Halloween is coming up on Saturday, so we decided to ask the other writers at Banished to the Pen, “What were some of the scariest moments in MLB this season?” To put it another way, “What people, events, or outcomes caused the most nightmares over the course of the year?”
What follows is a list of the most terrifying things in baseball.
Full disclosure, I’m probably not the best person to write an article with a horror theme. I haven’t watched a horror move in sixteen years. I just can’t handle them. What I find terrifying, most people find moderately scary, so let’s keep those expectations low.
Here are some honorable mentions to start out: Jimmy Nelson surviving a comebacker to the head (one of several scary close calls). Jimmy Blevins re-fracturing his arm by slipping on a curb. Despondent Wilmer Flores after the trade that never was. Kris Bryant leaving a game early before trade deadline day (it was just flu-like symptoms). Jon Lester with a runner on first. While the 2015 Rockies were pretty scary, they had a horror all-star team in 1994. Lastly, Alex Crisafulli offers this treat: “Howard ‘Howie’ Joseph Kendrick III – If you use his full name (and pretend two of the Roman numerals from ‘III’ are ‘Ls’) you can spell out ‘Halloween.'”
1. Nationals fans’ nightmare: Matt Williams is your manager
This season started with so much promise for Nationals fans. PECOTA projected the team to win 92 games. Almost every baseball writer thought they would run away with the NL East. They’d signed Max Scherzer, and their pitching staff was quickly dubbed a “super rotation.” The offense was loaded. What could possibly go wrong?
Usually in horror movies, the person you should fear is the person you least suspect. How much damage could a manager really do? Heck, Ned Yost has shown how successful a team can be when a manager does practically nothing. But as the season wore on, the stories started to creep out. There were complaints about his bullpen usage. There were questions about his tactical acumen. Reports emerged about a disconnect between the manager and his players.
Toward the end of the year the problems became more pronounced. Jayson Werth was screaming at Williams, “When exactly do you think you lost this team?” Jonathan Papelbon pitched the 9th inning of a game after HE TRIED TO CHOKE HIS OWN TEAM’S BEST PLAYER. Why? “He’s our closer.” Williams had Nationals fans daydreaming about how great life would be if Dusty Baker was in the dugout. It’s a pretty big accomplishment to get a fan base to fawn over Baker.
To be fair, you can’t pin all of Washington’s problems on Williams. Injuries set the team back. A number of offensive players underperformed. But we can’t let those things stand in the way of narrative, can we?
2. Red Sox fans’ nightmare: Hanley Ramirez is your left fielder
After the Red Sox finished last in the AL East in 2014 it was clear that they were looking to make upgrades. Many expected they would take a look at Hanley Ramirez. The Red Sox already had Xander Bogaerts at shortstop, but Ramirez’s offensive prowess was too tantalizing to pass on. He could easily transition to third. A right-handed power bat in Fenway seemed like an easy decision..
But the Red Sox decided to add Pablo Sandoval too. So what would they do with Hanley? Ramirez had played shortstop for over ten years at this point. He had done one of the hardest things for a defender to do in baseball. Surely he could figure out left field. How could it not work? His offense would easily overshadow any of his defensive liabilities. Right???
I present to you without further comment, the highlight reel that still makes Sox fans wake up in a cold sweat:
3. Bobblehead enthusiasts’ nightmare:
Hunter Pence & Garden Gnome Hunter PenceI don’t want either of those things on my shelf. Or on my desk. Fans had a lot of fun this season reminding us of things that Hunter Pence can and can’t do. “Hunter Pence’s bobblehead comes to life” isn’t something I’m willing to take a chance on.
4. Bill Welke’s nightmare: Joey Votto has that look in his eye After an injury-plagued 2014 some were wondering if Votto was beginning his decline. He responded with one of the best offensive seasons in baseball. Votto hit .314/.459/.541 with 29 HR and 80 RBI. He was one of the few bright spots on a Reds team that tanked after the All-Star break. Not only is Joey Votto good at baseball, but who doesn’t love him? He’s calm. He’s reserved. Sure he’s a little robotic, but he plays the game in a way that stat heads can admire. On top of all that, he’s Canadian for crying out loud. Why would you ever be scared of a Canadian that didn’t have the last name Hart? Well… on September 10th Bill Welke found out exactly why. It was becoming clear that Votto wasn’t thrilled with a few of Welke’s strike calls. The two had a few short discussions, and then Joey Votto lost his ever loving mind. They say that in a fight you shouldn’t worry about the guy who runs his mouth… you should worry about the guy who never says anything. Joey… we’re scared.
5. Rangers fans’ nightmare: Jose Bautista Game 5 of the ALDS between the Blue Jays and Rangers was one of the best games I’ve ever seen. In what has been dubbed “the 7th inning,” an incredible sequence of events led to the Rangers taking a one-run lead. It looked like Texas was going to shock the heavily favored Blue Jays. And then… it happened. Rangers fans, I know the wound is still fresh so I’ll keep the descriptions to a minimum.
There’s a moment after Bautista hits the home run when he just stands there… staring. That, followed by a vicious batflip, led Sam Miller to call it “one of the most psychologically violent things I’ve ever seen.” How long will Bautista’s face haunt the dreams of Rangers fans? Only time will tell.
6. The playoff audience’s nightmare: You never know where Pete Rose is coming from Oh hey it’s C.J. Nitkowski. I like that guy. I wouldn’t mind hearing from him during a rain delay. And then out of nowhere….
“Good evening, C.J.”
I’m aware that most people would have gotten this reference if I had written “Hello, C.J.,” but that line isn’t in Silence of the Lambs. It’s a misquotation. Yes, I will sacrifice you understanding the reference for getting the quote right. Lets have some journalistic integrity. This is Banished to the Pen after all.
7. The playoff audience’s nightmare, part II: the announce team that came back from the dead
Can I tell everyone a secret? I don’t mind Joe Buck. However, if you’ve ever been on Twitter during a World Series game then you know there are a lot of people who really really don’t like Joe Buck. Throw Harold Reynolds in the mix and the criticism of that booth is all you’re going to hear for hours.
But a weird thing happened during Game 1 of the World Series. For a few minutes during the fourth inning, people were left with this image.
Apparently Fox lost power to its broadcast truck. So what was going to happen? MLB couldn’t continue the game because this also affected the use of replay. Then out of nowhere, MLB switched over to their international feed.
What was this strange gift? All of a sudden Matt Vasgersian and John Smoltz were calling the game. Twitter rejoiced. The understated tone was a welcome change of pace. Harold Reynolds was gone!
In every good horror movie there is that moment where the protagonist thinks they have defeated the enemy, and then predictably, whatever they had been facing makes a sudden surprise return.
“We head to the bottom of the 5th… as John and I are joined by Joe Buck, Tom Verducci, and Harold Reynolds. To whom we will throw it… for a while.”
8. At Bat app user’s nightmare: the entire league is a triple short of the cycle
If you love baseball you probably have the At Bat app. I love being able to listen to radio broadcasts while I’m in the car. Having the opportunity to watch live baseball from my phone during the course of my day is great. It’s also helpful for getting notified of big news that breaks.
I don’t remember the first time it happened, and I don’t remember the player it was referencing. However, one summer day I received this notification, “________ is a triple shy of the cycle.” Huh. That’s interesting. A triple is probably a long shot, but I’ll keep an eye on it.
Then the next day it happened.
And every day from that moment on someone seemed to be a triple shy of the cycle. The notifications never seemed to stop. They were unrelenting. At any moment someone could be a hit away from the cycle, and I’d get another notification. The end of the baseball season is the only thing that brought sweet relief. Just in case you’ve missed them…
9. People who actually watch commercials’ nightmare:
If you’ve spent any time watching this year’s playoffs, then you could probably quote these commercials from memory:
Sometimes when I close my eyes the commercials just play. They play over and over and over and over.
A Bonus 10th Nightmare for Effectively Wild Fans: Sam Miller has a dark side
If you’ve listened to Effectively Wild for any length of time, then you know Sam Miller has a dark side. He’s not shy of making us face the reality of our mortality. But this year something was different…. From episode 744: we present “Sam’s dark analogy.”
(In other Sam news this postseason, his absence from the podcast for travel left EW fans understandably assuming the worst: he was either missing or dead).
So what do you say? What were some of the most terrifying things in baseball this year?
We leave you with a sample of the silent, haunting, interminable moment familiar to any MLB.tv subscriber:
Thanks to the following BTTP contributors for their suggestions: Ryan Sullivan, Ben Suissa, Nathan White, Tyler Baber, Nick Strangis, Brandon Lee, Ken Maeda, Scott Kramer, Alex Crisafulli, and Mick Reinhard.Next post: Should the Mets Have Pretended They Won the World Series?
Previous post: The Kalkman Klassic: Effectively Wild Listeners Predict the World Series