Yesterday, the National Football League announced that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady would be suspended four games as a result of his role in the Great Football Deflation Scandal of 2015. This was a big deal, not just to the Patriots or the entire league, but to Tom Brady himself. You see, Tom Brady is an intensely competitive man. You might even call him a “competitor”, if you were an NFL announcer and had to fill several hours of airtime with the sound of your voice without saying anything meaningful. Tom Brady isn’t the sort of guy who will take to sitting on the sideline. Instead, he’s going to do something drastic. He’s going to join the professional sports league where tampering with the ball is a storied and celebrated act.
Tom Brady is going to play Major League Baseball.
A word of apology here, on behalf of Create-a-Player in MLB: The Show. There are dozens of sliders and modifications that can be made to a player’s face, but inevitably every clean-shaven white dude you make looks either (a) the same or, if you really fuck around with those sliders, (b) like a ghoul in Fallout 3. To play Major League Baseball, Tom Brady would have to undergo cheap plastic surgery that would render his chiseled face into a far more putty-like consistency you see above. Gisele wasn’t particularly happy about this, but Tom Brady is insufferable around the house when he isn’t getting his required dose of being competitive. So she put up with the results.
Of course, without his good looks, Tom Brady needed something to distinguish him on the field. So he picked out the cleats that most resembled his beloved ugg boots.
Yeah, coloring these high top cleats gold makes them look a bit like ugg boots, but Tom can do better. Maybe adding an ankle protector will do the trick.
That’s better. That’s much better.
With the shoes all picked out, Tom Brady had to decide where on the diamond he would play. This would be the easiest part of his transition, because he had experience. Twenty years ago. Brady had been drafted straight out of high school as a left-handed hitting catcher. Sure, that was back when Bill Clinton was president, Braveheart was in theaters, and America was just getting over its latest fling with flannel shirts. But it was experience nonetheless. Brady decided to strap on the tools of ignorance once more, his aching knees be damned.
Tom Brady could pick up a bat, but it couldn’t make him a hitter. He’d never faced pitching above the level of “high schools in San Mateo County.” That had been a lifetime ago, back when he was listening to Smashing Pumpkins and unironically insisting that everyone call him “Tommy Surf.” He picked out his batting stance based on the most scientific principle: he looked through the options and was surprised that Joe McEwing was still available despite the fact he was no longer an MLBPA player. Also, like Tom Brady, Joe McEwing was a competitor. Though compared to Tom Brady, McEwing was practically Babe Ruth with the bat.
While Brady couldn’t hit a lick, he was still Tom Brady. His clutch could only be measured in terms of Greek epic poetry, and years as a quarterback, recognizing open receivers and patiently waiting for them to complete their routes, gave him plate discipline and vision that could at least partially translate to the game of baseball.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, he had an arm like a rocket. Sure, throwing a football is nothing like throwing a baseball. But, assuredly, Tom Brady could put a ton of strength behind either a sphere or an egg. His other defensive skills? Well, he’d been a skinny teenager the last time he stepped behind the plate. All the composure and heart in the world wouldn’t help him block an errant ball. And he kept trying to put weird spin on his throws to second base.
A pocket passer, his speed was terrible and he had no instincts for stealing. But Tom Brady, who had spent over a decade repeatedly succeeding on the largest stage that sports had to offer, did not let that deter him from running the bases. He attacked them with relentless aggression, sure that there was only one man who could defeat him: the clone that the Patriots commissioned in 2008, who (even with age acceleration) would not be fully grown for at least another four years.
It was simple enough for Tom Brady to declare his intention to join Major League Baseball. But what team would take a chance on him? He was literally the world’s worst possible hitter, and there are trained iguanas who would provide more defensive value behind the plate. Who would ever waste even a low-A roster spot on a 37 year-old, a man for whom “provides negative value” is a generous assessment simply for incorporating the world “value”, even in virtual baseball?
The Red Sox, of course! Because this is Tom Brady and this is Our Town and if you don’t like it, you can get out and take your proper pronunciation of the letter “r” right with you, you chucklehead. If Tom Brady wants to play baseball he plays for the Red Sawx, and nothings gonna stop him.
Of course, he had no interest in baseball until yesterday when his football career was briefly interrupted, so he doesn’t enter the league until May 11, at which point the standings look something like this:
Boston starts May 11 in pretty good shape. Better shape than in the real world. But when they get the call that Tom Brady has decided to switch sports, well, everything goes out the window. Most teams would take a publicity stunt like this in stride. Brady would play in the minors, tour with developing kids and teach them tough life lessons, like how to identify an equipment manager who will help you cheat in exchange for signed merchandise.
But this is the Boston Red Sox. And this is Tom Fucking Brady, and if he’s a baseball player then he’s in the Major Leagues. In the lineup, even. Batting sixth on his very first day in the sport since he was a teenager.
The folks at O.co Coliseum are stunned by the sudden appearance of the New England Patriots quarterback. “No, it can’t be,” they whisper in hushed tones throughout the stadium. “But he’s a football player.” Indeed, he is a football player. But he is also Tom Brady, and he’s won four Superbowls. Has Blake Swihart even won a single Superbowl? No? I didn’t think so.
The first pitcher to face Brady is, inexplicably, Jose Quintana. He was traded to the Athletics at some point during the first month of the season, probably during a drug-induced haze after Billy Beane heard that Tom Brady was going to try his hand at baseball.
While Tom Brady and Jose Quintana are both lefthanders, Quintana doesn’t have much of a career platoon advantage. That doesn’t matter, though, since Tom Brady is not a baseball player. The results are predictable.
Brady picks himself back up and dusts himself off after the embarrassing strikeout. He reminds himself that this isn’t the first time he’s struggled. His ability to overcome against the odds are part of what make him Tom Brady, so flailing at a Jose Quintana pitch is just a single cobblestone along the hardscrabble road to a pub called Victory.
He takes his place behind the plate and recalls back to his high school days, when he wasn’t sure whether he would become a star quarterback or a star baseball player. Life then seemed so full of choices, so ripe with opportunity. And it only got better as he became an international superstar and hero to an entire city. Then a pitch is thrown Tom Brady’s way and he is brought back to reality.
Brady didn’t remember pitches being so fast or moving so much. He can get in front of most of them, even catching them with a fair amount of success. But every so often, perhaps only when he is lost in the wistful remembrance of youth–a time when deflated balls were a topic to be joked about rather than a deadly serious rule infraction–the baseball just eats him up. It flies right past him and all he can do is chase it down.
None of this matters to Tom Brady. He’s just glad to be out on the field again, competing. The Red Sox lose their May 11 game, but before its over, a very special moment happens in the bottom of the ninth.
That’s right. Tom Brady gets a base hit. It’s not much of a hit. If this hit were one of the Superbowls Tom Brady has won, it would probably be Superbowl XXXIX, the one where he wasn’t the MVP. But it’s still a hit, and the start of a career that Tom Brady is sure will be full of much better hits.
Except, halfway through the season, there hadn’t been many better hits. In fact, there hadn’t been many hits at all. You see, while he is a model of both determination and deceit in the pursuit of success, Tom Brady is not a baseball player. And he performed far better than someone who is not a baseball player, but that was still a dogshit performance.
Tom Brady would blame his lack of hitting success on the fact that he wasn’t permitted to wear number 12, the number he wore throughout his career as a New England Patriot. The reason was because Mike Napoli wore number 12. And Florida-born Mike Napoli had no love for Tom Brady, and especially no love for the fact he was allowed to stay at catcher for two full months.
Despite Tom Brady’s terrible play, he was never pulled from the lineup or even moved down. He continued to catch and bat sixth, and continued to receive standing ovations at Fenway Park in every home game. The team didn’t dare bench him because he was Tom Brady. And the Red Sox were still in the hunt.
How were the Red Sox still competing despite carrying the worst position player in Major League history? There were two explanations. The first was that Tom Brady was compelling them to win through sheer force of will. The second was that Tom Brady was bunting whenever there were runners on.
That’s right, two-time MVP Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. was being asked to bunt at every possible opportunity. Normally, this would have the sabermetrics bloggers up in arms but even they looked at Brady’s stats and admitted that, yes, it was probably in the best interest of the Red Sox–if not the sport of baseball itself–to take the bat out of Tom Brady’s hands.
Not that you needed stats to tell you that.
Brady’s offensive woes continued, but what of his defense? Surely playing game after game behind the plate would trigger some old reflexes from high school. He was one of the best quarterbacks in football history, so he clearly had the athleticism to adjust. After a few games (or a few months) things had to get better. Right?
Not particularly. After only a month in the big leagues, Brady led the American Leagues in passed balls. He’d occasionally manage to locate a throw and halt a stolen base with his cannon arm. But he’d make just as many throwing errors, launching the ball into center field.
Tom Brady was not taken out of the lineup. Through August and into September, he remained the Red Sox catcher as they struggled to stay in the playoff picture. Outside of Boston, pundits wondered when the Red Sox would end this horrific experiment. This wasn’t just hurting the team, but eventually it had to start hurting Tom Brady’s legacy. It was one thing to be branded a cheater in the NFL, but to earn the title of Worst MLB Player Ever in the same year? At this rate, Tom Brady was going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in his second-or maybe even third!-year of eligibility. Was that cost worth it to him?
What these pundits didn’t understand was that Tom Brady was a competitor. And whether he actually had anything to do with it or not, he kept the Red Sox in the Wild Card chase all the way through game 162. When all was said and done, the Sox ended the season tied with the Astros for the second wild card spot.
And Tom Brady’s contribution to this nearly successful regular season? Well, his contribution wasn’t insignificant. You see, it is said that one should keep his friends close but his enemies closer. And if the enemy of the Red Sox was failure… Well, let’s just say that they kept failure close at hand.
All of this amounted to the most exciting regular season game in the sport of baseball: game 163. The loser would go home. The winner? The winner would go on to play another do-or-die game that MLB forced upon the league in order to capitalize on the thrill of a real game 163. It would be something of a sham, and they could lose it on a handful of bad balls-and-strikes calls. But they wouldn’t go home.
Of course, Tom Brady was in the lineup.
Tom Brady’s first at bat would come in the second inning, against Houston Astros southpaw Brett Oberholtzer. God knows why Brett “Who?” Oberholtzer was starting a win-or-go-home game for the Astros, but it probably had something to do with what Jeff Luhnow calls “The Process.” Oberholtzer was a lefty, which was just another reason Tom Brady shouldn’t have been in the game, but the Red Sox were well beyond reason and halfway down into the valley of madness. Besides, Brady was terrible against righthanders as well. He struck out in the second inning.
Remarkably, Tom Brady’s second plate appearance would go much better. Despite everything else, he could still occasionally work a walk out of a mediocre pitcher. And Brett Oberholtzer is the kind of pitcher who gets really excited when anyone calls him only mediocre. Brady worked an eight pitch walk from Oberholtzer and decided he was going to do what he always did in big games.
Tom Brady was going to pull the team up and carry them on his back. He was going to score this run all by himself if he had to. It didn’t matter that his speed rating was literally 0. He was taking second base.
Except he was not taking second base. He was thrown out on one of the most ill-advised base stealing attempts since Lloyd McClendon literally picked up first base and walked away with it.
On the other side of the field, the Astros had a bit more success on the basepaths. After all, Tom Brady was catching for the Red Sox and, while he is many things, Tom Brady is not a baseball player.
This wasn’t even Tom Brady’s most embarrassing moment behind the plate in a game that would decide the outcome of the entire Red Sox season. No, that would be later, when he found himself dreaming of clutching a slightly-deflated football and throwing a perfect spiral into the endzone for a touchdown. This was a common daydream for Tom Brady, since up until recently it had been a common event in his charmed life. But this wasn’t a good time for the daydream because he was supposed to catch a pitch.
The Red Sox fell flat in that game 163, despite an excellent performance by Joe Kelly–who also should have been far away from a do-or-die game–to hold the Astros to a couple runs. The Red Sox just couldn’t put together a rally and were scoreless into the ninth. That was when Tom Brady came to the plate with one man on and one man out.
At this moment, Tom Brady was the tying run. With one swing of the bat, he could have put the Red Sox right back into the game. Sure, he hadn’t done it before–he had zero homeruns in 361 Major League at-bats–but he was Tom Brady. These were the moments he lived for.
So, would Tom Brady come through? Would he stun the Astros with a towering drive that tied up the game and kept the Red Sox alive for another inning–if not another game? Would he inspire the Dropkick Murphys to craft another rollicking party anthem in his honor, “The Ballad of Brady and Brine”, which of course refers to the salty takes of sportswriters nationwide who wouldn’t stop saying that Tom Brady was not a baseball player?
Would Tom Brady make history?
Not this time.
Stick to football, Tom Brady.