Archive for January, 2013

How to Defeat the Detroit Tigers

Milwaukee’s Brewers once shared a league with the Tigers of Detroit. They don’t any more, but sometimes, under cover of night, they still play each other in the darkened streets of the American Midwest. Third-generation Poles part their bungalow curtains and watch, and they smell bad as they watch.

Across all such contests, whether sanctioned or questionable, the Brewers are 1,005-0 against the Tigers. To what is their rousing success against the Jungle Cats O’ Michy-Gan owing? Crippling alcoholism.

Witness this revealing pen-and-ink dispatch:

Drunken louts

The Tigers, miserable sots one and all, are unable to resist the foggy inveiglements of the tipple. “Firewater, as fresh as it is cold? The promise of a teeming pour? We are stinking with foretaste!” The Tigers say in benumbed unison. “On this day, death to all other toil!”

Then they get drunk and lurch around those Michigan towns named after dead Anglicans and boot in mullioned windowpanes in a red-eyed search for copulus — a search they’d dare not abate even if they had the will, which they do not, on account of their intemperance.

The villagers are left ensnared in that very moment when they can’t tell whether the hoof-beats are approaching, or passing them by.

1700 Baseball Cards, Revisited


Part II

Yesterday, I took you on a very boring journey through my opening of 1700 baseball cards. It’s true, you can look it up.

Today, I present the remainder of my findings. Enjoy, or whatever.

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Delmon Young’s Best Shape

Recently, NotGraphs’ own Jeremy Blachman drew attention to the “best shape of their lives” cliché that’s bandied about at the onset of every spring training.

Mr. Blachman enlightens us as to what shape a player is when he’s in the best shape of his life, but for some players, their own best shapes — let’s call it their “spirit shapes” — break the mold. One of those players is Delmon Young. His best shape is…

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Walk Up, Walk Tall


Here is a list of the current walk-up songs used by the Tampa Bay Rays, to the best of my knowledge.

Ben Zobrist: “Behind Me” – Julianna Zobrist
Desmond Jennings: “Mercy” – Kanye West
Evan Longoria: “Down and Out” – Tantric
Elliot Johnson: “Foxey Lady” – Jimi Hendrix
Jose Lobaton: “We Are Young” – Fun
Matt Joyce: “I Can’t Stop” – Flux Pavilion
Sam Fuld: “Electric Feel” – MGMT
Sean Rodriguez: “I’m A Believer” – Tedashii
James Loney: “Wild Boy” – Machine Gun Kelly
Yunel Escobar: “El Animal” – Gente De Zona
Kelly Johnson: “Bulls on Parade” – Rage Against The Machine
Jose Molina: “Suave y Lentel” – Jowell and Randy
Luke Scott: “Rock You Like a Hurricane” – Scorpions

These are lame, as I’m sure you will agree. In fact, the vast majority of walk-up songs in Major League Baseball are lame. This is not surprising; baseball players are paid to play baseball, not to cultivate sophisticated aesthetic tastes. They need help, and I propose to give it to them, via a campaign I call “Walk Up, Walk Tall: Purging Illiteracy in Music from Professional Sports (PIMPS).” Because the Rays, with their reputation for studious innovation, seem like especially promising candidates for assistance, I am kicking off this campaign in Tampa.

Now, one of the basic tenets of my philosophy is that in the interest of solidarity, major league lineups should share a musical theme. For the Rays, the theme I suggest is “Rays.” Where I need your help, readers, is in pairing each hitter of Tampa Bay with the most appropriate song by a Ray. The sampling of tunes below should get you off to a running start.

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Ask NotGraphs (#33)

Dear Abby,

I’m sick of this ridiculous baseball offseason. Can we just invent time travel already so that we can skip this whole ordeal??

Eager Man in Eagan, MN

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Photo Essay: Let’s Open, Like, 1700 Baseball Cards


Part I

At the risk of losing a considerable amount of ‘Net cred, I feel as if I need to make a confession; I haven’t bought a baseball card in about 20 years. There are lots of reasons for this, the main reason being that my friends stopped doing it first. As an adolescent who strove to be accepted, I had no interest in doing anything which my group of friends had no interest. I considered this to be, at the time, a form of self-betterment. I wanted nothing more than to hang on to the small group of friends I had, and therefor the “childish” activity of opening, sorting, and saving baseball cards was done away with.

I am now older and wiser. I understand that having hobbies and interests that are my own within my group of peers is acceptable and healthy. I embrace it. I also am on a different kick of self-improvement, related directly to baseball. As a young baseball fan, I was really only interested in the best players. I did not pay heed to the men I deemed unworthy of my attention. Superstars were it for me. This has led to a considerable knowledge gap when it comes to players of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Too many players have slipped through the cracks – players that weren’t very good or perhaps were good, but I failed to recognize their contributions since I had yet to fully understand player value.

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Managers Prepare for Spring Training

With the hot stove cooling off, and with pitchers and catchers reporting to training camps in just two weeks, Major League skippers have begun tweaking their cliches, flushing their last few Marlboros down the toilet, and shaking the dust out of their fogey folds.

The NotGraphs Quote-Gathering Seals, an elite, highly-trained yet unpaid team of erstwhile Humanities majors is on the job, surprising managers in their foyers, cars, showers, and storage facilities to gather the most inane candid quotes possible regarding each manager’s preparations. Here are a few choice selections:

Bruce Bochy, World Champion San Francisco Giants


“One thing that was successful for us last year was a clean bullpen. We had a no-tobacco/no-candy wrapper policy in the bullpen last year, and Sergio [Romo] developed into a star. He’s a very tidy guy; it helped him mentally.

“This year, we want to bring that to the dugout, too. A big boy’s pants are a clean pair of pants. We want to set an example for the younger guys.

“This, ah, whole cleanliness thing, though — it doesn’t apply to the manager’s office. Now get out of my Pert-Plus!”

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Accursed Effigy: The Startling Conclusion!

Not so long ago, I told the harrowing tale of Mark Gubicza, mangled plastic corpse, and the dark malaise it flung over the moribund Kansas City Royals franchise. The twisted, insane smile of that armless crippled puppet still haunts me, as it haunts us all indirectly. Many a night I have spent in troubled, listless sleep, reliving the moment of my cowardice, my refusal to aid the dozens of remaining Royals fans.

Ultimately, I decided that I had no choice but to face my demons. In one hand I held a dented aluminum bat from the sporting goods section, and with the other stared through the preview pane of my phone camera to avoid making eye contact with the spirits of the damned.

Thus armed, I reached the back of the store to face my spiritual oppressor, only to discover among the plastic golden trophies something I never expected:

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Breaking Down 2013’s Top 100 Prospects

Breaking down’s recently released list



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Mustache Wars: Tiant vs. Horton

Imagine two Kodiak bears, each walking alone through the forest. Strong, powerful, furry. They have no fear, no predators from which to run, and seemingly no enemies. Then, a twig snaps, and one bear looks up to find himself within 20 yards of the other. They growl at each other. They stand on their hind legs, they bare their teeth, and they roar menacingly. When these two bears meet in the woods, it is a scientific fact that they will fight, the fight will be epic, and that one of them will limp off to die alone.*

*Do not look this up.

I had never seen two bears walking through the forest until last weekend, when at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome for TwinsFest. You are skeptical, obviously. How could a bear even make it into the Twin Cities, let alone into a pressurized, domed stadium with revolving doors? “Chillax,” I say. “These are metaphorical bears.” These are bears in the form of circa 1973 Luis Tiant and Willie Horton, whose baseball cards I located glaring across from one another in a binder at the largest baseball card show in the Upper Midwest on the Metrodome field, their forced colocation adding to what was already a tense scene. Feel it:


Those are some intense staredowns and some very intimidating mustaches. As Tiant and Horton stared each other down from across the book, I worried for what would happen if they faced each other any longer, so I purchased one of them and David Temple, oft of this space, also purchased one and we separated them before any damage was done to the surrounding cards.

But we never resolved the question of which bear would have won the inevitable conflict. And as gentlemen of science and fine breeding, coming to a satisfactory conclusion was compulsory. Thankfully, we know that Tiant pitched against Horton’s Tigers five times in 1973, and Horton played in three of those games.  And so it was when Willie Horton dug in against Luis Tiant in 1973 that we learned who was Ursa Major, and who was Ursa Minor, for here are the results of their struggle: Read the rest of this entry »