Best of 2015- Bizarre Baseball Culture: Fallout 4’s surprisingly-high level of Baseball

Originally published November 24, 2015.

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

(Note: The following contains spoilers for Fallout 4. Click on each picture to make it larger if you are having trouble reading text or seeing something.)

It is October 23, 2077. The world is at war, and fear of nuclear annihilation is high. However, for you, it is just another day in a Boston suburb with your spouse and your young son. And, obviously, your son, Shaun, is a baseball fan in the making, as you can see a small glove and ball that you can comment on:

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As you receive your coffee and paper from your robotic butler, Codsworth, you hear something in the corner of your living room. On a black-and-white TV, a newsman with the voice of Ron Perlman (who has a role in every Fallout game, usually as a narrator of some kind) updates you on the day’s events and weather before going to sports:

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Yes, it’s World Series time in Boston, as the Red Sox are looking to win their first title in over a century and a half!

You are then interrupted by a salesman selling a spot in a underground fallout shelter, called a Vault. After that’s done, you go check on your son and talk to your wife. She thinks maybe everyone should go for a walk in the park this afternoon. Pffft, you say:

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Of course, you do end up missing the World Series. After this conversation, you get news that atomic missiles are incoming. You rush to the nearest vault. Stuff happens, and you wake up 210 years later with your wife gone and your son missing.

(More below the jump!)

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Best of 2015- Yes, there are some long-dead white guys who still belong in the Hall of Fame

Originally published December 7, 2015.

Today, the Veteran’s Committee once again failed to induct anybody. This year, it was the “Pre-Integration Era” panel doing the voting. That in itself is a bit of a problem, as (despite the name) it only focuses on the white portion of the pre-integration days, under the logic that Sol White and other deadball-era Negro Leaguers went in during a special election. This, along with the fact that these guys are long, long dead, have made some people call for the end of this “era” in the Hall of Fame voting.

I can definitely see the reasoning, and it definitely needs to be changed, but the idea that everyone from the ancient days of baseball who is worthy is in the Hall of Fame is flawed. Yes, 95% of fans would have no idea who they are, but that isn’t a reason not to include them.

For example:

  • Doc Adams helped make baseball as we know it…. baseball as we know it. He even created the position of shortstop. Him not being in the Hall of Fame is sad, a result of not having good publicists like Alexander Cartwright had and more research coming into focus over the years after the time where there would have been people who remembered him.
  • Bill Dahlen had a 42-game hit streak, was among the leaders in most offensive categories at his retirement, and was one of the better defensive shortstops of his day.
  • Wes Ferrell, one of the few players on the Pre-Integration Ballot who was entirely in the 20th century, has one of the best JAWS scores by pitchers not in the Hall of Fame, and also has the record for most HRs by a pitcher in a career (non-Babe Ruth category, obviously).
  • Harry Stovey was one of the few players of the 19th century who could be called a power-hitter, hitting 122 career HRs, becoming the first player in history to have 100, and at one point holding the single-season HR mark (with 14).
  • And, finally, there’s Pete Browning. Pete Browning is like my pet overlooked 19th-century ballplayer. Browning’s career .341 batting average is 13th overall, and was one of the greatest hitters of the American Association and the short-lived Players League. Also, he is indirectly responsible for the creation of the Louisville Slugger, as he went to Hillerich and Bradsby for custom-made bats after one of Hillerich’s bats helped him break out of a hitting slump in 1884. Browning, amazingly, didn’t even appear in the latest VC ballot. This- and the fact he isn’t in already- probably came about because his best years came in the American Association and Player’s League, not the National League, and history, as they say, is written by the victors.

 

So, I say get those guys in… and then drastically change how this is done:

  • Make it open to Negro Leaguers as well. Yes, the 2006 inductions did a great job bringing in some of the older Negro League greats from before integration, but there is no reason why they shouldn’t still be considered.
  • Make this committee a less-common occurrence. Have it every six years, instead of every three years. Allow the “Golden Era” and “Expansion Era” votes be more common to make up for the difference.
  • Either make the committee entirely made up of just experts of the era, or have a slightly lower threshold for election.

So, yeah, that’s what I think.

BEST OF 2015: BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE- The Time That Bullseye had a 2-issue Baseball Miniseries

Originally published May 16, 2015.
In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

One of the things you realize when you think about superhero fiction too hard is that a lot of the criminals could probably become rich using their technology or skills in more legal pursuits. For example, find the right quiz show for the Riddler, and he’s rolling in dough. Captain Cold or Mister Freeze could easily make a mint if they applied their freeze-weapons toward something like refrigeration. Heck, even the people who write the comics know this, and in the 1980s they turned Lex Luthor from a supergenius with lots of high-tech inventions into a corrupt supergenius billionaire superexecutive who had made his money from his many high-tech inventions.

Which leads me to Bullseye. Bullseye’s a Daredevil villain, created by Marv Wolfman and John Romita Sr. in the 1976 and perfected by Frank Miller in his run on Daredevil’s comic book. Bullseye’s entire shtick is that he basically has perfect killer accuracy with basically everything, even harmless stuff like playing cards. He’s arguably Daredevil’s second-greatest foe (after the Kingpin), and is directly or indirectly responsible for the death of at least two of Daredevil’s girlfriends (only one of whom got better).

But, still, that shtick with the accuracy, wouldn’t you think he could make a great pitcher?

Well, there was a 2-part miniseries at the turn of this decade that basically grabbed a hold of that idea and ran with it… Bullseye: Perfect Game.

It’s a surprisingly good short look at obsession and perfection, with some nice easter eggs for fans of baseball and of comics and a great ending that I’m sort of bummed out I’ll spoil in my summary…. BELOW THE JUMP:

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Best of 2015- How many sports has Mario played?

Originally published on September 12, 2015.

The question of who the greatest video game athlete of all time is a hard one. Many go with Bo Jackson, with good reason. Still others (such as the Cespedes BBQ duo) wisely go with the Secret Weapon himself, Pablo Sanchez. But for sheer variety, none can defeat Mario, the most versatile athlete in video game history, who, by coincidence, celebrates the 30th anniversary of the release of Super Mario Brothers today!

And today, to honor National Video Games Day, which I just found out exists like ten minutes ago on Twitter, I’m running down every single sport Mario has ever played.

(Go below the jump for more)

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The Best Tweets of Day 2 of the 2015 Winter Meetings

Yesterday was a busy day. We had a Mystery Team, Dusty Baker inserted his foot into his mouth, Ben Zobrist chose the Cubs over the Mets, and the Braves basically robbed the Diamondbacks blind, getting 25-year-old Ender Inciarte and their two best prospects for Shelby Miller, who isn’t that bad of a pitcher but who is hardly the type of guy to go Herschel Walker over.

So, here are the best tweets from the second day of the 2015 Winter Meetings:

We began with the cry of MYSTERY TEAM!

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Sadly, then Dusty Baker said stupid stuff:

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//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsThere was then the Ben Zobrist watch. Everybody thought he was going to the Mets, but then the Cubs made a few moves and suddenly had space to get him, so…. well… :

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And then, finally, there was the big Shelby Miller deal:

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And, finally…..

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The Best Tweets of Day 1 (and partly Day 0) of the 2015 Winter Meetings

Yes, it was the first day of the Winter Meetings yesterday. This year, it is in the Gaylord Opryland, which, like the TARDIS, is bigger on the inside than it is the outside.

And that means a lot of Baseball Twitter got lost, found interesting things, or became one with nature:

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However, eventually stuff started happening. For example, as I mentioned yesterday, the Veteran’s Committee failed to elect anybody. Chad Finn was quite disappointed they ignored one of the best old-timer candidates:

 

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//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsThe biggest story of the day, though, was the strange (and sad) case of the Aroldis Chapman trade. It started innocently enough, with Ken Rosenthal (as is tradition) breaking the story:

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But slowly, issues came up, like the fact that the Dodgers would have a logjam in back of the bullpen, which was part of what led to the many problems in Washington last season. Man, we were so naive:

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Okay, so… more teams involved? Okay, so it’s just more complicated, right?

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsOkay, so the Dodgers leaked the deal, kind of shady, but…

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And, after that…. well… I think Jen Mac Ramos speaks for all sane people here:

 

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Yes. The trade is not what is important here anymore. It is, at the very most, a very distant secondary topic. And even that is stretching it. And anyone who says otherwise should probably reconsider their priorities. Yes, Aroldis Chapman has one of the best fastballs of all time. But that is not what is important. What is important is what happened in October and the safety of those around Chapman. Hopefully, a robust investigation by MLB will go into this incident and an appropriate punishment will be passed down, unlike the half-assed measures done by the NFL, where true action has only been done when pictures have come out.

Come back tomorrow for more of the best Tweets from and about the Winter Meetings. Hopefully they will be more light-hearted.

How I voted in the @IBWAA elections in 2015

At the end of the regular season, the International Baseball Writers Association of America, of which I am a member, asked for people’s votes in their year-end awards.

Starting on November 15, the winners of those awards will be revealed. So, in advance of that, here’s how I voted:

Relief Pitchers:

AL:

  1. Dellin Betances
  2. Wade Davis
  3. Cody Allen

Reasoning: Although he was not usually the closer for the Yankees, Betances was the definition of shutdown as a reliever this year, with a 1.50 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 84 IP. Davis and Allen were more traditional closers and were, obviously, among the best this year. I have to admit I can’t remember exactly why I had Davis above Allen or Zach Britton, so maybe it was a precognition of how he’d do in the postseason.

NL:

  1. Aroldis Chapman
  2. Trevor Rosenthal
  3. Jeurys Familia

Aroldis Chapman had the best WAR on Fangraphs of NL relievers and continues to one of the must-see closers in the league. Rosenthal and Familia also put up great numbers.

Rookies of the Year:

AL:

  1. Carlos Correa
  2. Francisco Lindor
  3. Miguel Sano

A tough fight between Correa and Lindor, made even harder by the fact they had the same number of games played (99) and were close in at-bats as well, allowing for a nearly even sample size to compare the two. I went with Correa due to his better power numbers and the better general impression I got from watching him compared to Lindor, but it very easily could have gone the other way.

NL:

  1. Kris Bryant
  2. Matt Duffy
  3. Jung-Ho Kang

Who knows how this could have been different if Kang had not been injured?

Managers of the Year:

AL:

  1. Jeff Banister
  2. A.J. Hinch
  3. Paul Molitor

The two managers in Texas were able to bring their teams to the playoffs despite the fact most thought otherwise, an Paul Molitor got the Twins into the final weekend of the regular season with their playoff hopes alive despite the fact that everyone thought otherwise.

NL:

  1. Joe Maddon
  2. Terry Collins
  3. Mike Matheny

Both the Cubs and Mets overachieved this season, and the Cardinals had the best regular season record in baseball. We may never know how much the managers contributed to that, but they must have done something right.

Cy Youngs:

AL:

  1. David Price
  2. Dallas Keuchel
  3. Chris Sale
  4. Sonny Gray
  5. Corey Kluber

Price had the highest Fangraphs WAR in the AL among pitchers, was among the strikeout leaders, and was a key cog for the Blue Jays after the trade deadline. Keuchel won 20 games (which doesn’t matter much, but is fun to mention), had the best Baseball Reference WAR, and was the ace of the Astros staff. Either would have been great picks, but I leaned towards Price. Sale (who is proof that W-L is not the best indicator of how well a player pitched), Gray and Kluber round out my top five.

NL:

  1. Jake Arrieta
  2. Zack Greinke
  3. Clayton Kershaw
  4. Max Scherzer
  5. Madison Bumgarner

This was ridiculous. A guy who threw two no-hitters and came close at other times is FOURTH. Ultimately, I went with Arrieta, but any of the top three would have a great claim to it.

MVP:

AL:

  1. Mike Trout
  2. Josh Donaldson
  3. Manny Machado
  4. David Price
  5. Lorenzo Cain
  6. Jose Bautista
  7. Kevin Kiermaier
  8. Nelson Cruz
  9. Dallas Keuchel
  10. Miguel Cabrera

This was a push. I gave Trout a slight edge due to his better WAR, slugging and OPS, but I won’t be complaining if Donaldson wins, either.

NL:

  1. Bryce Harper
  2. Joey Votto
  3. Paul Goldschmidt
  4. Kris Bryant
  5. Jake Arrieta
  6. A.J. Pollock
  7. Zack Greinke
  8. Clayton Kershaw
  9. Andrew McCutchen
  10. Buster Posey

The easiest category. When it came to being valuable this year, there was Bryce Harper, and then there was everybody else. He had a .5 advantage in Fangraphs war over the second-best fWar in baseball (Mike Trout) and a 2.1 advantage over Goldschmidt, the next best fWar in the NL. He led all baseball in OBP, SLG and (obviously) OPS. He was tied for the NL lead in HR and was second in the NL in batting average. He was the best player in baseball. Enough said.