Off The Bat, Episodes 20 and 21: All The Way From Left Field

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Last time, I puzzled over Off the Bat’s bizarre inability to acquire access to the baseball stars it was designed to cover. This time, what it looks like when the producers decide to phone it in during the dog days of summer.

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The stated mission of Off the Bat is to blend together Major League Baseball and mall/pop culture into a synergized, demographically optimized social media dynamo. The new mainstay segment on the show, titled “Questions From Left Field,” withers into dust well before it approaches this stated mission. At its best, “Questions From Left Field” is capable of unearthing the sorts of bland trivia factoids that would be roundly rejected by the most unimaginative of trading card companies as an accompaniment to back-of-card statistics. It is seldom at its best.

This week, Sway is in the Citi Field dugout with Mets starting pitcher Dillon Gee. Let’s see if Gee can handle these outrageously goofy questions. Watch out, Dillon! They’re comin’ in all the way from left field!:

Sway: First question! Favorite board game?

Gee: Monopoly.

Sway: That’s a good one. That’s one of my favorites.

Nice! Not only have we learned that Mets starting pitcher Dillon Gee enjoys playing Monopoly more than he enjoys playing any other board game, but we have also learned that Monopoly is among Sway’s favorite board games as well. However, seeing as Sway says that Monopoly is simply “one of” his “favorites,” perhaps Monopoly is not Sway’s very favorite board game. File that one away to impress your friends when the Mets roll into your town.

(Please keep in mind that, having had all week to prepare for their 20-minute show, and for this 90-second segment in particular, the question that they wanted to lead with was about board games. It doesn’t really matter what Gee says -- and Gee is but an innocent bystander in this debacle -- but we are already in territory that is extremely far from pop [i.e.: “popular”] culture. It is not clear where we are, exactly, but we do not seem terribly near that.)

Alright Dillon, on your toes now! Here comes another one -- all the way from left field!

Sway: Favorite flavor of ice cream?

Gee: Cookies and cream.

Sway: Okay. You’re a cookies and cream guy. I wouldn’t have guessed that.

Gee: [Laughs.]

Aha, another nugget to sock away to impress your friends. You see, Dillon -- contrary to Sway’s initial assumptions (perhaps he advance-scouted Gee’s trips to the clubhouse freezer?) -- is 100% a “cookies and cream guy”!  Mention this idly the next time you see Gee pitch, just kind of toss it off like it’s nothing. Then stand back.

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This week, Dexter Fowler and Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros are subjected to “Questions From Left Field” together. Hopefully they found solace in each other’s fellowship as they endured this minutes-long gauntlet.

First question, to Fowler: “Who was the first person to walk on the moon?”

Okay, great. Forget pop culture, we’re not even talking about tangentially related baseball factoids anymore. Just a very easy game of Trivial Pursuit.

Alright, so keeping with the Astros/space theme (get it?!), here we go:

Chris: Jose, what’s your favorite planet?

Altuve: Mars.

Now you know! Jose Altuve just fucking loves his planet Mars! Maybe he would rather live there than live here on planet Earth?! (We’ll never know, as there are no follow-up questions in this segment.)  

Can you even handle this next one, Jose?! It’s coming in…from! left! field!!

Chris: Jose, your salsa. Do you like it mild, medium, or caliente?

[Studio audience laughs.]

Altuve: Medium.

Savvy readers have no doubt gotten this joke already, but Jose Altuve is a Hispanic person, and Hispanic people like to eat lots of spicy foods! (Also, for the monolingual readership, “caliente” is the Spanish word for “hot.”) So Chris is using the Spanish word for hot to ask just how hot n’ spicy Jose Altuve likes to have his spicy Hispanic food!!

Anyway, you get it. It’s a long season.

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This is not good, but it is also the funniest segment in the to-date history of Off the Bat. It was only funny because of the NYC pedestrian who stopped over Fowler’s shoulder and peered into the windows for a few seconds, but still:

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And what this beautiful man saw was baseball and pop culture, married to each other, united as one flesh, thinking about board games.

Did you miss Off the Bat on TV because you were engrossed in a thrilling contest of Monopoly? You can watch highlights from these episodes here and here.

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