Designated Homer 001: Framber Valdez usually gets his way
Welcome to a new series we’re trying out this year, for opening day of the 2022 MLB season. Think of this as a running diary of a free agent beisbol fan, which is what we’ve been ever since the Boston Red Sox decided that nope they didn’t want to keep — and pay — one of the game’s five or so best players. All season long, we’ll watch games and identify our favorite team(s) of the moment. We’re not quite sure how much or often we’ll be checking in on this space, but we promise it’ll be semi regularly. This is Designated Homer 001.
In light of our new found fandom freedom (ha! how’s this for alliteration??), we decided to subscribe to MLB TV for the start of the 2022 season.
It’s a small sample size considering that we’re writing this in what’s still the thick of things of Opening Week of this new season, but we love the app so far. We love that you can pick between either team’s local commenting feed for description. We love that you can change between games in mere seconds on any given day, with only the games shown on cable in your area being unavailable. (Unless you live in Iowa.) We love that you can watch on our cellphone, iPad, TV, or Apple TV.
We love MLB TV a whole lot but that’s the thing, right? Because this is beisbol and MLB, we know that this won’t last long. We know that it won’t be long before we find things that baseball does to this app that annoys us because this is how these things work with Major League Baseball, but so far so good.
Anyway, here are our favourite teams after the first few days of action.
Leader in the club house — Houston Astros
Look we get it. This is an awful pick. The Houston Astros cheated at least in part their way to a 2017 World Series title, then reacted like the entire baseball world had killed their cat once their sign-stealing scheme was exposed. They’re fucking assholes, Carlos Correa with his “woe be me” attitude before he took his talents to Minnesota (Minnesota????), and Jose Altuve with his fake embarrassing tattoo he wanted to keep covered up. The Astros once employed Colby Rasmus and Gerrit Cole. They’re pricks. Cheaters. They want to win at all costs, including the very real cost of bringing on Roberto Osuna and celebrating and empowering him.
But! Here comes the but... Just how insufferable can Correa really be if he signed with the Twins and not the New York Yankees this off-season? For all his self-righteous nonsense lies, Altuve is still a giant of a baseball player stuck in a minuscule body (and he cheated, yes). Yordan Alvarez has posted a wrc+ of like 100,472 over the past three years. Alex Bregman is a bitch but when you’re an Astros fan, at least he’s your bitch.
And then, there’s proverbial staff ace Framber Valdez. The 28-year-old Dominican southpaw has become the leading pitcher of an underrated staff — at least until Justin Verlander takes over for do-or-die playoff games. Last season, Valdez saw his strikeout rate decrease by 4.4 per cent, and his walk rate increase by 4 percent, but none of it mattered. At 70 per cent, no MLB pitcher created more ground balls in 2021 (and it wasn’t even close).
In short, Valdez doesn’t try to overpower opposing hitters. He gives them all seemingly juicy goofballs to hit and, most of the time, all they can manage is a grounder to shortstop, third base or wherever else. That’s exactly what happened on Opening Night against a hapless Los Angeles Angels lineup that also featured Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani: over six and two-third innings, Valdez struck out six hitters, gave up two hits and enforced 11 ground balls. Quite the ho-hum outing, yes. Against Valdez, opposing hitters want it to be one way. But it’s the other way.
(We’re also 100,000% going to need one of their newly unveiled Space City jerseys.)
Wild Card 1 — Chicago White Sox
We had planted our proverbial flag. That’s the worst part.
We had announced our plans to cheer on the Chicago White Sox loudly and proudly all season long, and we were ready. We had customized the little app icon of MLB TV on our cellphone, then our iPad, to be one of the team we would be cheering for, we had subscribed to their YouTube channel, liked their videos, followed the team on Instagram and Twitter… you know, the whole shabang.
But you know what they say, right? That the heart wants what the heart wants. And apparently this heart is rotten to the core.
Wild Card 2 — Pittsburgh Pirates
Everything about our love for this little engine that could and should know that it can, but somehow never does, everything about it starts with the Pittsburgh Pirates uniforms.
Plus, just before the new season started the Pirates dotted one of the i’s on their to-do list, namely the one that resides on the third base line, when third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes signed a new contract. The deal he signed, at $70 million over eight years, is entirely reasonable for all involved when it comes to a third baseman who profiles as an absolute elite defender with an average bat. Yet, as always with this franchise, the devil is in the post-script. The new Hayes contract, which again is a mere $70 million in total value, is the richest the Pirates have ever handed out. It beats out by a whopping $10 million the one they once gave to Jason Kendall, who signed the contract all the way back in 2000 and who last played with the team in…2003. Oh God! This is grim, what have we done????
Wild Card 3 — Kansas City Royals
We’re definitely drinking the Bobby Witt Jr Kool-Aid, baby! We also really, really love a catcher who mashes.
Others receiving votes
Miami Marlins. We know, we hate ourselves for it too. Until recently, the ownership and executive team of the franchise was the same group who couldn’t find their ass if you put their nose to it, and who was there when they stole our Montreal Expos from us. But the Marlins have amazing uniforms, Sandy Alcantara, and the lord and savior Jesus Sanchez.
Tampa Rays. We’re still riding the high off of Randy Arozarena’s 2020 World Series run. It could never be us but it’s just so fucking badass to see someone walk in a room and take ownership of absolutely everything and everyone in it. That’s what Randy did as a rookie.
San Francisco Giants. For no real reason, we like the San Francisco Giants. There’s something about unexplained genius here, where the sum of the relatively average to good parts of a team coalesce into one, superlative group. That’s what’s at play here, that’s what appeals to us with this team. Newcomer Carlos Rodon is also an absolute G, which helps.