The Screwball: So, Is This Supposed To Be Funny?

Did you know that Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" was inspired by Angel Hernandez? (via Melissa Rose and Keith Allison)

Did you know that Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” was inspired by Angel Hernandez? (via Melissa Rose and Keith Allison)

So, in this very space a few weeks ago—or, more accurately, at the bottom end of this very space, down where commenters can express their profound disappointment in me—a commenter followed protocol by expressing his profound disappointment in me. Specifically, he was upset that the title of my article—“The Screwball: Absurdly Intelligent Design”—had deceived him. He had expected a comprehensive treatise on the nature of the baseball pitch known throughout the baseball world as “the screwball,” which, when delivered by a right-handed baseball pitcher, is designed to break toward a right-handed baseball batter before sending that pitcher to the disabled list.

What the reader had gotten, of course, was something less than scientific, something rooted not in measurable evidence but in the vagaries of “humor,” defined by the Greeks as the bodily fluid that controls human temperament.*

*Mine is black bile.

In response to his complaint, I felt compelled to acknowledge that as far as I, the author of record, am concerned, the gap between a reader’s expectation and his eventual satisfaction is of no real concern. Either way, the THT Home Office rewards me with a personal watercraft of my choice—and, off the record here, also a box of Swiss chocolates and a nice relaxing foot rub.

I then remarked to a second and slightly less disappointed reader that The Screwball, being an entendre of a deeply double nature, is actually the name of the humor series I’ve been writing for THT for quite some time now, even if I left out the part where THT hired me as part of a make-work program funded by the No, Seriously, Carrot Top Is Funny If You Just Give Him A Chance Society and co-sponsored by the Gilbert Gottfried Is God League.

It then occurred to me, though perhaps it should have dawned on me before, that if an author is informing a reader that what he, the reader, has just perused is supposed to have been at least as funny as a full-on crotch shot, well… perhaps it has failed to meet that high and Gottfriedian standard.

And so, as a writer of profoundly unfunny faculties, I am left with two options, neither of them ideal but also neither of them illegal in 46 states:

1) As the author of record, I can go ahead and write that scientific treatise on the screwball, which, in synopsis, would read as follows: Just after the pitcher releases the ball and just before he crumples to the ground in unmitigated, arm-clutching agony, a group of invisible Screwball Fairies gather around that ball and, using incantations borrowed from WiccaPedia, control its trajectory such that a four-eyed nerd from FanGraphs will put it in graph form and make me feel all stupid and pretty much like my fly is open.


2) As the author of et cetera, I can alert the reader before, not after, he reads the relevant passages that this is all a joke, that the punchline is in the pudding, so to speak, that I want everyone to laugh at me even if my back is turned for an extended period of time! And how, you might ask, does an author do that? Answer: By placing the word “so” in front of everything he writes, or at least in front of all the introductory lines—lines, in the end, that will have required an upfront hint of the hilarity to come. On the off chance that you, the reader of record, have no idea what I’m going on about, I’ll give you this timeless example: “So a priest and a rabbi walk into a bar.”

Funny, right?

So, just sit back and get ready to laugh! Seriously.

So, so seriously.

Oldies But…

Examining Free Agency Since 2016
Players did a little better in free agency this winter than they did the previous year.

So, according to published reports, the Tigers considered activating 46-year-old first-base coach Omar Vizquel after starting shortstop Jose Iglesias went down with injury. Additional reports indicate that Detroit also considered a 1978 Johnny LeMaster baseball card (Topps); a 1950s oil lamp from Antiques Roadshow; Wilford Brimley; a 1974 Commodore PR-100 programmable calculator; episode 63 of The Patty Duke Show; a recordable eight-track tape from a garage sale in suburban Virginia; a Pablo Cruise cassette from under the front seat of a ’78 Nova; a vintage bottle of Waukesha Arcadian Cream Soda; and Julio Lugo.

Early Retirement

So, have you seen this? Yeah, a Yankees/Red Sox spring training game got interrupted by bees. That’s right: bees. Meanwhile, given the demographic of their fan base, Rays management has grown concerned that if the team doesn’t finish games by 9 p.m., they might get interrupted by zzz’s.

Not Made In Heaven, Exactly

So, I see that Major League Baseball is partnering with to bring together singles who are fans of particular teams. Honestly, that’s a great idea. Romantic chemistry is a mysterious thing, so who’s to say two people can’t find love by using the Houston Astros as a common denominator?

Meanwhile, at, staffer Bob Zubobski insists that the Brewers should employ a left-handed shortstop “for the undervalued ability to turn a 4-6-5 double play,” and that Kanye West would make for a starter-friendly manager because of his propensity for declaring, “I’mma let you finish.”

Zubobski also argues in support of the Rangers serving Habanero Hot Dogs during mid-August day games in Arlington; the Red Sox holding an annual Grady Little Appreciation Day at Fenway Park; and the Seattle team leaving the Pacific Northwest to become the Oklahoma City Mariners. Oh, and he’s also pushing for an indie-folk duo dubbed the Selig-Rodriguez Experience.

Bum Steer

So, a troublesome calf has bedeviled Josh Hamilton all spring. In response to Hamilton’s plight, rancher Nolan Ryan wrote in with some detailed advice.

“If the cervix is fully dilated and three essential parts of the calf (two forefeet and head, or two hind feet and tail) can be felt in proper position, the problem may be one of uterine inertia, and moderate traction may be applied. Bear in mind, however, that if the uterine inertia is caused by prolonged efforts at calving, there is the danger of the uterus having ruptured, in which case your veterinarian should be called immediately.”

Initial Value

So, A’s GM Billy Beane is predicting that teams will soon employ IT coaches. Yeah, IT coaches—to help baseball guys do computer stuff such as plug it in and turn it on. Meanwhile, the player formerly known as Fausto Carmona has conjectured that teams might also employ ID coaches, though it should be noted that the personnel department might have trouble matching the name of the ID coach with his Social Security number. At the same time, one unnamed player has rejected the need for an IQ coach on the basis that the he, the unnamed player, usually speaks in the third person.

A Muse-ing

So, I guess you saw where Royals legend George Brett sent a Brett No. 5 jersey to pop singer Lorde, who had used a photograph of Brett as inspiration for her No. 1 single Royals. Lost in the news, however, is that Billy Beane sent an A’s jersey to rapper Macklemore in recognition of his hit song Thrift Shop; that Ian Kinsler sent a Jon Daniels golf shirt to Taylor Swift in honor of her No. 1 hit We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together; and that much-maligned and often-wrong umpire Angel Hernandez sent an umpire’s shirt to Robin Thicke in honor of his smash hit Blurred Lines.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

So, did you see this? During the D-backs/Dodgers series Down Under, concessionaires at the Sydney Cricket Ground sold a massive hot dog called (perhaps fittingly!) the All-American Hot Dog.

Meanwhile, back in the States, well-meaning but dim executives at Mattel, Inc., responded by issuing a new product called Shrimp On The Barbie.

As it turns out, the grill marks made the doll unattractive to consumers.


So, speaking of the series at the Sydney Cricket Ground, did you watch the action? I did! Cute, right?—the way those Aussies exclaimed “whoa!” each time a hitter sent up a 200-foot fly? Of course, you might also have seen that spectators at the American Fly Ground delivered a delightful “huh?” each time a hitter sent up a cricket, and that fans at Augusta National delivered a familiar “yes, of course, I mean, obviously” each time they saw a WASP.

Striking Out

So, speaking of that Sydney series once more, it’s painfully obvious to the Diamondbacks that they traveled an official total of 10 gazillion billion miles (round trip) to go 0-2. You might be wondering if the last time anyone traveled so far for an oh-fer was when I went to Cancun for Spring Break.

The answer is no. It was actually when I went to Cabo.

Strong Logic

So, I suppose you saw that FanGraphs released its 2014 Positional Power Rankings. Yeah, I saw it, too. Didn’t read it, though. Didn’t have to. I mean, I have to believe that the No. 1 position for power—I’ll hold while you ponder whether I’m going to write “first base” or “DH” or “cleanup, duh”—is still with the chest out and shoulders back, and with the hips hinged so that your butt moves backward during the downward phase of the squat.

Playground Equipment

So, I read that Nolan Ryan expressed dissatisfaction with his arrangement in Arlington by saying he had been “dropped into (Texas GM) Jon Daniels’ sandbox.” That’s probably accurate, but then again, the statement is perhaps ironic in light of the fact that Mr. Ryan has said nothing about being dropped onto Houston GM Jeff Luhnow’s long and possibly endless slide.*

*I know, I know: The Astros have a good farm system and perhaps a bright future. But hey, I can’t let facts get in the way of an award-winning joke!

Perspectives On Pain

So, I saw that one scout called the Phillies “painful to watch.” Then again, it was later revealed that the scout had been wearing Marquis de Sadeglasses, known in the industry as “Marquis de S(h)ades.” What made it all the more painful was that the scout had intended to wear Marquis Grissomglasses, through which he’d have seen the Phillies thrive despite low walk totals.

Cold As Ice

So, after a frigid Chicago winter, groundskeepers at U.S. Cellular Field had to use powerful heaters to thaw the 30 inches of permafrost that had settled beneath the playing surface. Meanwhile, officials had grown concerned that 35 million girls ages 4 to 10 would arrive in princess dresses and brutally assault the grounds crew while singing, “Let it go, let it go, turn away and slam the door.”

Not Exactly Burners

So, you might have read that one scout recently criticized the Yankees infield as having the worst range in baseball. My immediate response was to point out that the Rays have in their clubhouse kitchen a 1940s O’Keefe & Merritt porcelain stove—or “range,” in the classic vernacular—whose patented Grillevator broiler has seen better days. But then I learned that the Yankees infield actually has the second-worst range in the Tri-State Men’s Over-50 Church Softball League. So then, yeah—that became my response.

Career-Saving Surgery

So, have you noticed how many pitchers have undergone Tommy John surgery this spring? Sad. What might be sadder is that Olivia Newton-John will soon undergo Elton John surgery in efforts to return to relevance.

Picture This

So, speaking of Tommy John, I guess you saw that injured Braves starter Kris Medlen has changed his Twitter avatar to a photo of his surgery namesake, Mr. John himself. Not to be outdone, hemp-lovin’ hurler Chris Perez has changed his avatar to a photo of Tommy Chong, while Tommy Hanson has changed his avatar to a photo of himself in 2009. Not quite grasping how this whole thing works, Tommy Lasorda has fallen asleep.

Light Saber-Metrics

So, the Triple-A Durham Bulls are planning to wear R2-D2 jerseys in celebration of their Star Wars Night on May 4 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Cool. Even cooler is that whenever there’s a runner on first with fewer than two outs, manager Charlie Montoyo will advise fielders to use the force.

It’s All In The Name

So, did you see that Fortune named Derek Jeter the No. 11 leader in all the world?

Yeah. Number 11. In the world.

Meanwhile, for unnamed reasons, Boston starter John Lackey placed last.

More Nominal Evidence

So, did you also see that Tampa gave Jeter a key to the city? Yeah, and shortly thereafter, Lenny Dykstra showed him how to boost a Corvette.

Grins Below Replacement

So, I guess you’ve noticed that the Texas Rangers have had a pretty rough spring, given that 5,438 of their finest players have succumbed to dengue fever, lost a favorite limb or developed watery eyes, itchy skin and a runny nose at the very instant they glanced at Matt Harrison’s mattress.

Word around the water cooler is that in efforts to speed the players along, skipper Ron Washington has baked what he is calling a “sacrifice bundt cake.” In response, several smarmy sabermetricians have concluded that Washington’s strategy will result in–and I quote–“his just desserts.”

In response to that, however, a certain non-sabermetric writer for a certain sabermetric Web site has tried desperately to devise a hilarious punchline centering on “WHIP cream,” but in the end, his BuH%–or bundt hits percentage, which quantifies the number of hilarious bundt-cake-oriented punchlines a writer delivers by calculating the number of his bundt hits divided by the number of his bundt jokes put into play—is 0.000000000.

Surrender To Fate

So, the Red Sox wore American-flag-inspired suits during their recent visit to the White House, did they? Well, on equally flag-related notes, it’s being reported that the Dodgers will wear checkered-flag-inspired uniforms to indicate that the race is already over, and that the Astros will wear all white.

Walk, Don’t Run

So, baseball has instituted a rule that limits a batter’s walk-up music to no more than 15 seconds. By all indications, this will prompt Bartolo Colon to seek an exemption purely for logistical reasons, and Jose Reyes to request permission to cue up the entire 42 minutes 59 seconds of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of the Moon for what some pundits are calling his “limp-off music.”

Can I Buy A Vowel?

So, I saw that baseball supervillain Barry Bonds showed up at the Giants spring training complex and took batting practice. What I didn’t see is if supervillain Pete Rose showed up at the Reds complex to take betting practice, or if supervictim Jonathan Villar also showed up at the Reds complex to take butting practice.

High Hard One

So, legendary Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Marlins on Opening Day, did he? Well, in related news, U.S. officials reportedly plan for strong-armed but erratic former QB Jeff George to throw out the first pitch in Moscow, should that city ever host a season-opener.

Why George?

Said one official: “He’s the only person capable of overthrowing Putin.”

Horse Sense

So, Rays right-hander Alex Colome has received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for Boldenone, an anabolic steroid typically used on horses.

Asked if he planned to appeal, Colome said nay.

Strike Three

So, you might have heard this on local talk radio:

“So, the Red Sox have conducted a radical experiment: During a recent spring game, the PA guy announced the ball or strike call with every pitch. Well, this inspired Roy Smith of Springfield to call in and say, ‘That’s nothing! My wife has been announcing the strike call on me for years!’ Asked to elaborate, Johnson replied, ‘Sorry, I’ve got to go wash the dishes.’”

So, About That Ending…

So, now that you’ve read these hilarious comedy jokes before they are shipped to the Smithsonian, can you name my all-time favorite player? Can you name the one indispensable, absolutely untradeable MVP of my all-time comedy team? – the one guy who is certain to tickle your funny bone and make you laugh and laugh and laugh? Well, if you guessed Sammy Sosa, you are wrong. And if you guessed Geovany Soto, you are wrong again.

But if you guessed So Taguchi, you are right–so very, very right.

So Taguchi, dear reader.


John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.
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Did you say beads?

Straight of whore moose
Straight of whore moose

Hasenpfeffer? Hasenpfeffer?!


If I were you, John, I would always write under a pseudonym.

John Paschal
John Paschal

Thank you for the kind words, Baltar.

And thank you, too, for taking time out of your productive day to register them here in public.

Far from seeking refuge in a pseudonym such as “Baltar,” however, I will stand by the name my mother gave me. I will even take the additional step of emailing you my physical address. That way, the next time you wish to deliver your sentiments, you can do so in person.

Straight of whore moose
Straight of whore moose


John Paschal
John Paschal

@ Straight of whore moose:

Sheesh, here’s how accustomed I’ve become to insults: I can’t tell whether your “Zing!” is sarcastic or sincere. For the time being, I’ll pretend it’s sincere while I await the inevitable and caustic correction.

In any case, methinks my courageous friend Baltar managed to identify the meta component of my piece without actually knowing that he had identified it: namely, that no matter how hard a “humorist” tries to be “humorous,” he will never please everyone and often please no one.

Straight, etc..
Straight, etc..

Entirely sincere, good sir. Keep on keepin’ on.

Paul G.
Paul G.

I am awaiting for the first game to be officially called on account of the Force, as both the batter and fielder attempt to manipulate the flying ball into a home run and a fly out respectively and end up stalemated with the ball floating in the air. After a few of those situations, I suspect that the umpire will be empowered to eject both players and, failing that, Force choke both into unconsciousness. Or groin shots. Those always work. Furthermore I await the day that a team of Jedi take on Bugs Bunny on the diamond. Not sure if… Read more »

John Paschal
John Paschal

Ha! Strong work, Paul G. Frankly, I should invite you to pinch-hit for me some time, though I fear you’ll become a Gehrig to my Pipp. Of course, if you do fill in for me, I should warn you about internet tough guy Baltar. He is the worst type of man — an asshole who is also a pussy. After all, here I sit, eagerly awaiting his response to my sincere invitation. In any case, when first I saw your comment, I immediately noticed the word “Force” and thus believed you had responded to the wrong THT article, that you… Read more »

Paul G.
Paul G.

Fear not any Pipp/Gehrig situation as, frankly, I have to work for a living. But I kid. Though having the first name “Wally” is scientifically proven to make you seem at least 13% funnier. So (ha! see what I did there) with that in mind, I will take the role of the first baseman that Wally Pipp replaced which was… let’s see… Hal Chase. Oh. That did not develop as hoped. So I’ve apparently been figuratively banned from baseball, so you’re safe, at least from the likes of me. If the soon to be unemployed David Letterman comes looking for… Read more »