Baseball teams as Simpsons charactersby Chris Jaffe
September 13, 2010
When one perceives true talent, the first reaction is to look on with awe. For some, this is followed by a second reaction in which they try to figure out how they can get a piece of the action.
Jimmy Guterman and Owen O'Donnell, The Worst Rock-and-Roll Records of All-Time, page 61.
Last week, I stumbled across an idea that struck me as both brilliant and original. The sports website Randall Simon's Sausages decided to take a different kind of approach to its NFL season preview article. It matched up each NFL team with the Simpsons character it most closely resembled.
That article was a lot of fun. My first reaction upon reading it: What a great idea! Immediately following that was my second reaction: I've just got to rip off that idea sometime for THT when I'm stuck for a good column idea. And, of course, I quickly realized that I have no really wonderful column idea set to go for this week, so . . ..
For anyone looking for solid criteria and a consistent, logical rationale in determining what team got aligned with whichever Simpsons character—what the hell is wrong with you? Seriously. This is meant as fun. If you find it entertaining - great. If you find it insightful, uh, okay.
I'll try the best I can to find matches that work, and when that fails try to do a good enough job BS'ing something that it sounds plausible enough. (And to think: Some people think a liberal arts education is worthless! HA!)
Here we go, division by division (and based on rank within the division as of Friday, when I sat down to write this), starting with the AL East:
New York Yankees: Montgomery Burns.
Well, duh. Do I even have to explain this comparison? Okay, fine. One is big, rich, evil and all-powerful. The other owns a nuclear power plant. Why yes that punch line was obvious. And yes I went there anyway.
Tampa Bay Rays: Professor John Frink
In recent years, Tampa has been one of the sharpest franchises in baseball. The Rays won a pennant despite playing in the toughest division in baseball's superior league. Now enjoying their third straight winning season, they should return to the playoffs for the second time this year, despite having one of the lowest payrolls. In that regard, they're a good match for the smartest man in Springfield.
That said, it's hard for me to think of the franchise without recalling its first bungling decade of existence when it couldn't do anything right. That also makes the Rays a good fit for Frink, who can't remember to carry the one, even when it means warding off elementary chaos theory that tells us that all robots will eventually turn against their masters and run amok in an orgy of blood and kicking and the biting with the metal teeth and the hurting and shoving.
Boston Red Sox: Martin Prince.
I'm tempted to make this one Blinky the Three-Eyed Fish, because that was a major nemesis for Mr. Burns, but Boston deserves a match-up based on itself, not just the Yankees rivalry.
Cue Martin Prince. He's a brainy high-achiever who is always expected to do well—just like the Red Sox. And some people find him just a bit annoying—just like with Red Sox nation.
Toronto Blue Jays: Frank Grimes
This is a team that's just screwed. If the Jays work hard, do what their supposed to do, and follow the path that leads many other teams to promised land of the postseason, then their chances of making the playoffs rise up from non-existent to really lousy. That's Frank Grimes for you, the perpetually screwed one-episode character. If any baseball team would be stuck living on top of one bowling alley and beneath another, it's the Blue Jays.
Baltimore Orioles: Crazy Cat Lady
An utterly incoherent raving lunatic makes a pretty good comp for Peter Angelos.
Now for the AL Central:
Minnesota Twins: Waylon Smithers
The Twins are an effective and highly competent organization. Other teams may draw more attention, but the Twins are constantly doing the work that needs to be done. In that regard, they're just like Smithers.
Chicago White Sox: Krusty the Clown.
Krusty is crass, rude, ill-tempered, and obnoxious. Despite that—or perhaps because of it—he sure can be entertaining. In other words, he is one heckuva good match for Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. There's a reason the Sox got a reality TV show for themselves.
That said, I can't possibly imagine Ozzie Guillen hosting a TV show for kids. (But if he did, I would certainly watch!)
"Ahhh—I thought the Generals were due!"
Detroit Tigers: Sea Captain.
I dunno—I think Jim Leyland looks a little like the Sea Captain.
Want a better reason? . . . uh, . . ..the Sea Captain once commanded a ship of lost souls, and the Tigers are well out of the playoff race for this year.
He looks a little seasick.
Kansas City Royals: Ralph Wiggum
Ralph is a nice enough kid, but he sure isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. He's always at or near the bottom of the class and you don't really expect any more from him than that. Sounds like the Royals, who haven't competed in a pennant race since before The Simpsons got their TV show. (But they have lost 100 games four times since then!)
Cleveland Indians: Poochie.
Here's an assignment: Go back and read what people wrote about the Indians franchise a few/couple years ago. They were the hot young team that everyone was excited about. This isn't just stat-nerds, either. They got a really big buildfup as a modern model franchise toward the end of The Yankee Years by Tom Verducci and Joe Torre. But they never really delivered, and as I write this they are stuck in baseball's most embarrassing location: south of Kansas City in the standings.
Poochie was supposed to be the next big thing: the character that was going to shake up the Itchy and Scratchy Show. Didn't happen. Really didn't happen. At least the Indians got a division title out of their team, but then again at least the Simpsons got one good episode out of Poochie.
Finishing off the Junior Circuit is the AL West.
Texas Rangers: President George H. W. Bush.
Well, his son once owned the team after all . . .
He was in only one episode, but that might the best Simpsons episode of them all.
Oakland A's: Sideshow Bob
He's a genius. He's got all these plans to meet his goals that always work on paper, but his success record isn't so hot. How many times have you heard people call Billy Beane a genius? A bunch, I'm betting. His record isn't so hot lately, though.
To be fair, Beane's A's had quite a nice stretch whereas all of Bob's plans have been foiled. But I'm sure some Oakland fans feel the last four years are one endless string of rakes in the face.
Anaheim Angels: Bart Simpson
The Angels had a nice run as stars of the division, claiming five division titles in six years—and that's aside from their wild card draw turned world championship. Now they've been swept aside by the Rangers.
Bart was the original focus of the Simpsons, but has since been swept aside by Homer, who is the real draw to the show.
Seattle Mariners: Comic Book Guy
Comic Book Guy seems intelligent, but ultimately he's pretty lame. The Mariners front office people sound rather smart, but man they are having a rough go of it this year.
On to the NL:
Philadelphia Phillies: Rainier Wolfcastle.
Wolfcastle is the big, powerful movie star. The Phillies are the big, powerful offensive team. Okay, their homers are down this year, but they led the league in HR by a ton last year, and the year before, and came in second the year before that. That's a good comp for the strongest man on The Simpsons.
Atlanta Braves: Lisa Simpson
She's an achiever who always expects to do good, just like the Bobby Cox Braves.
Florida Marlins: Moe the Bartender
Moe is a sleazy, seedy ne'er-do-well. He's got all sorts of questionable ways of making money, ranging from ripping off Homer's cough syrup-inspired drink to various illegal activities involving killer whales. Heck, when Mr. Burns' oil well ruined the atmosphere in his bazaar, he told patrons he'd have to charge them if they got high off the noxious oil fumes.
In other words, Moe is the best comp for Jeff Loria I can imagine. Though we all like to take shots at the owner of our favorite team, Loria really is in a class by himself.
That's Loria, on the far left.
New York Mets: Lionel Hutz, attorney at law
They both should be so much better than they are. Hutz could be a respected attorney if he wasn't such a drunk. And the Mets really should do better than desperately fighting for third.
Washington Nationals: Capital City Goofball
Some of these just write themselves.
Now for the NL Central.
Cincinnati Reds: Kang and Kodos
For a few years there, the Reds were a personal dark horse pick of mine (and I believe of a few others as well). I never really expected them to capture the division, but thought they were a team to look out for. I finally gave up on them not so long ago, and look at them now. They attacked and are taking over the NL Central.
Kang and Kodos were on the edge of the early Treehouse of Horror episodes, not really doing anything—just a bit ominously threatening. Just when you got used to them staying in the back, they attacked in the '96 Treehouse of Horror episode.
St. Louis Cardinals: Artie Ziff
Ziff was the high school nerd back in the 1970s who later went on to become a super-success story. That said, while you had to respect Ziff's success, he isn't exactly a likable person.
The Cardinals also had a rough time of it back in the 1970s, but have done pretty well pretty much ever since. That said, more than a few people out there are more than a little bugged by Tony LaRussa.
Houston Astros: Lenny
The Astros aren't much of a team, and haven't been much of one for a while. Even when they perform respectably, it's more a surprise than anything else. They're good for a generic joke you want to make about a second-division team, and that's about it these days.
Lenny is good for a joke (at his expense) and that's it. Mr. Burns lost his power plant? You can get a nice joke with Homer saying "the bank put Lenny in charge." If Homer has a nightmare about his future, you can get a chuckle out of President Lenny. Both the Astros and Lenny make an effective pathetic punch line.
Milwaukee Brewers: Fat Tony
How can the team featuring Prince Fielder not be matched with a character named Fat Tony?
Yes, it's a cheap joke, but—well, okay.
Chicago Cubs: Homer Simpson
Homer Simpson is, among other things, absolutely incompetent at his job. One might even go so far as to say he's historically bad at his job. The parallel to the team without a championship in 102 years should be obvious.
Incompetence aside, Homer is an easy man to please. Just give him some beer and he's happy. Cubs fans have a reputation for low standards as well. They don't require a quality team or hope for the future to fill Wrigley Field. Many are perfectly happy to enjoy the day at the ballpark drinking beer.
Mmmmmmm. . . . . beer
Pittsburgh Pirates: Barney Gumble.
The Pirates are a hopeless case if ever major league baseball ever had one. They are now in the midst of a record 18th consecutive losing season and barring a massive upsurge will end 2010 with their worst record in their entire 18-year streak. They're so bad, they'll drive their fans to the drunken, destitute depths of Barney Gumble.
It might be hard to remember, but the Pirates were once good. They even won two world championships in the 1970s. According to a Simpsons flashback episode, Barney once had a promising future, back when in the 1970s when he was in high school.
Lastly, the NL West.
San Diego Padres: Dr. Hibbard
Dr. Hibbard is not an especially flashy character, but he is good at his job. The Padres aren't one of the game's glamor franchises, but they are in first place. They've had only two losing seasons in the last seven (fine, they were two of the last three years). They're a good match for Hibbard.
San Francisco Giants: Groundskeeper Willie
Willie used to be the ugliest man in Glasgow, and the Giants used to employ Bengie Molina. The Giants play in a nice ballpark, and that's something Willie should know something about. After all, he is a groundskeeper (what's more, he once told Bart that in summers and on weekends he works at a golf course as Greenskeeper Willie). So that's why I match these two up.
Either that, or I was stuck for a match and just made up a comparison about Willie because I like the character. I consider either to be perfectly cromunlent reasons that embiggens the article.
Colorado Rockies: Ned Flanders
They Rockies are perhaps the MLB team most closely associated with Christianity. They've hosted Faith Nights at the ballpark, and some of their players are publicly Christian. Flanders, of course, is such a two-shoes so goody that his own minister is sick of him.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Mr. and Mrs. Van Houten
Though they're back together now, the Van Houtens went through a nasty divorce. The Dodgers' owners are about to experience all that misery for themselves.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Millhous Van Houten
Millhous looks up to his parents, and checking the standings the D-backs appear to be the only team in their division looking up to the Dodgers.
References and Resources
This whole thing would've never happened had it not been for the very entertaining NFL team preview piece at Randall Simon's Sausages. Sorry for not including Youtube clips like that site did, but (1) I don't know how to do it, and (2) even if I had, I probably would've ended up picking a lot of the same clips, which is a bit too much of a ripoff.
Opening quote comes from The Worst Rock-and-Roll Records of All-Time by Jimmy Guterman and Owen O'Donnell.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.
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