Santa Claus made several appearances long before the Holidays, delivering several valuable gifts to various baseball teams in the summer of 2016. They may not exactly have been wrapped in bows and colorful paper, nor were they necessarily found under a tree. Nevertheless, these presents turned out to be especially beneficial to the teams who received them.
The first gift arrived way back before Spring Training, and it was delivered appropriately by a man wearing a Reds suit. Cincinnati veteran All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips indirectly handed the Nationals a present by declining to waive his no trade clause, which caused Washington to sign Daniel Murphy.
The hero of the previous post season with the New York Mets continued his hot streak with the Nationals, leading the league in hitting for most of the season. He did top the league with 47 doubles, a .595 slugging percentage, and an OBP of .989.
A group of Phillips’s teammates, also wearing red of course, proved to be frequent gift-givers during the 2016 season. The Cincinnati pitching staff served up a record number of home run balls, amounting to 258 gift pitches that their opponents hit out of the park. The bullpen arms were especially generous, surrendering a record number 29 home run balls to the first batter they faced.
The baseball Santas did not always wear red, however. Quite often they handed out gifts while wearing the blue uniforms of the Twins, whose defensive mishaps served as gifts for their opponents. Minnesota allowed a league high 75 unearned runs, adding to the woes of a pitching staff responsible for the club’s league worst 59 wins.
Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy’s gift to the Cleveland Indians in July was similar to the one Brandon Phillips gave to Washington earlier. The All-Star backstop of the Brewers used his no trade rights to nix a deal that would have sent him to the Indians, even though he would a little later agree to join the Texas Rangers.
Cleveland took advantage of that gift by turning the catching responsibilities over to Roberto Perez, who supplied the Indians with much needed power in the World Series. He led Cleveland with two home runs and five runs batted in against the stingy pitching staff of the Chicago Cubs, who eventually won the Championship in seven games.
Another appearance of St. Nick came earlier in the post season, when he was wearing the guise of Baltimore manager Buck Showalter. He gave his Toronto opponents a gift by not using his best relief pitcher, Zach Britton, in the Wild Card game. The Blue Jays ended up knocking in the winning runs off of other Baltimore relief pitchers in the eleventh inning for a five to two win.