Bases empty, two outs, a 3-1 game, #8 hitter up. Nothing comes down to this.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Yankees to Feature New York Philharmonic as "Band in Residence"

NEW YORK (Bottom of the Fourth) - The New York Yankees are one of the most storied franchises in baseball history. The New York Philharmonic is the most prestigious orchestra in America. The only real surprise is that it took this long for the two to hook up.

It was announced on Sunday that the Phil will serve as Yankees "Band in Residence" during the 2011 baseball season. The orchestra will perform any and all musical duties typical to a baseball game, including playing the national anthem(s), and the seventh-inning stretch music, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and "God Bless 'Merica". 

Additionally, the group will take over responsibility for playing the intermittent organ noises meant to rev up the crowd. Since these snippets happen often and throughout the game, the orchestra will need to be at the ready at all times. Unfortunately, given the size of the group (50+ members), there isn't a space on the field large enough to accommodate them while the game is being played.

As a result, Yankees' Director of Stadium Operations Jesse Fine-Gagne says the members will be dispersed all around the field: behind the plate, in foul ground along the sides, and in the bullpens. In particular, trombonists, accustomed to sitting in the back and doing nothing, will join the relievers in the bullpen while violists will be strategically placed directly where the highest percentage of foul line drives are hit, because nobody likes violists.

Since this means many of the musicians will be out of sight range of the others, conductor Alan Gilbert will be broadcast on some of the stadium's video screens to coordinate all the music. While this measure ensures that the members of the orchestra will play at the same time, Yankees physicists are still working on the problem of sound delay that will be unavoidable when musicians are spread out over several hundred feet.

The philharmonic's composer-in-residence Magnus Lindberg has been hard at work arranging a suite called Baseball Sounds for Orchestra, but took time out of his busy schedule to speak with Bottom of the Fourth. And despite a 30+ year composing career, Lindberg says this is his greatest challenge to date.

"There are so many natural sounds at a baseball game," Lindberg explained, "and I want to capture all of them in my masterwork. Every guffaw, every empty peanut shell crunching underfoot, every drunk Queens asshole yelling at A-Rod. It will all be in the music. This is gonna be some John Cage shit up in this bitch."

The brass section hasn't yet figured out a solution to the obvious risk inherent in playing during a live baseball game: baseballs flying into their bells. Dr. Luke Wesley, joint professor from the departments of Athletics-Influenced Symphonic Music and Orchestral Baseball Studies at Columbia University, says it's both inevitable and dangerous. Tubists, in particular, carry a very high risk of "sudden, unexpected air flow reversal resulting from lodgement of baseball-shaped projectile in instrument", which can lead to "complications arising from spontaneous puffy-cheek".

The aspect of this radical change most anticipated by the Yankees players themselves is the live renditions of their walk-up music. In particular, Mariano Rivera, famous for entering each game along to Metallica's "Enter Sandman", is excited to see what the orchestra does with his classic theme. "I think getting those violins and oboes in there is really going to add another layer of intensity," said Rivera.

Joba Chamberlain, noted fan of classical music, is excited to see how Gilbert coordinates famous works with baseball events. "I'm thinking Thus Spake Zarathustra [the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey] any time a Yankee pitcher gets to two strikes. Wouldn't it be awesome to strike out some asshole on the DUH DUH?"

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Angels Acquire A-Rod, Soriano, Schumacher, Letterman in Mega-Deal

LOS ANGELES (Bottom of the Fourth) - Just days after completing one of the biggest deals of the baseball off-season when they traded for Vernon Wells of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Los Angeles Angels have blown themselves out of the water.

The Angels were roundly criticized for taking on one of baseball's highest-paid players (Wells earns $86M over the next four years), but they didn't let that deter them from obtaining a quartet of superstars - Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, Alfonso Soriano of the Chicago Cubs, Michael Schumacher of Mercedes and David Letterman of CBS - who will earn a combined $374M over the remainder of their respective contracts.

A-Rod instantly becomes the Angels' starting third baseman, a position of weakness for the club in 2010. Soriano and his $18M annual salary moves to the outfield along with Wells and youngster Peter Bourjous. Schumacher and Letterman on the other hand, not being baseball players, have less well-defined roles at the moment.

Schumacher, being the world's fastest driver, is expected to assist the team with transportation-related matters. Angels Director of Logistics Joe Bondy-Denomy spoke to Bottom of the Fourth about the roles he envisions for the seven-time world champion. "You know, Los Angeles traffic is legendarily bad, and every week we have to pick up thousands of scalding vats of nacho cheese, kegs of water, eye-droppers of beer, pounds of hot dog concentrate... you name it."

When questioned further about the timetable of these deliveries, Bondy-Denomy quickly changed his tune. "Every day, I mean. Not every week. We have to get new materials every single day! Nothing but the freshest at Angel Stadium." He went on to explain that having Schumacher behind the wheel could shave "seconds, even minutes" off delivery times, pushing the daily schedule ahead incrementally. "Every second counts," according to the Director of Logistics. No word on whether every second is worth 32 million dollars.

Michael Schumacher could assist with beer transportation

Letterman would seem to be a natural fit for the stadium announcer's booth, or perhaps the club can negotiate with their television carrier to get him on the broadcast. However, manager Mike Scioscia doesn't see things the same way. "David played in college, and he's a smart baseball man. He gives 110% and stays between the lines. I'm thinking about making him our everyday catcher."

The Angels, of course, just traded away a catcher to acquire Wells, but Mike Napoli wasn't getting much playing time behind the plate under Scioscia. "Napoli hit homers and stuff, but he wasn't a hustler, he didn't manufacture runs, and I'd say at least 80% he wasn't staying within himself," explained the manager.

Naturally, you have to give up something to get something, and a case can be made that the Angels didn't improve their team at all when all was said and done. To acquire Soriano, they had to give up top prospect Mike Trout. A-Rod cost the team their entire starting rotation: Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Joel Pineiro, Dan Haren and Scott Kazmir. The price for Schumacher was GM Tony Reagins' three-year-old son, who will instantly go into Mercedes' F1 Driver Training Program. Finally, to obtain Letterman, the Angels shipped Bobby Abreu to CBS to serve as the new host of the Late Show.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hipster Culture Drives Beavers Out of Portland

The Portland Beavers are one of minor league baseball's longest-tenured teams: between four stints starting in 1906, the team has played almost 100 seasons in the Rose City. The most recent run ended in September, 2010, when the Beavers played their last game at PGE Park before stadium renovations began in preparation for the incoming Major League Soccer team, the Portland Timbers.

So the Beavers lost their home and were scooped up by Jeff Moorad, lead owner of the San Diego Padres (to whom the Beavers are affiliated), and promptly moved out of Oregon. The stadium (or lack thereof) has commonly been cited as the primary impetus for the move. But Bottom of the Fourth has uncovered new evidence revealing the falsity of that statement.

No, the Beavers were taken from the good people of Portland not because of any stadium issue, but because of that scourge of 2010s society: the hipster.

A casual fan cannot have been expected to make this deduction on their own, of course. Many of the details of this hipster-based internal sabotage of the team were shuttered away, with the intent of never seeing the light of day.

And oh yes, it was sabotage. There isn't any doubt about that. It had to have taken an extremely organized and well-connected network of conspirators to so thoroughly dismantle this team from the inside out. They permeated every facet of the organization, from concessions to marketing, even to bullpen catchers.

For instance, did you know that for the entirety of the 2010 season the team was put on an organic wheatgrass and quinoa-based diet? While healthy, the players hated it, and secretly formed a food-trafficking black market with stadium vendors. Of course, we all know what kind of food is available at ballparks; by the end of the season the entire team was 20 pounds overweight. Was it the syndicate's plan all along? It seems likely.

The Beavers were forced to wear hipster glasses, much to the detriment of their vision
And while it's never fun to be the away team, the Beavers were always the away team. Hipsters, as we know, love irony above all else, and the hipster concentration of Portland being what it is, fans took to "cheering" for the opposition. Of course, while they (the fans) would claim good intent, that doesn't hold much water with the players, who had to step up to bat to jeers and yells of "you are the peorest lol!" on a regular basis.

Another driving factor in the team's move was the degradation of PGE Park. While many would attribute this to natural wear-and-tear and view the current renovation as addressing these issues, this is merely a clever ruse by the colluders. The stadium was intentionally tampered with; over the last several years, all stadium mechanisms were converted to "fixed-gear", a notably inefficient design. A lack of maintenance has resulted in an untenable situation - complete renovation was really the only option.

The parties responsible for this sabotage have concealed themselves well, and Bottom of the Fourth is still following several leads. The team's new ownership group (led by Jeff Moorad), The Portland Chapter of Hipsters United, and Beavers America are all groups with clear reasons for wanting the Beavers out of Portland - respectively, moving the Padres' AAA team closer to home, irony, and dissatisfaction with the sullying of the beaver name by applying it to lowly humans - but none have been proven to be connected as of yet.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why All of Baseball's Arbitration Hearings Should Be Handled By Sarah Palin

It's that time in the off-season: the one in which all of MLB's high-profile free agents have signed with their respective teams, and we're left with an empty void of nothingness (of which voids are prone to be filled) before spring training starts. Being fanatics (the deranged kind, not the tame version from which 'fan' evolved), we must find something, anything, to pass the time.

Enter arbitration hearings.

Players tell teams how much money they (the player) think they (the player) should make. Teams tell players how much they (the team) think they (the player) should make. Sometimes, the team and the player come to an agreement before going to a neutral arbitrator. "Will [player X] win his arbitration case? Or will [team Y] triumph? An analysis", boring-as-fuck bloggers write.

(What boring-as-fuck bloggers should write: 'Will [player X] earn a salary slightly higher than his team would like to pay him, or will [team Y] pay [player X] slightly less than he would like to earn but still it'll be millions of dollars? An entry in my diary because I don't want to dilute the already barren internet with this shit that nobody cares about.")

Well, I'm not just going to sit here and whine, because that would be petty and unproductive. I have a solution: put Sarah Palin in charge of all arbitration hearings.

There are innumerable benefits to this idea, not the least of which is the entertainment value that would be added to the proceedings. We'd be glued to our internets waiting for the latest Palinism to go viral.

It would keep her out of politics. In retrospect, despite the good Bud Selig has done for the game, wouldn't you rather George W. Bush had been named commissioner, as he was purported to have been in the running for, in 1992? He would have had too much on his plate to think about running for president, and I think we can all agree that would have been a good thing.

Furthermore, it would allow teams and players to get more creative with their contract submissions. Being an Alaskan, Palin naturally has an atypical concept of the value of money, and as such may be willing to negotiate contracts based on other forms of currency, such as polar bear coats, wooly mammoth tusks, and baby seal oil. The burden would be on the team or the player to acquire this type of non-standard currency, but those parties willing to put in the time and effort could see massive savings.

Now, between Bristol's dancing career and Sarah's hunting "prowess", the Palins have some pretty solid reality-TV connections. Can you imagine how much this bleak stretch of winter would be improved if "arbitration hearings" became "Arbitrating With the Stars"? Envision the ratings MLB could get from "The Real Housewives of MLB Arbitrators"? And don't pretend you wouldn't watch "America's Next Top Arbitrator". (Plus, don't forget the inevitable Tina Fey parodies. I've long said the arbitration process is a natural fit for a sketch-comedy send-up.) Really, this is an economic no-brainer from MLB's perspective.

The only drawback I can foresee is the legal hassles that may result from signed contracts containing what are later discovered to not be words. Pundits believe that some arbitration-related accidental word creations might include "contractivation", "baseballyhoo", and "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheimlich Maneuver".

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bat Boys Want Say in Upcoming Labour Talks

NEW YORK (Bottom of the Fourth) - Since the 1994 strike, baseball has seen 16 years of labour peace under commissioner Bud Selig, and in recent years the commissioner's office has been praised for bringing general managers into the process, creating a "feeling of inclusion at the sport's highest levels".

Of course, positive change always brings unforeseen consequences. Most notably, as a result of this increased openness, the Bat Boys Guild of Major League Baseball (BBGMLB) is clamouring for a seat in the negotiation room for the upcoming CBA (the current one expires on December 11), and is threatening a work stoppage if their terms are not met.

Unfortunately for MLB, the bat boys have quite a bit of leverage in this situation, being highly-skilled workers with no readily-available replacements. Not much is known about bat boy training, as the Guild keeps the process a closely-guarded secret, but it's believed that the apprenticeship takes upwards of 10 years to complete. Even if MLB were able to find qualified a qualified Bat Boy Professor (another aspect of the process carefully controlled by the BBGMLB), they simply wouldn't have enough time to train new bat boys, what with the impending CBA expiry.

Labour critic Cameron Robertson says MLB should have seen this coming. "I mean, ever since part of the Guild's Manifesto was leaked in the early 80s, the league has known that the bat boys hold all the cards. They should have been doing everything they could to mitigate against this kind of action. It's only through the Guild's benevolence that it hasn't happened yet."

An employee in the commissioner's office, Paul Kishimoto, responded to the criticism, saying MLB has attempted preventive counter-measures in the past. "In 1987 I enrolled in the Guild on an infiltration mission. The infiltration itself succeeded, but I couldn't hack it in their program. It's some freaky-ass cult shit in there. I passed the torture tests but when it got to drinking the blood of a newborn ferret I was out."

On Thursday afternoon, a spokesman for the BBGMLB, speaking through a remotely controlled humanoid robot in the likeness of the twin girls from The Shining, revealed the Guild's demands. They have four conditions they want in the next CBA if MLB is to avoid a bat boy strike: 1) a 1% increase in pay per decade, 2) sandwich privileges in the clubhouse, 3) the ability to switch with the opposing team's bat boy halfway through each game "for a change of pace" and 4) new hats.

"Our hats have not been replaced in over seven years," droned the mechanical twins in creepy, monotonous, not-quite unison. "This is unacceptable. We want new hats. New hats. If our demands our not met there will be consequences. Consequences."

In the wake of the BBGMLB's bold foray into high-level league policy discussion, a number of other groups have come forward demanding a place in the CBA talks, including Mascots United, The Nacho-Cheese Mixers Society, and The Consortium For Dudes Who Can Yell "Beer" in a Really Loud and Obnoxious Way.

Cameron Robertson says MLB can't let these groups get a foot in the door, or more and more will keep popping up, and chaos will ensue. "Most of these groups don't have any power. You can always find new mascots, nacho-cheese mixers, and dudes who can yell "beer" in a really loud and obnoxious way." But, he warns, bat boys are different. "I think we'll see a deal cut with the BBGMLB, if nobody else. They'll get their sandwich privileges, and their raise. But the new hats... boy, that's an issue that could tear MLB to bits."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Study Links Autism to Giving 110%

LONDON (Bottom of the Fourth) - A new study published in the British Journal of Non-Peer-Reviewed Science this week is making waves in the sports community, as it claims that anyone who "gives 110%" is more likely to develop adult-onset autism. Though 110% can hypothetically be given to any endeavour, it is most commonly linked with athletics, and as such, athletes are suddenly being a little more cautious about going all out on the field.

Toronto Blue Jays second-baseman Aaron Hill, for one, is worried that he won't be able to give 110% in the upcoming season. "I just don't want to even go over 105, because after that you can easily slip up a few points by accident, and then boom. Autism." Some of Hill's teammates, he says, are planning to give a mere 100% effort, while designated hitter Edwin EncarnaciĆ³n is so concerned for his own well-being that he won't go over 70%.

The study was conducted by Andrew Wakefield, most famous for his previous work in autism which falsely linked the affliction with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Wakefield's prior study was recently declared a fraud by the British medical journal BMJ, but he evidently landed on his feet, publishing these new findings just days later.

Bottom of the Fourth contacted the scientist, who took time out of his busy schedule to explain the experiment's methodology. "First, we identified several instances of athletes promising to give 110%, or commenting on already having given 110%, and analyzed their behaviour during said period of 110%-giving." Wakefield went on to explain that the subjects in question universally displayed common characteristics of autism, such as "repetitive behaviours", "unusual or severely limited activities and interests", and "difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication".

When prompted for further detail, Wakefield cited a specific example from his study: Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia. "During an August game against Boston in which Sabathia promised, prior to the game, to give 110%, I observed all three of the above characteristics. He continued to repeat the exact same pitching motion throughout the game, to the point of obsession. He didn't seem at all interested in any other activity such as hitting or running. Finally, when he disagreed with a call by the umpire, he sputtered nonsensically while wildly flailing his arms, showing an absolute lack of basic communication skills."

Wakefield warns that the danger of athletes developing adult-onset autism is even more dire given the locker room influence of coaches. "Coaches often issue blanket mandates to their entire team to give 110% before the game has even begun. An instruction such as this can fell an entire team in a single game."

The new research is backed by well-known Wakefield supporter Jenny McCarthy. "Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure my doctor told me to give 110% during labour," Mrs. McCarthy noted yesterday. "No wonder my son is autistic - previously I thought it was all the vaccines, but this makes a lot more sense. I've already applied for charity status for my new foundation Mothers Against Giving One Hundred And Ten Percent (MAGOHATP), and getting the word out about this terrible affliction is the new focus of my life."

Wakefield's study has since been repudiated by the Scientific Journal of Discrediting Crazies, claiming that among other scientific and methodological errors, "giving 110% is not possible".

Wakefield, for his part, is not discouraged by the SJDC's opposition. "These are the same kooks who "discredited" DJ Einstein's E=MChammer equation, Sir Isaac Newt's Three Laws of Potions, and the Louisiana Board of Education-funded study "A Mathematical Proof of Creationism". If anything deserves discrediting it's their stupid faces."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Michael Young Can Block Trades to 'Shitty-Ass Dumps'

When the Texas Rangers signed Adrian Beltre, Michael Young was pushed off his position for the third time in his Rangers career. Now, it appears that designated hitter is the only job with regular playing time available for Young, and given the infielder's ability to play every position around the horn, many are speculating about the prospect of Young being traded.

However, that may be more difficult than expected as a result of some bizarre stipulations in Young's contract that allow him to block trades to many teams, most notably those that play in 'shitty-ass dumps'.

Young's agent, Gordon Cheung, was reached for comment. "When Michael signed his contract extension, he wanted to make sure he didn't end up getting traded somewhere crappy like Pittsburgh or Oakland. Basically, if the Rangers approach us with a trade proposal, in order to gain the right to veto it, we have to be able to prove within 10% confidence intervals that the destination city qualifies as a 'shitty-ass dump'." Cheung elaborated, noting that several criteria contribute to the 'shitty-ass dump rating': 'shittiness', 'assicity', and "dumpiness".

Cheung would not go into specifics on which teams qualify, noting that it's a constantly-changing statistic. New York City, for example, has improved its 'assicity' considerably in recent years thanks to a special initiative led by mayor Michael Bloomberg, and though it used to be on Young's no-trade list, no longer makes the cut.

Not all cities have seen the same good fortune, though, as Jeff DeChambeau, an economist at Harvard University, explains. "One of the most devastating effects of the recession has been an extreme downturn in dumpiness levels in many urban areas," says DeChambeau. "Coupled with the ever-increasing migration to the suburbs, which are shitty by nature, these two effects combine to form an overall umbrella of assicity. It's a three-pronged attack that is on the verge of devastating several major cities."

Despite these clauses, though, it is believed that Young would approve trades to certain teams if they "really want" him. He elaborated, explaining that any team that "goes hard" and "pulls out all the stops" to "get a deal done" has his attention, and if they assure Young that "he's [their] guy", he'll make sure they're on the approved list.

Young's contract contains a number of other provisos enabling him to prevent trades to certain teams, including the ability to block trades to "teams with Dayton Moore as GM", "cities that end in 'inneapolis-St. Paul'", and "teams that are determined by an independent tribunal to 'suck' at a level up to and including 'a lot'".

Monday, January 3, 2011

Eric Chavez's New Year's Resolution: "Be Less Injured"

It's that time of year: the time when people look back on the year that was, realize what complete fuck-ups they are, and make some half-hearted list of things they suck at which they could potentially suck less simply through a concerted effort at self-delusion.

But, okay, let's not be too cynical. Though rare, sometimes people actually follow through on their new year's resolutions. That's just what former Oakland Athletic Eric Chavez is hoping for as he vows to "be less injured" in the upcoming season.

Chavez added that he hopes to "spend less time on the DL" while "keeping healthy". He plans to accomplish this feat by "not getting bit by the injury bug", and mentioned that he's been spending the offseason "decreasing [his] proneness".

Despite Chavez's optimism, the free agent is having trouble landing a major league contract. In an effort to catch teams' attention, he's proposing some unique and creative contract incentives, such as bonuses based on "number of days with three or fewer injuries", "number of _CLs torn" and "percentage of body not covered by remedial dressing".

Chavez got into 33 games with the A's last year, and manager Bob Geren discussed the optimal strategy for keeping him on the field. "Well, first of all, you can't play Eric in the field. Every ground ball is an opportunity for him to break a hip. So he DHs. And, well, to be honest with you, every time he swings a bat I can hear his ribs grinding against each other. It's only a matter of time before someone pulls the string on a nice change and he breaks a couple."

When asked what there is left for Chavez to do given his inability to hit or field, Geren runs through the options, clearly becoming more and more disconsolate. "Well, he can't pinch-run - he'll break his jaw on the slide. He can't be the bullpen catcher - we've tried that before, and he's gotten appendicitis every time. And I'll be damned if he didn't have to be rushed to the hospital in critical condition from hypothermia when we tried to get him analyzing scouting reports."

But Chavez is not discouraged. He remains convinced that he can stay healthy over the course of a full season. When asked how he can believe this in the face of such overwhelming contradictory evidence, Chavez points to an unlikely source of hope: The Simpsons. "Remember when Mr. Burns had every disease known to man, plus a few more, but they were all in perfect balance, and he was indestructible?" Chavez recalls wistfully. "I mean, I've battled through so much in my career, I think I must be getting to that point. Indestructible..." he mutters, wandering off into the night.