Off The Bat, Episode Two: Adam Jones Must Moonwalk

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Last time I wondered What/Why is MTV2’s new baseball/pop culture mash-up show, Off the Bat. This time: Who, exactly, is this show for?

A profound revelation descended upon me, as powerful and unprovoked as heaven’s own lightning, while I steadfastly plowed through the second episode of Off the Bat. The bolt struck in the middle of a segment called “DVR Confessions,” during which a number of current Major League Baseball players were taped confessing that they regularly watched shows that are comically asymmetrical with their projected external image of weird-bearded, rub-some-dirt-on-it masculinity.

It was Jeremy Guthrie, starting pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, who earned the most screentime of all by shamelessly exposing his long-running obsession with the Bachelor/Bachelorette reality-sadness franchise. Guthrie seemed like a really approachable and likeable dude as he explained: “Sometimes they have a Sunday special. Sometimes they drop a Tuesday special on you, and those are the good weeks.”

It felt encouraging to know that Guthrie’s Major League millions have not turned him coarse and immune to life’s simple pleasures. Before I knew it I had a few more tabs open and, wow, totally didn’t realize that Guthrie, as a member of the Orioles, led the American League in losses in two separate seasons (17 losses in both 2009 and 2011) and, gee, in both of those seasons he produced a superior WAR than he did in his outwardly shiny 15-12, 4.04 ERA season last year with the Royals during their surge into contention. These advanced stats can sure get crazy! How interesting that PECOTA projects him to pitch only 150 innings in 2014 even though he’s pitched over 175 every year since 2007? I wonder why oh wait that’s right this was about “DVR Confessions” and that is baseball. I am off topic.

While I was interested to learn about Guthrie’s television habits, my whimsical trivia-sponge mind is pretty clearly outside of this show’s intended audience. Having watched the entire 44-minute oeuvre of Off the Bat, I know this to be true for many reasons. But no reason is more compelling than the moment when Melanie “The Maxim Factor” Iglesias, in her show-ending blurb about what to look forward to this week, cross-plugged the MTV Movie Awards, excitedly chirping over muscular b-roll: “Channing Tatum will be accepting the Trailblazer Award. Hopefully with his shirt off.” This is a show for people who are interested in the poppiest, breeziest breeds of pop culture. And also Jeremy Guthrie. Wait.

***

This week’s in-studio guest was the smooth Baltimore Orioles slugger Adam Jones, whose sly wit was many times more comfortable than last week’s stilted appearance by Bryce Harper. The Off the Bat team had done some advance digging through Jones’ Twitter timeline, pulling up a years-old Halloween photo in which Jones is dressed like Michael Jackson. Before Jones can totally clock in the oddity of what the MTV2 production staff has done, the hosts and hyped studio crowd alike are deliriously chanting “Moon! Walk! Moon! Walk!”

Jones tries to resist the demand -- because he, like most of us, cannot really moonwalk, and because you cannot fake those credentials -- but the resistance is futile. And so we all get to see a few steps of his stuttery non-moonwalk.

Who, exactly, wanted to see this? Surely the MTV2 viewer who stayed on the couch after Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family doesn’t really know who Adam Jones is; this is to say nothing of Jeremy Guthrie, who is not necessarily familiar even to casual AL Central fans. So why make the slugger moonwalk, then? Why would we need to know about a mid-rotation dude’s thoughts on “The Bachelorette”?

Is the point to attract new fans to baseball? Because it’s a canyon of a chasm between seeing a totally random man clumsily moonwalk on TV and then actually purchasing a ticket with your own cold cash to see him and 49 other men play nine innings of baseball out-of-doors. Is the point to attract baseball fans to the airwaves of MTV2? Because, as a past consumer of Adam Jones-related humor myself, there is a pungent and unavoidable scent wafting around this baseball show that strives to include as little as possible about, you know, baseball. So we are moonwalking gawkily between signals, here, to an extent.

***

Next week Off the Bat will latch on to the one legitimate connection between baseball and the A-list as fervently as newborn calf latches to teet. Chris DiStefano will be here in my adopted city of Seattle to interview Robinson Cano, who is represented by Jay-Z Himself. As DiStefano previewed the segment:   

He’s gonna give me a tour of his new town and we’re gonna to a bunch of Seattle things, like drink coffee, listen to Macklemore, throw fish. You know, Seattle stuff.

I’ll be here, DiStefano. I’ll be here doing Seattle stuff.

Look me up if you want to hang out.

Did you miss Off the Bat on TV? Big mistake. You can watch the full episode here.

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