If you haven’t noticed, I seem to have gotten onto a “cult favorites” kick lately. So here’s another! I’m actually not a huge fan of The Princess Bride — I like it, but don’t love it, if that’s even possible with an institution like TPBis — but my wife is, so I’ve seen quite a lot of it. And I get why people like it; fantasy comedy is a pretty underutilized genre, and there’s some really funny stuff in that film.So here’s how some things in baseball are like some things in it:


Clint Barmes is Princess Buttercup.

Buttercup (played by Robin Wright) is sort of the traditional damsel in distress. She’s kind of the key to the whole story; the evil Prince Humperdinck wants to marry and then kill her, so he hires three dunces to fake-kidnap her, but then the Dread Pirate Roberts — actually her long-lost love, Westley — for-reals kidnaps her from the fake kidnappers, and the prince has to try to steal her back. And so on. Frankly, it’s a bit hard to understand why she’s so sought-after; Humperdinck chose her because she was a good-looking commoner he thought would gain the people’s love. And she’s attractive enough, but kind of milquetoast. She’s passionate about Westley, I suppose, but even her passion comes off as kind of bland, to me. Maybe that’s why I never identified all that much with this movie — Buttercup is the one thing everyone’s after, but it’s a bit hard to fully understand why.

Kind of like Clint Barmes. In the last week, the most-recently-Astros shortstop seemed to become one of baseball’s hottest commodities, drawing interest from several different teams. And he’s got the advantages of (a) very solid defense, and (b) not having the name recognition and thus likely price tag of a Jimmy Rollins. But that’s about it; he could be a nice little bargain if you could get him without the bidding war, but he’s not a huge difference-maker. Bland. Milquetoast. Buttercup-like. And, in the end? At least reportedly, the Pirates win the battle. How perfect is that?

Bobby Valentine is Miracle Max.

Billy Crystal plays Miracle Max. He’s only in it for a scene, but it’s a particularly memorable one (ending with the “have fun storming the castle!” line you’ve heard even if you’ve never seen the film). Max is a former professional miracle worker, but he’s been out of the business ever since Humperdinck fired him, years earlier. When Inigo and Fezzik bring the apparently dead Westley to him hoping for a resurrection, he tries everything he can to resist. Finally, reluctantly, and with the  motivation of the opportunity to embarrass Humperdinck (against whom he still holds a grudge), Max agrees to help, working the necessary miracle and saving the day for our hero.

Bobby Valentine has been out of big league baseball for nine years, having been fired by Steve Philips after the 2002 season. Valentine has had two managerial gigs now, in both of which he was largely successful and very well-regarded, and after both, departed for an extended tour of duty as a manager in Japanese baseball. Now, reportedly, he’ll interview with the Red Sox today, where the Sox will try to determine whether Valentine can be the miracle man they need to turn around a team on the brink (or so the local media would have you believe).

And I’m not here to tell you that Valentine definitely is primarily motivated by a desire to humiliate the man who fired him, as Miracle Max was. But: he did take an analyst job with ESPN quite shortly after Philips was fired from what was essentially the same job. And if he becomes the manager of and has success with one of the most talented and highest-profile teams in the game, while Philips is hammering out a career in satellite radio? I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

Dan Shaughnessy is Vizzini.

Wallace Shawn’s Vizzini is great because he’s basically the most inept movie villain in history. A short, balding Sicilian who gets by (to the extent he does at all) only because his hired muscle, Inigo and Fezzig, are much better than he is, Vizzini has a wildly exaggerated opinion of himself and, especially, his intellect. It’s his overconfidence and overthinking that ultimately costs him his life in a game of wits with Westley.

Dan Shaughnessy’s basically the most inept baseball writer active today, for one thing. For another, he seems to have a crazily inflated opinion of himself and his analytical faculties. Like yesterday, he came out with this steaming pile of garbage in which he blatantly attacks essentially every move by a team that is smart and extremely well-situated to roll through the 2012 season and immediately make him look like an idiot (again). He’s in a profession where there are essentially no consequences to repeatedly shoving his own foot in his mouth — where it’s kind of a benefit, actually, and the essence of what’s been keeping Shaughnessy employed all these years — and nobody’s going to trick him into drinking poison, as far as I know. But he’s every bit as clueless and deluded as Vizzini is.

There are enough big, broad, interesting characters in TPB that I (or someone) could probably do three or four more of these, but that’s it for now. Sorry for the abrupt ending, but share your own metaphor ideas, or just your favorite quotes below (mine: “It’s possible, Pig, I might be bluffing. It’s conceivable, you miserable, vomitous mass, that I’m only lying here because I lack the strength to stand”).

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Comments (12)

  1. Lol, great movie – and I can just picture Dan Shaughnessy screaming, “INCONCEIVABLE!” when the Red Sox don’t hire Bobby Valentine today…

    “You keep using that word… I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  2. The original book, by William Goldman, is way better than the movie. Partly for the very reason that Buttercup is as beautiful in your mind as she’s described, so there’s no disconnect. Also, Goldman’s asides throughout the book are hilarious.

    • Are you suggesting that Robin Wright has a weird jaw line, because that’s how I’m choosing to read this comment.

    • The “original” book is by S. Morgenstern. What you are talking about, and what the movie is based on is an abridged version of that book the Goldman calls a “good parts version” .

  3. Alex Anthopoulos is the grandpa (you know, inspector Columbo, Peter Falk). Knows where the story is ultimately going to go, doesn’t want to give away the ending, and patiently waits while his grandson (Fred Savage) tries to force the issue, and always wants Grandpa to skip to exciting points.

    Thus, Peter Angelos is Fred Savage.

    Tony La Russa is Wesley. A lot of hype around what he can do to save the day when really without his band of helpers including Albert Pujols (who is Fezzik the Giant) he wouldn’t be able to do much. His mistake getting trapped in the fire swamp lead to him losing his prize, much like the time TLR [insert example of over-managing by La Russa through too many pitching changes, sac bunts or hit and runs involving Albert Pujols]. In the end, regardless of whether he deserved it, Wesley rides off into the sunset victorious with all the glory that comes with it.

  4. Best “Metaphor” piece yet. Well done!

  5. Agree with IMW. Loved it.

  6. Jeffrey Loria is Count Tyrone Rugen, the six fingered man. He killed Inigo Montoya’s father (Expos) and scarred Inigo (Expos fans).

  7. Is Bud the albino in the torture chamber?

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