Bryan Curtis of Grantland has a great story today about baseball books. About how there are so damn many baseball books. And more and more are published every year. Indeed, just by going through books published in 2014, one can read subjects spanning nearly every decade of baseball history. Go back decades and you find multiple books on any topic worth writing about and just as many on topics not necessarily worth writing about.
Curtis talks to a lot of people — myself included — about why that is. I think the biggest answer is nostalgia. People want to read about Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams even if they’ve already heard it all. That’s a dynamic I have tended to mock — aw, look at the Baby Boomers getting misty-eyed about their youth! — but I can’t lie: I was excited as hell to read Dan Epstein’s latest about baseball in the 70s and when we start getting carpet-bombed with books about 1980s baseball, I’ll read every one of them and shake my fist at the youngsters who just don’t understand how baseball was in its prime back then.
And then people younger than me will feel the same way about the baseball of their youth. Of the 90s and 2000s and steroid-era baseball. Curtis and I talked about it when he interviewed me:
McGwire and Sosa will be de-villainized, by their word processors or ours. “There’s going to be such a revision,” said Craig Calcaterra. In a recent talk at a bookstore, Calcaterra found that college students weaned on ’90s baseball don’t view that decade as the fall of the national pastime. It was their childhood. “They see it in very much the same terms that we saw Gaylord Perry,” he said. “‘Oh, look at that. Wasn’t it quirky that that happened?’ The sport always overtakes the tut-tutting of people in the media.”
It won’t be sepia-toned like a Mantle book may. But some guy in his 40s or 50s will pick it up, read it and shake his fist at his kids and tell them that baseball was so much better and simpler and pure back when they were that age.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.