Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Snake Jazz and Snakeskin Refractors

A PWE arrived at my house a little over a week ago, and I just didn't feel like writing last week. Tonight, though, I'm in the mood for a post. So, it's time to celebrate the great cards that Brian from Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary packaged up and sent my way. In the spirit of Snake Jazz, this post is going to be heavy on jazz and perhaps a bit light on writing.

Let's start with Mr. Snake Jazz himself, Dave Baldwin. This card is one that Baldwin gives out to those who write to him, I believe, and it's my first autograph from him. Baldwin says that the term "snake jazz" refers to offspeed pitches generally -- that it means "curvy pitches." Obviously that line never made Ball Four, but I'll take Baldwin's word for it since he played the game in the majors and I never played beyond high school.

The song "Take the A Train" was in the news recently thanks to Jeopardy! phenom James Holzhauer. It was the Final Jeopardy question with the following "Jazz Classics" clue: "In one account, this song began as directions written out for composer Billy Strayhorn to Duke Ellington's home in Harlem."

It's a jazz standard -- one nearly every student jazz musician should play before they leave high school. I played it in high school too (I was a sax player until I graduated college).

Next up are four yellow parallels from this year's flagship effort from Topps. I don't understand why "Milwaukee" gets the big letter effect on the team card whereas "Anderson" and "Hader" do on the individual player cards. Shouldn't "Brewers" be the big name? 

I think I'd like the cards better if Topps did, in fact, swap the last name for the first name. The way it is written now is just silly and looks wrong.

I never understood "Green Onions" as a young saxophone player. That may be because it really didn't have much for me to do unless I was the one soloing. At its core, this song is just a great excuse for a jazz combo to jam and trade solos with one another. You have the walking bass line setting the chords and the rhythm, the drummer keeping time on the snare and bass drum with some flourishes on the toms and cymbals, and otherwise it's just the guitarist and organ trading solos back and forth. That's it.

Don't get me wrong -- with great soloists, it's worth every second -- but it's not groundbreaking or anything. 

Next up are two guys that the Brewers traded away. Gomez helped rebuild the farm system with Domingo Santana, Josh Hader, Brett Phillips, and Adrian Houser while Villar was flipped for Jonathan Schoop last year. 

Gomez has bounced around since that time, hitting Houston, Texas, Tampa Bay, and now back to the Mets where he started his career. The way he is playing this year, there may not be a next year for the almost 34-year-old. 

Villar is doing fine in Baltimore -- 7 HR, 9 SB -- and is about a league average hitter with a .736 OPS. He still goes up there hacking, though, walking just 16 times in 238 plate appearances.

According to Wikipedia, scrapple is a "Pennsylvania Dutch" (er, that's German, folks) dish of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and wheat flour (often buckwheat) and other spices. Perhaps a song about "Scrapple from the Apple" is an appropriate accompaniment for the pork scraps and cornmeal that are Gomez and Villar.

You can identify whichever of them you want as the cornmeal and which one is the pork scraps. 

The next two cards are variations (I think) from Panini's attempts at continuing to issue baseball cards. If you're Panini and in light of MLB extending Topps's exclusive license, how long do you keep trying? I suppose they must be making money or they'd stop issuing cards, right? 

Brewers fans are asking similar questions of Jesus Aguilar right now. His hitting has been so bad that his bWAR is -0.7 and his OPS+ is just 60 -- way below average for the league, not just first basemen. Frankly, his struggles are not new. After the All-Star game last year, he slashed at just .245/.324/.436 -- an OPS of .760. But, his .604 OPS so far this year has continued the decline. His lack of offense has led the team to go back to Eric Thames for a jump start. 

On the other hand, there's Christian Yelich. Yelich has sort of struggled in May himself -- at least in comparison to his ridiculous March/April. In March/April, he hit 13 HR and slashed .353/.460/.804 (1.264 OPS). In May, he's only hit 7 HR and slashed .275/.393/.623 (a 1.016 OPS). Perhaps the real problem here is only that Yelich simply has not had as many guys on base in front of him in May -- only 10 RBI as compared to 34 at the start of the month (that's comparing 29 games in March/April to 19 in May).

"Stardust" is a jazz standard. It's one I have never played. It's sort of a mid-tempo song that is fine but it doesn't stand out to modern ears. At least mine, that is.

Purple Ryan Braun refractor, anyone? Damn the colored refractors in 2017 appeared to be some sort of futuristic nightmare. 

After "Stardust," I felt like a great Louis Armstrong version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" should help redeem things. 

Does everyone still associate this song with the Harlem Globetrotters? I remember as a kid that it was always a special day on "Wide World of Sports" when the Globetrotters were on. They made the kind of jokes that a kid could appreciate. My older self would probably be bored seeing the same jokes get rolled out but man, when I was 8, they were awesome.

To close out the blog post today, I have the bookend to Snake Jazz -- a Snake Skin refractor! Sort of.

Brandon Woodruff has been excellent this year for the Brewers. I was hoping he would be, and he has not disappointed -- unlike his fellow youngsters Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta, both of whom combined to destroy my fantasy baseball team's ERA and WHIP in April to the point where I had to cut them so I could stop slotting them in hoping for a rebound. Just terrible. 

Pitching in April was the Brewers big concern, but the offense outside of Yelich, Mike Moustakas, and Yasmani Grandal has really been limping along in May. That's why Keston Hiura got the call from the minors -- to try to kick start something. 

To close out on a high note, I have to go to saxophone maestro John Coltrane. Coltrane and Charlie Parker were the guys I wished I could sound like when I was a high schooler. 

Of course, that was akin to me saying that I totally wished I could pitch like Bret Saberhagen or Dwight Gooden in 1987. While it was a nice daydream, there's no way in hell it was really going to happen.

So, I watched those two pitch and listened to Coltrane and Bird. After all, if you can't be the best, you should watch/listen to the best to appreciate them while you can.

Brian, thanks for being one of the best -- and for the cards. 


  1. Just flat out terrific music here, Tony. We saw Steve Cropper a few months ago. He's still going strong and had some great stories as well.

    Never seen Dave Baldwin's sig before. it's really unique.

  2. Yes, when I think of “Sweet Georgia Brown” I think of the Harlem Globetrotters. Unless it’s in Polish, in which case I think of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. https://mobile.twitter.com/danceronfilm/status/1012458304222695425?lang=en

  3. Great music involved with this post. Outstanding

  4. I am glad the Twins and Brewers split these last two games, both games were close and had late game excitement, can't ask for more than that! Thanks for the great post!

  5. Only 7 home runs in May? Lol. Been listening to a lot of SF Giants baseball on the radio and they're always complaining about lack of power. Their two home run leaders for 2019 are Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval... who each have 7 home runs. Yelich has 7 more home runs on the season than these two guys combined.