Around this time ever year, we hit that tipping point where most of the offseason’s notable moves have already occurred. Sure, there are some free agents left to sort out (I.E. Stephen Drew, Nelson Cruz, Ubaldo Jimenez, etc.), but for the most part, the bigger pieces have fallen into place, and baseball fans as a collective are ready for the season to begin.
Now, we’re in Projection Season – everybody’s putting in his or her two cents about every team in the league. If such-and-such goes right, Team X could make the playoffs. If so-and-so stays healthy, he could be an MVP. If all the cards play right, the Cubs could win the World Series (or something). There’s an inherent positivity to this part of the year – nothing’s gone wrong yet, and the season is quite literally a blank slate.
In that spirit, I wanted to take a look at the potential futures for the American League East, but there’s a twist: this column isn’t quite the same kind of analysis as what I just discussed. I’m not talking about what could go right here; I’m talking about what could go very, very wrong. This isn’t a glass-half-empty approach; this is a the-bottom-fell-out-of-the-glass-and-now-there’s-whiskey-all-over-your-computer approach.
What’s the worst that could happen?
• Joe Maddon breaks his stupid, stupid glasses.
• Ownership announces that Tropicana Field “will be the team’s home forever.”
• The team goes through budget cuts to prevent the “unaffordable figure” of the team’s current payroll.
• They also bring back the “Devil Rays” moniker.
• They’re reported as asking players to consider signing for free. Jose Canseco is the only taker.
• The Baseball Gods™ decide that the Rays’ special brand of voodoo magic has run its course; they average 100 losses over the next three seasons.
• Evan Longoria goes the way of Grady Sizemore, never playing more than 80 games in a season for the rest of his career, which, by the way, ends in 2015.
• Wil Myers plays well, but jumps ship for the Yankees when his contract runs out.
• He wins an MVP award there.
• Chris Davis decides to reinvent himself as a singles hitter, saying “Who doesn’t want to play like Ichiro?”
• Wei-Yin Chen goes down as the best Orioles starting pitcher of the previous five years.
• Manny Machado becomes displeased with playing third base, and eventually transitions back to shortstop… with the Yankees…
• …who take Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, too. Just for good measure.
• Jim Johnson has a huge season for Oakland…
• …Grant Balfour is unhittable for Tampa Bay…
• …and all the while, the Orioles’ closer position is an enormous tire fire.
• Buck Showalter finally snaps, and is fired after playing JJ Hardy in the leadoff spot for three consecutive weeks.
• Things stay pretty much the same as they are right now.
• Alex Rodriguez comes back. Derek Jeter signs a five-year extension, calling himself “the next Omar Vizquel.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury channels a certain Red Sox outfielder from 2011 (and it’s not himself).
• Taco Bell no longer wants to associate with him.
• Mark Teixeira is lost to time and space; Yankees fans hear rumors of his existence, but no evidence of this is found apart from a blurry photo taken somewhere in Brooklyn.
• Joe Girardi retires and writes a tell-all book about his time as the Yankees manager.
• Brett Gardner begins aging in dog years; he catches up to (starting shortstop)
Derek Jeter in 2018.
• Masahiro Tanaka turns out to be more Dice-K than Darvish, Brian McCann imposes a new fascist regime on the Yankees clubhouse, and Jacoby Ellsbury tragically passes away after tripping in the outfield grass before his first game with the team.
• Curtis Granderson goes 30-30 with the Mets.
• The Red Sox magic of 2013 continues into 2014, as the team again finishes with the league’s best record, and again beats the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
• John Lackey’s 2013 season turns out to be a figment of our imaginations.
• Three batters hit Ted Williams’ red seat off him.
• David Ortiz takes the plate against the Yankees in July and just crumbles into sand.
• Jon Lester decides he doesn’t want to take a hometown discount after all, and signs with the Yankees for 5 years, $150 million.
• Mike Napoli’s hip finally implodes.
• The Boston medical staff discovers that Grady Sizemore is, in fact, made of nothing but dust and tears.
• John Henry hires a new pitching coach: Daisuke Matsuzaka.
• This leads to John Ferrell having an aneurysm.
• Koji Uehara breaks his hand in a tragic high-fiving accident.
• Ben Cherington resigns as General Manager, stating he wanted to pursue his life’s
true dream: interpretive dance.
• John Henry announces his plan to focus on Liverpool FC, to the delight of the
• Xander Bogaerts returns to his home planet.
• Buck Showalter wins Manager of the Year for the American League.
• A-Rod returns in 2015, hits 40 home runs, and takes home the AL MVP award.
• Jacoby Ellsbury finally wins the MVP award he was robbed of in 2011.
• The Yankees win 102 games, rampages through the playoffs, and wins the World
Series in four games over St. Louis.
• Dan Shaughnessy writes a column titled “The Curse of Jacoby Ellsbury.”
So there you have just a small sample of the terrible things that could occur to the AL East in 2014. No matter what happens, I hope this returning to this column this season will help answer one question:
How could things be worse?