Welcome to the MLB Star Power Index -- a weekly hootenanny that determines with awful authority which players are dominating the current zeitgeist of the sport. While one's presence on this list is often celebratory in nature, it can also be for purposes of lamentation or ridicule. The players listed are in no particular order, just like the phone book.
"The Padres' success in 2020?" You recently sniffed while paring your nails and sipping at your digestif. "It has little to do with Manny Machado."
About this -- as is the case with almost all of the declarations you breezily make while twirling your pocket watch chain and wearing four-button spats -- you are comically wrong. You are occasionally capable of stepping into a pile of truth by high accident, and that's perhaps the case in this instance. Even though once you started in the other party-goers rolled their eyes like bowling balls hellbent on a punishing strike and inventoried their prefab excuses for having to leave early, you were onto something when you subjected Manny Machado to your foppish aspersions.
While the abbreviated nature of the 2020 season is duly noted, Machado is indeed on his way to a career year in that context. At this writing, Machado is slashing .306/.374/.584 with 23 extra-base knocks in 45 games. Machado boasts an OPS+ of 157. His career OPS+ coming into 2020 was 119. He remains durable and a standpoint fielder at third base. He's also a five-time All-Star who's presently playing for one of the best teams in baseball. It says here, though, that Machado isn't getting enough attention for his bust-out season and his vital role in the Padres' success (were this a normal season, they'd be playing at a 101-win pace).
So why is Machado, who's so often been a topic of vigorous discourse throughout his career, being given short shrift in 2020? Maybe it's that he's mess-mates with Alluring Young Thunderclap Fernando Tatis Jr., who's rightfully burning through much of the Padres' allotted bandwidth. Maybe it's that we're too enraptured by their perfect new uniforms. Or maybe it's that you continue to drone on with your bald inaccuracies about Machado's essential work this season. You risk your standing on the cocktail circuit by persisting with this campaign of lies, but more important you risk running afoul of the People of Baseball, who know better -- who know that Machado has been a standout performer in 2020.
Your formal written apology, in calligraphy on 222-pound Canaletto Grana Grossa Biano card stock with a linen finish, was overdue before you began reading this. Go forth, you ridiculous presence, and endeavor -- in silence, natch -- to be half as good as Manny Machado on his worst of days.
In this space, we often cover in laurel wreaths those who get by when it comes to getting by. Speaking of which, please admire the life decisions of injured Blue Jays cloutsman Teoscar Hernandez:
Teoscar chillin’. #Bluejays. pic.twitter.com/O8qd9fFxn1— Rob Longley (@longleysunsport) September 8, 2020
Living good or living well? Yes, is the answer. Hernandez is observing rather than authoring a game of baseball because he is presently laid up with a rib injury. Prior to seeing his own body betray him, Hernandez was batting a thundersome .308/.358/.637 this season with 14 home runs in 19 games. The corporeal right now allows for no more of that, but nothing can stop the march of leisure.
So Hernandez laid down his implement and lost himself in the healing waters of lovingly upholstered comfort. He sat upon cushions. He watched baseball. Merest club chair or the driver's side seat of a Chrysler Cordoba removed and placed behind home plate by a squadron of devoted macaws? If you know anything about Teoscar Hernandez, then you know the answer before such a question is asked.
Tenacity as a first principle features a conceptual separation. On one side of the line, the rational response to observed tenacity is: "Behold the force of will on display. How laudable. Official civic commendations forthcoming." On the far side of that line: "In the name of all that is holy, stop doing what you refuse to stop doing." With the boldness of an invading horde, Cardinals backup catcher Matt Wieters may have recently crossed that line.
On Tuesday night in the third inning with two outs and the bases loaded, Wieters and unsuspecting Twins reliever Caleb Thielbar conspired to give us -- whether we wanted it or not -- the plate appearance version of the Reconquista. Bear harrowed witness:
That, mute onlookers, is the chronicling of Wieters' 19-pitch at-bat. When words will not suffice, we roll tape:
Wieters was down 0-2 in the count after the first two offerings and then managed to punch his way out of the grave for 17 more pitches. After the count went full, Wieters fouled off nine straight pitches and almost yanked a grand slam on one of them. Thielbar, in turn, pumped 10 pitches in the strike zone after reaching said full count. Recall that there were two outs. This means that Wieters' doggedness laid upon his three teammate baserunners the Job- and Frodo-like burdens of having to scamper off with the pitch and then return to their respective bases nine forlorn damned times.
Formal apologies by Wieters, written in calligraphy on 222-pound Canaletto Grana Grossa Biano card stock with a linen finish, are not necessary in this instance. This is because on the 19th and final pitch of the at-bat, Wieters drove one to deep center, and based on angle and exit velocity that particular batted ball had an expected batting average of .580. Still and yet, LaMonte Wade Jr. was able to snare it for the inning-ending out. Plainly, the baseball god on duty at the time was tired of Wieters' relentless devotion to survival and interceded to his detriment.
Henceforth, to be "Thielbarred" means to be worked for 19 or more pitches by a little-used backup catcher with ACC origins. Use the word now because you'll never be able to use it again.