Now that Christmas is approaching, and with it the all-American and WWJD-esque desire to go deep into credit card debt as a way of genuinely demonstrating a deep and abiding love for another human being, it’s time to shop for the gifts that our favorite big-leaguers might want, need and/or deserve, especially if their wants, needs and/or rightful properties are compatible with punchlines that, let’s face it, require the compatibility.
As if to craft a helpful primer for B.J. Upton, the Braves second baseman has been a model of underachievement since signing with Atlanta prior to the 2011 season. Granted, he drew a league-high 94 walks in 2012, but in that same season he also walked back to the dugout with his head down 168 times after yet another imitation of Rob “Three True Outcomes: Strike One, Strike Two And Strike Three” Deer. A leading supplier in Georgia’s wind-energy industry, Uggla followed that campaign of hand-eye futility with an even greater demonstration of bat-to-ball failure, tumbling to a strikeout rate of 31.7 percent in 2013 before prostrating himself to the gods of Lasik surgery as a last-ditch effort to salvage even a shred of his power and glory.
Unless MLB replaces baseballs with softballs or rejiggers the poor man’s genome, Uggla is likely headed to an early-retirement party that features oversized cake lettering and, if you think about it, a typical game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. With that in mind, we present to Uggla a gift he probably needs and definitely deserves: a corncob pipe and a sailor’s suit, plus one large can of generic-brand spinach. Indeed, given his massive forearms and dubious eyesight, Uggla has long been a Popeye doppelganger (Poppelganger?), and with this new ensemble he can more easily audition for a post-career role in the Gwinnett County Summer Stock production of “Popeye: A Man For All Seasons Except For Maybe 2011 Through 2014.”
Sure, that big ol’ beard is his signature feature, and he wears it pretty well, but let’s get real, shall we? In all likelihood, Wilson’s facial fur is absolutely disgusting at the post-game spread each night, what with all those seasoned meatballs, French cut green beans and flecks of fresh parmesan cheese clinging to it as if it were a Chris Ofili artwork, something so offensive that a public official might try to ban it while a conservative commentator ranks it among America’s 100 most damaging adornments. To that end, let’s do the humane thing—both for Brian and his teammates, not to mention the millions of traditionalists who might otherwise find offense—by gifting the hirsute reliever with a 100-count box of spun-bonded disposable beard nets.
Now that Pujols has undergone surgery to relieve his plantar fasciitis, we’ll need to scratch “new plantar fascia” off the gift list. This is probably a good thing, as plantar fascias are typically harvested from graveyards, which are creepy, from morgues, which are really no fun at all, or from old episodes of Law & Order, and not only are old L&O’s difficult to access, seeing as how they do not occupy the physical dimensions of time and space, they also stipulate that any black market purchase of a plantar fascia must also include a kidney from a man who later wakes in a tub full of ice. As if that weren’t enough to discourage a possible purchase, we’d have to meet with shady profiteer whose accent is, at best, difficult to discern.
So instead of giving Pujols a Christmas sweater, which, let’s be honest, he’d never wear, or some pillows from Target, let’s get him a copy of Meet Me in St. Louis, the 1944 movie in which the paterfamilias decides not to relocate from St. Louis after seeing how negatively the move will affect his fortunes.
Seriously? The dude just signed for $240 million. Plus he gets a nice per diem and, most likely, discounted Beyonce CDs. He doesn’t need a thing. But if, from the warmest regions of your yuletide heart, you still insist that we get a gift for Cano, let’s acknowledge the caffeinated zeitgeist of his new home by giving him a $10 Starbucks gift card and a 20-oz. travel mug.
He might also enjoy a shorter right-field fence, a deeper understanding of time zones and how traveling across them week after week (instead of just tooling on up to Boston) can affect both rate stats and counting stats, and a protection upgrade from Justin Smoak—maybe somebody like a Clu Haywood, a Pedro Cerrano or even a Kelly Weeks, because if he thinks he’s gonna rake in Seattle like he raked in New York, he’s indulging in the make-believe that only baseball movies can match.
David Price seems like a pretty smart guy. He is thoughtful, well-spoken and attended Vanderbilt, which is the Vanderbilt of the South. And yet despite his obvious intelligence, Price has a habit of sticking his Twitter foot in his Twitter mouth, taking to history’s greatest invention to denounce certain baseball commentators as “nerds” and to suggest to women that they let their fellas drive during the holidays lest all of America be entangled in a great snarl of bent steel and whining gridlock. And so with that in mind, we give to Price a set of fingerpaints and one of those Mattel Electronics handheld football games from the 1970s, so that his fingers might become instruments of something more honorable than crass condescension and blatant sexism.
We also give him a moist towelette with which to clean his fingers, and, should he refuse to stop his Twittering, a collection of standard apologies.
There’s one thing and one thing only that Stanton needs, and that’s a new team. To that end, we hereby present to him the 1972-74 Oakland Athletics.
Merry Christmas, Giancarlo. You’ll look cool in a ’70s mustache.
There’s one thing and one thing only that Altuve needs, and that’s a few inches. To that end, we hereby present to him a pair of Jeremy Piven’s shoe lifts.
Merry Christmas, Jose. You’ll look good at 5-foot-9.
There’s one thing and one thing only that these guys need, and, as you’ve probably guessed, that’s a comfortable pair of holiday socks.
After four stellar seasons on the mound—seasons that included a pair of Cy Youngs and several mistaken-identity moments with regard to that kid from Dazed and Confused—Lincecum inexplicably cratered in 2012 and 2013, supplying performances more suited to Tim Burton than to Tim The Freak.
Lincecum has tried many remedies—cutting his Dazed and Confused hair, altering his mechanics and, for all we know, seeking mystical guidance from Jobu—but mostly to no avail. What the man clearly needs is his old mojo.
Of course, per commercials in which middle-aged men gaze at their middle-aged wives as if their wives aren’t middle-aged, it is possible to reacquaint oneself with one’s former mojo, but that ain’t the kind of mojo we’re talking about. We’re talking about the kind of mojo that allowed a scrawny kid from the Pacific Northwest to throw wicked four-seamers with deft regularity, and to throw such precipitous change-ups that they seemed drawn to a telluric current whose powers only The Freak could harness.
And so with that in mind, we give to The (Former) Freak a live recording of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the Muddy Waters’ classic Got My Mojo Workin’, their angelic voices replacing the carnal allusions of the original version with the higher calling of a lower line-drive rate.
Comedy is a difficult thing, as evidenced by Jay Leno’s nightly mono-bombs and further evidenced by this very space. Not everyone finds the same thing funny, and sometimes, everyone finds the same thing pretty unfunny. (That sound you hear is the deafening silence following yet another punchline.) As for baseball fans, it often seems that the best route to the collective funny bone is the director’s cut of Ruben Rivera Runs the Bases!
Still, despite the inherent challenge in making people laugh, the Texas lefty has proved himself a pretty witty guy, what with his off-the-cuff remarks, his appearances on local weather forecasts and perhaps most visibly, his spot-on imitations of the great Harry Caray, during which he channels the late announcer’s intonations and mannerisms when—just as an example—he really should be paying attention to Game 5 of the World Series.
In that spirit, and while also acknowledging that a pitching career can’t last forever unless you’re Jamie Moyer, we present to Mr. Holland his very own theater in Branson. Granted, the building itself isn’t new. In fact, it’s been occupied since 1992, which is pretty funny because in Soviet Russia, 1992 occupies you! It should also bear mentioning that Yakov Smirnoff’s tragic disappearance is to be considered unrelated.
Be serious. The dude is set.
Be serious. The dude is golden.
Unless you spend your non-baseball time watching Masterpiece Theatre, in which case I probably met you at the monthly mixer, you probably know that the Cleveland catcher and the Brewers pitcher share names with more-established stars.
Even if you don’t know it, they certainly do.
Honestly, it’s got to be hard for Santana to hear fans call out, “Oye como va, mi catcher signed through 2016 with a team option for 2017” each time he comes out for calisthenics. And it’s got to get annoying for Smith to hear, “You’re gettin’ kinda jiggy with it, Will, so maybe you should lay off the Twinkies” every time he takes the mound.
And case in point here, those Fresh Prince jokes are probably getting stale, so stale that one of Smith’s new teammates is refusing to call himself DJ Jazzy Jeff Bianchi, especially since his name is Scooter Gennett.
To those ends, we hereby present to each player a new surname: To Carlos we give the name ’N Charlies, and to Will we give the name And Grace.
It’s obvious that Sale is a phenomenal pitcher, a hard-slinging lefty whose limbs are so loose that pictures of them will surely end up on telephone poles with the words, “Have you seen these appendages? They answer to ‘arms’ and ‘legs.’” Plus, the man is so tall and his motion so jerky that hitting one of his inner-half fastballs must feel like slapping at an RPG launched from the arm of a wacky waving inflatable aim-flailing tube man—and not just any wacky inflatable arm-flailing tube man but one that also possesses a change-up that’s especially effective on right-handed hitters.
It’s also obvious that Sale is a skinny dude, a 6-foot-6, 180-pound collection of sharp angles and ridiculous lengths that might get mistaken for the skeletal remains of Abe Lincoln were it not for all that conveniently located skin, not to mention the fastball and change-up. The man is so thin—
How thin is he?
—so thin that Kate Moss orders the Ipecac Salad whenever she sees him, so thin that stick figures have sued the man twice for copyright infringement, so thin that beanpoles have decided to unionize as part of their defamation claim.
In light of this fact, we hereby give to Sale a Brunch Burger (a bacon cheeseburger topped with a fried egg and served in a split glazed donut) from PNC Park; a Spaghetti Pie Panino (spaghetti and meatballs with mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce inside a freakin’ panini) from Target Field; a Boomstick (a three-pound hot dog smothered in chili, nacho cheese, jalapenos and caramelized onions served in a potato bun) from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington; and, what the heck, a Fried Pretzel Stick from Great American Ball Park. We also give him the latest issue of Utne Reader and the key to a private restroom.
What do you get for the man who has, or at least does, everything? Owner of 73 career wins, 52 career saves and one terrific head of hair, the Angels lefty is also a devoted Taoist, Straight Edger, cook, musician, movie buff, actor, tattoo aficionado, writer, race car driver, racing-team owner and Porsche collector who decided to complete his identity as a well-rounded renaissance dude by proposing marriage to a South American supermodel.
Oh, and in his spare time he dabbles in dandruff control.
Clearly, the man’s got it covered when it comes to owning things and doing things. The one thing he doesn’t own, though, is a World Series win. To put it differently, the one thing he hasn’t done is to win a World Series game.
But since Angels owner and profligate gift-giver Arte Moreno is clearly attempting to buy such a win for Wilson, how ’bout we just get him a card.
If, like me, you took time between childhood no-hitters and five-homer games to read a book once in a while, you might recall the parable of the barefooted king: After stepping on a thorn one day, the hopping-mad monarch ordered that his entire kingdom be carpeted. Obedient, his subjects set out to do exactly that, laying knotted pile carpet (I’m assuming) across the land until one subject said, “Uh, King? Why not just carpet your feet?”
In that spirit, we shift from the idea of giving everyone a set of Christmas earplugs and noise-canceling headphones to the better idea of giving the mouthy reliever a yuletide muzzle and a New Year’s ball gag. And now let us join hands and sing Let There Be Peace on Earth.
A razor, for obvious reasons
A Taser, for the next time he’s attacked outside a bar
A laser, preferably Lasik (see Uggla, Dan, unless of course you are Adam Dunn, in which case you probably can’t see Uggla, Dan. Hence the laser.)
Each Houston Astro
A phaser, for dispatching opponents when the “five tools” just aren’t enough
The ex-Ranger and current free agent was once a very good hitter, posting six seasons of 200-plus hits and leading the AL with a .331 average in 2005. After a hot start to the 2012 season, however, he pretty much became a pepper enthusiast, especially with a runner on first and less than two outs. In fact, in the past two seasons, Young has killed so many rallies with the GIDP that A&E just might profile him on The Secret Life of a Serial Killer.
Sneak preview: Young is a fan of the Lakers, and enjoys billiards and golf.
Father Time gets everybody. He gets some at age 12, right after that five-homer game, and others, like the ironically named Young, at 35, creating a strange disparity in which a man is embraced one year and booted the next.
With that in mind, we present to Young the greatest gift of all: the year 2005. All we ask in return is that he sabotage the pilot episode of the dreadful Grey’s Anatomy and get us in on the ground floor of Facebook.
The KC DH already owns a great nickname, so instead of giving him something he already has—don’t you just hate that?—we’ll give him the return of a certain eight-year vet. Now, the Royals can begin each morning with Country Breakfast and Todd Coffey. While we’re at it, we’ll also give him Coco Crisp, Darryl Strawberry and the second coming of Sweetbread Bailey. And hey, since we’re feeling generous, we’ll also give him the career of Shawn Chacon, just in case he runs out of toast.
Tall and highly decorated—well, he did finish eighth in Cy Young Award voting in 2010—the Cincinnati right-hander is sort of the Sistine Chapel of big-league pitchers. You have to pay to see him, and once you do, you’ll gaze at lots of colorful artwork. Of course, the biggest difference between the Sistine Chapel and Mat Latos, besides the fact that one has the Pope on its side and the other Dusty Baker, is that the chapel artwork is the product of men like Michelangelo while the Latos artwork is the product of a guy who is required by law to wash his hands with antibacterial soap, wear disposable gloves and dispose of his needles in properly marked containers.
Put simply, Latos has a ton of tattoos—multicolored tattoos, cursive tattoos, even a Stewie tattoo. So, what do we get for the man with so many tattoos?
The answer: Tattoos!
First, just for grins, we’ll give him a skin-tone tattoo, followed by a tattoo that closely resembles arm hair and then another that looks like a freckle.
Fact: In comparison to Hunter Pence, a 76-year-old glaucoma patient toting three bags of groceries across an icy parking lot while also searching for her car keys and, oh yeah, talking to her grandson on her cell phone, is a model of grace and coordination. When Pence hits, he looks like the third runner-up at the Lumberjack Games. When he throws, he looks like a poorly trained cricket bowler. And when he runs, he looks like a British schoolgirl. Scratch that. He looks like the secret offspring of a British schoolgirl and Sasquatch.
And so we give to Pence a gift certificate good for 10 free lessons at the Arthur Murray International Dance Studio in Walnut Creek, California.
For safety considerations, we also give him cab fare.
When Gattis arrived on the MLB scene last April, he came equipped with a script-worthy narrative: After rejecting a baseball scholarship out of high school and treating his anxiety disorder with booze and pills, he took a Kerouacian sabbatical from the real world and worked at a ski resort in Colorado and as a janitor in Dallas before following a spiritual advisor to Taos and probably making turquoise jewelry and playing hacky-sack.
Shortly thereafter he heard the theme from Rocky, pounded a bunch of homers for a small university and then muscled his way through the Braves system to become El Oso Blanco and club a home run off Roy Halladay in his second big-league at-bat while his father was being interviewed on TV.
Hollywood, all the way.
And then suddenly everyone got tired of hearing about it, even if dudes on TV insisted on repeating it ad infinitum, milking the tale of The White Bear for all it was worth and then some. And so we give to Gattis a new narrative: Fresh off of striking out The Whammer in a Midwestern wheat field, Gattis dodges a bullet—and by that we mean he avoids Rosie O’Donnell——and proceeds to pump iron, take lots of batting practice and do a whole bunch of fielding drills to become a pretty good first-year catcher.
If you really did attend the Masterpiece Theatre Meet ’N Greet—and weren’t the crudités fabulous?—you’re sufficiently astute to see this one coming, just as you’d foresee a GIDP from Michael Young in a critical situation or a self-serving comment from Ryan Braun in any situation. But just for mental exercise, let’s explore the likelihood that in Spanish, as in English, surnames betray a certain lineal substance, a familial essence, that inspired the surname itself.
As an example, my surname is (obviously) Texan, and it’s true that my family has always pumped shotgun pellets into road signs from pickup trucks.
And so with that in mind, we give to the two relievers a dual gift: a family exchange. Bastardo will spend the holidays with the Familia familia while Familia spends the holidays with Bastardo’s, whomever it may consist of.
Our hope is that it leads to a new understanding and some exciting recipe ideas, because, yeah, they might want to thank us next Christmas.
Our other hope is that Angel Pagan does not crash their Christmas parties.
And as an addendum, I hereby suggest that due to fears of a Malthusian catastrophe, in which population growth outpaces the available food supply, we should refrain from giving the same gift to Charlie Furbush and J.J. Putz.
Since we, all of us, are Rangers fans (right?), we’d love to give the Texas pitcher one more shot at that last Series strike. But since the Second Law of Thermodynamics prohibits time reversal, we look to the future by giving Neftali his own personal Christmas, his Feliz Navidad.
Feliz Navidad, indeed, you readers!
Now, if you have gifts for other players, just leave them in the comments section. I’ll be sure to collect and distribute them accordingly. Trust me.