Welcome to the offseason's most storied tradition: obsessively poring over celebrity Instagrams
It's a tale as old as social media: A famous person shares what they're doing or thinking, but only a only a small snapshot of a much broader and more colorful life -- leaving us, the viewer, to want to extrapolate those moments to a broader story.
So, when we scroll through timelines looking at food pictures, inspirational quotes and charming couple activities, we find ourselves asking more questions than we probably have any right to, and that we definitely don't have sufficient evidence to answer. Is this person happy? Do they find contentment in their daily lives? Is this romantic partner The One or do those signs of affection look just a little bit forced?
Sports free agency takes this natural curiosity, cranks it up to 11 and tosses in the weight of the fates of several franchises just for good measure. Tweets are quickly deleted. Emojis are parsed. Just last year, as the saga of Manny Machado's free agency churned, fans did everything from scouring the star's Instagram follows to looking at whose posts he was liking and even gleaning meaning from his dessert orders.
Good news: Now that it's the offseason once more, it's again time to take social media stalking to an entirely new level. Getting the 2019-20 speculation started is free agent starting pitcher Cole Hamels. Despite spending last season with the Cubs, he and his wife recently found themselves in Philadelphia for the baptism of their two youngest children. It just so happens that the Phillies have a likely interest in bolstering their starting rotation this offseason.
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Back in downtown Philadelphia for our two youngest baptisms. Our beloved Father Jerry has now been able to perform this ceremony on all of our children and all in the same church. #oldstjoesphschuchphiladelphia (1733) We are so blessed to have family and friends who will be amazing god parents to all of our children! #ittakesavillagetoraiseachild We were fortunate enough to be able to celebrate at the incredibly new and breathtaking @fsphiladelphia the views of the city were captivating!
This could be completely meaningless, of course. Hamels spent nearly 10 seasons with the Phillies, won a World Series with the team and clearly established bonds within the city of Philadelphia. It's perfectly normal to want all your kids to be baptized in the same church, even if it may mean traveling a little bit. This could simply be a man doing a normal life thing and sharing it on Instagram as a happy parent.
It could be -- if this weren't November, the time of year when "simple" is not an option. Hamels is obviously sending a message here to Phillies fans. He loves Philadelphia and will do anything to come back to the Phillies. He loves the views of the city and, boy, does it look even better than it did last time he was there! Show him where to sign, Phillies, and he'll do it without a second thought.
Or is he? On the other hand, maybe this is closure, a last hurrah in the city where it all started before he goes elsewhere to finish his career. He's come to Philadelphia to finish what he started by baptizing all his kids in the city and close that chapter on his life before moving on to other pastures. Not only does this post not guarantee Hamels will sign with the Phillies, it actively rules them out as a real contender for his services.
Who knows where the truth lies. The important thing to understand is that the truth is secondary: What matters is that we believe they contain some deeper message -- either intentionally or unintentionally -- and dedicate absurd amounts of time and intellectual energy decoding their messages. That's what the offseason is all about.
Eric Chesterton is a writer for MLB.com. He is an appreciator of the stolen base, the bunt against the shift and nearly every unconventional uniform design. He eagerly awaits Jamie Moyer's inevitable comeback.