What You Need to Know (And a Lot You Don't) to Follow the Rest of the 2014 Baseball Season


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Complex Original

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Here are five reasons baseball is the best sport in the world:

1. “American” football is just Capture the Flag inverted, wherein one team (the offense) tries to put a ball where the other team (the defense) doesn’t want them to. It’s got concussions and the occasional compound fracture.

2. “Everyone else’s” football is just Capture the Flag inverted, wherein one team (the offense) tries to put a ball where the other team (the defense) doesn’t want them to. It’s got dives and the occasional cracked vertebra.

3. Basketball is just Capture the Flag inverted, wherein one team (the offense) tries to put a ball where the other team (the defense) doesn’t want them to. It’s got Magic Johnson doing analysis, exposure to which has been known to cause developmental problems in humans.

4. Hockey is soccer on ice, with sticks. It’s got bare knuckle fighting and some of football’s concussions, but, blissfully, it’s gone 903-work days without one of its players suffering a cracked vertebra. Suck on that OSHA (you, too, FIFA).

5. Baseball’s the only (male) sport in town right now.

Unless you’re talking NBA Summer League, and if you say “But I watch the Summer League,” make sure you’re trying to impress someone, because there is a little known codicil in the Constitution that grants every U.S. man, woman, and child the right to deliver one penalty-free open-hand slap to anyone who begins a sentence with the words, “Hey, Jabari Parker almost had a triple double for the Summer Bucks today!”

We don’t know why you want to know about the rest of this year’s baseball season. Maybe the argument above is just super convincing. Maybe your company sponsors a team-building night out at the local ballpark and you want to be able to chit-chat with the hot girl in accounting who’s always droning on about her Strat-O-Matic team. (Here's a freebie: Darwin Barney's "1" at second does not in any way make up for his hitting. Thank us later.) Maybe you just like baseball and Complex Sports is your trusted source for seamhead analysis. Who the hell knows. You're here, we're here, let's get it on. Herewith, What You Need to Know (And a Lot You Don't) to Follow the Rest of the 2014 Baseball Season.

The Cuban Revolution Is Here

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Fidel Castro is very old and continuing to prevent great Cuban baseball players from defecting is not high on his bucket list. How else to explain the recent dominance of Cubans in the Major Leagues?* Jose Fernandez won the National League Cy Young Award last year, Jose Abreu has hit more home runs at the All-Star Break than any rookie except Mark McGwire, Yasiel Puig is a bat-flipping, speeding-ticket hordeing, culture shifting demi-god. And Yoenis Cespedes throws goddamn flaming missile darts like these: 

It's not just that they're dominating, it's how they dominate: with panache (not a Cuban word we're told) built on solid fundamentals. They're generally great, if occasionally distracted fielders (look for a wave of amazing fielding Cuban middle infielders, led by the Marlins Adeiny Hechavarria and Dodgers minor leaguer Erisbel Arruebarruena), and hitters in the Vlad Guerrero "You Don't Walk Off the Island" model, i.e. they ain't taking 12 pitches every at bat (even Cespedes, playing for the Moneyball A's, has a sub-.300 on base percentage). Also, they give fewer than no fucks about baseball's unwritten rules (more on that later).

*Actually, it's more complicated than that. Intern Russell explains:

Cuba has attempted to stop defections by allowing some players to sign overseas contracts while raising the pay for those who play in Cuba. Two of Cuba's biggest stars have signed officially sanctioned contracts this season with Nippon Professional Baseball teams, and Cuba for the first time is welcoming foreign scouts.

They still aren't welcoming them from the U.S. though. Because of the U.S. embargo Major League scouts cannot technically negotiate with players. That's because the Cuban government demands 20 percent of the players' contract and income tax. That goes against the rules of the embargo, hence players have to defect in order to play in the MLB.

There have been more defections because a lot of players have defected and then gone on to do insanely well, make a ton of money, and play in the best league in the world. Puig and Jose Abreu have thrived in the U.S. and they have shown the Cuban players that it is still easier to just flee to America instead of waiting for the government to allow them player to play in Japan.

People Are Giving Derek Jeter Some Really Shitty Going Away Presents

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World Cup-Fever Induced Early World Baseball Classic Rankings

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The Assault on the Unwritten Rules Continues

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Baseball's unwritten rules are the dumbest thing in sports not named "NCAA." They seem to boil down to this:

1. Do not celebrate your accomplishments immediately after you achieve them, especially if doing so actually undermines your team's performance.

2. Do not respect your opponents enough to assume they can come back from large deficits.

Here's an example of the former, in which Gerrit Cole yells at Carlos Gomez for not running out of the box quick enough on a triple aka saving his (Cole's) team a run:

Here's an example of the latter, in which Jed Lowrie gets yelled at for bunting with a 7-run lead in the 3rd inning:


The Best Player in Baseball Is 5'5" and Plays for Houston

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He's got 130 hits so far this season, is tied for the league lead in steals, and plays a highlight reel-worthy second base. So "best" is a subjective assessment, and "highlight reel-worthy" doesn't necessarily mean "good" when describing baseball defense, but hey at least Jose Altuve deserved to be in the All-Star game (Derek Jeter "deserved" to be in the All-Star game like he "deserved" a pinstriped paddleboard).

You've probably never heard of him, he's probably shorter than your mom, and he's probably not going to actually win the MVP this year. But Altuve is the funnest (not a real word!) player to watch in baseball right now, with a hat tip to Dee Gordon, Billy Hamilton, Mike Trout, and the aforementioned Cubans. Applaud him:

The A's and Angels Are the New Yankees and Red Sox (With Half the Petulance)

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Every year since 1995 (except 2008), either the Yankees or Red Sox have made the postseason. A lot of years, they both made it. If God has even a smidgen of sympathy for the baseball-lovers among her flock of teeming humanity, neither team will be playing this October.

This reflects a shifting balance of power in baseball as a whole. If the season ended today (which would be extremely weird, because July), five of the six West Coast teams would make the playoffs: Giants, Dodgers, Mariners, Angels, and A's, while only two teams on the Eastern Seaboard would make the cut (Orioles and Nationals).

The A's and Angels, currently the teams with the two best records in the entire majors, and playing in the same division, should be especially fun to watch the rest of the year. The Halos have the best player in baseball taller than 5'5" (MIke Trout), plus a couple guys named Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. The A's have the aforementioned flamethrower (seriously, check out the last GIF at the bottom of the page) and two-time home run derby champ Yoenis Cespedes, they just made the biggest trade of the season to date (for Jeff Samardzija), and have the whole beards and softball swings thing the Red Sox perfected, but minus the Massholeness. Oakland and Anaheim play 10 games over the final five weeks of the season; watch them. Also, fuck New York and Boston. 

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