Did you know the Chicago Cubs won the World Series? It’s the end of 2016, and here we are, looking back at the year that was, and no one is pointing out that the Cubs won the World Series. Seems like everyone has forgotten, even though you would think that we would be inundated with Cubs stories right now. You know, articles like “The Cubs Are 2016’s Biggest Story,” “Year In Review: Cubs, Cubs, Cubs,” “The Cubs Won the World Series in 2016, Which Is the Year the Cubs Won the World Series.”
And yet there’s nothing.
No, wait, there they are.
But there are stories a lot of us have forgotten about. It’s a long year and a long season, and looking back, there are topics and takes that seemed very, very important at the time, but didn’t really last. Your mileage may vary, but here are the 10 stories that made me think, “Oh, yeaaaah, that’s right” when I looked back at what I had written in 2016.
For a day in 2016, there were people arguing if it was a good idea for bad teams to focus on development and youth. No, seriously. Here’s proof. It was framed as “tanking,” which is isn’t a term that applies to baseball. Maybe, maybe, maybe there’s a way to tank and acquire purposefully below-replacement players the year before a special, consensus no. 1 pick — Ken Griffey, Jr., Bryce Harper, Delmon Young — but we haven’t seen any evidence of that. Save the takes for then.
Until then, there was a weird series of complaints from baseball folks about teams focusing on the future.
“I think it’s a problem for the sport,” said an executive of an American League contender, looking at the state of the NL from afar. “I think the whole system is screwed up, because I think it actually incentivizes not winning. And that’s a big issue going forward.”
No, it incentivizes not paying kinda-sorta-okay players millions and millions to languish on a bad team and general sustainability. You can see how the Phillies might contend again. You can see the same for the Braves. The Padres are taking the idea to the extreme (with absolutely no guaranteed contracts on the roster past this season), but they’re loaded with prospects.
Cut to the end of 2016, and the White Sox are getting all sorts of credit for their deft, effective rebuild, even though there was a strong argument for them contending. Go figure.
9. The Blue Jays being weird with Aaron Sanchez
In a post-Strasburg, post-Harvey world, everyone’s a little touchy about innings limits and caution, and in June, the Blue Jays hinted that they would move Aaron Sanchez to the bullpen after the All-Star break.
It was a huge story — a contending team moving its breakout starter to the bullpen, where pitchers can also get hurt. And then … it didn’t happen. Sanchez made 30 starts and threw 192 innings. Then he made two starts in the postseason. That’s very calm, measured, and normal.
I think they were just messing with us.
Man, I would have so much fun with all of you if I were in a front office.
8. The Marlins wanting Andrew Cashner on purpose
And, lo, the Marlins looked at their pitching and decided it was bad, and verily yon GM surveyed the pitching landscape and decided to make the first trade of the season.
“But he’s not good,” the masses reminded Marlins GM Whose Name I Totally Didn’t Forget Just Now.
“That’s okay. Maybe he is,” he said.
“No, that’s the point, he’s not. And he’s a free agent in two months. Also, he’s not very good,” everyone shrieked.
“We’ll just have to agree to disagree, and whoops, some of my best prospects just fell out of my pocket,” Hill said, that’s right, it’s Michael Hill, and he’s the President of Baseball Operations, which I knew the whole time and didn’t have to google.
Then Cashner was underwhelming and the Marlins fell out of the race. Go figure.
7. Trevor Story on pace to break Barry Bonds’ career home run record
Trevor Story could have been the Rookie of the Year. At the very least, he could have made a race with Corey Seager. That’s how good his season was before he was hurt. He had a .769 OPS in May, .893 in June, and .992 in July, so he had already adjusted to the adjustments the league made.
But in the first week of the season, Story hit six home runs in his first 19 plate appearances, and he was the big narrative of the early season. You know, the big event. He was the piece of news on baseball’s mind, the big talk-about-it thing.
The big to-do. The big what-for around the sport.
Feels like there’s a word that’s just on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t find it. Anyway, turns out that Story was merely an excellent rookie shortstop, not a record-setting behemoth who would make the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. It’s so easy to forget yourself in April.
6. Adam Jones making completely lucid points about Colin Kaepernick
Just as the dumb and important Colin Kaepernick story was winding down, Adam Jones had thoughts about the state of black players in baseball, and how it was easy to feel isolated and marginalized. For example, he used the phrase “a white man’s sport” to describe a sport with teams almost exclusively owned by white men and front offices almost exclusively staffed with white men, who usually hire white men to manage the players that play for predominantly white audiences.
This made people mad because everything makes people mad. And then the mad people found other things to be mad at within a week because they are unquenchable anger beasts. Here’s an anger biscuit. Good anger beast.
Edit: To be clear, the comments were smart and necessary, and they deserve to be remembered. The outrage is what’s forgotten. Sometimes people just don’t have anything better to do.
5. Tommy La Stella disappearing
Tommy La Stella was demoted in August, even though he was an above-average hitter and had been for two seasons, and he refused to go to the minor leagues, even contemplating retirement at one point.
Without looking, see if you can remembered what happened. Did he go to the minors? Did he sit the rest of the season out? Did he ever rejoin the major league roster, or was he punished and kept off the team?
A: He played in eight minor-league games, and then he joined the team when rosters expanded, contributing an underwhelming 43 at-bats. He was 0-for-1 in the postseason.
4. Yasiel Puig demoted
It was the end of the road for Puig and the Dodgers. After struggling and acting all Puiggy about it, the tumultuous, thrilling, compelling marriage was almost certainly over. That link up there goes to an epitaph for Puig on the Dodgers. So long, and thanks for all the flips.
Then he came back in September and crushed the ball for a .900 OPS. While he wasn’t the unquestioned starter for the Dodgers in the postseason, it sure looks like he’s in their plans as of the moment.
Yasiel Puig in Triple-A was a weird story, alright. And the odds are good that we’ll never have to think of it again. He still might be on another team before Opening Day, but he’ll never be considered too much of a liability to be on a 25-man roster.
HE WAS THE BIG STORY. HE WAS THE STORY OF BASEBALL. AND THAT’S FUNNY BECAUSE HIS NAME IS LITERALLY TREVOR STORY sorry that was from earlier and i couldn’t hold it in and medical professionals are on their way sorry.
3. When Rob Manfred offhandedly mentioned the possibility of the DH in both leagues
What Manfred said: It used to be a complete non-starter, but I don’t know, it’s a new generation and some of the things we assumed would last forever didn’t. Dunno. Worth keeping an eye on.
What the headlines read: “National League DH seems almost inevitable for 2017.”
And people FREAKED OUT, because that’s what happens in baseball when there are major changes afoot, especially when it comes to the DH. Except, Manfred walked back his comments, which weren’t so explosive in the first place.
Then about two months ago, the headlines were about the DH rule not even changing in the World Series, with Manfred reaffirming that the DH wasn’t coming to the National League soon.
This has been a very important lesson regarding the phrase “almost inevitable.”
2. Olympic baseball is back!
Hey, good news! Olympic baseball is back!
It was gone?
Sure was. Part of me thinks it was a punitive measure by the IIOC to remove the sport in the first place — that they were offended by the existence of the World Baseball Classic, which took money away from the IIOC. And …
Oh. Cool. I’m going to read this other thing now.
No! It’s really interesting, see, the thing about Olympic baseball is …
Give me a list of your top five Olympic baseball moments. Right now. No cheating. Go back as far as you’d like.
Take your time.
There was that time I traded my 1984 Topps Mark McGwire for a Bob Brenly rookie because I was dumb and six.
Okay, that’s one.
The United States won the gold in 2000! Why, look at the Wikipedia page:
If you can’t get excited after going through some of those permanent dead links, I don’t know what to tell …
Wait, where did he go?
1. Drake LaRoche
Oh, how starved we must have been for baseball in March. We cared about the saga of Adam LaRoche and his teenage son. We cared. Trout help us all, we actually cared.
Here’s something you’ll notice as you get older: You will forget about players like Adam LaRoche, who were more successful than 99.9 percent of the players who attempt to play professional baseball. It’s cruel, but it’s completely expected. LaRoche had roughly the same career value as Rich Dauer, Dave May, and Adolfo Phillips. Eventually he’ll fall into that bin.
But for a month, we all wanted to talk about LaRoche retiring and giving up millions and millions of dollars because the White Sox didn’t want his son in the clubhouse. And I’m half-wondering if Chris Sale is still on the the team without the kerfuffle.
At the end of the day, though, it was about Adam LaRoche. It will seem funnier with every passing year, I promise. Before I looked through 2016 stories for this article, I would have sworn this happened before the 2015 season.
It was the talk of the baseball season, and then the Cubs won the World Series. Along the way other stuff happened. Now it seems so cute.
There were stories from 2016 that will stick with us — like the Cubs winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years (link) — and then there were those stories. Shame on you for making me write about those stories.
Here’s looking forward to 2017 and the stories we’ve already forgotten. Be vigilant, friends.