The end of the year is a good time to reflect, to take a deeper look at who you are and what you've accomplished. I, for one, made a bunch of stupid animated images from videos I don't own. I can't wait for my 20-year reunion.
Being a GIFmonger is one thing. But do you realize what most GIFs are? They're people getting hurt and/or humiliated. That's the plurality of GIFs, right there: baseball players getting hurt in a comically satisfying way, and/or baseball players being bad at their jobs. When you put it like that, it's kind of depressing, this whole business of animated GIFs.
Now that my guilt is assuaged, here are a bunch of GIFs of baseball players getting hurt in a comically satisfying way. The rules are simple: The player can't have been seriously hurt, and it has to be funny. Bryce Harper running into a wall and leaving the game didn't make for a funny GIF. Bryce Harper falling into an open manhole and sheepishly climbing out to see if anyone noticed would make for a funny GIF. It's all a matter of perspective.
For example, Cubs player Steve Clevenger ended a game with a strikeout earlier this year, and he immediately crumpled to the ground. He eventually went on the 60-day DL with an oblique injury. That's not funny. The GIF turned out to be heartbreaking.
This Cub fan's reaction to the strikeout and follow-up reaction to the subsequent injury?
Borderline. But we'll allow it, considering its inherent Cubsness. The rest of the batch:
Baseballs hitting people in the face aren't always funny, but that changes when a) the player kicks the ball on purpose for no good reason, and b) the player pretends like nothing happens. Kyuji Fujikawa did both. And it wasn't even close to the Cubsiest GIF of the year. That would be …
The stumble and fall was probably GIFworthy. Nate Schierholtz has a newborn-giraffe thing going on as he leaves the box, and there's an elegance to the inelegance. But, goodness, the fastball to the helmet is something completely unexpected. The combination in a short span makes the sequence art.
That should have been a double play, by the way. Instead, it gave the Cubs the lead in the 13th inning. But just when you start wondering if the GIF is more Cubs or Padres, note that the Cubs would lose in the 15th inning anyway.
Heath Bell's first pitch as a Diamondback
I'm not really sure what the Diamondbacks thought they were getting with Heath Bell and the $13 million they absorbed with his contract, but that's what they should have expected. That's the first pitch Bell threw as a Diamondback, and Pete Kozma hit it about 425 feet. Would you believe that was the only home run of the year for Kozma? No, it's true.
But to add injury to insult, notice the fan who got in the way of the baseball's reentry. Chivalry isn't dead, but making a play on the ball is. That's why you wear a glove to the game, silly. Especially when Heath Bell is pitching and you're 425 feet away.
Ian Kinsler twofer
Ian Kinsler, now of the Detroit Tigers, had a couple moments this year that were absolutely resplendent. Here he is sliding into ground base:
Amazing toe tap. And here he is sliding into a catcher's mask:
With the subsequent reaction:
The reaction from his teammates was because he looked like this:
Ian Kinsler's year in sliding was hard to watch, but it was hard to get out of my head.
Part of me thinks even that is too low.
Make sure you get that baseball at all costs. They have official ones on sale about 500 feet away from you for $16 or so, but those ones don't come with anecdotes. And that's what you should be prepared to kill for. Anecdotes. Things you can't get from a store. Think of all the stories you'll have?
The time you got the home-run ball. The time you caught the foul. The time you crumpled some poor kid into a ball. That time your right leg lifted above the center-field fence in an obvious homage to Raptor GIF.
These are the memories that make it worth it to dive after a baseball.
The lacerated kidney. The calls from lawyers. The piece of scalp you find under your fingernail after the cops leave the room. The baseball calling you, whispering to you, telling you what you want to hear, humming from the IKEA display case in the living room, making you whole, validating your existence.
Can you imagine your life without that baseball? You cannot. Get the baseball. Get the baseball. Get the baseball.
Allow me to tell a brief story. When I started golfing, I couldn't make contact with the ball. I was in my 20s, and the rest of my wife's family were all experienced, and it was beyond embarrassing. Imagine a grown man whiffing off the tee several times in a row as three other grown men watched uncomfortably.
Then, one day at the driving range, I decided to grip the driver like a baseball bat. Made sense. I've done that my whole life. Grip it like a baseball bat, swing it hard like a baseball bat, and see what happens.
The first time I tried it, ptrrroooooo, 250 yards, but with an insane slice. Second time, same thing. The ball shot off the tee, then sailed way, way right.
Hold on, I thought. What if I angle my body 45º to the left? Then the slice would bring me right back into the fairway. The first time I tried it, the ball went well over 200 yards, and the slice brought me right back into the fairway. I solved golf.
The second time I tried it, the ball shot off the next stall and ricocheted into my jaw. I have not swung a golf club like a baseball bat since.
Kole Calhoun was swinging a baseball bat like a golf club in that at-bat. Do you know why Mark Trumbo wasn't expecting to get hit with a baseball that far south of the on-deck circle? Because nobody should have been expecting a baseball that far south of the on-deck circle. It had to take an unnatural swing, something that wouldn't happen once every 25 games, married with the exact speed and trajectory of the pitch you just saw. Million-to-one, doc.
The ball hit Trumbo in the neck.
How do I know? Because that's a screenshot from when Trumbo took his at-bat later that inning. If I'm elbows-deep in a diaper filled with what was winter-squash puree, and my wife calls me from the airport and says, "I'm sorry. But I'm leaving you. I'm going to Belize with Mark Trumbo," I'll think about the foul ball to the neck and think, yeah, okay, that guy is pretty badass, and you have to seize the moment, ex-wife, so no hard feelings.
A foul ball to the neck.
George Kontos faceball
Is the best part how George Kontos gets hit in the face and no one notices? Seriously, he's the farthest reliever back in the Giants' bullpen, and the other guys are doing bullpen things, starting listlessly into the void and keeping their hands warm. No one notices. Is that the best part of the GIF?
Trick question. No. The best part is how the baseball hits George Kontos in the face. Back and to the left. Back and to the left. Back and to the left ...
Park-adjusted, that hit him in the shoulder.