Ho-ho-ho. It is that time of year again.
Unfortunately for baseball fans though, Christmas comes at a time of year when, save for off-season signings and Winter Meetings, there is little happening in the sport.
But that doesn’t mean anyone is taking the month off and while MLB’s stars are keeping fit to ensure that they can enjoy their festive food and drink without guilt, we at Bat Flips and Nerds have taken a look at potential gifts for each ball club this year.
So what do the 30 teams want to find in their stockings or under their tree this Christmas? Let’s take a look…
Christmas is the time of year were presents are unwrapped, delicious food is consumed in high quantities and of course, the drinks flow too.
It is the time of year for so many to kick back, relax and enjoy a little festive refreshment and what better to do that in Arizona than by honouring your favourite team in the process?
Unveiling a signature alcoholic drink is something that we have witnessed in the sporting world more frequently of late, with MMA superstar Conor McGregor being the latest to do so with his Proper Twelve whiskey range.
Although they aren’t alone in that, there can’t be too many others in baseball who have their own wine range.
The Diamondbacks can drown their sorrows over losing Paul Goldschmidt this winter with some of their signature club series collection 2013 California Red vintage.
A home run.
That’s all I want for the Braves as a Christmas gift. Of course, it is a little more specific than that.
It is a present they wouldn’t get their hands on until the 2019 season but there are few things I want to see more next year than Atlanta starlet Ronald Acuna blast a towering, 500ft thunderbolt off of Jose Urena, accompanied by a bat flip that would make Jose Bautista blush.
Watching a baseball game, it isn’t often I find myself getting angry but there wasn’t a moment in 2018 that boiled the blood more and made me as livid as Urena’s cowardly ambush on the young phenom in August with his first pitch of the game.
For those who missed it, the Rookie of the Year was in the midst of a particularly hot streak for the Braves in the leadoff spot and came into the meeting with the Miami Marlins having homered in five straight games and had started the previous three games with a long ball.
Urena attempted to bring an end to that run and potentially jeopardise the career of one of the game’s brightest talents by unceremoniously blasting him in the arm with a 97.5mph fastball (the hardest he has ever thrown to start a game), which resulted in a 17-minute delay as the benches emptied and earned him a six game suspension.
Thankfully, Acuna Jr bounced back to help the side into the playoffs but on their next meeting, it would be a nice gift for him to gain his revenge with a homer. Then another. And another after that…
Christmas is usually a time of love, giving and showing warmth to others.
Which is why it is hoped that Orioles fans take their present in the spirit in which it was intended.
But given how badly things have taken a downturn at Camden Yards of late by registering a dismal 47-win season in 2018 and losing some of the few stars worth watching such as Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Zach Britton…
Would it be too harsh to suggest Baseball For Dummies as some winter reading material? It certainly helped me!
Boston Red Sox
What do you give to the team who has it all? Their roster already reached the pinnacle in 2018 by taking the Commissioner’s Trophy back to Fenway Park.
You give them trophy-cleaning wax of course.
It has to look snappy and shiny for all of the Boston fans lining up to get a photo with the prize that eluded them for so long but which is now becoming quite comfortable in Massachusetts.
End the charade, Theo, it is time to give the Northsiders the Christmas present they need in extending the contract of manager Joe Maddon.
The quirky Cubs skipper is playing for his future as he enters the final year of his contract at Wrigley Field, being labelled by some as a ‘lame duck’ manager.
It would be wise of the Cubs front office to keep Maddon in charge though and extend the deal for a man who has a .597 winning percentage in his four years in charge.
He has led the side to the post season in each year with one Wild Card berth, two NLCS placings and the small matter of finally ending their 108-year drought in delivering the World Series in 2016.
His detractors may claim they won that crown in spite of the manager (a nonsense statement) given his game seven tinkering and get frustrated with his endless line-up changes and switches, playing position player poker with his non-pitching staff as well as the bullpen management and ways of keeping the team loose on travel days.
However, the devil you know is much better than the one you don’t and these are the glory years of Cubs baseball which have all been achieved with Maddon at the helm.
Quite how he managed to even keep a beaten up Cubs team in contention and ultimately dragged them against the odds to a game 163 and wild card game in a difficult 2018 is a massive testament to his man management skills.
He didn’t receive enough credit for that and besides, who else is really out there waiting in the wings? Maddon is the right man for the team and has earned that renewal.
Chicago White Sox
The rebuild is in full swing on the south side of Chi-town but at the centre of it all is one man who they hope can continue leading both and off the field.
He is leading the charge and will be charged with helping spearhead the White Sox into the latter stages of their rebuild, one that they hope brings success.
That man is Jose Abreu, the veteran position player presence to lead the young stars and with All Star first baseman approaching free agency at the end of the 2019 season.
Since his 2014 debut, he has an 18.7 career WAR, driving in over 100 runs in all but one of his years and in that time, his OPS has only dipped below .800 once and even then only once (marginally so too at .798 this year).
What the White Sox need under their tree is a nice, firm pair of handcuffs to chain him to Guaranteed Rate Field and keep him in Chicago for what they hope is a fruitful period ahead as he is so vital to that.
What the Reds need most of all this Christmas is the same thing they did last year, the one before and likely next year once more too.
This is a ball club who aren’t as bad as their 67-95 season showed and have added an exciting young manager in David Bell to get the best out of a roster that includes some stud hitters such as Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez.
But what they need most of all is pitching. Particularly in the rotation. They are some star arms away from scaling the NL Central standings and climbing off the bottom.
They have been unable to develop starting arms from within, which remains a real problem, and what they will have on their wish list is just that, whether it be from free agency, trade or someone in the organisation finding their groove.
There is something missing when you look at the roll of honour at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
No, this isn’t a reference to the longest World Series drought in baseball history (sorry Indians fans) but rather what you find when you take a look at the retired numbers of club legends inside the ballpark.
However, one appears to be missing and it would make a nice little addition to the scenery around Progressive Field, as well as being a humorous nod to popular culture.
That is the No. 99 jersey, most famously worn by legendary Indians starter turned flamethrowing closer Ricky ‘Wild Thing’ Vaughn.
Okay, that only happened in the movie Major League but it would make an interesting addition to Cleveland and it would fit perfectly under Terry Francona‘s tree.
A Christmas bonus is often much welcomed at this time of year.
Plenty of people across the working world look forward to it as justified reward for their hard work throughout 2018.
We have no way of knowing if they have earned one but if there is anyone in baseball who does deserve it, it is the fine people at the Colorado Rockies’ social media team.
Their humour and ability to poke fun at themselves and others, as well as doggedly defending their corner, make them one of the must follow accounts on Twitter.
Don’t believe us? Check out some of these gems…
1. Nolan Arenado pic.twitter.com/NZJz341eza
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) June 30, 2018
When the Denver Post mistakenly published a guide to the Rockies’ Coors Field with a picture of Philadelphia’s Citizen’s Bank Park instead, it resulted in this…
Good to be back at Coors Field. pic.twitter.com/JzjOXyI6y7
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) June 12, 2018
As well as this classic back and forth with ESPN to take them to task…
Happens to the best of us.
Skool is ovurRated anyway. Let’s have a good one tonight! 🤗
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) October 2, 2018
They have earned their bonus!
For fans who flocked to Comerica Park in 2018, there was a distinct lack of something that all who make their way to a baseball park hope to leave with: a home run baseball.
In the recent memory, even if they haven’t had a great deal to shout about, they have often had some pop in the bats to enjoy from the likes of Miguel Cabrera, JD Martinez, Victor Martinez, Prince Fielder and Curtis Granderson.
Over the past decade, all of those men managed at least 30 homers in a season in a Detroit uniform, with Cabrera in particular coming up with the goods frequently.
However, last season only the Marlins and Giants had a poorer rate of home runs at home than the Tigers’ paltry 64, a number that is well below the league average of 95.
What would be a nice gift this year is a nice, big powerful bat to go yard and drive those numbers back up, even if starting pitching may be a greater concern.
A name like Nelson Cruz could provide just the power they need, particularly with concerns over Miggy’s health.
Admittedly, this one is a gift with a hint of malice to it, but who wouldn’t enjoy some Christmas chaos?
Following the loss of Dallas Keuchel to free agency, the Astros could perhaps do with adding some quality back into their starting rotation.
One man they have been linked to tentatively in some circles, unlikely as it is, is Indians arm Trevor Bauer, who is reportedly being shopped around in trade talks by the Indians.
No – I’ve said nothing inaccurate. Not my fault if y’all are offended by the truth. Also who cares what other fans think of me.
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) December 9, 2018
Given his run-ins with those in Houston, who he accused of cheating and is still refusing to take back such claims, from the playing staff to the supporters, it would certainly be an interesting marriage.
Maybe it would even see him add the extra spin rate he believes is being artificially achieved at Minute Maid Park… but one thing is for sure, it would certainly be one of the most amusing trades of the off-season if it were to happen, unlikely as it is unfortunately.
Kansas City Royals
How quickly things have turned in Kansas City.
Just a short time ago, fans flocked to Kauffman Stadium to watch some of the best in the game band together under Ned Yost, who led the team to some memorable nights under the lights in Missouri.
The run to the 2014 World Series and their defeat to a Madison Bumgarner-inspired San Francisco Giants was followed up by ultimately getting their hands on the trophy the following year.
But those days seem like a long time ago. The heroes of that success have mostly moved on (although Salvador Perez has remained) and the fans will yearn all the more for those days following a 58-104 year in 2018.
What better gift for the Royals than the extended edition DVD of that 2015 triumph and remind them of the glory days that must seem like so long ago?
Los Angeles Angels
When the Halos have everyone on their roster healthy (something every team hopes for but few will ever really enjoy), then they are a dangerous side and one who are a joy to watch.
But too often in 2018, that wasn’t the case down Anaheim way.
According to Roster Resource’s brilliant disabled list tracker, the Angels were the side hit hardest by injuries this past year in terms of the impact that they had on their season.
So what do you get the Angels for Christmas this year? Bubble wrap of course. Keep those stars wrapped up tight!
Los Angeles Dodgers
One more chance.
Surely that is all that anyone in Chavez Ravine wants for Christmas looking ahead to 2019.
They came close this year against the Boston Red Sox and were closer still against the Houston Astros in 2017.
But despite sweeping aside all before them in the National League to take the pennant in each of the past two seasons, they have been unable to get over that final hurdle in the Fall Classic.
To that end, it is surely only small tweaks rather than wholesale changes that are needed as they have an impressive if ageing rotation, one of the game’s supreme closers and a core of hitters who, when they get hot, are as good as anyone.
A big bat or two or arm could still arrive this winter but this was a club that reached the World Series in 2016 and 2017 and surely all they are hoping for is one more chance at it.
After all, it is third time lucky right?
Where do you start with the worst team in baseball?
There is so much that is needed at Marlins Park it really is hard to know where to start.
The list of issues in Miami is as long as Santa Claus’ nice list.
So remind the Marlins fan in your life what it was like to not always be the basement boys by purchasing them one of those beautiful 2003 Florida Marlins jerseys to recall those days that weren’t so dark.
eBay may be your friend with this one.