Yakkin' About Baseball: Parable Of The Fan Cave

In which our heroes escape from the Fan Cave and into the freedom of actual meaningful professional baseball.
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David Roth: Opening Day is very good. I am anxious to watch baseball instead of watching other things. I am ready to be faintly optimistic, then upset, then kind of mildly disappointed and happily narcotized, and to spend a few months feeling more or less that way.

David Raposa: Baseball is a flat circle, ideally made of fried dough and topped with powdered sugar.

David Roth: I am somehow even looking forward to my first bleary half-watching of an endless Fox Saturday game. Which is insane, of course. I am saying that I look forward to watching some dude on the Red Sox take 90 seconds between pitches while John Smoltz is like, "a lot of these stat guys, they talk about 'oh, we can measure this now.' Well, is there a stat for wins? For pranks? Is there a stat that tells you how many walks or hits a batter has on the season?"

David Raposa: Hold on a second. Dice-K's the Mets’ problem now, chief. Don't stick Boston with that bill. Or are you talking about the Beantown hitters? I don’t follow them as closely as I used to, but I think Ellis Burks and friends are still doing that “work the count like a speed bag” thing.

David Roth: I watched Clay Bucholtz read most of Lorrie Moore's Birds of America between pitches during a July game against the Yankees last year, so I am definitely talking about slow-ass Red Sox pitchers. I noticed him bringing that big red Cheever compendium out there in spring games, which means he's either embracing New England's culture or is going through a rough time. Either way, I don't see him speeding things up. But it's March, I'm not even annoyed by that yet.

David Roth: But yeah, I know I could have been talking about Dice-K. His offseason workouts with former Mets timelord Steve Trachsel have really leveled out his approach and added a new multidimensionality. Dice-K is actually still in the fourth inning of his second spring start right now. Really promising stuff.

David Raposa: Maybe Dice-K is actually pitching in different dimensions simultaneously, and the interminable gap between pitches in our world equals an entire career in those other realms? That or he’s just waiting for a catcher to actually call for the gyroball.

David Roth: Have you seen Grant Brisbee's Dice-K GIF? Understated. Elegant. Possibly actually video.

David Raposa: I feel so sorry for that Redleg. He’s going to get lulled to sleep waiting for that pitch, and then Dice-K’s gonna STRIKE with a high, outside 85mph fastball that evens the count at 2-2.

David Raposa: It's just a shame Brisbee couldn't work Dice-K’s top-of-the-windup wobble into the mix. It’d really amp up the ennui. And the number of balks called.

David Roth: A general tolerance and faint optimism about Dice-K is maybe the most Opening Day thing I am feeling. "Let's wait and see how the Dice-K thing works out. Let's wait. Let's waaaaiiiiiitttt." I am still in a kind of honeymoon period where he's concerned.

David Raposa: Wait until you see all the PPV he charged to the suite. (RIP Alan King.)

David Roth: I am trying to think of it as getting 90 minutes of free bonus baseball per every five innings Dice-K throws. That sort of value is rare in New York.

David Raposa: I assume you're also a big fan of Concerned Terry Collins cutaways, too? As if there's any other version of Terry Collins, admittedly. He always looks like he's thinking about his teenage son taking out the car for the first time.

David Roth: Nervous vice principal for life, that guy. Giving speeches about hygiene to an assembly full of uninterested teens, but really snapping into it. "Fellas, you're dead wrong if you think you can't get venereal diseases from sexting, okay?"

David Raposa: "The clap might sound funny to you, but as someone that has been out there in world, believe when I tell you that it is NOT."

David Roth: "The more you laugh, the longer this is going to take, men."

David Raposa: Speaking of which, that "bye week" nonsense between Fake Opening Day One and Fake Opening Day Two was some kind of garbage.

David Roth: I have no real love for Increasingly Meaningful Spring Training Games.

David Raposa: I don’t care if this makes me sound like Mitch Albom’s dad. There was a time when baseball’s actual Opening Day was actually a WHOLE DAY of baseball in AMERICA (and maybe Canada) where lots of teams played baseball over the entire day. None of this Sunday Night Overseas Obama nonsense.

David Roth: Days gone by. Fathers and sons at the ballpark, not talking much. Not today like with all the smartphones and grudging recognition that gay people might wish to be married. A simpler time when the homeless and near-homeless knew their place.

David Raposa: Back then, they knew not to ask for handouts. They just pulled up their bootstraps, huddled over their sewer grates, and dreamed of being in crippling debt.

David Roth: Every man a Wilpon.

David Raposa: I guess those two Australian games were a success, if you believe the MLB’s propaganda, but it just seems like a jerky and cumbersome way to penetrate untapped markets and expand the brand and other wearying business-speak.

David Roth: Also not sure how a two-game visit from a rusty, jet-lagged Chone Figgins puts the sport's best foot forward, but I'm sure MLB has some numbers on that. I'm expecting an email to the effect of, "Justin Turner is now the fourth-most famous person in Australia, and we have the data to prove that. He's dating an Olympic swimmer and has a TV show where he drinks beers on an overturned boat with Sam Worthington, talking about meat. So yeah, it was a success."

David Raposa: Granted, the MLB seems to be succeeding despite itself broadly. We’re in year three or four of the #GOTHEEEEM occupation, they let Mitch Williams call guys with torn ACLs pussies on air, and their Fan Cave promos feature dudes hitting each other with baseball bats and various Alter Bridge spin-offs performing in studio.

David Roth: A thing that's actually in that video: Bronson Arroyo playing guitar, image freezes, words THE BEST MUSIC appear.

David Roth: I feel like there's a calculated level of dorky uncoolness to the MLB's image. Like they want to be funny and contemporary, but not so funny or contemporary that replacement-level dads would be put off by them. There's something odd about this sport that is so great, trying so poignantly hard to be Season Three of "Home Improvement."

David Raposa: Yeah, it's hitting some "sweet" spot between an Adam Sandler crony getting kicked in the nuts and that dude at work who likes to quote Anchorman at lunch.

David Roth: Are we supposed to want to be in the Fan Cave? It seems like a fucking Samuel Beckett play.

David Raposa: I’d like to think it's more like Plato's Cave, but with Fatheads casting the shadows.

David Roth: "Imagine a room where you will watch every baseball game played all year long. You can't leave and sometimes Jayson Werth shows up with wings and clearly wants to give you a wedgie. The faucets pour Pepsi Max." Great, okay, is the puppet from Saw there? Because it seems like the puppet from Saw should also be there given all that.

David Roth: Just in there eating Bugles, waiting for the White Sox/Mariners game to end. When something breaks that up, it's something like, "I'm Scott Spiezio and we're Sandfrog. Thanks for not being able to leave. We have nine more songs."

David Raposa: They're all covers of "Jeremy."

David Roth: "I think you'll notice it has a few differences from the original." /Akon sings the chorus

David Raposa: The Judgement Night soundtrack has so much to answer for.

David Roth: I don't totally get MLBTV. Like, on my cable package, I don't get it all. But also what is it?

David Raposa: Yeah, I guess Loud n' Intellectually Dishonest Opinionating is SOP when a sports network isn’t broadcasting actual sports, but I still can’t wrap my head around the nominally high-minded pro-analytics show being just as loud, and possibly as wrongheaded, as Kevin Millar Explains It All While Sporting Some Sweet Affliction Gear.

David Roth: There's the show where Brian Kenny kayfabes through PIPING HOT takes about wins and RBI, I guess. And now there will be a show where you watch Chris "Mad Dog" Russo sputter—which I promise is more upsetting than listening to him, because he looks like one of the damn Thunderbirds—about highlights and (immediately before he is fired) The Differences Between The Races.

David Raposa: Granted, most online stats-vs-scouts-type arguments are just shouting matches across comment sections, so why not carry that successful and not-at-all-annoying formula into broadcasting?

David Roth: I feel like Kenny is very smart and good at TV, but maybe does not know when to turn it off at this point? Or knows and is just Embracing Debate because that's how you get results.

David Raposa: Yeah, I don't doubt he ultimately believes what he bellows, but I'm pretty sure he's leaning into the outrage shtick more than (I’d like to believe) he would otherwise.

David Roth: This is the thing I'm really hoping for as the season begins—everyone just watching baseball for a little bit and enjoying it. Eventually we can ease back to the whole Culture War By Proxy bit, run some grievances through the ol' Puig Filter, start having FUN again. But a couple weeks of baseball games would be nice. Then we can get back to talking about how nerds are ruining everything and how the flashy Cuban guy missed more than the cutoff man—he missed what makes this most American of games so great.

David Raposa: Given the first game on US soil featured that godforsaken Puig, it looks like fun is being sent down for extended Spring Training. (I’m amazed fun still has minor league options, to be honest.)

David Roth: Let's salute our brave traditionalists. The Phillies, for their part, are not going to hire any nerds. At some press conference this year, a dude with a chinstrap beard and a tattoo of the Notre Dame Fighting Irishman on his neck to come out and announce that the team is cutting Cole Hamels because "he thinks he's better than me." A chyron will identify him as "Racist Tommy". He's the director of player personnel.

David Raposa: Look, David, the Phillies don't need some Excel expert to tell them how to win 75 games. They need people that can tell how a player is going to perform by viewing a career-highlight package. And they need those people to tell Ruben Amaro Jr. how many more millions over market value that player’s contract should be worth.

David Roth: I wonder if there was a way—not statistical but, like, patriotic or baseball-oriented—to show if teams that do shit like that do well. Like a ranking of teams by wins and losses.

David Raposa: Is this where I mention I was called out in an auto-generated e-mail following my fantasy baseball draft as having (according to CBS Sports’ fantasy rankings) the worst draft in my league? The Phillies are hiring, right?

David Roth: But I think we're missing the point, maybe. It's Opening Day. There is hope and nothing else. The Rangers are apparently starting Bobby Witt on Opening Day, for instance, and that is just a surprising thing to me. I guess you want the veteran presence. I wouldn't count them out.

David Raposa: Between that and the A’s going elbow up across their organization, I think Houston might have the second best starting staff in the AL West right now? Who needs George Springer when you have #TooMuchFeldman?

David Roth: Can't count them out.

David Raposa: Meanwhile, the Twins are (reportedly) injury-free, which would be great for them if they had a good team.

David Roth: The Twins are fascinating. They're like a family business, which is admirable except this is a business that never fires anyone, and the product they make and sell is a 6'4 White Dude Named Scott. He never walks anybody, and is available in Lutheran and Bearded flavors. Can't count them out, either.

David Raposa: So you’re going to spend the rest of the season ending all your baseball observations with, “Can’t count them out,” right? Like some posi-vibin’ Hawk Harrelson?

David Roth: Can't count out the possibility. Not this early in the year.

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