The best, the worst, the weirdest of 2022 times: would it have been a true baseball season without them?

IBWAA

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Justin Verlander and wife Kate Upton survey the free-agent landscape after his stunning season at age 39.Photo byErik Drost on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

By Jeff Kallman

When Harold Baines was inducted (controversially) into the Hall of Fame three years ago, he quoted his bricklayer father: “Words are easy, deeds are hard. Words can be empty, deeds speak loudest, and sometimes they echo forever.” (Sometimes?)

Especially so if and when they fall under the best, the worst, and the weirdest of times.

Baseball 2022 was much like that, above and beyond the owners’ lockout, the NHL-like postseason, the blaze-of-glory exit of one elder (see Pujols, Albert—finishing season and career with 703 lifetime home runs), the blaze of glory resurrection of another (see Verlander, Justin—American League Cy Young Award winner), and the deflations of some others.

I kept my own notes on the side of assorted such lights and lunacies, with no fear that they would gather for naught. In the spirit of good old Mad, the magazine that marked each issue’s contents as “departments” (and its contributors the usual gang of idiots), I offer as a season review of sorts:

And, in the End Dept.—Astros relief pitcher Phil Maton missed the entire postseason after fracturing his pinkie following his brief appearance in the team’s final regular-season game. Frustrated that the Phillies (the eventual victims of the Astros’ straight-no-chaser World Series conquest) scored the game’s only two runs on his dollar, Maton landed a hearty punch . . . on his locker.

Déjà vu All Over Again Dept.—2021: Little Abigail Courtney wept when her Reds idol Joey Votto was ejected in the first inning of a game she attended in San Diego. She received an apologetically-autographed baseball later that afternoon. She also received a personal audience with Votto at Petco Park the day after. 

2022: Abigail and her family went to Angel Stadium to see some favourite ex-Reds in Mariners silks . . . and wept again after one, Jesse Winker, was ejected during a bench-clearing brawl. Winker, too, was made aware of the heartbroken girl. And he, too, sent her a signed ball before the game ended. 

Dishonoured Guests Dept.—Fourteen times, a team scored ten or more runs in a game in the White Sox’s Guaranteed Rate Park. Thirteen times, it involved the visiting teams. 

Doom Doom Mancini Dept.—Oriole fans weren’t thrilled about popular Trey Mancini being disappeared to the Astros at the trade deadline. Astro fans weren’t thrilled about Mancini performing his own disappearing act: hitting below the proverbial Mendoza Line down the stretch, and making Mendoza resemble Mantle by hitting .047 in the postseason.

Elder Abuse Dept.—Despite a rested-enough bullpen, in mid-to-late April aging, fading White Sox manager Tony La Russa inexplicably let his aging, fading, former Cy Young Award-winning starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel take a ten-run beating from the Guardians in which he didn’t escape the second inning alive. The White Sox bullpen kept the Guards to a single run after that. 

Emotional Support Bear Dept.—Polar, that is. Pete Alonso, Mets first baseman: Seventeen of his forty 2022 home runs (43 percent, folks) came with men in scoring position. Everybody else: Hit no more than twelve with men in scoring position. Including National League home run king Kyle Schwarber (eight) and AL single-season record-setting Aaron Judge (eleven).

Even When You Win, You Lose Dept.—The sorry Reds no-hit the sorrier Pirates in Pittsburgh on 15 May . . . and still lost. (The game’s lone run: back-to-back-to-back, bases-loading, one-out walks, and a run-scoring infield ground out—in the bottom of the eighth.)

Ground Control Dept.—Blue Jays stars Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and Bo Bichette were first and third in Show for whacking grounders into play. They were also first and fourth in Show in grounding into double plays. Guerrero’s Hall of Fame father led the Show once and his league alone once in grounding into double plays. Bichette’s slugging father never did either.

He’s on Third, We’re Not Talking About Him Dept.—But we should be. Ke’Bryan Hayes (Pirates) stole twenty bases, including third seven times. No other National League larcenist took third by crook more than four times.

Hello, I Must Be Going Dept.—After a tribute film shown to the gathering for unveiling his statue outside Dodger Stadium in mid-June, Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax opened his thank-you speech by quipping, “I think the film said everything I want to say, so I’ll be leaving now.” (He didn’t. He spoke for ten minutes—doing honour instead to some sixty people who affected his career and his life.)

High-Low Dept.—The good news: the Angels tied a franchise record 4 August when they slugged seven bombs against the Athletics. The bad news: the Angels still lost—all seven were solo shots.

Immaculate Depression Dept.—Bad enough: the Rangers victimized by a Show season-record three immaculate innings. (Definition: three straight batters, three straight strikeouts on 0-2.) Worse: Two happened in the same 15 June game, courtesy of Astros pitchers Luis Garcia and the aforementioned Phil Maton.

Impatience is a Virtue Dept.—Whenever Guardians shortstop Amed Rosario put the first pitch of a 2022 plate appearance into play, his slash line was .529/.529/.838. Whenever he faced a full count, his slash line was .237/.442/.263.

Nitwhit Dept.—Royals infielder Whit Merrifield—one of ten barred from entering Canada thanks to not receiving COVID-19 vaccinations—said he’d get the jab only if the Royals traded him to a contender. The Royals took him up on it—and traded him to the Blue Jays. 

Not Just No-Hit But Hell No-Hit Dept.—The good news: Padres pitchers Yu Darvish and Sean Manaea had back-to-back no-hit starts in early April. The bad news: The owners  lockout-imposed short spring training left them so little time to prep for the season that neither pitched past the sixth.

Pass Side/Suicide Dept.—The good news: The Red Sox have finished in first place in the AL East exactly four times in the past ten seasons. (They’ve also won a pair of World Series in the span.) The bad news: The Red Sox have also finished in last place in the AL East exactly four times in the past ten seasons.

St. Elsewhere Dept.—Reds president Phil Castellini was not amused by fans hammering the Reds’ off-season talent purge last winter. Proclaiming the team would be better off elsewhere, Castellini invited Red fans to sit the hell down, shut the hell up, and take it like a manperson. I’m reasonably certain most Red fans’ counter-invitations can’t be repeated in polite company.

Start Me Up Dept.—In the third-longest such streak in Show history, the Red Sox also went 29 straight in July without one starting pitcher receiving credit for a win. (Considering pitchers get credit for “wins” won mostly by everyone else’s hard work, I’m not so sure that streak was that terrible.)

Taking 112 for the Team Dept.—As if it wasn’t enough for the Mets to collapse into a wild card berth after looking like NL East runaways early on, they set two dubious records: They became the team hit by the most pitches in a season (112); and, they featured the most players (six, including Mark Canha’s Show-leading 28) getting drilled ten or more times. 

U.N. Dept.—The Rays became the first in Show history to field a starting lineup of nine individual nationalities on 21 August. El Hombres Division—The Rays also became the first in Show history to field an all-Latino starting lineup almost a month later.

Walk Off This Way Dept.—The Yankees led the entire Show in walk-off wins. (Sixteen.) The Yankees also led the entire Show in walk-off losses. (Eleven.) 

On which note—and barring the now-unexpected opening to contribute another essay before this month and year expire—I wish one and all a joyous holiday season to come, however you worship; and, a New Year full of peace, joy, and in due course hits, runs, balls, strikes, and streaks.

Jeff Kallman is an IBWAA Life Member who writes Throneberry Fields Forever. He has written for the Society for American Baseball Research, The Hardball Times, Sports-Central, and other publications. He has lived in Las Vegas since 2007, where he plays the guitar and writes music when not writing baseball. He remains a Met fan since the day they were born. 

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