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June 26, 2013

The Lineup Card

10 Hollywood Endings for Major-League Teams

by Baseball Prospectus

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: Breakfast Club
They came together not really knowing each other, but they knew that they'd be spending a long time together, and Mr. Mattingly the principal, gave them an assignment to write a 1,000-word essay about who they thought they were. And to win a division title. After a few hours, they got to know each other as people, rather than just through their reputation.

They grew to trust each other. They fought together and got hurt together and came to discover that even people from different walks of life could be friends and teammates. And that all of us, not just Yasiel Puig, are athletes, and all of us, not just Nick Punto, are utility infielders. But you know, at the end of the movie, they never really wrote that essay... or won that division like they were supposed to. However, I'd give my left kidney to hear Vin Scully read Anthony Michael Hall's closing monologue. —Russell A. Carleton

2. Miami Marlins: Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Starring Jeffrey Loria as "King Arthur" and David Samson as "Sir Bedevere":

One by one the important role players disappear, and in the end it's just our two main heroes, a bunch of people you've never heard of, and the feds.

Matt Sussman

3. New York Yankees: Thelma and Louise
They’re living their regular, slightly disappointing Yankee lives (no World Series rings since 2009!) when unforeseen events, including their own failure when it comes to snap decision-making, shock them in to action. They take on some unexpected personnel (Brad Pitt, Vernon Wells) who provide pleasure for a while but turn out to rob them (Brad Pitt, Vernon Wells). They refuse to take the most direct route because there is a state that can’t be traveled (“I know what happened to you in Texas”: Alex Rodriguez); but they use their wits for a while to outrun their pursuers. Some old sympathizers are still around to help (Harvey Keitel, Mariano Rivera).

In the end, their guts, guile, and firepower are all expended, their pursuers are legion (Jays and Rays, Sox, and Birds), and they’re backed up against a canyon. Steinbrenner (Girardi?) and Cashman make their pact, and then they drive the thing right over the edge. Rivera, Jeter, A-Rod, Pettitte, Cano: all contacts and careers dashed on the rocks below, as the Yanks cross the Rubicon, finally, to their post-dynasty afterlife. —Adam Sobsey

4. Detroit Tigers: Beavis and Butthead Do America
Somebody's season will end the way things did for our heroes: in the White House getting recognition from the president (if not the president depicted here).

On second thought, this is actually the second-to-last scene of the movie. The final-final scene is Beavis looking for a neighbor's tool shed to go spend some alone time, if you will, so maybe this was a bad pick. Never mind. —Zachary Levine

5. Los Angeles Angels: Aguirre the Wrath of God
Arte Moreno stands on a raft. The Pacific Ocean has swallowed up most of Southern California—"I probably should have listened to those climate scientists," Arte Moreno says to nobody—and he's left with nothing but a Mike Trout promotional fish hat for shade, 13 crates of Camarena tequila that he looted from a vendor's stand at Angel Stadium, and 76 rally monkeys, the actual monkeys used to film the Rally Monkey videos shown on the jumbotron each game. He picks one monkey up, presses his nose against its nose, then rears back and spits in its eye. "You brought no rallies!" he screams at it. He flings it into the ocean. "I am the wrath of God," he mutters, as he realizes how many monkeys there are, and how few rallies.

Sam Miller

6. Kansas City Royals: Poltergeist
It starts off with a perfectly ordinary American family—a hard-working husband and father, a loving and caring wife, three starting pitchers. Pretty soon some strange and quite frankly terrible things are happening to them that nobody could have expected (well, unless you checked the playoff odds report on April 1, but I digress). And all of a sudden they start blaming the house. The house won't let them hit home runs. The house won't let them take walks. Strange things keep popping up on the TV set. The neighbors are skeptical, nobody believes them, but they insist there's something wrong with the house.

It turns out that the neighbors are too skeptical for their own good, though—the place really is cursed. It seems that instead of moving the corpse of Jeff Francoeur out of the outfield they just left him there and only moved the headstone. Dayton Moore screams about the injustice of it all, but it's too late; after a cacophonous flashing of lights and unsettling growling sounds, Kauffman Stadium simply implodes upon itself and is gone. —Colin Wyers

7. Philadelphia Phillies: Fight Club (Valuation Club)—A Re-Imagining
Ruben Amaro is the narrator—a dissolute major-league general manager who feels like there is something wrong with his life but can’t quite put his finger on what’s bothering him. Suddenly, Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) shows up and teaches him the ways of Valuation Club.

The first big blockbuster dump trade of the 2013 season—Jonathan Papelbon to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Avisail Garcia and Bruce Rondon—is mourned by the front office and fans alike as if a close family member has died. Twenty thousand loyal Philadelphians congregate outside of Citizens Bank Park chanting, “His name was Jonathan Papelbon. His name was Jonathan Papelbon.” This chant becomes a rallying cry for Phillies fans throughout the rest of the season. At first, fans are reluctant to support a wholesale tearing down of the club, but eventually an army of fans willingly congregate at Bull’s Barbeque to train in the ways of proper player valuation.

Through Ruben Amaro’s example, this insurgent element of the fan base learns to stop embracing such bourgeois concepts as “wins” and “losses” and learns to embrace life itself! Each trade the team makes at the deadline is less about helping the team in the future and more about cutting through the shackles of Corporate America and to the core of who we are as a species!

While Amaro is teaching the lessons of Valuation Club in Philadelphia, Beane travels from city to city, teaching others the way of freeing yourself from modern society. Amaro travels to where Beane has been, seeing the damage Beane has done in his wake, until he asks a bartender what his name is and—SURPRISE!—the bartender reveals that Billy Beane is a manifestation of Amaro himself. Amaro discovers that Beane doesn’t just want to trade a few players but wants to blow up the entire organization, down to the instructional leagues. Amaro and Beane “fight” in the Phillies executive offices—here represented by a game of paper football. Amaro realizes that the only way to destroy Beane is to turn the football on himself. He aims the paper football at himself, the tip hitting him in the forehead. Beane disappears.

Amaro realizes that he has gone too far and tries to get the last remnants of the Phillies fan base that cares about winning (personified here by the lovely Helena Bonham Carter) to salvage the last vestiges of his sanity. While Amaro manages to find love in the arms of Bonham Carter/the traditionalists within Phillies fan base, it is too late as his alter ego has successfully signed the papers to “blow up” the Phillies—trading every player from the big club down to the young ones in instructional league to another organization in exchange for true understanding of the meaning of life itself. Amaro and Bonham Carter hold hands as every player in the entire Phillies organization is released—not only literally by the organization, but also out of the bounds of our mundane existence into the astral plane. The Phillies might never be competitive again, but at long last Mr. Amaro can taste freedom. Fin. Cue the Pixies. —Mike Gianella

8. Oakland Athletics: Rounders
The story begins with the 2012 postseason, in which the Detroit Tigers (as played by John Malkovich) use a set of aces to empty the pockets of the Oakland A's (as played by Matt Damon) along with the hopes and dreams of the young upstart team, and the only green or gold left on the field are found on the uniforms of the losing ballclub. The A's quit for the offseason but enter 2013 as a contender, only to watch their young rotation get beaten to a bloody pulp for much of the season, as a reunion with their old friend Take-and-Rake (as played by Edward Norton) leads the offense through both high points and low. The A's rediscover the mound presence that fueled their previous rise to prominence just in time to face-off with their Bengal enemies in the American League Championship Series. Oakland relies on alligator blood to take the Tigers to a critical game seven in the Detroit den, surrounded by hordes of drooling onlookers who salivate at the prospects of a title.

The A's get out to an early lead, but some overzealous moves on the basepaths combine with poor defense to stack tall odds as the game wanes into the late hours of the night. They patiently wait on reliever Al Alburquerque, who plays right into the hands of the AL's walkiest team with a pair of free passes on wayward sliders, at which point manager Jim Leyland gives his trademark tell as he points to his right arm and makes the call to the bullpen for newly-acquired closer Huston Street, who was pried from San Diego at the trade deadline.

Brandon Moss strides to the plate, knowing that Street will go to a sinker 84 percent of the time on the first pitch to left-handed batters, and that opponents have a near-.200 ISO on the pitch through Street's career. The A's flop the nuts as Moss unleashes the thunder on a first-pitch sinker over the inner half of the plate, parking a three-run homer into the right-field stands for the 5-3 lead, which holds through the bottom of the frame as the Tigers are unable to beat Grant Balfour on the river. The A's leave Detroit with three stacks of high society and a trip to the World Series, ready to try their hand against the best in the game. —Doug Thorburn

9. NL East: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The good ol' Braves (as played by Clint Eastwood) are in the catbird seat of the NL East throughout most of the season, with the Nationals (as played by Eli Wallach) tagging along in hopes of snaring the ultimate prize. Washington has an ugly run differential but a recent history of avoiding dangerous situations, along with enough skills in the arms department to make a play when the competition isn't looking. Meanwhile, the Phillies (as played by Lee Van Cleef) sit back and hope that notoriety can lead them to fortune.

The bad Phils beat the Nationals in a head-to-head match-up near the halfway point with Washington lacking their best weapon, and though Philly receives relatively little screen-time during much of the film, the team re-appears in the final month as a threat to the Nats' hopes for gold. The stage is set for an epic battle, but the hot-handed Braves dispose of the bad taste of maroon with a head-to-head sweep in the final days of the regular season. Atlanta's conquest of Philly allows the Nationals to sneak into the playoffs without a shot fired from their bullet-less offense, but the partnership is short-lived. The Braves force Washington to dig for gold in the Wild Card round, and the Nats look up from their potential winnings to see a rope tied in a noose and Atlanta ready to walk off with the loot. —Doug Thorburn

10. Houston Astros: Naked Gun
Any way you slice it, the Astros haven’t had a great season. Oh, sure, they’re not really trying to win games. Their future is in the minors or, depending on whom you talk to, still undrafted at the moment. The organization’s success this season putting a team on the field in Houston has been, to be technical, iffy. Their pitching has been abysmal, and they’re likely to deal what few starters have trade value before the deadline, already weakening a staff that you might think would be immune to that; you can’t weaken that which is already weakened.

As to the topic at hand, I ascertain that the Astros’ season likely isn’t about to get better. The final game may very well remind us of the final scenes in The Naked Gun, where the Mariners faced off against Angels in a game that, upon re-watching, looked very much like it was played by actors. The only player who wasn’t an actor, Reggie Jackson, was the one tasked with not playing baseball. His job was to shoot the Queen, a job he failed at doing when a large woman fell on him from the top stands at the last second.

The Astros’ season has, so far, served to remind us that baseball can be fun to watch and follow even if we’re not any good at it. This will likely not get better as the season comes to a close. Therefore, I say the Astros’ season will end on any one of these events:

  • A player attempting to make a routine play getting mauled by a tiger
  • One or more players’ heads falling off
  • OJ Simpson will show up and someone will push him down the stairs
  • Reggie Jackson will try to shoot someone (this may be with a camera)
  • Umpires will make awful calls that, upon repeated viewing, will appear hilarious.

The Astros may not be this awful next season, so we should all enjoy it while we can. But for this season, if any team has a player even modestly likely to step into a bear trap, fall into a cake, and then somehow ends up in the harbor, this is your best bet. —Matthew Kory

8 comments have been left for this article.

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