Desperately Seeking Derek Lastname [TeeCoZee’s NL Roundup May 2018]

Zook and I used to have a game. Actually, calling it a game would be an exaggeration. It was more of a challenge, something to exercise our dumb wit and keen eye for irony. We competed to be the first one to find someone in the city wearing an Astros hat. This task was pointless and daunting. For weeks, we searched high and low for some sap that would willfully represent the worst team in the league, whether it be out of hometown pride, being the receiver of a bad gift from a well-wishing aunt or simply needing a hat purely out of utilitarian purposes, unfazed by what it could possibly represent.

Of course, these were much different times. The year was 2013 and the Astros were spending their first season as the new red-headed stepchild of the American League. This was before George Springer and Carlos Correa made the team contenders. Skipper Bo Porter would watch listlessly as LJ Hoes dropped fly ball after fly ball and some scrub named JD Martinez struck out more than he hit. Nobody would’ve thought that a World Series was coming 4 years later. And sure, nobody would be caught dead wearing an Astros hat in 2013.

It came to me on a gloomy Wednesday afternoon. It was May 15, 2013. I remember this because it was very gloomy outside, as I had just mentioned. I was walking down Kingston Avenue, 12 pack of Rolling Rock in hand.  I saw a man, not much older, but certainly much rougher, than myself, wearing what appeared to be a cheap and filthy maroon Astros hat. I should’ve said something to him or at least try to take a picture of it. But years of city life had still rendered me timid and I instead turned the corner and made my way to Zook’s house. When I came in, he was not shaking a bottle of Soylent, but preparing a pork loin for us to feast on. He didn’t believe what I saw and still doesn’t to this day. What happened after this moment remains fuzzy. We went to a Yankees game, Skymall got arrested, Raul Ibanez knocked 2 dingers, we missed most of the action, yadda yadda ad infinitum.

Why am I telling this story? Is it to convey how baseball changes just as rapidly as our lives do and that little aspect of art imitating life is what draws us to this great past time? No, I just wanted to rip off Zook’s superior article, of which you should be reading instead. And because, duh, baseball, shove it.

NL East

5th Place: Empty Nest (24-42)
I had originally put Miami Vice as the placeholder for the Marlins, but Empty Nest felt more appropriate. Attendance issues is not the proper term to diagnose the gargantuan floral cave that is Marlin’s Park. At one point, the Dodgers went into town. The Marlins stomped them in the first game to a crowd of 6,000. They also squeaked away with a win in the second game to a diminished attendance of 5,000. But then everyone caught onto the Marlin’s winning ways. Encouraged that maybe, just maybe, this team of jobbers could turn this season around, nearly 14,000 people showed up to the third game. Justin Turner mashed 5 RBIs and attendance hasn’t been close since.

4th Place: Becker (28-34)
I remember a time, probably in 2013, when The New Yorker published a witty cover that featured the Yankee’s starting lineup, all with walkers and canes. It was a magical period where the Yankee’s star was fading as the Mets kept calling up exciting prospect over exciting prospect. After this past weekend’s Subway Series, it became frighteningly clear that the tables have been flipped, defiled, replaced with a different table and flipped again. The Yankees attacked from every side with explosive young talent while the Mets languished in their arthritis, tendonitis and senioritis. Even though they squeaked away with a win in Sunday’s game, it wasn’t without its casualties. Asdrubal Cabrera left the game with hamstring tightness. He was replaced by human garbage can, Jose Reyes, who on one play committed two errors. He fielded an easy double play, failed to touch second base or even come close to it and then casually tossed it 10 feet in front of Adrian Gonzalez, who responded with great disgust. This stupid charade has gone on too long. Jose Reyes is not only washed up, but is also clearly a bad influence for Amed Rosario, who he is supposed to be “mentoring”. But Mets fans are still so quick to forgive him, because he did really good for them over 10 years ago. Which is probably why David “No Neck” Wright is still on the payroll. The whole franchise has become a foster home for has-beens. Mets fans will exclaim “I’m really excited about this new outfielder that the Braves just cut. He’s hitting below the Mendoza Line, but he did a really cool bat flip a few years ago” and then wonder why they only score 2 runs in 42 innings (that’s an actual stat and an actual quote from a Mets fan that I work with). Whenever Jose Reyes came to pinch hit with runners in scoring position, you could feel Citi Field shake as the masses chant his name. And then when he strikes out, they’re disappointed, but still willing to react the same next time. As a Mets fan, I’ve become embarrassed of my own kind.

But fear not, fellow 7 train riders. The front office made a big move this morning that will surely be a bump in the right direction. After a multitude of mis-cues, they’ve decided that they’ve had enough of an elderly waste of payroll. That’s right, they finally cut Jose Reyes Adrian Gonzalez. Here’s a better idea: they should’ve traded him straight up for Chase Utley. Chase plays really well in Citi field and Adrian would be back in Dodger Blue. Instead, nobody wins, not even the Mets, who won.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go place my neck inside of the strangling grip of my girlfriend/only reader…

3rd Place: Thirtysomething (33-30)
I’m honestly a little surprised that the Phillies are in 3rd place. They’re a surging young team with a lot of sneaky talent and a winning record to boot. Could it be that they’re sliding in the standings because a different boring team filled with superstars that generally underperform are actually slowly climbing the ranks so that they can eventually get to first place, stay in first place and build cobwebs?

2nd Place: The West Wing (36-27)

1st Place: Designing Women (37-28)
The Braves have been wowing and zowing the baseball world all season with the likes of Ozzie Albies and Sean Newcomb. Sean Newcomb? What a stupid name for stupid sissies. He should change his name to Sean Nukem, that’d be waaaaaay more marketable!

I’ve come here to strike mofos out and chew bubblegum. And I’m all out of John Carpenter references.

NL Central

5th Place: WKRP In Cincinnati (23-43)
I was really hungry for some Skyline Dogs a few weeks ago. The long day of cleaning and packing had rendered me sweaty and covered in dust. I was truly a disgusting mess and my sinuses were so clogged up that I thought my head was going to inflate and fly away. But I persevered and made myself 4 heaping mountains of boiled hot dogs, lukewarm cheddar cheese and that sweet, sweet chili. Still disgusted with myself, I sat down to trudge through. But I couldn’t find anything on TV to watch. Surely, a feast of this kind would need an accompanying program. I would pick something, decide it’s not “good enough” and then try again. When I finally found the proper program, I realized that I was too filthy to eat. A shower was in order, to try to get the dust mites exterminated from my pores. And after I was showered, I needed new clothes to wear. Obviously, I would need the proper attire to demolish 4 hot dogs or else I’d look like a total amateur. By the time I picked out the proper apparel and sat down for my meal, the dogs were already ice cold. The sickly yellow cheese had formed into a plastic jacket over the hardened buns. And the Skyline? Who even knows. I slammed one dog and promptly threw the other 3 in the trash. Yesterday, I was grocery shopping and a realization came to me. I could really go for a Skyline Dog. And so the cycle starts anew. This must be how Joey Votto feels on a daily basis. He builds himself up, gets it firmly in his mind that he is a generational talent that is worthy of victory and then realizes that his teammates are all on a steady diet of Skyline Chili.

4th Place: Mr Belvedere (32-34)
I have a new commute that takes me over the Manhattan Bridge. Even though I’ve lived here for 8 years, I finally feel like a bona fide New Yorkah. I’m just a little man with big dreams in an even bigger city. Or maybe I’m a big man that dreams a little in a bigger city? Whatever. Every day, I feel like a young Michael J Fox. I’ve devised a new soundtrack for my life, one filled with uplifting 80s songs to pump me up while the train rapidly careens me into the concrete jungle. One morning, I was reading an interview with Jung Ho Kang, the Pirates shortstop that’s been exiled in South Korea after a DUI. After 2 long years, he’s finally back in the states, sober and trying to get back into the game he loves. He might be a total scumbag, but his story is beautiful. The baseball community just loves redemption stories like this. We eat it up like Skyline Chili bowls of Crispex. And as I was reading this interview, I listened to John Parr’s classic anthem, “St Elmo’s Fire”.

Just try to listen to this song and not feel overwhelmingly excited over Jung Ho Kang’s comeback. I dare you.

3rd Place: The Los Angeles Rams (0-0)
I’m trying to dig up some news on the Los Angeles Rams, but sports writing is such an awful cluster of clickbait. I saw one headline that read “Los Angeles Rams fans should be outraged over Todd Gurley being…”. When you click on the article, your computer will just sputter to a halt as two pop-up ads and a video try to load. And then as soon as your computer get its bearings straight another screen overtakes the article telling you to “Whitelist” them. I guess that’s what Rams fans should be upset about. They can’t even read news about their favorite team without being anally violated by their sponsors. There needs to be a better way. Somebody should make a website where sports fans can read thoughtful articles without any of the ads. And they should call it The Athletic Baseball For Dinner!

2nd Place: Laverne & Shirley (39-27)
Did you guys hear? Josh Hader is really good. I’ve heard that he once got 8 strikeouts in the same save. Also, he has only allowed one hit when the count has 2 strikes. I’ve heard that he shaves his head every night and then wakes up with a full head of hair the next morning. Josh Hader wears glasses because without them, his vision is too strong to be deemed legal by MLB Rules & Regulations. Legend has it, he can see 2 minutes into the future and then change it as he sees fit. Apparently, Josh Hader doesn’t have any haters, they’re called Haders. One time, Josh Hader recorded two holds in the same game. When he was in College, he struck out an opposing batter so many times that he resorted to sawing his own left arm off and tried using it as a bat. He said that “…there’s no way that I’m going to hit off him anyways, I might as well use my own arm”. Josh Hader already has Cy Young awards and World Series Rings because he’s a time traveler. Whether he received them in the future or he bought them off Dallas Keuchel for beer money remains to be seen. All we do know is that Josh Hader is Josh Hader and there is literally nothing we can do about it.

1st Place: Family Matters (38-25)
What’s this? You’re saying that Cubs fans are regretting signing Yu Darvish? What a surprise! Yu Darvish has never been hurt before. He definitely doesn’t have any confidence issues. He definitely has never asked for a large sum of money. He’s definitely one of the most consistent pitchers in the game. He went on the DL with the flu? That’s very surprising! He’s 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA? That’s shocking! It’s very clear that Yu has no problem with playing for big market teams in tough situations. I wonder what caused the sudden change! And now he’s going to be on the DL until the All Star Break? Well, at least you guys have Mike Montgomery!

[Dances away]

[Realizes that the Dodgers injury woes are worse off than the Cubs]

[Resumes walking]

NL West
5th Place: Simon & Simon (31-37)
How have the Padres been doing? Just let this highlight reel speak for itself:

Remember when Hunter Renfroe got kissed by Shamu? Or when that dog licked Manuel Margot? Or when Tyson Ross got suckerpunched while Eric Hosmer watched? Surely, you remember AJ Ellis driving a bulldozer through a flaming shed. Or Franchy Cordero Tokyo Drifting all over some sand dunes. We all remember fondly when Brad Hand blew up that boat. You’re saying that you don’t remember any of this? Well clearly, you have no been paying attention to Padres baseball! It’s Must See TV!

4th Place: Mork & Mindy (32-33)
I swear, a few days ago, the Rockies were in first place or close to it. Now they’re in 4th. That’s how ridiculously close the NL West is. Next thing we know, the Padres will be in first. And then the next day, they’ll be in sixth. There isn’t a sixth place, you say? Well, there is now! And everyone in the NL West will be in it! Muahahahahahaha!

3rd Place: Full House (33-33)
A lovely reader of mine used to work at MLB Network and she told me a story from earlier this season. She had just finished writing all of the probable pitchers for the day when she was approached by her supervisor. He said, “This is kind of awkward, but you listed Holland as the starter for the Giants”. She nodded blankly and he continued, “But Greg Holland is a Cardinal now”. Trying her hardest not to sound condescending, she explained that Greg Holland isn’t a Giant, nor is he a starter. But Derek Holland is. You know, Derek Holland. The ol’ Dutch Oven. It’s not like he fell off the face of the earth, he has been consistently starting for almost a decade now. To top it off, ESPN has now joined in on the game.
That’s right, he is now being referred to as Derek Lastname. In summary, there is definitely a conspiracy going on in the MLB. Derek must’ve burned somebody important at some point and is now paying the ultimate price. They are systematically trying to erase him from the collective conscious. Which is just fine by me, as I need something to distract me from the fact that MadBum is back and the Giants are going to start surging back any day now…

2nd Place: Columbo (33-32)
Things have been very Dodgy in Dodgertown. On one side of the coin, they’re starting to turn their season around. On the other side, they’re still eternally screwed and most likely cursed. Walker Buehler has been looking fantastic, even when he takes a line drive to the ribs. Did I mention that he took a line drive to the ribs? Yeah, that injury is still lingering. Kenta Maeda was having a monster start before he tore his groin. He’ll be back on Wednesday, when he will have reverted back to 2017 Maeda and get pimpslapped by the anemic Rangers. Kershaw had a speedy recovery from his shoulder injury. And then promptly went back to the DL with more back issues. Alex Wood is the only opening day starter that is healthy at the moment, which is good. But then again, it’s really not good, because he’s been doing very bad. Cody Bellinger has been beasting out lately. He was also on the verge of being sent down to the minors. Matt Kemp, Ross Stripling and Max Muncy have been pulling a lot of weight and winning a lot of games. Their names are Matt Kemp, Ross Stripling and Max Muncy, so that’ll surely fall apart. Now that they’re firmly hovering around .500 and the top of the division, it might be time to buy some pitching. Or they could wait around for Kershaw, Urias and Hill to get healthy at the end of July. Which is when their bats will go cold again. And so on and so on until I pull all of my beard hairs out.

1st Place: Alice (36-29)
Honestly, I was a little surprised that I had to resort to Alice. I would’ve thought that with its unique landscapes and warm weather, plenty of TV Shows would’ve taken place in Arizona. I was pretty disappointed in the results. Almost as disappointed as I was to hear that the Diamondbacks have righted their sinking ship. Goldy has started hitting baseballs again, both Zack’s have been performing up to snuff and my headache grows even larger by the day.

Join me next time when Josh Hader turns Gatorade into All-Sport, the Mets sign Rafael Palmeiro and Christian Villanueva blows up a helicopter!