By Sammy Bovitz
The following conversation was taped in front of a live studio audience.
SAMMY: Folks, after a long winter, baseball season is finally upon us once again. Many of you fans out there checked out as soon as the Atlanta Braves won the 2021 World Series on November 2nd. But now that spring is here, it’s time to check in on all the news from the past few months, and even make some predictions for the future. But first, allow me to reintroduce my partner, Quintessential the baseballing golden poison frog!
QUINTESSENTIAL: You can all call me Quin for short. It’s wonderful that we were able to hold this conversation on my home turf this time, right here in Colombia. How was your flight?
SAMMY: Not bad! I’d love to catch up on the side, but I figured we’d jump right into things.
QUIN: Don’t you mean hop?
Quin has to pause for laughter and applause.
SAMMY: You are very funny and poisonous as usual, Quin!
QUIN: That’s why you’re standing so far away. I love you for that, human bro!
SAMMY: You too, frog bro. Anyways, let’s get started.
We should first discuss the long lockout that lasted from December all the way to March 10th, when the players and owners signed a new collective bargaining agreement. Initial thoughts on this?
QUIN: As an expert on toxic relationships, I gotta say that the way the owners were treating the players’ association was pretty awful. The owners waited 45 days after the lockout began on December 2nd to even present the players with an offer. After a couple months of negotiations that went almost nowhere, it seemed like the season wasn’t going to start on time.
SAMMY: Yup. The owners and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred pushed stories to the media about the players’ union demands shifting over time, without any attempts to concede any demands. In fact, the owners were the stingier party–
QUIN: I gotta cut you off there, Sammy. First off, saying the word “sting” rather than acknowledging the glory of poison is insulting to me, so I’d prefer if you didn’t do that again.
There are audible gasps in the crowd. Professional wrestler and superstar actor John Cena, wearing a sparkling gold hoodie, begins to crack his knuckles.
SAMMY: My apologies, Quintessential.
QUIN: It’s okay… human bro.
The crowd exhales.
I’ll finish the story you were spinning, if that’s cool. The owners kept pushing back their “deadline” for the season to start, eventually announcing that they’d cancel the first two series of the season on March 1st. Thankfully, after days of frantic negotiations, the season was salvaged on the 10th, allowing for an Opening Day of April 5th and a full 162-game regular season for each and every team. The CBA had some solid wins for the players, along with a few rule changes that I think we need to talk about.
SAMMY: How were you able to follow this news from here? Reception isn’t wonderful here in the swamp.
QUIN: I have an old rotary phone that I keep on standby. Full disclosure: I helped Angels superstar Mike Trout write his statement on social media advocating for a fair deal for the players.
SAMMY: That’s incredible! I’m glad you two are still close.
QUIN: Yeah! I would’ve gone to Thanksgiving at his place last year, but he had COVID concerns. I feel like that was an excuse for something else, though.
SAMMY: I can’t personally imagine what, but I don’t want to speak on the relationship you two have.
QUIN: Hold on. Is that a beetle? One second, I need to take this. Recap the rule changes for me, Samuel.
Alongside the player-friendly changes Quin referred to, MLB is adding an international draft, an NBA-style lottery for their draft, and an expansion of the postseason to 12 teams as opposed to 10. But the most interesting addition was that of the universal designated hitter.
I personally thought this was a great move for the game. Catering to younger and more casual fans through moves meant to just make baseball more fun is what MLB needs, and adding a universal DH was a great choice. Simply put, it’s just more fun to watch hitters who can actually hit rather than pitchers clearly not in their comfort zone.
QUIN: I gotta say, I disagree, Sammy. I may be a poisonist, but I’m also a purist.
Quin is forced to hold for applause.
SAMMY: Poisonist isn’t even a word!
QUIN: While the universal DH might be a great thing for casual fans, it really hurts the sanctity of the sport. Changing a tradition after decades of statistical harmony will only make things worse.
SAMMY: I think a sport featuring 18 dudes in button downs throwing a tiny ball around isn’t that sacred, but we’ll agree to disagree.
QUIN: That’s a hot take, Sammy! I should know– us golden poison frogs thrive in warmer environments. But hey, those takes are what they pay you the big bucks for.
SAMMY: You get paid?
QUIN: Let’s talk about free agency! I think we need to discuss the biggest moves of the offseason, because oh tadpole were there a lot of them.
SAMMY: Wait, is that a pun of “oh boy”? How does that work? You know, most talking frogs at least make sense.
QUIN: I know, but I’m not like other frogs. Let’s talk about some of the teams that shook things up the most this offseason with big additions.
I think we should start with the team that I’d argue had the most turnover outside of the Big Apple, and that’s the Texas Rangers.
SAMMY: I couldn’t agree with you more, Quin. Let’s start with–
QUIN: The 10-year, $325 million contract to shortstop Corey Seager. That’s exactly what I was thinking! Now, I know you’re a big Dodgers fan, Sammy, and Corey’s your buddy–
SAMMY: Be careful what you say.
QUIN: I’m literally a poisonous frog.
Corey’s your buddy, but I think he’s a huge signing for the Rangers alongside infielder Marcus Semien and starter Jon Gray. It’s going to be a big prove-it year for Texas. For too long they’ve been behind the Houston Astros and Oakland A’s in their division. But they’re making big hops towards success again, and that’s great to see.
SAMMY: A lot of other teams took unexpectedly big, uh, hops this offseason. The Detroit Tigers decided suddenly that they were done rebuilding and signed infielder Javier Baez to a massive 6-year contract; and in what I thought was the most surprising move of the offseason, the Rockies handed out a huge 7-year deal to third baseman Kris Bryant.
QUIN: It’s really sad that the Rockies couldn’t work things out with their old superstar third baseman, Nolan Arenado, and instead just straight up replaced him just two years after letting Arenado join the St. Louis Cardinals. Also, can I just say that I do not buy the Javier Baez signing at all? I’ve eaten dozens and dozens of beetles of varying quality, so I know what inconsistency looks like, and Baez is no different.
SAMMY: You’re comparing him to a beetle?
QUIN: Baez is a huge risk for Detroit, but at least he’ll make things interesting. Let’s also not forget about starting pitcher Zack Greinke, who returned to his original team in the Kansas City Royals! He’s fallen from his once-elite status, but it’s still great to see him there, even if the Royals will probably stay in the low tier of MLB teams.
SAMMY: I couldn’t agree more. Now, let’s run through the biggest moves that the contenders made, Quin. Why don’t we start with the defending champion Atlanta Braves. They may have lost their first baseman Freddie Freeman, but they did get a solid replacement in Matt Olson. Not only that, they signed one of my favorite players ever: reliever Kenley Jansen from the Los Angeles Dodgers. I have to say, that one hurt a bit.
QUIN: Would you say that it was tox–
SAMMY: Please don’t finish that sentence. Can you just let me run through a few more of these in peace? Please?
SAMMY: The Boston Red Sox added elite shortstop Trevor Story on a lucrative 6-year deal, the kind of splash that they needed to make after a couple years of uncertainty. My favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, lost Corey Seager, Kenley Jansen, and starter Max Scherzer, and all of those losses will certainly hurt. That said, they arguably added the #1 free agent prize in Freddie Freeman, and of course they needed to bring back future Hall of Fame starter Clayton Kershaw, so I’m glad that they did.
The Minnesota Twins added the other big free agent prize, shortstop Carlos Correa, in a shocking move that will see him in Minnesota for up to 3 years. They also traded for starter Sonny Gray, and are now poised to be a serious contender this year. The Toronto Blue Jays signed a great starting pitcher in Kevin Gausman and traded for third baseman Matt Chapman, and are shaping up to be a nice dark horse in the playoff race.
QUIN: Did you know that “Dark Horse” is my favorite song? I loved Juicy J’s work for years, but him teaming up with Katy Perry was really the icing on the cake.
SAMMY: Why is this relevant?
QUIN: Let’s wrap up with the local teams! The Mets added elite starter Max Scherzer, outfielder Starling Marte, infielder Eduardo Escobar, and starter Chris Bassitt in a solid haul, while the Yankees only have third baseman Josh Donaldson to show for their offseason, and they had to give up catcher Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela to the Twins to get him.
SAMMY: Let me just quickly add that—
QUIN: That’s going to about do it for this MLB season preview! On behalf of our entire dedicated team, and also Sammy, this is Quin signing off. Thanks so much for listening, and we hope to see you around your swamp sometime soon.
Quin winks. There is thunderous applause.
SAMMY: We never agreed on that catchphrase.