Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Damning with Faint Praise

I talk a lot about players I like (or love) yet I would be hard pressed to define what it is I like about them. Sometimes a player's uniqueness catches my eye, sometimes their greatness. Sometimes it's about personality, other times it is just their goofy name. Brandon League doesn't really fit it into any of these categories. Watching him last night, I sort of got it: he's completely unpredictable.

Unpredictability isn't something I inherently enjoy; Scott Rolen and Roy Halladay are certainly predictable. Predictably awesome and predictably resolute in their pursuit of next-level achievement, traits that certainly have their place. Brandon League isn't unpredictable in a boring way either. Shawn Camp or even The Sausage King give you that feeling in your stomach, that "Jesus Christ just don't fuck it up" unpredictability born out of their bland crappiness and/or serviceability. Brandon League doesn't have that.

I've probably linked to Professor Hale's post on Brandon League's wacky sinker a half-dozen times, mostly because it continually blows my mind. I'll let the man himself explain:
Brandon League has a pitch that nobody else in the majors throws, that I would venture to say nobody has ever thrown- a 97 mph sinker. It boggles the mind...but hear this: League is not just a promising youngish power arm. He’s a total freak who could be a one-of-a kind pitcher.

Amazing. That is why I like Brandon League. Every time he takes the hill, I know I'm seeing something unique. Something weird and wonderful. That originality combines with, you know, the actual baseball game he's competing in to tease me in incredible ways.

Every Blue Jays fan asks the same question when the bullpen doors open:

Which Brandon League will show up tonight?

Will he be unhittable? Will he have any clue where the ball is going? I alternate between expecting him to be untouchable and just hoping he will, always knowing that a misplaced slider or inevitable bout of wildness is waiting to derail the outing. What about a poorly timed hit by pitch! League's always good for one of them a month. It's all great. The possibility that Brandon League will come out, blow away three consecutive hitters in a completely unfair way will have me cutting him slack long after Cito grows tired of dangling League on a leverage yo-yo.

I'd like to say "baseball needs more guys like Brandon League" here, but it just won't happen. Oppressive coaching, the quest for return on investment, and normal human musculature prevent too many guys like League from making their way down the pipeline. Having a wildcard in the mix, someone I'll remember long after he's moved on has value beyond a win or loss in late June.


  1. Brandon League is a frustration wrapped in some sweet 97 mile enigma of a pitch with glasses. But he's our frustration.

  2. Good to see your suburban writing is still of the same calibre-I mean that as a compliment in case it sounded like an insult or something...

  3. Does the fascination with Brandon League have anything to do with his similarity to Rick Vaughn?

  4. Thanks anon, for a second I was overcome with the desire to pepper my post with "like" and "omigodz" but I fought it off.

    Sadly Ian, my thing for Brandon League goes far deeper than that.

  5. That picture of League as a cameraman is kind of, like, awesome.

  6. I get apopletic watching him pitch because of the way he nibbles around the strike zone but more because of the goofy, childlike, where-am-I look he always has, after striking someone out or hitting them.
    Or watching his pitch fly over the fence.

  7. I feel the same way about Alex Rios.

    Just something about seeing him look all alone out there in RF, and completely inside his own head and on a different planet when he's on the basepaths really really interests me.

  8. OK, I don't see where all this League-love comes from. The guy has had "potential" since 2004. Five years later, I'm pretty well anticipated out. Maybe he needs to be like Koufax, who didn't become dominant until he figured out that he didn't have to throw as hard as he could. They still couldn't hit him, especially since when he took a bit off, he found his control. I suspect League is more of a head case, though. I'm just sick of him dominating 1 or 2 hitters and then serving up a gopher ball.

  9. It isn't about potential, it's about novelty. In a good, non-gimmicky way.


Send forth the witticisms from on high