Let’s party like it’s 1995…
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).
Dr. James Andrews had better find a hobby because he’s about to have a lot of free time — and soon.
As the list of baseball’s Tommy John surgery victims reached epidemic levels (Jose Fernandez, Matt Moore, Jarrod Parker, Brandon Beachy, Patrick Corbin, et al.) commissioner Bud Selig, long revered for his quick responses to the sport’s big issues, decided something had to be done.
So he made the biggest change to the sport since the mound was lowered in 1969.
In a stunning announcement Selig revealed that following the All-Star break, Major League Baseball would replace all pitchers with JUGS brand pitching machines in an effort to cut down on UCL injuries and keep the sport’s stars off the disabled list.
The Commissioner’s Office released the following statement on Tuesday:
“After careful consideration, we believe that it is in the best interest of baseball to remove the traditional “pitcher” from the field. Despite an increased focus on pitch counts and proper rest, UCL injuries continue to rise and drastic action had to be taken to protect the future of this game. Although fans may initially be disappointed with this decision, the decrease in season-ending injuries will see their favorite players spending more time on the field and less on the D.L. Baseball has adapted to major changes in the past and we are confident that it can do it once again. “
According to sources close to Selig, pitchers will still allowed to stand on the mound and select which pitch and how hard the machine throws, as well as field the position, but will not be allowed to throw any pitches themselves.
Players around the league were quick to voice their opinions about Selig’s decision.
“I haven’t had much luck hitting against humans so I’m looking forward to taking my cracks at a machine,” said Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak. “I fixed things in my daddy’s workshop growing up so I got a good idea about how these machines tick. It’s go time for the ole Smoakamative.”
Other players were less than enthused with the change.
“I’ve been busting my hump every off-season to stay healthy while all these young guns blow out their arms,” seethed veteran southpaw Mark Buehrle. “I planned on pitching for a few more years but this latest stunt might be the last straw. How can they even call it baseball anymore?”
America’s pastime is trying to protect it’s future, but in doing so, has the sport sold its soul?
How long until robots replace umpires and technology allows for other so called improvements to baseball?
Perhaps the answer lies in the seminal 1991 video game Super Baseball 2020:
“The game follows the basic rules of baseball, but there are several upgrades since the game takes place in the year 2020. The most obvious difference from real baseball is that some of the characters in this game are robots. All the human characters are equipped with powerful armor, computer sensors, and jet-packs for improved offense and defensive skills.”
Brace yourselves baseball fans…it’s just six years away.
Yesterday’s game was yet another painful chapter in the book of Hector Noesi.
It turned out to the be last.
The Mariners found themselves locked in a 2-2 extra inning tie against the Athletics with a chance to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 1985. The offense had struggled all night but the pitching staff held Oakland in check despite the best efforts of home plate umpire Sean Barber. Seattle needed to hold the A’s off the board in the bottom of the 12th for a chance to extend their early season perfection, but manager Lloyd McClendon decided it was time to wave the white flag.
The white flag named Hector Noesi.
Instead of turning to $8 million closer Fernando Rodney, Noesi was summoned from the bullpen, and two pitches later, the game was over. It didn’t come as a surprise to Seattle fans who have been watching him serve up home runs since 2012, but it was apparently the final straw for GM Jack Zduriencik (can’t we just fire him already so I don’t have to spell his last name anymore). Noesi, along with Jesus Montero, was a part of the ill-fated trade of Michael Pineda to the Yankees.
The trade looked awful for both sides the past two years but now Pineda is poised to return to the New York rotation while Montero is just, well, really fat. That left Noesi as the only salvageable piece of the deal, which is probably way Zduriencik didn’t cut him long ago. No general manager wants to admit they made a mistake and boy was this a doozy!
Noesi ends his Mariners career with a 2-14 record, 6.13 ERA and approximately zero fans in the Pacific Northwest.
So rejoice Mariners fans, the long nightmare of Hector Noesi is finally over. Just don’t get too excited; the man who kept him well past his expiration date is still in charge…
*Seattle – 2027*
A young Mariners fan carefully flips through a binder of his father’s old baseball cards as a thunderstorm rages outside their home in the shadows of Safeco Field. The boy smiles as he finds cards of Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez, players his dad cheered for in the halcyon days of baseball in the city and still speaks of fondly.
Those days are just a fairy tale to the boy who has never witnessed a winning season from the M’s in his lifetime. He sighs and continues to browse the cards for a sign that things might get better — for him and his beloved team — but finds none.
He starts to put the binder back in his father’s desk when curiosity gets the best of him. In the bottom of the desk is a binder covered in strange characters that reeks of pine tar and chewing tobacco. His father made the boy promise never to open the book, but what could one little look hurt? He glances to the next room to see if his father is watching before opening the binder…
The thunder rolls ominously in the distance as he stares at the lone card in the page. A chill runs up his spine as he reads the name of the strange creature with the beady eyes on the card. C-H-O-N-E…
“Dad, what’s a Chone Figgins,” the frightened boy asks.
A flash of lightning illuminates the man’s face in the adjoining room. His jaw is clenched and his hands are balled in fists at his side. He knew the time had come, that the boy was ready to know the truth, no matter how painful it was for him to recall. He takes a long swig from the bottle of whiskey he has been nursing all day and collects his thoughts.
“A Chone Figgins is a tiny, evil little goblin that haunts cursed baseball teams like the Mariners. It constantly complains and blames other people for its failures. It sticks around for years and costs millions of dollars to get rid of. It is evil incarnate.”
The boys furrows his brow. “Why would God make something like that?”
He wished the boy’s mother, Diane, was still there to help with big questions like this. He had never been able to deal with emotional issues. Maybe that’s why she left him and married Keith. Man he hated Keith.
“I don’t know son. I wish I had a better answer for you, but I just don’t know.”
The man takes another sip of whiskey and disappears into his thoughts. Why hadn’t he just thrown that dirty old binder away?
“We don’t have to worry about the Chone Figgins anymore…do we dad?”
The son’s words unleash a flood of deeply repressed memories to the father. His mind races back to that dreadful day so many years ago. He sees himself driving the wooden stake deep into the heart of the creature and remembers the terrible noise it made as it died and crumbled to ash. The father remembered the eyes. THOSE EYES. He didn’t know if it was fear or relief he saw in the waning seconds of the creature’s life, but he knew he would never be able to forget it. He also knew that he could never be forgiven for what he had done, but his son would never have to live in fear of Chone Figgins, and neither would the rest of his tortured city.
His thoughts return to the present and he realizes that his knuckles have turned white from squeezing the empty bottle of alcohol in his hands. He throws the bottle away and grabs two cans of Pepsi out of the fridge, handing one to his son.
“No. We don’t have to worry anymore.”
The boy breathes a sigh of relief and puts the binder away. “Can we turn on the game dad? It’s the season opener.”
“Sure thing kiddo.”
The two bask in the glow of the T.V. as Seattle’s leadoff hitter, a spindly rookie making his first big league start, lines a single into left field. Rain continues to fall on their roof, but suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so dark outside.
“Maybe this will be the Mariners year, huh dad?”
“Yeah,” the father smiles, “maybe it will be.”