I was fortunate as a student growing up. School always came pretty easy to me and I knew it. God blessed me with a strong academic acumen that I quickly realized very few other students had. I don’t say that to be snooty or stuck up. Trust me, that part comes later.
When I got to high school, I was still getting terrific grades with little effort, and I did it without sticking out too much. Outside of my close group of friends, I usually just faded into the background. I knew a lot of people in my school and they knew me, but a social butterfly I was not.
Sometimes, however, my rebellious teenage side would make an appearance, typically in grand fashion. My first period Accounting teacher once asked me why I was so dressed up when I came to class wearing a button-up and a tie. Rather than give her the simple and uneventful answer of, “I have to go to work as soon as I leave school,” my response came out more like “because I felt like it, why the hell does it matter to you?” One or two of those words might have been just a little different, but I’m sure you get the idea. Those moments were, for the most part, few and far between.
That is, until I got to my 12th grade English class. I was never a fan of English. I didn’t mind writing as you can tell, but reading… reading was the absolute worst. I avoided it like the plague. I even dropped out of Honors English after my freshman year just to avoid having to read anything over the summer. Still, I could never get away from it, hence my disdain for the subject in general.
My teacher that year was Ms. Mazach. Every school has a Ms. Mazach. She was the cool teacher. Not cool like let everything slide and do whatever you want for an hour. I mean cool like every one of her students loved her and you could tell she loved her students and thoroughly enjoyed what she was doing. She was involved with a bunch of different extracurriculars and outside projects. She treated us like adults and made whatever we were discussing interesting and relevant. Everyone looked forward to going to that class and seeing her.
Everyone except me. And I can’t even tell you why. I had nothing against her personally. But for whatever reason, I walked into that class every single day with an attitude. Ok, I was a complete jackass. No sense in sugar-coating it now.
I did so many different things to piss her off. I wouldn’t answer questions or give my opinion when called upon. I would purposefully be absent on days I was supposed to give presentations. I barely ever bothered to do any readings assigned. And in my written assignments, I would make up words just to see if I could get them past her and prove I was smarter than her (I was one weird rebel).
But my coup de grâce came at the end of the first semester. We were assigned a research paper and a corresponding presentation as our final grade before report cards. I, of course, wrote my paper on Tupac like any suburban white kid would. The paper itself was worth 80% of the assignment grade and the presentation was the last 20%. We were handed back our graded papers along with a printout of our entire class glade before we made our presentation.
I did a little computation at my desk (remember: numbers geek here) and realized something very exciting from my perspective. Whether I got a 100 on the presentation or a zero, my grade was already set. I had a C in that class no matter what. For someone who was putting in the minimum effort possible, an obvious thought hit me: I’m not doing this presentation.
Oh I had her now. I couldn’t wait to see the look on her face when I pulled my little stunt and refused to present. I wasn’t going to even bother skipping class that day. I wanted to throw this in her face personally.
A couple of days passed and then it was my day to present. All the other presenters scheduled for that day had their posters and other visual aids with them. I didn’t even bring my backpack. I felt like the smartest person in the world.
My turn came around and Ms. Mazach looked toward me, “Bryan, you ready?”
I couldn’t even contain myself. A huge smirk came across my face as I replied, “No thanks”.
A roomful of surprised gasps and whispering started up as Ms. Mazach’s mood instantly changed. “Excuse me?”
“Ok then, you’ll be staying after class.” I knew that was coming so it didn’t faze me. What was she going to do, kick me out of the class?
That was the thing about this particular senior English class. It was actually a dual enrollment class with the local community college. I was getting college credit without having to take any kind of advanced placement test. The only kicker was that you had to maintain at least a C in the first semester to stay in the class the second semester.
Which I had done. Nothing to worry about. I was untouchable.
Class ended and everyone left, making sure to give me one last glance as if I was on death row, never to be seen or heard from again. I wasn’t even respectful enough to walk up to Ms. Mazach’s desk, she came to mine.
“I know exactly why you did that, and I have every reason to kick you out of this class anyway.”
I sat there for a few seconds, not making eye contact, but still smirking from my conquest. In the back of my head, I knew she could still give me the boot if she wanted to, so I didn’t bother arguing. I didn’t need to. I had already made my point and I had no problem getting tossed out of her class, which was really stupid considering the opportunity I was throwing away.
“That’s fine. Go ahead.”
In my head, Ms. Mazach having to kick me out of her class on her own volition was the prize. That would signal I had broken her. That I had won.
“I’m not. You’re going to stay in this class and finish it out with everyone else.”
That’s all it took to throw me for a loop. She went on about my different issues in her class, namely my disrespectful behavior. I nodded as she talked, appearing as if I understood, but for the most part it was a blur. My head was still spinning. This wasn’t supposed to happen. She was supposed to kick me out, admit that I was too difficult to deal with, fall victim to the Jedi mind tricks.
What she really did was prove that among the two of us, she was still Yoda.
My ego got slapped down that day the way it deserved to be. I realized I wasn’t the smartest person in the room like I thought and it cost me my first college grade as a result. That served as a wakeup call.
The second semester in Ms. Mazach’s class was a complete 180. I instantly became more attentive, constantly participating in discussions, doling out insightful opinions left and right. The quality of my work rose leaps and bounds, even though I still tried to slip in some of those made up words every once in a while. Hey, everyone’s ego could use a little stroking from time to time (and “misconstremity” does sounds awfully good).
I finished that semester with an A and a much better foundation for my college GPA. On the last day of class, Ms. Mazach gave us each a book with a personalized message inside. The name of the book? I Knew You Could. The irony wasn’t lost on me. I still have that book, too.
To this day, I’m not sure why Ms. Mazach didn’t toss me out of her class. She had every reason to. After working with kids for a few years myself, I probably would’ve thrown me out. But she didn’t. Maybe she saw some potential in me. Maybe she believed that wasn’t the real me. Maybe she just had a hunch.
Whatever the reason, I’m grateful not only for the second chance, but for the wisdom she instilled in me to do something with it. Ms. Mazach wasn’t just a cool teacher, she was a great teacher, something I never really gave her enough credit for. She taught me that I had a lot of learning left to do. So continue to learn I did. A few years later I received my bachelor’s degree from Old Dominion University.
So as we sit on the halfway point of this baseball season, there’s two important things we should remember. First, we always have more learning to do. Even if you’re sitting on top of your league by a mile, even if you’re confident you know everything about everything this baseball season, there’s always more research, more context, and of course more numbers (yay!) to look at. More often than not, the winner of your league is the one who puts the most time and effort in. Keep trying to find ways to improve your team and improve your baseball knowledge as a whole.
Second, and the real reason we’re here, is that some players deserve another shot. There have been more than a few guys who have had rotten first halves in 2014. But I’m living proof that great things (or at least not-terrible things) can spawn out of second chances. These aren’t some run-of-the-mill turnarounds we’re talking either. I’m putting my record on the line with some fearless predictions on a range of players. Maybe there’s some untapped potential there. Maybe there’s a guy who hasn’t been himself so far this year. Or maybe it’s just a hunch. Regardless, these players all deserve a second chance to get it right.
Carlos Santana will be the #1 Catcher in the Second Half:
As I mentioned on Major League Fantasy Sports Radio last week, not only have I been on the Carlos Santana bandwagon all season, I’ve pretty much been driving the damn thing. Despite an awful April and May in which he posted a .159/.327/.301 line, I continued to believe in Santana while others sent him the way of the waiver wire. His still respectable OBP (thanks to 43 walks) combined with an absolutely dreadful .177 BABIP inspired me to believe that a turnaround was coming and a huge second half was in store.
Santana decided to jump the gun on me a little but I won’t hold that against him. In June, he posted a stellar .308/.426/.590 triple slash and just about equaled his HR and RBI production from the first two months in just 22 games. Part of this has to be chalked up to Santana no longer being on the defensive merry-go-round. In those 24 games since returning from a concussion, Santana’s positional breakdown goes like this: 19 games at 1B, 4 games at DH, and a pinch-hit appearance. That’s it. No more catching duties, no more time at 3B thanks to the emergence of Lonnie Chisenhall. Expect that to continue post All-Star break as will the excellent numbers from Santana. I’ll take him over Posey, Lucroy and the rest from here on out.
Chase Headley will hit 6 HRs at Yankee Stadium:
This seems a little outlandish considering the Padres don’t even play the Yankees the rest of the season, but that’s what makes this my boldest prediction of all. I said last week in my trade deadline predictions that Headley would be traded to the Yankees, so consider this my official double down. Joe Girardi continues to deflect when asked about the 3B situation, but the recent demotion of Yangervis Solarte to AAA speaks loudly about what New York thinks of their current cornermen.
The Yankees continue to be linked with various pitchers and a few second basemen in the trade market, but I don’t see them going the month without giving themselves more options at the hot corner. A move out of San Diego and to the Bronx would be a new lease on life for Headley. Keep in mind that the switch-hitter has hit 58 of his 86 career HR batting from the left side. He’d love nothing more than to take aim at that short porch after years in cavernous Petco, and I say he’ll get his opportunity starting this month.
Matt Holliday gets back to being a top-12 OF:
Another one of the players I discussed on MLFS radio, Holliday has actually been fairly quiet this season. A lot of the fantasy talk in the St. Louis outfield has centered on what Oscar Tavares will do, but let’s not forget about the 11-year veteran just yet. He’s had a pedestrian 2014, hitting just .267 with 5 HR, which has led some to wonder if we’ve seen the last of his reliable all-star level production.
Count me as one who thinks Holliday still has more left in the tank. His peripherals all tell us that this is still the same guy. The K-rate is virtually unchanged from last year (14.3% in 2013, 14.5% in 2014) and Holliday is actually walking at a career high clip (12.2%). You can toss in a congruent LD% and a similar GB/FB ratio as well. The underlying numbers are all there and now Mike Matheny has made a very interesting move to jump-start Holliday and the Cardinals’ offense. He’s been penciling him into the 2-hole as of late, right between Carpenter and the recently red-hot Matt Adams. The move might cost Holliday a few RBI in the long run, but he’ll more than make up for it in other categories. Give me the over on a .300 AVG, 10 HR and 45 R the rest of the way.
We are all once again Kipnises:
For all the depth that has emerged at 2B in 2014, speed from Altuve and Gordon, power from Rendon and Kinsler, a little of both from Dozier, Jason Kipnis seems to have been lost in the shuffle. Sidelined for part of the season with an oblique injury, he’s done little since returning to a Cleveland lineup that otherwise is trending up. Slashing just .244/.325/.353 on the season and contributing only three HR, the power has been virtually non-existent. Even his eight swipes have left owners wanting more. A third straight 30-SB season looks unlikely.
But Kipnis has always been a streaky guy and I’d put money on seeing a big breakout in the second half. In 2013, Kipnis hit 8 of his 17 HR in a 26-game stretch across April and May. Just a year earlier he had a 43-game stretch in which he blasted 8 HR and had 28 RBI. When Kipnis gets it going, and he will at some point in the next three months, enjoy watching his production carry your team. The decrease in K-rate combined with a slightly below average BABIP only adds to his case, and it’s a case I believe in. Put me down for 12 HR, 40 RBI and 15 SB, good enough to make him the #2 second basemen post-ASG.
Trade Analysis (A recap of the biggest moves leading up to the trade deadline)
Ernesto Frieri to PIT; Jason Grilli to LAA: In keeping with our second chance theme, the Pirates and Angels swapped a pair of struggling relievers and former closers. This is one of those change-of-scenery deals that both clubs hope gets their man back on track. In terms of value, you have to ask yourself which one of these guys is more likely to get back the closing job with their new team. I think Mark Melancon has done enough to establish himself as the ninth-inning man in Pittsburgh and, barring a complete meltdown, won’t relinquish that role to Frieri anytime soon.
Joe Smith is not nearly as entrenched in the closer role for the Angels, giving Grilli a much clearer path to handshakes. Grilli himself claims to have made a small mechanical tweak right before being shipped out of Pittsburgh that he think has him right again. If that’s the case, expect to see him getting the call in the ninth sooner rather than later. Of all the pitchers potentially impacted by this deal, Melancon and Grilli are the two I would want to own.