20 MLB Players on Santa’s Nice List
Which 20 MLB players does Santa have on his nice list?
Now that the holiday seasons are upon us, surely the thought that must be going through every MLB players is “have I been good enough to be on Santa's nice list this year?”
Yeah, obviously, it's highly unlikely the case that any professional athletes is thinking about some sort of karmic list made up by a non-existent old man that flies around the world on a sleigh powered by reindeer; and if they were, I'd imagine that there'd be slightly bigger issues at play, you know?
That doesn't mean we can't have fun with the idea, though.
Now, I'm sure that the big leagues doesn't have a shortage in “good guys”. Just for the sake of this list, let's just say that being one of the nice guys in baseball doesn't automatically qualify you for our hypothetical Santa's nice list.
No, there has to be more of a mitigating factor. Something that pushes these 20 players over the top. Be it a compelling redemption story, or a player who has gone above and beyond for his team, or even a player who has been unfairly mistreated in 2012, the following list comprises of characters that, Santa or not, probably deserve to have a little something nice happen to them over the holidays.
Besides the fact that they're all professional athletes and multimillionaires, of course. Let's just say that our Santa has a particular affinity towards to affluent, yes?
Anyhow, here are the list of 20 players in the world of baseball that have done something, or has something happened to them, that puts them on good terms with our sleigh-riding old man in the sky:
Why? Because he took a hit in the wallet to ensure the Tampa Bay Rays can at least have a little bit to spend.
Evan Longoria's homedown discount may have been the mother of hometown discounts. At just a (relatively) paltry sum of $136 million over 10 years (good for six addition years), the Rays locked up arguably the best third baseman in the league – and a player who is just getting into his prime - for life. It would not be a stretch to say that Longoria potentially left a nine-figure sum on the table to stay with his hometown Rays.
For a team that's operated on a mandate of prudence (and done so expertly), it's a huge risk – but one that will very likely yield plus-value over the duration of Longoria's contract. Score one for the good team-builders.
Why? Because he didn't decide to bail on the New York Mets.
So, David Wright's 8-year, $138 million deal is a much more player-friendly deal compared to Longos; then again, the Rays are a whole lot better than the Mets, whose not-so-flattering history with finances would be enough to scare off most players. Instead of getting out like a reasonably star might do, the 30-year old Wright stuck to the only team he's ever known.
Why? Because he was one of the best pitchers in the league, and no one knew it.
Cliff Lee's 2012 season was defined by one thing and one thing only – that he didn't win a game until July 4th. It's a shame, really, because his numbers outside of the irrelevant win/loss column: 211 IP (t-7th in NL), 3.16 ERA (9th), 3.06 xFIP (1st), 7.39 K:BB (1st by a mile), and 4.9 fWAR (4th) should have put him in Cy Young discussions, even if the baseball gods did what they could to stop it. Perhaps the holidays will treat Lee a little nicer.
Why? Because he expedited his contract negotiation process with the Toronto Blue Jays.
...despite having all the leverage to scuttle the blockbuster deal. R.A. Dickey's 2-year extension was no more than what the Mets wouldn't give him, and it included a team-friendly option year to boot. The guy is in it to win, and didn't hesitate to put himself on a winning club, even if there's a good chance he could have gotten more.
Why? Because he deserved more recognition.
Namely, in the form of a AL MVP award. Mike Trout's historic rookie season wasn't enough to sway voters from the triple-crown winner, but hopefully Santa will find a way to reward the athlete first 10 fWAR season since Barry Bonds.
Why? Because he conquered Petco as an unlikely hero.
Chase Headley's accomplishments in 2012 to put himself among the top 3rd baseman in the league shouldn't be understated, doubly so because he did it while playing half of his games at the offense-killing Petco Park - despite never having shown any real power prior.
That he provided it to an offense-starve San Diego Padres team could almost be considered baseball's version of a charitable contribution. Here's hoping he sticks around.
Why? Because he toughed out being cut - twice - by a pair of teams only two seasons ago.
From being let go by both the Toronto Blue Jays and the Oakland Athletics in the same season, to reinventing himself as a DH/1B and 40-home run man? Edwin Encarnacion's got one hell of a redemption story; and if there's anything we know about Santa (other than that he's not real), it's that he loves redemption stories, right?
Why? Because he came back from the (allegorical) dead.
Aaron Hill was supposed to be done. At least, that was the consensus among Blue Jays fans, who were elated to get Kelly Johnson in return for the home-grown Hill, after a pair of horrid seasons following his 36-homer breakout.
Then he hit for the cycle twice in 2012, and put up his most productive season to date. Of course.
Why? Because he represents the last hope for the Boston Red Sox to be remotely likable.
As a Blue Jays fan, it's pains me to have to put a member of the Red Sox on here - but damnit, Will Middlebrooks' wake-and-rake attitude on an otherwise complacent, bored 2012 Red Sox team just reminds me so much of why we like Brett Lawrie in these parts. On a team with a distinct lack of good guys, Middlebrooks was one of them - too bad his season was cut short.
Why? Because he survived being a human yo-yo.
Chris Sale going to start! No, he's injured, so he's permanently a closer now! Wait, I changed my mind, he's a starter again!
Despite all of this, Sale still managed to pitch nearly 200 innings in stellar fashion. His team wasn't particularly nice to him in 2012, but Santa would fix that for the holidays.
Why? Because he was the first to return to form from his type of injury.
You know how ridiculous it is just to say "Jake Peavy's latissimus dorsi was torn clean off"? That he even came back to pitch at all is a testament to the miracles of modern science - but Peavy went one step beyond in 2012, throwing over 210 innings and looking every bit like the ace that he was with the Padres.
Why? Because he deserved to keep pitching.
Stephen Strasburg was destined for the playoffs in 2012, despite having just recovered from Tommy John surgery. Instead, the Washington Nationals chose to impose a largely arbitrary innings limit on the young ace, illogically holding him back from helping the team whose success he'd been a critical part of all season long.
The Nationals wronged Strasburg in 2012, and that he missed out on his first playoff experience puts him on Santa's nice list.
Why? Because he found a way to contribute even when he struggled.
Tim Lincecum was no good in 2012 - at least, not until the starter's role was taken from him anyway. It could have been taken as an insult to the 28-year old, two-time Cy Young winner, but there was no such complaint from Lincecum, who took it in stride and contributed like an ace out of the bullpen during the post-season, even if he couldn't pitch like an ace starter.
Why? Because he survived a poor post-surgery season to regain his form.
If recovering from Tommy John surgery is as tough as professional pitchers have told us, recovering from Tommy John surgery in your late 30s is considerably tougher. At 37, there were numbers questions of whether Joe Nathan could ever regain the form that made him a top reliever in the league for so many years, after a sub-par season in 2011.
He answered all of those questions emphatically last season, putting up some of his numbers ever, and showing that he's not quite ready for the attrition part of his career yet, even after a late-career major surgery.
Why? Because he found his power.
Sure, Adam Dunn still hit just .204 in 2012 and striking out at a nearly 35% clip - but as far as the White Sox was concerned, the DH easily found his game back: his 41 homers is what they paid for when they signed him prior to the 2011 season, and the inexplicable drop in power last season that had many wondering whether Dunn was...done (yeah, I know) now looks like it's but a minor blip in the big picture of the slugger's career.
Why? Because he handled being told he was unwanted for the better part of a month.
Okay, so J.P. Arencibia might have pissed some folks off by dismissing the incessant trade rumors that involved him, but to me, he did the only reasonable thing that a player who wanted to be with his team would've done - say the right thing.
Yes, sometimes he's brash, and a little stupid (like the incident with the DJ from April); but all things considered, Arencibia handled the constant baiting from folks on Twitter quite well this time around, deflecting them with jokes whenever possible.
And guess what? After the month-long R.A. Dickey saga, he's still here - and his job is more secure than ever.
Why? Because he finally shook off a career-long label.
As far as most baseball fans are concerned, Chris Davis has played at the AAAA level for years. When the Baltimore Orioles finally gave him a full time job with a long leash, however, Davis showed that there's still some merit to his former top-prospect status yet, using his massive power to lead the team in homers, and graduating from AAAA to the big leagues.
Why? Because he didn't miss a beat as a workhorse after surgery.
Adam Wainwright's numbers in 2012 wasn't up to par with his career standard when you look at it in total, but consider this: when he went through Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2011, there were many who believed that that he would wind up missing a couple of months of the '12 season.
Instead, Wainwright dedicated himself to getting right, and returned on opening day. By the All-Star break, the 31-year old was already back to peak form, posting a 3.28/1.14 ERA/WHIP in 90+ innings going forward.
That he pitched almost 200 innings in the regular season so soon after surgery was remarkable, but he added one final bit of redemption to his story - a seven-inning, one-run masterpiece in the playoffs that followed a 2.1-inning, 6-run hammering just six days prior.
Why? Because he proved that the big contract didn't bury him.
After 2011, Jayson Werth was destined to be yet another Vernon Wells, Carl Crawford-type story: a mediocre outfielder who cashed in after a peak season, never coming close to playing up to the dollars on his contract.
While Werth definitely didn't end up doing the latter in 2012, and missing the first three months of the season from surgery to repair his wrist didn't make the comeback task any easier. Placed in an unfamiliar spot in the lineup for the first time in his career, Werth thrived where he should have struggled, posting a .300/.387/.440 triple-slash over 344 PA, and improved his strikeout discipline to career-best levels.
He might never play up to his contract, but Werth showed that he could provide solid value for the Nationals yet.
Why? Because he's Prince Fielder.
Prince Fielder and baseball goes together like pancakes and butter. If you like one, you better be prepared to like the other.
It's simple, really: Fielder brings joy to the game with every home run, every awkward slide into second, every once-a-year stolen base. Seriously, as far as people who ought to be on "nice" lists made by fictional characters, Prince ought to be the first one named.
He's also my favourite player, and this is my list about Santa Claus. So deal with it.