Welcome to the first half of the first round of the 1st Annual Effectively Wild Tournament Bracket Classic. In yet another take on March Madness, Banished to the Pen has compiled 32 of Effectively Wild’s classic topics, favorite players, and most enduring/endearing running jokes.
We kick things off with 8 matchups. Can EW’s favorite relievers team up to hold off position players? Will joyous Sam get the best of dark Sam? And will the poor Reds get overshadowed by chirping pests? You decide!
Webb-Albers (1) v Position Players Pitching (8)
(1) Ben and Sam have long been tracking this bitter struggle between two unsuspecting relievers to claim the coveted crown of who can finish the most games without a save (after 2014, Ryan Webb had the edge over Matt Albers, 87-83). Each man walks the tightrope of appearing in the late innings as often as possible without ever doing so with the game on the line. It all started with a Play Index question (17 min in), and then led to frequent updates (3 min). Sam broke down an Albers near-save celebration. The fascination on the podcast has long since departed from simply the save battle, with mentions of everything from Webb’s wedding to Albers’ game-used pants. Listeners have taken sides, though we aren’t quite sure if it means you’re rooting for a save or the record.
(8) Our hosts love watching a position player take the mound, and who doesn’t? (Adam Dunn, anyone?) Beyond simply enjoying the sight, Ben and Sam have taken discussion of the topic to another level, particularly in light of the increase in the phenomenon, leading them to wonder whether the novelty could wear off.
Mike Trout (4) v Barry Bonds (5)
(4) Ben and Sam like talking about how good Mike Trout is. Trout has the distinction of not only being the best player in baseball right now, but also ridiculously good for his age. This lends itself well to Play Index searches, historical comparisons, and discussions of exactly how likely it already is that Trout will end up in the Hall of Fame. He sparks no small amount of listener emails too, perhaps most notably some weird hypotheticals, such as a team of Mike Trouts.
(5) If there’s one thing more fun than looking at Trout’s historical comparisons on Baseball-Reference, it’s simply looking at Bonds’ batting page. Every now and again, our hosts will ponder those 120 intentional walks in 2004 with an air of awe. Bonds and his absurd stats also spark plenty of listener questions, including his own set of classic EW hypotheticals, with one pitting Bonds directly against Trout. Also, Bonds likes frozen yogurt.
Drafts of Everything (3) v The Guys Watch Videos (6)
(3) Our hosts are yet to encounter a baseball topic that they can’t turn into a draft. Whether it’s free agents, projected standings, young starters, or the most horrible contracts in baseball, Ben and Sam can find a way to draft it. Almost without fail, Ben will spend hours preparing no matter how impossible the topic seems to research, while Sam’s research is limited to looking at the list of whatever they’re drafting five minutes beforehand.
(6) Video is not something that lends itself well to an audio podcast, but somehow Ben and Sam make it work. Typically this occurs when one has seen a play – often a defensive gem – that the other has not, at which point they send the other the video, with viewing and reaction consequently taking place live. For a while this also often involved Sam disagreeing with how impressive a play really was, revealing his extremely high standards for what qualifies as an outstanding flip.
“Ben Isn’t Here” (Effectively Wild Theme Song) (2) v Morbid Sam Moments (7)
(2) One magical day Ben was unavailable to either record or add his usual snippet of introductory audio, and Sam therefore had to add the audio himself. Instead of selecting the usual staples of a song connected to the theme, or a clip from a TV show, Sam created his own glorious intro. It was later set to music by a listener, and subsequently made into a superb video (based on a concept by Ben).
(7) Every now and then Sam will step outside of the specific issue at hand to remind us all that what we’re really doing when we engage so enthusiastically with baseball is trying to forget about our inevitable demise. This is often interjected with little to no warning and proceedings rapidly return to normal. In one memorable example, Sam soliloquized: “[T]he point is to entertain people, and make them forget that we are all dying right in front of each other. That this is just this horrible, rotten slog to rigor mortis. That we are going to lose everybody we know, we are going to lose everything we have and the only way to distract ourselves is by separating our day into distractions.”
Smash Mouth (1) v Casper Wells’ Travels (8)
(1) While transitioning into a chat about the Houston Astros, Sam offered that one might even say it would be an “Astro Lounge.” Ben happily explained it was the name of a classic Smash Mouth album, and the band was one of Ben’s favorites growing up. They’ve come up rather often in the Facebook group since then — partly due to the fact that they’re still on tour, and due to the ubiquity of “All Star” and its various incarnations.
(8) In 2013, Casper Wells was an unwanted man. He couldn’t even say “At least they gave up something to get you.” On April 10, he was waived by Seattle, and selected by Toronto. April 22, purchased by Oakland. April 29, purchased by the White Sox. August 8, waived, selected by Philly. October 18, granted free agency. He signed with the Cubs, who released him in June of 2014. This past offseason, he signed with Detroit. As the 8th seed, will Wells’ tourney run also be brief?
Crickets (4) v Neglecting Cincinnati (5)
(4) When the show first started, Sam would often record in his garage, resulting in a live audience of crickets. This became one of the show’s earliest running themes, to the annoyance of some. While Sam would occasionally talk about his fascination with insects, he would also comment on what measures he took to eliminate the crickets. Eventually, they went away to bother his neighbors instead. Sam himself would later move to another part of the state entirely, presumably due to non-cricket factors.
(5) In response to another of the show’s early running themes, a listener once called out Our Hosts for their lack of Reds discussion. Funnily enough, the show’s very first topic was Aroldis Chapman. Obviously they’ve found ways to talk about the Reds since then, and other teams may have actually had it worse (such as the Padres, until this offseason anyway).
Baseball on Ice (2) v EW Reliever League (7)
(2) A trademark of the show is the weird hypothetical. In response to an “accusation” that some of them were trolling efforts, Sam started an email episode by reading a batch that would fit the category. The one they discussed at length was from a listener relating her boyfriend’s “dumb” proposal of extreme baseball. Ben liked the idea of zambonis in baseball. Sam earnestly compared it to tennis and golf’s varied surfaces. In the episode’s comment section, a listener linked to a Canadian silent-era video of the real thing.
(7) Before the 2014 season, Sam wanted to be commissioner of his own fantasy league. In order to make it as effectively wild as possible, his format involved only relievers, and the only stats in play were RA/9 and total Ks. There were twelve groups; all included Sam, and five were won by Sam. The highest overall non-Sam finisher was Bobby Aguilera, probably no relation to Rick.
Fat Player Photos (3) v Non-Revelatory (Rumors) (6)
(3) The “fat player” series apparently started sometime in 2013 with Fat Jeter and Fat Cano. In an early 2014 episode, Ben brought up a Fat A-Rod (this link seems to be a different incident). He explained his criteria, which included how plausible the fatness actually was, and summed up: “I enjoyed Fat A-Rod, and I enjoy all pictures of fat players that may or may not actually be fat. That is the key to the appeal.” A few episodes have kicked off with detailed analysis of such photos, perhaps to the confusion of any new listeners. See also: Mariachi A-Rod.
(6) Another media-based recurring segment is the non-revelatory offseason transaction rumor watch. This took off during the 2014-15 offseason, in which Ben (calmly) ranted about tweets that “Don’t tell us anything really. There is no information, no content whatsoever. . . . The words do not inform us of anything. We don’t know anything after reading the rumor that we didn’t know before. . . .” Key phrases include “willing to listen” and “may consider.” A debate also arose regarding the pronunciation of “non-revelatory.”
Summaries by Darius Austin and Ken Maeda. Special thanks to Matt Trueblood and Matt Kohnhorst for their contributions.
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