Ah, September. All too often since 1985, this has meant the end of the Royals' season is nigh. Yet, as so many have noted, this particular September has witnessed a streak of truly Royal proportions that has been shamefully neglected by the national media obsessed with irrelevant elections and minor financial hiccups. Nonetheless, the winning streak has encompassed developments that must thrill even the most jaded fans of the Kansas City Royals. To wit:
- Zack Greinke's long-awaited ascension to ace-dom.
- Gil Meche living up to his contract and then some.
- Jose Guillen being the first Royal since Mike Sweeney in 2005 to break the 20 HR mark.
- Alex Gordon's continued development and return from injury.
- Ryan "Shane Spencer" Shealy's totally sustainable September performance.
- The Guillen/Butler race to see who will be the Royals' 2008 GiDP leader.
- Mike Aviles' inspiring run for AL Rookie of the Year in the face of longstanding pro-Tampa Bay media bias.
- Kila Ka'aihue's call-up and first homer.
- Brian Bannister going a whole game without surrendering a home run.
- Jose Guillen's late-season, Dayton Moore-vindicating surge to get above replacement level.
Huh, that was longer than I expected.
It was really hard.
Are you surprised I didn't mention Mitch Maier's facial?
I hope I've left you satisfied and smiling.
It's always best to go for the big finish.
Yes, it's probably time for me to retire from (blank) (blank) (blank) (blank)ing, having killed the joke in its ironic (and increasingly non-ironic) form for myself. The mantle has been passed to others. Or something. I'll try to let it go with the conclusion of the Royals' 2008 season and move on to new pursuits, like watching more TV!
That's right, it's premiere season! And tonight is the first episode of Season Five of The Office. I'm not sure why the entire baseball blogdom (including this blog) is so into the show. Maybe it's just a reflection of the show's popularity in general. Maybe it is because one of The Office's (now former) writers is a pretty hilarious and influential baseball blogger himself. Maybe it's because Pam Beesley represents that seemingly-attainable-but-with-a-jerk pretty girl from high school whom so many bloggers in their basement failed to hook up with because so many of us were so nerdy and emo back then, and somehow still feel the need as nominal adults to vindicate our pathetic adolescent selves.*
*This would certainly explain the increasing preference for Toby over Jim.
But enough of the dime-store psychoanalysis. For the next few months, many of us are going to be spending more time pondering the crazy shenanigans Michael, Dwight, and the rest of the Dunder-Mifflin Scranton branch. But will this mean forgetting this awesome Royals season, with all its fascinating storylines and subplots? You wouldn't think so, but, heck, people have already forgotten the greatest series of seasons in baseball history, so I suppose it's even possible they'll forget the season in which Tony Pena, Jr. pitched a scoreless inning of relief and Trey Hillman dazzled the Midwest with the Eastern-derived managerial insight that led to over 400 Ross Gload plate appearances.
What can we do to remember this team of wacky rapscallions as the weeks and months between now and Spring Training pass us by? How about a combination of pop-culture pseudo-hipness combined with (yet) another staple of internet writing hackdom? The "matching up pop culture characters with sports characters" model is in effect. Let's match the 2008 Royals up to their respective Office-alikes. That's right, we're just getting started, so read on.
And if you think this is long, wait until you see the whole thing.
(or he said)
I've spent an embarrassing amount of time thinking about this. You'd think it would be better. But it is what it is.
Believe it or not, this was harder than it looks (...). I started out by trying to make the analogy/likeness/whatever consistent from player to player. This would then reflect how the players interact with each other in relation to how the show's characters do. Other resemblances would deal with each player individually, physical resemblance, how the audience sees them, etc. I finally decided it was too difficult and not worth it. What I'm trying to say is not to read too much into it -- particularly the relationships between characters when not explicitly mentioned. I just went player by player and did the best I could. Some take a little explanation and imagination. Others are what one might call a "no-brainer." If one is a dork.
I also finally decided that I couldn't use every player and character. Some just don't fit. So I'm sorry if anyone's offended I didn't find a way to work in Jeff Fulchino and the the woman who worked/works in the warehouse.
Woman who worked in the warehouse for an episode or two: Jeff Fulchino
Jim Halpert: Alex Gordon. One can make the argument on the basis of their respective position/expectation in their place of work, i.e., the "Golden Boy" status. Regular readers of this blog might see a parallel in certain writers' increasing disillusionment with both as both achieve success. One also note that both are seen as not caring about their jobs because of their body language/facial expressions, when, in fact, they outperform most of their interoffice peers. But really, the visual evidence speaks for itself.
Kevin: Billy Butler.
Creed: Ross Gload
Meredith: Alberto Callaspo
Katy: Remember her? Jim's insanely hot girlfriend from a couple of episodes in the first two seasons? The one whom Pam not-so-subtley mocked during her "cruelly leading Jim on then leaving him twisting in the wind" phase? This person?
This is another no-brainer. Who else seemingly played such a small part in our lives, and left us too soon? You guessed it:
Julia Schultz (Tomko)! Believe it or not, this is pretty much the "safest" picture I could find of her that would fit on the page and successfully load.
Andy Bernard: John Bale.
Devon: Who? Remember that guy who got fired when Creed talked Michael into firing Devon rather than himself? He was always there, never appreciated properly, and then he was gone, although he won't really be missed. That sounds like a pretty good description of Mark Grudzielanek's Royals tenure.
Karen: Mike Aviles. It was great while she was around, and her character really added a lot to the show. But any more of a significant role would have taken the shine off of the whole thing really quickly. I enjoyed it while it lasted, though.
Phyllis: Gil Meche. Unappreciated. A bit older.
Ryan: Emil Brown. Seemingly a regular guy, but turns out to be a bit of an arrogant jerk. Mysteriously promoted to a different office by an otherwise seemingly competent executive. And if this shoe fits...
Kelly: Zack Greinke
The Original British Version:** Kansas City Athletics. The Athletics have an important role in Kansas City baseball history. There are good reasons to like them. But there's definitely the distinct feeling from at least some KC Athletics fans that they mainly reference the KC A's or even claim to prefer them in order to look cool and smart, not for any objective reasons.
** For the record, I loved the original, too. I don't want to debate which show is better. Both have their merits and flaws. Having said that, I simply want to address the complaint about the relative "overattractiveness" of the U.S. actors, which is usually lodged in the form of "the British actors look more like real people." I think we all realize that there is a difference between "TV ugly" and "ugly ugly." Fair enough. And let me say that, although I am not of English descent, as an American and a world citizen I want to make sure everyone knows that I appreciate the British contributions to the world: constitutional government, individual rights, cornerstones of modern science and mathematics, Shakespeare, Byron, Jeff Beck, Benny Hill, The Young Ones... The list goes on and on. Now that that is out of the way, I want to ask all those making the "too good looking" complaint about the U.S. Office compared to the British version: Have you seen "average" British people? Good lord! If anything, the "hotness gap" between the British average and the actors on the show is greater than the U.S. show. I understand your need to show how deep and unsuperficial you are, complainers, but find a real cause... I suppose I should prepare to be drawn and quartered now.
Daryyl: John Buck.
Oscar: Mark Teahen. Hmmm, is that a good choice or not? Mark?
Pam: David Dejesus. Not an All-Star, but definitely underrated and underappreciated. Although this may be turning into overrated in some cases...
Todd Packer: Tony Muser
Michael Scott: It's a no-brainer: Trey Hillman. That means...
Stanley: Miguel Olivo
Toby: Jimmy Gobble
Jan Levenson: Ooh, that's a toughie. Let's see. Love-hate relationship with Michael, moody, appears good at her job until you look a little more closely. Somehow is appointed to leadership positions despite the company seemingly failing under her watch. Uses artificial enhancement to attract suitors. The craziness is funny when viewed obliquely or from a distance, but becomes horrifying when viewed in the raw. Which member of the 2008 Royals does that sound like?
David Wallace: Dayton Moore. Wallace seems like a nice guy who knows what he's doing. But don't you have to wonder about someone who allows Michael Scott and Jan Levenson to have such prominent places in the company?
Alright... There's the cast. I don't care if you don't like it, I did this for fun. Well, I did it for attention, too. That's just how pathetic I am. But I think there is a lot of enjoyment to be had from constructing skits -- I don't think they're that far off, either. Can't believe I couldn't pick a Dwight.
[Scene: Mike Aviles has just been called up from Omaha, and walks into the KC clubhouse for the first time. He runs into Trey Hillman.]
Aviles: Hi, I'm Mike Aviles.
Trey: Hey, good to meet you, Mike! It's nice to have an extra body around here. I'm not sure you'll get to play much, but I'll do what I can to make you comfortable before you go back to Omaha next week. You know any of the guys here?
Aviles: Yeah, a few. I know Billy Butler, of course. Joel Peralta, Jimmy Gobble...
Hillman [interrupting]: Stay away from Jimmy Gobble. Jimmy Gobble is everything wrong with major league pitching today.
Aviles [confused]: Um, OK...
Hillman: Yeah, this is going to be a great week for you to watch some real big leaguers up close, Mike... say, I'm looking at you, huh... was one of your parents a migrant worker or something?
[awkward pause, scene]
[Scene: Random post-game press conference]
Hillman:... so to answer your question, Joe, that is why we're going to try Zack in the bullpen the next few games. Shake things up.
Reporter: Trey, can you explain why you pinch hit Jose Guillen for Alex Gordon against a right-handed pitcher? Doesn't Alex hit righties better than anyone on the team?
Hillman: Yeah, well, you guys have to understand, I look at statistics all the time. BA with RISP my friend, BA with RISP...
Hillman [talking to camera as an aside in his office]: BA with RISP? Batting average with runners in scoring position. I used to use plain ol' batting average, but that was just lame.
[Scene: Trey Hillman is introducing Mike Aviles to other players. They run into John Buck and Alex Gordon.]
Hillman: I'm pretty sure you know who Alex Gordon is, Mike, but this here, this, is our main catcher [Miguel Olivo rolls his eyes in the background], beep beep, beeep?
Aviles: What? I thought this was John Buck?
Buck [patiently]: No, um... John Buck... Buck Rodgers... That litte robot, "Tweekie," the robot on Star Wars... R2-D2...
[Scene: In the bullpen, Zack Greinke and Jimmy Gobble are sitting next to each other]
Zack: ...and Emil and I would hang out all night there, until they threw us out, which I would have texted him about, but he got a new cell phone, and he won't give me the number, but anyway we would sit in there, and it's awesome, because you can get burritos or tacos or nachos, and you can get green salsa or red salsa or pico de gallo and guacamole or choose pork or beef or chicken or even vegetarian
Gobble [later insert, speaking to camera]: I don't know what the hell Trey was thinking moving Zack to the 'pen, but if he's trying to punish me... genius.
[back to bullpen]
Zack: ... and so I beat him again in MLB 2k6, and he was totally like joking and saying how he was sick of being the Royals, but I didn't care, and then he got mad and started making fun of my idea of naming my first two kids "Brad" and "Jennifer" but that's totally amazing and I got mad and said Emil I'm not going to take you to Chipolte anymore.
[Billy Butler walks up]
Gobble [looking alarmed, but also relieved]: Billy, what are you doing here?
Billy: Trey said he would call me if he needed me, but didn't tell me how to use the --- HEY... this is awesome. You guy have your own TV, your own phone, and your bathroom is immaculate. Our stinks somethin' horrible. Well, that's not surprising. I think Trey spends every minute in there when we're at bat and Hosey isn't at-bat, on deck, or on the bases. Weird. Anyway, I think I'm going to stay here for a while. Maybe I'll do this every game I'm not playing! I could have been here every game last week!
Gobble: I think we hang out an appropriate amount of time.
Please, add your ideas in the comments section! I might do more, later. And, please, don't take this too seriously.
[The idea originated in a game thread sometime earlier this season. I'm sure I took ideas from others, so thanks for anyone who gave me an idea I used or was inspired by or whatever.]