Author Archive for Ted

Goodbye from Pitchers & Poets

The title of our most recent post was Hello, Goodbye. We talked about old favorites like Lance Berkman threatening to leave the game and new favorites like Bryce Harper entering the fray.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but there was something prescient about that conversation. Or maybe it was in our heads to begin with and it ended up on the proverbial page because it had to come out somehow. You see, both of us, for our own reasons, need to take a step back from Pitchers & Poets. To say goodbye for a while, and direct our attentions elsewhere. To watch baseball through a different lens.

So we’re taking an indefinite sabbatical from the blog.

This is a melancholy decision. Pitchers & Poets has exceeded our wildest expectations in every way. We’ve become great friends, and made a bushel more. We’ve read great stuff and met brilliant people. We’ve engaged in the great broiling Conversation that is life as a human being. P&P was the ocean-going vessel that connected our islands with your islands, and at full sail she was a pleasure to helm. She hasn’t been at full sail for a while, though.

So as we haul in our sails (is that right? We are hardly Westish Harpooners when it comes to nautical metaphors) on this project, we want to reiterate how important this blog has been for us. And more than that, we want to wholeheartedly thank all of you for reading and commenting, for telling your stories, for hearing out our often unwieldy ideas and for sharing your own. Thank you to all of our contributors, who wrote for no other reason than to join the conversation, thank you to the vibrant community of baseball bloggers who do such great work themselves and  who pushed us to be smarter and funnier and generally better. Thank you to baseball, and especially first basemen of the 1990s, for being awesome.

A specific thank you to Patrick Dubuque, who has lent his stellar work to the blog even as our own has flagged. He’s as grok as grok gets. And he’s going places (NotGraphs, specifically), and until then he’s on Twitter @euqubud

In the meantime, the blog will stay up, and hopefully one day we’ll get the Rogue’s Baseball Index back up too. We’ll keep adding the weirdest baseball pictures that we can find to our Tumblr, we’ll be on Twitter, Eric will be at The Classical, etc.


Ted & Eric

Where Nothing’s Ever Wrong: A Fan’s Inquiry Into the Role of the Baseball Rumor

"Whispering" Bill Barrett

There were two astronomically important free agents on the market this off-season, and a constellation of three more high-profile players to fill the offseason skies and guide the navigation of the fleets of baseball’s rumor mongers. Messages like naval mail scattered in the wind and filled the hours and minutes with updates, insights, and, well, rumors.

For Albert Pujols it was talk of massive Miami money, of cratering Cardinals commitment, and shortcomings in Chicago. Speculation gave way to conjecture, built on a foundation of endless assumption. Hundreds if not thousands of blogs weighed in. MLBTradeRumors posted update upon update tracking the subtle shifts in negotiation. Cubs? Cardinals? Marlins?

Then Pujols signed with the Angels, miles away from any team mentioned anywhere. My daily Internet baseball rounds revealed a tenor of surprise among the rumor elite, followed quickly by some analysis, and almost no talk of the light years of time spent getting everything wrong.

Enter Prince Fielder, about whom the star-watchers strung us along with talk of the Nationals, the Mariners, the Rangers, the Orioles. Not a mention of the team that actually signed the guy, the Tigers. The Internet was wrong again, left to mutter awkwardly to itself, recalling perhaps a stray sentence in a post two years ago that may have mentioned off-hand that the Tigers were a possible trade target for prospects, barring a strong play by etc. etc.

Of course I know that “wrong” isn’t just the right term to employ, because our “rumor” mongers use the term to couch their speculation. There is no “wrong” when there is no commitment to the lasting veracity of a statement. A source is not inaccurate to report a rumor, because a rumor somehow doesn’t exist after it’s uttered. As soon as a deal is announced, no matter how far afield from the rumor mill it may be, the rumor mongers post a quick summary of the years and dollars and move on to the next batch of hearsay.

To read back through a sequence of rumors after a Detroit or an Anaheim deal comes out of left field is to see the light of a star that died two weeks ago, to gaze at a subjectless shadow.

Given that, what role do the rumors serve? Is all of this conjecture entertaining?

I thought so, but when the hurried, harried announcement of the most recent signing by Detroit came over the wire, I felt annoyed and misled. I felt that I had wasted a good deal of time thinking about where Prince Fielder would end up, because none of it was right.

I assume, of course, that there is some kind of single truth out there worth pursuing, while the rumor mill relishes vague suggestion and endless redirection. These are, of course, the elements of suspense, of mystery, of surprise. The emotions pegged to false suggestion and redirection have compelled us for eons.

But what suspense contains that baseball rumors lack is a sense of logic, that the puzzle pieces presented early on will come together in a satisfactory–if unexpected–way. Fielder to the Tigers was not a culmination of stratified rumors and logical building points. It was a whitewash, a contract offer that immediately erased all that came before it. Jeannie Vanasco in the latest edition of The Believer teaches me that erasure can have content, the formula this offseason feels more like demolition quickly covered over with tract housing.

If we desire narrative, then the rumor mill has only promised it, then withdrawn at the moment an investment should pay off.

If there is so little correlation between the end result of a trade or free agent deal and the rumors that surrounded it, why are we paying any attention to the chatter at all? When did baseball fandom become an exercise in relentless logistical Lincoln logs?

By way of comparison: last season, I burned out on fantasy baseball. What should’ve been fun was like keeping an accounting ledger. Every day that I had to read up on starting pitchers and bench warmers felt like April 15th. I mention this not to bash fantasy baseball, which I’ve played for longer than I’ve done most anything else in my life, but to draw a parallel between the information burnout of fantasy baseball and the rumor burnout of this offseason.

Ie., somewhere along the line, in both pursuits, there grew, for me, a disconnect between raw streams of data and the game of baseball. Browsing the previous week’s stats to see what no-name fifth starter possessed a fractionally higher K to BB ratio to fill out a sagging roster was as distant from a diving grab over the middle late in a game as a speculative paragraph about Prince Fielder’s favorite breakfast spot in D.C. was from his first day in a Detroit Tigers uniform.

Why do still I read the rumor sites? I don’t derive any tangible pleasure from them that I can think of or articulate. I don’t relish some new piece of gossip or rumor. In fact I feel a little empty inside when a storyline developed over weeks suddenly goes cold and the conversation shifts elsewhere. Yet I return, and read the posts that I don’t care for that much, I relive the sensation I dislike. Yet I return.

Am I addicted? The anticipated rush rarely materializes. I repeat the same act expecting a new result. I search out a non-existent thrill.

I realize now that what I love is news. I am fascinated that Prince Fielder signed with Detroit, and that Pujols eschewed the Cardinals for the West Coast. I want to know where, when, and why. Too often, rumors pass for information, and a confident writerly tone projects credibility where instead creativity forms the core of the message.

The last thing I want to do is deride something that baseball fans enjoy. If speculation tickles your fancy, who am I to steal your thunder. All I can do is talk of my own experience as a fan, and me, I need a break. Leisure gave way to compulsion, without compulsion giving way to satisfaction.

Just in time, too, as the brightest stars are charted and Spring Training is will spring up from the horizon soon. The daytime glow of real baseball will dry the winter’s rumor-dampened sod.

Open Book Baseball: An Interview with Alyson Footer, the Houston Astros’ Sr. Director of Social Media

Footer: "We want to be as much of an open book as we can."

Baseball is known for clinging to old paradigms, and hugging out-moded–ahem, traditional–viewpoints on media, culture, technology, and copyright. Some figures in the baseball media even pride themselves on their vintage-inspired view of the game.

Alyson Footer is no such figure. The Houston Astros’ Senior Director of Social Media has embraced the creative power of new media with enviable depth and enthusiasm, transitioning from veteran beat reporter to full-fledged social media specialist as smoothly as Craig Biggio shed his catcher’s gear and took up the middle infield.

Footer’s blog, Alyson’s Footnotes, is equal parts access and analysis, with a panoply of in-depth posts that are as likely to spotlight a backup catcher’s favorite flavor of ice cream as analyze the task ahead of a new GM or owner. With an interdisciplinary sphere of influence that expands to Twitter and Facebook, she is the voice of the Astros in those spaces that we, our readers, and our baseball blogging friends happily frequent.

Footer was nice enough to take time out of her busy schedule to discuss her role in the baseball multiverse, and to talk about talking about baseball.

(Ed. note: any links added below were added by me.)


Your title is Senior Director of Social Media of the Houston Astros, and the tagline on the header of your blog, Alyson’s Footnotes, is “Your behind-the-scenes, all-access pass to all things Astros.” Could you describe your role with the Astros?


Several years ago, the Astros saw that major corporations were creating Social Media departments, designed solely for the purpose of marketing their brand to the younger generation. With the decline of newspapers and the emergence of Facebook and Twitter, the Astros realized they could better utilize their time and money by steering away from traditional advertising and shifting the focus to new media.

The role of Social Media Director spans in a lot of different directions. We have two main Twitter accounts: @astros and @alysonfooter. The Astros handle is more for marketing and promotional purposes, whereas my personal Twitter handle is interactive. I communicate directly with the fans and answer as many questions as possible. I also offer a behind the scenes look at the team through comments, photos (TwitPics) and videos (TwitVids).

Basically, we want the fans to feel that they are part of the process.

I also blog regularly. The blogs serve a few purposes: they offer insight and analysis to team decisions and transactions, they provide a behind-the-scenes view of the everyday goings-on of the team and they provide info regarding upcoming events and promotional initiatives. We cover off the field and on the field activities on the blog and include pictures and videos to accompany the blogs. Basically, we want the fans to feel that they are part of the process. We want them to feel as if they’re there with us even when they can’t be. We want to show our players and coaching staff in a very real way. We want to be as much of an open book as we can. The Astros are a part of the city of Houston, in good times and bad, and the players are important to our fans. The more we can show them as real people, the more fans feel connected. Social Media allows for fans to get closer to the players than ever before. We have a bunch of players with their own Twitter handles who communicate directly with the public. It’s great for both sides.


How have the players responded to the change in media presence and the sense of increased access? Is there a generation gap between the veterans the younger players?


I would say there is a little bit of a generation gap between the veterans and the younger players, but I think it’s in a good way. The really young players coming up don’t remember a world without the Internet. They don’t remember when newspapers ruled the roost. They don’t know from the old days when media contingents were small and didn’t include web sites, bloggers and 300 cable and radio stations.

Today’s players are tech savvy and online savvy and they like to engage in Social Media. Last Spring Training, we had one player on Twitter. By the end of spring, we had about five. That total has nearly doubled and I expect that by the time the season is over, more than half the roster will be tweeting. I think it’s great. The players really enjoy it and it’s a great way to market themselves. They enjoy the back and forth with the fans and everyone benefits from that.

Last year, I met some of the Texans players and they said the entire team was on Twitter. I find that fascinating.


You spent a lot of time as a reporter for What were the cultural or technological forces that led to your switch to Social Media, and how has your approach to baseball coverage and storytelling changed with the change in roles?


It’s easier from a communication standpoint when the team is doing well and everybody’s happy, but that is not how sports work.

I covered the Astros for eight years for and I loved it. When the Astros created a Social Media position in 2009 and approached me about it, it sounded intriguing. I loved reporting but at the same time, I was doing so much with blogging and Facebook and Twitter that it seemed like a natural transition. As much as I liked the Social Media side of things, my reporting duties took up all of my time and that left very little time for anything else. The idea of doing Social Media full-time was intriguing. And I was able to continue blogging, which was important, because I didn’t want to give up writing. I was ready to move into a different genre. It was a nice transition and I’m glad I made the move.

I try to stay away from straight news reporting, because that is now the job of Brian McTaggart, who replaced me at Because my blog lives on the Astros web site, I didn’t want to be covering the same news stories as Brian. That would be counterproductive. So what I try to do is find off-the-field, more human interest stories to write, and I’ll also reference stories a lot and provide some insight or analysis. There are times when Brian and I do overlap, but I think over the course of three years it’s been pretty minimal.


The Astros are in a time of major transition right now. What challenges does this present for you, and how have you had to adjust your approach from covering a regular winner to a rebuilding young team with new ownership?


It’s challenging only because when your team isn’t doing well, a lot of the fan base is unhappy. It’s a lot easier from a communication standpoint when the team is doing well and everybody’s happy, but that is not how sports work. So I try my best to explain things in as much detail as I can in terms of the direction the team is headed and what the plan is over the next several years. Fortunately, the new ownership group and front office has a very clear vision as to how to become a contender again, and they have a plan that they will not only implement immediately, but they’ll stick to it as well. That’s hugely important.

It’s easier from a communication standpoint when the team is doing well and everybody’s happy, but that is not how sports work.

Other than that, the challenges are minimal from a big-picture perspective. Teams ebb and flow. I’ve been here 15 years and over the course of that time, the Astros have done a little of everything. They won 102 games in ’98 and two years later ended up losing 90. They’ve won a pennant. They’ve lost 106 games. They’ve taken division and Wild Card races down to the wire. They’ve been eliminated before Sept. 1. It’s been all over the map. I approach my job the same every day and hope for the best for the team.


You are a fantastic storyteller. Was there something about baseball that compelled you to contribute your talents to the game? What have you learned about storytelling as a baseball reporter and social media director?


Well, thanks very much for the nice comment! I do love the storytelling part of this job. Even when I was at I’d try to find the weird and wacky every once in a while and report on that. I remember one time, half the team spent an offday playing ping-pong at Orlando Palmeiro’s house. They had a fierce tournament and had plenty to say about it the next day in the clubhouse. I was writing it all down and a colleague said, “You’re writing about this?” I live for that kind of stuff – the off-the-wall, random events that inevitably happen over the course of a six-month season (seven and a half months, if you include Spring Training).

I think it’s important for the fans to know and appreciate the people and stories that will live on forever through storytelling. Why keep that stuff buried?

I’ve always loved baseball, but more than that, I’ve always loved the personalities and characters of the game. I don’t spend much time poring over stats – I find a lot of it boring, to be honest – but there’s so much that goes on around a team, and so many great, smart, funny, polarizing players that have come through Houston and so many fantastic stories that the fans have never heard. I think it’s important for the fans to know and appreciate the people and stories that will live on forever through storytelling. Why keep that stuff buried? My general rule of thumb is, if I find something funny or interesting, it’s likely that others might as well. It sounds pretty primitive but it has served us well. And now that there’s a way to share these items with the world, why wouldn’t we?


With the Astros’ 50th Anniversary celebration going on this year, there must be a font of new and old stories coming down the pipeline….


I certainly hope so! We have a slew of old players we’re inviting back for the season-long celebration this year and I would imagine there will be some interesting tales told! I’ll be listening.


There will be a ton of old school Astros looks rolled out in 2012. Which Astros throwback uniform are you most excited about?


If you mean what throwback uniform would I be most likely to tweet or blog about, it would be the rainbow jerseys. I wasn’t here for that era – I got here in 1997 – but Houston fans absolutely love the rainbow look, especially the orange. That’s what I hear from fans more than anything – bring back the orange!

From a sentimental and personal standpoint, my favorite uniform is the blue and gold shooting star that they wore in the late 1990s. That’s what they were wearing when I first arrived to the team and I have some wonderful memories from my first few years in baseball. No matter what you do in your career or how far you get, there’s nothing more special than when you first started the journey. So I have a soft spot for the uniforms Bagwell, Biggio, Ausmus and Wagner were wearing way back in the day.

Pitchers & Poets Podcast 36: Yuuuup!

In episode 36 of the podcast, we explore Manny Ramirez’s campaign to return to the MLB, we discuss the Dodgers-owning hopeful Josh Macciello and his strange, Herman Cain-esque bid for power, the anaconda victim rescue incident at which B.J. Ryan was present though it is unclear what his contribution was, and Ted’s first SABR meeting! At that meeting, I mentioned a fellow who told some great stories about Stan Musial, Nolan Ryan, Ted Williams, and Mickey Mantle as high schoolers. That fellow was Jim Kreuz, and here is one of his pieces on Nolan Ryan.


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13 Ways of Looking at a Hall of Fame Candidate

w.h. audenSince our blog is, after all, called Pitchers & Poets, we thought we would subject a few of this year’s Hall of Fame candidates to the imaginary scrutiny of both a pitcher and a poet of our choosing. Below, see the Hall of Fame analysis of a professional pitcher, and the response from a prominent poet, as you await the final ruling:

Jeff Bagwell

Cardinals hurler and freelance groundskeeper Jim Otten: “Unless steroids make goatees grow faster, you can’t prove anything.”

Poet WH Auden: “Now he is scattered among a hundred cities, and wholly given over to unfamiliar affections to find his happiness in another kind of wood.”

Barry Larkin

Reno Silver Sox hurler Nathan Ginsberg: “One of the best hitting and fielding shortstops of his generation. Writers, you know what to do.”

Poet Allen Ginsberg: “When will you be angelic? When will you take off your clothes? When will you look at yourself through the grave? When will you be worthy of your million Christs?”

Bernie Williams

California Angels farmhand Ronald Sylvia: “Probably not Hall-worthy, but he had a great career.”

Poet Sylvia Plath: “His head is a little interior of grey mirrors. Each gesture flees immediately down an alley of diminishing perspectives, and its significance drains like water out the hole at the far end.”

Jack Morris

Old timey Pittsburgh Allegheny Ed “Cannonball” Morris: “Heckuva competitor, good lifetime numbers, and a fine face-whisker set. Probably deserves a shot at immortality.”

Poet Robert Lowell: “He has an angry wrenlike vigilance, a greyhound’s gentle tautness; he seems to wince at pleasure, and suffocate for privacy.”

Edgar Martinez

67th round draft pick for the Houston Astros in 1996 Ben Keats: “I have never met Edgar Martinez, but I once saw him order dinner from across the restaurant.”

Poet John Keats: “He hath heard the Lion’s roaring, and can tell what his horny throat expresseth.”

Tim Raines

Early 80s California Angels starter Dave Frost: “Rock has been overlooked for way too long.”

Poet Robert Frost: “He is all pine and I am apple orchard.”

Pitchers & Poets: 2011, a Year in Review

Now is the time of year when we all take a moment to acknowledge how quickly time slips away, and how the events of January, 2o11, don’t seem like they happened a whole year ago. I’m glad to have done this, though, as I’ve had to the chance to re-examine our efforts on the year, and to appreciate just how much we’ve accomplished here. There are so many great voices represented, and a cabinet of baseball wonders available any time.

So some months did fly by, but we did some great things this year, and we don’t mind checking back in on the mad dashes and the meditative moments. We hope, of course, that you enjoyed the ride as much as we did, and we look forward to future flights of fancy with you, our fantastic readers and fellow passengers on Steamship Baseball.

Scorekeeping Week

Our first foray into themed weeks, Scorekeeping Week was a fine jaunt through the habits of fans and professionals as they log a baseball game’s events.

I interviewed Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims, about his scorekeeping habits, and we learned more about Bethany Heck and her brilliant scorekeeping books. Paul Franz, Alex Belth, Patrick Truby, and Patrick Dubuque offered their stories and memories.

Scorekeeping Week was a quiet, pleasurable affair, and it stoked our interest in themed content. See below for the Frankenstein’s monster that resulted.

1990s First Basemen Week

Looking back at P&P2011, we would be crazy not to give full due to the year’s biggest, insanest phenomenon on the blog. Eric and I started with a simple idea: let’s talk about first basemen from the 1990s, and let’s get as many great writers involved as we can.

We released a salvo of emails, and the only directive was to pick a first baseman and talk about him. The breadth of responses and creative output was amazing, and the response overwhelming.

It all started with a Short Hop on Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas from Jonah Keri, and an essay on J.T. Snow by Eric Freeman. Readers started to understand what we were doing, and the purity of our goal. The nostalgia started to flow, and the content barreled onward, with work from Will Leitch on Pedro Guerrero, longtime reader playwright Larry Herold on Rafael Palmeiro and Will Clark, and Jesse Thorn on the grace of Mark Grace.

The 1990s first baseman embodied something beautiful and sad and nostalgic for us and for our readers. The big men stirred the poetic inside us. Tom Ley remembered an encounter with Andres Galarraga, and Joe Posnanski remembered a quixotic slugger in Jeff King. Josh Wilker thought about Carlos Quintana, I went on for some length about Jeff Bagwell and Sadaharu Oh and batting stances, Eric thought on Eric Karros, and how could we forget Dylan Little’s imagined interview with Hal Morris.

And, of course, Pete Beatty cleared the bases with his meditation on Jim Thome and ruin porn.

There are so many more contributors who made this such a great couple of weeks for us at the blog, and the best thing that you can do is click the headline above and read every last one of them. For us, 1990s First Basemen Week was just awesome.

P&P Reading Club: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

he art of fielding by chad harbachIn late September, we started the P&P Reading Club by collectively reading and opining about the above-mentioned best-seller about baseball, life, and the convergence. Hey, just like our little web site here! It was great fun, and again we featured lots of great writers (can you sense a theme in our approach to content development?). Chapters flew by with our posts tagging closely at heel, and we all had a fine time basking in the literature of it all.

Click the header above to find all of those fine posts. Contributors included Carson Cistulli, Adam Webb, Megan Wells, Patrick Dubuque, Pete Beatty, Navin Vaswani, Dayne Perry, Bryan Harvey, Eric, and myself.

The Milton Bradley Saga, Continued

Eric has become something of an expert on the culture of Milton Bradley, and his essay on the troubled outfielder, Encino Man, early in the year, affirmed the honorary. “If individual players can embody Pitchers & Poets and how Ted and I have come to consume and understand baseball, he is one of those players. By his attitude, his place in the ecosystem, his style of play, his perception in the media, he heightens our understanding of baseball.” He revisited the player in April, 2011, around the time Milton started to wear earplugs.


In February, we redesigned the site. We still love it.

In those doldrum days, we also got news of Miguel Cabrera’s feisty run-ins with the law, and Eric’s Manifesto called for making nostalgia modern. And hey, do you remember when Albert Pujols still seemed like he’d re-sign with the Cardinals? The measured meter of money spelled bad news for Cardinal fans.

Opening Day meant a live chat, as Eric and I watched 37 games in a row and all at once, while my wife made ballpark franks. It was a marathon.

April brought Eric’s realization that ownership issues were afoot in Dodgerland, and I contemplated the newly settled Cliff Lee. Other topics included Otis Nixon’s hair, the language of Coors Field, and the burgeoning Legend of Sam Fuld. I also discussed the odd couple Rangers, who did well to carry through with the promise I noted.

May, see 1990s First Basemen Week.

June saw us bring Patrick Dubuque into the fold of regular contributors. He immediately started bringing the thunder, as we knew he would. Jesse Gloyd took us fishing in the shadow of Chavez Ravine, I opened the Joba File and learned to appreciate Jered Weaver, and Eric Freeman explored the style of Bryce Harper. Eric remembered Northwest icon Clay Huntington, too, and caught us up on the power and the glory of Matt Kemp.

July was a quieter time, though Aaron Shinsano checked in to provide a scout’s view of the President’s Cup in Korea.

In August, Eric couldn’t get a Dodgers cap at Dodger Stadium, I explored the Best Show on WFMU, Simon Broder viewed the cursed celeb and Amy Winehouse through the baseball lens, Pete Beatty did some girl-storytelling, and Jesse Gloyd brought us thoughts on Satchel Paige.

September and October passed like a hard fall wind as we dipped our heads in literature (see Art of Fielding above), and November brought some pensive missives from Aaron Shinsano with more tales from scouting in Asia, Patrick on injury as metaphor, Brian K on new life without LaRussa, and some chat from me on the retro trend in new uniforms.

Which brings us to December. Eric and I have been hitting the podcast hard, polishing it up and filling it with quirky, enjoyable content so that we can hit the new year in fine stride. Podcasting is the perfect complement to the site, we think, because, really, we’re into conversations first and foremost.

2011 at Pitchers & Poets was a year of backs and forths, of multitudinous viewpoints, of unending conversations, multi-leveled stories and sing-alongs.

Here’s to a happy new year, and a fruitful and thoughtful 2012.

Pitchers & Poets Podcast 34: Winning the Fan Cave

In episode 34 of the podcast, we go for a little more structure, including actual quotations from around the web! The Braves attempt to protect their brand, Yu Darvish faces high expectations (from us)and Barry Bonds becomes an expensive scapegoat. Plus, the MLB Fan Cave — our favorite topic — has gotten even more discomfiting, but nothing is as discomfiting as the BBWAAA’s response to the Bill Conlin scandal.


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Tunes by Jesse Gloyd

Pitchers & Poets Podcast 33: Derek Jeter Fan Fiction

Derek Jeter orchestrates a walk of shame that is both intriguing and deeply sad, the Houston Astros are on the mend, we struggle to care about the Ryan Braun situation, and we discuss the nature of names in the latest episode of the podcast. Bon chance, Melancon!


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We Are Taking The Talent: As Told By Former Miami Marlins Scout Ramos Crews by Dylan Little

To paraphrase Bruce Chatwin, the fictional process is at work.

There used to be a pair of trees that jutted over the skyline of San Cristobal, D.R. My bartender Diego said they were called the Hermanos del Fuego because smoke poured out of their heads at night. Sometimes when I was too drunk to tally pitch counts I’d imagine the fat parrots gliding around their branches. Often I spent half the night on Diego’s patio watching them fume and wondering if the trees were hiding some kind of secret toothbrush handle factory. Diego told me it was time to quench my curiosity or he would close my tab.

The day after I signed a thirteen year old for $600 I packed a machete, three mayonnaise sandwiches, and four bottles of Chupacabra Delite and hiked towards the trees. I reached the trees around nightfall. At first they looked like a normal pair of trees but then I started to inspect the trunk. When I scratched the surface the bark flaked apart like wet cardboard. It was perturbing. This tree investigation would be no Woody Woodpecker cartoon. It would be like watching one of the long movies where sometimes you don’t see an ass or a helicopter for an hour. I was committed for the duration.

I wandered around collecting lumber for the sake of heat and light. I had dumped about six handfuls of kindling into a pile when I heard a creaking noise. I silently hid behind a boulder, within eyeshot of the Hermanos. I watched as the trunk of the westerly tree slid open like an elevator door, then slid shut. A few minutes later the Hermanos del Fuego began to smoke and a red beacon began to flash in the canopy, as if from inside a jungle submarine. After a few minutes all the smoke and the lights stopped and one of the trees pooped out a freeze dried cube of paper. I made sure the coast was clear and dragged the cube back to my fire pit. With the heat from my fire I was able to peel off a couple thawed memos. The letterhead showed the logo of the fucking New York Yankees.

Working my way through the cube I found several contracts. These weren’t your typical seven figure butt slaps. The Yankees were sharing ink with Madonna, Pepsi and Godfather’s Pizza. Most of the papers fell apart in my hands like wet toilet paper so I couldn’t make out the alphabetics for shit, but I was able to peel out a complete set of hieroglyphics. When I deciphered the contract code I almost had an angina. Per the written words in my hands, the Bronx Hillbillies were paying Halliburton to genetically manufacture baseball players.

Yep, I got pissed. Yup, I ate all my sandwiches in thirty seconds.

Next thing I know I’m thumbing through a dripping wet series of email exchanges. The subject heading of the email chain was “The Methuselah Project”. The Yankees wanted a lab mercenary (I will call him Dr. Turducken) to mix the genetic material of Jamie Moyer with that of Julio Franco. They wanted create players that would last for thirty years. Turducken said that the genetic material had been realized but there was only a thirty percent chance that a Methuselite would become a professional athlete. There was a sixty percent chance the offspring would be born without elbows. The Yankees wouldn’t listen. They demanded an eternal lineup. It reminded me of the movie where the alien general was desperate to teach the enchanted piglets to invade the earth.

When I discovered that Turducken’s address was Hermanos del Fuego Laboratories my heart began to spasm blood into my eyes. I was a scout for the Miami Marlins. This was our turf. In a decade we had won two World Series but had remained the fourth most popular professional sports team in the tip of our peninsula. We took a lot of abuse. A week after we won the World Series I was denied lodgings at Don Shula’s bed and breakfast. Lebron James keeps on saying the Marlins are his favorite soccer team. We couldn’t afford Jeff Conine. Twice. How could we get respect in South Beach if word got out that the Yankees were manufacturing a dynasty right under our noses? That night, I sat by the fire and got hotter and hotter.

When day broke I heard the pinging of the retractable door. I waited until I saw Dr. Turducken walk out of the tree and I popped out from behind the big rock. He was looking at his cellphone. I cut his head off with my machete. Blood was still spurting when I rolled Turducken’s skull down the hill. I drug his body inside the tree and used his still warm fingerprints to gain access to the laboratory. The industrial fridge was stocked with vials, test tubes, and buckets of genetic essence. I also found some buffalo wings.

While they were reheating, I took a Louisville Slugger signed by Jim Leyritz and made ice shavings out of every piece of glass I could find. By the time my wings were done I had demolished every computer and all of the lab’s centrifugal technology stations. I snapped all of the candles at the Derek Jeter altar. I propped the fridge door open with a trashcan, rendering millions of dollars of genetically engineered sperm completely inert.

On my way out of the tree I got a text saying that we had signed Jose Reyes. It was a great feeling, knowing that I wasn’t acting alone, but then again Fishies like to swim in conspiracy. Of course I had to leave the country after I destroyed the lab but before I left I signed into FB using my daughter’s account. I left a note on the Marlin’s official FB wall. It said “Don’t fuck this up. This isn’t a rebuilding year. This is the year we build on the demolished bones of our enemies.”

Pitchers & Poets Podcast 32: Airboat Liberace

The podcast is back! After an impromptu hiatus, we’re back to talk about the mind-bending flurry of off-season news from the baseball multiverse, from Albert Pujols at home in the suburbs to the weird new sheen of the Miami Marlins.


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