What in the hell is going on with MLB this winter? This entire MLB offseason has read like some poorly scripted reality TV show.
Much like The Bachelor, or any other of these dumb shows that I refuse to watch, the offseason has focused around one main character (MLB) with a host of supporting characters with their own little agendas. The offseason has had twists and turns, one after the next, (almost) all with these fairytale endings.
The heroes of the show are placed on pedestals, while the villains gain infamy through people’s hate. You get tired of watching, yet somehow you’re glued to the TV, just waiting to see what unfolds next; believable or not.
Plot One: The Astros Cheating Scandal
In case you’ve been under a rock, the offseason has consisted of what seems to be five main plots. The Astros cheating scandal took center stage, allowing for almost a new episode every day.
The cliff notes would read like this. The Astros steal signs electronically. A former Astros’ pitcher (starring Mike Fiers) collects a World Series ring, then suddenly gets a guilty conscience and reveals the scandal. MLB investigates and finds this sci-fi, high-tech, elaborate scheme. In some twist of fate, MLB Commissioner (Rob Manfred) grants immunity in exchange for cooperation. In the end, the scheme is masterminded by an intern, NASA scientists and involves a trashcan.
Players (and former players) from Houston are guilty as sin, however, they start singing like canaries, knowing they’ve gotten off scot-free. A manager (played by A.J. Hinch) and a General Manager (portrayed by Nick Lunhow) get one-year suspensions, yet they don’t even start serving them before the Astros can ’em both.
As an interesting side plot, Manfred makes like 182 rules designed to screw up baseball.
The Scandal: Episode Two
Over in Boston, the Red Sox manager (starring Alex Cora) gets implicated in the scheme, as he happened to be the bench coach in Houston during the 2017 season. After winning a World Series championship* in Houston, Cora moves to Boston, starts cheating there, and wins another World Series in his first year as a manager. Boston ownership freaks out and fires Cora. (To be continued next week)
The Scandal: Episode Three
Next, 215 miles down the road in Queens, New York, Carlos Beltran is hired as the Mets’ new manager. Beltran has never managed and fans are eager, but alas, Beltran was an Astro in 2017. The Mets’ ownership knee-jerks at the thought of being implicated. Beltran is fired before ever so much as reaching the Mets’ spring training camp in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
The Scandal: Episode Four
Next, players start coming out left and right to speak out against the Astros, their players and Rob Manfred’s piss-poor handling of the situation. Manfred tries to clear the smoke by minimalizing the championship trophy (also called the Commissioner’s Trophy), calling it “a piece of metal.” Manfred takes serious heat for that faux pas, then speaks about how wrong his original statement was.
Players continue to fire shots at Manfred, then Manfred promises the safety of Mike Fiers and the Astros’ players. Manfred, in the wake of what’s now become a full-scale mutiny, considers taking away Houston’s 2017 title.
To be continued…
Plot Two: Nolan Arenado vs. the Rockies
Nolan Arenado signed a huge, eight-year/$260M plot in 2019 to begin this plot. The Rockies promise to build a contender around Arenado but fail to do anything constructive. Arenado says he feels disrespected, the Rockies GM (played by Jeff Bridich) immediately starts talking trade.
Arenado becomes furious when Bridich recants his intentions, saying that Arenado will stay put. The scene ends with a firestorm from Arenado, saying that he wants out of Denver.
Arenado: Episode Two
With both sides furious at one another, Bridich again places Arenado on the trading block. No less than 20 teams show interest, now that Josh Donaldson (a side story of its own) has signed with Minnesota.
The episode ends with flashing headlines that read a trade is imminent, followed by a quick glimpse at the Cubs. To be continued.
Plot Three: The Cubs and Kris Bryant
Over in Chicago, rumors have been flying all offseason about the Cubs trading a superstar. The team dangled the names Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras, but vowed a trade was coming. On the edge of their seats and without any fingernails left to bite, it becomes evident that Kris Bryant is the target.
The Billionaire owner (played by Tom Ricketts) says the Cubs have no money to spend, then issues a mandate to get under the luxury tax. Teams are now in a frenzy, trying to decide whether Bryant or Arenado best suits their needs.
Bryant: Episode Two
Complicating a Bryant trade is a service time grievance filed by Bryant. The Cubs tampered with his service time, causing Bryant an extra year of team control; but nobody knows that yet. The arbitrator (played by Mark Irvings) drags his feet for several months, despite the rules being clear. The Cubs violated no rules.
The plot thickens here, though the viewer must read between the lines. The Cubs can’t trade Bryant as long as the grievance is unsettled. Teams don’t know whether Bryant is controllable for one year or two until the arbitrator renders his decision.
Perhaps sympathetic to Bryant’s plight, the arbitrator waits as long as he can, thus snuffing out any chance the Cubs have of signing any of the top-50 free agents. The last of the top-50 is Nicholas Castellanos, who held on until the last minute, wanting to reunite with the Cubs. Once Castellanos gave up and signed with the Reds, Irvings rendered a decision.
Bryant: Episode Three
Cubs’ president (Theo Epstein) shops Bryant, then feels offended by what is offered in return. Bryant, meanwhile, says that he’s paying no attention to the trade rumors and that Twitter is the worst thing that’s ever happened to social media.
Over the course of the next five months (conveniently shown in one episode via time-lapse), the Bryant trade rumors continue with a varying cast of characters who want to trade for him. Failure to trade Bryant has cost the Cubs the inability to sign free agents with a shelf life that long ago expired.
Bryant/Arenado: The Plots Merge
What better plot than to have two teams, each desperate to trade an All-Star third baseman, talk about a one-for-one trade? Yes! That really happened!
That lasted all of about three days before the producers steered away from that plot, knowing smarter baseball fans could see right through it.
Arenado: Episode Three
Arenado holds a press conference saying that he’ll support the team and play his best. The Rockies vow to work with Arenado. The episode ends with the headline which reads that both parties are working to patch things up.
Bryant: Episode Four
After failing to trade Bryant, Theo Epstein says there are no hard feelings, then says he hopes Bryant stays. Bryant says he wants to be a Cub. The sides have a chat, each emerging with a feeling of relief. Bryant volunteers to serve as the Cubs’ ever-elusive leadoff man; David Ross likes the idea and says he’ll try it.
The (Off)Season Finale
This episode should air on March 26, 2019, but has not been assigned a scheduled air date.
Rob Manfred continues to take flack over his mishandling of the Astros’ scandal. Kris Bryant fails as the leadoff hitter. Nolan Arenado remains discontent.
Meanwhile, fans are left torn between wanting more and wondering how the MLB offseason has turned into a scripted reality show.
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