Nick Markakis

Piece of Kake; how the Atlanta Braves won the off-season

Nick Markakis might hit .180 this year. He also might hit .290. Oh dear God, I just used batting average.

Listen, as I’ve said several times on the podcast before, Yasiel Puig was my first choice for a right field option in Atlanta for 2019. I even wrote about this two years ago. Puig, in my opinion, would have been a perfect fit for this Atlanta Braves squad. Put Yasiel Puig‘s personality and energy in this Braves’ clubhouse with Camargo, Ronnie, Albies, Dansby and Brian Snitker, and I’ll show you a World Series contender. But, to no avail, Yasiel went to the Reds and I was sad.

Michael Brantley would have also been a great fit for the Atlanta Braves. In many ways, right fielder Michael Brantley is similar to Nick Markakis. But, he’s slightly younger and has more power. But, Michael Brantley and his agent took an offer from the Houston Astros. Can you blame them? Google the Houston Astros. Then Google income tax in Texas. Then get mad that “the Braves didn’t land Michael Brantley” and delete your account.

Then, after some of these guys landed elsewhere, the most controversial thing in Braves history happened. The Atlanta Braves announced that they had signed Nick Markakis, out of Young Harris, to a one-year $4 million guaranteed deal and Twitter melted.

Before I explain why bringing back Markakis was a pivotal move for the Atlanta Braves, I feel like I need to give you my history with the extremely controversial political figure we know as Nick Markakis, out of Young Harris.

There’s this interesting hate, mainly on Braves Twitter, aimed at Nick Markakis. I discovered this back in 2016 when I wrote this article for Tomahawk Take. This was back when I approached Braves Twitter in an honest way. Back when I was a good person. Back then, I still wanted to have relatively serious baseball discussions with folks – share my thoughts, debate, learn, disagree, and have fun. But, then I wrote “the article.” When I wrote it and shared it on Twitter, you would have thought I wrote something about abortion or “the wall.” The advanced metrics folks came at me with pitchforks like I was Dracula himself and I loved it.

That’s when I became Nick Markakis’ biggest defender on the Twitters. It was an accident, I swear. I didn’t become his biggest defender because I thought he was the best right fielder in baseball. It was simply because I found it humorous that so many people hated him just because he hit singles and doubles and drove in runs. (And, because I’m immature and enjoy attention.) So, because I am a giant child, I began mocking the Markakis hate. I began tweeting about him like he was Hank Aaron. Most folks “got it” but many analytical goobers who have no sense of humor would take serious offense to my loud claims that Nick Markakis was the greatest of all time. For good or bad, I digressed from an aspiring baseball writer to a guy who mocked advanced metrics. I know, I’m terrible. There was no money in baseball writing anyway.

Then, 2018 happened. Most Braves bloggers spent the entirety of last off-season talking about Nick Markakis like he was a replacement-level player. Many of them literally said that he was a replacement-level player. The guys over at Talking Chop vehemently said that the Braves should release him and talked about how the Braves should start Preston Tucker in right field. I would hear and see these things and laugh. Not because I thought Kakes was Mookie Betts, but because, even at his worse, he wasn’t a replacement-level player (at least not yet). I mean, “Nicky Singles Kakes” actually had the second-most doubles in baseball, behind Robinson Cano, since 2010. Was he Trout or Betts? No. Good grief, he wasn’t even Michael Brantley. But the man could still hit, and I knew this. Then, while these folks were raking ole Kakes over the coals, the craziest thing happened. Nick Markakis, out of Young Harris, hit a walk-off home run on Opening Day. My Twitter mentions exploded. People were tweeting at me like I had just won the lottery after I had defended this guy. I had to remind folks that I wasn’t actually Nick Markakis.

Then, Kakes proceeded to play out of his mind. From Opening Day thru May 31st, Nick Markakis threw up a 142 wRC+ HITTING IN THE CLEANUP SPOT. It made no sense.

Now, let me clarify. Up until this point, I was a Talking Chop listener. I genuinely enjoyed their podcast. While I didn’t agree with everything they said, I listened and enjoyed it. They followed us on Twitter and we were buds. I think. Then, one day in April, I tweeted this video. I thought it was funny and I expected a re-tweet or maybe some jovial trash talking banter. Instead, Talking Chop blocked myself and the podcast, and even my podcast co-host, Ken Hendrix, who never said anything to them. We even received a long email about how we disrespected them. This was when I realized that there is a subset of people, mainly Braves bloggers (it’s not limited to a few individuals at Talking Chop) who took this stuff way too seriously. And because I’m extremely immature, I had fun with it. We broadcasted that TC had blocked us and people loved it. We began getting tweets and DMs from random Braves fans thanking us and telling us that they’d also been blocked by TC because they disagreed with one of their baseball takes. We (Knockahoma Nation) were like the Robin Hood of Braves Twitter and we accepted these outcasts with open replacement-level arms.

The reason that video was funny was because Nick Markakis didn’t have any business throwing up those numbers. He actually wasn’t that good. Everyone knew it. Hell, he probably knew it! For about two months in 2018, he played like he was Mookie Betts. So, because Nick Markakis was an average offensive guy, and because Brian Snitker was hellbent on hitting him in the cleanup spot (a spot that he had no business hitting in) his out-of-this world performance was hilarious. The old guy with no power was throwing down a 142 wRC+ IN THE CLEANUP SPOT. How is that not funny? However, some folks didn’t think it was funny. They hated it. They hated it because (believe it or not) they find their identity in their baseball takes. So, when the guy who they’ve hated on for two years plays out of his mind, then makes the All-Star team, then wins a Silver Slugger AND a Gold Glove, they get angry and personally offended.

I’ve watched baseball long enough to know that the chances of Nick Markakis, out of Young Harris, repeating what he did last year are almost impossible, and there’s no shying away from how bad he was the second half of last year. (Although, he he did have a 147 wRC+ with RISP and and a 194 wRC+ with 2 outs and RISP in the second half. No one wants to talk about that, tho. I’m sorry. Don’t get triggered.)

But here’s why bringing him back is good for the Atlanta Braves:

First of all – It’s a cheap deal. It’s $4 million. So, even if he’s terrible, and he might be terrible, in the world of baseball it’s not a big loss. It’s barely a loss at all. Should the Braves have gone after a different guy for right field? Probably. But, Brantley picked the Astros, Puig was traded to the Reds, and Pollock picked the Dodgers. This left the Braves with Bryce Harper. Would Bryce Harper serve the Braves better in 2019 than Nick Markakis? Hell yes. But, should the Braves give Bryce Harper (who had a lower WAR than Dansby Swanson in 2018) a 10-year $330 million deal? Hell no. No one should. (Yes. I, too, think that Harper is better than his 2018 WAR, so settle down. But 10 years is stupid.) My co-host, Ken Hendrix, and myself would be all about the Braves giving Harper a super strong/high AAV 4-5 year deal. We’ve made this known on our replacement-level podcast. But, I think he’ll get 10 years somewhere else.

Secondly – It’s fantastic for the young players. Some fans think Nick Markakis is nothing but a bump on a log. Kakes makes it very easy to perceive him this way, so I get it. His interviews are relatively emotionless and he rarely smiles on camera. But, players, coaches and the beat writers who cover the team will tell you that the players love him. And (this is a very controversial opinion) leadership matters in a clubhouse. Hell, the man threatened to kick John Hart‘s ass, and if you don’t love that, you’re a communist.

As David O’Brien wrote 

No moment was more a microcosm of the Braves’ crumbling fortunes and front-office dysfunction in the third season of their rebuild than the night in late August when deposed closer Jim Johnson blew an eighth-inning lead and then-president of baseball operations John Hart dressed down manager Brian Snitker. Shouting at him so loudly in the manager’s office that some players heard from the clubhouse.

And perhaps nothing better exemplifies Nick Markakis and what he stands for than the veteran right fielder’s reaction upon hearing what Hart said to Snitker, who appeared almost ashen and uncharacteristically sullen minutes later when reporters entered the office, and really was never quite himself again the rest of the season.

Markakis made it known, had the message sent up the chain, that if Hart ever treated the manager that way again that Markakis would, in so many words, kick his ass.

Finally  – As a fan, I think it’s fun to have a familiar face on the team, someone who’s been part of your respective team for years. Let me explain. Baseball, in many regards, has become this rent-a-team sort of thing. To me, that’s no fun. At some point, you’re just rooting for clothes. Retaining your players is a beautiful thing and it’s something that has been lost these days. Personally, I love it. I recently joked on the podcast that I’d love to see Dansby Swanson stay with the Braves until he’s 40 no matter how good or bad he is. Because, dammit, he’s ours.

There’s this notion that the Atlanta Braves have lied to their fans and haven’t spent any money. Listen, I heard what the front office said last year. I talked to my friend Jeff Schultz about it on the phone earlier this week. The constant whining from Braves bloggers on Twitter about how the Atlanta Braves haven’t spent any money this off-season is lazy and ignorant. Up until yesterday there were 75 free agents left on the market. 11 of them were worth more than 1.0 fWAR last season. 28 of them were at least 35 years old (37%). Shout-out to Matt Chrietzberg over at Outfield Fly Rule for that info. Did the Atlanta Braves say that they’d be able to “shop on any aisle” in 2019? Yes. But, besides a few at the very top, this has been one of the weakest free agent classes I’ve seen in years.

Have other teams in the NL East made more additions in this off-season than the Atlanta Braves? Yes. But they also don’t have Touki Toussaint, Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna, the return of Mike Soroka, and Josh Donaldson. The Braves also outbid 12 other MLB teams for Mike Fast, the guy who made the Houston Astros who they are today. Do I think the Braves still need a corner outfielder? Yes. Do I think they need a bullpen arm? Yes. I think they’ll actually get a starting pitcher before Opening Day. But this young team will be better than they were in 2018 just by showing up.

So, even if good ole Nick Markakis takes a nose dive, it’s still a fantastic signing for the Atlanta Braves. If he’s terrible they’ll find someone else to play RF every day and the world will go on. I actually think he’ll start off ultra hot and then crash back down to Earth, at which point I’ll still tweet about him like he’s Hank Aaron. But for now, I’ll have my Kake and eat it too as I root for the ageless bearded wonder while many of you are crying about his wRC+ from your mother’s basement.

Knockahoma Nation Episode 58

It’s early, it’s only mid-May, but the Atlanta Braves are in first place? Will it last? Is this offense sustainable? We talk about this on this week’s podcast. We also wax philosophic about Nick Markakis, out of Young Harris. What’s funny is the narrative being written about Nick’s insanely hot start to this season. Folks are painting the picture that he’s been terrible up until 2018. Well, we set the record straight on this with good ole fashioned facts.

Josh also tells the story of that time the Atlanta Braves drafted Tom Seaver in 1966. True story. By all accounts, Tom Seaver should have been a Brave and the course of history could have been much different for the Braves in the 70’s had that happened. But something weird happened. Listen to find out.

Don’t forget to subscribe to Knockahoma Nation on iTunes, CastBox or Stitcher. Enjoy the show!

Episode 52 – Knockahoma Nation Podcast

Nickahoma Nation

Welcome to season two of Knockahoma Nation. Baseball is back and we’re out of our minds as usual.

This week we are joined by Dan Horton to talk about season predictions for pitchers, a look at the first few games, and an ode to Nick Markakis. With Markakis’ walk off homer on Opening Day Josh and Dan take a moment to bask in the glory of the grecian god of right fielders.

We also get a visit from Braves Options guy breaking down the opening day roster and some of his expectations for the year, a little bit of emotional pageantry, and of course a look at some options.

As always thanks for listening Knuckleheads, and chop on!

(Don’t forget to subscribe to Knockahoma Nation on iTunes, CastBox or Stitcher.)

 

Nick Markakis: Ballplayer

I know I’m probably in the minority when I say this, but I absolutely LOVE watching Nick Markakis play baseball for the Atlanta Braves.

Markakis may not be the player you or many other Braves want him to be, but he’s the leader in the clubhouse who’s value reaches farther than the stat sheet. When the Braves do get back to those winning ways, it will be in large part because of the veteran mentorship and wisdom he left in the clubhouse.

The insufferable intolerance of Nick Markakis among many Atlanta Braves fans is long past overkill. It is now mostly white noise and borders upon the absurd.

It’s not lost on me that Markakis is on the downhill decline of his career and thus, more than likely, won’t be a Brave in 2019. I’ve accepted that, and when the time comes, an ode to Markakis will probably be penned. In the meantime, he is still an Atlanta Brave. It’s discussed, ad nausea, about Markakis being primarily a singles hitter; those sentiments are justified, to an extent.

Since 2006 (Nick’s rookie season), he ranks second among all active Major League players with 1,438 singles; Ichiro ranks first. It’s ALSO TRUE that he ranks third in DOUBLES with 431, only Robinson Cano and Miguel Cabrera rank higher at one and two, respectively. In that same span, Markakis is in the top 10, with runs scored (965), top 25 in RBI (876), and first in plate appearances with over 8000.

Additionally, since Ender Inciarte joined the Braves in 2016, he has hit more singles in a Braves uniform than Nick Markakis has. In 2016 Inciarte had 118 singles; Markakis had 110. Last year, Inciarte had 158 (of 201 hits) … one-hundred and fifty-eight … That’s almost 80% of his total hits last year. Markakis had 115 (of 163 hits), a whole 10% less than Inciarte. That’s 278 singles for Inciarte and 225 for Kakes in two seasons.

Yet what confuses me, was the praise and excitement Ender garnered from fans for leading (at one point) all of MLB in singles. Compared to the malevolent diatribe cast at Markakis.

He’s not an elite defender. BUT, in 15,518.2 innings in right field, he has made only 23 errors. In comparison, Jason Heyward has had 25 errors in 9,198 innings. My point is that Kakes is still an average, serviceable right fielder for one more year in Atlanta, especially with the makeup of the current roster. Nick Markakis, yes, hits a lot of singles. But so does Hunter Pence, Torii Hunter, Curtis Granderson, and Ichiro Suzuki.

But, of everything Nick does well, or for everything he doesn’t do well, there’s one thing you have to respect about the man. He comes to the park ready to go every day. He puts his head down and does his job. He’s the quiet leader in clubhouse and doesn’t say a lot. But you have to at least respect the opinion of a Hall of Famer when Nick Markakis is the topic of discussion. #StopHating

You don’t have to hit 30 home runs in a season or drive in 100+ runs to be considered productive. And you certainly don’t have to be an elite defender, saving 25 runs a season. you still need to see the guy actually play baseball. Yes, I know, it’s an anomaly that players don’t play on a sheet of paper. There’s a reason teams still employ scouts and send them to watch guys, you know, actually throw or hit a baseball. You need that part of the evaluation. Every player on the team (*AHEM*) on … the … TEAM, plays a role.

One guy’s role may be to hit home runs, one player’s role may be to pitch in the 7th inning (sidenote: this is called a starter). Another player’s role is to come in off the bench and provide a late inning spark and maybe, it another olayer’s role to be the veteran mentor to a group of kids who need some direction, and whatever else they contribute is gravy.

Nick Markakis is a ballplayer. #SorryNotSorry.

Now, go on and share this truth with your friends, you knuckleheads.

Why do baseball players wear baseball gloves?

A baseball glove is a large leather glove worn by baseball players of the defending team. They’re sometimes called “mitts.” They are meant to assist players in catching and fielding baseballs hit by a batter or thrown by another teammate.

If a baseball player is right-handed, he wears his glove on this left hand. Conversely, if a baseball player is left-handed, he wears his glove on his right hand. This allows the baseball player to throw the ball with the hand that is not occupied by the glove.

To expound a bit, a baseball team is challenged with of two main jobs. To accumulate runs and to stop runs. A game is comprised of 9 innings and there are two halves to each inning. The visiting team always bats first, which means they’ll be on offense during the top-of-the-first inning, at which point the home team with be on defense. After the top of the inning, the teams switch. The home team then goes on offense, as the visiting team makes its way to the field to defend against the offense.

The field is comprised of defensive positions. Catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base are your infield positions. There are three outfield positions – right field, center field, and left field. When a team is on defense, they send a man out (wearing a glove) to occupy each of these positions. Sometimes the manager of the baseball team might induce a shift, which means positions shift to another part of the field. For example, if the left-handed hitter at the plate has a propensity to pull the ball, the team on defense might institute a shift, moving defenders to a far right position.

Historically, the team on defense puts these efforts into place in an attempt to prohibit hits. For example, the second baseman and shortstop wear gloves and are standing at a ready position in the event that the baseball is deflected from the bat to where they can stop the baseball with their glove. If they catch the baseball in the air, it’s an automatic out. If they stop the baseball, after the baseball has already hit the ground, they must throw the ball to first base before the batter crosses the bag. If the batter crosses the bag before the first baseman catches the ball, this is called a hit.

Up until very recently hits mattered, which warranted the above mentioned baseball players and scenarios. Since 1887 baseballs that were hit, landing where defenders were not located, which didn’t make it over the wall (which is called a home run) mattered. One of the best hitters during the 20th century was Roberto Clemente. While younger generations now might not recognize him as an effective baseball player, because he was very proficient at getting hits, its important to remember the history of the game.

While hits no longer matter, clinical psychologists are trying to understand why giving up hits does seem to matter. Studies have shown that fans, and even writers, seem to display angry online behavior if a baseball player gets lots of hits, which would lead one to believe that, by the same logic, they would not care if their favorite pitcher gives up lots of hits. But alas, no-hitters and prohibiting hits are still en vogue on the defensive side of the ball.

There have been many new progressive solutions to fix the game of baseball since discovering that hits don’t matter. One idea has been to allow the defenders to play red rover while the opposing team is up to bat. The pitcher and catcher, of course, would not be able to engage in the game of red rover because they would be occupied with throwing to the batter, trying not to give up home runs (the only type of offense that is now awarded with any type of statistical value or online respect).

Another idea that has been floating around thought circles has been to allow the defenders to engage in staring contests. Some analysts include blinking in the confines of staring contests, while others believe that as long as you don’t laugh or smile, you win the contest. According to Baseball America, Matt Wisler of the Atlanta Braves has the strongest stare and could be one of most effective starers in 2018.

Perhaps the idea that is gaining the most popularity over the last several months is also the most noble idea, because baseball fields (especially world-class Major League baseball fields) are meticulously maintained, there seems to be an opportunity to turn these green spaces into urban farming communities. Opponents of this idea argue that if this were done, teams would be wasting money that they already have invested in defenders, especially center fielders. The argument against this is – if teams can teach defenders basic farming practices, they could utilize their investments (the players) in more effective and noble ways. Concerns of covered stadiums still need to be addressed, should MLB go this route.

According to the Ecology Center, urban farming communities do more than merely harvest food. They reduce carbon emissions, they improve overall public health, and most importantly, they enhance the overall food quality.

Such drastic changes and ideas are certain to bring fear into the more traditional baseball fan. But, now that hits do not matter and baseball players like Nick Markakis serve little-to-no purpose, something needs to be done to make the baseball field matter again.

Since baseball gloves are also no longer needed to prevent hits, there have been many folks within the baseball community trying to figure out new innovative ways of using the baseball glove.

Toronto Blue Jays fan and musical artist, Justin Bieber, has offered to incorporate a baseball glove in his act, much like Michael Jackson’s famous glove. The idea would be to enhance his stage performances when people like Andy Harris go to watch him.

Another idea has been reallocating gloves to pursue medical needs. Proctologists for years have touted the glove snap. Because of this, progressive thinkers believe that former baseball fans like Stephen Tolbert might be open to having their prostates examined for sticks up their anal cavities if said proctologists were using baseball gloves to perform their examination. This could encourage men to get checked at younger ages, which could in turn prevent prostate cancer.

Now that hits and their counterpart, baseball gloves, no longer matter, hopefully baseball fans can now turn their attention to other things that actually matter. Like spending time with each other, exploring the great outdoors, or rescuing a dog from a local shelter.