Welcome to the second half of the first round of the 2nd Annual Effectively Wild Tournament Bracket Classic. The results from the first eight opening matchups:
Every vote counted as the #4 Burrito (50%) beat the Fat Photos by one.
#2 Drafts of Everything (70%) knocked down the Wobbly Chair. And #6 Squeaky Laugh proved it still has it, upsetting the more prominent Bat Flips.
In a tight race between two polarizing entries, #5 Cycle Notifications (51%) edged Baseball Movies/Shows. Both will no doubt continue to live on in the EW Facebook group.
#2 Sam’s Morbid Moments (72%) killed the Video Watching, and #3 Smash Mouth (56%) got past Non-Revelatory Rumors.
Voting for this round ends Tuesday night (12a ET), March 7.
Results and next round of voting will be posted Friday, March 10.
(* indicates first tournament appearance)
D-Backs Headlines (1) vs Tree in the Infield* (8)
During the 2014 season, the Arizona Republic ran a competition in which readers could submit headlines based on the previous day’s Diamondbacks game. These ranged from the hilariously uninspired (“D-Backs end losing streak”) to terrible puns (“Grand s-Lamb beats Rockies”) and obligatory snake references (“Snakes bite Padres”). However, the unquestionable master of the contest was one Nora Morse, whose ability to brutally cut straight to the heart of Arizona’s ineptitude brought us many nihilistic gems, such as “D-Backs fight valiantly to win meaningless game” and the simple yet profound “D-Backs lousy”. Over the course of multiple episodes, Sam was frequently brought to the point of hysteria by the submissions, to the extent that the squeaky laugh made an appearance. Tragically, the contest didn’t return in 2015, but the defending champ’s spirit lives on in the Facebook group through the posting of corny punny headlines.
Usually, Ben and Sam’s weird and wonderful musings on changes that could be made to baseball arise as a result of email questions, or tangential hypotheticals. Last May, some pranksters pulled off a stunt that could have come straight out of an EW email show by actually planting a tree in the infield of an Ohio park, prior to a local high school team’s doubleheader. This naturally sparked much podcast discussion about what would actually happen if the tree was present during a game; major league teams have yet to pitch the strategy.
Bartolo Colon* (4) vs “Ben Isn’t Here” (EW Theme) (5)
The Mets pitcher had already had a devoted following among EW fans, both for being productive into his ’40s, and for at-bats that entertained even the staunchest DH supporter. He became an all-around phenom in 2015, knocking an RBI double past a drawn-in Ichiro, pouncing off the mound with cat-like reflexes to pick off AJ Pierzynski, and throwing out a runner with a casual behind-the-back toss to first. The baseball world rejoiced when The Final Expo announced he’d be back for a 19th season.
Sam has recorded without Ben only twice in the show’s history. The second time, Sam provided his own a capella intro instead of the usual song excerpt, and the show’s unofficial theme was born. Some Sinatra was later added to the mix, and then turned into an animated music video (may not be viewable on mobile). Unsurprisingly, he hasn’t sung since. But we did learn in January that college Sam regretted not joining Sugarcult onstage for a Ramones cover. At least we’ll always have “Ben Isn’t Here.”
If Baseball Were Different… (2) vs Honda Fit (7)
The ultimate listener email question (#396, 3m in) was posed in 2014: “If baseball were different, how different would it be? Would it be slightly different, or VERY different?” The question has since embodied the spirit of email episodes (if not the podcast itself), and is perhaps the gold standard by which all other hypotheticals are compared.
The fuel-efficient hybrid served as a recording booth for Sam in the early days of the podcast, and practically became a character on the show (in contrast, Ben is a NYC public transit guy). Ben and Sam meeting in California in March 2015 brought us the Burrito incident, a mention of a Matt Albers save in spring training, and the two finally sharing a ride in Sam’s legendary car. As Ben simply declared to a thrilled Facebook crowd: “I’m in the Honda Fit.”
Market Diner* (3) vs Ben-Sam/Sam-Ben (6)
The past year has had its share of tragic endings: Grantland ceased operations, The Good Wife‘s final season was announced, and Ben’s favorite 24-hr Manhattan diner came to a close (#796). The old-time eatery had been mentioned every now and then on the podcast, usually due to its convenience for the nocturnal Ben, but was suddenly slated to make way for an apartment complex. We learned that the Lindbergh special comprised a vegetarian omelette, chicken wrap, salmon Caesar salad, and soup (which per Sam was “like $45 worth of food”). Sam eventually called Ben’s culinary tastes into question, and later twisted the butterknife by declaring, “The Market Diner wasn’t even good.” But he’ll always have a menu.
An ongoing debate among the listenership has been whether it should “Ben and Sam” or “Sam and Ben.” Not much developed on this front in 2015, although the publishers of Ben and Sam’s upcoming book, The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team, have apparently sided with Team Ben and Sam. (Already the subject of glowing reviews, the book is about how the duo spent last summer running the Sonoma Stompers, an independent baseball team, and it’s available for preorder.)
Webb-Albers (1) vs Snowpiercer (8)
For the uninitiated: Ryan Webb and Matt Albers have been involved in a years-long back-and-forth over who can finish the most games WITHOUT recording a single save. A contest of obscurity, it has spawned a “games finished without a save” fantasy league, tracking of non-baseball card Webb-Albers (Albers-Webb?) memorabilia on eBay, and one of the finest pieces of baseball writing to hit the pages of Grantland dot com that itself yielded interviews between Ben and the men themselves (hear them at the end of #717). In 2015, Webb bounced around the league and picked up 11 GF (for a career total of 98), while Albers broke a finger during a team brawl and was limited to 5 GF (total of 88). This season, Albers returns to the White Sox, and Webb heads to the Tampa Bay Rays. Whether we actually want either of them to ever get a save is still up for debate.
When it comes to obscure movies that become a low-key podcast meme, Snowpiercer might as well be it. The eccentric Chris Evans vehicle was featured in a trilogy of Effectively Wild episodes (#496, #570, and #571), prompting Facebook group members to check in upon their first viewing. The instant cult classic is now continually shown on Showtime, might become a TV series, and is the subject of a film class thesis paper by our own Mikey Poley. Three losers from Banished to the Pen also dedicated an entire podcast episode to it. Whatever did happen to the children, anyway?
Barry Bonds (4) vs Bryce Harper* (5)
Barry Bonds has come up on the show before, but always in the context of the past. Bonds put up videogame numbers in the 2000s and is a personal favorite of Ben and Sam. In a special episode with Jake and Jordan from Cespedes Family Barbecue, the guys drafted Barry Bonds facts. The great thing about 2016, however, is that Bonds will be back in baseball as the hitting coach for the Miami Marlins. (“I’m gonna try, give it my best shot, by July I might not want it, who knows.”) Will it work? For how long? Will job apathy consume Barry as it does most of our lives? Whatever happens, it will be dissected on EW this season.
A NEW CHALLENGER APPEARS, and that new challenger is Bryce Harper. Harper put up a near-Bonds-ian slash line of .330/.460/.649, and a whopping 195 OPS+. He famously turned the corner in 2015, and was part of an EW future seasons draft with Mike Trout. In addition to last year’s corner-turning, Harper was almost asphyxiated by newly acquired closer Jonathan Papelbon, which set off a series of hot takes across the baseball landscape.
Burn the Ships* (2) vs Target* (7)
Legend has it, Hernan Cortes burned his own ships to motivate his men and scare the Aztecs. Or on second thought, it might have been Alexander the Great. It was Cortes, who burned them to prevent his “cowardly” men from retreating, but former Dodgers GM Ned Colletti can’t be bothered with details. This confusion was included in Molly Knight’s book The Best Team Money Can Buy about the LA Dodgers, and “Burn the Ships” became more than an inside joke understood only by members of the Dodgers (who had t-shirts made up) into a full blown Effectively Wild Thing when Sam mentioned it as one of his three favorite Colletti moments in #704. Turns out, this is not an uncommon metaphor for sports teams (or movies) to make. In other recent baseball book news, a “burn the ships” reference also appeared in Travis Sawchik’s book about the Pittsburgh Pirates, Big Data Baseball.
How do you measure wealth? Is it measured by how much you could buy at a Target store? In some ways, Target’s entry into the Wild Four tournament is about Target, sure, but it’s also about Buck Showalter, who posed this question to Chris Davis before the first baseman’s free agency this winter. The question grew into discussions of what is the most expensive item at Target, how much it would cost to buy an entire Target store (with some assistance from Banished to the Pen contributor and Target Insider Yancey Eaton), and Buck Showalter’s career winning percentage at Target Field (.524, compared to Showalter’s career winning percentage in all road games of .458. Make of that what you will).
Mike Trout (3) vs Multiples of 5 (6)
Who doesn’t love Mike Trout ? He’s perhaps been the subject of more EW conversations than anyone else. But whether it’s his baseball ability, his obsession with weather, or his Twitter punctuation, the man’s legend seems to grow in some way every season. Sam brought attention to both the weather and punctuation aspects in #655 (13m in). Just a couple weeks ago, Trout was given his very own weather balloon by Weather Channel icon Jim Cantore. And in #797, Ben and Sam answered an email about how to explain Trout to people who don’t follow baseball.
In terms of Effectively Wild Canon, Multiples of Five occupy a sort of nirvana, a perfection of universal balance (more so for Ben and us than Sam). When one falls on a multiple of five, it creates a sense of peace and harmony upended only by the even numbers that came before and after. Unfortunately this past year on Effectively Wild, because of the Sonoma Stompers season and book writing commitments, what was once a Daily Podcast that ended weeks with episode numbers that were multiples of 5 for a while, reduction to 3 episodes per week meant nothing but devastation for our beloved multiples. Alas, the Legend of Multiples of 5 continues to grow, if only because of its absence.
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