Oh, boy, the NL Central! It’s time for another round of Best Case/Worst Case. And, since the Cubs are in this division, you know there’s going to be a worst case. And, of course, they all have at least vaguely-connected images from Getty on them. Yeah!
(Sorry, Cubs fans)
St. Louis CardinalsEmbed from Getty Images
Best-Case Scenario: World Series title, obviously. They aren’t that different a team from last year aside from losing Carlos Beltran and Edward Mujica as well as trading the not-what-he-used-to-be David Freese.
Worst-Case Scenario: The Rally Squirrel returns… rabid and with a taste for human flesh.
Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: Injuries to the pitching staff, particularly Adam Wainwright.
Embed from Getty Images
Best-Case Scenario: .500 again! The playoffs again! And this time, going further than the LDS, but all the way to the World Series.
Worst-Case Scenario: Scurvy.
Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: The rotation and bullpen regress while Andrew McCutchen has a post-MVP hangover.
Cincinnati RedsEmbed from Getty Images
Best-Case Scenario: It’s a team that’s good enough to win the World Series if their pitching works out… but that’s a big if. Still, best-case scenario remains World Series.
Worst-Case Scenario: Billy Hamilton runs so fast that he breaks the sound barrier, making everyone in the stadium go deaf.
Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: The pitching doesn’t do it, and the Reds go nowhere in the playoffs, if they make it at all.
Milwaukee BrewersEmbed from Getty Images
Best-Case Scenario: Ryan Braun comes back from his Steroid-related… break… and returns to form despite the fact he, presumably, is no longer… doing the thing he was suspended for. The rotation does well and the Brewers stay in it for awhile before fading late in the season.
Worst-Case Scenario: Prohibition.
Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: More-or-less what happened last year, only with Ryan Braun playing the whole season. Well, okay, it could get worse: they could be worse than the cubs.
Chicago CubsEmbed from Getty Images
Worst-Case Scenario: The Brewers try to bring Hank the Dog into the stadium. The Cubs refuse his adorableness. Angered, Hank casts another curse upon the Cubs. Soon, Rizzo and Castro are hurt, Jeff Samardzija has decided to go back to football, the Cubs are spiraling to one of the worst records ever, and Theo Epstein runs away screaming “NO! NO! NEVER! THERE IS NO HOPE! NONE!”
Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: Injuries and being in a tough division lead to the team being one of the worst in Cubs history. Rizzo and Castro have slump seasons, too.
Next time: The NL East!
Ralph Kiner, who passed away today, was a great player who played for some really bad teams. In his ten seasons, only twice was his team above .500. He never played in the postseason, and only once did he come close- when the 1955 Indians finished three games back of the Yankees in what was Kiner’s final year. He didn’t make the Hall of Fame until his final year of eligibility, and during his time with the Pirates, Branch Rickey held a grudge against him, scapegoating him for the team’s failures in an effort to make it possible to trade him for prospects*.
For those reasons, perhaps it isn’t surprising that when his death was announced, his obituary in the New York Times spent just as much time on his stint as the voice of the Mets as it did on his playing days, which were, admittedly, short.
And this is a shame, as in his ten seasons, nobody else hit more HRs than Kiner, and, what’s more, no World Series-era player with no postseason experience, not even Ernie Banks, had a better OPS for their career than Kiner.
So as you hear people on TV, in print and online talk about his radio days, just remember that he was truly one of the great players of his time.
*Interestingly, when he was finally traded, the Pirates didn’t get any good players back.
Jeff Passan has an article on how the Union is worried that the contracts being offered by teams like the Cubs could be a slow march to non-guaranteed contracts on par with the NFL. You can read the article for the full details, but in essence, they are worried that the expansion of the “conversion clause” that allows a team to turn it into a non-guaranteed contract if a player does something. It’s a call-back to the eighties, when everybody was worried about all the cocaine going around, but now-a-days the MLBPA is worried about the implications that teams could not only use the clause to extend it to PEDs, but to, well, anything.
Like, take this snippet apparently from a Cubs contract, meant to list out restricted activities that could allow the Cubs to turn the contact into non-guaranteed if there was an injury. Passan notes that due to the way some parts of the contract were originally written, they could have in theory been able to convert the contract for even the most mild of injuries doing these activities:
“(A)uto racing, motorcycling, piloting, co-piloting, learning to operate, or serving as a crew member of, an aircraft, being a passenger in a single engine airplane or private plane, hot air ballooning, parachuting, skydiving, hang gliding, bungee jumping, horseback riding, horse racing, harness racing, fencing, boxing, wrestling, karate, judo, jujitsu, any other form of martial arts activity, use of an All Terrain Vehicle (‘ATV’), skiing (water or snow), snowmobiling, bobsledding, luging, ice hockey, ice boating, field hockey, squash, spelunking, basketball, football, softball, white water canoeing or rafting, kayaking, jai-alai, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, rodeo, bicycle racing, motor boat racing, polo, rugby, rodeo, handball, volleyball, in-line or other roller skating, surfing, hunting, paddleball, racquetball, archery, wood chopping, mountain climbing, boating, any weightlifting not prescribed by or approved in advance by Club (said approval not to be unreasonably withheld), participation in the ‘Superteams’ or ‘Superstars’ activities (or any like activity) or other made-for-television or made-for-motion picture athletic competitions…”
That’s a big list, and the union was- if I’m reading this right- worried that such a big list and the vague writing of the contract could have allowed the Cubs to NFL-ize the contracts of anybody who, say, had a slight sprain during a pick-up basketball game or had a soccer ball hit them in the nuts. Thankfully, that vague language has been changed, so now the they probably have to actually get shot by a bow-and-arrow or falling down a cliff while mountain climbing for their deal to become non-guaranteed.
Still, even if they WERE in danger of seeing their guaranteed contracts going poof if they got hurt doing those above activities, they still have many activities they still could have done:
- Ballroom dancing
- Water Polo (regular polo is prohibited, however)
- Paragliding (hang-gliding is prohibited, however)
- Australian-Rules Football
- Sepaw Takraw (AKA Malaysian Foot-Volleyball)
- Korfball (AKA Dutch Basketball)
- Pesapallo (AKA Finnish Baseball)
- Snowboarding (Surfing, Skating and Skiing are prohibited, however)
- Ultimate Frisbee
- Unicycling (bicycling and motorcycling are prohibited)
- Tug of War
- Trading Card Games
- Laser Tag
- Playing “Go Fish”
- Flying a kite
- Table Tennis
- Most Track and Field events
- Hurling (AKA Irish Field Hockey, sort of)
- Bandy (Russian Ice Hockey but with a ball instead of a puck)
- Hide and Seek
- Team Handball (regular Handball is prohibited)
- Battle of the Nations
- Connect Four
- Video Games
- Staring Contests
- Segway Racing
- Baseball itself!
…Oh, wait, there is this at the very end:
“…or any other sport, activity, or negligent act involving a reasonably foreseeable substantial risk of personal injury or death.”
Well, there goes those. Good thing the Union was able to get a change in the language of the Cubs contracts, otherwise, they could have ended up with people getting their contracts non-guaranteed after paper-cuts while playing Uno.
In which I write Haiku-style poetry about a potpourri of baseball cards I found in a value pack. Because, well, it’s my blog.
1994 Pinnacle Sammy Sosa
You aren’t quite a slugger yet
Give it a few years
Pulling the curtain for a second, an admission:
I originally had this big plan where I would watch the now-20-year-old kid-baseball classic Rookie of the Year and figure out the statistics for it’s main character, Henry Rowengartner. But, alas, it was not to be: I inadvertently deleted it from my DVR, ruining my opportunity to bring the world such great baseball scholarship. One day, perhaps.
Still, some thoughts on Rookie of the Year:
Rookie of the Year was part of an early 90s mini-fad of baseball movies sparked by the late-80s success of Kevin Costner’s films and Major League. Other baseball movies from this time period include The Sandlot, A League of Their Own and Little Big League. I saw them on VHS when I was like five or six, possibly more times than was healthy. And, although in hindsight The Sandlot and A League of Their Own* were the best of the early 90s bunch, I think I watched Rookie of the Year and Little Big League more. It makes sense, come to think of it: They were wish-fulfillment tales. Who doesn’t wish to make it to the big leagues in some way? Heck, who doesn’t wish they could be doing it when they are still kids?
Anyway, for those of you who don’t know the story, Rookie of the Year is a semi-remake of an obscure movie called Roogie’s Bump. In the film, Henry Rowengartner, a baseball-loving boy in his early teens, suffers a strange injury that heals in such a way that his arm suddenly becomes able to throw MLB-level heat. The Cubs sign him, and, well, you can probably guess how the rest of the story goes.
While the film is unrealistic and pretty formulaic, it still is a fun watch, especially with John Candy as an announcer for the Cubs who opens up the movie with this ever-so-true line:
Opening Day at Wrigley, and oh what a sight! The diamond, the decorations, and the dread of yet another losing season.
Really, there isn’t much more that can be said, other than that as part of the Anniversary there have been a few articles about it.
For example, Yahoo!’s Mike Oz talked a bit to star Thomas Ian Nicholas (who has since gone on to star in the American Pie films) and director/supporting actor Daniel Stern about it. From it, I learned that, for example, John Candy was not originally involved with the film, but the studio liked the close-to-finished product enough that they let the producers hire John Candy to film a few scenes and voiceovers for the film.
Meanwhile, as a extra to Sports Illustrated‘s “Where Are They Now” issue, screenwriter Sam Harper revealed what happened to Henry after the film. Turns out that similar injuries led to him having brief careers in football and bowling.
So, if you see Rookie of the Year on cable in the coming days, feel free to think back to this post and those other articles. And also think how funky-buttloving (you’d get it if you saw the movie) awesome my look at Henry Rowengartner’s stats would have been.
*True story: I almost had a cameo in A League of Their Own as a redheaded toddler grandchild in the Cooperstown scenes at the end. But according to family legend, my parents didn’t want to drive all the way to Cooperstown for the shoot, especially since if I cried they’d probably just have some other 1-year-old do it and they’d have driven all the way to Cooperstown for nothing. And that, friends, is why Daniel J. Glickman doesn’t have an IMDB page noting his uncredited cameo in A League of Their Own.
Is Rock Shoulders a great name, or the greatest name? We may never know.