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Welcome to the MLB Star Power Index -- a bi-weekly undertaking that determines with awful authority which players/baseball entities are dominating the current zeitgeist of the sport, at least according to the narrow perceptions of this miserable scribe. While one's presence on this list is often celebratory in nature, it can also be for purposes of lamentation or ridicule. The players/living baseball phenomena listed are in no particular order, just like the phone book. To this edition's honorees/dishonorees ...

The 2023 MLB Big Ten Champions

The time has come to award the Gus and Louie Varland Plaque of Solid Michigan Cherry Wood is upon us. As you're no doubt breathlessly aware, this sturdiest of laurels goes each year to the MLB Big Ten Champion. 

At this point, those who like to distract from the larger point with inane questions may be asking what the MLB Big Ten championship even is. Fine, we'll tell you. Thanks to documents retrieved from the scriptoria of various medieval European monasteries, we know at least two things about the Big Ten conference as it was intended to be conceived and executed: 

  • Written utterance of the Big Ten shall never entail use of the numeral "10." Reference to a non-existent thing called the "Big 10" shall be punishable by a swift trip to a set of wooden gallows that also serves as the Purdue-Northwestern rivalry trophy. 
  • The constituent institutions of the Big Ten shall stretch not from sea to shining sea but rather from honorable cornhole board to invasive species of carp fished from the Great Lakes that shall soon sicken us by the light of the campfire to the last hand of euchre until the next hand of euchre. The Big Ten is the Midwest, just as the Midwest is the Big Ten. 

To our eternal chagrin, this second precept has been grossly violated by the Actual Big Ten, which includes the distinctly un-Midwestern likes of Rutgers and Maryland and will soon allow such infections to spread with the addition of USC, UCLA, Washington, and Oregon. In this space, however, those particular balrogs shall not pass. Take back the streets? We'll get to that when we can. Our more pressing charge is to Take Back the Big Ten. 

Yes, it falls to us to restore geographical coherence and morality to the Big Ten with Major League Baseball as our vessel. We have done and continue to do this by awarding the MLB Big Ten title to the team with the best regular season across both the National League Central and the American League Central -- i.e., Big Ten Country. 

MLB's central divisions are geographically sensible, at least by the standards of the genre. The NL and AL Central teams occupy seven different states, and six of those are home to actual Big Ten teams. Better yet, none of those six states is New Jersey or Maryland or California or Oregon or Washington. The one state that isn't a part of Big Ten country is Missouri, home of the Cardinals and Royals. However, you can still flood a basement there and get in public shoving matches over mustard. 

One might be wondering whether the AL East and NL East can pair up for the ACC title or whether the two west divisions amount to MLB's Pac-12. No, they cannot, and this is for reasons of Midwest Uber Alles. Fire pits! Rust-Belt craft beer! Mowing the yard during a tornado watch! Winter tongues burned back to life by scalding pierogies! Waffles eaten from a bowl! A borrowed snow blower finally returned years later only after the borrower dies of cardiac arrest while shoveling! Thawing frozen custard in the radar range! The Varland boys! Sump pump purchased at a yard sale! Fond du Lac! 

With those justifications laid out like the asbestos flooring of grandma's mud room, it's time to honor the 2023 MLB Big Ten champ. Become exalted, you Milwaukee Brewers

The noticer of things will notice that the regular season is not yet complete, and since the MLB Big Ten champion is determined by the regular-season standings, this is all terribly premature. Perhaps, but the iniquities of the calendar make this the final SPI of 2023, and that means we have to tend to this necessary business right now. Besides, the Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, and Cincinnati Reds have lovingly agreed not to pass the Brewers in the Big Ten standings and thus not topple these assumptions in a gross and possibly felonious act of inconvenience. 

Now that we've presented the 2023 Brewers with the Gus and Louie Varland Plaque of Solid Michigan Cherry Wood, let us recite, in a somewhat nasally accent that evokes the ancient head colds of Saxony, all of the MLB Big Ten champions. 

Note that this hallowed ledger begins in 2012, when the Houston Astros were mercifully drummed out of the Centrals, thus restoring purity and allowing the MLB Big Ten to be born. Regard: 

MLB Big Ten champions/recipients of the Gus and Louie Varland Plaque of Solid Michigan Cherry Wood

  • 2013 St. Louis Cardinals
  • 2014 Detroit Tigers
  • 2015 St. Louis Cardinals
  • 2016 Chicago Cubs
  • 2017 Cleveland Indians
  • 2018 Milwaukee Brewers
  • 2019 Minnesota Twins
  • 2020 Minnesota Twins
  • 2021 Milwaukee Brewers
  • 2022 St. Louis Cardinals
  • 2023 Milwaukee Brewers

Now go forth, freshly crowned Brewers, and lose to Alabama 34-9 in a bowl game. If the temperature is above freezing but below 50, then you may wear shorts with your puffy jacket.