A Song of Ice and Fire and Baseball
Sunday, March 31, is going to be a beautiful day in America. Why? Well, two reasons: First, the Texas Rangers will take on the Houston Astros on Major League Baseball's Opening Night, and second, Season 3 of the critically-acclaimed drama Game of Thrones will premiere on HBO. Clearly, we at Extra Mustard couldn't ignore such a confluence of epic events. It's a sign from the Seven, a whisper from the weirwoods, a gallop from the Great Stallion forcing us to compare MLB teams and Thrones groups.
Fear not, bibliophobes: We're limiting our references to 10 houses and orders that played roles in the show's first two seasons, so no book spoilers here.
House Lannister: New York Yankees
Rich as a Lannister? Try rich as a Steinbrenner. The Lannisters have the looks, the smarts and the charm, but they’re the most powerful family in the Seven Kingdoms because they’re the richest. The Yankees have the bats, the gloves and the arms, but they’re the premiere franchise in baseball because they’ve got the most money. A dynasty breeds enemies, though. The Lannisters’ hold on the Iron Throne is under siege from myriad would-be rulers, while the Yankees’ AL East dominance is being threatened by four fellow challengers. The injuries are mounting, too. Tyrion and Lancel suffered wounds during the Battle of the Blackwater, while Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson joined Alex Rodriguez on the DL this spring. But alas: A Lannister always pays his debts, and a Yankee always pays more than any other team for the best available free agent.
House words: Hear Me Roar!
Team words: Hear Me Spend!
House Stark: St. Louis Cardinals
Watching Albert Pujols leave and Tony La Russa retire in the same offseason has to be the baseball equivalent of seeing Ned Stark’s head get chopped off, right? And yet, the Cardinals and Starks found a way to persevere. St. Louis made the playoffs in Year 1 AP (After Pujols), and Robb rose up to claim dominion of the North after learning of Ned’s execution. The Cardinals have a Young Wolf of their own, as touted prospect Shelby Miller has finally earned a spot in the starting rotation. Cardinals aren't quite as magical as direwolves, but Bran could probably dream his way into one all the same. And can't you just see Arya sneaking her way to the top of the Gateway Arch to take in a home game? While there’s no universally beloved team in baseball, the Cardinals, like the Starks, fill the hero role as well as any. They’re both old powers, forces in the realm, but rarely showy. Plus, like the Starks, the red birds don't migrate when winter is coming. They stick their opponent with the pointy end and add another trophy to the case.
House words: Winter Is Coming
Team words: Wainwright Is Coming
House Targaryen: Baltimore Orioles
A once-great house forced into irrelevance by the Mad King Aerys II; a once-great franchise forced into irrelevance by the Mad Owner Peter Angelos. Yet after nearly two decades in the shadows, there’s hope: Daenerys Targaryen is biding her time across the Narrow Sea with three dragons, while Dylan Bundy is biding his time in the minors with a fastball as hot as dragon fire. Dany made a bit of a scene in Qarth, and the Orioles caused a bit of a stir by earning a wild-card berth in 2012, so Westeros and baseball can no longer ignore these burgeoning threats. Remember: The dragon has three heads, and Oriole Magic is built on the three-run homer.
House words: Fire And Blood
Team words: Heaters And Homers
House Baratheon: San Francisco Giants
The Baratheons technically hold the Iron Throne, but since King Joffrey is really a filthy inbred Lannister, it’s kind of a hollow claim. The Giants technically won the World Series two of the last three years, but since the Nationals, Braves and Dodgers seem to be getting all of the preseason NL love, it’s kind of a hollow reign. The Baratheons would actually fit in quite well in San Francisco: Robert would have loved being in wine country, while Renly and Stannis would surely appreciate the city’s open attitude toward sexuality and religion, respectively. Of course, Stannis is too busy licking his wounds, staring into prophetic fires and plotting his next coup attempt to really drink in culture. If he quit fathering shadow babies for a minute, he could bond with Tim Lincecum over what it's like to be the forgotten man.
House words: Ours Is The Fury
Team words: Ours Is The Freaky
House Greyjoy: Miami Marlins
The Greyjoys are Iron Islanders, seafaring folk who fly a Kraken sigil and pray to the Drowned God. You know what else lives in the sea? Marlins! But the parallels don’t just run scale deep. Thrones fans hate the Greyjoys, and baseball fans hate the Marlins. Clueless leadership has fueled that contempt. Some free advice for the Greyjoy family and Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria: You can’t win rebellions when you sell your soul, and you can’t win fans when you sell half your team.
House words: We Do Not Sow
Team words: We Do Now Sell
House Martell: Kansas City Royals
For two seasons, House Martell of Dorne has lurked on the fringes of the story, much like the Kansas City Royals have lurked on the fringes of national relevance. We’ve heard talk of Dornish wine and Dornish women, and we know House Martell must be pretty powerful if Tyrion deemed it a suitable match for Princess Myrcella, but the Martells have yet to arrive as major players. Likewise, we’ve heard talk of Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, and we know KC is supposed to boast enough young talent to put the rest of baseball to shame, but the Royals have yet to break through as serious contenders. Perhaps this will be the season for both.
House words: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken
Team words: Unproven, Unpolished, Unphased
The Night's Watch: Chicago Cubs
Listen, “I shall wear no crowns and win no glory” is a line in the Night’s Watch oath. If that doesn’t scream “Cubs!” what does? The North Side’s loveable losers have a lot in common with the North’s Black Brothers. They’re both overlooked outcasts who rarely make a splash, but without them baseball and Westeros would crumble. Speaking of crumbling: Wrigley Field and Castle Black might not be long for this world, though the iconic ivy and ice help mask the decay. Hey, Since Lord Commander Mormont hails from Bear Island and sports “The Old Bear” moniker, do we even need to superimpose a new sigil?
Night's Watch words: Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.
Team words: Spring gathers, and now the season begins. It shall not end until it feels like death. We shall take no titles, hold no pennants, father no dynasties. We shall wear no crowns and win no glory. We shall live and die in the field. We are the bats in the darkness. We are the gloves on the ivy-covered wall. We are the shields that guard the North Side from the South. We pledge our careers and honor to the Chicago Cubs, for this season and all the seasons to come -- until we can play for a contender.
The Thirteen of Qarth: New York Mets
The Qartheen refer to their walled-in home as “the greatest city that ever was or will be,” which seems a bit crazy -- but no crazier than fans continuing to refer to their downtrodden franchise as the “Amazin’ Mets.” The Thirteen of Qarth wear gaudy outfits, hole up in The House of the Undying and boast of vaults filled with incomprehensible riches, but the outfits are literally laced with bugs, the holy tower got penetrated by a teenage girl and the vaults are empty. Meanwhile the Mets play in a snazzy new stadium, make the backpages nearly every day and spend freely on pricey talent, but the Shake Shack line at Citi Field is always too long, the headlines are usually mean jokes and those free agents usually go bust. These groups are fronting power and wealth, but it’s all style, very little substance. What’s so great and amazin’ about that?
Qarth words: The Greatest City That Ever Was Or Will Be
Team words: Meh
The Dothraki: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Just as all cities in Essos tremble when a Dothraki herd approaches, all opposing fans and pitchers will shudder when Khal Trout and bloodriders Hamilton, Pujols and Trumbo arrive this season. But as good as that lineup is, the Dothraki and Angels know a khalasar is only as strong as its horses. Can Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson lead the Angels safely through the Shadow Lands? They’ve certainly got hair long enough to oil, braid and lace with victory beads. If only former owner and horseman Gene Autry were still around to curse the maegi, swing an arakh and officially anoint Trout “The Stallion Who Mounts the World.”
Unofficial Dothraki words: My Sun And Stars
Team words: My Son The Star
House Tyrell: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers made a string of splashes last season and offseason by acquiring Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett from the Red Sox and Zack Greinke via free agency. The Tyrells made quite a splash in Season 2 by funding Renly’s run at the throne, then aligning with the Lannisters in battle and a marriage pact. They’re high-rollers at Highgarden and Chavez Ravine, big spenders with a real flair for the dramatic. But flashy folk tend to attract scandal, as the McCourts and Ser Loras know all too well. Amid distraction, it’s crucial to maintain focus: The Dodgers don’t want to be a team in L.A., they want to be the team. Margaery Tyrell doesn’t want to be a queen, she wants to be the queen. Gotta have goals, folks.
House words: Growing Strong Team words: Going Long