Now that the empty fanfare and empty calories of Opening Day are behind us, with their paeans to grass and their predictions of who will “be good” and “win the most baseball games,” it’s time to get to the good stuff. And in what is two-thirds of the way toward being a pattern, the folks at Short Relief are here to supply you with the hard stuff: not numbers, or results, but what very real things are going to happen this year in the world of baseball. Please enjoy, and use your newly obtained knowledge of the future for the sake of good, and not create paradoxes that necessitate the backbreaking labor of already-overworked timecops. Thank you.
On Thursday, August 15th, the Indianapolis Indians are holding The Bachelor Night with Ben Higgins, in which the Indiana native and “fan favorite” Bachelor contestant will make an appearance. Two weeks before this event takes place, some head of marketing will generate the idea of Ballpark Bachelorette, in which the single players on the team will compete to win a date with a woman in attendance at the game.
The press release for the event will contain the phrases “chicks dig the long ball,” “who will strike out?,” and “only one will steal second.” Within an hour of its release, Baseball Twitter will be in full meltdown mode over the event, split between those calling out the promotion for its sexism and those defending it on the grounds of it being “harmless fun.” The ensuing carnage will result in 9,532 tweets, 475 blocked accounts, 97 arguments long enough to mention Hitler, and @PatriotPete becoming the newest enemy of Leftist Baseball Twitter.
Within 12 hours of the initial tweet, the team will issue a second press release, claiming the first was issued without authorization and apologizing to anyone who was offended by its contents and the event itself. America’s Favorite Bachelor™ Ben Higgins will remain silent on the issue, opting to propose to his girlfriend at the game in order to grab another People Magazine cover and extend his fifteen minutes.
This entire affair will be only the sixth-most problematic event conceived by a minor league team this season.
Bryce Harper will utter, verbally or on social media, the phrase “Philly Philly,” a reference to the Bud Light corporate tagline, “Dilly Dilly,” as well as to Nick Foles’ famous play call of the Philly Special in Super Bowl LII. He will say this because of its crowd-pleasing prominence in the Philadelphia sports lexicon, and also because he has a team of public relations experts speaking into an earpiece he is wearing at all times, so that he remains not only the biggest signing in Phillies history, but the most seamless one culturally, as well. This could also manifest itself in the form of him suggesting that both Pat’s and Geno’s are garbage, and how his Lyft driver missed the Fifth Street tunnel and accidentally took him across the Ben Franklin into New Jersey.
Mitch Hedberg worked hard to be a really good stand-up comedian, so when Hollywood kept asking him if he could act and write scripts, two things that are not the same as performing stand-up comedy, Hedberg made an analogy. “Alright, you’re a cook. Can you farm?” Mike Trout is going to gradually realize he is the cook in Hedberg’s joke that isn’t a joke. He’s one of the greatest baseball players to walk the Earth. That’s nice, but can you be charming and possess precise comedic timing at the drop of a hat? I dare ya to sell me this Chevy, Gold Glove Boy! Disco dancing with a football player and chaperoning an All-Star lineup of youthful baseball personalities is a start with an unsatisfying ending. It’ll never be enough. Kicking ass at his job should be enough. Should have. Never has been.
So Mike Trout is going to gamble on baseball.
He is going to pretend to, is what I meant. He’ll make some comment after a game, like “Harvey’s 3-2 change? What guts. If he served up a dinger I would have made him pay the vig.” He wouldn’t even know if those words, in that order, made sense. But it would be enough. He would say he misspoke, but when his BWARP for the season is ticketed for under 50 the allegations will be constant. Trout won’t read any of them. He’ll be locked in, as always. On his job. Only now, the whole world will be watching. Everybody loves the bad boy.
During the thirteenth inning of a late July contest between the Giants and Padres, as the rest of the country sleeps, all drowned men will return from the sea. Aquamarine spirits of forgotten civilizations will slide across streets and fields, their silent firefly luminescence almost hypnotic, their eyeless skeleton grins unchanging and unnoticing. A horrified world will erupt into chaos and looting, before property rights will overcome the endless terrors of the visages of the dead, as society waits uneasily for the ghosts to kill, or speak, or sing. But they will do none of those things, only float endlessly and aimlessly. The cults will disband, their rockets half-built and rusting. And eventually order will renew, people will commute to their jobs, and baseball will resume, familiar and dependable. Identical, except with new rules included for when the batter’s vision is disrupted by the hazy presence of a family of four, murdered by thieves on a mountain highway.
It’s July 30. The Baltimore Orioles have had a rough season, to put it mildly, but one glaring stat stands out: they’ve yet to hit a triple. They came close in 2016 with six triples, with not a single player massing more than one. Last year their team leader had three, but deep in fifth place, the entire 2019 team had been longing to see a three-bagger. So they sweetened the deal. Each day, when someone was in the starting lineup, they’d add one fresh, undisturbed sheet of bubble wrap to the pile. The first person to get a triple that year gets all the bubble wrap.
Jonathan Villar, having a very good season in his own right, has speed but no triples this year. They’re playing in San Diego, in a very spacious park. This could be the night. Villar looks in and turns on a fastball into the gap. He runs to first. It splits the outfielders. He’s headed for second. The ball takes a slightly weird hop, but not an incredibly odd hop. Maybe that’s enough. Villar puts his head down and rounds second. He feels it in his bones. The bubble wrap is all his!
He finally looks up to see if he needs to slide. Instead of the third base coach, it’s general manager Mike Elias, in a polo shirt, holding both hands up.
“Jonathan,” Elias says. “This hit doesn’t count, unfortunately. We just traded you to a contending team. You need to leave now.”
Villar, dumbfounded but excited, trots off the field, gives his teammates the ceremonial hugs, and trots into the clubhouse awaiting his next journey.
Elias just acquired an aging Double-A arm with little control, but more importantly, he’s one step closer to claiming the bubble wrap by default.
On Tuesday, April 2, after hosting the Angels, the Mariners will return to the clubhouse. Yusei Kikuchi will notice a small, bedraggled cat that has somehow squished herself into a hiding place near his locker. Using soothing sounds, he will coax the frightened cat to come out. Dee Gordon will be the first to see what Kikuchi is doing, and will bring some turkey. The hungry cat will eat quickly, keeping one eye on the two players.
The others will come to see what’s going on. A few of them will bring more turkey. Soon, all 25 Mariners will be helping to feed the cat. She will relax. Satiated, she will sit up on her haunches and look at Tim Beckham, squeezing her eyes in a smile. Then she will roll over on her back, pull her little front paws up to her chin, and point her little ears at the 25 men gathered around her. This will be so adorable that they will adopt her on the spot and name her Ichi.
After eating all that turkey, Ichi will give herself a bath. The players will be incredulous at the sight of her flexibility. They will ask assistant athletic trainers Matt Toth and Yoshihiro Nakazawa to develop a stretching and strengthening regimen that emulates Ichi’s bathing. After the players begin the regimen, they will start showing literal cat-like quickness in games, and not one Mariner will spend time on the IL. Giving care and comfort to a scared creature will have an ineffable effect on the team. Their hearts united in Ichi, the Mariners will win the 2019 World Series.
The Indians jog out of the dugout for the top of the third at Minute Maid Park. As Trevor Bauer takes the mound, the placid late April sky suddenly turns dark and ominous. The wind begins to howl, but there’s no rain. Not yet. Glancing at the sky, Bauer shrugs and throws his first pitch of the inning to Yuli Gurriel. Swing and a miss. Amidst the murmur of sky and crowd, Bauer sets himself to throw again. And again, Gurriel misses. After a wasted slider, the sky suddenly opens up and rain begins to fall. But it seems to be falling in slow motion. Bauer looks to the dugout where Tito Francona nods for him to continue. As he looks to Roberto Perez for the sign, Thanos appears to step from the sky. The sky is suddenly calm again. The clouds are gone. The rain has stopped. The wind is no longer howling. The crowd braces themselves to prepare for whatever havoc he plans to wreak on them. Thanos, without speaking, turns to the ballpark, snaps his fingers, and… Trevor Bauer turns to dust.
They say you can’t steal first base, but since when does Ned Yost let other people tell him what to do? On Wednesday, April 17th, the Kansas City Royals will face the Chicago White Sox, and the Royals will execute the triple – no, quadruple steal with Lucas Giolito on the mound. Billy Hamilton will be on third, Whit Merrifield on second, and Adalberto Mondesi on first, and everyone will be baffled when Yost brings in Terrance Gore to pinch-hit, his first plate appearance of the season.
It will soon fall into place: Gore will break for first before Giolito can even release the ball, and in the time it takes Giolito’s jaw to drop, Hamilton will come hurtling home. When Giolito finally does deliver the ball to Welington Castillo, there will be a cloud of dust around home plate where Hamilton once was, while Merrifield, Mondesi and Gore are dusting themselves on their new bases. Sure, the umpires will make some fuss about this not really being legal, and insist that all involved return to their original positions. To everyone who loves fun, however, it will go down as the first quadruple steal in MLB history. The Royals will thrill baseball fans everywhere by stealing 257 bases in total, making us barely notice that they finish at 52-110.
The year is 2050, and the ocean has taken so much from us. Florida is gone, what remains is inhabited by a combination of manatee-human hybrids, people who’ve biohacked gills, and Derek Jeter, who’s convinced that this is the Marlins’ year. On the west coast, Dodgers Stadium sits, the tide pushing the dirt of the mound where Koufax and Kershaw once pitched like so much sand. Elsewhere, Trevor Bauer stands and denies his shoes are wet. Who could have seen this coming?
In Anaheim, one of the greats sits in his chair in the city that made him rich, atop a robust infrastructure of seawalls, canals, and impeccable drainage. Obsess over the weather, they said, who would do such a thing? Who would, indeed?
Holly M. Wendt
While the Phillies welcome a host of new faces in the 2019 season, they’re also planning to say goodbye to three mainstays of the team’s last competitive dynasty: Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Chase Utley. All former Phils will be honored with pre-game ceremonies, which is, of course, fitting. Both Howard and Utley officially retired in the late months of 2018—Howard in September and Utley after close of the season. Rollins, however, has never officially announced his retirement, though he hasn’t played in an MLB game since 2016.
However, he’s been a familiar face at this spring’s Grapefruit League activities, having been hired by the Phillies as a special advisor to the team to fulfill both business-related roles and to work with the new crop of players on the field as they prepare for the season. And, indeed, Rollins has certainly done the latter; he spent multiple games on the dugout steps in Clearwater, clad in familiar red and white. He looked at home there. He probably took some cuts in the cage, probably pounced on a few hard hops to show the new kids how it’s done.
But on May 4, it would appear that Jimmy Rollins will finally call quits his playing career. That’s what the fanfare is about, why the Phillies are offering as their promotional item a 2008 World Champions replica ring.
That’s how it all looks. But I think it would be wise, on May 4, for someone to keep an eye on Jean Segura and Scott Kingery and even Malquin Canelo and Sean Rodriguez out in Lehigh Valley. On the afternoon of May 4, someone will need to check all the closets, to listen for muffled pleas for help, to make sure the shortstop who bounds across the baseline is the one on the lineup card. Because Jimmy said, in an interview last spring with Matt Gelb: when he retires, it’s going to be on his own terms.
My real life, no-nonsense predictions focus as they usually do on that which history itself demands year in and year out. First: a new team will surprise everyone and claim their moment in Time, and it’s the Phillies this time. Yes, I know, but it will work well. Second, some classic franchise is going to be grasping for straws of relevancy and will, inevitably, expose the failure of any organization which could pay a free agent more than beer money but chooses not to because of, you know, the Market. It is the End of History, after all (Giants).
I might say something about my own team, the Seattle Mariners, but at this rate “predicting” anything about that good for nothing coterie of jabronis is a trap designed to destroy anyone who bothers to give up more than a “meh,” so I’ll leave my final prediction of the year with this: It’s the last year we get before the coming labor crisis kicks into full gear, and young players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and payday vets like Bryce Harper will put together one last season for the ages before nuking it all. Also the Mets will find a way to blow it.
I went to my first major league baseball game in 2002. While I’m more of a TV/radio fan than a ballpark fan, I’ve still gone to enough baseball games to where you’d expect that I’d catch a foul ball or two. The 2019 season is here and I still have yet to get one. I could just remedy this situation by buying an official baseball from one of the stores at my local ballpark, but where’s the fun in just buying your way to your dreams?
I want to earn this. I want to have the experience of sitting at the stadium during the middle of the evening and looking up in the night sky trying to grab a harmless foul ball that just came off of the bat of Charlie Culberson. I want to make a clean catch, cherish that moment and the sting of my palm and then immediately give the ball to some kid that’s nearby. I don’t even want to keep the ball, I just want the experience of getting one of those things while avoiding a jumbotron embarrassment in the process. I will catch a foul ball this season and I will brag about it at the bar, and I’m speaking it into existence right now.
Inspired by the bold Brandon Nimmo, children and adults alike will be filming videos of themselves licking raw whole chickens to raise awareness of low wages for minor league players. PETA will respond with their own campaign centered around the inhumane conditions under which the chickens were slaughtered. The Food Bank of New York City will respond critically in terms of the food waste as fans, in disgust, will almost uniformly throw out the chickens once they’ve been licked. A complex viral-video-to-table market will emerge, and minor leaguers will dine on roast licked chicken until a contract agreement is reached in late 2021.
At some point in 2019, I will feel like I’m about done with this game. A shortstop will be arrested for domestic violence. Or a pitcher will sic a Twitter mob on a cancer patient. Or an outfielder in A-ball will starve to death. And I’ll feel awful that I use my dollars to support an institution that does not share my values. I will feel angry and small and powerless to do anything more than complain about it online and withhold those dollars, knowing that no one is going to miss them because revenues will continue to rise even in the face of the sport’s declining popularity.
This game will make make me feel bad. It will make me feel foolish. And I will take a night off to pay attention to my family in the way that a good father and partner should.
And then I will decide that that was a bad idea. I will slink back to baseball. I will crack a beer and watch the Twins take an early lead, get up in the middle to put my daughter to bed, and come back to find they’ve blown it. I will be disappointed when they wind up losing by a run after a late-inning rally falls short. But I’ll still be back.
I’ll return because the pull is stronger than my principles. Baseball makes me weak. I will love it too much to let it slip away, just like I have a thousand times before. My past is prologue.
Thank you for reading
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