Tuesday Morning Rant: The Face of the MLB

from Nick Suss

Feb. 25, 2014, 10:01 a.m.

When I was a freshman in high school, I was way too obsessed with sports. You think I’m obsessed now, but when I was in ninth grade, I had nothing else. I had no other interests. I had sports. I had only been watching SNL for a few months. I wouldn’t see the finale of Friends for another year and a half. I didn’t have Netflix, nor would I for three years. Sports were my entire life. And I needed an outlet for my nerdy obsession with sports. So I started to rant.

Every Tuesday morning, following in the place of my – at the time – writing hero Gregg Easterbook of Tuesday Morning Quarterback, I would meet up with my friends under a tree outside of our school and compose a “well-articulated” argument about something I disagreed with in sports. I ranted every Tuesday morning from September of 2008 through December of 2009, returning every once in a while when I needed to.

Tuesday Morning Rants, when I think back, were really my gateway drug into journalism. So, believe me when I say these mean something to me. And I’m bringing them back. In a written form. Because I want to write sports for StoriesHouse, but I don’t want it to be what I write with journalism. I want to keep it “me.” So let’s start it off. Here we go.

We have now reached the semifinals in MLB.com’s “Face of the MLB Bracket.” (This) Obviously, I have a bone to pick with this bracket. Because it’s garbage. Seriously, take a look at this bracket closely. Then scream your throat out. Because seriously. This is garbage. I could rather easily go team by team and evaluate why a good six teams are dead wrong as to who is representing them and then redo the bracket myself, but that isn’t my style. I’m just going to complain about a few major elements.

For starters, let’s take a look at the final four, bracket by bracket, shall we? In one corner you have Felix Hernandez. King Felix is undoubtedly a top-5 pitcher in the American League and the undisputed face of the Mariners despite Robinson Cano’s now-and-forever-expiring contract. He is a great pitcher stuck on a crappy, crappy team. He deserves most of the accolades he receives. But he should not have made it past the first round of this bracket! Back in round one, Hernandez took on reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen. If you find me one person who values Hernandez’ ridiculous skill set over McCutchen’s ridiculous skill set, you have found me a person who misses the point of the everday player. This isn’t to say that no pitcher could feasibly be the face of baseball, we’ll get there, but this is to say that Hernandez is in no way more important to baseball than the best position player in the elder League. But okay, I’ll let the McCutchen game slide. But look who else Hernandez had to go through. Hernandez next went through Chase Utley (who shouldn’t have beaten Evan Longoria, for the record) which I can see as a good matchup in favor of King Felix. But then he went against Joey Votto. Joey Votto. The sabermetric king. My golden boy. The defending champion of the “Face of the MLB” bracket and a possessor of a first-round bye. No way in hell Hernandez is face of baseball over Votto. No way in hell. But here’s the thing: Votto shouldn’t have even made it out of the second round. But for some reason, the fans decided to try to bestow the honor of Face of the MLB on Paul Goldschmidt, a great player who deserves recognition, over the best player in baseball. That’s right. Paul Goldschmidt, a man many of you probably still haven’t heard of, bested Mike Trout in the first round. WHAT?!?!?!? First Trout gets sniped out for a Gold Glove back-to-back years. Then he doesn’t win an MVP he deserved last season. Now this? No disrespect to Felix Hernandez or Andrew McCutchen or my favorite non-Yankee in baseball, but Trout should have taken this quadrant easily. No questions asked.

On to the lower left quadrant where David Wright is competing against Hernandez in the semis. Again, I’d like to add the caveat that I respect the hell out of David Wright and believe him to be an excellent baseball player stuck in a crappy, crappy situation. (Not the first time and not the last time I’ll use that phrase.) Wright deserved to win in the first round; he got a good draw against Alex Gordon and earned the victory. But then he beat Miguel Cabrera. I’ll repeat for emphasis’ sake. But then he beat Miguel Cabrera. The best hitter the game his seen since Bonds’ head was two sizes smaller. The man who pulled a Benjamin Gates and pulled a dusty relic we once knew as the Triple Crown out from the dungeon the Free Masons were hiding it in. The two-time defending AL MVP. A man that seriously would have a claim for unmistakable best player in the game if Trout wasn’t here to murk everything up. David Wright is a fine third baseman. But Miguel Cabrera is a better hitter wearing a blindfold and earplugs, and I say that knowing Wright is a career .301 hitter with 222 home runs. But okay, if you want to say that Wright is more well-rounder, I’ll give you that. But who’d he face next? Oh yeah, the third and final player in baseball who could claim the right to being the best in the game. That pitcher that dominated so hard last season that every time he toed the rubber, I feared he would managed to get nine outs an inning and end the game in three. That’s how good Clayton Kershaw is. I would go as far as to nominate Kershaw for this symbolic crown before Cabrera. But I’d take both of them over Wright.

Then we go to the upper right bracket. This is the weaker side of the bracket, the right side is, and the upper right honestly on has two men who you could make the case for winning, and those two players faced off in the second round. Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays slugger, hacked his way out of this bracket like he was swinging at an Adam Wainwright curveball, but somehow came out ahead. Because seriously, look who he beat in the elite 8. If there was one man who carried any sort of symbolic momentum into this fan farce I’m over-analyzing, it would have to be Derek Jeter, right? The news of his retirement alone, coupled with the fact that this would be the closest thing to an MVP he ever earned in his career, should make him the face of baseball, at least for a few more months. Not to mention, Jose Bautista might not even the best power hitter on the Blue Jays right now. He and Edwin Encarnacion are practically the same player. Differentiating between them is pretty much impossible. So is Bautista the face of baseball? Of course not. Is he even the face of the Blue Jays? Maybe not. Should he have beaten Derek Jeter? Not a snowball’s chance in a cat scanner.

And then there’s the final quadrant. I want to lay into this quadrant harder than I’ve ever wanted to hit anything baseball related that wasn’t affiliated with Boston. This bracket looks worse than Rick Ankiel pitching. This bracket looks worse than the Braves in the playoffs. (I went there.) This bracket looks dumber than Brian Wilson’s beard. This bracket is about as plausible as the Cubs and Astros competing for the World Series. This bracket sucks harder than the Rockies’ pitching rotation. If this bracket were a batting average, it would be Adam Dunn’s. This bracket struck out more times than Mark Reynolds has in his career. This bracket looks about as natural as the decaying corpse of Paul Konerko trying to leg a bloop single into right into a double. I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t approve.

Let’s go round by round. First, no Astro should beat Yadier Molina. That’s that. Second, Buster Posey beating Adam Jones is fine, but Adam Jones shouldn’t be the face of the Orioles. That should belong to Manny Machado. Third, Troy Tulowitzki may be the third best position player on the Rockies by output – I’d be in favor of putting Carlos Gonzalez on this bracket – but neither of them should beat Adrian Beltre, who shouldn’t even be on this bracket over Yu Darvish. Fourth, and most importantly, Eric Sogard’s existence on this bracket makes me despise the human condition. Eric Sogard might be the single worst starter on the Athletics. He should not have beaten Anthony Rizzo, not because Rizzo is any good (he isn’t), but because Sogard has never had a season with a WAR higher than 2.0. And he’s only had one season in the positives. Ever other season he’s played besides last year, when he was mediocre, he was worse than a replacement player. Meanwhile, Josh Donaldson just reeled off one of the best seasons in recent memory and isn’t on the bracket. How Sogard made the bracket is beyond me. How he beat Rizzo is incomprehensible. How he beat Tulo is ridiculous. How he beat Buster Posey is the dumbest thing in the world. Like ever. So I’ll say this real quick: if Eric Sogard wins this bracket, I have lost faith in baseball fans. This would be worse than the time Peyton Hillis was on the cover of Madden. At least people have heard of Peyton Hillis. Only hardcore baseball nerds have even heard of Eric Sogard, and even then they have to look up his numbers to see if he’s any good like I did.

So who should win of who’s left? I honestly don’t care. I’ll give it to Felix so at least the Mariners can win something for once. But by giving it to Felix I’m giving to the fourth-best player on his side of the bracket. Kind of like every AL Gold Glove the last two years. But what else can you say, that’s baseball.


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