Ever wish you can participate, but don’t want to spend every spring, summer and fall studying the game to become an expert?
Then follow my guide and learn my 10 simple phrases and you too can talk baseball.
GENERAL BASEBALL CONVERSATION
When you feel the conversation beginning to slip into baseball, you can keep up by knowing two words:
Say any mundane baseball fact and have it preceded by “bottom line” and it sounds like you are a baseball lover who wants to get to the heart of the matter.
“Bottom line, three strikes you’re out.”
“Bottom line, the Yankees play in New York.”
“Bottom line, the ball is round and bats are made of wood.”
Most baseball fans are Pavlovian and will mainly be impressed that you are giving the bottom line.
DEALING WITH TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS
As the conversation digs deeper into analysis of the teams, an unprepared conversationalist could get lost.
With 30 teams and dozens of players on each team, a baseball fan expects you to know each and every one, when in truth, if pressed I don’t even think the manager of the Washington Nationals can name his own starting outfield.
So once again, 2 sentences can get you out of any analysis.
“PITCHING WINS GAMES. CAN’T HAVE ENOUGH PITCHING.”
Shake your head while you say it, and act like you are the first person to make this statement.
It will tell whomever is talking “Look don’t waste my time with analysis, I’ve already figured it out.”
If you are really good, you can throw a “bottom line” at the end. They will be expecting one at the beginning, not at the end.
STATS STATS STATS
Baseball more than any other sport is bogged down with statistics. Some are so convoluted; impossible to calculate and meaningless that they can actually prove Joe DiMaggio was a bad player.
Some baseball fans cling to the stats like a jock version of John Nash, scribbling batting averages and E.R.A.s on their windows and flinging them back at you with Rain Man accuracy.
When the stats start to pile up, you can reroute the conversation with two words:
Two simple words derail the love of stats and makes you sound like you won’t be swayed by their petty numbers. The truth is you don’t know what they are saying, and chances are they don’t either.
“Albert Pujols hit 47 homers this year.”
“But he actually did.”
(Add a snort.) “Pitching wins games… bottom line.”
If the discussion sticks to home runs and the steroid scandals, simply say:
“EVERYONE WAS ON THE JUICE.”
This refers to a baseball conspiracy theory that all the players were on steroids and therefore the games were actually fair because it was cheater versus cheater.
What this does is dismiss any home run discussion because the only thing worse than talking to a conspiracy theorist is a conspiracy theorist who thinks there is a conspiracy BEYOND the conspiracy.
Are you following? Don’t worry, they aren’t either.
Often discussions turn to player’s salaries. You are best to avoid any financial discussion, but if you can’t get out of it, one sentence comes to the rescue:
“CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT BABE RUTH WOULD MAKE TODAY?
This will end any salary conversation because it requires the participants to do math… which baseball fans can only do with statistics, not with money.
So far you are hanging in, but now comes the trickiest and bumpiest stretch on the baseball conversation road:
Baseball fans treat their history with almost a scary reverence. The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown treat a uniform worn by Mookie Wilson with the same white glove care as the shroud of Turin.
To tread into baseball nostalgia is an endeavor as chancy as a religious debate.
If you feel brave enough to fake your way through a nostalgic baseball discussion, perhaps it would be best to tread lightly.
“I WISH THEY WOULD GO BACK TO THEIR OLD UNIFORMS.”
This will buy you some nostalgia time and probably make the other participants go on for about 45 minutes while you nod.
The only way this can backfire is if they are talking about the Yankees, who haven’t changed their uniforms since the 1910s. If you make that mistake, just throw in a few “bottom lines” to get yourself out of it.
If debates about the greatest player in history start to heat up, again it is best to nod. If you are asked about your opinion of a certain player, respond:
“HE PLAYS ON MY TEAM.”
This of course refers to a phantom team that you would own, and for some reason it is an honor for a player to be included. Be sure not to over do this one, however. You could wind up having 15-20 catchers on your team, which is too many to play.
A more advanced conversation would include the phrase
“HE GETS HIS UNIFORM DIRTY.”
This is either a reference to a hard-nosed style of play or a complete and utter lack of hygiene.
But if pressed to name the greatest player of all time, use the final trick.
Invent any sort of down home sounding colorful nickname and add a common last name to it.
If the other participants say “I never heard of him” simply reply:
“HE PLAYED IN THE NEGRO LEAGUES.”
This could end all discussions because nobody wants to look racist and disrespect the Negro Leagues. And because so few people, even die-hard baseball fans, know anything about the Negro Leagues, they will take on faith that “Wheelbarrow” Jones was the greatest player of all time.
Say it with enough confidence and you will get someone to say “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of him.”
Right about now you sound as knowledgeable as Bob Costas and a force to be reckoned with.
Look how it all flows together.
BASEBALL FRIEND: I think the Angels have a shot against the Yankees this year.
YOU: Pitching wins games. Can’t have enough pitching.
BASEBALL FRIEND: But Vlad Guerrero isn’t the home run hitter he used to be.
YOU: Everyone juiced.
BASEBALL FRIEND: He used to be good for 40 at least.
YOU: On paper.
BASEBALL FRIEND: If he could cut down on his strikeouts, he’d win the MVP.
YOU: Bottom line, if they catch the ball, you’re out.
BASEBALL FRIEND: For $15 mil a year, he should cut down on the strikeouts.
YOU: Can you imagine what Babe Ruth would make today?
BASEBALL FRIEND: Babe Ruth? What about Hank Aaron?
YOU: He plays on my team.
BASEBALL FRIEND: Mickey Mantle?
YOU: He gets his uniform dirty.
BASEBALL FRIEND: Willie Mays?
YOU: I wish they went back to the old uniforms.
BASEBALL FRIEND: You think Willie Mays is the greatest ever?
YOU: Nope. It was “Brick Oven” Smith.
BASEBALL FRIEND: Who?
YOU: Played in the Negro Leagues.
BASEBALL FRIEND: Oh….
You see. A complete baseball conversation of which you had no idea what you were saying and your friends don’t know that because they didn’t say anything of value.
And if all else fails, just say
“I FOLLOW FOOTBALL.”