So MLB is engaging in this hokey "DHL Hometown Heroes" promotion, and the marketing geniuses behind the campaign have run these commercials that I'm quite certain we've all seen if we've watched a single second of baseball the last month---and probably even if we haven't. You know the ad: Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Cal Ripken, and Ozzie Smith are pictures, inside of frames, with the twist that they have, to borrow a phrase from Dr. Oatman, "brains, blood, and anima." Each of the four kind of belittles the others' accomplishments in order to puff up his own---The Babe has eaten 2,632 consecutive hot dogs, and in Wagner's day, they "didn't have bases, [they] had rocks."
I have but one question about this commercial: Why are these guys arguing? It's been bugging me for weeks now. Not one of them played for the same franchise*; they're not competing against each other. So vote in Wagner; it's all the same to the Wizard's ego. And vote in Babe Ruth, as if you weren't going to; it makes no difference to Ripken, The Streak or otherwise.
Come to think of it, I've got a second question. The commercial presents the four players as anthropomorphized portraits, which makes me wonder: Is this intended to imply that Cal and Ozzie are, you know, dead? 'Cause they're totally not, you know.
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The Nats played quite well in a weekend series against the freewheelin' New York Mets, who are baseball's equivalent of the high school kid who could succumb to a blissful bout of senioritis and still feel quite secure about his standing at State School U. No matter the Mets' motivation, the Nats played those punks pretty tough: a fine effort by Billy Traber (preserved by the pen), a so-so effort by emergency starter Jason Bergmann (spoiled by the pen), and a tremendous effort by an undead Tony Armas (spoiled by bad defense and then the pen). I saw only snippets of each of the four games, none live; I only listened to some of yesterday's game on the radio. On this firm foundation, I make the following observations:
- I like watching Traber pitch. I don't know how to describe it---he's got a pleasant- or at least different-looking throwing motion, i.e., the three-quarters thing. And something about him looks intelligent out on the mound. Of course, it's best not to get too excited about a good performance (something we know Frank Robinson won't, at any rate). Before last night's gem of a no-decision by Greg Maddux, guess who had the most efficient seven- and eight-inning start of the big league season? According to the ESPN graphic, none other than Josh Towers.
- To the extent that I can push this claim, I'll note that the Nats on Sunday did what teams do when they're starting to come together into a cohesive unit: They played a very good team very tightly until falling apart near the end. You don't get better overnight. Baseball is a game of incremental gains. You get better, you get better, then sometimes you make huge leaps forward, only to fall back some; as it nets out, you get better incrementally. The team inarguably has a stronger base of talent now than it did six months ago, which isn't to say it's any kind of contender---only that it's better situated than it was.
- Of course, a significant portion of that talent is maybe on his way out. We'll see. But Alfonso Soriano sure is a fun player, isn't he? And, beyond being fun, he's been pretty remarkable this season. I know I'm stating the obvious, but . . .
- I propose a nickname for Ryan Wagner: Golden Boy. One would think the meaning should be self-explanatory.