Ladies and gentlemen and non binary humans, my name is Dr. Seuss, and I am here to save the 2017 HRL World Series.
The Summer of Seuss is over.
Winter is here in the HRL.
I’m here to save the 2017 HRL World Series, and rest assured, I’m going to do it in the most self indulgent way possible. You see, roughly two weeks ago, the reigning HRL champions, the Reds, were defeated in the first round of the Eagan play-offs by the young, upstart Dodgers. Ever since, the HRL chatter typically reserved for the HRL’s World Series participants this time of year has been devoted to the aforementioned 2016 champs. After two games, the Hopkins Rays are up 2 games to 0 over the Eagan Kardinals. Attendance at the World Series was down, periscope viewers were way down from the EPIC 2016 championship between the Reds and Nationals, and the first two games of this Series didn’t even get a recap on the message board, a long standing HRL tradition for regular season games, and practically a sacred expectation for post season games (although any of the 6 fans in attendance can attest, there wasn’t much in the walk ridden, 9-1 drubbing of Game 2 to write home about for either team.) The problem? Rather than talking about the 6 All Stars on the Rays, or the outstanding clutch hitting of Meesta and dominant post season pitching by Boom, everyone is talking about the since deposed #1 ranked team in the country, the Reds.
And why wouldn’t they? The team that sported the top three individual ERAs in the HRL seemed to be a shoe in to win Eagan for a fourth consecutive year. The loss shocked the wiffleball world, where play-off upsets are about as common as a full on solar eclipse. The rumored reasons for the loss have been countless, frequently humorous, and at times ludicrous. As it’s high time we moved on to talking about the World Series that is happening, rather than the World Series that should be happening, let’s dive headlong into what happened in that fateful series, and when we come out of it, we’ll work on saving this year’s HRL championship. Here’s a smattering of the talk that’s been going around since the upset:
“The Reds got old.”
“It’s a young man’s game now.”
“Seuss got stung by a bee before the playoff series started.”
“Palp broke Seuss’s bat.”
“Palpatine wasn’t there.”
"The Reds regular season MVP, Nightmare, had an uncharacteristic off night."
“Seuss shouldn’t have thrown twice.”
“Seuss got engaged, and doesn’t have the same fire anymore.”
The truth? None of those statements are the reason why we lost. What is the Godshonest, painful, almost impossible to stomach reason why we lost that keeps me up at night? The Dodgers outplayed us. They hit better, they pitched better, and they fielded better. Epstein made one of the more spectacular catches in Game 3 that you’ll see on a wiffleball field, robbing Shandy of a hit that would have at worst bounced off the top of the chain link in left center. Evan hit a mammoth walk off bomb in Game 2, quickly erasing memories of Pooh Bear’s heroic walk off Game 1 bomb, taking the Dodgers from the brink of elimination, to dead even with the champs. Evan out pitched me in Game 3. He hit the corners where I left pitches over the middle. It was only a couple of mistakes, but in the play-offs, you can afford to make none. They beat us, fair and square, one-two-three in the center of the rink.
The young, second year team winning is undoubtedly good for the future of the HRL. The Kardinals, a team of close friends who embody the HRL’s spirit of fun and competition, going on to defeat the Dodgers and making the World Series for the first time, is undoubtedly good for the health of the league. The Rays are also a first time World Series participant, though their story is “feel good” in the way that the New York Mets of 2000 signing a plethora of high priced free agents and winning the National League is “feel good”.
The 2017 HRL World Series is, at its core, a battle between two different styles of HRL team construction: the traditional team of close friends who also happen to be very good, versus a team constructed to WIN. The Kards are far from merely a “fun” team though. Yes, they show up to drink, yes they show up to hang out with their buddies, yes they have a remarkable talent for baiting their opponents into a stat padding lob ball game, but YES, this team, despite its lackluster World Series performance thus far, is legit. They have two of Eagan’s top five home run hitters, they have an Ace who had an outstanding 0.77 ERA in the regular season who also happens to be a former Major League baseball player in Boom, and they have one of the deeper pitching staffs in the HRL. Rookie of the Year runner up, Big Hoss threw a gem in the deciding game of the Eagan finals, (hopefully he’ll get a chance to show his stuff in the Series). Tootin’s bat carried the Kards through their first five playoff games, sooner or later his big stick is gonna show up. In summary, there is no reason for this team to be getting dominated by the Rays…
Well, ok, let’s look at the Rays for a minute. The Rays, featuring 2017 general manager of the year, Smallpox, added four All Stars to their squad for the sole purpose of winning The Cup. The results? Mippey5 won his second consecutive Hopkins Cy Wiffle award, and his first MVP. Griz won the Yellow Slammer. Taco, Smallpox and Huck Finn all made the All Star team (Mippey, and Griz were also elected, but couldn’t participate due to travel.) Hondo hit .458. In summary, things went as expected as the team finished 35-4. The team is ridiculously talented, no doubt, but unbeatable? No.
In fact, in the only regular season match up between these two teams, the Kards BEAT the Rays, 1-0, behind a “one-hitter” by Boom. Don’t believe me? Check it out: http://www.hrltwincities.com/Boxscore/bxid/8479
So, what needs to happen in order to save the HRL World Series? I’m glad you asked. Here are three things that need to happen to bring glory back to the HRL’s fall classic:
1.) The Kards need to remember who they are: that is, a fun loving team who can out hit and out drink the vast majority of their HRL opponents at the same time. Playing loose got you there, don’t forget that.
2.) Boom needs to get healthy. The big man’s hip was definitely hampering him in Games 1 and 2. If he pitches the way he did throughout the Eagan play-offs in Game 3, there’s a good chance he’ll get to do it again in Game 5.
3.) The HRL fans need to show up and give this Series a chance to be great. I know, I know, it really sucks that the nation’s best team isn’t playing so what’s the point in showing up, but these are two excellent teams playing each other, so let’s give them the fanfare they deserve.
It really is a great story when you think about it, an underdog band of wiffle brothers against a goliath of a superteam; why wouldn’t you want to see for yourself in person if the Kards can make a Series out of it?
As for me? I’ll be there Thursday night and Monday if necessary, drinking my last sips of gluten free brews out of the beloved Cup before I’m forced to hand it over to this year’s winner. I hope the Kards make this exciting, I hope the HRL’s fan contingent shows up, and I hope whoever wins The Cup remembers that next year, we are coming for you, and we will get back what is ours.