Boston Red Soxs

The League Championship Series storylines are … complicated

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Not gonna lie: it’s going to be a bit of a mess trying to graft your narratives on to this year’s LCS matchups and potential World Series matchups, folks.  All of the easy stories about the plucky Pirates, the quasi-homeless A’s and Joe Maddon-as-baseball’s-Phil Jackson are out the window. Everyone’s happy the Braves are gone.

So what do we have? We have four classic, old school MLB teams from the original 16 (if that’s a thing). We have four teams sporting grand histories. We have teams with several superior, MVP-caliber players who make a lot of money. We have one huge payroll team, another team that has had more literary and sportswritery lore spun about it than the next ten teams combined and two teams who have had all kinds of success in recent years. There are no underdogs here, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into. We have a couple of gimmicky character types — Yasiel Puig, Matt Adams — but no ready-made sportswriter storylines that will easily spring from scribes’ keyboards over the next three weeks.

So where do we go for our precious, precious narratives?

Based on the sense I’ve gotten from readers and on Twitter, the Dodgers are probably what most closely passes for “plucky upstarts,” partially for their joie de vivre (Joie de Puig?) and partially because they came from nowhere this year. But that makes little sense. The Red Sox have a lot of joie de vivre too with the beards and all of that. And they came from nowhere too given how horrible last year was for them. And they sport a lower payroll as they’re doing it. What’s the argument for “The Dodgers are a better storyline than the Red Sox?” Most of those 2004-07 players are long gone. Can the presence of David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury change everything so greatly? I don’t feel like it should.

Of course you have that big Dodgers-Red Sox trade from last year which, if those two teams meet in the World Series, will likely dominate the discourse. I feel like it will dominate it in a dumb way, though. Most people will couch it in terms of who really won the trade and will try to use the results of such a World Series as some sort of proof of their position. But it seems to me that the most notable thing you can take away from that trade is that it made sense for both teams and helped both teams in important ways. I guess that’s not very satisfying for a sports world that likes thinks in black and white, however.

So: the Cardinals. With the Braves out of it they seem to be the most hated team in the playoffs. And I can understand the Cardinals fatigue out there. They’ve been on this stage so often in recent years that we’re all tired of them. But I also can’t remember a team that has a pretty low payroll, comes from a pretty small market and has an overwhelmingly home-grown roster and fabulous farm system not getting a ton of love from the baseball commentariat. Especially the SABR-y ones, who usually love that stuff. But not this year. Not with St. Louis. Maybe because the Cardinals are the only home-grown, low payroll team that can still manage to come off smugger than all hell.

The Tigers: They have the likely Cy Young guy, the likely MVP guy two-years running and several other high-priced, award-winning stars. They were just in the World Series last year, for crying out loud. A key component of their team just came off a 50-game PED suspension. I don’t feel people hate them or are sick of them, really, but it’s not like they have any compelling narrative about them that will get people who aren’t already Tigers fans to rally around them. Plus, that whole “the Tigers are helping rally a beleaguered city!” thing has been done. And was pretty stupid and condescending in the first place.

None of any of that makes for easy (or at least smart) narratives. Which makes for a pretty sobering realization: we’re gonna have to focus on the [gulp] actual baseball in the LCS and World Series.

I hope our nation’s sportswriters and television commentators are up to the task.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.

Report: The new collective bargaining agreement reduces players’ meal money

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.

Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.

Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.

EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.