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Quarterfinals of 'Funnest Player' tourney

September 12, 2017

Well, first thing to say is this: We underestimated Michael Trout. It is a great American tradition to underestimate Trout, yes, but it is something we never expected to actually do ourselves.We, once again, are Mike Schur and Joe Posnanski, co-hosts of the excessively long but entirely pointless PosCast, and

Well, first thing to say is this: We underestimated Michael Trout. It is a great American tradition to underestimate Trout, yes, but it is something we never expected to actually do ourselves.
We, once again, are Mike Schur and Joe Posnanski, co-hosts of the excessively long but entirely pointless PosCast, and a few days ago we began MLB's first "Funnest Player" tournament. We chose the 16 funnest players in baseball, using the advanced sabermetric analytical method of just nominating whoever came to mind with like two minutes of forethought. And then, using the power of Twitter, we asked you to vote on the round of 16.
There were, admittedly, a few pitfalls. One is that many people read it as the "Funniest Player" tournament and were upset when very funny players such as Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy were not in the field. This is somewhat understandable, since "Funnest" is not actually a word, but no, this is not about about funny. It's "Funnest Player." Sorry for the confusion that we totally caused by being illiterate.
Second, there were many players not listed, and some of these caused fans to declare the entire tournament illegitimate, meaningless and "hot garbage." (It turns out the Internet can sometimes be an inhospitable place for people who express their opinions on certain matters. Lesson learned!) The players who inspired such fury included Kansas City's Salvador Perez, Cleveland's Jose Ramirez, the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, Cincinnati's Joey Votto, Baltimore's Adam Jones and San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner and Hunter Pence. These are all fun players and if there are, in fact, an infinite number of universes, I'm sure we chose each of them in one of those.
Third -- and this is the big one -- we totally underestimated Trout. We love him. We have spent many, many hours celebrating Trout's awesomeness; we have suggested that baseball retroactively give him every MVP Award ever, including those Chalmer Awards given to Tris Speaker and Walter Johnson.
But then we went out and underestimated the guy ourselves. Our guess was that Trout, while the best player in baseball, would not be viewed as "fun" by fans. So we seeded him sixth, which matched him up with No. 3 seed Aaron Judge, the very epitome of fun. I mean, "Giant gap-toothed rookie monster who hits 500-foot home runs" vs. "Blah blah blah best player in baseball every year" -- this seemed like a funnest mismatch.
And it was: Trout destroyed Judge in the vote. He received 78 percent of the vote, the second-biggest blowout in the first round. As avowed Yankees haters, we can't help but be a little bit pleased about that outcome, even while we know that Judge will have his revenge when the Yanks beat the Angels, 19-2, in the American League Wild Card Game.

Here are the matchups for the Round of 8:
No. 1 seed: Giancarlo Stanton
How he got here: Stanton comfortably defeated No. 8 seed Nolan Arenado with 71 percent of the vote. Arenado remains awesome.
What makes Stanton fun: Absurdly long home runs that leave the ballpark in 0.0004 seconds are fun. He has now started hitting with a closed stance -- the stance you use if you want to hit line-drive singles to right, like Paul Molitor or something -- and is still hitting 500-foot home runs. Why is Stanton hitting with a closed stance? The only possible explanation is that he got bored with hitting normally and decided to give himself a handicap, like Inigo Montoya swordfighting left-handed.
No. 4 seed: Francisco Lindor
How he got here: Lindor triumphed comfortably over No. 5 seed Byron Buxton, who figures to be a perennial Funnest Player contender should we ever do this again.
What makes Lindor fun: Smiley players who make smiling, diving plays every other inning and who hit smiling home runs and then smile to their teammates and who smile and get down on the ground to play baseball games with small children are fun.
Matchup 1: No. 1 seed Stanton vs. No. 4 seed Lindor

        • No. 2 seed: Adrian Beltre
          How he got here: Beltre utterly swamped No. 7 seed Chris Sale with 82 percent of the vote. He was like that awesome college basketball team that is ticked off because it didn't get a No. 1 seed.
          What makes Beltre fun:This.And this.And this.And this.And this.And this.And, yes, this too. We could do this all day. In retrospect, yeah, Beltre should have been a No. 1 seed.
          No. 6 seed: Trout
          How he got here: Major upset of Judge -- well, it obviously wasn't an upset since he got 78 percent of the vote, but it felt like an upset.
          What makes Trout fun: It's fun to have the greatest season for your age, at every age that you can be in the Majors. That's a thing Trout has done (arguably, but probably) -- he had the greatest year ever for an 20-year-old, then he had the greatest year ever for a 21-year-old, and so on, and now he's 26, and if he hadn't been hurt, he probably would've had the greatest year ever for a 26-year-old. That's fun! Also, he really likes the weather! Trout knows a ton about like weather patterns and stuff! That's not that fun. Forget about the weather thing. Focus on the fact that he might be the greatest baseball player ever.
          Matchup 2: No. 2 seed Beltre vs. No. 6 seed Trout

        • No. 1 seed: Jose Altuve
          How he got here: With a fairly easy 77-23 victory over No. 7 seed Mookie Betts.
          What makes Altuve fun: He's tiny and he hits home runs, and he's very small and he's a demon on the bases, and he's miniscule and he makes preposterous defensive plays, and he's a wee man and he hits like .350 every year and so on. You know that scene at the end of "Babe" where the little pig leads the sheep through and everyone in the audience just falls dead silent and then breaks out into impossible cheers? Yeah, that's Altuve every day.
          No. 5 seed: Bartolo Colon
          How he got here: With a mild upset of the very speedy Billy Hamilton, 71-29. More than one person pointed out that if Colon and Hamilton actually raced, Hamilton would win by ... infinity. He would go forward in time, while Colon would go backward.
          What makes Colon fun:This is Gary Cohen's call on Bartolo Colon's lone home run. "He drives one, deep left field, back goes Upton, back near the wall, it's OUTTA HERE! Bartolo has done it! The impossible has happened! This is one of the great moments in the history of baseball." The homer gave the Mets a 4-0 lead over the Padres in the second inning. Now that's fun.
          Matchup 3: No. 1 seed Altuve vs. No. 5 seed Colon

        • No. 2 seed: Javier Baez
          How he got here: With a hard-fought 60-40 victory over Max Scherzer. The closeness of this race was almost as surprising as Trout's runaway victory over Judge.
          What makes Baez fun: The no-look tag in the World Baseball Classic alone should make Baez a top contender for funnest player in baseball every year for the next decade. Thing is, he does impossible stuff like that twice a game. At some point in the 2018 season, Baez is going to tag someone out with his glove hand while doing close-up magic with his throwing hand.
          No. 3 seed: Bryce Harper
          How he got here: By edging his Beltway adversary, Manny Machado, 56-44.
          What makes Harper fun: First of all, that's a clown question, bro. And second of all, Harper has fun hair. Yes, he has been hitting mammoth home runs since he was a toddler and he plays the game with Pete Rose recklessness -- minus the 694 vices that bedeviled Rose -- and he is unafraid to say whatever is on his mind. But really, it comes down to the hair and how he waves it around, somehow in slow motion. Every Harper game is also, at some level, a "Baywatch" episode.
          Matchup 4: No. 2 seed Baez vs. No. 3 seed Harper

Joe Posnanski is a No. 1 New York Times best-selling author, an Emmy Award-winning writer and has been awarded National Sportswriter of the Year.