It’s trade deadline time! For much of the episode, we’re focused on recent All-Star Blip Sanders, subject of trade rumors. We find out, unsurprisingly, that Blip is probably the Padres’ best trade asset, a star center fielder signed to a long-term, team-friendly contract, perhaps something akin to a Julio Teheran-type trade chip from last year’s deadline. With Mike having a no-trade clause and Ginny being functionally unmoveable, Blip is the most dramatically interesting character to be on the block. Will Blip stay a Padre? Do the showrunners know how to portray an MLB front office? Will Oscar’s tooth get fixed?
Jarrett: So this is the trade deadline episode. I really, really liked a lot of this episode, and then there was some stuff that didn’t ring true to the kind of show this has been so far.
The Padres, who up until this point in the season have seemed kind of bad, go on a big winning streak to get to the borderline of being buyers, which complicates the Blip trade possibilities. We see the emotional impact on Blip, Evelyn, and even Ginny, who has developed this great surrogate family/support network in just a few months with the Padres. Ginny even goes to Oscar trying to demand that the Padres keep Blip, which Oscar takes about as much offense to as you’d think he’d take when given a personnel demand by a rookie. But, of course, since Blip and Evelyn are main characters, after a big old swerve involving title character Alfonso Guzman-Chavez (read: Dylan Bundy) moving from the Orioles, Blip ultimately stays with the Padres.
Meg: Ginny’s conversation with Oscar was weird. It felt like the sort of suggestion Ginny would hear from Amelia and say, “Nah, I’m not going to march into the GM’s office and demand he not trade another player.” I can’t imagine a fifth starter, let alone a rookie, marching into their GM’s office and doing that on the day of the deadline, no matter how many jerseys they help sell. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher on the planet, and he loved A.J. Ellis like a brother. A.J. Ellis is a Phillie now. That said, I thought the tension the players seemed to be feeling was the most realistic part of this episode. The least realistic part was Ginny demanding Blip not get traded. The second least realistic part was Ginny not knowing how the deadline works and calling Amelia’s assistant to explain it to her.
Jarrett: Even though Blip stayed, the deadline itself was where the episode punched you in the gut a little. We were initially introduced to Tommy Miller as a primary antagonist in the pilot—the Clay Buchholz lookalike angling to get Ginny’s rotation spot back and starting locker-room brawls with Blip. But as we learned, he was actually a nice enough fellow, a leader on the team that got hurt in a beanball war, who ultimately went out of his way to befriend Ginny. We don’t see as much of it, but Tommy has a life in San Diego, a wife and kids. He even likes video games! Ginny, and by proxy the audience, is so happy that Blip (and Evelyn and their cute kids) stayed that she misses that Tommy was shipped out in Oscar’s convoluted dealings to end up with the Angels’ third baseman. I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Tommy, not just because I was nowhere near done making Clay Buchholz jokes, but because he’d turned into an interesting character in a short period of time.
Meg: Tommy no! We were just getting to like you! Let’s go through the trades, because this is the one place where the show being set in the universe of real baseball, with player cameos and Padres logos, gets a little shaky. First, Oscar calls “Fishman” in Seattle (Jerry Dipoto: handsome enough for Hollywood, yet so sadly absent from Pitch) to acquire a reliever named Gordon. “Word is you’re looking for a DH.” Now hold on just a minute. I don’t know if you know this, but I’m a fan of the Seattle Mariners, and they currently employ a DH by the name of Nelson Cruz. But perhaps the Padres have someone better? Carry on, Oscar. “I have a first baseman with a .479 slugging percentage.” Nelson Cruz slugged .543 in the first half, and .555 on the year! He hit 43 home runs! It was one of the small triumphs of the season when the Mariners convinced Cruz that he should DH full-time. If you want an AL team in need of a DH, pick one in need of DH.
They do the deal and move the third baseman to first, but now they need someone for the hot corner, and they think the Angels will bite. Oscar learns that the Angels are also talking to the Cubs, who clearly don’t need a third baseman but do need a setup guy. “What do the Angels need that the Cubs won’t give up?” Well after his conversation with Ginny (still bad), he glances over at the Padres depth chart, and lingers on Blip’s name. “I know what the Angels need. A center fielder.” We’re supposed to be nervous. This is supposed to introduce the idea that they might trade Blip after all. Except wait, what? The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have Mike Trout! It’s all bait and switch. Blip doesn’t go anywhere, Butch comes back, and Tommy ends up on the Cubs (congrats on the post-season, Tommy!). But it isn’t a believable bait and switch. I never thought Blip was going to LA, because the Angels have Mike Trout, who Blip’s own wife mentioned in conversation with Blip! Having real players in real ballparks makes the show much more believable, but it puts the onus on the showrunners to get the details right. If a Mike Trout exists in your universe, you don’t pretend the Angels need a center fielder.
Jarrett: Maybe Trout suddenly retired to become Jim Cantore’s successor at The Weather Channel?
Buried in the larger mayhem of the trade deadline, we get a glimpse of the larger front office scene of the Padres and it’s…not great, Bob. Somehow our recent machinations about team ownership end up with a new “President of Baseball Operations” being installed above Oscar. Except it’s not another GM type with an inflated title, it’s Kevin Connolly playing a smug Silicon Valley executive worried only about cost certainty. Perhaps that is the direction of some teams these days, but it came across as smarmy here in our fictionalized better-world television show. As did the group of analytics guys and interns making up the war room, complete with jokes about duplicate white dude names and family connections. Just a little too on the nose.
Meg: First, congratulations to the Padres for the turnaround in your front office. You seem very functional. I’m sure Tommy’s physical is fine. Kevin Connolly is perfect for this role, even though I agree, the role itself feels off. And let’s talk about these interns. I wasn’t sure if they were trying to draw some weird line between the stats guys and the scouts, but if so, they sort of mixed up their bits. Good Ross is young, white, and connected. Checks out. But he’s not an Ivy Leaguer, and he doesn’t seem to have real skills, except dispensing vaguely creepy dating advice. He’s not a scout. But he’s is favored over Other Ross, who is a stat guy. It was clear they knew who we expect to see in the front office, and the diversity issues attendant with them, they just didn’t seem to know quite where to go with it.
Jarrett: And at the end of the episode, we get a bunch of potential shake-ups moving forward. Ginny finds out that Mike and Amelia are dating and we get our first hint in awhile of a potential love triangle and please dear god no. We find out how Ghost Dad died: Ginny’s best friend’s dad was driving drunk to try to catch his son at the end of the championship game, which then tore Ginny and said best friend apart. (The rest of the flashback sequence felt a bit redundant to Trevor with regards to Ginny becoming close to another player and then abruptly breaking away, but at least we did get the tidbit that the Padres bought Ginny away from a baseball scholarship to NC State.) Oh yes, and the Padres’ new president orders Oscar to find a way to make Mike Lawson waive his no-trade clause so he can be dealt in a waiver trade. At least that drama will be baseball in nature.
Meg: I strongly hope that the bump in the road that is undoubtedly ahead is about the disruption to their friendship, and Mike keeping this from Ginny. They are doing such a good job of maintaining boundaries between them that actually allow them to be friends. I hope that they don’t undo that work just to create a reason for Mike to want to be traded.
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