Performing groups made up entirely of people in the same family — particularly brothers and sisters — are wonderful, fascinating, terrible things. They almost invariably start insanely early in at least one of the siblings’ lives, and are driven by super-type-A, greedy, exploitative parents, and then twenty years later you find out (unsurprisingly) that the family was terribly dysfunctional and the kids were miserable and now are probably dead or in treatment.
So, naturally, those groups are just like baseball’s six divisions. Or three of them are, anyway:
The NL East is like the Jackson 5.
The group of five brothers, formed when the youngest (Michael) was just six, was plenty big and successful, but their careers as solo artists were about as different as you can imagine. (You’ve also got Janet and LaToya in the family, of course, but they were never part of the band — they’re more like the Patriots and Knicks, respectively.)
There’s Michael (the Phillies), of course. The self-styled King of Pop and all that, at his peak (and for many years afterward) probably the most well known and widely recognized person in the world. It’s hard to have a childhood like Michael’s without going a little bit crazy, and there were certainly some warning signs of trouble down the road (with Michael it was building a ranch called “Neverland” and child harrassment suits; with the Phillies, age, injuries and Ryan Howard’s contract and mediocrity), but he was the best at what he did, and the Phillies, for now, are likely the best team in baseball.
Then you’ve got Marlon (the Braves), the second youngest. It’s a long drop from Michael to anybody else, but Marlon came the closest to working out a real career for himself, helping to produce Janet’s early albums and coming up with a solo hit of his own, “Don’t Go,” in 1987. He’s had a number of other business and musical ventures, with varying levels of success (usually fairly little). He’s still at it, and you can find him on Twitter. He’s certainly no Michael, but you could do a whole lot worse in life than being Marlon Jackson. Similarly, the Braves are no Phillies — hampered as they are by a manager who continues to sit his 21 year old most talented player in favor of guys like Eric Hinske, Nate McLouth and something called Jose Costanza — but have carved out a nice little season for themselves, and somehow sit with the second best record in all of the National League.
Tito and Jackie would be the Nats and Marlins. They’ve got their own little lives and businesses, never really had their own solo careers or anything. They’re not even the ones who were always trying to get the family back together for a big reunion concert (that was Marlon, mostly) — they seem totally content with their quiet, mediocre lives. The Nationals and Marlins are a bit more complicated than that, and the Nationals, at least, could suddenly get very, very good in a year or two. But I’ve spent about as much time thinking about them this year as I have about Tito and Jackie.
And then you’ve got Jermaine, the Jackson 5′s co-lead singer and second banana, de facto leader of the band as the big brother to Michael. Jermaine had all the advantages, but while he had moments of success as a solo performer, he could never really seem to get it all together on his own. He’s been through four marriages or pseudo-marriages and had children with at least three different women, has appeared on reality TV (Big Brother UK), and always seems to be the first one on camera when the Jacksons are in the news, which always comes off as kind of desperate and sad. That’s pretty much the Mets — with a huge market and almost brand-new stadium, they’re in easily the best position to succeed, if they could ever get out of their own way.
The NL Central is like The Osmonds.
Olive and George Osmond did their best to fully exploit all nine of their children — even George Jr. and Tom, who were born deaf, occasionally made appearances in the family’s Christmas variety specials — but only two, Donny and Marie, are really remembered by anybody today. And they weren’t that good. So that’s the Brewers and Cardinals for you. The Pirates had their moments this season, as did Jimmy Osmond once upon a time, but it’s really a two-pretty-mediocre-team show. Just like the Osmonds.
Incidentally, the Osmonds’ Wikipedia page is easily the most heavily slanted and obviously-written-by-the-subject-itself-or-its-biggest-fan that I’ve ever seen. Pretty hilarious.
The AL Central is like Hanson.
It’s 1997, and “MMMBop” is inescapable. There’s that one kid who’s just way too young to be in a band and really hasn’t come close to hitting his stride yet, and those other guys (only two, but we might as well pretend there are four) are just kind of greasy adolescents who probably don’t have any more real growing to do. And the combined result is almost offensively bland.
The Royals, with their awesome farm system, are like that cute little kid, while all the other teams in the division are like those other two guys. And the combined result is almost offensively bland.