The Animal Collective Of The AL East

by David Roth and David Raposa

Baseball: it is slow, and sometimes you see sexagenarians, who are not necessarily in shape, walking around in pinstriped uniforms otherwise worn by guys several decades younger. It is drowsy and arcane and there are bro-tats and shark’s tooth necklaces and action-less stretches that stretch towards the 45-minute mark. It is during one of these stretches — dudes just kind of milling around, a concerned and mustachioed old grump trotting arthritically towards the mound, the broadcasters maybe a bit tipsy or maybe not — that you should probably imagine the maunderings to follow occurring. Pretend we’re some place that smells like hot dogs and old, soft, translucently fried things. It’ll make it seem more realistic.

David Raposa: So maybe it was something I ate or inherited, but Billy Ripken seems to be a sensible baseball analyst. I did not expect as much from Professor Batknob. Granted, he’s butting heads with Harold Reynolds and Sean The Mayor Casey’s goatee on the MLB network, so the bar to be cleared ain’t that high.

David Roth: It is easy to look sensible when you’re sitting next to a loud n’ bloaty Mitch Williams, but I wouldn’t have expected that from Ripken. I always thought of him as baseball’s answer to Juliette Lewis in “The Other Sister.”

David Raposa: Well, I’m half listening, but just the fact that he doesn’t seem to put much stock into his opinions and seems willing to be wrong — and cops to that — is a plus for me.

David Roth: Yeah, that’s definitely unique and definitely welcome. Maybe that’s the modesty that comes with hitting .230 and being the ballplaying Ripken who probably couldn’t get elected to the Senate with 80 percent of the vote. That and being best known for profanely punking his own self on a Fleer card.

David Raposa: We’ve all been Fuckfaced. (Don’t mind me repeatedly typing Fuckface.)

David Roth: I could never mind that. I guess you’d say that Ripken fuckfaced himself? Hopefully you wouldn’t say it out loud, though.

David Raposa: Though you’ll have to take my opining with a salt lick the size of Utah. I tuned into a Braves game today and (speaking of fuckfaces) Chip Caray sounded good.

David Roth: Oh man. That is the spring fucking with you(r face?). Because Chip Caray should not be sounding good, period. He should be sounding drowsy and distracted. It should be very obvious that he’s reading Men’s Health or something while simultaneously calling the game.

David Raposa: I’ve been watching way too many NBA games. After months of Tom Heinsohn and Eric Reid and Neil Funk and “hand down, man down,” John Sterling turning infield flies into A-Rod A-bombs is gonna sound like Alec Baldwin reading selections from the Best American Erotica series.

David Roth: I will confess to preferring awkward, ineffective ex-players as commentators, though. Big Mike Macfarlane guy. I liked that he spoke like he was in a hostage video. Seemed authentic. That was the real Mike Macfarlane. He was really that uncomfortable talking.

David Roth: The thing I remember enjoying most about MLB League Pass, when I had it, was getting to listen to other teams’ goofy announcers. Like a half-in-the-bag Mark Grace reading some sponsored text — “If you thought that Gerardo Parra bloop-double was exciting, you should really check out some of the deals at Kia of Scottsdale. Because that is some exciting shit… okay, definitely spilled Jim Beam Red Stag on my notes.” I always thought you could hear Grace spitting tobacco into a Snapple bottle on air.

David Raposa: The farther you get from the coasts, the more the broadcasters sound like they’re doing time in a minor league park. I like to imagine Dan Gladden sits in the booth in a toilet bowl costume, practicing his script.

David Roth: I am going to do a Google image search for him right now. Because I definitely want to see how Gladden’s wearing his hair these days. It was just cascading hair-wedge of ill-advised early ’90s excess in his prime.

David Raposa: I’m gonna go out on a limb & say the party’s over, but he’s still doing business (with a reduced work force).

David Raposa: Oh, my bad, he’s a Nickleback roadie.

David Roth: Oh man. Looking good. Someone got some Gary Carter in my Gunnar Nelson.

David Raposa: Though I look like something that’s primed to swallow Don Orsillo, so I should tread lightly.

David Roth: I have never personally met or seen you, but I am very sure that you are above the aesthetic Mendoza Line that is a candid photo of Dan Gladden.

David Raposa: I’m going to go with “off-season Sid Fernandez.”

David Roth: Little chunks of pineapple and ham on all your clothes. It’s not the worst look.

David Raposa: Speaking of the Mets (and fantastic segues), any thoughts on the team using R.A. Dickey to pimp out the 2011 season?

David Roth: Only good thoughts. I know it’s a little goofy that a notionally big-time franchise is using a bearded knuckleballer as a marketing linchpin, but Dickey is just the greatest. He’s writing an autobiography, which would be the first baseball book I bought new since… I don’t know, is there a book called Karros On Karros, or did I dream that? I remember there being a lot of recipes in Karros On Karros. An unconventional approach to lamb. A long chapter about how his yia-yia helped him learn to pull the ball.

David Raposa: R.A. Dickey is writing an autobiography?

David Roth: Yes, he is. He’s apparently a voracious reader. And goes on walkabouts in the country when he needs to think. Got a Tennessee accent that is almost effeminate because it’s so enunciative. He’s basically Jeremiah Johnson, only he makes an amazing/scary face when he pitches and throws my favorite pitch.

David Raposa: OH SHIT

David Roth: I’m stealing this from a Mets blogger, I think, but it’s like he’s actually saying his first name — and pronouncing it “RAAAH” — while he’s pitching.

David Raposa: I’ve always been too busy watching the action on his “heat” to notice the mightiness of his yawp. But you don’t think the Mets using him as a selling point smacks of “The Cleveland Cavaliers — now with more Alonzo Gee!”

David Roth: I mean, yes, it does. But I’m probably too close to really assess this. Anything Dickey-related is basically narrow-casted at me. I am in — and maybe just AM — the demographic to whom a soft-spoken, bearded knuckleballer who reads Faulkner is most appealing.

David Raposa: He’s the spice in the Bloody Mary, though, not the celery stick that you stir it with.

David Roth: That is true. And on a good team he’s the pickled okra in the Bloody Mary that you maybe don’t eat. But these are the Mets. And you don’t want to see Mike Pelfrey in those ads either, really. I’ve seen him do promo videos at Citi Field, and he is not the most naturalistic on-camera presence.

David Raposa: I shouldn’t talk, since my bandwagon of choice (Boston) did some slo-mo, black-and-white, Citizen Kane bullshit to herald the arrival of Carl Crawford.

David Roth: He gave a speech in front of a giant banner of his own face?

David Raposa: That might’ve been more tasteful. (Of course, I can’t find footage of the actual promo, so I might be exaggerating a smidge.) I dunno, though. They’re the Animal Collective of MLB. It’s so depressing (or maybe “depressing”).

David Roth: There are worse things than being the Animal Collective of baseball. Although the “some people like them, many people REALLY HATE THEM” thing is definitely true.

David Roth: This also opens some interesting questions. The Brewers are obviously the Killdozer of MLB, and I don’t think anyone would argue with that. But who is the New Wet Kojak of baseball?

David Raposa: I’ll say the Tigers, because Jim Leyland is the baseball version of Scott McCloud. And not just because they’re both gruff snugglebunnies.

David Roth: So can I ask you to expand a bit upon the Animal Collective thing? (Also if you please which player is Panda Bear)

David Raposa: Bobby Jenks!

David Roth: DUNKED

David Raposa: As far as AnCo goes: for me, it’s just another way of saying they’re the standard-bearer that everyone loves to hate or love and has to talk about if they’re going to talk about This Thing.

David Roth: That makes sense, actually. In the abstract, I like them fine — Sox and Animal Collective, actually — but there are limits. Animal Collective presumably has fewer surly, goateed fans wearing green Youkilis name-and-number t-shirts to bars and desperately trying to start wing-breathy arguments.

David Raposa: Maybe there are also parallels to the way their front office uses non-traditional approaches to baseball analysis to get shit done. Though even Hawk Harrelson thinks paying for Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez makes sense.

David Roth: The only people who seem not to like Theo Epstein are your weirder and more fulminative Boston sports trolls on that city’s (Philly-grade nightmarish) sports radio stations. They want Fred Lynn GMing the team and drinking Narragansetts during press conferences. Calling Josh Beckett a baby for getting blisters and making racially iffy comments about Dice-K.

David Raposa: Yeah, Theo’s the stat nerd that’s bro enough to be liked (PEARL JAM!), as opposed to the DePodestas of the world (SPREADSHEETS!). Don’t hate on the trolls, though; they’re keeping the JETER SUCKS / A-ROD SWALLOWS t-shirt cottage industry alive.

David Roth: There’s a non-friend of one of my Boston friends who basically made his living selling Oxys and Jeter Sucks/A-Rod Swallows t-shirts. Not at the same time, I think.

David Raposa: Why not at the same time? Know your markets!

David Roth: One thing I remember from going to Yankees games when I was a kid were guys selling “Baltimore Blows” t-shirts outside Yanks/O’s games. Which just hardly seems worth it at all. I almost wish I’d bought one, now. Not because I think Baltimore blows — although every American-born player on their team seems pretty reprehensible, and Luke Scott seems a slump away from doing something unwise with an assault rifle — but because it would prove the shirt really existed.

David Raposa: This was back when the Orioles were worth a blow, wasn’t it? Or at least a quick handjob?

David Roth: It was just so witless. Maybe there were “The Royals Are Not That Good” t-shirts for sale, too, and I missed them. These were decent-ish O’s teams, though. They could’ve gone with Deveraux Blauxs. (“Ripken Is A Fuckface” was, of course, already redundant.)

David Raposa: I think they were starting with alliteration and working towards slant rhymes. If Albert Belle’s hip didn’t crumble, who knows what kind of poesy would’ve been unleashed?

David Roth: Horrifying. The prospect. And also Albert Belle in general. It’s always kind of amusing to me how, despite the desultory “Mark McGwire Was/Was Not Robbed of Hall of Fame Honors” columns every year, no one seems all that bothered by the fact that Belle is not in the Hall only because he is an a-hole of terrifying, world-historic proportions.

David Raposa: That would be an acceptance speech worth bronzing. Or maybe not. Unless he went aggro prop comic on Cooperstown.

David Roth: Smashing melons for sure. I imagine Belle crying up there, and then explaining that it was because there were so many people he hadn’t punched yet. “I see Peter Angelos out there. I want to punch him a lot. And all my old teammates, Eddie Murray and Harold Baines. I would punch the shit out of them.”

David Raposa: Maybe he could have Jason Grimsley crawl across the stage and slip him some brass knuckles. And then give Bud Selig a hotfoot as he slithered off, stage left.

David Roth: Teamwork. That’s how you win.

David Roth co-writes the

Wall Street Journal’s Daily Fix, contributes to the sports blog Can’t Stop the Bleeding and has his own little website. And he tweets!

David Raposa writes about music for Pitchfork and other places. He used to write about baseball for the blog formerly known as Yard Work. He occasionally blogs for himself, and he also tweets way too much.

Photo by Kyle McCluer.