Santa offers peek at baseball's nice, naughty lists
So there I was, flying from Atlanta to Cincinnati for Christmas with the relatives, and I had a layover in the North Pole.
Anyway, I ran into You Know Who. When he discovered I was a columnist for MLB.com, he invited me over to his place, pulled up a chair and decided to tell me who has been naughty and nice this year in baseball.
Here was my peek at the nice list ...
Chipper Jones: After announcing his retirement before the season, he ignored the constant aching of his 40-year-old legs to play out of his mind for his 19th and final Major League season. In 112 games, he hit .287, and most of his 14 home runs and 62 RBIs were clutch.
The Toronto Blue Jays: Just like that, they're not only relevant, but they are vibrant enough to win the American League East, suddenly rugged from top to bottom. Santa spent the last few weeks giving the Blue Jays -- well, what didn't he give them?
No. 2, Derek Jeter, No. 2: According to Santa, the New York Yankees captain always is on this list. You can pick a slew of reasons every year, but here's a big one for 2012: He recently called the mother of Victoria Soto, the teacher who was killed while protecting her first-grade students in the tragedy in Newton, Conn. He wasn't asked to make the call. He just did it, because that's what he does.
Speaking of Jeter, here was my peek at the naughty list ...
The editors of the New York Post: They ran a picture on the cover of their tabloid of a supposedly fat Jeter, claiming he was "pigging out" during his recovery from ankle surgery. A few days later, he appeared in public looking fit and trim.
All the teams that needed center fielders after last season and didn't sign Michael Bourn: What's not to like about this guy? He is the definitive leadoff hitter, and he has two Gold Gloves, three stolen base titles and two trips to the All-Star Game. He also has no team at the moment.
The Miami Marlins: Don't know where to start. After spending a bundle to put a team together in a flash after the 2011 season, those who run the franchise dismantled it in a hurry -- starting in midsummer. Ozzie Guillen also had a forgettable year. He had that little controversy involving his Fidel Castro comments, and then he was dismissed after his first and only season with the Marlins after they finished last in the NL East.
Like I said, this was just a peek at both lists. Santa still was writing and erasing as we chatted. He even whispered what he planned to give folks around the Major Leagues, but I'll keep that quiet.
OK, I'll tell. But, first, I'll let you know that Santa began with the splendid baseball deeds of the San Francisco Giants.
Something about their ability to overcome EVERYTHING.
Among other things, the Giants lost their star closer for most of the season, and then they watched their top hitter -- more specifically, the NL's top hitter at the time -- miss the stretch drive due to a suspension for violating baseball's substance-abuse policy.
The Giants still won their division. Then they took the NL pennant before snatching a second World Series championship in three years.
"I gave the Giants their gifts awhile back, and when I say gifts, I'm talking about gifts," said Santa, with his belly bouncing from laughter, as I responded with wide eyes.
"Ho, ho, ho," Santa said. "Didn't you see them hoisting the Commissioner's Trophy? But that was only part of it. For their resilience, I gave each of them a check for $377,003."
Ho, ho, ho, indeed.
That was a World Series record.
I asked Santa, "Who else was nice this year, and I mean, nice enough to go from something like thin wallets to fat ones?"
Santa rolled his eyes.
"You haven't been paying attention," he said, pausing and staring. "Think, dude. Think. You know my favorite color is red, but when it came to green this year, I was into blue."
Oh, I finally got it. Dodger Blue.
After watching previous ownership struggle with bankruptcy, fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers got a new set of owners last spring who had money and Magic -- literally, as in Magic Johnson, the Los Angeles Lakers icon who is now the face of the Dodgers.
With much help from Santa ("That's my story, and I'm sticking to it," he said, winking), the Dodgers' new ownership group already has produced the biggest payroll in baseball history.
But don't get the wrong idea. Santa's gift-giving around the Major Leagues wasn't completely about money. We all saw how he kept the game safe for another year from all of those knee-jerk folks who want instant replay expanded beyond just home run disputes, fair-or-foul calls down each line and trapped balls.
We also saw what Santa did with R.A. Dickey.
"Thanks for noticing," Santa said, puffing on his pipe, referring to how the 38-year-old pitcher went from obscurity to the NL Cy Young Award by resurrecting the knuckleball as poison for hitters.
Dickey also got paid. He nearly tripled his annual salary to $12 million after he was traded by the New York Mets to the Blue Jays.
I could tell you more, but I don't want the Big Guy mad at me.
I'm still trying to get some things.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.