Welcome back to Nine Innings, SI’s weekly look at what’s fun, cool, and somewhat stupid around the league. Today’s topics include: some Guys, Remembered; rating some very good dogs; a devilishly difficult Mariners quiz; and much more.
If you have any feedback, questions or angry rants to send my way, please don’t hesitate to hit me up via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter.
Over the weekend, I went and visited my parents in the D.C. suburbs, ostensibly to help them move some things ahead of retirement but mostly to go through a bevy of things from my childhood that they needed either to toss or put in storage. That’s how I chanced upon the three binders of baseball cards I’d collected as a kid from around the age of eight to about 12 or 13, and while that means I didn’t get a start until the mid-1990s, I was still pulling cards from the hobby’s heyday of the 80s, particularly the end of the decade, which produced enough cards to build a bridge to the moon. But digging through baseball cards from 20–30 years ago is an exercise not so much in nostalgia as in sudden reminders of players who briefly existed, played and vanished—players who, despite careers of little impact, still had carved out space in my brain. I was, in other words, Remembering Some Guys.
The idea of Remembering A Guy is one pioneered by Deadspin’s David Roth, who has built a small cottage industry out of plucking semi-obscure names from the depths of the sport and resurrecting them online. There are no exact qualifications for what makes a Guy; like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart on obscenity, you know one when you see one. Stan Belinda was a Guy; Carlos Baerga was a Guy; Ty Wigginton was very much a Guy. They’re players whose careers weren’t dotted with accolades or gaudy stats, but who hung around regardless, becoming mildly memorable in the process. They’re the baseball equivalent of That Guy in movies, usually a veteran character actor like Michael Ironside or Zeljko Ivanek who pops up in turgid action movies as a military officer or as a supporting character in a half-baked network drama about Powerful Bad People. The quintessential Guy was on five different teams in a seven-year career as a utility infielder, fourth outfielder or back-of-the-rotation starter. He also probably had a huge mustache.
Remembering Some Guys isn’t confined entirely to baseball; the NBA and NFL produced scores of Guys as well. But MLB seems to have the lion’s share of them, likely because of the preponderance of old baseball cards floating around the world that documented not just the game’s greatest stars but also the dudes on its edges. Those cards were the great democratizer: Everyone got one, even the lowliest of the low. Players whose MLB lives consisted of no more than a few weeks in September still got the card treatment; that helped ensure a steady supply of Guys.
But while flipping through those old cards, I got to wondering: Who will be the Guys of tomorrow? Who will endure through the mists of time to get recollected a decade or two from now? Who will get name-checked out of nowhere by a president for being a very big, very strong guy?
After giving it some thought, I’ve put together a list of the players of this era most likely to become Guys Who Will Be Remembered. Please let me know if there’s anyone you think also qualifies, as we try to build this time capsule for tomorrow today.
Edwin Jackson, King of the Guys
Tommy La Stella
Thank you for joining me in this journey.
This Week In … Barking at the Park! (They’re Good Dogs, Gary Thorne)
Bark at the Park is a guaranteed good thing around the game, because it means lots of very good dogs doing baseball stuff. That even includes Baltimore’s day for the dogs last Tuesday, when they got pasted by the Dodgers—a loss made up for by all the great pups.
But which one of these great dogs was the best Orioles dog?
An exceptional reporter, even if his copy can be a little *ruff*.
Very good at eating cupcakes, though this competition is a stiff one.
Shockingly happy to be at an Orioles game in 2019; close, but not quite.
HE’S WEARING A TINY HELMET, COMPETITION OVER. Congrats to this French bulldog for winning Bark at the Park night. Its prize: being Baltimore’s fifth starter next season.
This Week In … Too Many Mariners!
Last Wednesday, the Mariners set a (kind of sad) MLB record by trotting out Donnie Walton to play shortstop, making him the 65th player to suit up for Seattle this season. Another two have been added since then, giving the M’s 67 men who’ve been on the active roster at one point or another this year—a staggering tally for any team, though par the course for GM Jerry Dipoto.
Because these are the Mariners, amid a tanking season, you can be forgiven if you’re not familiar with everyone who’s taken an at-bat or thrown an inning. The great majority of them are random minor leaguers and fringe types plucked off other teams via waivers. But let’s have some fun with it with a quick quiz. Here are 10 names; which ones are Mariners, and which ones are made up?
1. Justin Dunn
2. Andrew Norton
3. Esteban Locuro
4. Gerson Bautista
5. Parker Markel
6. Mark Lillard
7. Connor Sadzeck
8. Art Warren
9. Reggie McClain
10. Zac Grotz
You can find the answer key at the end of the article. And if you want a real challenge, here’s the Sporcle quiz for all 67.
This Week In … No One Suspects The Butterfly!
There wasn’t much beauty in Friday’s Blue Jays-Yankees game, a sloppy, back-and-forth affair enlivened by Bo Bichette’s walk-off dinger. But before the son of Dante sent the fans in Toronto home happy, the viewers at home got a brief ray of nature’s glory amid the fake turf and labored baseball: a butterfly that desperately wanted to be part of the action.
That butterfly didn’t spark a rally, so it has no future as a dugout pet/mascot. It’s probably better that way; let the butterfly be enjoyed as a light-hearted treat, a break from the September grind.
[Blue Jays option butterfly down to Triple A, keep it there for months to delay its service time]
This Week In … Ichiro!
The legend of Ichiro Suzuki has come to a close this season: Officially retired following the Mariners’ Japan series against the A’s, the legend returned to Seattle (well, he never left, but still) this weekend for an appreciation day full of joy, tears and, as expected, Ichiro being awesome.
A thing that should happen is Ichiro staying with us forever and never leaving.
This Week In … Poor Facial Hair Decisions!
Here’s the thing about Mike Fiers’ incredibly stupid and awful beard: Even if you didn’t know that it was the result of a bet, you’d assume it was the result of a bet, right?
Shockingly, this utterly ridiculous bit of facial hair manipulation was, in fact, the result of a bet. Per MLB.com: “They dared me to do it,” Fiers said. “They didn’t think I’d go out there and pitch with it. I didn’t care.”
Well, yes, Mike, obviously you didn’t care, seeing as how you pitched with a big old G on your face.
This Week In … Poor Facial Hair Decisions, Part 2!
Speaking of facial hair gone awry: Mets slugger and ambulatory hunk of granite Pete Alonso had enough of his mustache last Thursday, to the point that he got rid of it mid-game, seeking to turn around some bad juju.
Quoth Alonso, per the New York Post: “I had very terrible at-bats before, so I was like, ‘The mustache needs to go,’ as simple as that.” Sadly, the impromptu shave didn’t turn around his fortunes, as he finished the night hitless. And that’s a real shame, because Alonso was working on a quality soup strainer that made him look like a volunteer firefighter.
I understand baseball players are superstitious, and that Alonso isn’t the first to try to change his luck via in-game grooming. But exceptions should be made when the mustache is as on point as Alonso’s is. Why not shave your head instead?
This Week In … Accidental Athletic Prowess!
By virtue of sheer athleticism, what’s more impressive: a perfectly dotted strike on the outside corner at 95 mph, or a pitcher flinging a ball into the second deck literally by accident?
It’s the latter, as this clip of Shawn Kelley whipping a ball into the stands after a late timeout call proves. It’s not as funny as Trevor Bauer turning around and chucking a pitch way into centerfield, but it may be more impressive. Bauer had to try to make that one happen; this is just Kelley, on a whim, gifting a ball to some unsuspecting fan several hundred feet away.
This Week In … This Week’s Worst Play of the Week!
It’s not often that a moment of individual brilliance turns into the whole kitchen burning down. Yet that was the life of Ronald Acuña Jr. against the Phillies last Tuesday, when a near-miracle play turned into shambles.
“I got it I got it I got it oh crap oh crap oh crap” is a fun process to watch play out in real time. Unfortunately for Acuña, that’s what happened here.
Quiz answers: 1, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 are all real Mariners!