MLB: Texas Rangers-Press Conference

God bless Fanfest weekend. Just when the natives reach peak restlessness, the baseball powers dust off a few players and fan favorites and invite everybody down to the ballpark, or the mall, or the hotel convention space, to celebrate the beginning of the season and pass the hat for season ticket holders.

It is a wonderful time of year, full of hope and promise. Management uses this platform to made great pronouncements for the coming season or, in the case of the Brewers, they finally announce/confirm a big free agent signing. (Matt Garza, finally an official Brewer!)

It is also a time for wonderful truth that comes disguised as a free pass for failings in a previous life. Bryce Harper? Injured! Injured pretty much all the time, he told reporters at Natsfest. His knee was a problem before he crashed headlong into a Dodger Stadium fence. But now? He’s great!

Ryan Braun probably shook every hand at the Brewers “On Deck” event, swearing up and down that 2014 will be a great year for him, telling folks he’ll be “better than I’ve ever been.” Well that’s a relief.

Shin-Soo Choo? He reassured Rangers fans that his troubles against left-handed pitcher are over. In the past. Just something he will wave a billfold over and poof – fixed. Meanwhile, his new teammates were talking. Adrian Beltre? He thinks Prince Fielder will win the MVP in the American League this season.

It’s all harmless stuff and we could keep digging to dredge up more hopeful quotes and resolute promises made during these events. It is easy to remember how rare these instances actually are – fans and superstars in the same room, rubbing elbows and getting face time.

Freed from the grind of the season, players get to see the faces of the people who make their jobs possible so we can forgive the odd player who blurts out something imbued with a sense of hope rather than a rote cliche about doing their best. It’s refreshing, honestly. And humanizing. These guys want to win and they want to make the fans happy. I think I can forgive a few empty promises at the end of January.

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Weird. WEIRD. Mascots – the strangest.

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The San Diego Padres decided to crowdsource their public address announcer for the 2014 season, in honor of the 10th anniversary of their move to Petco Park, holding an open casting call yesterday for hopefuls at the ballpark. More than 500 people showed up, forming a line that snaked all around the Gaslamp district.

From news reports, it looks like the longest, blandest, most middle-aged American Idol tryout of all time. One report suggested there was, in fact, one female contestant. One. Better than zero, I suppose. Good luck to all who tried out and good luck to the guy the Padres up and fired to make this promotion possible.

There is no offseason when you’re Big Z

There was a brawl in a Venezuelan Winter League game this weekend. Carlos Zambrano was involved. Carlo Zambrano is almost always involved. If you click this link, you we see video of Carlos Zambrano involving himself in a serious way in what was, before Zambrano’s involvement, a pretty tame situation.

Photo of the weekend

Japan's PM Abe holds the World Series trophy while Boston Red Sox pitchers Tazawa, Uehara and Red Sox mascot Wally look on at Abe's office in Tokyo

Why, is that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wearing a Red Sox jersey, holding the World Series trophy while standing beside the Red Sox mascot Wally (!), Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara? You are damn right it is. I wonder if Abe prepped Koji with some inside info about the job he is sure to hold one day soon.

(photo from midweek, sue me)

Life inside a Baseball Reference rabbit hole

This weekend, I read about Twins third base prospect Miguel Sano – by all accounts a total beast and budding offensive star. Sano currently plays third base, but during Twins Fanfest on the weekend, somebody let slip that Sano weighted in around 250 pounds these days.

This piece of information caused the good folks at MLB Prospect Watch to note (quite gently), that the list of 250 lb third basemen is very short. In that: there have not been any in baseball history. Some, like Scott Rolen, were close. But few are as big as Sano (who recently grew an inch and now stands 6’4.)

It got me thinking about Alex Rodriguez‘s playing weight, which is listed at 225 lbs but is probably much more than that because he’s enormous. After checking his weight, I started looking over his numbers, and the relative lack of intentional walks. I wondered if he got fewer free passes in his career than Barry Bonds did in 2004 and it turns out, perversely, he did. A-Rod has 92 intentional walks in his career, Barry Bonds got 120 in that one season alone.

Then I wondered about big IBB years – how many players received more than 30 intentional walks in a single season? The answer? Not many. Barry Bonds leads, of course, but only a few players garnered that sort of “respect” and/or played with that many crappy hitters.

Seasons with 30 or more intentional walks

Rk Yrs From To Age
1 Barry Bonds 10 1992 2007 27-42 Ind. Seasons
2 Albert Pujols 3 2008 2010 28-30 Ind. Seasons
3 Ryan Howard 2 2006 2007 26-27 Ind. Seasons
4 Willie McCovey 2 1969 1970 31-32 Ind. Seasons
5 Prince Fielder 1 2011 2011 27-27 Ind. Seasons
6 Adrian Gonzalez 1 2010 2010 28-28 Ind. Seasons
7 Miguel Cabrera 1 2010 2010 27-27 Ind. Seasons
8 Vladimir Guerrero 1 2002 2002 27-27 Ind. Seasons
9 Sammy Sosa 1 2001 2001 32-32 Ind. Seasons
10 John Olerud 1 1993 1993 24-24 Ind. Seasons
11 Kevin Mitchell 1 1989 1989 27-27 Ind. Seasons
12 George Brett 1 1985 1985 32-32 Ind. Seasons
13 Ted Williams 1 1957 1957 38-38 Ind. Seasons
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/26/2014.

Then I wondered if anybody in baseball touched 30 in 2013. Turns out no, David Ortiz lead both leagues with 27 IBBs in 2013. Then I scrolled down the list a bit and noticed a few strange things. Most notably, the number of hitters who were intentionally walked more than Mike Trout. Andre Ethier, who is a good player and all but COME ON.

Now, opposing managers might be reluctant to walk Mike Trout due to his base running prowess but I personally struggle to understand why anybody felt the need to walk Andre Ethier intentionally eleven different times last year. Eleven! Twice in the same game? Bruce Bochy are you high?

After spending some time kicking around the logs of game in which Andre Ethier was intentionally walked twice (twice? Twice. GREAT JOB, BOCH), you try thinking about Ethier’s career body of work as it relates to his trade value as it relates to his contract. Then you realize that despite being a good/decent/at worst average player in the big leagues since 2006, Mike Trout passed Andre Ethier in career WAR sometime in September.

Rk Player WAR/pos From To Age G PA BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Mike Trout 20.8 2011 2013 19-21 336 1490 .314 .404 .544 .948
2 Andre Ethier 19.4 2006 2013 24-31 1145 4536 .288 .362 .470 .832
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/26/2014.

At some point, stuff like this will stop entertaining me. It should happen soon because it is going to keep happening, hopefully for a long time. But for now, this is the end point of most Baseball Reference labyrinths. Mike Trout and Barry Bonds, BR’s alpha and omega.

Come on over and do the twist

Krist Novoselic, everybody. Forever in weirdness.