Mailbag! *

Is a climbing wall shaped like a Mountain Dew can awful, a sign of the decline of Western civilization, or something else entirely?

M. Yellow, Atlanta GA

It’s an insult to the storied past of the Milwaukee Brewers and, in particular, to the late, great, Bernie beer slide.

The fact that Bernie Brewer is no longer dressed in lederhosen and no longer slides into a giant mug of beer is a travesty on par with the Black Sox scandal. The Marlins’ home run thing is like the physical embodiment of the lack of physical embodiment of the mug slide.

Anyway, my understanding is that having Bernie slide into a fake mug of beer at Miller Park for a team called the Milwaukee Brewers which proudly sells alcoholic beverages during games and which his famous for hour-long tailgating and somewhat irresponsible drinking by the entire fan base would be a bad influence on children.** I contend that the association of Mountain Dew, a poisonous beverage consisting of high fructose corn syrup and a dye that is a color that occurs nowhere in nature with an athletic pursuit like rock climbing is far more damaging to children than a guy sliding into a giant mug of beer.  The idea that it is a better idea to target people with Mountain Dew, which has 174 calories per 12 oz. versus, say, Miller Lite, which has 96 calories per 12 oz., is just dumb.

Also, a Mountain Dew climbing wall will be ugly and pointless because there’s a baseball game taking place and drunken idiots will probably fall off of it and die at some point. That too.

How many bobbleheads are too many bobbleheads?

Merton Hanks, San Francisco CA

There’s a beer festival at the Three Floyds brewery in Munster Indiana every year on the last Saturday in April called Dark Lord Day. It’s the only day you can purchase Dark Lord, their Russian imperial stout.   I used to go every year and I can report that for the last 3 years or so it’s been a huge pain in the ass.  Also, over that 3 year period I’ve realized that there will always be another good rare beer and you really need not torture yourself for a day for the privilege.

Herein lies the bobblehead conundrum; you need to maximize the drawing power of the bobblehead while still retaining their scarcity (i.e. collectability) and you must do so without discouraging the completest.

You have three kinds of bobblehead collectors.

  1. I must have Uecker!

Fans have certain players/announcers/mascots that they love and they will probably turn out for that player’s bobblehead day. These are the people you’re really going for with these promotions as you can use them to sell out less desirable games.

2. Completests

They’re niche-y and you don’t want to cater to them exclusively.  They’ll probably go to ten games but they probably won’t go to twenty.  You do want to abuse them with less desirable bobblehead days. Let’s face it, not every bobblehead is Ryan Braun. Sometimes you get this.

Now you’re probably thinking sure, not everyone is Ryan Braun, but that doesn’t mean you need to have Chorizo or Ed Sedar.  You could just go with lesser players. Except then you miss out on…

3. Hipsters!

Dude, I had the Rally Rabbit bobblehead before it was cool. ***

So Merton, to answer your question, 14.

Is the World Baseball Classic cool or just a cynical marketing ploy, mate?

D. Nilsson

It’s cool! To the extent I see hand-wringing about this event it’s almost always about concern for the health of MLB players (especially pitchers), but  the fact is that most position players aren’t at that high a risk (and certainly not much more risk than driving their cars, playing pickup basketball, or living in Venezuela), and pitchers can be controlled.

More importantly, we get more baseball! More baseball is always a good thing.  Look, we’re fans. If Miguel Cabrera goes out and gets hurt during the WBC that sucks for the Tigers and their super-rich ownership (and yes, their fans), but for most fans (who don’t cheer for the Tigers) that’s a risk worth taking to see more baseball. We shouldn’t care about the Tigers’ “investment”. It’s not our money. We enjoy the end product, not the inputs.

And the WBC is good for the game in general. It exposes other countries to the game, and it exposes us to the amazing quality of international baseball.  If baseball ever became big enough I’d love to see a Champions League style tourney where MLB clubs play against pro clubs from other countries. That’d be sweet.

OK last one.

Stats take all of the mystery out of baseball. You people are ruining all of the fun.

Ned F.

Well Ned, that’s not a question, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

There’s a lot that I don’t understand about people, but one of the bigger mysteries to me is the ESPN/Sports Talk Radio dumbing down of sports.  Look, I write on a blog that is devoted to criticizing a professional baseball manager, but I also understand that 90% of what baseball managers do is a black box to the casual fan and for all I know Ron Roenicke is a team chemistry genius. Football coaches are notorious workaholics who spend countless hours on strategic tendencies. Running a basketball team requires an almost supernatural sense not just of a player’s talent level, but of how he will fit together with 4 other players for every player on a 12-person bench.

High level sports are complicated.  And when something is complicated that means there is a LOT to talk about.

Trying to understand the game at a high level like a stat nerd adds to our enjoyment exponentially. Your average meatball thinks that players should just “play harder” or be more clutch (because that’s a thing you can do) or that managers should be more aggressive on the base-paths while bunting or hitting and running or various other old-school nonsense as if the manager and the front office haven’t considered this in great detail using spreadsheets and computer simulations and whatnot.****

Stat nerds think about things like pitch-framing, defensive shifts, platoon splits, the number of times a pitcher can go through a lineup, defense, and a million other aspects to the game. Home runs are cool, but getting Prince Fielder to ground out to short right field is cool too. There is a ton going on in any given baseball game.  Baseball is often called slow and sometimes called boring.  That’s only true if you don’t know what’s going on.

The most infuriating thing about the Cabrera-Trout argument was that to people who watch a lot of baseball Trout was an even more obvious choice. I’ve seen Cabrera boot so many balls. I’ve seen Cabrera hit into so many double plays. And I’ve seen Trout steal so many bases, and though he has been caught a few times, I have yet to actually see that. I’ve seen Mike Trout make circus catches, and I’ve seen him make routine catches that would have been circus catches for other people. I’ve seen Cabrera hit squeakers at Comerica that would have been easy fly balls in Anaheim that Mike Trout would have tracked down.

That argument was never about statistics. Statistics just tell you what happened anyway, there’s nothing inherently special about them. The AL MVP argument boiled down to how much you understood when watching baseball. It was fundamentally about whether you liked Home Improvement***** or the Simpsons.******  If you liked Home Improvement fine, I guess.  But you probably shouldn’t be voting.

*All questions are fake.  The answers are real though.

**I once saw a man drink an entire bag of red wine at a Brewer game. That guy was a bad influence on children.

***I would move mountains and take vacation days to attend Two-Fisted Slopper Bobblehead Day, or as I call it, Two-Fisted Slopplehead Day. Thanks to @klwillis45 for fixing my spelling.

****I’m different. I criticize them for too much bunting. Duh.

*****Set in Michigan! It works on multiple levels! Like the Simpsons!

******Created in Los Angeles! Just like the Angels claim to be!

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