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Dec 15

Catalog Christmas Shopping


So far, in these first few weeks leading up to Christmas, I’ve made pounds of chocolate candies with my mother-in-law; eaten an unhealthy quantity of said candy; introduced Frosty, Christmas Comes to Pacland, Yogi’s First Christmas, and the He-man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special to my daughter; and decided that my next big project is a movie called Puppies and Poinsettias that will be perfect for Hallmark if Debbie Macomber hasn’t written it first.

What I haven’t done, however, is something that I used to love doing as a kid: memorizing the Sears’ Christmas Wish Book.1 Since I refuse to pay the 20 bucks to buy a physical copy of the 2014 Wish Book, and viewing all of the items online isn’t any different than shopping on Amazon, I’m stuck with whatever catalogs are mailed my way this holiday season. Lucky for me, I somehow ended up on the Hammacher Schlemmer mailing list, and I’m passing all of these amazing finds to you: the ones I cherish the most.

So long winter meetings! Hello Christmas! Let’s go shopping.

VaderToaster1.  Evil Empire – For anyone born prior to George Lucas and Hayden Christensen turning the black-clad slayer of billions into a maudlin, love-stricken farce, Darth Vader was a menace more feared by children than Keyser Soze. Alas. One abomination of a trilogy later, and Lucas forced Christensen into one of the most iconic scenes from the Return of the Jedi and Vader is a joke, now safe for the most important meal of the day.

“Here you are, honey. Would you like some Vader toast with those C-3PO’s? How about some metachlorian jam?”

The one-time Vader of the baseball world is the Yankees, and the Bronx Bombers are such an afterthought in the silly season of free agent shopping that we’re left wondering if they’ll even be able to re-sign Chase Headley.

Oh, it’s a sad day.

There was a time when the Yankees set the market and other teams reacted. When the Mets signed Carlos Beltran, I worried it would be the Yankees that swooped in and signed him. Every free agent was linked with New York in one form or fashion, whether by agents whispering their name to drive up the price or the Yankees all-consuming need to swallow the baseball world like a real life Norman Bombardini. When Bombardini says, “Yes. I plan to grow to infinite size . . . There will of course eventually cease to be room for anyone else in the universe at all,” it might have been the Steinbrenner’s talking.

Let’s take a quick look at where the Yankees are today:

  • Their best starting pitcher may or may not be seconds away from Tommy John surgery with the continued use of his splitter, but since he elected to not have the surgery there will always be that lingering doubt if with each next pitch he’ll be out for the upcoming season.
  • 28 starts are gone with Brandon McCarthy signing with the Dodgers and the Yankees sending Shane Greene to the Tigers in the deal that eventually led to Didi Gregorius taking over short.
  • Hiroki Kuroda has yet to decide if he’s retiring for real or returning. At least he hasn’t announced it yet.
  • Ivan Nova will be back a year after TJ surgery. How will he pitch?
  • Michael Pineda missed time, again, for right shoulder issues for the third straight season. He’s missed 2+ seasons due to his shoulder since 2012.
  • C. Sabathia had surgery on his right knee, missed 75% of the season, and is two years removed from being good. But, hey, cheer up. At least he missed having microfracture surgery. That is, of course, because knee surgery and a 285 pound soon-to-be 35 year old isn’t scary enough.
  • Their former closer now pitches for the White Sox.
  • Gregorius hit .226/.290/.363 last season.
  • Alex Rodriguez still wants to return.
  • Is Martin Prado the answer at second?
  • Mark Teixeira is still on the books through 2016, and he hit .216 last year.

Don’t worry about a thing though. They still only have 180 million tied up with 13 players. Paying 9 million a year for a reliever is a move a team capable of competing makes, a luxury move. The Yankees are going to be horrid next year. How about using that money to overpay some so-so starter.

Breakfast in the Bronx.

FauxFireplace2.  Holiday Cheer Not Included – I’ll stay in New York to discuss a team near and dear to me. For years the Mets have been preaching patience. One more year. Just wait until the kids fill out the rotation and the Mets make a run at the NL East. Well, here we are. Matt Harvey will be back in 2015; Jacob deGrom was a revelation; Zach Wheeler will sooner or later figure out how to dominate in the strike zone, and Noah Syndergaard should never, ever be discussed in a trade unless it’s for Troy Tulowitzki.

The Mets big move? Moving in the fences. Again.

What’s the obvious choice when you’re hoping to compete with talented, young pitchers? Move in the fences. For years the team and fans have blamed Citi Field for the lack of offense, so why not move in the fences to make everyone better? Hey, look everyone. We know we haven’t been able to produce a shortstop of Major League quality since the best one in team history signed with the Marlins. At the time I agreed with the decision to let Jose Reyes walk. 6 years/$106 million was way too much money for a guy as brittle as Reyes, but the team could have at least made an attempt to fill his position.

This offseason? Sandy Alderson apparently has a mandate from up high to keep the payroll at 100 million, which is ridiculous. According to Spotrac, the Mets have the 19th largest payroll in the Majors as of right now. They play in the number one media market, the largest city in the United States by population, and are by complete accident a damn icon despite their best efforts to alienate their fans. Never mind the team has pissed away the best years of David Wright’s career on shaky, no defense outfielders (still ongoing) or chasing B-Level free agents because the owners are broke.

The big story now is the team needs to trade one or all of Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, or Bartolo Colon to make way for Syndergaard and/or free up cash to actually sign someone. Why? Once again, they’re the NEW YORK METS. They should have their checkbooks at the ready to sign whomever they damn well please.

Remember those fences after they fall five games short of the second wild card but the Wilpons are pointing to Wilmer Flores’ 10 home runs as proof that the plan is working and look at those kids go. See? We didn’t screw up that Curtis Granderson signing last season! He slugged five more home runs while hitting .230!

In retrospect, doesn’t the Michael Cuddyer signing look more and more like a way to buy on the cheap? It wasn’t about filling a need. They signed a player that nobody else was guying to sign at the very beginning of free agency just so they could get a few years at 10.5 million each. And the Mets get the privilege of surrendering their first round draft pick just to watch Cuddyer play around 110 games a season.

Do you think Wright re-signed for this in 2013? Sure, he got paid, but the front office had to tell him they would do everything in their power to fix this mess. Have they? What’s the level of actually trying?

About 2-2.5?

So, the Mets and all the fans will be sitting before our faux fireplaces, sipping cold cocoa with marshmallow shaped whiskey stones.

The Yankees’ fans can join us. It sure is toasty in here.

BearedBeanie3.  Baby It’s Cold Outside – You wouldn’t know it by the present temperatures (53 in the Windy City and 54 in the nation’s capital) but Chicago gets cold outside in the winter, especially compared to DC. Last year, Chicago received 82 inches of snow, and while that’s about four feet more than Chicago’s average, even the thought of that much snow would send me scampering for the Caribbean until spring.

The Bearded Beanie goes to former Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche who moved to the South Side to help manager Robin Ventura and the gang make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

LaRoche doesn’t play first as well as he used to, but he’ll look like Will Clark compared to Jose Abreu. Abreu can DH, and the team improves two positions with a little creativity and the willingness to spend.

LeatherVest4.  Can’t Knock the Hustle – The list of front offices that should smile this widely grows by the day, but Theo Epstein receives this slick, genuine buffalo leather vest. Look at that guy? He’s the coolest cat around.

In an offseason where the Red Sox signed the two best third basemen for around 180 million combined because the available bats are pretty sad, moved one to the outfield, then traded the guy they received from Oakland after they traded their best pitcher to fill the void when that same pitcher signed with the Cubs, Theo Epstein looks as cool as a guy can with his leather vest and perfect hair.

He’s stocked with young position players when that’s all the thing these days, has a legitimate number one to pair with Jake Arrieta after trading away Jeff Samardzija for one of those talented youngsters, and traded for Miguel Montero who is a slight upgrade on Welington Castillo if things break just right.

I think we can cool it on the franchise altering hyperbole after Jon Lester signed, but he’s a nice pick up and will be the best left hander in a Cubs uniform since Ted Lilly left town. That shouldn’t lessen the rosy glow on Epstein’s cheeks as he remakes this franchise into a potential Central bully.

If the Cubs win the World Series, say in three years, should Epstein immediately be put on the Hall of Fame ballot?

If the Cubs do manage to win the Series (cart before horse, I know. Make the playoffs or, you know, finish above .500), can Rob Manfred force Epstein to move to the next embattled franchise that hasn’t won in a while . . . or ever? After Chicago, Epstein can move onto Seattle, Houston, or San Diego.

T Rex5.  Sometimes Old Means Old – This is by far and away my favorite item in this catalog. If you had $100,000 of disposable income, would you buy a life size T-Rex skeleton? Sure. If you’re that loaded, with money at your fingertips, the thought of owning a 15’ tall relic might just be the thing to complete your mansion. If you have that much money, are you flipping through the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog?

Doubtful.

It’s a completely self-indulgent item that misses the mark. People like me aren’t buying that thing. I’m more inclined to go with the light casting gloves that are so dumb that they might actually be useful. No? Not your style. What about these beauties? There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t need to call my broker when I’m out grabbing a smoke in ten degree weather. 80 dollars for that crap? Did I mention that I love, love, love this catalog?  It’s true.

This gift goes to the Minnesota Twins. The old is taken care of with the signing of Torii Hunter. He’ll be 39 next season, and if Minnesota is expecting him to be as feared in the field as he was way back in 2007 they’re going to be disappointed. On the plus side, it’s only a one-year deal, and Hunter is still capable with the bat. He’s a stop gap until Byron Buxton is ready.

No. The delusional part comes in by signing Ervin Santana for 4-years/$55 million with a 2019 option. The money is bad enough. Santana immediately becomes the team’s largest free agent signing in team history and the  second highest paid player behind Joe Mauer If $14 million doesn’t sound that bad, remember Santana will be receiving that early gift over four years. That’s a long time.

I just don’t see it. He’ll be 32 next season, and if the Twins are lucky, they get a #3 starter for those dollars. For significantly less, they could have gone after Justin Masterson and received comparable production if he checks out physically.

The good news is the Twins kept their protected first-round pick to sign Santana. There are always silver linings in these clouds.

Bumble6.  No Herbie? – I have my doubts about this Giancarlo Stanton contract. It’s so heavily backloaded that the Marlins are probably going to end up paying roughly 18 million per over the next six years if Stanton doesn’t beg the team to trade him to whoever is willing to pony up the prospects. Stanton will never see that 325 million.

It’s not going to happen.

After I heard about how the contract was structured, I immediately thought to myself that these are the same old Marlins, and the fans in Miami are soon going to see their team dismantled as their franchise superstar tweets his displeasure. Then, I read this today that made me realize that I’m not the only one calling shenanigans.

Am I the only one irate over this? Probably. I tend to overreact to things. Still, it seems to me to be a reasonable assumption that Jeffrey Loria and David Samson are literally banking on the idea that Stanton will opt out. They have no intention of paying that full contract, so it’s all PR and smoothing of ruffled feathers. “Thanks Miami for all those billions you’ll be paying to fund our stadium!  See, we’re still good guys!”

That truth aside, next year the Marlins will be fun. They already boast one of my favorite players in baseball with Christian Yelich, and then they go and trade for Mat Latos, my now second favorite NL East Matt.

There are so many things I love about that Latos trade for the Marlins, but the main reason I’m glad he’s here is that I’ll get to watch him pitch at least three times a year against both the Nats and the Mets.

A man can consume only so much baseball, and if Latos is part of that fun, then God bless us, everyone!

Eventually the Marlins will let the air out of their intimidating duo, but for right now it’s an all-out sprint for the playoffs.

Well, that’s it for part one. I’ll be back in a bit with more holiday shopping ideas.

  1. Click on 1985 Christmas Catalog and stare at the Transformers page. I did. I can’t even tell you how happy this made me then and just now. When my parents told me to stop watching the USA Cartoon Express and read, this was the very book that I picked up and studied.

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