Welcome to the first half of the first round of the 3rd Annual Effectively Wild Tournament Bracket Classic.
Banished to the Pen has compiled 32 of the Effectively Wild podcast’s classic topics, favorite players, and most enduring/endearing running jokes. Seeding was determined by some murky combination of favorability, longevity, and frequency of mentions on Effectively Wild and its Facebook discussion group.
Ned Garver 1925-2017
Last year’s winner, Ned Garver, recently passed away on February 25 at the age of 91. Who was Ned? In Sept 2015, former EW co-host Sam Miller discussed an unsual 1949 game in which nine St. Louis Browns pitched one inning each. Garver was one of them, and Ben and Sam were able to cold-call him during the recording of the episode and talk at length. Amicable and sharp, Garver instantly became the most popular guest in the history of the show, and fans even started writing to him and getting very generous responses. While he won’t be a part of this year’s tournament, he’ll remain a beloved figure in EW lore.
D-Backs Headlines (1) vs Volcanoes (8)
The winner of the 1st EW Tournament and a semi-finalist last year, Diamondback game headlines were submitted to the Arizona Republic by readers during the 2014 season. The contest entries ranged from obvious to punny, and Sam would regularly mention his favorites (once being brought to the point of hysteria). But the unquestionable master was one Nora Morse, who coined the infamously pithy “D-Backs lousy” (but Nora was not one to use puns). After Sam started at ESPN late last year, the name resurfaced when he saw that “Nora” commented on his articles, including one that insulted his musical references.
Volcanoes have already cropped up numerous times since new co-host Jeff Sullivan joined the show. When Jeff isn’t thinking or writing about baseball, he is often thinking or writing about volcanoes. The first few post-Sam episodes did not feature Jeff, as he was in Chile, looking at some spectacular volcanoes. A listener soon brought up “living on the volcano” as an alternative euphemism for managers at risk of imminently being fired, joining “wobbly chair” and “fried squid.” The upcoming EW EclipseFest meetup will also take place during a game at Volcanoes Stadium, home of a Giants minor league affiliate, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.
Bad Baseball References (4) vs The Closer Is the Closer (5)
Sam would occasionally bring up depictions of baseball in TV shows and commercials, and analyze their inaccurate and questionable elements. These led to Sam pleading that he and Ben be contacted as consultants. Listeners have submitted their own examples, such as the odd stats of one “Manny” Azucco on Madam Secretary, and most recently, a DA on the legal drama Chicago Justice speaking of a game in which he pitched and blamed himself for a fielder’s error.
One of the key themes of Ben and Sam’s book about running the Sonoma Stompers, The Only Rule Is It Has to Work, was the tension between their sabermetrically-minded approach and the more traditional methods of running a team. Nothing embodied this better than player-manager Feh Lentini, who constantly clashed with Ben and Sam over their efforts to try new things. Perhaps the most memorable quote came as a reaction to their suggestion of employing the team’s best pitcher, Sean Conroy, in the highest-leverage spots regardless of inning. Lentini flatly refused to consider the option, and when pressed for reasons why, he perfectly encapsulated the notion that he was being rigid for rigidity’s sake by responding “the Closer is the Closer because he’s the Closer!”
Lindbergh Burrito Method (2) vs Fat Player Photos (7)
In March 2015, Ben flew to California to meet Sam and prepare for their tenure with the Stompers. During an episode with Russell Carleton, Sam gleefully related how he witnessed Ben’s unusual burrito-eating technique, which involved starting in the middle and collapsing the ends. EW listeners were fascinated/perplexed – some found themselves trying it on their own – and food images that evoke Ben’s method somehow continue to get posted on a regular basis.
Offseason photos of major leaguers looking sort of fat – while possibly not actually being fat – has been a source of much delight for EW. Several minutes of episode openings have been dedicated to Ben and Sam conducting detective work on them: do they truly depict a player gaining a spare tire, or is he just the victim of factors like billowing and shadows? Examples include Alex Rodriguez in 2014, and Michael Pineda (behind a shrub) in 2016.
Burn the Ships (3) vs Squeaky Laugh (6)
Former Dodgers GM Ned Colletti once gave a team speech about Hernan Cortes, who burned his own ships to motivate his men and scare the Aztecs. Colletti later mistakenly attributed to Alexander the Great. As we learned, it’s not an uncommon metaphor for sports teams (or movies) to make. Sam mentions the Colletti incident in episode 704, and “Burn the Ships” went on to become a chapter title in The Only Rule, where it’s cited as pithy advice by Russell.
Despite Sam’s early lack of enthusiasm for the show, the heights of his moments of delight easily surpassed those of the more mellow Ben. On occasion this would result in a laugh with some level of squeak to it, and it came to prominence when Ben added outtakes of laughter to bookend their first-ever minor league free agent draft.
Mike Trout (1) vs Tree in the Infield (8)
Trout has probably been discussed on the show more than any other player living or dead. His career is about as old as the show itself, and his mastery of the sport has yielded many topics and email questions: his quirks (odd punctuation and obsession with weather), hypotheticals (a team of Trouts), handicapping methods (running hurdles towards first base or running backwards), and how to explain his greatness to non-baseball fans.
In 2015, 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.
Shohei Otani (4) vs Lenny Harris (5)
Otani is a batter in Japan’s NPB, who posted a 1.004 OPS last season. But he’s also a pitcher, who posted a 1.86 ERA in 140 innings. So, he’s both, and that’s what makes him special and a frequent topic on EW. He got a full episode when discussed with a Japan Times writer, is frequently mentioned as banter, and had an extensive Ringer article on him written by Ben. While he gained considerable fame following his MVP season in 2016, he was first mentioned on the podcast in episode 350 as someone who had threatened to bypass NPB altogether before being convinced to stay in Japan.
Harris accumulated many pinch hits in his career, but did little else to distinguish himself, compiling 2.0 career bWAR and an 80 OPS+. But he has become a recurring EW topic. He showed up in one of Jeff’s first episodes as an example of a player who was definitely worse than Barry Bonds (at least twice as worse, probably more than that). Again in the next episode (Barry Larkin cited him as sort of Hall of Fame-worthy), and the one after that (a listener once bonded with a stranger over thinking that Harris “sucks”), and even on the Ringer MLB show (name-dropped by Jonah Keri).
Gonny Jomes (2) vs Multiples of 5 (7)
In Sept 2015, an emailer put forth the hypothetical about a mystery replacement-level player named “Gonny Jomes” (a nod to “clubhouse leader” Jonny Gomes, but not actually Jonny Gomes). Scenarios included him magically causing his team to reach the playoffs every year or win every single game. A 20-minute discussion ensued, with things even getting rather profound. The standout line may have been Sam’s “God is real — we’re signing Gonny Jomes.”
Back in episode 70, when the show ran five days a week, Ben mentioned that they were ending the week with an episode number that ended in a multiple of five. Because of days off, this often wouldn’t last long, and it became notable (at least to Ben and the listeners) when things were back in sync. With the show settling into a thrice-weekly schedule last year, we can only wonder if Multiples of 5 will ever be a thing again. Or if it will be replaced by Multiples of 3.
Barry Bonds (3) vs Alex Rodriguez (6)
Bonds put up video game numbers in the 2000s (“you know why, right?”) and is a personal favorite of Ben and Sam. An entire episode was dedicated just to Bonds fun facts, and an email topic involved how many Bondses you’d want on a team. He spent the entire 2016 season as hitting coach with the Marlins, longer than some expected, perhaps even Bonds himself. While a polarizing figure even among EW listeners, he seems to be making amends in retirement.
A-Rod is another popular EW topic, and when he retired, an entire Aug 2016 episode was dedicated to the highs and lows of his career. A new level of appreciation came via his stints as a studio analyst during the playoffs. In one memorable if awkward exchange, A-Rod was teased about an old hardware store ad. When Pete Rose asked what his favorite tool was, he retorted “You!” (An amused Frank Thomas belatedly repeated “hardware.”) Ben, Sam, and Craig Goldstein discussed the incident during one of their live game commentaries (approx. 1:21:00). See also: Mariachi A-Rod.
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