HBT Weekend Wrapup


I took Friday off, which has me completely discombobulated, baseball wise. I’m going on vacation next week and will be unplugging for the entire trip. If I can expect my discombobulation to be seven times what I’m feeling right now, I’m pretty sure my chances of surviving with my sanity intact are zero. So welcome to the last productive week of HardballTalk!

As for the weekend:

  • Jonathan Broxton lost his closer’s job because he has lost his confidence. This is the saddest thing I’ve witnessed since that evil doctor stole Fonzie’s cool in that late-run “Happy Days” episode. Of course by that point they had introduced Roger and Eugene, made the Fonz a teacher and Jenny Piccolo was a real character instead of someone Joanie just talked about, so the cool was long gone to begin with. Much like the Dodgers’ playoff chances.
  • Andy Pettitte suffered a setback during a simulated game. No one is sure if the setback itself is real, however. Simulated games are like the “Inception” of the baseball world in that way.
  • The Rangers’ new owners lower beer prices, among other fan-friendly things. Doing such a thing is such a no-brainer in terms of the creation of fan goodwill that it’s amazing more teams don’t do stuff like this. I mean really, if anyone is qualified to make no-brainer moves, it’s baseball owners.
  • When does Jose Canseco’s big league pension kick in? Because, really, it’s getting sad to see him go from job to job like this. Of course, Canseco serving as bench coach is fairly useful in that it conclusively proves what I’ve long suspected: bench coaches don’t actually do anything.
  • Chipper Jones had successful surgery. I am not making this up: part of the ligament graft came from a cadaver. Which means that the Mets’ worst fears will be coming true next season: Zombie Chipper.
  • K-Rod apologizes. I haven’t read the apology yet, but I assume it has something to do with his pummeling fists being taken out of context.
  • It’s cute that Joe Torre thinks he’s still in New York and thus the whole world is waiting to hear what his career plans are.
  • Carlos Zambrano wins his first start since his return from crazyland. This was really the only game I saw over the weekend. My daughter watched part of it with me. After listening to some of the game she said “what are ‘his issues?'”
  • A-Rod hits three bombs against the Royals. If I ran a New York tabloid I’d be real tempted to have one of my columnists write a thing about how Rodriguez is too lazy to run and thus insists on slow jogs.
  • Rob Dibble kinda sorta not really apologizes for making fun of some women fans he assumed to be talking about shopping while in the stands at a Nats game. He did not apologize, however, for failing to grasp the irony of his calling people out for talking bullsh– during a baseball game.

And with that, let us proceed with our week, shall we?

Who will be the 2016 World Series’ breakout star?

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Javier Baez #9 of the Chicago Cubs looks on prior to game six of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Watching baseball most every day between April and October is a lot of fun, but it also can be a bit desensitizing. People like me and like many of you see some of baseball’s biggest stars every night and some of those same stars multiple times a week. We appreciate them but, after a little while, we tend to take them a little bit for granted.

The World Series, however, is a time when a lot of people who only watch their own team on a regular basis start watching other teams. It’s also when a lot of people who don’t watch a lot of baseball in general pay closer attention to a sport that may only be their second or third love. These people are getting a first glimpse, in many cases, of some truly special players performing on baseball’s biggest stage for the first time. They’re seeing stars break out. Their very act of paying attention to them now contributes to the breakout. It’s a cliche, but October is when stars are born.  It’s like relativity or something: they’re born because so many people are looking on, seeing their light for the first time.

The Indians have a handful of exciting young players who have not fully captured national attention as of yet. Sure, Francisco Lindor has been on the radar of baseball obsessives for a few years now, but he’s just completing his second big league season and is, for all practical purposes, entering the national spotlight for the first time this postseason. Jason Kipnis has played for six seasons and, for many of those seasons, was one of baseball’s most underrated and overlooked stars. Eventually, as happens with a lot of players like that, hardcore baseball fans came to truly appreciate him . . . but is he that well known to casual fans and those who have not seen much of the Indians over the past few years? Could his playing this World Series with a sprained ankle turn him into something bigger than he already is in the public consciousness?

The Cubs have a bit more of a national following and have had players in advertising campaigns and the like. As a result, even casual fans know who Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are. But have they seen them play as much as they’ve seen their images in TV commercials? Even if they have, there are still some generally overlooked and relatively unknown players on that Cubs roster. Catcher Willson Contreras didn’t come up until the middle of June. If you’re a Cubs fan or a fan of one of the many teams the Cubs have vanquished on their way to the World Series you know and love (or, possibly, loathe) Contreras well, but most people haven’t had a chance to see him much. Now he’s poised to play in the Fall Classic. Second baseman Javier Baez has been up and down in his brief major league career, but he’s been electric down the stretch and in the postseason, having drastically cut down on his strikeouts and having flashed some serious leather of late. There’s something about him that just screams “superstar,” and he now has the chance to show that to the world.

The idea of a “breakout star” is a bit amorphous. It could be someone young who shows himself and his talents to the world for the first time, like a Lindor or a Baez. It could, on the other hand, be someone who has been around for a long time — say, a David Ross or a Rajai Davis — who creates a signature moment for himself in the Fall Classic with one big swing of the bat. Heck, Edgar Renteria did both of those things in two different World Series, announcing his presence on the national stage with a big hit in the 1997 Series and bowing out gracefully with a big hit in the 2010 Series. Someone could create a prologue or an epilogue to a wonderful career, starting tonight.

Ultimately the question in the headline above is a rhetorical one, not a predictive one. We don’t know who will make the 2016 World Series his own and who will, in turn, make himself into a household name. But a short series, laden with drama like the World Series, all but guarantees that we’ll have one. A player who, after the next five to nine days, will forever be known by both the baseball obsessives and the casual fans. Watching that star being born will be just as enjoyable as watching the overall content at hand.

World Series Game 1 Lineup: Schwarber and Coghlan in, Heyward out

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Chris Coghlan #8 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after lining out to end the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the ninth inning of game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Cubs and Indians have released their lineups for Game 1 of the World Series.

Joe Maddon makes two notable changes: Kyle Schwarber as the DH and Chris Coghlan in right, with Jason Heyward on the bench.

Heyward has been close to a lost cause at the plate all season for the Cubs and is 2-for-24 in the playoffs this year. While his defense is a plus, Maddon has decided that he’d rather have the lefty Coghlan facing Corey Kluber.

1. Dexter Fowler (S) CF
2. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
4. Ben Zobrist (S) LF
5. Kyle Schwarber (L) DH
6. Javier Baez (R) 2B
7. Chris Coghlan (L) RF
8. Addison Russell (R) SS
9. David Ross (R) C

For the Indians:

1. Rajai Davis (R) CF
2. Jason Kipnis (L) 2B
3. Francisco Lindor (S) SS
4. Mike Napoli (R) 1B
5. Carlos Santana (S) DH
6. Jose Ramirez (S) 3B
7. Brandon Guyer (R) LF
8. Lonnie Chisenhall (L) RF
9. Roberto Perez (R) C