Tomorrow’s World Series narratives today

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We’ve talked a lot about narrative lately, but that’s all pregame to the crowning jewel of narrative season: the World Series.

The big narrative: that whoever wins four out of seven games is and always was special and uniquely destined for this. There will be lots of post-facto story-telling after each victory and especially after the series is over. Folks looking back at seemingly random and inconsequential event X from earlier in the season which, now that we see how history unfolded, clearly meant that history was going to unfold just so.

But that’s easy. The narratives that are more fun are the individual ones. The “Kevin Millar kept the team loose” and “Jerome Bettis is from Detroit” kinds of things.  Had the Steelers and Red Sox lost in 2004 and 2006, respectively, those tales would have dried up pretty fast. Or changed to “Kevin Millar and his idiots didn’t take things seriously” and “Jerome Bettis had too many social obligations in Detroit” kinds of things.  Winning and losing changes the story.

Let’s see if we can get ahead of the game here, shall we?  Some off-the-top-of-my head narratives coming to a broadcast or next-day column near you:

  • Barry Zito: Everyone’s looking for a redemption story, and as the improbable Game 1 starter [all together now] two years after he was left off the playoff roster, Zito is the most likely candidate. Good luck to those of you who can find the personal hardship angle for a guy who still has another year left on his $126 million contract, has had to endure living in the most beautiful city in America for the last 13 years and somehow soldiers through the day married to a gorgeous woman.
  • Justin Verlander: Because we’re finally acknowledging that Miguel Cabrera has a World Series ring, I presume Verlander will be the focus of the “he needs a ring to cement his legacy” thing. If he throws a no-hitter tonight but the Tigers lose in six, you see, he isn’t a good pitcher. If he gets beat up in two World Series starts but the Tigers still manage to win, he’s achieved his crowning glory.
  • BONUS LEGACY: Jim Leyland will likely get the Miguel Cabrera treatment from someone. You know, with folks forgetting that he also has a World Series ring thanks to his time in Florida. I bet we can’t go the next week without someone saying that winning this year would validate him somehow.
  • Miguel Cabrera/Buster Posey: As the MVPs presumptive, they will no doubt have every at bat analyzed more closely than others. As they should, of course. But do be on the lookout for Tim McCarver reminding us, in the event one of them struggles, that the MVP ballots were submitted prior to the beginning of the postseason and that none of this takes away from their worthiness for the award.
  • Phil Coke/Hunter Pence: We love both of you, but sorry guys, there can only be one clown prince/crazy guy/oddball per World Series, which means that whichever of you finds yourself on the winning team should be prepared for an offseason full of feature stories. Well, more feature stories, as each of you have already received that treatment already this postseason. The loser, though, will disappear from view.
  • BONUS QUIRKINESS: Though he has contributed zero to the Giants 2013 season, Brian Wilson has a Lifetime Pass in the quirky narrative, so be ready for the myriad shots of him doing zany, zany things in the dugout during Giants rallies.
  • Delmon Young: Postseason God: Delmon Young is a not good player who has had a few big hits in the past couple of postseasons. I figure that we will soon learn that this is a talent of his and that is somehow makes him less of a miserable person who can’t play baseball very well.  In non-narrative news, I also wonder if a couple of big World Series hits won’t land him a way-too-good-for-him contract next season.
  • Detroit Ruin Porn: Did you know that every Detroit sports team since 1968 has carried the forlorn hopes and shattered dreams of a blighted city on its shoulders and that, if they win, everything will be OK in the Motor City once again, at least for a little while?  It’s true! Enjoy your sidebars and photo slideshows of burnt out buildings and abandoned neighborhoods. Bonus points if the reporter takes on the hushed and portentous tones of some someone visiting blighted sub-Saharan Africa or whatever.

That’s all I got for now. I’m sure some more of these will pop up. Because if there’s one thing we in the media love doing is to apply storylines and to assign personal and moral worth to the outcome of sporting events.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.