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(photo credit: © Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports)

four months old
He doesn’t remember this part, of course, but looking back through the worn baby book that his mother keeps on a shelf near the television—he wonders if this shape, the first shape, was maybe the best one. Really, it wasn’t a shape at all. He’d had no hard edges or straight lines; instead, he’d been all soft and doughy, with sweet little rolls for his arms and legs and a delicate pillowy stomach. He was bigger than other babies, but you can’t tell that from the pictures. He always looks small in these: cradled in the arms of grown-ups, dwarfed by furniture, swimming in his older brother’s hand-me-downs. He is formless, only vaguely round and very tender, just beginning to understand what it means to take up space.

Yeah. The best shape of his life.

seven years
“Such a big boy!” It follows him everywhere. Mostly, he likes it.

eighteen years
They tell him not to bother reading the reports, and he realizes that he shouldn’t—his coaches know him better than any wannabe scout who’s only seen him once—but he does anyway.

Every single one mentions his body first.

They mention other things, too: his power, of course, and his “natural strength” and patience and a whole lot of them say that he’ll probably end up at first base. But they always start with his size. He is big or massive or a beefy boy or an absolute unit. One calls him a “large adult son,” which he hates in a deeply visceral way that feels stupid. (He’s hardly an adult, anyway.) He knows that this is the point; they cannot watch him play without looking at him, and, for the most part, this is all a joke to him anyway. Who really cares how big he is if he can hit like this?

Sometimes, though, he wishes they’d see something else first.

twenty-two years
They’ve been talking to him about it more lately, and he doesn’t want to do Double-A twice, so he tries. He really tries this time. He does work in the gym that he hates—a mindless sludge of frustration, trying to focus on something other than the gray walls or gray floor or gray ceiling. He eats in a way that is “right” and “good” and “clean.” He does not have anything late at night and learns to feel the slight scrape of hunger every morning as a sign of virtue. Do more, be less.

He counts out sixteen unsalted almonds, murmuring the number as he presses each one into his palm, somehow feeling emptier as he eats them.

twenty-five years
He realizes that it comes and goes in waves. When he’s hitting, he’s big—there’s no value attached, it’s just a word, people say it without trying to bite him. Maybe he’s chubby, in an endearing way that people find cute. But when he’s not hitting, he’s fat. When he’s not hitting, his size is both problem and answer and that’s all there is to it.

twenty-eight years
The spring training headlines are stupid, generally, but he wants one. He wants them to say it about him. He wants them to look at him and know.

He wants to be able to fill his own space and be left alone in it, but he knows that never works.


(with assistance from the headlines of MLB.com)

*

Roses are red
Water is wet

Roses are red
Thatcher’s first name was Margaret

*

O my luve is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.

The mere sight of you makes me
Forget the cold and damp,

*

It was many a many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved be me.
And imploring the


Pitchers and catchers report today for most of the league, and the talk of the offseason continues to be the enormous number of free agents who still remain unsigned. Regardless of whether or not this is a result of collusion on the part of ownership or a more general shift to “affordable” payroll after watching the Astros book their victory parade without a credit card, the fact of the matter remains that, well, whoa!

On the one hand, this poses problems not merely for labor but also for the long-term health of players who perhaps more than any other major American sport rely on consistent schedules maintained to the level of the hour. In 2014, Kendrys Morales infamously took until June to sign with a team after rejecting a qualifying offer with the Seattle Mariners, and proceeded to look nothing like the 2-win player he had consistently been over the previous four seasons. Fearing this, the MLBPA announced they will hold a camp specifically for those unsigned free agents, giving the nearly 100 players a place to begin their spring workouts with the dim hope that the next month looks very different than the few which preceded it.

Others have joked an entire team could be crafted out of the remaining pool of players, not merely a collection of 25 players but rather a team which could actually compete for a playoff spot. One such thought experiment from back in early January fielded a team that came out to about 35 wins using Steamer’s projections, which would fit them somewhere right around the middle of the projected pack for a Wild Card spot. (PECOTA called 84-78). It’s a fun concept, and even more interesting to think about in the context of a league which, in Jerry Dipoto’s words, is full of more teams competing for the #1 draft pick than game seven of the World Series.

One could easily take Dipoto at his word here–but we certainly don’t have to (at least not to the conclusions for team building that he draws from this notion). But considering the fact that a large number of fans will spend 2018 watching their team either pretending mediocrity is tenable or dynamiting their way to the 2022 Fall Classic, I offer you instead, my 25 man roster filled with players who have retired in the last 3 years.

To be clear, we aren’t going for wins here. Character doesn’t matter–this is about proving a theoretical point. It took me like ten minutes to come up with this list thanks only to one tab of retirements listed on Wikipedia and another set to fangraphs player pages. Ten minutes! That might tell you something about me, or it could tell you something about the new floor in the post-Moneyball era of the game.

I am no baseball expert in ANY way shape or form, but I firmly and fundamentally believe that this team could probably finish with a better record than the Marlins, and to be entirely honest, I’d rather watch this than whatever is going to be happening down there. So here we go:

STARTERS

C: David Ross
1B: Alex Rodriguez
2B: Will Venable
SS: Paul Janish
3B: Aramis Ramirez
LF: Brennan Boesch
CF: Will Venable
RF: Jeff Francoeur
DH: David Ortiz

BENCH

1B: Carlos Beltran
OF: Michael Cuddyer
OF: Nolan Reimold
UTL: Torii Hunter
C: Eric Fryer

ROTATION

1: Matt Cain
2: Dan Haren
3: Bruce Chen
4: Matt Cain
5: Tim Hudson

BULLPEN

RP: Joe Nathan
RP: Rafael Soriano
RP: Joe Beimel
RP: Bronson Arroyo
RP: Jeremy Affeldt
RP: Erik Bedard

So in other words, have fun in South Beach, Starlin Castro.

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Colin Anderle
2/14
Will Venable at both 2B and CF seems like it'd be the most interesting storyline in baseball, hands down.
jnossal
2/16
That and the fragile Matt Cain making 65 starts.

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