STOP ME BEFORE I BUNT AGAIN!
One of the great failings of Major League Baseball is, quite simply, the appalling lack of cheerleaders. Go to any April night game at Fenway Park. You'll find mile-long lines at the hot chocolate stand and grown men huddling under promotional stadium blankets. You won't find Red Sox-sanctioned cheerbabes leading the crowd in the wave and the Electric Boogie.
Baseball is a staid, outdated game, but it can change with the times. TMQ sees no reason why the New England Patriots, who ply their trade in the frosty environs of Foxboro, Mass, can have a dozen scantily-clad babes gleefully jiggling their enormous cans in front of 70,000 screaming yokels in subzero weather, while the Red Sox can't even see fit to put their ballgirls in something more form-fitting in the middle of July. If the Red Sox braintrust reads this, TMQ would like to point out that the Patriots, surely in part by dint of their world-class cheerbabes, are among the greatest dynasties in NFL history. The Red Sox, bereft of cheesecake, only recently won their first championship in 86 years. Coincidence? TMQ thinks not, and is moved to submit a haiku:
Cheerleaders with boobs,
How I love to stare at them,
Global warming lies.
Sweet Play of the Week
Athletics vs. Mariners. 5th inning. Up 5-4, A's starter Joe Blanton is lifted for who-dat reliever Justin Duchscherer after walking Bret Boone and allowing a single to Raul Ibanez. Randy Winn steps up with the tying run 90 feet from the plate and lofts a little looper into foul territory. Out of nowhere comes left fielder Eric Byrnes, who makes a full-extension diving grab to end the inning and hold the lead.
Relief pitchers get credited with holds in all kinds of head-scratching circumstances – giving up grand slams with eight-run leads, intentionally walking muscle-bound sluggers – but there's no such meaningless designation for excellent defensive plays made by fielders. If Byrnes was Derek Jeter, he'd have a 60-foot bronze statue of himself erected in Monument Park by now, and you'd be able to buy the Eric Byrnes cherry-almondtini at any number of monosyllabic Manhattan oxygen bars. Playing for small-market Oakland, Byrnes could barely hear the round of disinterested applause from the 23,288 on hand, and almost certainly had to pay to park his own car.
Sour Play of the Week
New York/B versus the Atlanta Native Americans. 1st inning: Jose Reyes walks. (Yes, I know.) Kaz Matsui singles to left field, with Young Reyes going to second. Carlos Beltran is up. The chances of scoring a run with runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs are 85%. Carlos Beltran is one of the 10 best hitters in the ... IT'S A BUNT! Beltran squares around on the first pitch, and bunts the ball straight to the pitcher. Runners advance, Beltran out at first, one out. Cliff Floyd swings at the first pitch and pops up to the shortstop. Doug Mientkiewicz fights off a few two-strike pitches, but grounds meekly to the first baseman to end the inning. 1 hit, 1 miracle, 2 left on base, 0 runs.
The baseball gods do not reward feckless cowardice. Expect New York to be once again shut out of championships in 2005.
Stat of the Week
The Arizona (CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN BASEBALL-LIKE SUBSTANCE) Diamondbacks, at 15-10, are on pace to win 97 games – a full 46 more than they did in 2004. TMQ's former ESPN colleague Bill Simmons had an intriguing "Ewing Theory" – namely, that ridding oneself of one's star player might lead to unexpected success. Randy Johnson, the epitome of a me-first guy, is currently stinking it up in Yankee Stadium, where New York/A is a mere 10-15. The Diamondbacks, led by two former New York/A castoffs in Brad Halsey and Javier Vazquez, are 15-10. Coincidence? TMQ thinks not.
Stat of the Week #2
The baseball gods punish hubris and feckless cowardice in equal measures. New York/A's struggles are well-documented thus far, but TMQ theorizes that their woes may be a direct result of the lavish spreads bestowed upon their subpar starting rotation. New York/A has proffered a sum of money exceeding $64,000,000 – more than fully half the league's teams' entire payrolls – upon its starting five, and thus far the New York/A starters have a total of seven wins to show for it. That's nearly ten million per.
TMQ ought to be more sympathetic – after all, who-dats Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano must be the ultimate capitalists for parlaying a solitary year of success in the pitcher-friendly NL into mucho Yankee bucks – but he does not wish to incur the mighty wrath of the baseball gods.
Stat of the Week #3
The tastefully named Gregg Zaun, underpaid anchor of the Toronto battery, has a .884 OPS on the season – third in the bigs among catchers behind only perennial kajillionaires Jason Varitek and Javy Lopez.
Stat of the Week #4
The Atlanta Native Americans are 10-2 in games in which Danny Kolb pitches and 5-8 in games in which he does not.
In keeping with the TMQ spirit, TMQ suggests that distastefully named Atlanta Native Americans manager Bobby Cox ought to change his last name to something less explicit. There is no place for Cox in baseball.
Stat of the Week #5
In their new District digs, the Washington Nationals are a respectable 13-12, despite their minuscule payroll and stiff NL East competition. Upon moving south from Montreal, the Nationals made a point of keeping their old colors of red, white, and blue – which is, not to put too fine a point on it, the most successful color scheme in world history. The laundry will serve them better in the nation's capital, where the forces of patriotism and American pride, as ever aligned with the baseball gods, will no doubt smile upon the plucky Nats. After all, the tricolore of France is also red, white, and blue, but you don't see the chicken-hearted French national equipe de baseball winning any World Series.
Obscure Minor League Player of the Week
Minnesota Twins prospect Boof Bonser legally changed his name from John to Boof after the 2001 season, reports the 2005 Twins media guide. TMQ thinks Bonser, at 6'4", 260 lbs, ought to try out for the Vikings' tight end vacancy. It'd certainly give the skittish Daunte Culpepper a large target across the middle.
Official Inaugural TMQ Baseball Challenge
A Cleveland historian writes, "Since it was a portage point, the Cuyahoga River watershed was considered 'neutral ground' by native tribes, especially Shawnees, Senecas, and Mingos. The Ottawa settled here for a while, as did what is known as the Whittlesey culture. The Whittlesey people predated the other named tribes. However, the Indians are (supposedly) named for Louis Sockalexis, an early star of the then Cleveland Spiders. He was a Penobscot."
Therefore, in honor of the great Sockalexis, TMQ redubs the patently offensive Cleveland Indians the Cuyahoga Watershed Region Fighting Penobscot. In the inaugural TMQ Baseball Challenge, readers are encouraged to propose new, geographically-appropriate nicknames for the rest of MLB's 30 teams. Victors will be awarded a small token gift not to exceed the infinitesimal recognition bestowed upon Eric Byrnes on Saturday night.
Send all TMQ-related correspondence this way.