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Sure, yes, the Royals returned to the World Series last year for the first time since 1985, and yes that was a big deal and all. But there was an even more important storyline of lost glory restored in 2014: HACKING MASS came back, baby! Our annual test of wills—specifically the will to identify the least-talented major-league players with the best chance of somehow, someway remaining in their teams’ starting lineup all year—returned from several years of hiatus.

For the uninitiated, our cherished rulebook is here for your reading pleasure.

Last year’s contest featured 819 players who averaged 181.2 total accumulated ESPN (that’s Exuded Stiff Points, Net). Our champions, the fightin’ Pianosa Bombardiers, paced the contest with 487 ESPN.

So without further ado, let’s begin! Ladies and gentlemen, your 2014 HACKING MASS All-Stars:

All Star Team

Name

Position

Popularity

2014 ESPN

Jose Molina

C

101

73

Raul Ibanez

1B

9

46

Alberto Callaspo

2B

2

60

Matt Dominguez

3B

186

78

Zack Cozart

SS

68

79

Domonic Brown

LF

1

41

Jackie Bradley

CF

1

77

Nate Schierholtz

RF

16

62

Edwin Jackson

P

48

116

Justin Masterson

P

0

86

Total

432

718

That’s, ah…yeah, that’s not a good team. More interestingly though, it’s not a particularly popular team either. In thumbing my way through the archives of years past, that seems to be a common theme of the contest. Rare is the player* who has delivered the goods and performed as terribly as an overwhelming majority of HACKING MASSters anticipated (*except for Scott Podsednik). Matt Dominguez gets the nod as our most popular All-Star, which makes some sense as PECOTA projected him for the second-worst OPS among full-time third basemen last season. And while he’s not nearly in the same league as the GOAT of HACKING MASS, Jason Kendall, Jose Molina put an emphatic exclamation point of non-production on a solid little three-year run to wind down his career.

The outfield was full of surprises. Domonic Brown’s HR/FB rate tanked after spiking to an astronomical career-high in 2013, and the fall from offensive respectability caught all of us napping. Meanwhile, a single, solitary shadow on the horizon braved Grady Sizemore’s Opening Day assignment and reaped the rewards of Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 423 plate appearances of worst-in-the-majors-by-a-lot “production.” Had Bradley managed to hold off Sizemore out of the gate and reach 600 plate appearances he might very well have forced a legitimate challenge to Edwin Jackson for overall MVP honors. I mean, he was worse than B.J. Upton!

Speaking of Mr. Jackson, he still somehow managed to stagger his way through 28 turns in the Cubs’ rotation last year despite boasting (?) the worst ERA and WHIP of any starting pitcher in baseball. He’s now pitched to a 5.58 ERA over the past two seasons, which is downright Pedro-esque in the hellscape that is HACKING MASS. Masterson’s catastrophe of a season was something that literally nobody in the competition saw coming, but he suffered through injury to set career highs in a whole bunch of ugly categories to set career highs in.

Overall Top 10

Rank Player Position Popularity 2014 ESPN
1 Edwin Jackson P 48 116
2 Jacob Turner P 4 86
2 Justin Masterson P 0 86
4 Clay Buchholz P 1 84
5 Kevin Correia P 94 81
6 Ricky Nolasco P 16 80
7 Zack Cozart SS 68 79
8 Matt Dominguez 3B 186 78
9 Jackie Bradley CF 1 77
10 Colby Lewis P 0 75

Pitchers! Look at all those pitchers! While major-league offenses continues to find new and creative ways to score fewer and fewer runs, in 2014 there was a shockingly effective cabal of bad starting pitchers who took the ball every fifth day. Together the seven pitchers on this list made 180 starts in 2014, logging over a thousand innings with a 5.62 collective ERA.

Popularity

Rank Player Position Popularity 2014 ESPN
1 B.J. Upton CF 343 55
2 Eric Young LF 327 33
3 Darwin Barney 2B 262 19
4 Alcides Escobar SS 258 13
5 J.P. Arencibia C 236 23
6 Adeiny Hechavarria SS 207 29
7 Matt Dominguez 3B 186 78
8 Mike Moustakas 3B 185 41
9 Lucas Harrell P 180 23
10 Nick Markakis RF 169 -10

Ah, the aforementioned elder Upton. He was our HACKING MASS prom king in 2014, and while he hit a couple more dingers than we all probably would’ve hoped (thanks fer nuthin’, Strasburg) he responded with a solid overall return on investment.

Alcides Escobar’s flirtations with lady luck were a bit more successful in 2014, meanwhile, and his BABIP rebound torpedoed many a HACKING MASSter’s season. While hindsight is 20/20, I was surprised to see Nick Markakis crack the top 10. He was coming off a down year in 2013, but between the ballpark and a fairly lengthy track record of above-board offensive production he made for a risky, yet apparently quite popular choice.

But enough beating around the bush. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2014 HACKING (Grand) MASSter, the Pianosa Bombardiers:

Team owner: smelmoth
Rank: 1 (of 819)

Position

Player

Popularity

2013 ESPN

2014 ESPN

Catcher

Tyler Flowers

67

31

9

First Base

Lyle Overbay

121

13

16

Second Base

Eric Sogard

13

12

49

Third Base

Matt Dominguez

186

14

78

Shortstop

Alcides Escobar

258

100

13

Left Field

Eric Young

327

41

33

Center Field

B.J. Upton

343

70

55

Right Field

J.B. Shuck

28

8

38

Pitcher 1

Edwin Jackson

48

65

116

Pitcher 2

Ricky Nolasco

16

-10

80

Total

344

487

Full disclosure, I know this guy. His name is Justin DeSorgher. He’s coming off a marginally successful rookie season in my home fantasy league. Hails from a good family. Salt of the Earth type. Flat-out wrong about Larry Walker not being a Hall of Famer, but otherwise he’s got a decent head on his shoulders.

I spoke with Justin on his ranch in Somerville, MA last week.

Me: “I admitted I knew you and now they’re making me write like a thousand words about your lucky win. Help me fill some space with long-winded sentences about your ‘strategy’ please.”

Justin: “Well, I wanted to find players who were going to get a bunch of playing time, either because they were on shitty teams (Dominguez), or had no real backups (Sogard). Or their name is B.J.. Obviously the pitching was what got me to the promised land. I figured the Cubs were willing to lose this season, and Edwin Jackson, who gives up lots of hits and stays healthy, would get dumped on that mound 30 times. Nolasco, whose peripherals I have always been a sucker for, is another guy that stays healthy and gives up a ton of hits. Also the track record of mediocre pitchers moving to the AL from the NL is pretty poor. Or great in my case.”

Me: “Pedro, man…”

Justin: “Yep. Pedro.”

The Biggest Loser

Sometimes in life, we engage in an undertaking under false pretenses. Sometimes we mean to do it, like the time in middle school I convinced the bouncer at an 18+ club that I was from northern Alaska and only looked so young because my skin had never been exposed to the sun as a child. And sometimes we don’t mean to do it. Sometimes we just kind of don’t pay attention to the rules and maybe don’t really understand the goal of a particular contest we may be entering.

I’m going to go ahead and assume ol’ Rexdog22 here maybe might not have paid attention to the rules of the particular contest he entered. Unless he was just trolling us for a shoutout in this recap column, in which case kudos, Rexdog22. Mission accomplished.

Team owner: Rexdog22
Rank: 819 (of 819)

Position

Player

Popularity

2013 ESPN

2014 ESPN

Catcher

Buster Posey

1

-64

-84

First Base

Miguel Cabrera

2

-237

-124

Second Base

Robinson Cano

1

-126

-81

Third Base

Evan Longoria

1

-89

-7

Shortstop

Troy Tulowitzki

1

-111

-120

Left Field

Carlos Gonzalez

1

-106

-2

Center Field

Mike Trout

1

-196

-158

Right Field

Giancarlo Stanton

1

-66

-150

Pitcher 1

Adam Wainwright

1

-74

-112

Pitcher 2

Jose Fernandez

1

-96

-24

Total

11

-1165

-862