Worried about the gradual decline of his batting numbers, Luis Gonzalez aims to extend his career by becoming a pitcher. His offseason workouts with Tim Wakefield and Steve Sparks are wasted when it’s found that his arm goes limp after 14 pitches. His return to the outfield is marked by many blooper-reel relay throws, as his muscle memory only retains what the two knuckleballers taught it.
After seeing what fun A.J. Pierzynski had with his appearance on Spike TV’s TNA Wrestling, Chipper Jones approaches head coach Bobby Cox with an idea. Mistaking Cox’s napping head nod for an OK, Chipper pitches his 30-man Royal Rumble idea to WWE’s Vince McMahon, who books the event immediately, before Cox can wake up. After the carnage, the entire team (excepting Tim Hudson, the Rumble champion) is placed on the 60-day DL. Without a team on the field, GM John Schuerholz burns the midnight oil and recruits a bunch of ranchers, gardeners, deli owners, paperboys, and snake handlers. Atlanta wins its 15th consecutive division title.
The Cubs hire a new personal trainer—a medicine man imported from Zimbabwe who practices the dark art of “stealing life force from others”—to help Kerry Wood finally complete an entire season without being placed on the DL. The Cubs place 82 players on the 60-day DL, surpassing the record mark the Braves set earlier in the year. They finish tied with the Pirates.
For the third straight season, Cincinnati management commits a cardinal sin and enters spring training without any pitchers on the roster. Yet the club’s power hitting prevails: Cincinnati slugs its way to a shocking 55 victories and causes many sportswriters to pick them as contenders in 2007—if they remember to sign a pitcher.
As the debate rages about whether a successful team can be developed in mile-high atmospheres, the Rockies shock baseball by leading the majors in team ERA through midseason. An investigation exposes the team’s multimillion-dollar magnet-based gravity-equalizing machine housed below the field. (The team’s excuse: It wasn’t specified as being illegal.) The Rockies are forced to turn it off.
It’s immediately clear that the most interesting story regarding the Marlins is where they’ll be moved to in the next few years. Bug Selig offers an interesting front-runner. “Branson, Missouri, is just like Las Vegas, without the gambling,” Selig says. “Plus, they have wonderful variety shows, amazing attractions, affordable lodging, ample parking, and convenient shopping.” Not included in Selig’s list is the assurance by civic leaders to legalize prostitution by 2009.
Morgan Ensberg wakes from his postseason hitting slump and provides Lance Berkman with protection in the lineup. When asked about his renaissance, Ensberg admits to taking a supplement endorsed by his good friend Rafael Palmeiro. Before the rumors of steroid abuse spread, however, Morgan slyly winks and nods toward the general vicinity of his genitals. The group shares a hearty chuckle, with Ensberg laughing the longest.
Los Angeles Dodgers
After an offseason fluster of roster moves, the new-look Dodgers take the field with a different hue than their usual powder blue. Inspired by football coaches receiving Gatorade showers after successful games, Jeff Kent (while drunk) coerces his teammates (also heavily intoxicated) to take three consecutive steam baths in the sports drink. Although the pea-green color diminishes by late August, the unfortunate players who bathed in orange Gatorade remain tangerine throughout the playoffs. On the plus side: Their bodies’ free radicals are completely neutralized, leading to more-patient at-bats and crisper double-play turns.
Ben Sheets pitches another All-Star-caliber season for a team that doesn’t contend. When asked why he signed a long-term deal with a team that never shows any signs of improvement, wasting his prime years for a mediocre organization, Sheets simply shrugs and slams another free beer, his fifth that afternoon.
New York Mets
Newcomer Carlos Delgado pleases Mets fans when he agrees to forgo his personal protest and stand during the pregame renditions of “God Bless America.” Delgado neglects to mention that when he stands up, he will take the opportunity to show the color guard his right middle finger, use his left arm to hoist a gigantic peace-sign flag, and shout John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” from the top of his lungs.
Though expected to replace Jim Thome’s missing bat, youngster Ryan Howard is awful. In postgame interviews, as Howard deflects questions about his struggles, his eyes seem to dart nervously. After two horrendous months, he is sent back to Triple A. Three weeks later, the Phillie Phanatic is phired and Howard is called back up. His bat reawakens. By season’s end he is a long-shot MVP candidate. The Phanatic is never heard from again. Howard struggles with sleep deprivation for the rest of his career, each night jolted awake by flashbacks to that fateful night, long ago, when he saw the wretched sight hiding under the mask.
Watching their season fall to the wayside, the Wilson brothers (Craig and Jack, no relation) head to Mexico a little earlier this year. They come into spring training the following season with their usual well-spread tan, three more children (each), and their fifth consecutive Hispanic Federation Tag-Team Championship belts wrapped around their waists.
St. Louis Cardinals
As usual, the Cardinals finish the season with the best record in baseball but fail to reach the World Series. This season’s excuse? Following an eventful trip to the zoo, half of the team’s players become werewolves. Full-moon night games are a logistical nightmare.
San Diego Padres
The surprising re-signing of Brian Giles and Trevor Hoffman is mistaken as an example of players lowering their contract demands so as to enjoy the buxom women and sunny beaches of San Diego. It’s later discovered that the Padres offered the duo an intriguing signing bonus: Thursday nights off to enjoy the famed Tijuanan Dance-Offs. The gesture provides mixed results when Giles and Hoffman return from Mexico with a first-place ribbon and all four of their big toes missing—taken in a post-dance-off skirmish with second-place finishers the Rashomaniacs. By September, their bionic toe surgery will be complete. And they’ll be looking for revenge.
San Francisco Giants
The return of Barry Bonds—and thus the eventual eclipsing of Hank Aaron’s home-run record—is met with mixed emotions by baseball fans across America. Some call Bonds a hero. Others call him a cheat. By midseason, more fans fall into the former group than the latter. This is largely due to Bonds tracking down and sucker-punching every fan, knocking the wind out of them for a year.
Nick Johnson misses two months of the season with a deep laceration in his right leg. He sustains the injury in a mishap at the 2006 Great Outdoor Games during the hot-saw competition, where competitors make three full cuts through a 20-inch log. The replay reveals the shocking fact that Nick slices his leg in the initial cut, yet he still completes the other two in record time. He is a much tougher man than you are. And has better facial hair.