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Help Wanted: Reply Within

The hardest thing about being a NotGraphs writer, apart from the endless demands of the groupies, the financial requests from our families and the ribbon cuttings and blog signings that we are forced to turn down, is the act of generating what we in the story industry call “story ideas.” 


A “story idea” – how can I simplify this for those who don’t understand? – is an “idea” for a “story.” It is the Prime Mover of the objet d’art that you will know, especially if you are French, as le masterpiece and that groupies will know as Spanish fly. In short, it gets the scribe to where he needs to be – first, to the beginning of the story and then to the end, whereupon he can conduct the more important business of honoring his Pleasure Schedule, which for me is Sindee (with an i) at noon, Syndee (with a y) at 2 and everybody else at the 4:30 matinee.

For each NotGraphs writer, “priming the movement” is a uniquely personal challenge. David G. Temple likes to stand outside in his underwear — or, if his underwear is unavailable, a neighbor’s underwear – and prostrate himself to a light bulb on a nearby lamppost. As for Jeremy Blachman, he just Googles “good ideas,” though he often spells it “good ides” and therefore writes about March 15. For his part, Carson Cistulli typically ingests a dram of absinthe and a gram of peyote and then calls me, usually around midnight, to ask, “Got any good ideas?”

At this point you are asking: “How does Mr. Paschal, he of such prolific output despite the demands on time and groin, come up with such super-golden ideas?”

To which Mr. Paschal responds, “I don’t! My personal assistant does it for me! His name is Jeeves, and he’s a peach, I tells ya, an absolute peach!”

Of course the hardest thing for Jeeves to do, apart from chilling the Asti Spumanti and cueing up the Barry White, is incorporating the sport of baseball, or the word baseball, into each story idea. Example: For this story, Jeeves suggested that I mention the difficulty of incorporating “baseball” into each story idea.

Jeeves then had another idea: “Why not allow your readers – both of them…”

Now that Jeeves is no longer working here, I have to come up with my own ideas and one idea is this: Why not allow readers, all of them, to pitch story ideas? And from the best of those ideas I will craft an intriguing and perhaps titillating story!

And here I am, dear reader(s), awaiting your finest pitch(es).

Rejuve A Nation: Or, How to Youthify the American Pastime

Five young friends jumping outdoors smiling

Many American pundits have exercised their American punditry of late by claiming that baseball, like the gourmet cupcake, is a dying thing. Wearing their NFL lapel pins and NBA commitment rings, these finger-on-the-pulse authorities have cited among other factors the troubling demographic of American baseball fandom, pointing out that a full 140 percent of Pastime enthusiasts drive Chrysler 300s; listen to Perry Como 8-track tapes while driving those Chrysler 300s; complain frequently about the thermostat setting; watch syndicated reruns of Mannix; prefer hard candy to soft; advise teenagers to get off their respective lawns and, while they’re at it, get a haircut; and spend an inordinate amount of time perusing the Wall Street Journal while completely naked in the locker room at the local gym.

To that accusation, Major League Baseball has issued a formal statement: “Hand me that ceramic dish of ribbon candy, please, and my blue sweater.”

And so, in efforts to rid the Pastime of that distinctive old-man smell and draw younger enthusiasts to a new enthusiasm, we hereby advise that Major League Baseball enact the following measures in each remaining ballgame this season:
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Player Arrested For Being Under the Influence of Pink Floyd

laser show summer 2

In the wake of shortstop Everth Cabrera’s recent arrest for driving under the influence of marijuana, Baseball has begun cracking down on other “pothead-type offenses,” Sgt. Joe Friday announced on Friday in a sergeant-like voice.

Why are we cracking down on other pothead-type offenses?” the sergeant then asked, rhetorically and quite dramatically. “Because the next tragedy may be that of your catcher … or your pitcher … or yours, or yours … ”

He then pointed into a news camera that had not yet been turned on and declared, “… or YOURS.” (The sergeant would later learn that even though the camera had not captured his statement, a teenager had, on his iPhone, and after auto-tuning it had created a YouTube video that quickly received more than 20 million views, and so the sergeant was very pleased.)

The first player to suffer under Baseball’s new policy: veteran infielder {name redacted}, taken into custody during a bootleg Pink Floyd laser light show in an abandoned warehouse in downtown {town redacted}. After making bail, Player X told a reporter for Laser Times magazine, “I’m just sitting there watching this super-cool supernova of spatially coherent light and really opening my mind to the possibilities of both the universe and abandoned warehouses when Johnny Law busts in and starts harshing my mind buzz, like going all Captain Bringdown on my visual cortex. And he’s like, ‘Put down that Red Bull, get up from that seat and put your hands behind your back, you laser-light-loving punk!’ And I’m just like, ‘OK.’
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Announcing the NotGraphs Player of the Year Award


Here at NotGraphs, we take comedy seriously. Example: Each morning, rather than perform the standard 500 knee bends and 500 jumping jacks, I stand on the porch and quip 1,000 times, “I just got out of bed and, boy, are my arms tired!” Additional example: Each night as I go to bed, instead of brushing my standard teeth and reciting the standard prayers, I commence the ancient practice of pretending to churn butter, which is something I do throughout the night and into the morning.

I’m not sure what churning butter – or pretending to churn butter – has to do with serious comedy, but the point is this: Using the newly announced FanGraphs Player of the Year Award as our muse and guide, we here at NotGraphs do hereby announce the NotGraphs Player of the Year Award!

(Hold for applause.)

(While holding for applause, brush teeth.)
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Stupid Response: One Player Reacts to Greinke’s Remark


Editor’s note: Dodgers starter Zack Greinke, whom many consider a deeply analytical player, told the Los Angeles Times last week that unintelligent players enjoy a distinct advantage over their more intelligent counterparts.

“Baseball is a sport where being stupid and keeping things really simple a lot of times is the right way to do things,” he said. “There are very few guys that are capable of processing a lot of information and applying it and still being good at it. I don’t want to name names, but there were guys I played with that were so stupid that they’re really good, because their mind never gets in the way.”

What follows is one player’s response, delivered to the NotGraphs penthouse office (Waikiki Division) via carrier pigeon after earlier, emailed attempts failed, due to the fact that the player “could not find a public email booth.”

So I read Greinke’s thing about playing with stupid players or whatever. Well, OK, I didn’t read it myself. I had somebody read it to me. It’s not like I can read and watch TV at the same time. That’s like walking and buying gum at the same time. Which is impossible because, if you buy gum, you have to stop at the register so that the register person can count out the money and then hand you back the five quarters and the 20 dollar bill.
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My First Big League Zit: A Memoir


In the wake of rookie Joc Pederson’s first big league hit, one ex-jock is reminded of something equally momentous. What follows is a reminiscence.

The story begins, as similar tales so often do, in the summer of the thirteenth year. A fresh-faced lad with sun-kissed cheeks and skin the texture of smooth jazz, I stood manning my position at shortstop when suddenly, as if called upon by the forces of misapplied punition, a keen and throbbing discomfort suddenly announced itself in the region of my left cheekbone.

With timid fingertips and fearful spirit I examined the affected area, and to my great horror the sensation of a sharp, stabbing pain accompanied the discovery of a small, knotty protuberance. What manner of menace is this, I wondered, even as I assumed the crouch of a heads-up shortstop, that should spoil a sun-kissed cheek whose texture, heretofore, has been of smooth jazz?
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The Week in (Slightly Altered) Headlines


OK, thought experiment: If a writer – be he a certifiable genius or a certified loon – were to change just one letter in each of, say, six recent headlines, what would happen? Well, here’s what would happen.

Yost Says His Players Try Too Hard In Front Of Large Crows

With the Royals on the verge of their first playoff appearance since 1985, manager Ned Yost is worried that his team is feeling the pressure – but only in one particular circumstance. “They do just fine in front of large crowds,” he told the Kansas City media. “It’s large crows that give them a problem.”

Among the concerns, he said, is the matter of crow intelligence.

“Some species have learned to use tools, other to store food and others to predict behavior,” the skipper explained. “One species uses crumbs for bait fishing! Imagine what a large crow could do, then, were it to lure Butler with strips of crispy bacon.”

Compounding the threat, he added, is the collective name of crows. “I mean, a ‘murder‘ of crows? Jeez, why not a ‘bloody slaughter’ or ‘grisly massacre?’”

The team, he said, is trying to appease the crows by playing smart baseball.

“Problem is, they’re trying too hard. Just yesterday, Gordon took a ‘random walk’ to first base. I don’t mean he took an indiscriminate base on balls. I mean that upon hitting a line drive to right, he took a series of random steps that mirrored the route of a molecule through gas or the search path of a foraging animal. Needless to say, he got thrown out at first. Also needless to say, the crows got pretty riled up.”

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Head in the Clouds … Feet at Last on the Ground


Mountains of clouds stood high along the horizon as the 737 made its way to U.S. soil. Through my little window, a frame for the southbound view, I could see the little lights of America piercing the pink-gray haze of dusk.

A week had passed since I’d seen any trace of baseball. Deep in the Canadian Rockies, where elevating the heart rate via a custom called “hiking uphill” is the preferred way to pass the time, I had been denied the signals – both TV and Internet – that pump America’s own Pastime straight to the brain, and now, as I slanted toward the land that gave us infield dirt and its corresponding fly rule, I looked forward to leaving elevation behind and getting on with the custom of keeping up with baseball.

What, I wondered, had happened in my absence? The question echoed all the little inquiries that had paced through my headspace as I lay in my tent or tramped toward unreachable fields of snow. For seven days and six long nights, I had gone without news of beanball wars and replay controversies, winning streaks and hitless streaks, Tommy John heartbreaks and dramatic episodes of Puig Derangement Syndrome. I had opted, instead, to sleep in 30-degree (Fahrenheit!) temperatures, my head on a pillow of insomnia and mud.
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A Day in the Year 1915, in 2015


The Atlanta Braves celebrated the centennial anniversary of the franchise’s World Series title over the Boston Athletics recently by wearing replica 1914 uniforms and showcasing their base-ball skills in the absence of modern music. Despite the vomiting, diarrhea and night sweats of fans pretending (quite convincingly, it turns out) to suffer under the incipient flu pandemic, the Braves considered it a great success, so much so that they’re now planning an August 18, 2015, commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of the old Braves Field.

What follows is the list of scheduled on-field tributes to the year 1915:

Each player will wear a replica 1915 uniform.

The stadium will feature a manually operated scoreboard.

The sound system will carry the popular songs of the day.

Freddie Freeman will sign the Treaty of London.

B.J. Upton will be sworn in as Portuguese President Teofilo Braga.

Chris Johnson will set an altitude record of 11,690 feet.

Julio Teheran will patent the neon discharge tube.

David Hale will make the first coast-to-coast telephone call.

Andrelton Simmons will formulate the theory of general relativity.

(Unknown free agent acquisition) will write “In Flanders Fields.”
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Proposed: New Gestures For Those in Need of New Gestures


To watch a baseball game these days is to watch a pageant of deliberate body language. Fernando Rodney is a post-save archer, Rafael Soriano a post-save slob, Joe Nathan a no-save Italian stereotype. Some say the trend began with the 2010 Rangers and their “claw and antlers” signs, while others contend that it started with Ty Cobb and his frequent use of the throat-slashing “I’m going to kill you” gesture.

Whatever the inspiration, each game now resembles the International Semaphore Symposium sharing assembly-hall space with the Annual Wanna-Be Gangbangers Colloquium. Problem is, at some point, players will run out of gestures, just as suburban teens must now resort to Fonzie’s thumbs-up to signal their affiliation.

To thwart a possible shortage, I hereby propose the following gestures:

Open palm to side of head, tilt head, close eyes: The traditional symbol of “naptime,” this gesture is used whenever Josh Beckett takes more than the allotted six minutes (or whatever it is) between pitches, and also whenever Justin Morneau, during a conversation with the runner at first base, discusses his favorite cheese.
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