Ecstatic Truth Baseballing Preview

Sometimes, in a romance novel, a lady will occasionally — while in the throes of you-know-what — she’ll go ahead and “shudder with pleasure.” On account of my own personal shortcomings, and to the fact that I look like this, I’ve never witnessed this type of thing happening firsthand; however, owing to the proximity of the 2009 baseball season, and to my own Golden Retriever-like sensibilities in re The Pastime, I’m thinking I have a pretty good idea of what those ladies are feeling.

Below is a list of the ten things, as I see it, most responsible for the joy coma — or, as the French call it, le petite mort — that is the upcoming baseball season.

1. Jason Motte

What alot of people don’t know about Jason Motte — and I’m not sure how this escaped the attention of the scouting community — is that he can throw a baseball 127 MPH. Also, forget about 12-6 curveballs, people: no clockface in the world can adequately describe his breaking material. Furthermore, Motte seems — if his cognome is any indication — he seems to be of the Italian persuasion, which, if I’m understanding this metric correctly, is worth 1 WXRL even before he throws a pitch.

2. Josh Kinney

There are three things a pitcher can do to vanquish his enemies effectively: strike them out, not walk them, and/or force them to hit groundballs. Josh Kinney does all these things very well, posting a line of 8.44 K/9, 2.53 BB/9, and 60.2% GB through 32 major league innings. Here’s another interesting fact about Kinney: no one has ever heard of him. When asked about his anonymous relief ace, Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa told The New Enthusiast: “I’ve never, ever heard of that person you’re asking about. Now stop bothering me. I’m trying to appear sagacious.”

3. Kyle Blanks

Blanks will actually not even be playing in The Show to start the season, on account of I’ve privately arranged with San Diego GM Kevin Towers to have him (i.e. Blanks, not Towers) sent to AAA Portland, so’s I might have the pleasure of witnessing him (i.e. still Blanks) jack loads of dongers onto SW 18th Ave, just past the left field wall at Portland’s PGE Park. One thing you’ll notice if you look at even one of these photos is that Blanks is shaped a little bit like a fortress. Or a hoplite, whatever that means.

4. Mark Bellhorn

Granted, Bellhorn probably won’t be producing a ton at the highest level of baseball this year; still, no player in recent memory has done more with fewer skills than this Boston-born Auburn Tiger. For those lucky enough to have seen him in his prime-y years, you’ll know that Bellhorn absolutely raked any pitch that crossed the plate in an approximately 5-inch-square area, middle-in in the strike zone. Any other pitch, he just regarded with a cross between contempt and total, utter disinterest. Also, he made The Wet Look something less than douche-y — an accomplishment in and of itself. It’s for these, and a million other reasons I’m too verklempt to write about, that I proclaim Mark Bellhorn the Patron Saint of the New Enthusiasm.

5. The Oakland A’s Starting Rotation

In a surprise move, beloved GM Billy Beane and manager Bob Geren have elected to forego accepted baseballing wisdom and just go with a starting five composed entirely of tiny babies. Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahill, Dana Eveland, Brett Anderson, and Josh Outman — none of them old enough to hold a driver’s license (except in certain Southern states where “laws” are frowned upon) — will start the season as the A’s major league baseball rotation. Moneyball or Veeck-like publicity stunt? You decide, America!

6. Dave Fleming

Dave Fleming isn’t actually a baseball player. Rather, he’s one of the Other Columnists over at Bill James Online, and his writing is — as the kids say — “off the hizzle.” He’s one of those guys who, when I find out he’s younger than me — and, for some reason, I remember that being the case — I hate immediately. Unfortuntely for my wrath, his writing is really flippin’ likeable. Pony up three simoleons at BJOL and read his two most recent articles, “37 NL Players” and “33 AL Players.”

7. Russell Branyan

Yesterday, in an exhibition game versus the Rockies in Las Vegas, Branyan went 0-3 with 3 strikeouts and a walk. Get ready for that type of line ad infinitum this season — with a fair amount of donger-jacking sprinkled in. Seattle signed Branyan this winter to be their starting first baseman. It’s a good story for two reasons. First, it represents a departure from the Jose Vidro / Bill Bavasi years in Seattle. Second, it gives Branyan, a ten year veteran, his first real starting job in the majors. My conservative estimate for Branyan’s HR total this year: 83.

8. Jacques A. Dongier

Little is known about this legendary French slugger except that a) he’s hit more bombs than anyone in the history of Le Championnat and b) he’s rumored to be on his way to the States. Dongier [pronounced DONG – ee -ay] is known as the Orestes Destrade of Japanese Baseball of French Baseball. Is there any higher praise than that?

9. Ken “The Hawk” Harrelson

In his book Finding God in All Things, Jesuit and author William Barry writes that – among the educated, in particular — there’s some reluctance to believe in the existence of the Devil. Yet such a belief was essential, Barry continues, to Society of Jesus founder and all-around spiritual athlete St. Ignatius of Loyola. Luckily for baseball nerds, we have The Hawk. Whether Harrelson is the Devil Himself or just a high-ranking minion, there’s no doubt that his “commentary” represents nothing short of a slow, purposeful attack on the human spirit. Here’s to hoping that not one Chicago pitcher registers a strikeout all season.

10. Rudy Fernandez

What? Did you expect me not to mention the gentleman who has prompted me to write this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this in tribute? I’m not sure if you would call it  high praise to be known as “the next Danny Ainge,” but if anyone could be a two-sport basketball/baseball athlete, it’s most definitely Señor Rodolfo.