Category Archives: Essays

9 Breakout Players of 2017

9 Breakout Players of 2017

I think sports writers who make predictions as soon as one season ends about the next season are absurd. But after my hometown Orioles lost, and I needed something to distract me. And as a reader, I absolutely DEVOUR these columns. Because, what better way to fill the six lonely months between seasons with trying to figure out what will happen in the other six months!

So, I figured I’d give this a try as a shout out to fans of teams not named the Indians, Dodgers, Blue Jays, or Cubs right now, with perhaps the most absurdly hard thing to predict: players that will go from being nobody to somebody.

I mean, speaking of the Cubs, I could go on a limb and say the Cubs will be really good next year, as will the Red Sox, and the Nationals, and the Dodgers, and sure, one or even two of those guesses might end up being wrong, but I’m likely to at least get 50% right. And for posterity’s sake, I have the Tigers and the Astros in the other two divisions. Team predictions are generally safe bets with a couple of horrible ones always thrown in.

I could predict Kershaw for Cy Young and then take a massive leap in the AL, and go with, say, Yu Darvish, despite his playoff disappointment, but again, I like my odds in one of those categories. Trout finally getting another MVP he deserves and Buster Posey returning to form in the NL. But player predictions are pretty easy too, especially with Kershaw and Trout around.

See what I did there?

Anyway, in terms of breakout players, I am trying to be pretty strict and focus on people who did NOT already break out THIS year, even if perhaps you hadn’t noticed. That takes out Christian Yelich of the Marlins who I think will continue to build and become an MVP candidate. No Wil Myers from the Padres, making his first all star team already. Even Alex Bregman, the Astros rookie, doesn’t get a nod because he is already expected to be a star and has been hailed as such. Jonathan Villar already had his 60 plus steals. And you’ve been living under a rock if you are a baseball fan who hasn’t heard of Gary Sanchez.

No, I want a more challenging task. One that can really make me look bad next year.

And let’s get this out of the way. I snubbed Dansby Swanson. I just don’t think he’s gonna break out next year – I think he’s gonna have some growing pains. Which is probably gonna be the stupidest thing I say all off-season.

What I came up with instead was probably a few guys you have never heard of, and some you may have been talking about a lot earlier this year or in years past but you have probably forgotten.

1. Mike Foltynewicz, Atlanta Braves

No, I don’t know how to pronounce his last name. And he’s a bit of a flier so I hate to start here but the dude took a big step forward in his second full season in the majors. He managed 123 innings in 22 starts after only 86 in 15 the year before, which means he is primed for a good leap 150/160, enough to be the guy everyone is talking about towards the end of next year as becoming a top tier pitcher. He’s a former first rounder, he will be entering his age 25 season, about when pitchers tend to start putting it together, and his strike out to walk ratio this year alone puts him in Jake Odorizzi, Marcus Stoman, and Dallas Keuchel territory. Not exactly cream of the crop performers, but all guys you want on your team. In other words, I don’t see Foltynewicz as a Cy Young candidate or anything, but emerge as The Braves’ #2 starter next year.

2. Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks

I bet if I asked you who was 4th in the National League in Strikeouts in 2016, you wouldn’t have guessed Robbie Ray. Of course he was also 8-15 with a 4.90 ERA so you definitely had no reason to notice him. In case you don’t think strikeouts are a good qualifier of quality pitchers, Ray was 8th in xFIP (excepted fielding independent pitching) which is one of those fancy new stats that looks at what SHOULD have happened instead of what DID happen that you will just have to trust me is a pretty excellent identifier of a quality hurler. Just ahead of Ray on this list: Archer, Stroman, Cueto. Just behind Ray: Lester, Kluber, Price. Pretty good company.

I also think the Diamondbacks are going to be a LOT better next year, with Pollock back and Greinke back to form. So that will help you notice Ray as their new #2.

3. Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds

The guy who never broke out will finally break out, and will be in a season long rat race with Buxton of the Twins (see below) for the stolen base crown. Did you know if Billy Hamilton played in all 162 games this year or last year, he would have had 80 stolen bases in each season. 80. That’s 1980s territory. But here’s the most important stat. He raised his OBP by nearly 50 POINTS in 2016. It was .321, which was not brilliant, in fact, if he had enough plate appearances, it would have put him tied with Chris Carter, Addison Russell, and Marcell Ozuna for 98th place in the majors. All of those guys had strong offensive seasons, but at least in the case of the first two they are all also united by having unnatural home run power for their positions. Hamilton will never have that.

But lets just be conservative here and say he only raises his OBP again by 20 points, as he gets a little better again with another season under belt. Well now he’s 72nd, just ahead of Brian Dozier, and behind people like Jason Kipnis and Brandon Crawford. Throw in that he was 7th in Center Fielders in Defensive War in 3/4 of a season in a position he is still mastering ahead of defensive luminaries like Ender Inciarte, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Jason Heyward and remember that amazing speed and you have an all star on your hands.

4. Jon Gray, Colorado Rockies.

I basically wrote this article for this guy. I am so siked that the Rockies have their first ace since Ubaldo Jimenez (I don’t want to talk about him right now.) I want the Rockies to be good – they have such an odd and hard situation to overcome with the ballpark and developing pitching and it looks like they might be finally turning it around with some great organizational philosophy shifting. Remember that xFIP stat? Will Gray was no Robbie Ray this year, but pitching in Colorado of all places he nestled nicely in at 16th behind Bumgarner, Sale, and Kyle Hendricks and ahead of Tanaka, Arrieta, and Kenta Maeda.

Let’s put it more simply. He actually had a better ERA at home then on the road. That’s like when we praise Arenado for hitting great outside of Coors too, but, you know, the opposite. Gray also seems to have run out of gas in August and September, but if you take his May/June/July, he struck out 102 batters in 101 innings to 32 walks and held batters to about a .210 batting average.

5. Orlando Arcia, Milwaukee Brewers

He is the National League version of Francisco Lindor, a Gold Glover to be, but with a potential for a sneaky good bat. His major league numbers were pretty sad looking this year. But he was the youngest player in the National League when he was called up, so…

Actually, I’m just gonna leave it there. Just look at the guy. When you play defense like that, you get a chance to improve as a hitter, like Lindor has. He’s next.

6. Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins.

Yes, THAT Byron Buxton. The one that seems destined to be one of the biggest talent busts in baseball history.

Didn’t notice, did you? In September, after coming back from the minors after a SECOND stint, Byron Buxton had a .936 OPS. And that was before he hit two more home runs in the final two games of the season in October.

We know he’s a gold glove outfielder with breathtaking speed (just watch his inside-the-park home run on the final day of the season.) BUT. Extrapolate his final month into a full season in the lead-off spot, and you have a 54 home run, 132 RBI, 144 Run, all time great season. I’m not predicting this. Just saying. You, of course, would also expect over 200 strike-outs from him at this point in a full season. So there’s that. Its gonna be fun to watch, whatever happens.

7. Sean Manaea, Oakland Athletics.

Ack, more pitching.

OK, simply put, if you took away April and May this guy would have won the ERA crown in the AL this year. SO to walk ratio? 3.35, would have been good for 14th in the AL had he qualified just behind Quintana, Archer, and Smyly.

And all this as a rookie. A rookie who, by the way, was a top 50 prospect before the season started, a decidedly under-the-radar one.

Of course, if this guy is right, sorry Oakland fans, Manaea will definitely be a well known name next year.

8. Tyler Glasnow, Pittsburgh Pirates.

This guy wasn’t under the radar before the season as prospects go and there was great anticipation for each of his call-ups, and the results were three starts over two stints in which he failed to get out of the 5th innings and a 6.35 ERA as a starter.

But then, in his final start of the season he one-hit St. Louis over 5 innings. Granted he still walked 4, and his issue remains to be a perceived lack of aggressiveness with dynamic stuff. I will confidently hedge a bet on overcoming that problem for a 6’ 8”, 225 LB guy who was named Minor League Baseball’s Pitcher of the Year two times in the last three seasons, with a 1.87 ERA in 20 starts in 2016, with Ray Searage, the “Pitch Doctor” to guide him through it.

9. Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers.

Yes, THAT Jurickson Profar. Former #1 Overall Prospect Jurickson Profar.

Its good to go out on a hunch, but with Odor, Andrus, and Beltre blocking Profar in the infield, I think the Rangers let Beltran, Desmond, AND Gomez walk and open next year with an OF of Mazara, Choo, AND… Jurickson Profar. Or, perhaps, something like this guy’s Javier Baez-esque theory. He has completely stumbled down the stretch after looking like he was finally going to pay off on his promise with a .337 batting average through his first 100 or so plate appearances. So really, I have no reason to be positive, I just have a hunch. The Rangers seem to develop position players with the best of them and I think he’s next. Sometimes you have to just go with your gut, against all better judgement.

After all, these prediction articles are complete BS anyway.

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The Best Season for Second Basemen… EVER?

There is something happening this year that I feel very few people are talking about in the game I love. It started early on when a journeyman switched teams from one that made it all the way to the World Series last year to its rival that looks to be a heavy contender to do so this year. And he just DESTROYED his previous team, all year (see: “Is Daniel Murphy a ‘cyborg’ built to destroy the Mets?“, a NY Post Headline if there was ever a NY Post Headline.) And did pretty well against the rest too. He’s an MVP candidate. And he’s 7TH in WAR (according to ESPN) this year at his POSITION.

Daniel Murphy did play 20 games at 1B this year. A premium position with names like Cabrera, Goldschmidt, Rizzo, and Freeman all having very good years. But no. That’s not the position I am talking about. The position I am talking about has a legitimate MVP candidate in each league, 5 of the top 8 MLB leaders in hits, the leader and runner-up in Batting Average in EACH LEAGUE (AND the second runner-up in the NL), 10 players with over 20 home runs each including the second half LEADERS in each league, 3 PLAYERS in the Top 10 and 5 in the Top 20 in WAR AND Ben Zobrist, Logan Forsythe, Trea Turner, Chase Utley, and Ryan Schimpf, five additional guys that don’t even qualify for any of these statistical feats but are notable in their own right.

Yes, that old offensive powerhouse position… SECOND BASE.

And OK, its 2016, and offensive juggernauts like Kris Bryant are playing a different position every day, and after Cal Ripken in the 80s/90s, and Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in the 90s/00s, a position historically for the small skinny guy, shortstop, has officially gone into a new era with Correa, Bogaerts, etc. So why not 2B?

But wait. Those MVP candidates? Sure Daniel Murphy is a bit on an anomaly, but Jose Altuve is 5’ 6”. Robinson Cano has middle of the order size, but Dustin Pedroia is 5’9”. Those two guys leading the majors in second half home runs? Brian Dozier is 5’ 11”, Jedd Gyorko 5’ 10”. Of course, there are those giants that really in a more traditional era would have been playing another position. I mean DJ LeMahieu, the NL leader in batting average is 6’ 4”, so its not really fair to compare his power numbers to fifty years ago. He HAS smashed 10 home runs so… wait… did I say 10? So wait, the tall guy is leading in batting average and the short guys are leading in home runs? What the HELL is going on?

OK, so numbers are numbers, but what about the reality of their impact. 2B are typically line-up bottom feeders, the number 8 or 9 hitters, and while 10 of them hitting over 20 home runs so far this season is perhaps unexpected, that still doesn’t impress compared to glamour hitting positions like 1B, 3B, and OF in these home run crazy times. So are they REALLY making significant impact?

Well. Let’s meet our all-time class of 2016, shall we. The Top Twenty in WAR at this position, in order.

THE BEST

#1. Jose Altuve, Astros. MVP Candidate. Most hits, best batting average in majors. 20/20 season in HR/SB (and 2nd in AL in SB.) Top Ten in WAR. Hits THIRD on a team fighting for the playoffs.

#2. Robinson Cano, Mariners. Will be Top Ten in MVP voting. 6th in the league in hits. Over 30 HRs. Gonna have 100 R/100 RBI season.  Top Ten in WAR. Hits THIRD on a team fighting for the playoffs.

THE NEXT

#3. Brian Dozier, Twins. Gonna have 40 home runs. 100 R/100 RBI season. Leads AL in 2nd Half HRs and 5th overall. Top Ten in WAR. Hits lead-off (because its 2016 and up is down.)

#4. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox. Third in hits. Fourth in average. Top Twenty in WAR. Hits lead-off for the best offense in the major leagues.

#5. Ian Kinsler, Tigers. 7th in runs scored. Top Twenty in WAR. Hits lead-off for a team tied for the 2nd wild card in the AL.

#6. DJ LeMahieu, Rockies. Leads NL in Batting Average. Tied for 3rd in the NL in Runs. Hits second on his team.

#7. Daniel Murphy, Nationals. MVP Candidate. Second in the NL in Batting Average. Second in the NL in RBIs. Hits THIRD on the second best team in the National League.

#8. Jean Segura, Diamondbacks. 1st in the NL in hits, Third in the NL in Batting Average, Third in NL in SB. Hits leadoff.

THE VERY GOOD

#9. Jason Kipnis, Indians. Hits 2nd for the second best team in the American League.

#10. Logan Forsythe, Rays. Hits lead-off. 10th in WAR for 2B even though only playing in 3/4 of a season.

#11. Ben Zobrist, Cubs. Hits CLEAN-UP for the Best Team in Baseball that may break the oldest losing streak in sports.

#12. Jedd Gyorko, Cardinals. Most home runs in second half in National League. On pace to hit around 40 home runs in a 162 game season. Hits 2nd for the would be 1st Wild Card in the National League.

#13. Devon Travis (and Darwin Barney, #17), Blue Jays. Their combined WAR in their platoon would put them just outside the Top 20 in the majors this year for ALL offensive positions. Travis does only hit 9th on a loaded line-up for the AL East leaders.

#14. Neil Walker, Mets. At 23 home runs, one away from career year for journeyman and only has played 113 games this season. Hits CLEAN-UP for playoff contender.

#15. Trea Turner, Nationals. Only player in top 29 in WAR for 2B that has under 200 at bats. IF had played full season would LEAD THE MAJORS in triples by a large margin, in SBs, and 4th in runs. Hits lead off on 2nd Best Team in NL and is second player on this list from that team with the majority of his starts at second base.

#16. Rougned Odor, Rangers. Will have 30 hr/90 r/90 rbi season while hitting fifth for the best team in the American League.

#18. Jonathan Schoop, Orioles. 20+ home run season jumping around line-up for team tied for the 2nd wild card in the AL.

#19. Chase Utley, Dodgers. Decent offense, better leadership for future hall-of-famer in the twilight of his career for NL West leaders. Hits LEAD-OFF.

#20. Ryan Schimpf, Padres. Has only played about half a season, but would LEAD all 2B in HOME RUNS if he had played all year and would be 3rd in the NL. Hits 5th.

To sum up. Of these 20 players, only TWO players (who have platooned at their position this year) regularly hit anywhere out of the top five line-up spots. In 2016, 2B means you are going to be in impactful situations for your team in nearly every game. And these guys have come through.

OK, OK, but won’t next year just be better than this one? Maybe. But this is such a diverse group, it feels like it may just be a special year. Why?

  1. They are diverse. Guys just emerging as potential stars: Turner, Odor, Schoop. Guys entering their prime: Altuve, Segura, Gyorko, Travis, Schimpf. Guys smack dab in the midst of their prime: Dozier, LeMahieu, Murphy, Kipnis, Forsythe, Walker Guys at the end of their prime: Cano, Pedroia, Kinsler. Guys near the end of great careers: Zobrist, Utley. And Darwin Barney.
  2. Guys arguably having career years, not counting rookies: Altuve, LeMahieu, Murphy, Segura, Forsythe, Gyorko, Travis, Walker, Odor, Schoop. SO… HALF.
  3. Future hall of famers in the bunch: Altuve, Cano, Pedroia are sure things. Kinsler and Utley will make their cases. And the future seems pretty open for Turner and Odor to end up there with their amazing starts.

Up and down, every division in every league (with multiple representatives to this list from each), this crop of 2B may never be beat. And nobody seems to be talking about it.

An Inspired Baseball Fan

Spoiler alert: I’m a baseball geek. Or baseball nerd. Or baseball fanatic. Take your pick. So if you decide to read on, know that unless you are one of those things you are probably gonna get lost with this particular post. And quick. But if you just find it kind of cute to read someone salivating over their own personal heaven, well, by all means, give it a shot. Or if you are a math/stats nerd. Cause baseball geek-dom is a PERRRRFFEECT place for you to hang out then.

As a baseball geek/nerd/fanatic, I just had my equivalent of Christmas morning. My beloved hometown Baltimore Orioles (now my “American League team”, though they are still my overall favorite) came to Los Angeles to play a three game series against my new hometown team, the Dodgers (my “National League team”). If you know anything about baseball, you know that one three game series in July means very little. There are 162 GAMES after-all, and the season doesn’t end until late Sept./early Oct. But that’s the thing about baseball – there is so much history in the game, so many fantastic numbers (math geeks, I told you!), and so many small details to relish in – its easy to be swept up in the magic of it all.

In one 3 game series in July, with teams from opposite coasts that rarely play each other, there is SO much to love.

Here are the 12 gifts of July 4-6 that my true love, baseball, gave to me…

1. The most combined strikeouts in Dodgers Stadium history.

Of the three games, unquestionably the best one was the 5.5 hour, 14 inning finale on July 6. Yes, you heard that right. 5.5 HOURS. Only baseball, the game with no clock, has people scrambling to re-schedule plans as they get nearly double the expected entertainment for their ticket.

Here’s the part for the math nerds. Dodgers Stadium is 54 years old this year, making it the 3rd oldest stadium in all of baseball. Yes, that’s right. Only the hallowed Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston are older. Again, remember, baseball has 162 games in a season, plus playoffs. It used to be 154, but the year it switched to 162 in the National League? You got it, 1962, the year Dodgers Stadium opened its gates. Half the games at home, plus throw in some playoff games, and we are talking close to 4500 games.

4500 GAMES, and never before had any fan witnessed so many strikeouts in one game in Los Angeles. And for the record, there were 36 strikeouts. And perfectly, it was 18 for the Orioles, 18 for the Dodgers. Don’t believe me? Check out this beautiful box score.

2. The Dodgers flat ran out of players, right at the wrong time.

When you have such a long game, the fun part is when it gets late, as teams expect to no longer have to be playing at this point, and they tend to have to make really ridiculous decisions. And this game ENDED with the bases loaded for the Dodgers, down by two, and a relief pitcher at the plate. You got it, a relief pitcher. In order of best people to have up in this situation, it would go star players, regular players, bench players, starting pitchers (if you really really have to), and then… relief pitchers. These guys rarely get to hit. The Dodgers had used every player on their bench, and already had used a starting pitcher as a pinch runner and a starting pitcher as a pinch hitter. Both of those moves are rarely done as it is, so with runners on first and third and two outs in the 14th, up by two, the Orioles intentionally walked a Dodgers hitter to allow the bases to be loaded, knowing that the poor relief pitcher would probably just have to hit by himself. And he tapped a little grounder to the pitcher, and the game was over.

3. Chase Utley had 6 hits, including making mockery of the oh so popular over-shift.

6 hits or more in a game is a rare feat in baseball. Its had been done 70 times since 1901. And only one time did someone get 7, so 6 is the magic number. And now it just happened THREE TIMES in FIVE DAYS. Utley joined Wilmer Flores (Mets) and CJ Cron (Angels). The previous time another player had reached 6 hits was OVER TWO YEARS AGO. Remember, we’re talking a sport that plays about 2500 games a season.

But the best hit, by far, was Utley absolutely schooling one of the most recent developments in the sport, that really only became popularly accepted last year, the over-shift, where usually one infielder is moved from one side of the field to the other, creating a 3 to 1 imbalance, because a team has used analytics to realize that the hitter is likely to hit only to one side. Utley took full advantage of the huge hole on the left hand side. It was a thing of beauty. I laughed out loud, even though i was rooting for the Orioles.

4. Ohhhhhh so many relievers.

There is a lot of talk about how baseball is becoming the realm of pitchers who throw at most an inning, two if we’re REALLY pushing them, and throw over 95 mph, which a recent article said should literally be too fast for a human being to be able to hit the ball. The standard used to be you had ten pitchers on your team, five of them relievers. Then 11/6. Now its mostly 12/7. The Dodgers used 8 RELIEVERS in the game, and still had one on the bench. The Orioles used 6. The starting pitchers each went 5 innings and allowed 7 runs between them. The bullpens each went 9 INNINGS and allowed 3 RUNS between them. And those runs were 1 in the 6th, and 2 in the 14th. So the bullpens allowed 0 RUNS for a 7 inning stretch.

5. Bases loaded escapes.

Baseball, much like its controversial sibling soccer, is maligned for low scoring and nothing happening. Some of the best innings in baseball are ones where the pitcher narrowly escapes, actually not allowing any runs. There was not one, not two, but THREE bases loaded escapes by the Orioles against the Dodgers in this game, all at CRUCIAL times. It is not a way to make your home fans happy, let’s just say that.

Bottom of the 7th, Utley on 3rd, Seager on 2nd, Gonzalez on 1st. Dylan Bundy (who got seven outs, ALL by strike-outs by the way) and then Kendrick looking. The stadium groans.

Bottom of the 8th, Maeda on 3rd, Utley on 2nd, Seager on 1st by way of intentional walk to face Justin Turner. He pops out.

And then Hatcher (our relief pitcher friend) grounds out to the pitcher, again following an international walk to get to him.

6. “I got it, I got it! I don’t got it.”

There were several wonderful only in baseball moments in Wednesday’s game where multiple fielders converged on a ball and had to battle the sun to try to catch it, only sometimes successfully. One of them off of Mark Trumbo’s bat dropped as fielders literally ducked for cover, and he ended up getting to second on a double and scoring. Only in baseball can such a dinky little hit count the same as an absolutely crushed line drive.

7. Two seventh inning stretches.

In my final words on specifically JUST the final game, I had the joy of learning something I didn’t know. Baseball’s popular “Take Me Out to The Ballgame” sing-along when people are invited to get up for their “7th inning stretch” was REPEATED IN THE 14TH INNING. It’s called the 14th Inning stretch, and apparently, its a thing! Surreal, ridiculous, and wonderful.

8. History unmentioned.

As I said earlier, these two teams barely play each other. But this year marks the 50th Anniversary (there’s those nice numbers again) of the 1st World Series the Orioles ever played in. Who was it against? You got it, these Dodgers. The Dodgers were highly favored in the series before they were swept in four games. Guess that’s why nobody mentioned it at Dodgers Stadium. Not exactly a rivalry, but a nice way to just make this 2016 series feel even more dramatic.

9. Puig, Puig, Puig.

Yasiel Puig divisive player who at times seems to not be trying and at times makes miracle plays. In the 13th inning on July 6th, he seemed to lazily approach a single prompting the O’s third base coach to send a player to try to score who normally would have stopped at third base, and then all of a sudden he fired to his cut off man who fired to home and… OUT. As the players ran off the field, Puig just stood there taking in the cheers, a real no-no in terms of classic baseball sportsmanship, you don’t show up the other team, and then he slowly jogged off, the O’s players staring daggers at him from the dugout. So the game went on to the 14th inning, where on a base hit to right with a runner on first, Puig fired to get the force at second, way too late. Justin Turner ran to cut off the ball and he had just a LITTLE attitude in his body language about having to catch the ill-advised throw, and Puig just stood there staring him down.

On July 5 (I promised I would talk about the other games!), Puig threw a FORCE-OUT at second on a single to right. It was a situation where the runner held up because he wasn’t sure the ball was going to drop, but still, it was a thing of beauty.

On July 4, Puig wore Red, White, and Blue Cleats and participated in a lip-sync contest through the video board where he danced like a fool and delighted the crowd. He didn’t get as many cheers as Clayton Kershaw really going for it to R Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” though.

10. Chris Davis and the Three True Outcomes

I was telling my friend at the 2nd game how Chris Davis of the Orioles is a “3 true outcomes” player, which is becoming more and more common in the game. Players who strike-out, walk, or hit home runs. And very little else. Old school people remember Dave Kingman and Rob Deer. The king of this perhaps, would be Adam Dunn, more recently.

Here is Chris Davis’s stat line for the series, mind you, hitting in the middle of the order for a very good team.

1-13, 8 strikeouts, 2 walks. Baseball in 2016 folks.

11. History repeats itself, again.

Two bright young stars shone in this series. The Orioles’ Manny Machado, emerging right now as one of the best players in the game, hit an absolutely MONSTROUS three run home run to left, measuring 438 feet to help the O’s to a 5-2 in in Game Two. Manny Machado is a tall player with power who plays some shortstop, but ultimately has been moved to 3B by the Orioles, in some part because its a more conducive position for a player of his size. Sound familiar? Try Cal Ripken, largely considered to be the greatest player in Orioles history.

Corey Seager extended his rookie year hitting streak to 19 games, one off from a Dodgers record. He is a tall, lanky shortstop with power. The guy sitting behind me during the July 5 game, leaned over and asked me who he reminded me of. His answer: Cal Ripken.

12. A personal fan experience.

Baseball was great in three different ways over three different games for this fan. For one thing, in two of them, I had the satisfaction of the win, in one, the disappointment of the loss. But listen to who came with me to each game, and how it effected my experience.

July 4. Game One. I was accompanied by two friends from Baltimore, and we sat there, prominently displaying our orange and black. One of these two was… a competitor. He stood and shouted with joy when we scored, chanted “Let’s Go O’s” to the boos of those around him, followed by inviting those around him to “bring it on.” I was a little embarrassed, a little terrified, but also swept up in the joy of unbridled “homerism”. I felt proud to be from Baltimore, as I am sure each of the other 29 teams’ fans feel towards their cities. We even screamed “O!” at the national anthem, a Baltimore tradition, except we hadn’t made it into the park yet, so we did it just standing in line to enter the stadium. Surrounded by Dodgers fans pushing to get in. With nowhere to run.

July 5. Game Two. I was accompanied by two baseball friends, one nearly as geeky as me and the other one eager to become as geeky as me. A Tigers fan and a Phillies fan respectively, wearing the appropriate gear. We watched the game intently, and discussed all manner of obscure baseball trivia. The outcome of the game mattered less as just getting to experience baseball. I texted them both during and after game three. Too bad. They would have loved to be there.

July 6. Game Three. I was doing Lyft driving, and I had promised myself if I got near the stadium near the starting time, I would stop and just go in. Well guess what. I got a fare TO the stadium less than an hour before first pitch. I parked, bought a ticket on stubhub, and went in. I told my wife that I would get her the car plenty in time for her appointment. Little did I know…

I shared that final game with strangers, mostly strangers rooting for the opposite team. But as fans dwindled and left as the game went on and on, I felt a camaraderie with everyone around me. We were witnessing this bizarre, great thing. At the end, as the small pack of O’s fans chanted “Let’s Go O’s” and the remaining Dodgers fans with the energy to fight back returned a “Let’s Go Dodgers” it really felt it mattered not what happened at the end of this game.

It was the journey that made it all worthwhile.