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A few non-AI-generated thoughts to get through the baseball doldrums of January

From Top 10 lists to the Hall of Fame to a flame that most executives forgot to light on the Hot Stove, this month has been proof that Spring Training can’t get here soon enough.

MLB: NLDS-Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies
All the infield practice in the world can’t make Ozzie Albies catch a break when it comes to the MLB Network Top 10 lists.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

These are the doldrums - the cold, cold days of Winter.

A lot of teams must have forgotten to pay their gas bill, because the hot stove never really lit for a lot of teams not named the Atlanta Braves. Yes, the same team who decided to extend Alex Anthopoulos until the year 2748 as a thank you for making them profitable one of the best organizations in baseball, again.

The Baseball Hall of Fame announcements are coming this week and, yet again, they are reminding many of us that the process of electing players to this Museum is, at best, flawed.

Oh, and we can’t forget Top 10 lists.

With nothing more interesting to write about outside of whether this is the year that Jordan Luplow will make the Braves out of Spring Training, here’s some good ol’ fashion opinionations on some of what has gone on in the first three weeks of 2024.

And yes, “opinionations” is a word. I made it up just now. And as we know, all you have to do is say something out loud to make it true in these lovely times in which we live.

The “Hot” Stove

As a kid, I’d go tent camping a lot. Tent camping isn’t the “glamping” that is popular today, no, tent camping was the joys of popping up an old, musty tent on dirt and rocks and hoping that it doesn’t rain or otherwise you’d have to tarp the top in a futile effort to maintain some level of waterproof.

A staple of tent life was a Coleman (not a sponsor) stove. Those things could make the best pot of grits you’ve ever eaten, and they have the lovely smell of propane and propane accessories that would make Hank Hill smile, as awkward as that was.

When you’re cold and wet, a bowl of hot grits goes a long way. I’m guessing there are a lot of hungry General Managers or Executive Vice Presidents of Baseball Operations or President of Baseball Because Daddy Said So folks bopping about out there that never knew the joys of riding in the bed of a pick-up truck at 50 MPH on a gravel road on the way back to the campsite to get some of corn’s greatest gifts, because that stove is cold!

For real, we are three weeks out from pitchers and catchers reporting for duty and the remaining free agents are decent enough that the Nashville Countrypolitans or the Salt Lake City Wasps could field an expansion team better than the Oakland/Las Vegas Quasi-Athletics.

Pump that stove, folks! You got a get some propane in there before it will light up!

But On The Other Hand

Canadians know a thing or twelve about staying warm in the Winter, ‘cause our bestie Uncle Alex laid down that kindling like an expert and got those flames roaring as soon as the first oak leaf in the ground and kept that fire lit all the way the end of 2023.

Canadian by birth but Southern by heart, Uncle Alex was raised right because he knew if you wanted a fire that would burn a long time you start by using-up all the old, brittle scraps and then toss on some fresh, green wood so it won’t burn out too fast and keep going all night long.

Speaking of green wood, welcome to the greater Atlanta metropolitan area, Jarred Kelenic! (Note to self: “a” before “e” and then “e” twice.)

Seriously, though. Anthopoulos and his front office crew made so many transactions after the season that even he lost count (he said it himself on South-Central Georgia’s favorite podcast).

On the heels of the 2024 season, the Braves look to be better on paper that they were last season – which is saying a lot.

Sit Down And Stay A While

The Atlanta Braves extended Anthopoulos so that his stay in Atlanta will last into the next decade. He has earned that deal. As good as he has been, the success of the post-sanctioned international free agent signing will go a long way in seeing if Los Bravos are at the peak of this run or if another wave of young talent will be able to carry the team forward when guys like Orlando Arcia and Ozzie Albies become free agents in a few years.

AI Generated Bullshhhhhhh

Last week saw the media arm of Major League Baseball put out its Top 10 list per position. Honestly, it has been a few years – maybe five – since I’ve watched MLB Network but I remember watching these shows in the past and remember the mysterious “Shredder” that is supposed to be the “AI” mind behind these lists back when saying “AI” brought thoughts of one of two NBA players, not impending doom.

Maybe that was the point.

Maybe, the MLB Network decided to do a social experiment to show what can go wrong when you let artificial intelligence, so called, work without human oversight and intervention. If so, wow! I applaud you, media executives! What an excellent and unexpected way to bring significant social commentary to the forefront of social media. Truly, kudos to you.

Yeah.

“We are the product, not the consumer.”

I’m paraphrasing there, but those are wise words from your AEW World Champion Samoa Joe.

Because that has to be the only purpose of those Top 10 lists. When Ozzie Albies was left off the Top 10 second baseman list, good grief, everybody and their mother was outraged. Please don’t make you momma outraged. Your momma loves Ozzie. We all love Ozzie.

Well, everyone but AI. Can AI really know love?

I guess that’s one thing it still has to work on because otherwise those lists aren’t good for anything other than making ... oh, wait. That’s the real point. Make people angry online. That’s good for something ...

Good for engagement. Good for metrics. Good for benchmarking KPIs. Good for ads.

Good for nothing.

It’s a bad look if you ask me. Shocker – no one is asking me.

No one is suggesting that Albies was the best second baseman in baseball, but he’s safely in the Top 10 and that point is inarguable.

Hall of Pain

The Baseball Hall of Fame vote will be announced this week, and it looks like one or two players will be near misses. If you are keeping up with the voting – even casually – you will see the utter disgrace that is the ballots submitted by a significant number of voters.

Everyone is entitled to their view of banned substances, “Big Hall vs. Small Hall”, etc., but there is no rhyme nor reason to so many of these ballots. The players most impacted are the ones where a thoughtful analysis of their careers by all voters are most critical.

When you see a ballot that contain only three players – one of whom has no shot at staying on the ballot – and another where a borderline candidate is dropped for another player and that voter only voted for nine players (and voted for the player dropped the year prior), well, that’s not so good.

My view on the Hall of Fame has changed slightly over the years. Ron Santo and Buck O’Neil were big reasons why. Voting men in posthumously when they should have received the honor while still a live to collect appreciation and adulation is a shame. While that isn’t quite the same as the writer’s vote, it is part of the overall process that stinks.

Spring, Sprang, Sprung

There is hope, however. Spring Training is a month away. The welcome refrain of a ball slapping inside a glove; the smell of freshly mowed grass; and the feeling of warm sunshine.

Ah yes, those great things.

With many things to look forward to - and make us forget this wretched month - it could be easy to forget what the one thing might be many of you are looking forward to the most:

A PA announcer calling out though the loudspeakers in a non-blow-out game, “Now pitching for your Atlanta Braves, right-hander, Charlie Culberson!”

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