This we know: All those TV shows about Bigfoot and UFOs – or, in extreme cases, Bigfoot-piloted UFOs, or, in extremer cases, Bigfoot-piloted UFOs in search of the Loch Ness Monster engaged in a subsurface mating ritual with Jimmy Hoffa, or, in extremest cases, Bigfoot-piloted UFOs in search of Ron Washington’s most effective bunt strategy – always end the same way, right? They end, in uniform fashion, with a provocatively ambiguous pronouncement that supports the mystery by hinting at the possibility that it just might be solved, probably in the next episode.
This we also know: During baseball’s off-season free agency period, there is now and always a “mystery team” that offends tradition by competing with the Yankees for the privilege of spending the equivalent of Kiribati’s gross domestic product on a 33-year-old right hander who might make 26 starts.
Now, standing in tandem here, are these twin pillars of the known unknown. That’s right, fellow sleuths: There is a mystery team, and by the end of this piece you might or might not know that the mystery team is still a mystery.
The first and most obvious question in our Super-Important Mystery Quest is this: Where are my pants? The second question is less apparel-centric: How, in this age of instant and ubiquitous information, can any collection of Major League Baseball people remain unknown, or at least unrevealed, to an information-hungry public whose acknowledged leader can’t find his pants?
Baseball’s “cloak-and-dagger routine,” as I like to call it in my underwear, might have its basis in any (or all!) of many sources. First we must turn to the mystery cults of the pre-Christian Greco-Roman sphere, where initiates, or mystai, practiced secret rituals and gained esoteric knowledge to which outsiders (presumably Sodapopopoulos and Ponyboy the Elder) had no access. In this scenario, we might imagine D-backs GM Kevin Towers entering the sacred Telesterion and uttering, “I have drunk with Cruz, I have eaten with Katz” while poor Jon Heyman pounds futilely on the door.
Next we turn to Turin, where a length of linen cloth, or “shroud,” appears to show the googoo-eyed visage of Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulous as he watches Nelson Cruz take batting practice, though subsequent DNA tests fail to confirm the identity of the man beneath the cloth. Peter Gammons is left to explain that the matter “remains shrouded” in what he calls “mystery.”
Next in our search is the literary work of Agatha Christie, in which super-sleuths Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot typically solve a series of puzzling whodunits by using what’s known in the industry as “their wits.” Nowhere in any of Dame Christie’s 66 novels, however, is there any specific mention of Nationals GM Jim Bowden, so Pedro Gomez is forced to acknowledge that “this might remain a mystery until Ms. Christie writes another book.”
Next we turn to episode 37 of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, titled “Mystery.” Its secret word: “around.” And since we don’t actually remember this episode other than to envision Laurence Fishburne and his Mullet of Mulletastic Mullitude, we might imagine a balding Jack Zduriencik meeting with Ervin the Pitching Guy inside Pee-wee’s Playhouse while Jon Paul Morosi, pressing his ear to the door, thinks, but isn’t quite sure, that he overhears Zduriencik promising a figure of “around” $240 million plus “per demon.”
We then turn to Faye Wong’s 1994 album Mystery. On the deepest of its deep cuts we might hear – but also might not! – O’s GM Dan Duquette wondering aloud if then 8-year-old Suk-min Yoon is as promising as rumors suggest, and if he, Duquette, can get out of “this Hong Kong recording studio” in order to catch a flight to Seoul. Locked in a restroom, meanwhile, is a young Ken Rosenthal, whose commitment to the facts will force him to ignore the eavesdropped info while reporting that the toilet paper is two-ply.
We move on to the 1999 film Mystery, Alaska, and since precisely nobody has ever seen this film, we just might envision Cubs GM Jed Hoyer skating openly with the likes of Kendrys Morales and Ervin Santana while Yankees GM Brian Cashman tries desperately to lace his pricey new skates, and also while poor Buster Olney fails to make his bush-plane connection in Sitka.
Last in our quest is Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. In it, White Sox GM Rick Hahn might or might not climb into The Mystery Machine with a group of – and here I quote – “meddling kids” in order to meet with Robbie Cano. Just before arriving at Casa Cano, Hahn discovers the identity of one of those “meddling kids” and promptly kicks Chris Cotillo out of the van.
And there you have it: nothing verifiably witnessed, nothing officially heard, nothing truly discovered, nothing confirmed. But isn’t it possible – isn’t it? – that among all these near misses the “mystery team” is really out there?
Isn’t it possible that maybe, just maybe, Rosenthal will tweet a Heyman quote about a Gammons report of a Gomez rumor of a Morosi whisper of a Cotillo book report that a very real team is interested in an unnamed player?
John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.