Born on a cold Chicago morning in early February, Big League Stew was the third blog to pop out of that magical YSB-chute. Now, after 11 months spent simmering, we look back at a year of ingredient gathering that took us from the spring sunshine of Florida and Arizona to the midtown madness of the All-Star Game to an October World Series in Philadelphia that featured end of days weather to close out our first full season. It was a fun year, to be sure, and thankfully another one is fast approaching. Whether you believe it or not, we'll be uttering those spine-tingling words about pitchers and catchers before we know it.
Until then, your main Stewards — David Brown, Nick Friedell and myself — would like to thank you for your continued readership with a review of the year that was on the l'il baseball blog we're proud to call home. Happy New Year, everyone.
Big League Stew's Story of the Year — The Tampa Bay Rays take baseball and the baseball blogging world by storm
Coming into this gig, I knew that the Yankees and Cubs of the world would be the go-to teams when it came to blogging about baseball. What I couldn't have anticipated was just how much we'd end up writing about a previously anonymous floormat from Florida.
Throughout their entire transformation from early-season curiosities to American League champions, the Rays were the pleasant surprises who brought us more blogworthy material than we could have ever expected. Their rise started during spring training, when they battled the Yankees, it continued during a debate over whether or not they should add Barry Bonds and then survived an explosion of hype that included no less than 267 tribute songs recorded in the Bay area by emerging "artists."
Meanwhile, the team's manager searched the European continent for Rays fans, its head cheerleader swigged beer from the catcher's athletic supporter and the Rookie of the Year third baseman said he was tired of being linked to pictures of a desperate housewife in almost every glass of Dave Brown's Morning Juice. (He also said the first baseman didn't seem that Dominican, which led to the Stew playing a role in its very first mini-controversy, even if it only played out on ESPN Deportes.)
Anyway, when the rising Rays were rewarded with things like out-of-control ALCS celebrations and salutes from strip clubs, it brought a little tear to our eye. Our little baby was all growed up and we no longer find it strange that the Rays occupy a large portion of our daily thoughts. May the new year bring them — and, by extension, us — more of the same.
Honorable mentions: The Phillies became World (Deleted) Champions!; The saga of Jason Giambi's mustache entertained a nation; Joba Chamberlain impersonation proved to be a profitable career; Mrs. Clemens and Mrs. Canseco compared boob jobs; We said goodbye to Yankee Stadium — Shea Stadium, too; Nick Friedell told a good story about Brandon "Taco" Phillips; The Cubs' drought odometer hit triple digits; Some guy named Manny Ramirez caused a bit of a stir in Boston and Los Angeles; The beatification proceedings for Josh Hamilton began
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Best BLS video of the year — The Anti-Hip Bump Revolution
After writing the post that made me Public Enemy #1 to at least 3,000 unamused and unmoved Yahooligans, I took my courageous fight to ban the deadly hip bump to baseball's All-Stars themselves. To their credit, Ryan Braun, Nate McLouth and Milton Bradley understood the tongue-in-cheek nature of my crusade and happily joined in the fun. Michael Young and Grady Sizemore, though? Unamused and unmoved, as well.
Honorable mention — The Road Trip That Made Milwaukee Famous
Back in July, the Stew traveled on an Independence Day weekend junket across the Illinois-Wisconsin border, complete with plenty of knockwurst, Gorman Thomas bobbleheads and REO Speedwagon tunes on the playlist. The six-minute featurette shown below is the net result. (Please pay special attention to the
prophet young man predicting the acquisition of CC Sabathia just three days before the fat man showed up to lead the Brewers to their first postseason since '82.)
Other videos the Stew savored: Mariah Carey threw out the worst first pitch in history; I compiled an "Orel" History of the Dodgers' Baseball Boogie; The '81 Dodgers sang "We Are The Champions"; Noted Phillies fan taught us all how to love; ORIOLES MAGIC!
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The Best of BLS Satire and Mischief — Why the Kansas City Royals shouldn't sign Barry Bonds
Regular Stewies know that our crew is usually located somewhere between drunk circus clowns and gassy newborns when it comes to being serious. That type of approach can make for some entertaining passages, the best of which came in this end-of-days-prediction from guest writer Baron Von Snakin during our Barry Bonds Job Watch series.
"Here's how it goes: The Royals sign Bonds (probably for a case of Wal-Mart gift cards). People are intrigued, and Kauffman Stadium fills past half-capacity. Lines begin to form for beer, barbecue, and the bathroom. Fans get cranky. Prices go up. Fans get crankier. Some jackass sneaks a kayak into the right field fountain, hoping to fish out a piece of history. Said jackass is electrocuted and every second of the gruesome affair is displayed on the world's largest HD scoreboard. Every child in the stadium is traumatized by the remarkably clear image and pungent aroma of boiling flesh. Fueled by the trauma, these children immediately grow into confused, angry adults, afraid of water and kayaks and cotton candy. They form violent street gangs, borders dissolve, and our once peaceful region settles into a constant state of war ... And that's just the first week."
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The Best of Baseball Media
It can be argued that we wouldn't even have baseball blogs were it not for the goofs and gaffes of the TV folks who cover the daily grind. Here are a few of our favorite quotes that found a space on the Stew this year.
Rick Sutcliffe on Erin Andrews' wardrobe selection: "Well, I'm more worried about Erin, than I was me. Wearing that skirt tonight in the Windy City? You think all eyes weren't on her during batting practice?"
Reds' announcer Franchester Brennaman on Cubs fans: "There are balls coming from all over the place. Left field, center field, right field. ... See, this is the kind of thing, quite honestly right now, that makes you want to see this Chicago Cubs team lose. .. [F]ar and away, the most obnoxious fans in baseball, in this league, are those who follow this team right here. ... You simply root against them. I've said all winter — they talk about this team winning the division — and my comment is, they won't win it because, at the end of the day, they still are the Chicago Cubs, and they will figure out a way to screw this whole thing up."
Jeff Kent on legendary Dodgers' announcer Vin Scully: "Vin Scully talks too much ... I've been here four years and I have never seen Vin Scully down here in the clubhouse. How does Vin Scully know me? How does Vin Scully know Derek Lowe?"
TBS exec Jeff Gregor on FrankTV ads: "This is just a hypothesis on my side: You think there are a lot of (FrankTV) spots, but there's actually not as many as you think," Gregor said. "They're just so good at entertaining and engaging that when they come on you feel like you just saw one not too long ago."
Honorable sports media mentions: Dennis Eckersley hates when you call his haircut a mullet; Hawk Harrelson blames White Sox woes in Metrodome on sound waves; YES Network reminds Terry Crowley he's still lucky to be in "bleepin" baseball; Mike Blowers puts the Curse of the Rally Fries upon the Mariners
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BLS listicle of the year — The Dick Trickle All-Stars: Baseball players with NASCAR names
If we learned anything in creating a 44-driver lineup for our inaugural Hank Aaron 755, it was that some people just don't have a sense of humor and/or irony. I mean, if you can't crack a smile when imagining Buddy Carlyle or Aaron Boone trading a cap for a helmet and running behind 750 horses while wearing eye black and a pair of cleats ...
Honorable mentions: Derek Jeter did his best Tony Stark impression, dating 6 of Maxim's Hot 100; Jon Lester pitched a no-no and joined our list of baseball's All-Star cancer survivors a.k.a. "The John Kruk All-Stars"; Chas. Hustle and Ray Fosse beat out ol' Teddy Ballgame in our Most Memorable Memory: ASG Edition tourney; Alfonso Soriano's bunnyhop business puts him in line to join the list of the stupidest on-field injuries in sports history
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The Best of Fashion Ump
From the gruesome ("Cleric" Gagne's beard and Giambi's golden thong) to the offensive (Chief Wahoo in stars-n-stripes and Wrigleyville's 'Horry Kow' shirts) to the simply awesome (Elmer Fudd caps and Toronto's powder blues), Fashion Ump was always there to offer a ruling.
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The Best of Answer Man
After braving the periils of the clubhouse to find out the answers to our most pressing questions — Has Cole Hamels ever smoked a cigarette? Does CC Sabathia ever read The Onion? — our own Dave Brown produced some of the Stew's best journalism with his unparalleled Answer Man sessions. A detailed rundown of his most memorable run-ins and exchanges can be found in his just-published Best of Answer Man post.
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The Best of BLS photoshoppin' — The BLS Postseason Bid Acceptance Speech series
More Y! Sports year of the blog posts: The Y! Sports Blogs (general), Shutdown Corner (NFL), Ball Don't Lie (NBA), Puck Daddy (NHL), Dr. Saturday (NCAAF), The Dagger (NCAAB), From the Marbles (NASCAR), Devil Ball (golf) and Cage Writer (MMA)