"Hey! We know how to play softball."

Okay, let’s go over the ground rules.
You can’t leave first until you chug a beer.
Any man scoring has to chug a beer.
You have to chug a beer at the top of all odd-numbered innings.
Oh, and the fourth inning is the beer inning.

I’ve been thinking about 8F13 lately because there’s been some discussion of setting up a softball tournament in the semi-near future, and it would be really nice if it were to be played according to Springfield rules. But in re-watching 8F13, it occurred to me that it’s perhaps my favorite piece of baseball popular culture ever. Sure, every baseball movie ever made has its defenders: My father gets all weepy at The Natural, I’m quite fond of the dialogue and the feel of Bull Durham, and you can even find fans of silly movies like It Happens Every Spring (like, say, me). The best baseball movie, for my money, is one that hilariously few people have ever seen, probably because it ran on HBO and nowhere else — 61*.

But how I love 8F13! It’s truly a thing of beauty, and I smile every time it comes up in syndication because I know it (like so many other Simpsons episodes) so well. And because it was so clearly a product of the writers’ love of baseball, and takes such joy in the game, and the things that are glorious about the game (the personalities, for the most part). And the players — how good were they when they were recruited to play on Mr. Burns’ team?

(Sadly, I’m reduced to using the triple crown stats and stupid countings, because Baseball Reference doesn’t feature EqA or other more useful metrics.)

1B Don Mattingly was a Yankee in 1992 (and in every other year of his career). He hit .288/.327/.416/, 184 H, 86 RBI, 14 HR.

2B Steve Sax spent 1992 with the Chicago White Sox, putting up a season line of .236/.290/.317 in 567 AB. 134 H, 47 RBI, 4 HR.

3B Wade Boggs was lured away from the Red Sox in a season where he hit .259/.353/.358 in 514 AB with 133 H, 50 RBI, and 7 HR.

SS Ozzie Smith played for St. Louis that year (duh), putting up a .295/.367/.342 line in 518 AB, good for 153 H and 31 RBI. Don’t ask about his home runs in 1992, or any other year for that matter.

LF Jose Canseco was traded halfway through 1992, splitting time between Oakland and Texas; his season line was .244/.344/.456 with 107 H, 26 HR, and 87 RBI. There’s no word in the official history of the nuclear plant team whether Jose injected the other players with steroids (though I can’t imagine the nerve tonic did anyone any good).

CF Ken Griffey, Jr. was, of course, playing for Seattle in 1992 and having an excellent year. .308/.361/.535. I look at that SLG and just gape — Griffey’s been injured so much lately, I tend to forget what an amazing ballplayer he was at his peak, and mourn what could have been. Should have been. 174 H, 27 HR, 103 RBI.

Our nemesis in RF, Darryl Strawberry, had a short season in 1992, playing for the Dodgers. In spite of his nine home run performance, which does not show up in official histories, Strawberry put up at .237/.322/.385 line; 37 H and 5 HR, with 25 RBI.

I’m still kind of amazed that Mike Scioscia was tapped to be Burns’ starting catcher. In what would be his final season as a player, he put up a .221/.286/.282 line with 77 H, 24 RBI, 3 HR. I think his career as a manager is more distinguished than his career as a catcher.

And then there’s Roger Clemens. In 1992, pitching for Boston, he put up an 18-11 record with a 2.41 ERA in 246.7 IP and striking out 208. Clemens and Griffey are the only two players still actually playing baseball — Griffey is unquestionably worse, but Clemens.. might actually have been better in 2004 than he was in 1992.

So what would a contemporary Burns team look like today? You could debate this at lengths, but if I were Burns and out to beat Ari, I’d say..

1B Albert Pujols
2B Mark Loretta
3B Adrian Beltre
SS Alex Rodriguez
LF Barry Bonds
CF Carlos Beltran
RF Ichiro!
C Ivan Rodriguez
DH Edgar Martinez
RHP Randy Johnson

I pick Edgar not because 2004 was a great season for him, but because.. damnit, it’s Edgar. And we love him. I note that the other Mariners on this team are not there solely because they’re Mariners, but because they actually are the best at their position in the league right now. Which is kind of a neat feeling, knowing we’ve got a killer RF and a kick-ass 3B.

26 days to opening day.