June 13, 2017
The Freeze, The Emissaries, and a Fun Quiz
By: Emma Baccellieri
His only job is to win, and so they make it impossible for him to lose.
Sometimes he’s surprised by just how much work the team has put into getting this right—just how calculated the whole thing is, how much effort is needed to manufacture the crowd’s excitement as precisely as possible. They know exactly how fast he is, they know exactly how large a lead to grant him, they know exactly how much to account for the oppressive heat of suburban Atlanta and the slick fabric of his skin-tight suit. The fastest man on the field, they declare, he can beat anyone. And he will, because of just how they’ve worked this out.
Suckers from the crowd will keep volunteering to go up against him—whether because of some foolish belief that they can be somehow be different from everyone who’s come before, or because of the simple desire to grab the attention of the crowd even if it’s only for losing—and the outcome will be the same every time. They will let the volunteer sprint ahead, give him a lead that is so large to be just on the brink of being insurmountable even for him, and then they will give the order for him to take off at a precisely-calculated instant that will create the greatest possible thrill for the crowd while still ensuring his victory. The whole point of the exercise is for him to win—or, maybe, for the representative of the crowd to lose—and so it is all that can ever happen.
But what if he did lose, he wonders. What if he did? What if, just once, the hollow manufactured excitement fell away for a thrill that was cheaper, more raw? Would they fire him? They could replace him without anyone ever knowing he was gone, he realized—the mask and the suit make that easy. It’s completely absurd, and suddenly he thinks he wants it.
The bro from the crowd is sprinting furiously ahead, just like all the ones who have come before, with backwards cap and khaki shorts. They’ll give him the go-ahead soon, and he will take off towards said bro, and he will run as fast as he can until he has won like he’s supposed to. That is all there is, he tells himself, nothing else is possible here. The hyper-processed thrill of a deliberately planned victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.
But then he is running, and he isn’t so sure anymore. A nervous fear ripples through him as he realizes that the possibility of not winning feels so real; this bro is faster than the others, and he knows it, too. The dangerous, subverted edge of losing here no longer sounds thrilling. It sounds like losing. He runs faster. It starts to feel as if it all matters.
The finish line is just ahead of them. His fear has hardened into something hotter, angrier. How dare he?
Order is restored.
DII Prospect or Dystopian YA book character?
By: Kate Preusser
With the MLB draft, there’s lots of attention being paid to fun prospect names. And why not? Names are powerful things, and knowing the name of something gives one a measure of dominion over it. Names are how we navigate through the chaos and clutter of a largely unknowable world And sometimes, names are funny, and baseball players have some of the funniest names. Coco Crisp? Glorious. Buttercup Dickinson? Delightful. Boots Poffenberger? Wonderful even before you know his given name was “Cletus Elwood.” Every year, the MLB draft presents a new series of names, and we pause to delight over them without knowing anything about the baseball player saddled with carrying around this name: Jake Burger, Handsome Monica, Dezmond Chumley, Bryce Montes de Oca.
However, if you want the real gold, you have to dig down into D-II baseball, where you will be rewarded with names that, quite simply, seem too good to be real. In fact, after reading through several DII rosters, I’m not entirely sure we’re not all being catfished by Northwest Nazarene University. So for a bit of amusement I present you with this simple quiz: real D-II baseball player, or character from a YA novel?
Answers at the end of the article.
Who Your Club Should Send to the 2018 MLB Draft
By: Matt Ellis
Once a year, representatives from each of the 30 MLB teams gather in a big room under a number of cameras and burning lights in order to formally begin the process of the MLB Draft. For some franchises, this provides the opportunity to promise to their fans the Next Great Hope who will lead the troops out of their embittered Valley Forge exile. For others, warm bodies set to go stand in a Durham dugout for a while, and just um, why don’t you just stay here for a while, it’s fine, we’ll call you tomorrow.
These fine representatives, however, typically consist not of ranking front-office employees but rather former members of each organization, or at the very least, members of the community who hopefully, with a wink and a nod, can bring a little luck to the whole process. While this approach is never quite as explicit a ruse as Dan Gilbert sending his son to the NBA draft lottery, it nevertheless brings us good television, such as whatever is on Dallas Braden’s face up there, and the pitcher who gave the Red Sox their first championship in 86 years.
But draft picks notoriously boom or bust--and the amount of work that goes in between signing that first contract and walking onto your first big-league field seems to beg for much stronger luck than a few good suits with fun memories. Next year, if these chumps really want their chakras to align, they need to step up their game and reach for the deep cuts:
Angels: Arte Moreno’s phone and checkbook, taped together and sealed in a ziploc bag filled with vinegar
A’s: Jonah Hill
Astros: Ben Reiter
Blue Jays: A can of Molson light and a good ol’ slice of optimism
Braves: The lawyer who managed to put Cobb County on the hook for 45% of SunTrust Park
Brewers: Robin Yount’s motorcycle (converted to bio-diesel, of course)
Cardinals: Man, these guys could send a shoe and we all know it would turn out alright
Cubs: Steve Bartman
Diamondbacks: The staffer now in charge of keeping John McCain’s remote under lock and key
Dodgers: Vin Scully, but mainly to distract all the other teams on the board by walking over and telling strategically-timed stories about that time Don Drysdale spilled ketchup on his tie at The Derby, causing him to bump into Jack Lemmon on the way to the men’s room to wash up and th
Giants: The other Madison Bumgarner
Cleveland: A roof
Mariners: The ball Lenny Randle blew foul, somehow Endy Chavez
Marlins: Steve Bartman
Mets: Maybe you guys just sit this one out, we’ll call you.
Nationals: The entire bullpen, oops, what’s that? Nobody left to pitch in Atlanta? Well, I’m sure we could come up with a better solution
Orioles: The Cartoon Bird
Padres: A.J. Preller, a VR headset
Phillies: A t-shirt emblazoned with the words “THE PROCESS”
Pirates: John Jaso’s chinchilla
Rangers: The Boomstick
Rays: Rick Kriseman
Red Sox: Ted Williams. Bring him back baby, preferably with some kind of body.
Rockies: Clint Barmes’ Groceries and ATV
Tigers: Jim Leyland’s collected dugout ashtrays, Lloyd McClendon’s hat (stuck mid-flight)
Twins: A pretty decent, affordable polo and also, ah heck, the produce isn’t that expensive
White Sox: These Very Good Dogs
Yankees: George, but he’s in trouble and has to figure out how to get out of it
Real names: all of them except 4, 7, 11 and 15. I know. I swear. For bonus points: Bligh Madris (who is actually a pretty good player) has a father named Style and a brother named Style Jr.
Emma Baccellieri is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @EmmaBaccellieri