The cheers of “good eye” were intended to acknowledge Clyde’s plate discipline, but he always thought there was more to it than that.
Despite what you may have been told by Bud Selig and Major League Baseball, Alex Rodriguez is not the devil.
In a sports world filled with murderers, wife-beaters and drunk drivers, the vilified Yankees’ slugger worst sin was trying to gain an advantage on the field of play.
Think about that for a second.
If the NFL put the same amount of effort towards curbing domestic violence as baseball did building a case against A-Rod, would the headlines still be smattered with stories of Ray Rice and Greg Hardy?
Yet, in spite of the relatively benign nature of his transgressions, Rodriguez was forced to spend all of last season in baseball purgatory. MLB and Selig seemed to think it could solve its steroid problem by casting all the blame on one player (it’s not the first time) and then publicly flogging their artificially enhanced pariah. It, uh, didn’t work.
The 2015 season rolled around after what must have felt like an eternity, and A-Rod, healthy and freed from the tyrannical reign of Selig came out swinging, reminding fans that he’s still one of the most talented players in baseball — with or without performance enhancing drugs.
After the first 19 games of the year, A-Rod leads the AL in walks and is 4th in HR, 9th in slugging and 10th in OPS. His fast start to the season is even more impressive when you consider that he missed all of 2014 and plays for a team that really doesn’t want him around.
Rodriguez’s superlative skill set was on full display at Tampa Bay on April 18 as he drilled two home run including the longest shot of 2015. That moon shot not only gave New York a 1-0 lead, but also served as metaphorical giant middle finger to Selig, who likely thought he had hammered the final nail into A-Rod’s career with a 162-game suspension.
The Yankees weren’t expected to compete in a deep AL East this year but thanks to A-Rod’s potent presence in the lineup they find themselves atop the division with an 11-8 record. New York may not want Rodriguez, but it needs him.
Rodriguez is a cheater and a liar. But he’s also a helluva baseball player who’s overcome Titanic sized hurdles to find himself on the brink of history. The national pastime’s prodigal son has returned and he’s not leaving anytime soon.
So go ahead and cheer for A-Rod, because unlike the real criminals of sport, he deserves a
second third chance.
Inspired by the NFL roster of Pokemon put together over at Kinja (http://bit.ly/16be6Fw) I decided to try the same approach with a baseball team of the original 151. Baseball presents some different challenges than football since players are required to play both offense and defense (with the exception of DH – this is an AL squad) but thankfully many Pokemon are dual threats and thus well suited for America’s pastime.
In order to keep the game as realistic as possible while using imaginary creatures from a make-believe land, I stuck to the following criteria:
A) The Pokemon must be able to survive on land – apologies to Gyrados, Seadra and the rest of the water dwelling creatures.
B) The Pokemon needs to have arms and hands with the exception of Farfetch’d, who has a documented history in both the game and television show of holding a stick in its wings.
C) The Pokemon must potentially be able to hold a bat/throw a ball. This rules out Hitmonchan, who has arms but is wearing boxing gloves, and Haunter who has hands but can’t hold anything due to its ghostly physical properties.
So, without further ado, here is your 2015 Pokemon All-Star lineup:
General Manager – Alakazam: Despite what the Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners would have you believe, it pays to have brains in your front office, and arguably no Pokemon can match the mind of Alakazam. An IQ of nearly 5,000 and a perfect memory (if only all GMs could learn from their mistakes) make Alakazam the Billy Beane of Poke-ball.
Catcher – Mr. Mime: Although conventional wisdom would suggest a big bodied Pokemon like Blastoise or Snorlax behind the dish, advances in sabermetrics (especially in regards to the value of pitch framing) give the edge to Mr. Mime. His long arms and dexterous fingers make him a master craftsmen at the position – the preferred backstop for Poke-pitchers.
First Base – Machamp: Team Pokemon’s infielders will never commit another throwing error with the massive, four-armed Machamp manning first base. No stranger to the gym (let’s put those HGH rumors to bed) the switch-hitting Machamp is a force in the middle of the lineup and is often found at the center of bench-clearing brawls.
Second Base – Raticate: A baseball team is nothing without grit and Raticate has it in spades. The pesky, undersized second baseman makes a living with speed and sticktoitiveness. Raticate perennially posts high OBP thanks to its diminutive size and is a constant nuisance on the basepaths. The David Eckstein of the Poke-world drives opposing pitchers
golbatty, but also infuriates equipment managers who constantly are replacing chewed up Louisville Sluggers.
Third Base – Pinsir: Built like Kyle Seager, Pincer is capable of making a play on the ball with either its two hands or pincers, uniquely equipping it to handle the hot corner. One of the strongest pound for pound Pokemon, Pincer also contributes at the dish, providing key protection and pop behind the heart of the lineup.
Shortstop/Manager – Mewtwo: A unique blend of brains and brawn make Mewtwo the first player/manager to compete in MLB since Pete Rose in 1986. Its long and lean frame is perfectly suited for shortstop and with nearly unparalleled intelligence, Mewtwo knows all the right buttons to push in order to guide team Pokemon to post-season success.
Leftfield – Farfetch’d: Extremely rare and only available via trade (hopefully you can find it on a team with the famously dense Slowpoke as GM) Farfetch’d excels at the plate thanks to excellent bat control (a skill acquired from fighting with a stick) and also offers plus defense in the outfield thanks to its flying ability.
Centerfield – Dragonite: Don’t be fooled by its size, Dragonite is still one of the quickest Pokemon in the game. The highly intelligent creature has the skills and smarts necessary to captain the defense from centerfield, but does struggle to cover the outer portion of the plate due to its stubby arms.
Rightfield – Poliwrath: Providing power from one of the corner outfield positions, Poliwrath’s sculpted physique reminds many scouts of a young Ted Kluszewski. The land-dwelling but water loving Poliwrath was originally drafted by the San Francisco Giants, where it spend the majority of its time battling with kayakers in McCovey Cove.
Designated Hitter – Marowak: No offense to Nelson Cruz, but the real “boomstick” in baseball belongs to this Pokemon designated hitter. Known throughout the Poke-land for its deadly ability with a bone club, Marowak is the classic middle-of-the-order thunder that managers covet and opposing pitchers fear. Look for the team Pokemon marketing department to utilize plenty of “bad to the bone” promotions like the Mariners did with Jay Buhner.
9. Mr. Mime
Pinch Runner – Rapidash: Speed is the name of the game when it comes to pinch runners and having been clocked at 150 mph with unparalleled acceleration, Rapidash will be the first player off the bench when Mewtwo wants to put the game in motion.
Pinch Hitter – Kangaskhan: A liability in the field and on the bases, the muscle-bound Kangaskhan nonetheless provides outstanding value as a late-inning power source. Consistently leads the league in hit-by-pitches despite limited at bats.
Utility – Chansey: Although it offers little on the field or at the plate, Chansey is the perfect clubhouse presence required to hold this diverse group of players together. In addition to being known for good luck, Chansey also lays delicious eggs which make an ideal mid-inning snack or projectile to fire at umpires.
Starting Pitcher – Electabuzz: Daisuke Matsuzaka’s legendary Gyroball might just have been smoke and mirrors, but Electabuzz’s Electro Ball (learned at level 22) is the real deal. The staff ace of team Pokemon is a bundle of energy who is capable of winning a playoff series on his own — unless he’s facing the New York Knights.
Starting Pitcher – Hypno: The Greg Maddux of Poke-pitchers might not have the same raw stuff as Electabuzz, but it is just as successful, using its patented pendulum to put batters to sleep before shutting them down.
Lefty Reliever – Jynx: Physically underwhelming and armed with subpar pitches, team Pokemon’s LOOGY is nonetheless one of the league’s toughest relievers to make hard contact against thanks to its hypnotic movements on the mound and deceptive delivery (ala Brian Fuentes).
Reliever – Golduck: Another brainy member of the Poke-pitching staff, Golduck serves as the set-up “man” to Magmar. Its webbed fingers allow Golduck to create unusual spin on its pitches – nicknamed “fowl balls” by opposing hitters.
Closer – Magmar: The classic hard-throwing closer, Magmar has a temper to match its fiery fastball. Despite his hot-headed demeanor Magmar is a physical specimen who gives the Pokemon a Craig Kimbrel-like presence at the end of their bullpen. In order to avoid getting burned, steer clear of Magmar after blown saves.
Meowth was originally in line to serve as manager before its gambling problems were revealed. The legendary birds (Zapdos, Articuno and Moltres) are represented by Scott Boras and thus did not fit into the salary cap. Charizards short arms and even shorter fuse make it incapable of contributing in team sports. Seattle previously attempted to evolve Mike “Magic” Carp into Gyrados…it failed.
Don’t like the hypothetical team of make-believe creatures I put together? Let me know what you would have done differently in the comments below.
Mike Zunino (B) The young catcher has been invaluable behind the dish for the Mariners as his stellar defense and pitch framing have been a major reason for Seattle’s staff success. At the plate Zunino shows above-average pop (13 HR) but his abysmal pitch recognition (11 BB/97) needs quite a bit of fine tuning.
Kyle Seager (A) After struggling out of the gate Seager has been nothing short of sensational over the past three months, launching himself into the upper echelon of American League players. He is currently third in the A.L. in WAR (trailing only Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson) and is on pace for career highs in nearly every statistical category. Get that man a long-term contract!
Robinson Cano (A) The 240-million-dollar man has been as good as advertised in his first half season with Seattle. Despite a slight drop in power numbers there’s little to complain about with a slash line of .334/.393/.462. His presence in the lineup seems to have a positive effect on the rest of Seattle’s hitters and he’s no slouch on the defensive side either. Will he finally break the curse of Mariners’ free agent signings?
Brad Miller (C-) Miller had a forgettable April (.173) and even worse May (.136) before turning in a solid June (.298) at the plate. He has struggled at times defensively but the numbers show him to be above-average at short despite some costly errors. The Mariners showed unwavering faith in Miller throughout his slump and he looks to be on the verge of repaying their trust in him.
Justin Smoak (D) The sun might be just about ready to set on the Justin Smoak era in Seattle as the first baseman continues to show little of the promise that once made him a top 10 prospect in baseball. Although he still flashes some pop at the plate, Smoak’s ongoing lack of ability to make consistent solid contact grade him out as a below average corner infielder. It’s a make or break second half for the one-time first round pick.
Willy Bloomquist (C) Willy Ballgame has done a little of everything for the Mariners this season in perfectly mediocre fashion. Although his .269 average in 119 AB is almost entirely hollow (just 6 XBH and 3 BB) WFB’s ability to play multiple positions has been crucial to a team with major roster construction issues.
Michael Saunders (B-) The Condor was quietly putting together the best season of his career (2.0 WAR in 65 games) before shoulder inflammation and serious oblique injury landed him on the disabled list. Saunders was Seattle’s third best hitter before the injury but his inability to stay healthy has thrown a major wrench into the M’s lineup and outfield defense. Fans hope he’s not becoming Franklin Gutierrez 2.0.
Stefen Romero (D) Romero crushed the ball in Spring Training but couldn’t carry that success into the regular season as he slashed just .196/.236/.324 in 148 AB with a ghastly 4 BB/40 K ratio. Still just 25-years-old, he has a chance to be a part of Seattle’s future with improvement in plate discipline and in the field, but he shouldn’t play a major role in 2014.
James Jones (C+) The speedy outfielder has been a pleasant surprise since being called up to replace the struggling Almonte. A spark plug atop the order, Jones has tallied 17 stolen bases while being caught just once. The left-hander makes consistent contact but will need to show more patience at the plate (just 11 BB in 245 AB) to become a long term fixture in the leadoff spot.
Abraham Almonte (F) Almonte got off to a hot start but quickly cooled down once the league’s pitchers figured him out. The switch-hitting rookie was unable to make any adjustments (40 K’s in 106 AB) leaving him as dead weight atop the lineup for the better part of a month. Almonte also struggled defensively in centerfield leaving many wondering why he stuck around as long as he did.
Dustin Ackley (D-) The former #2 overall pick in the 2009 draft has the third most at-bats on the Mariners this season with just 4 HR, 3 SB and a -0.5 OWAR to show for it. His defense in left has improved to the point where he is at least average at the position (despite one the worst arms in the game) but the player who was supposed to be able to roll out of bed and hit is posting an anemic .616 OPS for the year. It might be time to pull the plug.
Endy Chavez (C-) Chavez probably shouldn’t be in the majors right now, and he certainly shouldn’t be hitting leadoff, but the gritty veteran hasn’t been a complete disaster filling in for Ackley and Saunders. The 36-year-old has struck out just 12 times in 127 AB but his unwillingness to draw a walk and lack of extra-base pop make him unsuited for anything more than a 4th or 5th outfielder. If he gets significant playing time in the second half, the M’s are in trouble.
Logan Morrison (C) LoMo has been adequate at first base since his return from the disabled list, but it’s not tough to look good when you’re replacing Justin Smoak. He’s playing better than his .230 average suggests (due in part to a .252 BABIP) and a strong second half may allow the former top prospect to carve out a long-term role as the Mariners’ first baseman.
Corey Hart (D+) The Mariners were hoping they got the player who averaged 24 HR between 2007 and 2012 when they signed Hart in the offseason, but the ageing slugger has shown a considerable amount of rust after missing 2013 to knee surgery. Since he can’t play the field anymore Hart is strictly a designated hitter so he had better start hitting before he’s designated (for assignment that is).