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Grant Brisbee presents Grant Brisbee’s 10 favorite Grant Brisbee articles from 2016

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A collection of baseball stories that I want to share one last time before the year ends.

Chicago Cubs Victory Celebration Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Even before 2016 is over, it’s become passé to suggest that it’s the worst year on record. Not only could a genie pop out of your nostrils tomorrow and fall for the ol’ “ask for infinite wishes with your third wish” trick, but it’s almost like we’re forgetting the years with plagues and inquisitions and such. There have been worse years. There is more than a little recency bias at play, here.

Compared to the years I’ve personally experienced, though? Yeah, 2016 was kind of a turd. I get the sentiment. Hope you’re happy, Cubs. You sucked all the fun blood out of the fun body, and you left us with a desiccated fun corpse. We need to set this whole year ablaze.

At the same time, I sure wrote a lot in 2016, so hold on and let me rescue 10 of these suckers from the burning year. They’ll help me remember some of the things that went right. They’ll also help me remember some of the things that went wrong.

Mostly, though, they’re articles that I enjoy sharing. These are the 10 articles from 2016 that I want to share one last time.

Dishonorable mention
The Tigers signing Justin Upton is the best free agent move of the offseason

You idiot.

10. Minor league baseball franchise generator
Not an article with a bunch of words, but something I worked really, really hard at without noticing because it was so much fun. This was a collaborative effort with Seth Rosenthal, who is a genius, and Rodger Sherman, who was fired for stealing office supplies. Probably.

Anyway, it’s stupid, it’s silly, it’s fun, and it’ll waste about 15 minutes of your life that you won’t get back. Here, I’ll try a few:

Nope, I’ll just stop right there, that’s perfect, thanks.

9. The alternate histories of the baseball draft
The best part about my stupid fan-fiction is making stuff up. Way less research that way. And in this one, I looked at some baseball greats who were drafted out of high school but didn’t sign, then asked “What if?”

Randy Johnson on the Braves? Leo Mazzone figures him out before he’s 30. Barry Bonds on the Giants? Too early, and the team moves to Tampa when he leaves in free agency. Mark McGwire on the Expos? They draft him as a pitcher and keep him there, which ruins everything. It’s almost completely silly.

[blows gigantic vape cloud]

Until you start really thinking about it, man.

8. The 25th anniversary of Nolan Ryan and Rickey Henderson
May 1, 1991 was a huge baseball day, and I love the contrast of the immediate and surprising (Ryan’s seventh no-hitter) and the expected, patient accumulation of an untouchable record (Henderson’s career stolen base record).

That’s the spectrum of baseball, alright, and it happened to happen on the same day with two of the freakiest baseball players to play the game.

7. Grading the 2016 MLB draft
Grading a baseball draft the day after is incredibly stupid. It’s like writing a book titled What I Learned From My Four Years in College the day after orientation. And yet, people still search for “baseball draft grades” the day after, so I need to find a way to feed the Google beast and amuse myself at the same time.

People hate it. And, oh, they hated this one. But, see, the point is that every draft pick is a mystery, the start of a story that will have expected and unexpected turns. There’s a point to the silliness.

It was really, really stupid, of course. Maybe the stupidest thing I’ve ever written. I should probably move it higher.

6. Guide to appreciating Vin Scully
Here’s a secret: When you see “* * *”, that usually means I’m writing A Longer Story Than Usual, and it will contain Important, Writerly Thoughts. The star-divides signify a story that’s big enough to be separated into sections and a writer who isn’t skilled enough to do this organically.

Anyway, this is a meditation on the importance of baseball announcers, the soundtracks to our lives.

5. The Mariners’ 14-run comeback against the Padres
Every year, I wait for these games. Not the big comebacks, but the bizarre events and games that stick out. When Jose Bautista signs with the Reds, I’ll feel like, “Well, I guess I have to write about Jose Bautista on the Reds now.”

When a game like this Mariners-Padres game happens, I can’t wait to write about it. And when the winter comes and I can’t remember the finer points, I’m glad that I wrote down my thoughts somewhere, because it’s just so much fun to revisit this game.

4. The complete oral future of ballpark foods
Wait, now this might be the dumbest thing I’ve ever written. It’s extrapolating the ludicrous-ballpark-food craze to an illogical conclusion, which makes for a one-note joke.

At the same time ...

[blows unbelievably gigantic vape cloud, like, way bigger than before]

... it says something about America, man. Our unchecked excesses. Our uncertain future. And it also let me share the idea that a young Lou Diamond Phillips always reminded me of the Sub-Mariner. Feels good to get that off my chest.

3. Dee Gordon’s home run
I still can’t process the loss of Jose Fernandez. I still can’t believe Dee Gordon’s home run happened, either, even if I wish that it never had to happen.

2. Giancarlo Stanton’s monster Home Run Derby
Back in 2015, I watched Giancarlo Stanton take batting practice for four days. I talked to some people in the stands and on the field, and I had a list of dinger-related questions that I didn’t get to ask Stanton. I did get to stand next to him and ask him for a moment of his time, and I’m forever grateful that he didn’t consume me like a Pocky stick.

The idea was that I would do a big, long feature with fancy longform formatting before the 2015 Home Run Derby. Then Stanton got hurt, and it looked like he was going to miss most of the season, if not all of it, which would be a weird time to publish a story like that. Then at the start of 2016, Stanton was absolutely dreadful, and I figured I would just have to eat the words and time. The story made no sense.

Then the 2016 Home Run Derby happened, and it reinforced all of the points that I was going to make with the big, long feature, so I stayed up all night and wrote and wrote and wrote. While some thoughts and paragraphs made it over from the original notes, there was a lot of new stuff.

1. The Cubs-Indians World Series
When you apply for postseason credentials, you have to select which matchups you would attend for a potential World Series. Mind you, the application comes early enough that the Mariners and Marlins were options. I wasn’t planning to travel to both cities, so I had to make some decisions. If it were Nationals-Blue Jays, I would go to Toronto. If it were Dodgers-Orioles, I would go to Los Angeles. If it were Dodgers-Indians, I would go to Cleveland. It was judging where the story of the World Series would be before it happened, and it was tricky.

I chose both cities with only one of the matchups. Because, c’mon, of course I would need to be in freaking Cleveland or Chicago if one of those teams won. I ended up spending 11 days on the road, which is a personal record by far, considering my job usually doesn’t require me to leave the house or change my underwear. It would have been a lot harder if I wasn’t happy with the stories I wrote. But I was!

We’ll never see a World Series like that again, and I was proud, awed, and thrilled to be there. Hopefully, as time passes, it will be something that still works as a World Series serial, something that puts you back in the time and place, not something that’s dated and tethered to the granular details of specific baseball games. I know the odds are against that, but a fella can still hope.

That’s enough navel-gazing for one year! Apologies. But there was a lot of baseball in 2016, and about 95 percent of it was forgettable. Up there, though, are the stories I wanted to share just one more time.

Welcome, 2017. Please don’t be a hideous soul-snacking gutter beast.