League. They would then lose 3 out of their last 4 games, scoring exactly 1 run in all 3 losses, and that was it. Before the inception of the second wild card, the Cubs would have been playing in a Division series with a chance to right the ship over a few games. Instead they lost Game 162 and the Wild Card Game at home and their season over just like Kevin Malone’s conversational collapse with the woman at the Lonely Hearts Party in season 5…so fast.
“Yeah I have a lot of questions. How dare you?”
Kelly Kapoor / Mets fans when Jacob deGrom trade rumors surfaced
Jacob deGrom just put together one of the greatest seasons in baseball history. He was must-see TV when the New York Mets were basically unwatchable on days he wasn’t pitching. There have been only 5 seasons in Major League history where a pitcher has bested deGrom’s 217 Innings, 216 ERA+, and 269 strikeouts. And yet, because everything else seemed to go wrong for the Mets, deGrom only won 10 games. In July trade rumors started, the loudest of which involving the cross-town Yankees. Needless to say, Met fans were as unhappy as Kelly Kapoor when Ryan Howard (not this Ryan Howard) returned to Scranton from New York in season 4.
“This is the worst!”
Michael Scott / Clayton Kershaw watching his poor playoff reputation prove true again
By so many measures, Clayton Kershaw has been the best pitcher of his era. He is a Hall of Famer if he retires today with his MVP, 3 Cy Youngs, 5 ERA titles and career 2.39 ERA. His playoff performance has been much different though: 152 Innings, 4.39 ERA and 22 Home Runs allowed. The more the narrative of Kershaw underperforming in the playoffs comes up, the more mediocre stat lines he puts up. Now that he’s lost some velocity on his fastball it seems like the task of changing his postseason fortunes becomes even more difficult. Michael Scott was miserable at the thought of the branch closing in season 3 and Kershaw is miserable at the thought of another postseason pitch he throws ending up in the outfield seats.
“That’s what she said!”
Michael Scott (and others) / Rockies Reliever Brooks Pounders
This needs no explanation.
“Next thing you know, I’m in Moneyballs 2”
Andy Bernard / Oakland Athletics
The 2018 Oakland A’s did not have any serious buzz around them going into the season, not totally unlike the early 2000s original Moneyball A’s teams. They had a few exciting young pieces in Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Sean Manaea, but the rest of the roster was pretty underwhelming. On June 15th, they lost their 4th game in a row and were 11 games out of a playoff spot. They went 63-31 the rest of the way and powered their way into a playoff spot thanks to contributions from a myriad of those supposedly ‘underwhelming’ guys including Khris Davis, Jed Lowrie, and Blake Treinen. This season may catapult them into bigger and better things in the future, or it could go down in a heap like Andy’s acting career, but we certainly saw that Billy Beane’s methods of low-budget team building can still work.
“I steal things all the time”
Creed Bratton / Milwaukee Brewers
A team like the Brewers is never going to have the big money of a Boston, New York, or LA. As a result, they need to build their team very wisely and efficiently. They made a big splash last winter when they signed Lorenzo Cain to a 5 year 80 million dollar deal and traded their top prospect for Christian Yelich. These could have been seen as risky moves at the time, but proved to be brilliant. Cain finished 7th in the majors among position players with 6.9 bWAR and Yelich will most likely win the NL MVP. These great moves were not the only ones that built this team though. Jesus Aguilar was acquired off waivers from the Indians in 2017, all he did was finish 5th in the NL in Home Runs. Josh Hader was acquired as a throw-in in a 2015 trade with the Astros for Mike Fiers and Carlos Gomez. He had a historically great season as a reliever striking out 143 in 81.1 innings. Jhoulys Chacin was their ace, on his 6th team in 5 years. The list goes on and on. Creed was stealing chips on Casino Night and the Brewers were stealing players for a team that just missed the World Series.
“If there’s one thing I have learned through the whole experience, it’s that if you film anybody long enough, they’re going to do something stupid”
Kevin Malone / Manny Machado
As an Orioles fan, I have extremely conflicted feelings on Manny Machado. I have watched this guy grow up and defended him every step of the way for 8 years as he helped lift my team to places they hadn’t been in 15 years. He handled the first half of the 2018 season so well as it became more and more obvious he would not be with the O’s at the end of the season. He didn’t cause problems, kept his head down, and said all the right things. I saw all of his warts though. I knew he was immature. And when he made repeated head-scratching or downright dirty plays as the lights got brighter in October, it wasn’t totally surprising to me because I’d seen him get frustrated and act immature before. This time the whole country was watching though, and he looked worse than ever. With that being said, he will make a ton of money this offseason, and rightfully so, because he is a bonafide superstar who immediately improves any team he goes to tremendously.
“And I knew exactly what to do. But in a much more real sense, I had no idea what to do”
Michael Scott / Joe West
1st Inning, Game 4 of the ALCS, runner on first. Jose Altuve lifted a flyball that landed in the hands of the Astros fans and the inning ended with no runs scored for the home team, who would go on to lose by 2 runs. All respect to Mookie Betts for his tremendous effort, which may have been a catch if not for the fans he contacted, but it seemed pretty clear to most people watching that the fans were not reaching onto the field of play. The right field umpire, Cowboy Joe West, felt differently however. The review was made more difficult by a security guard who blocked what appeared to be the best camera angle and the Red Sox ended up winning the series in 5, but this was certainly a major turning point. In this crucial point in the Astros season, West seemed to be just as competent as Michael Scott as he watched Stanley’s heart attack.
“Who is Justice Beaver?”
Dwight Schrute / Indians starter Shane Bieber
Bieber must have heard a lot of jokes about his last name being the same as Justin Bieber for the last few years. He steered into the skid during Players’ Weekend when he had “Not Justin” stitched on his jersey. Good work Shane.
“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days, before you’ve actually left them.”
Andy Bernard / David Wright and Mets fans
As recently as 2013, it seemed like David Wright was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career. He was 30 years old with over 1500 career hits, an .888 OPS, and an average season of 34 doubles, 22 homers, and 18 steals with solid third base defense. He was the face of the Mets, a stand-up guy, and a leader. Then injuries derailed his career. From 2015-2017 he would play 38, 37, and 0 games, and was well on his way to another 0 in 2018 when he decided he would retire at the end of the year because his spinal stenosis was never going to improve. The Mets decided to have him play in the final home series of the season against the Marlins and it was an emotional scene. His actual performance in those 2 games was not important. Wright got to say his farewell to the game and city and the Mets fans got one more chance to show their appreciation for their captain.
“What are your weaknesses? I don’t have any, asshole.”
Kelly Kapoor / The Boston Red Sox
Was there any other way to close this out than with the deserving World Champion Boston Red Sox? This team had the best player in the American League in Mookie Betts. They had J.D. Martinez, who flirted with a Triple Crown, Chris Sale, who will finish top 6 in Cy Young voting for the 7th straight season, and Craig Kimbrel who’s “down year” included 42 saves and a 2.74 ERA. Their outfield defense was the best in baseball by a wide margin and their catching defense was among the best in the league. They picked up a gold glover and the World Series MVP during the season and won a franchise-record 108 regular season games. When the playoffs rolled around they were tasked with beating 2 100+ win teams in the AL and steamrolled them losing only twice in the process. In the World Series they beat Clayton Kershaw twice and the only loss they had required 18 innings and an error by the normally sure-handed Ian Kinsler. From beginning to end this was clearly the best team in baseball who, like Kelly Kapoor, knew they were flawless.
That will do it for this year’s Adam Dunndies. You may not have gotten a drunken kiss from your secret crush (or maybe you did, I don’t know how people read my stuff), but you got a good idea of some of the fun, interesting, and important storylines in baseball in 2018. Those of you who feel snubbed, please take it up with Toby.
Follow me on Twitter @denack31. This article can also be found on ng-baseball.com.
Featured Illustration: James Boyle, Cincinnati Magazine
If anyone has ever listened to an episode of PFG, or played with/against me, or met me in any fashion, they know I love baseball more than anything. In my mind, it is an absolutely perfect game. In doing podcasts, we tend to get so much into the nitty-gritty of current events that we don’t take a step back and talk about why we love the game of baseball so much. This is my ode to baseball.
I love that there is no clock. There is no point in a baseball game where time has run out enough to make a comeback impossible. 2 outs, 9th inning, down 5 runs, you can still make a miraculous comeback (and we’ve all seen them). TWICE in baseball history a team has been down 3-2 in World Series and down to their last strike in Game 6 about to lose the series, and came back to win it all (’86 Mets and 2011 Cardinals).
I love the pace of a baseball game. There is no sport better for watching a game and hearing the stories of a good announcing crew (or in Vin Scully’s case just one amazing storyteller). You have time between pitches as a spectator to discuss the play that just happened, the pitch upcoming, or a random fact about the guy at the plate. Watching a baseball game with friends doesn’t mean you have to be hyper-focused and sitting on egg shells like a hockey game where a goal could come at any moment. If you’re playing in the game, even better. You can talk to a fielder from the other team while you’re on base, or an umpire if you’re catching or the dude sitting next to you on the bench without missing a beat. Watching a baseball game is a choose your own adventure for how you want to spend the down time between pitches. (Someone tell Rob Manfred we’re happy with the pace of play, stop trying to mess with it.)
I love the mental battle going on every pitch between a pitcher and a hitter. Every pitch thrown has a purpose behind it. Every pitch that is thrown has a ripple effect that effects the next pitch. Are you throwing a certain pitch because the scouting report says the hitter struggles with it? Are you picking up on a tendency in the hitter’s swing, or stance, or location in the box? Does the situation call for a pitch in on a righty so he can’t hit a ball to the right side and move a runner over to third? All of these factors and more go into the reasoning for each and every pitch call. I live for this mind game, and reading of body language.
I love that nothing is a foregone conclusion. Related story: my wife was a college swimmer, and you can go into most swim meets or races and know exactly who will win. The best swimmer is just not going to lose to someone who is not as fast as them. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching swim meets, extremely exciting, but the idea of going into a game and knowing you have no chance would kill me. We’ve seen Stony Brook make it to the College World Series and an 83-78 Cardinals team win the World Series in 2006. You just never know with baseball.
I love the superstitions. Other athletes might have little things here and there that they do individually, but none of them have become a part of the fabric of the game like in baseball. Nomar’s fidgety batting glove adjustments, Edwin Encarnacion’s wing that he throws up running the bases on a home run, the Rangers’ claw, the Mets’ salt and pepper shaker, sock/stirrup height, rally dips, rally caps, and Rally Monkeys. Give me all the superstitions. Unlike Michael Scott, I’m more than just a little stitious.
I love the chatter. There aren’t many scenarios in life where you can comfortably call other men “kid” or “babe” and it not seem unusual at all. There’s a cadence and style of language spoken at a baseball game that is unmistakable. “Hum babe, we got 1 away, keep pumpin strikes, roll a pair for the guy” This is all generally nonsense in any other walk of life. At a baseball game, you just heard a story about how the game is going.
I love the pain. I could cut a knee on a slide, take a foul ball off the wrist, or get hit by a pitch in the shoulder. You can bet your ass i’m wearing that like a badge of honor after the game. Each bruise, or lace mark, or abrasion has a story that I’ll be more than willing to tell you about.
I love the spectacular plays. The beautiful thing about the web gem or Walk-Off Home Run is that no two are exactly the same. There are endless variations of diving plays, mammoth Home Runs, Home Run robberies, and plays at the plate. Dewayne Wise robbed a Home Run in the 9th inning to keep Mark Buehrle’s perfect game intact in 2009. Ryan Roberts hit a Walk-Off Grand Slam with 2 outs in the bottom of the 10th inning of a 2011 game the D-Backs trailed the Dodgers by 3 runs. David Wright made a diving, bare-handed, over the shoulder catch in an August 2005 Mets Padres game. No one who attended any of those three games could have had any inkling that they would see something they’d never forget on that night. Baseball just happens and it happens in spectacular fashion at unexpected times.
I love the nostalgia. I was standing with my fingers in the fence watching my older brothers play baseball since the moment I could stand. I had a soft Playskool glove and ball that I used to throw off the wall and dive across the living room catching for hours on end. The game has been a part of my life for longer than my memories can even recall. As a result, baseball can bring me back to many of my favorite moments in my life. Being at certain fields will remind me of seeing my older brothers play in big games. Seeing a guy sit back on a knuckle ball will trigger a memory of my dad teaching me to “wait, wait, wait, fast bat” on a slower pitcher. Talking about lineup construction will remind me of my brother Matt’s thoughts on splitting up your lefties, or having a guy who can bunt in the 2-hole. And metal bleachers and camping chairs will always bring me back to seeing my mom with her clip-on sunglasses on, yelling “two-for-you!” and intently watching my games.
I love the stats. Reading a box score for me is reading a story about what happened in that game. I could go back and look through the numbers for a random Pirates Cubs game in 1958 and find something fun and interesting (Ernie Banks was probably involved). I can go through a baseball reference page and find a wild season where a guy completely dominated the league in some specific way. I’ll spend hours just going from one team to another to another to another and finding something unique about all of them. One might have had a ridiculous K/BB ratio, the next might have destroyed the league in Defensive Runs Saved, and the third could have stolen bases at a remarkable percentage. Teams have identities and the stats give an objective answer telling you what that identity is.
At some point over the course of the last 20 years or so, baseball guys were divided between sabermetrics guys and old-school baseball guys. I have a take, anyone too far on either side of this dividing line sucks. The dude who wants to turn baseball into just one giant math problem ruin the fun of it. The dude who thinks that progressing and using stats like ERA+ or OPS is too nerdy for them is ignorant. I want to soak up, learn, and enjoy all aspects of baseball. Then put all of those parts into a blender and inject it into my veins. Baseball doesn’t need to be fixed or adjusted or changed. It needs to just continue to be the perfect combination of all those things I love and live for.
Lets go play two.
The whole idea behind Pop Flies and Grounders is basically appreciating hard-fought, well-played baseball while also enjoying the fun of all the details and idiosyncrasies of the game. I can’t think of a guy in my lifetime who exemplifies this more than Adrian Beltre.
At this point, it’s common knowledge that he hates getting his head touched. This will never not be hilarious to me because he flips out every time, no matter what the scenario.
It’s not just the head touching and home runs from his knee though. The dude just loves playing baseball and has no problem showing it on the field.
Baseball is supposed to be fun, isn’t that the point? Isn’t that the whole reason any of us ever started watching or playing the game? No one has more fun on a baseball field and no one is more gif-able than Beltre. It’s so enjoyable to watch, much like watching him mash baseballs and show off his defensive wizardry.
Beltre’s career has seen him wear so many labels. First he was the top prospect and came up at 19 for the 98 Dodgers (He split time at 3B with Bobby Bonilla, that’s how long ago it was). From 98-03 he played reasonably well, but never seemed to live up to what everyone expected. The Dodgers trusted the process and in 2004 finished only behind Bonds in the MVP sporting a 1.017 OPS and 48 HR: superstar. 2004 was also a contract year for Adrian, so he locks into a 5 year 64 million dollar deal with the Mariners. This is where his detractors wrote him off. By most offensive measures, he did not play up to that contract in Seattle. In those 5 years he had slashlines of .266/.317/.442 averaging 20 HR and under 80 RBI. What he didn’t do with the bat, he did with the glove, 78 DRS in those years and his first 2 gold gloves cannot be ignored. It seemed to some (who don’t understand how home parks affect stats) that he may have been on the last legs of his career at only 30 though before becoming “The resurgent Adrian Beltre” in his lone Red Sox season in 2010 – Top 10 MVP finish, .919 OPS, leads the league with 49 doubles. In 2011, he signs for 6 years and 96 million with the Rangers in a deal that was considered pretty risky at the time. It didn’t turn out that way. Since then, these are his yearly finishes in the MVP vote: 15th, 3rd, 7th, 15th, 7th, 7th. Now he is the veteran presence who is amazing for locker room chemistry, but also still puts up MVP level numbers well into his late 30s. Recap: top prospect, bust, MVP candidate, bust (secretly awesome defense), resurgent, MVP candidate again, and leader.
We’ve gotten to the point where almost everyone has accepted the fact that he’s a Hall of Famer, finally. It took way longer than it should have. He is the only player in history to have over 2,000 hits (he’ll finish over 3,000) 300 home runs (he may get 500) and 200 Defensive Runs Saved. Basically he’s an all time great and he’s being treated as if he is a guy who needs the 3,000 hit benchmark to get him over the Hall of Fame hump. There are only 3 third basemen with a higher career WAR: Wade Boggs (who he’ll pass in the coming weeks), Eddie Matthews (will pass by next year at the latest), and Mike Schmidt (long shot, but not impossible). I think it’s about time we stopped talking about Adrian Beltre on the Hall of Fame bubble and start talking about him as possibly the best third baseman of all time. He’s certainly the most fun.
I just needed two more
The Pop Flies and Grounders brain trust has been discussing the idea of posting some blogs on the site for a while, and in true PFG fashion, waited at least 2 weeks before doing anything about it, but here we are.
No better way to start this foray into blogging than my favorite subject: the inevitability of my team (the O’s) losing its best player (Manny Machado) to my most hated rival (the Yankees). A foregone conclusion, right? Not so fast (h/t Lee Corso). There is one thing more important to Yankee fans than any other: above winning, above spending silly amounts of money, even above their daily Derek Jeter worship. That is “the Yankee Way” and who EARNS their pinstripes. I’m sure no one outside of me, my brother, and the city of Baltimore caught last night’s Orioles game, but there were a couple developments in the game which should give Yankee fans some pause.
The first play came in the 5th inning on a foul pop-up near the Indians dugout where Machado picked up the ball late but was able to make a tough juggling catch right up against the railing. Just another day at the office for the best defensive third baseman since Brooks Robinson. The concern in this play for Yankee fans and management should be obvious though. Foul pop-up near the fence, close game, and he didn’t dive over the railing. We all know a true Yankee would take 2 extra steps after the catch and dive headlong over that railing. I just don’t know if Machado would ever be willing to unnecessarily risk injury by diving into the stands like that. Certainly not the Yankee Way.
Two innings later, already 3 for 3 on the night with 2 HRs, Machado sent an 0-2, Bryan Shaw pitch deep into right field for what appeared to be his 3rd homer of the game. It stayed in the park and eluded the clueless Lonnie Chisenhall in right field to go off the fence for a double. The trouble with this play could be seen in the replay though. Machado stood and watched once he hit it, then jogged a few steps, and only kicked it into gear when he realized it had gone off the fence. He was never going to make it to third base on the play, made it safely into second, and ended up scoring the eventual winning run on the next pitch anyway, but that’s not what matters here! He pimped it out of the box and the is DEFINITELY not the Yankee Way, why would they want that type of player.
The history of Yankees players is divided into 2 groups: those that earned their pinstripes (i.e. Jeter, Munson, and Mantle) and those that didn’t earn their pinstripes (i.e. Pavano, Vazquez, and Mel Hall). The most famous in the latter group is almost certainly Alex Rodriguez. He may have unselfishly changed positions, won 2 MVPs and hit 351 Yankee HRs, and pretty much single handedly won them a World Series, but any yankee fan can tell you he was never a true Yankee. Who did Manny Machado get compared to from the day he was drafted? Yankee fans, do you really want another Alex Rodriguez who will join the team in the middle of his prime, give you 12 great years, win you a World Series, but never earn his pinstripes. Of course not. Machado will have to just put his tail between his legs and go spend the rest of his sorry-ass Hall of Fame career with the Orioles.