Well, we’ve come to the exciting conclusion of this week’s three-part series on Backyard Baseball, and today’s goal is to end the trilogy with a bang. As a Christoper Nolan fanboy, I realize this can be difficult to do – so unlike The Dark Knight Rises, I will only cram three character arcs into today’s third edition. Sorry, fake Robin. (Whoops, spoiler alert.)
A quick refresher, for those of you who have already forgotten how things worked yesterday and two days before that: I’m ranking, from worst to best, the most valuable characters in Backyard Baseball. In this scenario, we have to imagine that players can be traded for each other. For example, if Jocinda Smith was #10 and Stephanie Morgan was #11, a team would trade Stephanie for Jocinda, but not Jocinda for Stephanie.
We’ve run through players 31 through 11, and without further adieu, it’s time to say hello to the top 10 most valuable players in Backyard Baseball. The envelope, please…
Group J: No One Girl Can Need All That Power
10. Luanne Lui (Hitting 2, Running 4, Pitching 3, Fielding 1)
I struggled justifying the inclusion of the teddy bear-wielding Luanne in the top 10, but ultimately couldn’t talk myself out of it. Luanne is the ultimate #2 hitter, someone who will beat out any ground ball or bunt and is an automatic early-game stolen-base machine. She can also pitch, with surprising velocity for a 2’4″, 48-pounder. (Approximate figures.) Though her fielding’s a weak spot, she’s quick enough to easily atone for any mistakes. Plus, her “Lulu” nickname came well before the Metallica/Lou Reed musical catastrophe, so she gets off scot-free there.
9. Stephanie Morgan (3-3-2-3)
If Stephanie’s not your shortstop, you’ve built your team wrong. She admits that wants to play shortstop, and she turns into the second coming of Omar Vizquel when she’s there. Stephanie, who is hopefully not a distant relative of Joe Morgan, is a great pull hitter with a default open stance, a good runner and one of the game’s best fielders. If you can get past the frequently annoying bubble-gum snaps, there’s a ton to like here.
Group K: The Aces
8. Angela Delvecchio (3-1-4-1)
7. Kenny Kawaguchi (2-3-4-2)
Without a doubt, Angela and Kenny are the two best pitchers you can have in your Backyard Baseball season. And while each player has some limitations, this is as good a 1-2 punch as you’ll find at the front of any rotation. Angela may be slow and useless at most positions in the field, but she sports the game’s nastiest heat and is a strikeout machine. Kenny gives teams a completely different look with the best slowball on the Backyard – a pitch that’ll make even Cole Hamels tip his cap out of respect. Much like the old baseball saying “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain”, it’s “Angela and Kenny and drink some Genny” on the backyard. Or is it “Delvecchio and Kawaguchi and no Steve Mariucci”? I never can get that right.
(Side note: let’s not ignore the elephant in the room here…Kenny plays in a wheelchair, and he’s still one of the fastest kids around. What sort of turbo jets are on that thing? I’d imagine the IBC (International Backyard Committee) has been trying to ban him from competition for years.)
Group L: The Middle of Your Lineup
6. Achmed Khan (4-3-2-2)
The rock-and-roll-iest kid around, Achmed is a significantly better pick than his younger brother. In terms of pure power, it’s hard to match Achmed’s contribution, making him an easy pick as the cleanup batter in most lineups. Teams may as well put two left fielders and two center fielders in their defensive alignment when King Khan steps to the plate, because he’s an outfield-pull hitter of the highest magnitude. And with surprising speed, Achmed vaults up the ladder, just missing a top-five spot in the rankings. Too bad he’ll be deaf by age 12.
5. Jocinda Smith (4-2-2-4)
Jocinda’s nickname is “MVP”, which was created on the same day that Humongous Entertainment gave both Webber twins literally the same exact nickname. Chalk up another one in the creativity column, Johnny!
Anyway, Jocinda’s not the MVP of Backyard Baseball, but she’s darn close. She’s an ace hitter, with power to all fields, and one of the slickest fielders in the game. The swing’s a little mechanically clunky, sure, but just about everything in Jocinda’s game is wildly effective. She’s a versatile fielder and fits in just about anywhere in the lineup. She’s also the only person I’ve ever heard of with the name “Jocinda”. So…there’s that.
Group M: One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other
4. Mr. Clanky (4-2-4-3)
A-ha! Bet you forgot about the magical robot pitcher, didn’t you! (Clearly the Internet did, since all I could find was a picture of him as a Backyard Soccer goalie.)
Clanky’s inclusion on this list deserves an asterisk, since he’s only available in single-game mode. But if you held down the “Shift” key and pressed on the little robot in the clubhouse, you had yourself one hell of a cheat. Mr. Clanky is the greatest pitcher in Backyard Baseball for one simple reason – he never runs out of juice, and he’s already at a 4 rating. For those of you worried about the eventual rise of the machines one day, you should be, and the possibility of a real-life Clanky should serve as one of the prime problems. He’s Roy Halladay, if Roy could hit and never got tired. Clanky is the Walter Johnson of Backyard Baseball, a flamethrower who could pitch on zero days’ rest if needed. (If Walter Johnson was a robot, that is.)
But you can’t use Clanky in season mode, and he does have some flaws. So he sits behind three of the most precocious children we’ve ever known…
Group N: The Immortals
3. Kiesha Phillips (4-4-2-3)
The worst thing about Kiesha is her name, which has the “i” and the “e” in the wrong places. Outside of that, we’re talking about a bona fide stud here. Kiesha is always a good bet to lead the league in home runs, with raw power that rivals Mark McGwire in his prime. But unlike Big Mac, Big Kiesh (unofficial nickname) can also be considered one of the fastest players in the game. She’s a cross between Paul Bunyan, Maurice Greene and estrogen, and the best female player on the Backyard, hands down.
2. Pete Wheeler (3-4-3-3)
If Marky Dubois fits the “slovenly redneck” stereotype in Backyard Baseball, Pete Wheeler gets nailed with the “dumb jock” moniker. He moves leisurely up to home plate with a slow drawl of a lazy guitar line leading him on – and then he steps into the right-handed batter’s box every time, even though he’s a lefty. But something magical happens when Pete finally finds his way across home plate – he turns into the second-most fearsome player around.
It’s a “see ball, swing wildly, hit ball, go run” approach for Pete, but boy, does it work. He’s the game’s single fastest character, he’s got a terrific bat with huge power, he’s an excellent pitcher and he’s got a great outfield arm. Pete brings to mind Hollywood Henderson’s famous quote about Terry Bradshaw: “he couldn’t spell ‘cat’ if you spotted him the ‘c’ and the ‘t’.” Well, Pete might need all the letters in the words “hit” and “run”, but he knows how to do those things as well as anyone in Backyard Baseball.
Anyone, that is, except…
Group O: Kneel Before Your Backyard Messiah
1. Pablo Sanchez (4-4-3-4)
I snatch food from the mouth of a tiger
Take a gasoline path and I walk through fire
Bear hugger grizzly, suck milk from a t***y
Take the soldier hat from its head and use it for a Frisbee
Spit in the crocodile face, have a menage a trois, but two female apes
then sleep in the bad boy butcher knifes
I drank honey straight from the beehive
Bungee jumping off the Empire State butt-naked
Roller-blade across the Golden Gate, butt-naked
– RZA, “The Baddest Man Alive”
You may wonder where RZA (should I refer to him as “the RZA”?) found the inspiration for those colorful lyrics this year – but I have one theory. I think RZA was playing Backyard Baseball with Pablo Sanchez, and he realized that there is no badder man around than Pablo. In fact, RZA may have decided that Pablo San’ ain’t nothin’ to, well, you know, with.
Pablo Sanchez is such a legend that we mere mortals shouldn’t even be allowed to speak his name. We should consider him to be the Voldemort of the Backyard Baseball series – and in this scenario, there is no Harry Potter.
Here are some more Pablo Sanchez facts:
- Pablo Sanchez secretly overtook the drug empire of Pablo Escobar.
- Pablo Sanchez once broke Gus Johnson’s vocal chords.
- Pablo Sanchez was offered the parts of Django and Calvin Candie in Django Unchained. He declined due to scheduling conflicts.
As a hitter, Pablo has no equal in Backyard Baseball. As a runner and pitcher, he has very few equals. His lone weakness is his lack of height, but Pablo more than makes up for it with bomb after glorious bomb. He is the unquestioned lord of the Backyard, and no mere mortal is even in the discussion.
So that’s that. I have no idea where the blog goes from these three epic days, and I hope you do. Send me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org, or bicker once more in the comments below.
As always, thanks for reading. And go find that old copy of Backyard Baseball stashed away in your basement. You’ll have a good time.