My 11 Favorite Articles of the Past Year
With the World Series over, I’ll be taking the most needed two weeks off of my life to catch up on sleep, bang out the rest of Up, Up, & Away, and reintroduce myself to society, after eight straight months of shutting myself in my office 15 hours a day like some kind of stathead Gollum.
Before taking off, here are my 11 favorite pieces from the past calendar year…written by me. Normally I try to share the best stuff out there by others, be it from sports, pop culture, politics, or whatever. But since Internet content tends to be consumed in such a narrow window, and because this is my damn post and I can do whatever the hell I want, you’re getting some self-promotion! This is all free and voluntary! I am using exclamation points!
Anyway, here you go. Thanks a million for reading (and listening) all year long. You are all awesome, and I would share my many Nelson Santovenia cards with all of you if I could.
11) “The Fallacy of the Baseball Hall of Fame”: The Hall of Fame gets me riled up and makes me want to write 3,000-word rants.
10) “R.I.P. Pascual Perez: The Ultimate 80s ‘Perimeter’ Player”: Sad to learn about any beloved former Expo dying, of course, especially under the kind of tragic circumstances that befell Pascual. Still, reminiscing about one of the most colorful players in Expos history, I couldn’t help but smile.
8) “Cabrera Continues to Make History”: Stare at images of Miguel Cabrera demolishing pitches eight inches off the inside corner. Possibly forever.
7) “We Went There: Mariano Rivera’s Last Home Game”: Got a chance to be at Yankee Stadium for the final home game of Mo’s career, and it didn’t disappoint. Just a terrific atmosphere at the ballpark.
6) “Watch Out for Crush Davis: How a good power hitter became a great one, with insight from Orioles coaches, and Chris Davis himself. Lots of explanatory GIFs, tables, and heat maps, with big thanks to the crew at ESPN Stats & Info, the best and hardest-working research staff in the business.
5) “The Rise and Fall of the Milwaukee Brewers”: Possibly the most words anyone has ever written about the Milwaukee Brewers. Talked to owner Mark Attanasio, General Manager Doug Melvin, and others about the state of the franchise two years after an impressive run to the playoffs. tl;dr: Kids, hope for good drafting and player development, or your team could be hosed.
4) “The Growing Legend of Clayton Kershaw”: Everything you ever wanted to know about the best pitcher on Earth. I’m especially partial to the Vin Scully video near the beginning, and the Inception story.
3) “The Grantland Dictionary: Baseball Edition”: Editor extraordinaire Sarah Larimer pitched an idea for an all-encompassing baseball dictionary that would include everything from statistical terms to old baseball expressions to current team- and player-specific memes. Couldn’t say yes fast enough. Still can’t stop staring at Edwin Encarnacion with a parrot on his shoulder. So. Much. Fun.
2) “Grand Theft Baseball”: My favorite reported piece of the 2013 season, really one of my favorites ever. Spring training offers the kind of access that you usually can’t get during the regular season. Players have more downtime, PR departments (and those players) are more willing to grant something beyond five minutes of pregame scrum access, and the general mood in March allows for more thoughtful and reflective discussion. In this case, the A’s PR department was great in setting me up with Coco Crisp. Moreover, Crisp was an absolute delight. I snagged him from the clubhouse a little before 8 am, walked him over to the dugout where it was quiet, showed him a series of GIFs on my laptop, then asked him to weigh in on what he saw from each pitcher/situation shown, and how he’d try to steal a base in that particular situation. He was patient, gracious, and incredibly insightful, and the end result was a piece that combined visual elements with so many great thoughts from Crisp. Additional chats with Pete Rose (in Vegas) and Willie Wilson (by phone) offered some good sidebar nuggets too. Willie Wilson, by the way, is delightful.
1) “The New Springfield Nine”: The piece that reminded me once and for all that Grantland is the best.
Me: “So I have this crazy idea, where I riff off the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team episode of The Simpsons, only instead of Steve Sax and Darryl Strawberry being on the team, we update it to include current active players, then concoct ridiculous tragedies for each of them. Would that be cool?”
Amazing Editor Philbrick: “Sure!”
Massive thanks to my buddy Jon Selig for brainstorming on this one, though really, we probably would’ve had this preposterous conversation at some point whether or not an article was going to be published.