In Which Legendary Baseball Pitchers And Legendary Rock Bands Are Finally Compared
In Wednesday’s Scratching the Surface column, I looked at pitchers who are considered fifth starters for their teams and asked if they were going to make it, or if they would fake it. So I labeled each one either a “Bon Jovi” or a “Milli Vanilli.” The Milli Vanilli was obvious, but my choice of Bon Jovi was questioned on Twitter.
My friend @RSanders85 tweeted: “Couldn't have picked band better than Bon Jovi? To me, Bon Jovi would be someone good but gets annoying to watch after a while.”
To be clear: When talking about a guy like Mike Leake (one of the pitchers we examined), we know he’s not going to become The Who; Bon Jovi seems like a good ceiling. I was really asking “Can they be a number three starter, or will they return to long relief/Triple-A?” The idea was popular: @seamus_carr tweeted “(carlos) villanueva...jovi or vanilli?” (He’s a Bon Jovi by the way)
So while Bon Jovi fit my criteria – and contained good cadence and alliteration with Milli Vanilli – I’ll admit there are better examples of “legit artist” out there. But I will need your help.
Okay, my intention was to essentially label Bon Jovi as a third starter type. They weren’t ever great: solid, fun, always gave you all they had, but they were known more for their hair than for their talent. But, let’s face it, Springsteen they’re not. So in order to find our next Bon Jovi, we need to put the all-time bands into a pitching rotation.
Let’s clarify some of the terms we are using in our study here today:
- Artist. This word refers to a band or a solo act that produces musical art. Art, not noise. So you won’t be seeing Ke$ha, Katy Perry, or Bruno Mars on this list. These are people who made great music – both lyrically and instrumentally. Not on a computer. Adele, on the other hand, could very well surface on this list, but her career might be too incomplete; read on to find out.
- Pitcher. I kept this list to starting pitchers with only a couple of exceptions. Dennis Eckersley and Goose Gossage were listed due to unique and true matches to the artist in question. We’re talking rock and roll here – quirkiness, hair, and facial features are key elements here people.
- The Era. We are using pitchers, and artists, from the ‘60s on; people that the RotoExperts may have seen (with the exception of The King, who swears Christy Mathewson was the best he ever saw. Which makes me ask: “Why did his momma name him Christy?”). Look, I think Ray Charles is the actual King of Rock ‘n Roll; he might be Babe Ruth. But that was a different era, apples and oranges or whatever other cliché/metaphor you like.
The #1 Starters
These are all-time greats. Unmatched. Legendary. Never ever should they be uttered in the same sentence as Milli Vanilli. That being said, these are not necessarily MY all-time favorite bands, but undoubtedly belong at the top of rotations – I never liked Roger Clemens either but I won’t deny his greatness. So here are several Number Ones, and their corresponding Major League great:
|The Beatles||Tom Seaver|
|The Rolling Stones||Steve Carlton|
|Jimi Hendrix||Bob Gibson|
|The Doors*||Pedro Martinez|
|Pink Floyd||Jim Palmer|
|The Who||Nolan Ryan|
|Led Zeppelin||Vida Blue|
|Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young||Jim Bunning|
|Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band||Randy Johnson|
|Bob Dylan||Greg Maddux|
|Van Morrison||Don Drysdale|
|Allman Brothers^^||Gaylord Perry|
|Eric Clapton||Ron Guidry|
|Janis Joplin||Sandy Koufax|
*Denotes you may not like them, but I believe they are pure genius. So deal. ^Denotes that The King, Scott Engel, is obsessed with Kiss, and he is, well, The King, so they are a #1 starter. ^^Denotes Tim McCullough thinks they are a #1 starter, and he edits my columns, so welcome to the top of the rotation.
Before you say anything about the Stones, you should know that I believe “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Paint It, Black” are the musical equivalents of a perfect game. The Doors might be too high for your tastes, but I put a lot of stock in a band’s importance/significance for the period in which they existed. Every member of The Doors had more talent in their fingernail clippings than any member of Smash Mouth has in their entire family. That said, I love the song “All Star.”
Eckersley, I realize, garnered much of his fame in the bullpen, though, he was a pretty good starter. I matched him up with Kiss for two reasons: His hair/facial hair and (let’s face it) neither one belongs on the Number One Starter list.
I put U2 up here because of their staying power, their true greatness, and that they (and their lyrics) actually matter. Songs like “Where the Streets Have No Name” are important and much needed in this world. But I will never compare the “Achtung Baby” phase of the band to Smoltz’s time spent in the bullpen. Zooropa, I admit, should knock U2 down to second starter status. For years they seemed to just put the guitars away – that would be like Dwight Gooden not throwing his curveball. (Instead he ingested Colombia.) To me, if Roberto Clemente was a starter, he’d be the perfect match. Mesmerizing talent, good heart. Number One.
I realize Janis Joplin should not be Number One starter, based on what we call in the trade “a small sample size” but the comparison to Koufax was too perfect – they both were the best at what they did for entirely too short a time period, and they did things that nobody else would dream of doing. I hope that I’m the first person in the history of the world who ever paired them together in a sentence.
The #2 Starters
These are great artists in their own right, but just don’t rise to the elite level. Sure, you’d be confident if they started game two in a post-season series, even game one. But perhaps their career was cut short, or their Hall of Fame status or career was affected by drugs. They are still way better than Bon Jovi, so they cannot replace them in our “Jovi/Vanilli” game.
|The Eagles||Tom Glavine|
|Tom Petty||Jack Morris|
|The Police||Ron Darling|
|David Bowie||Chuck Finley|
|Credence Clearwater Revival||Orel Hershiser|
|Bob Marley||Ferguson Jenkins|
|Grateful Dead||Phil Niekro|
|Pearl Jam||David Cone|
|Stone Temple Pilots||CC Sabathia|
^Denotes they are pretty good, but according to their fans they are not only the best but the only talent in the world.
First, a word (or 200) on The Eagles: I really wanted to make them a Number One. But their lack of team chemistry and longevity is obviously a factor, as is, well “The Geeks Don’t Want No Freaks.” I will say this: The Don Henley/Glenn Frey/Joe Walsh threesome can stand up against any rock trio, in my book. (Although I admit, Glenn Frey is a touch overrated. I mean “The Heat is On” – really?) Hotel California is another musical perfect game. And much like Don Larson’s perfect game in the World Series, we’re all a bit tired of hearing about it and it’s made us weary.
Similarly CCR is better than half of the Number Ones, but we needed to see more. Orel Hershiser was as good as any pitcher, ever. At least for a little while. A little while gets you a Number Two. It almost kept Queen off the top list as well.
The Grateful Dead are…..fine. Not my thing. Neither is a knuckleball. Grateful Dead, meet Phil Niekro. May you both excite one another. You do nothing for me, personally. They were high. You were cheating. Sure there’s greatness in there somewhere, but it doesn’t count for 100 percent.
The #3 Starters
Okay, this is the meat of our discussion. These are the Bon Jovis of baseball. When we ask if a pitcher is faking it or making it, these guys are “making it” even if it’s just for a couple of good seasons. Mike Leake is not going to the Hall of Fame, but neither is Mark Fidrych. But you can’t deny his talent and the success he did enjoy. It’s not like he was (insert failed Mets pitching prospect comparison here. I would personally choose Paul Wilson)….
This list has some of the best names in the game right now (Strasburg, Harvey, Verlander)….They aren’t (historical) number two starters just yet, but clearly have that potential. They are the Guns ‘N Roses of the game right now. They’re clearly as talented as the names above them, but not worthy just yet.
|Bon Jovi||Mark Buerhle|
|Billy Joel||Tim Hudson|
|Van Halen (David Lee Roth)||Mark Fidrych|
|Van Halen (Sammy Hagar)||Kevin Brown|
|Dire Straits||Justin Verlander|
|Steely Dan||Steve Trachsel|
|Genesis (Peter Gabriel)||Bill “The Spaceman” Lee|
|Genesis (Phil Collins)||Dave Steib|
|Fleetwood Mac||Andy Pettitte|
|Red Hot Chili Peppers||Sid Fernandez|
|ZZ Top||Mark Langston|
|Guns ‘N Roses||Luis Tiant|
|John Cougar Mellancamp||Jered Weaver|
|Green Day||Jeff Weaver|
|The Pretenders||Andy Benes|
|Jethro Tull/The Clash/Deep Purple/The Cure^||Rick Reuschel^|
|James Taylor||John Tudor|
|Mumford and Sons||Stephen Strasburg|
*Denotes author doesn’t care about the band, but thinks Schilling is a tool ^Denotes nobody really ever gets worked up about them (at least while sober) but will tell you they’re the best ever after a couple of drinks.
Pettitte as Fleetwood Mac might surprise you. While the band had way more personality than the southpaw, Pettitte was like Mac in that he had a blind devotion/attraction to his bandmate Clemens (like every member of Fleetwood Mac had with each other), following him around like a lost puppy. And, truthfully, we don’t know what effect drugs had on his career, although, we like him, a lot.
My friend Dave Lopez has a simple theory. If I can easily imitate the lead singer of a band (and sound at least 85 percent as good), that band sucks. And so I present to you: Journey. For some reason every middle school boy discovers Journey as their entrée to rock ‘n roll; they simply never drop their allegiance due to sentimentality. If Journey was a movie, it would be Top Gun. We LOVE Top Gun, but as a movie, it is dumpster material. It just made us feel good so we will forever love it. And all that reminds me of Kevin Appier.
John Cougar/Mellancamp/Cougar-Mellancamp/Just Call me John was matched with Jered Weaver simply because Weaver plays for the Anaheim Angels/California Angels/Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of the Almighty. You might truly be one of the best at your game, but that crap with your name has to stop. Seriously.
Green Day – to me – is a #2 starter; I think they are the most important band of this generation (counting U2 as a half-generation behind them) and American Idiot is as good an album as has been produced since MTV ruined albums. But I bow to conventional wisdom. Many will make them a #5 starter, but that opinion is probably based on the fact that the voter supported Mitt Romney anyway.
Verlander will be a #2 starter anytime now. But I matched him with Dire Straits because they are both downright great, but we need more years before we immortalize them. At least Verlander will get that chance.
I hate Steely Dan. My brother once noted that they were the first band to be formed in an elevator. They are very talented and probably underrated, and much like Trachsel, who is all of those things too. But the God’s honest truth is they are just brutal to sit through. I mean has anyone ever listened to an entire Steely Dan album in one sitting? I watched Trachsel pitch often at Shea Stadium and pretended I had to go to the bathroom because reading the advertisement over the urinal was more stimulating. You would have to use Pretzel Logic to Steely Dan any higher on this list. (Did I mention that it’s my list?)
The 4th Starters
Everyone’s heard of these guys. They know their songs, even if there are just a handful of career hits. This is the group of artists who refuse to go away. Like Kenny Powers, they just keep playing. They show up at summer festivals every year (think Beach Boys). You once owned their album – on cassette tape. They are often named for a city/town/continent. The talent is there, no doubt, but you wouldn’t buy a ticket to go see them perform (okay, except Dave Matthews. I get it, now shut up).
|Hootie and the Blowfish||JR Richard|
|Huey Lewis and the News||John Candelaria|
|Sugar Ray||Scott Kazmir|
|Smash Mouth||Jason Isringhausen|
|Bruce Hornsby and the Range||Bobby Witt|
|Prince and the Revolution||Jason “Raspberry” Bere|
|The Black Crowes||Daisuke Matsuzaka|
|The Outfield||Jack McDowell|
|Alannis Morrissette||Tim Lincecum|
|Sinead O’Connor||Barry Zito|
|Dave Matthews Band^||Jerry Reuss|
|Men at Work||Graeme Lloyd^^|
*Denotes that they are actually very good, but history tends to forget them ^I know, they are awesome live and you saw the hottest 5 girls ever at their show. But they’re just….eh. ^^They’re both Australian, get it? **Denotes I think Daughtry is junk, but the beautiful Rachel, love of my life, insisted he was at least a fourth starter. So he’s a fourth starter.
Prince is a #1-2 talent, but only when you consider songwriting/producing for other artists. It’s like making Tommy Lasorda a top-of-the-rotation guy because he was a successful manager (to me, Lasorda is more of a mascot to the Dodgers, like Joe Namath is to the Jets, but I digress). Hornsby is the same way – the group had one great album and you went to see them that one summer at the outdoor festival – they opened for Don Henley, remember? Yeah, and that was all she wrote.
Sinead O’Connor and Alannis Morrissette were truly great for at least one album. I was in college. Their female rage was so strong and powerful, it even affected me. You’re lucky I didn’t add Melissa Etheridge, so count your blessings.
The 5th Starters
These are notable “talents” but often tedious (see Dan, Steely) to endure, or to hear your college roommate tell you of their hidden genius. I mean can we really take a band called Los Lobos seriously? These acts don’t even perform anymore – they go straight for the GEICO commercial. And while you might enjoy hearing one of their songs on the radio, it’s not going to make you jump to iTunes and download it, or an entire album. The chances are just as good that when one of their songs comes on the radio, you decide you need to listen to more NPR because it makes you feel smarter.
|Tommy Tutone||Rich Garces|
|Susan Boyle||Sidney Ponson|
|Simple Minds||Tommy John|
|The Black Eyed Peas||Mike Pelfry|
|Eddie Money||Doug Drabek|
|The Georgia Satellites||Jim Abbott|
|Billy Ocean||Danny Darwin|
|Edie Brickell & New Bohemians||Cal Eldred|
|Blue Oyster Cult||Rick Aguilera|
|Los Lobos||Estaban Loiza|
|Collective Soul||Steve Avery|
|Flock of Seagulls||Jose Lima|
|Adam Ant||Adam Eaton^|
|Susanne Vega||Terry Leach|
|Joan Jett||Tom “Flash” Gordon|
|The Crash Test Dummies||Rick Porcello|
^Denotes there was once an Adam Eaton who pitched. If you did not know this, you probably left this column a long time ago anyway
Paul McCartney without John Lennon is like Costello without Abbott (wait, Abbott is the fat one, right?). Yes, I know about “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Live and Let Die” (both of which are overrated), but even Rey Ordonez hit 12 career home runs. McCartney (again in my brother’s words) is a lying, cheating, thieving weasel. Beatles songs should forever by “Lennon/McCartney” not “McCartney/Lennon” you selfish bastard. And we keep making fun of you for looking like Angela Lansbury because you actually look like Angela Lansbury. It’s not like we say Katy Perry looks like Wilford Brimley because she doesn’t. Okay, I feel better now.
We all know Simple Minds because of The Breakfast Club. And we all know Tommy John because of the surgery. I thought there was nice symmetry there.
I actually like Coldplay but I can’t figure out why. So I’ll assume they are cheating to win my affection, much like Mike Scott when he was with the Astros. Mike Scott actually should have been paired with McCartney – cheating, thieving weasel.
So What Do We Do Now?
Okay, there are several things that need to be done. Including:
- We need a new Bon Jovi. When I write a column measuring whether a player is making it or faking it, we need to say he’s a _________ or a Milli Vanilli. Any of the above artists properly capture that sentiment? Or should I use a different artist for each such column? Is there a name missing that would be better?
- Who did I leave off? I know I didn’t name every possible band. Honestly I had no idea where to place R.E.M., Oasis, or the Alan Parsons Project. And forget the Michael Jackson discussion. Hit me up on Twitter (@TomMcFeeley) if you want me to put your favorite band in a historical starting rotation.
- Want to quibble with my all-time rotation? Want to defend Dave Matthews (I won’t allow you to cite his concerts or the effect of the reefer on his lyrics). Hell, two of the best artists I ever saw live were Tracy Chapman and Bonnie Raitt, but they ain’t on no historical starting rotation list. Good rule of thumb: If their albums suck, they suck. Dave Matthews is the music version of Aaron Boone – not really that good, but a clutch hitter in late innings of big games (concert).
Chew on that. I’m going to go listen to a Doors album.
Got a problem with Tom’s rotation? Big Suzanne Vega fan, are you? Hit him up on Twitter: @TomMcFeeley or at email@example.com.
Photo Credit: John Soeder
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