You can’t get away from Christmas music this time of year. Might as well embrace it, if only for purposes of this particular post! (In fact, I’m quite a fan of Christmas music, or much of it. But you don’t have to be to read and, I hope, enjoy this post.)
Relatively little Christmas music is story-driven, and to the extent anything does happen it tends to be the same generic, low-detail stuff over and over — Santa bringing toys to the children, family get-togethers, snuggling by the fire, and so on. So in order to find characters worth comparing any of baseball’s characters to, we have to dig pretty deep, and find some songs (three of the four, anyway) you might not be overly familiar with. There’s a link to a version of each song in the heading.
Ned Colletti is Jack Skellington, from Jack’s Obsession.
Christmas time is buzzing in my skull
Will it let me be? I cannot tell
There are so many things I cannot grasp
When I think I’ve got it, and then at last
Through my bony fingers it does slip
Like a snowflake in a fiery grip
Something’s here I’m not quite getting
Though I try, I keep forgetting
Like a memory long since past
Here in an instant, gone in a flash
What does it mean?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN???!
Jack Skellington is the hero of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town — basically, the much less famous Santa Claus or Easter Bunny of Halloween. In the movie, Jack discovers Christmas Town and is fascinated, and becomes determined to give Santa a break and take Christmas over himself this year. It’s not really in him to do it “right,” though, and Jack’s Christmas, crafted with the best of intentions, is grotesque and macabre — skeletal reindeer pulling a coffin-like sleigh and delivering bizarre, terrifying presents. His heart’s in the right place, but he just doesn’t get it.
I made fun of Colletti and the Dodgers for the same reason last week, but it just never gets old (to me), and is too perfect a fit here. In early November, Tom Verducci wrote a piece called “Dodgers ready to play Moneyball,” noting that Ned Colletti had hired Alex Tamon and his law degree to serve as “Director of Contracts, Baseball Research and Operations.”
“We’re becoming more numerically oriented,” Colletti said. “We’ve always kept it as part of the mix, but there’s so much more information now and its value is proven. It’s not just theory any more. It’s more of a foundation, along with scouting, as part of evaluation. For me it’s 50-50.
And, well. If in fact Colletti has been making a serious effort to become “more numerically oriented” and apply the principals of Moneyball and/or sabermetrics then he, like Jack, is going about it completely wrong. All he’s done this offseason is sign or re-sign utterly mediocre, eminently replaceable veterans to multi-year deals. Colletti is to Dodgers fans as Jack was to the Christmas-loving citizens: a really, really poor substitute for Santa Claus.
George Sherrill is Dominick the Donkey.
Santa’s got a little friend, his name is Dominick.
The cutest little donkey, you never see him kick.
When Santa visits his Paesans with Dominick he’ll be,
Because the reindeer cannot climb the hills of Italy.
Oh, ching-a de ching (hee-haw, hee-haw) it’s Dominick the Donkey…
As the lyrics above indicate, in Italy, according to at least one tradition, the hills are too difficult for Santa’s reindeer to navigate, so Santa depends on the rugged and dependable Dominick the Donkey to get his job done. His role is a highly limited one — in how many situations, really, could a little donkey be as useful as eight big, strong reindeer who can fly? – but in Italy, at least according to one almost unbearably terrible song, he comes in very handy.
George Sherrill, who the Mariners reportedly brought back on a one-year deal on Sunday, is a lot like Dominick. He’s thrown less than an inning per appearance for his career, and owns a nice but far from overwhelming 3.68 ERA (117 ERA+). He’s extremely useful for exactly one purpose: getting lefties out. If lefties were all Sherrill ever faced, his numbers would be astounding. For his career, lefties have hit .180/.241/.275 off him; unfortunately, just over half of the plate appearances against him have been taken by righties, who have OPSed nearly .800 off of him. But just like Dominick the Donkey might be nice for Santa to have in the hills of Italy and for no other imaginable purpose, Sherrill’s great to have around for the sole purpose of getting a lefty out here and there.
Hanley Ramirez is Twinkle Toes.
Rudolph and Vixen had a son last New Year’s Eve
And when ol’ Santa looked at him, he hardly could believe
For in his tiny little hoof he had a lively glow
So Santa laughed and said, “let’s call him little Twinkle Toes.
Twinkle Toes, oh Twinkle Toes,
Twinkle, Twinkle, Twinkle Toes,
Santa’s proud of Rudolph’s nose,
But he gets more light from Twinkle Toes.
Bet’cha didn’t know Rudolph had a son, did you? And having gone down in history and all that, you’d think he could do better than someone named “Vixen.” But at any rate. This long-forgotten sort-of sequel to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, recorded first (and very possibly only) by someone named Dino Perrone sometime in the 1950s, is objectively probably not any sillier than Rudolph itself. When you think about it, does unexplained light emanating from a reindeer’s nose make any more sense than the same light (but more of it, apparently) coming from his feet? Anyway, maybe just because it’s been forgotten, where Rudolph has just kind of become an excepted part of our North American December lives, Twinkle Toes sounds awfully stupid.
I think the main thing is that the canon, such as it is, of the mostly-secular Christmas story has no need at all for Twinkle Toes. Rudolph’s nose was already bright enough to shine through the worst stor Christmas has ever known; even if this weird unexplained thing his son has in his hoof is somehow brighter, how could that be necessary or even interesting? He’s totally superfluous.
Jose Reyes came along later, which I suppose you might say would make him Twinkle Toes, but there’s no more debate over who the Marlins’ 2012 shortstop is than there is over who the better or more famous reindeer is; Hanley is the displaced one right now. He’s reportedly still “hesitant” about the whole third base thing; if he refuses or doesn’t take to the position, he’s a trade chip they can’t really hope to get fair value for. He’s just a guy taking up space, kind of like what Rudolph makes Twinkle Toes.
Mark Prior is Frosty the Snowman.
Frosty the Snowman was a fairy tale they say;
He was made of snow but the children know
How he came to life that day.
Frosty the Snowman had to hurry on his way
So he waved goodbye, sayin’ “don’t you cry,
I’ll be back again someday.”
Prior’s thrilling MLB debut — he had a 2.74 ERA and nearly 400 strikeouts in his first 328 innings — was so long ago now, and so brief, that it feels like a fairy tale. It’s kind of hard to believe it ever happened. It was a very short, magical run, like Frosty, and ever since — or since he threw his last big-league pitch in 2006, anyway — he’s been determined to be back again sgomeday.
Unbelievably, Prior turned 31 about three months ago. Not having pitched at all from 2007 through 2009, he threw twelve minor league innings each in 2010 and 2011. He’s shown a lot of the same electric stuff when he’s been healthy enough to pitch, including fifteen strikeouts in those twelve innings in ’11. He just can’t seem to stay off the surgeon’s table, though. You have to hand it to Prior; for all the setbacks and all the strikes against him, he seems as determined as everywhere to carve out a big-league career for himself. But at this point, that seems about as likely as a magic hat bringing a snowman to life.