News item: As is his custom with top clients, Scott Boras had his staff produce a 73-page book on Prince Fielder and his achievements for general managers to read. Off Base reveals the source material
"The Prince" by Niccolo Machiavelli
War cannot be avoided, it can only be postponed to the enemy's advantage. So, be armed before all else. And remember, it is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot do both.
Therefore, you must arm your lineup with a proven left-handed slugger who has averaged 40 home runs, 113 RBIs, 97 runs and a .400 OBP the past five seasons and is just entering his prime so opponents will fear you as they do the Yankees and Red Sox. Your fans will love you and drive up revenue through increased season tickets, higher ratings and merchandise sales. And you must do so before the Rangers or Nationals by offering Prince Fielder an eight-year, $200 million contract as soon as possible.
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" by J.K. Rowling
Harry had known all along that Ron was an inconsistent player who suffered from a lack of confidence, and the swiftly approaching Opening Day was bringing out his insecurities. He knew he should have signed Prince Fielder, the young fellow from Milwaukee Brewers House who reminded Harry of Hagrid, only bigger, stronger, more trustworthy and with no vermin in his beard. Prince was the only player to average .280 with at least 40 home runs and 100 RBIs the past five years. That is, he was the only player other than Albert Pujols, who had recently left St. Louis Cardinals House for Los Angeles Angels of Slytherin House.
Yes, it would have taken $200 million over eight years to sign Prince, but Harry now realized it was a bargain! Not only would Prince produce at the plate but his strength would carry over to the rest of the team and allow players such as Ron to perform at their absolute best. Plus, what was $200 million compared with all the season tickets, broadcast revenue, merchandise rights, movie sequels, video games and Universal Studios rides Prince would bring in?
As Ron struck out again, Harry cursed himself for having been so cheap and letting Lord Voldemort sign Prince to play for New York Yankees House.
"Le Petit Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Grown-up fans love figures. When you tell them you signed a new player, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, "Does he wear his pants so his stirrup socks show? Which was his favorite sausage, the Italian, the Polish, the Bratwurst or the Chorizo?" Instead, they demand, "How old is he? How much money does he make? How much does he weigh?" Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything important about him.
If a general manager were to say to a grown-up fan, "I signed a wonderful free agent who has a bushy, black beard, never misses a game, averages 40 home runs a year and makes his teammates laugh by creating funny farting noises with his armpits," they would not be able to get any idea of that free agent at all. You have to tell them, "I signed a free agent today for $200 million over eight years." Then they would exclaim, "Oh, what a fantastic player he is!" And then they would buy season tickets to offset the entire investment.
"The Prince and the Pauper" by Mark Twain
Dressed in his usual rags and sweating profusely, Billy listened to the game from Arlington while raising extra revenue by digging a new sewer line outside aging Oakland Coliseum. The fabulously rich Prince blasted another tape-measure home run to give the Rangers a 9-2 lead over the Athletics. The applause in Arlington swelled so much that Billy could not muffle it even by swinging his pickax against the rocks with all his might.
"Oh, if only we had a new stadium so I had the revenue to sign a slugger whose production by age 27 was matched by only three Hall of Fame first basemen -- Jimmie Foxx, Harmon Killebrew and Orlando Cepeda," Billy howled. "Moneyball is a nice little strategy, but rather than constantly trading off your best young talent years before the players become free agents, it is wiser to invest $200 million over eight years in one such productive player who has missed only one game in the past three seasons.
Billy swung the pickax again. "Oh, if only I could trade places with Jon Daniels! I wouldn't have had to trade Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey!"
"The Frog Prince" by the Brothers Grimm
After many vain and selfish general managers had insulted the free agent first baseman with three- and four-year offers averaging barely $20 million a season (with deferred salary, too!), the kind and wise new ruler in Chicago gave the slugger a big, sloppy kiss in the form of an eight-year, $200 million contract. And lo, the free agent immediately transformed from an unappreciated free agent into a handsome, perennial All-Star, a multiseason MVP and a future Hall-of-Famer who averaged 40 home runs and 125 RBIs for every year of the contract. And he led the Cubs to their first World Series since once upon a time.
And they all lived happily ever after.
BASEBALL CARD OF THE WEEK
Even if Prince gets that eight-year, $200 million contract he wants so badly -- and if he hasn't gotten it by now, you have to question whether he will -- will there be a clause guaranteeing the sort of service father Cecil received in this card (1992 Upper Deck, No. 255)?
CSI: BOX SCORE
You know the drill. Each week, I give you a fragment from an old box score and challenge you to determine what game it is from and why it's significant. I give this one a difficulty rating of 8.0. Answer below.
YEAH, WELL, THAT'S JUST LIKE YOUR OPINION, MAN
The Knuckleballer of Kilimanjaro: The Mets must have identified with the opening to Ernest Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" when they sent R.A. Dickey a letter this week telling him not to go through with his charity climb up the mountain: "Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude."
Why would a pitcher with a $4.5 million contract risk injury by climbing the highest mountain in Africa? Well, for one, Kilimanjaro is a relatively safe climb. Two, Dickey is a player with strong interests beyond baseball (reading Hemingway's short story was one of the inspirations for the climb). And three, he is a passionate man who wants to help lessen the toll of the sex trafficking trade in India by using the climb to raise money for the Bombay Teen Challenge charity. I can certainly understand the Mets' concern about one of their starting pitchers climbing a mountain. But I also understand -- and applaud -- Dickey's drive to do so. Hell, it certainly beats the typical player's "Whatever Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas" vacation.
For Instance, Why Was Just About The Only New Movie At Thanksgiving 'Jack and Jill'? If it's the final week of the year, it must be time for my traditional rant. Why do they insist on flooding the theaters with movies during the Christmas season when adults are too busy to go see them? We go months without any decent movies in theaters and then there are too many to see during the most hectic time of the year. For instance, why did they open "Tintin" the week of Christmas? Wouldn't it have fared better had they opened it the week before when the only competition was the dreadful Alvin and the Chipmunks? Hollywood spends hundreds of millions on movies, then insists on a release schedule that guarantees half of them won't have a chance to make back their money. Not just teens and college students want to go to movies!
CSI: BOX SCORE ANSWER
This one required a careful reading of the clues, plus a little guesswork. The biggest clue is that the innings for the visiting Milwaukee pitchers add up to only 8 2/3. That means Detroit won the game in the bottom of the ninth. And the four runs charged to Bert Husting are an indication this was a significantly large comeback for the Tigers. But how big? I could have provided the linescore, but that would have been way too easy. Instead, you could have looked at the 11 runs charged to Pete Dowling and Husting in the final 2 2/3 innings and deduced that this was a huge comeback. How huge? Try 10 runs. In the opening game of the 1901 season, the Tigers trailed the Brewers 13-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth. They scored 10 runs to win, the largest ninth-inning rally in major league history.
Let that be a good lesson for everyone in 2012 -- there is always hope. Even if you live in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Seattle or the north side of Chicago.
And no, that wasn't a typo. The Milwaukee Brewers did exist in 1901, but it was the first version of the team. Those Brewers played only the inaugural season of the American League, then moved to St. Louis in 1902 and became the Browns. Apparently, Milwaukee's fans never got over blowing the nine-run lead on Opening Day. (The Browns subsequently moved to Baltimore in 1954 and became the Orioles).
Happy new year, everyone!
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter at jimcaple.