Opening Day – FINALLY – is upon us. The MLB and MLBPA did their darndest over the winter to dangle us like stale cotton candy stuck on a wad of freshly chawed chew to delay Opening Day via what seemed to be endless negotiations, but they merely delayed it by a week. Spring training was shortened so we may see some crazy-ass baseball for a few weeks, but it ought to be fun.
I took a swing at the teams and thought about writing a prediction – who will suck, who won’t, who will make the playoffs despite their roster or manager or owner – but said to myself, “no, let’s not do that. Let’s talk about the MLB farm system. – the other 98%,” Personnel volume-wise, it is not 98%, but by player salaries it has to be close. The baseball farm system, in case you do not know, is a place where you get what you want to make everything better for yourself on the cheap. This is also known as MLB owners collectively stating, “we’re going to drag your sorry asses all over the place via bus just for you to get a chance to get to The Show.”
The MLB, Major League Baseball for those who do not know, has consolidated their minor league ranks into the MiLB, or “Minor League Baseball.” The reason why they consolidated is the reason why owners of teams do everything, to save some money. Yeah, you’ll still see minor leagues unaffiliated with MLB, but those players are seriously toast. They are done, have been done for a few seasons, and are just there to tip their hat, strike out or throw a hammy, then limp back to the dugout. That’s more of a sideshow circus than baseball IMO, but people still go to see it. The Schaumburg Boomers, part of the Frontier League which I believe is an MLB “Partner” league (AKA you don’t really exist in their eyes, but it is baseball so whatever now pay us), would be one of those teams.
There are two ways to end a baseball game- either the final out is recorded, or the winning run is driven in. In the 1992 World Series, the last out was a failed bunt by the Braves’ Otis Nixon, easily scooped up by Blue Jays pitcher Mike Timlin and tossed to first. It was a simple play, one that Joe Carter had fielded hundreds of times before. As he clenched the ball, he started jumping around like a kid, elation overtaking his body. Carter had caught the last out of the season.
The following year, the Blue Jays were back in the World Series. Back then, home field advantage merely alternated between the leagues. So that meant game six in 1993 would be played in the American League park. The Phillies held a 6-5 lead going into the bottom of the ninth, hoping to force game seven. Rickey Henderson was at second, Paul Molitor was on first representing the winning run. Mitch Williams ran a 2-2 count on Carter, regaining the advantage on a slider inside. The next pitch was a near carbon copy of the one Carter had missed, but he swung again anyway.
Last week, MLB players were supposed to start Spring Training. Currently, they are sitting at home, waiting. Due to an ongoing lock out, Major League Baseball has been put on pause, with the threat of part of the baseball season being cancelled. As with all things such as this, there is a lot of acrimony involved, and unfortunately, a lot of the negativity is being directed towards the players. This is wrong.
The players are not to blame for this fora number of reasons, but the biggest reason is this: The players are not on strike. The players are ready to go back to work immediately under the parameters of the most recent Collective Bargaining agreement. The owners have locked out the players in an effort to further restrict player’s abilities to make money while maximizing profits for teams that are not currently putting in an effort to win games.
“So that’ll bring up Rizzo,” a voice offscreen says as the first baseman takes the first pitch. Anthony Rizzo needs no introduction. He is the face of the Chicago Cubs and its un-charged captain. “And now he drills one deep to right field, there it goes, see ya,” the faceless voice declares. “And it gives the Yankees a one-nothing lead.” It’s July 30th, 2021. By this point in the day, MLB’s trade deadline, the Cubs’ championship core of Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant has been dismantled. The weeks before had felt like hospice for the should-have-been dynasty. The greatest era of Cubs baseball anyone can remember was over. Forty-nine days earlier, that core combined for one hit in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. It was deemed ‘Opening Day 2.0’ because Wrigley Field was able to host a full stadium. His helmet still bright blue, his team down 5-4, the captain of the Chicago Cubs stepped into the box against righty Daniel Ponce de Leon.
A while back, toward the beginning of the baseball season when every team except the Pirates, Rockies, and Orioles thought they might have a chance to make it to the playoffs, I wrote two articles.
Article Uno was the before the season really got underway and I explained how this year might – note the word might – be one of the easiest on record to predict regarding who will make it to the World Series. I said the Yankees and the Dodgers. The Dodgers, were 5 games back as of last week and are now one-and-a-half games back, and are still the NL favorite as well as the only team sitting at a whopping 23% chance to win the whole she-bang. Oh, gross.
Let’s take a long look at that – in spite of the surprising Giants, the Dodgers are catching up quickly. Mostly it’s a strength-of-schedule issue. The Giants simply have a harder schedule down the stretch. The Giants have the desperate Padres 7x in the next month. The Padres have completely drained their ‘sure bet’ playoff appearance by completely sucking in July and August. July they went 11-14 and for August they are sitting at 8-10 with three games against the Dodgers coming up this week. I hope they pound the Dodgers but odds aren’t good. Plus, they have 3 more versus the Dodgers in September and a whopping 7 against the Giants.
They are so bad they picked up Jake Arrieta. That’s a sign things won’t be going well for them for the next 5 weeks. Naturally, Arrieta’s first game may be his only one. We all knew he’d suck, he did, and suddenly got a hamstring issue. I fixed the headline for MLB.
Monday night, current Cub Javier Baez hit a long fly ball that drove in the winning run. The pitch was from Amir Garrett, who has a sordid history with Baez. Javy sauntered toward first, using his bat to mimic a broom while shouting at Garrett. It ruled. Yeah, I’m biased. I love Javy. But the attention the clips of the moment have received is objectively great for baseball. Still, there are many of you who are mad at Baez for his actions. I am here to help.
Yesterday, the decision was announced that the Cleveland Indians would be changing their name to the Cleveland Guardians. Because the internet is a place of calm and reasoned discourse, this decision was lauded as a celebration of progress and then people went back to being excited about the start of the Olympics.
No, wait. The World Wide Web is a goddamned trash fire and people lost their fucking minds over something they had never previously cared about.
I wasn’t planning to start this series until next week, but when Christmas comes in May, you have to take notice. When every normal person absolutely sees a train barreling down a bus full of kindergartners coming and the only person that could stop it is tied to railroad tracks, Snidely Whiplash style. The baseball equivalent of Old Man Yells at Cloud was not only returning to Major League Baseball, he was taking over a team that had a diverse group of big personalities that are redefining how to play the game with fun and joy.
If you have been paying attention to the minutiae of baseball television rights alongside the proliferation of new modern baseball stadiums, and i’m sure you have, then you are very aware of the situation of the Oakland Athletics. The A’s, formerly of Philadelphia and Kansas City, debuted in Oakland in the Oakland Coliseum in April of 1968. Since then, the Athletics have played all of their home games in the stadium, which doubled for many decades as the home stadium of the Oakland Raiders.
First off, I am a San Francisco Giants fan. Ergo while I will love this series, it’s Giants first for me. Have been since the mid ‘80s when I moved to Los Angeles and found the Dodger faithful about as lackadaisical a fan base as I have ever witnessed. Show up in the 3rd inning, leave in the 7th. Loved Dodger stadium, Dodger dogs, and the game. But the fans? Not so much. When I was able to go to the NLCS in 1985 and watched as Jack Clark cranked out a 3-run homer so the Cardinals could advance and leave the Dodgers at home and watch Pedro Guerrero throw his mitt up in the air in disgust, I smiled. The team may not have deserved this fate, but the fans did. The Dodger were up 2 games to nil and had lost 4 straight, with the last two being losses in the top of the 9th behind their closer Tom Niedenfeur, who was then dubbed Tom Need-in-fewer-games.
So, I jumped onto the Giants bandwagon and have been a fan ever since. After all, they were the Dodgers main rival no matter how far behind them that season they were as the Giants ended up an awful 62-100 in 1985. By 1987 I had moved from Los Angeles to northern California and the Giants were a team on the come. The rivalry grew more intense, intense enough that on April 21, 1987 in Candlestick Park, someone threw a battery (along with beer) at Dodgers first basemen Mike Marshall who made an ass of himself rounding the bases after hitting a 3-run homer. It wasn’t a car battery, don’t be ridiculous. I think it was a D and I’m pretty sure it didn’t hit him plus other small hard objects were tossed as well (and more beer). Hence, we started calling every Giants home game when they Dodgers came into town “Spark Plug & Battery Night.” Needless to say, security got beefed up a bit more.
The Giants fans were far more rabid. They had to be. Before the jewel the Giants play in now – Oracle Park – Candlestick Park was their home and was one of the worst stadiums ever. When you went to a game in July and sat in the cheap seats, you didn’t just bring a jacket, you brought a sleeping bag. The fog coming in off the bay was so cold it could turn a mild California summer day into a Midwestern winter one. 1988 saw the Dodgers get to the World Series and they upset the favored A’s led by a blindered Tony Larussa who just couldn’t see how his two main hitters went from normal big men to ginormous hulks. By 1989, the Giants had caught up and got to the World Series the summer I moved to Chicago. I intensely watched and cried. Not because they were swept by the A’s, but because of the devastating earthquake that hit during the beginning of Game 2.
I could go on and on about the Giants, Dusty Baker pulling the same crap Larussa did except this time it was one player rather than two, and the three World Series victories they captured in the ‘10s once they got a far better manager in Bruce Bochy… who came from the Padres. But this is not about the Giants, it’s about the current rivalry between the Dodgers and the Padres.