Welcome to the 22nd edition of Around the Horn, a recurring op-ed with a satirical slant that riffs on whatever’s recently noteworthy in baseball. Think of it as a stripped-down Last Week Tonight or The Daily Show in a column format with recurring segments about the good, bad, and ugly in the world of America’s pastime. Additionally, as often as possible, we’ll end with an interview as well.
There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s get right to our first segment:
Our Main Story
Players’ Weekend is an event I usually don’t pay much attention to during the season. After all, it’s really not much more than MLB’s equivalent to casual Fridays at the office. However, this past weekend forced me to take notice.
Certainly, there’s the standard fare with players not having to worry about fines for outrageous footwear like this:
— MLB (@MLB) August 24, 2019
— Cut4 (@Cut4) August 25, 2019
Admittedly, the jerseys are where all the fun resides, even though the monochrome approach this year was downright dreadful to the point where it looked more like two generic squads dressed in black or white from an 8-bit Nintendo game playing each other on a nondescript field with multicolored, digitized blotches standing in for fans.
What's amazing is that somebody thought this idea up. Then told someone else who thought it was a good idea. And they had group meetings, panels, got cost projections, bids, worked with the marketing people on a cohesive plan. All this for the worst uniforms in baseball history.
— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) August 24, 2019
Though, in defense of the blotches, they would probably have more sense than the real fans who booed Andrew Luck this week (sorry for the football reference in a baseball column, but no one saw that one coming and the shock of Luck’s decision continues to resonate). Mind you, the putrid getups do not mean there aren’t any highlights.
Jacob deGrom’s players weekend uni pic.twitter.com/IFODItalBp
— Baseball Douchebag (@baseballdouchey) August 26, 2019
If that doesn’t sum up Jacob deGrom‘s past two seasons, I don’t know what does. How else do you explain an ERA under 2.60 two straight years and close to 200 innings pitched despite not clearing 10 wins. I’ll explain it to you, anyway. It’s called a bar of soap wrapped in a towel being smashed repeatedly into your stomach by the free-swinging hand of Murphy’s Law, that’s how.
However, it’s hard not to feel utter joy at the reaction some of the players themselves had to the monochrome.
— Hunter Pence (@hunterpence) August 24, 2019
— Hunter Pence (@hunterpence) August 25, 2019
Yeah, Hunter Pence pretty much nailed it there. Though, we would be remiss if we didn’t include these “boys” right here:
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) August 24, 2019
— Tyler Duffey (@TheDoof13) August 25, 2019
I don’t know what’s more ridiculous—the players having a riotous good time making fun of themselves or the boy bands of who thought looking like Eurotrash dressed in bleached hotel sheets was somehow a good look. The only way to make white on white look good is to troll the living hell out of it like that.
Out of the Park
A Look Beyond the Boxscores for the Best in Baseball This Week
Sticking with Players’ Weekend here, it’s not uncommon for players to get wonderfully creative in their uniform choices. White Sox reliever Evan Marshall is not alone in this regard, though he deserves a tip of the cap for nailing an allusion so well that it led to the star of the film he referenced to text him.
Courtesy of Players Weekend, @emarsh31 (FORGETTING SARAH) now has a Hollywood connection in @jasonsegel, who contacted the White Sox reliever on his jersey choice based on Segel's very funny comedy: https://t.co/05ltvkm6qC
— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) August 25, 2019
If you haven’t read the Scott Merkin article I linked, I highly recommend it regardless of whether you’re a White Sox fan. Aside from detailing how the Hollywood star caught wind of Marshall’s jersey, Merkin also detailed some great tidbits about Tim Anderson.
If you recall, Anderson hit .283 his rookie year in 2016, bolstered by a .375 BABIP. The year after, the BABIP dropped to .328, still above the mean for the league, but Anderson’s average dipped to .257. Last year, Anderson hit .240 as the BABIP cratered (.289). I’m sure you’re sensing a pattern.
In layman’s terms, it’s commonly referred to as “not that good,” though any time you’re dealing with statistics, there’s almost always a way to find one to support the narrative you choose to believe, whether it’s Anderson’s BABIP decline and pull-heavy approach to explain his descent into the later rounds of fantasy drafts, where he offered cheap steals, some power, and the promise to do this to your batting average …
… or the certainty that Christian Yelich could never sustain a 35% HR/FB rate so his 36 home runs last year were bound to see a regression. For what it’s worth, those folks were half right. Yelich’s HR/FB has dropped … to 33.3%.
Point is, Anderson is actually having a better season than people realize when you look beyond the bat flips and theatrics. His .332 batting average would actually be in the running for a batting title if he had an extra 111 plate appearances to qualify. Before you immediately assume the bottom is going to fall out, consider that he is hitting .394 in August, and it would take an epic collapse in September to completely sink his production to date.
Anderson might go 20/20 and hit above .320 before the year is through. For Players’ Weekend, Merkin reported that Victus designed a specialty “Rip It, Flip It” bat for him.
As Anderson said of the bats, “They’re sick.” If only the uniforms were as well.
Where Baseball Got Caught Looking
And that brings me to the real point here, which isn’t about custom sneakers or cute nicknames on the backs of jerseys (which is fun in its own right). It’s about the culture of baseball and what image MLB wants to represent.
— Bobby Nightengale (@nightengalejr) August 25, 2019
Now that gives you something to think about, doesn’t it? When you put it that way, Players’ Weekend seems more like a social furlough granted to inmates rather than a genuine cultural shift—the kind of shift baseball might have to truly make if it wants to connect with a younger generation of fans.
Moreover, MLB’s blackout restrictions don’t help those 10-year-olds, especially the ones who live a few hours away from a ballpark and can’t watch the game on their iPad.
Change is difficult. I recognize that it’s hard to do when you’re as old as baseball is today. Then again, if this guy can do it …
I’m just going to leave this one right here …
The use of gas-station sexual-enhancement pills in baseball is so prevalent that MLB sent out a memo warning players that their use could lead to positive PED tests, as at least two players have claimed this year, sources tell ESPN. News: https://t.co/WD0gXgmXgs
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 21, 2019
… and slowly walk away.
That’s the ballgame for this week!