Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Series 2 Break with Sylvia Plath

I really enjoy the diverse group of people that I encounter through the baseball card blogs and baseball card twitter and baseball cards generally. As with any group as diverse as ours, we all tend to find people that we are most like -- or at least with whom we get along best based on similar backgrounds, similar current lives, or even just similar dislikes. 

One of the people whom I feel like I truly get along with well is Peter from Baseball Every Night. I think we really bonded first over the dislike for the Ortiz-gasm that Topps had last year. Then I found out Peter is a serious, real-life scholar who focuses his scholarly life on the life and times and work of Sylvia Plath. 

I've never asked how or why that happened, but it's pretty cool to me to say that I actually know a real life world renowned expert in literally anything.

Peter broke a box of Topps Series 2 recently and was kind enough to send out the cards from the break on a per-team basis to whomever would pay the $3 shipping to get them. That sounded like a good deal to me, so I joined up immediately. Even though I had already joined Crackin' Wax's break (that will be my next post hopefully over the weekend), I told Peter I'd take the Brewers. After all, you never know when that single Brewers hit might come.

To honor Peter's generosity, let's go to music...inspired by Sylvia Plath. Now, I'm not 100% sure that these songs are all inspired by her or reference her. I'm just taking a Tumblr post's word for it.

1. Belle & Sebastian, "Enter Sylvia Plath"

I figured I'd go with a song that clearly is about her or references her -- Belle & Sebastian's "Enter Sylvia Plath" is pretty obvious about it. I chose a version that had the lyrics imposed on the video in case those help. 

This is a very long song -- over 6 minutes long -- and I have to admit that it got a bit repetitive to me. While the ballet dancing used in the video is cool, the vocals on this song start to meld together -- especially around the 4:15 point where the lyrics simply say, "From my faith [x36]." 

Let's start this Brewers post with two guys who have both had really top-notch seasons who might not get the publicity that other guys get. First, Travis Shaw, whom people know thanks to his having been with the Red Sox for two years. I don't know if it is just that he developed further since he is in his age-27 season or if it is that the Brewers had enough guts to just let him play third. 

One thing I will say that I don't like about his card is the attention to detail. Apparently, Topps Photoshop team couldn't be arsed to think about the fact that Milwaukee doesn't have red in its color scheme and, as a result, Shaw might just wear anything but red batting gloves. I have found photos from this year of him with pink, white, gray, blue, and black batting gloves...but not red.

The other big surprise story might just be "Sunday." Domingo Santana (for you non-Spanish speakers, Domingo in Spanish is Sunday) came over to Milwaukee from Houston in 2015 in the Carlos Gomez & Mike Fiers trade. Last year, he had some injuries that plagued him all year and limited his time on the field to just 77 games. This year, he is hitting .285/.374/.494 with 18 HRs and 9 SBs (in 12 attempts) while playing at a league-average level in right field. 

By the way, he doesn't turn 25 years old until Friday, has played 236 major league games, and yet he does not reach arbitration eligibility until 2019. 

2. The Bangles, "Bell Jar"

I'll admit it. I had no idea that this Bangles song existed. The Bell Jar, of course, is Plath's only novel and was published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The book is said to be semi-autobiographical and shows parallels between Plath's own experiences with what might have been clinical depression and the protagonist's mental illness.

But I'm not a Plath scholar, and I have not read the book. Thus, I defer to Peter's wisdom and statements about it.

I will note that I'm not sure how a movie based on the book directed by Kirsten Dunst and starring Dakota Fanning will do. Hopefully, it will be a better movie than the 1979 version starring Marilyn Hassett and directed by Larry Peerce. No, I've never heard of them either.

Corey Knebel started the year as the setup man to Neftali Feliz. Neftali Feliz was a complete disaster in Milwaukee (27 innings, 23 hits, 8 HRs, 15 BB, 21 K, 5 losses), so Knebel took over as the closer in May. He's done fairly well, but the bullpen for Milwaukee has lost a lot of games for the team. I keep reminding myself that this is a growth year. 

Zach Davies has had a Pete Vuckovich in 1982-style year this year to date. His ERA is slightly worse than league average, his strikeouts are down by over 1 per nine innings, and his walks are up 0.7 walks per nine, and yet he has gotten such crazy run support that he has a 12-5 record. Pitcher wins are such a bullshit stat.

Again, I have to remind myself that Zach Davies only turned 24 before the beginning of this season. He needs to keep developing and improving, certainly, and we Brewers fans have to hope that he stays away from the injury bug.

3. Tears for Fears, "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams"

This song was a B-side for Tears for Fears initially before being released as a single in 1991. Apparently the song was conceived of as taking a verse from the song "Sowing The Seeds of Love" sung as a rap, combined with a Talking Heads-style chorus, and put over the chord structure from one of Tears for Fears biggest hits, "Shout." 

The song title was pulled from a collection of short stories that Plath wrote that was published posthumously in 1977. The second print edition was split into four parts and included a number of new stories not available in the first edition.

Hernan Perez is like a Swiss Army knife. He's got tons of different uses -- even having pitched an inning this year -- but he is never the exactly correct tool for any particular situation. You need that knife's corkscrew in case you need to open a bottle of wine, but it's not an ideal corkscrew and there are far better ones available. You need that little scissors every once in awhile, but it's better to have a real, full-sized one. You get the picture. Perez is useful to have around to give guys around the diamond a break, a day off. If he starts every day, though, he's playing too much.

Jesus Aguilar was a surprise waiver claim from Cleveland before the season started. He played well in spring training to force his way onto the 25-man roster and has split time with Eric Thames at first base. He's a player that is nice to have around -- he's a good hitter who gets on base -- but he should be seen as expendable to improve the roster in the offseason.

Finally, those throwback uniforms on the team card are sweet, aren't they?

4. Breathe Owl Breathe, "Sylvia Plath"

Breathe Owl Breathe is a folk-rock band with a pretty unique sound. I mean, not many rock bands have a cellist playing pizzicato cello. Well, not many rock bands have a cellist. This show is from a series called "Sleepover Shows." The song is actually pretty cool, to be fair. Just very laid back. And, this video is 100% hippy. The band has an album called Passage of Pegasus that was produced by Eric Johnson of The Shins, for what it's worth.

The final cards I'm highlighting from Peter are these two. First, we have a Blue Jays-era Eric Thames photo in foil. It's odd -- I don't think I got any foil parallels in the Crackin' Wax case break, but I got one in this single box break.

The other card is, of course, the Legend Eddie Mathews. I think that's Mathews photo 3 that Topps always uses. Of course, Peter did not have to send me this card, but he knows I collect Mathews and was kind enough to make an exception.

Peter, many thanks to you for hosting the break. One more song for you: "Crackle And Drag" by Paul Westerberg.


  1. Thanks for the great blog post and highlighting my other nerdy side! The 1979 Bell Jar film is a travesty. Only to be watched when extremely inebriated. It has so little resemblance to the book that it's a "must miss" film. The book is kind of like the female version of The Catcher in the Rye so if you liked Salinger, you should in theory like Plath. Often confused as depressing, the novel is actually very funny and is a social criticism of like for young women in the 1950s. Plath did die less than a month after the novel was published.

    I do think Dunst and Fanning would do a good job. I read a draft of their script last year and in addition to providing comments and feedback, I gave them a tour of the Plath sites in Greater Boston that feature in the novel. This was a thrilling 7 hours of my life! Pretty cool having a liquid lunch with Hollywood-types! But the project may be on hold due to Dunst's recent engagement and other reasons. We'll see.

    Thanks again, soooooo much, for the post. I'm glad the cards were well-received and wish you'd gotten more special cards than the Mathews & Thames foil. I haven't heard of a lot of these songs, though I have heard of most of the singers/bands.

  2. Brewers made the Redbirds look bad-I turned it off when Wong got thrown out at home. That kind of game

  3. I'm always amazed that Kyle Davies has the strength to throw a baseball. He is about the size of my 4 year old daughter.

    Such a nice gesture by Peter to open the cards basically for free.

  4. I was just talking today about how I love cello in rock music.
    Somehow I missed that you collect Matthews. I'll keep that in mind from now on