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Lance McCullers, ladies and gentlemen.

Jonah Keri has found a special place in my heart with his power rankings that seem to highlight different teams without rhyme nor reason. This week, he highlighted the Cardinals and Astros, and ranked them 5th and 30th, respectively. I’m not here to gripe about where those teams were ranked, or the fact that Keri has the audacity to power-rank teams while sober. I am here to ask what, exactly, is the process he uses to decide which teams to focus on, and where he gets off forecasting the future in the manner he is prone to doing so (read: recklessly).

He kicks off his latest power rankings by declaring that it is “Starting Pitchers Week,” apparently, which is why he must talk about Yusmeiro Petit’s close-encounter-of-the-third-kind with a perfect game:

It’s Starting Pitchers Week, so let’s celebrate Yusmeiro Petit’s improbable night. A decent, strike-throwing prospect many moons ago, Petit pitched poorly for the Marlins and Diamondbacks, then disappeared from the big leagues after the 2009 season.

So if that is the intro to a power rankings article, we must be here to talk about the Giants, right? Not-uh. Marlins? Nope. Diamondbacks? No.

We’re here to talk about the Cardinals and Astros. Why did I ever question that?

None of this made me nearly as angry as the reason I am here, now, writing about how angry Jonah Keri makes me. Fast forward through the extremely boring information about how the St. Louis Cardinals staff has been up-and-down, and we arrive at the final paragraph:

St. Louis will need Wainwright and friends to come through, salvaging what’s left of a rotation that has bent but hasn’t broken. If the starters can deliver, the Cardinals just might get a chance to duplicate the single best moment in the franchise’s history.2

The footnote is an obnoxious message to fans about how they should get off their Pujols-Ozzie Smith-Gibson-Musial-Freese high horses and watch the damn video because it is the single greatest moment in Cardinals history, so “the defense rests”. Ok, the video is an undeniably amazing look at Vince Coleman, absolutely shit-housed, celebrating the Cardinals clinching a 1987 playoff birth. Watch the video.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s break down what that paragraph — and subsequent footnote — is saying: If the Cardinals pitching staff can get their shit together, then perhaps, maybe, the Cardinals might just have a chance at clinching a playoff birth. Which is to say, if the Cardinals pitching staff can pitch well enough, the Cardinals won’t get caught by the Washington Nationals, who are 8.5 games behind the Cardinals in the standings. And if they can do that, then I will be damned if they won’t have a chance to “duplicate the single best moment in franchise history” — getting shitfaced in the clubhouse after clinching a playoff birth and making an ass of themselves on live television. So don’t you dare compare that moment to the Cardinals, I don’t know, winning the World Series eleven times in the team’s history (something they failed to do in 1987, drunk Vince Coleman or sober).

Good jesus.

So that’s why I am writing this post, you ask? Oh, no, Keri is just getting warmed up, in the bullpen, far away from where any baseball game have ever been played.

In the Astros section, he begins to explain how the worst team in baseball has slowly built a solid foundation with young pitchers. You will get no argument for me, mostly because I don’t write about baseball professionally, and thus, don’t have a lot of time to spend worrying about the Houston Astros’ farm system. Keri goes on, delving into the promising future of 2013’s first overall draft pick, Mark Appel, blah blah blah, and then we get to a “high-ceiling, 19 year-old righty” named Lance McCullers who was selected with the 41st overall pick in 2012. Keri outlines that McCullers is a flame thrower with a good curveball, but then ponders how many pitchers who throw just two pitches have been effective starters. A fair question. Then, we get nutty:

Still, when the lesser possibility (barring injury — it’s always barring injury for pitching prospects) is a potentially dominant big league reliever, that’s not bad at all.

Here Keri is ostensibly declaring that McCullers is most likely a sure-fire starter– despite the potential drawback of only throwing two good pitches — with the lesser possibility — which we can only assume is the only other possibility, unless of course he gets injured, because, news flash, that injury thing can really effect a pitcher’s career — is that McCullers develops into a “dominant” reliever. Well, shit, that’s one hell of a draft pick. How did 40 guys get picked higher than a sure-fire starter, or, worst-case-scenario, a dominant reliever? He is making a truly tremendous claim about a guy who has logged 130 innings in his professional career.

Am I being too picky about language here? I duked this conversation out with my brother on the phone and he was not nearly as appalled with the above claim as I am. He pointed to the fact that I’m the biggest advocate of loose language — hyperbole, overstatement, exaggeration, the whole nine yards — being a cornerstone of our generation. When we employ one of our many rhetorical devices, the underlying message is understood by our contemporaries. The prime example of this, of course, is the word “literally”. You may not have literally came in your pants when Jason Kipnis stole third tonight, but I get your drift (I literally did, by the way).

Perhaps Jonah Keri is not being literal in his predicting McClullers’ future, or claiming that Vince Coleman’s belligerent shenanigans are the single greatest moment in Cardinals history, but that would be quite a lapse in tone: he is a writer that very seriously analyzes baseball. Sure, he works a stupid joke in here or there, but his main goal is to make you an informed baseball fan. Pumping us full of hyperbolic information is not what he does, so these two claims stand out as elephants in the room.

You know what, though? If the Oakland A’s and Cleveland Indians keep playing good baseball, getting contributions from the whole team, and winning baseball games, Jonah Keri just might have a chance of replicating this past week’s success in power-ranking two completely different teams, perhaps the Braves, or, the White Sox. When the lesser possibility is the Yankees and Giants, well: that’s not bad at all.

 

Cover image courtesy of jonahkeri.com

Article image courtesy of tampabay.com