I’ve always seen a strong tie between great baseball lineups and great rock albums. Before we begin, notice that I’m exclusively talking about rock albums; R & B albums are usually fairly shallow with the single as the first track. But a great rock album is an hour of music that runs as deep as the Ruth/Gehrig Bombers. However, since any great rock album should have more than nine songs, consider the six through eight spots in the lineup to represent the sixth song up until the second to last song on the record. Let the ridiculous comparisons begin:
Lead-Off: This one is obvious; speed is the key here. A great album needs an upbeat rockin’ first song to kick it off, just like a good lineup needs a fast leadoff man that’ll take you from first to third on the next base hit. Juan Pierre does it for the Marlins; while “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” goes to bat for Nirvana’s Nevermind.
Second: Speaking of going from first to third, that’s the whole point of the two-spot in a great lineup/album. The best example of this is Superdrag’s Regretfully Yours, in which the opening song rolls right into “Phaser,” setting the table for the rest of the album; much like Darin Erstad always executes whatever small-ball task is necessary to put Vladimir Guerrero into a runner-in-scoring-position situation. (Angel fans should know that I’m referencing their pre-July 29 lineup.)
Third: Every great lineup/album saves its big gun for the 3-hole. This is where one finds the Guerreros, Tejadas, Pujols, and Miguel Cabreras of the MLB. Similarly, Jimmy Eat World chose “The Middle” for the third track on Bleed American, Blink 182 used “Dammit” for Dude Ranch, U2’s The Joshua Tree centered around “With or Without You,” and I could give examples forever. This is the name or tune on everyone’s lips when the team makes the postseason and the CD hits stores.
Clean-up: At this point, let’s slow it down a notch; like Green Day’s American Idiot does with “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” and the Phillies and White Sox do with big oafs Thome and Konerko.
Fifth: The fifth spot in the order is where the depth of an album/lineup is either displayed or dismayed. Is this Jason Varitek leading the powerful BoSox, or Chip Ambres floundering for the Royals? Is this Weezer’s Blue Album with the notorious “Sweater Song,” or Weezer’s Green Album featuring the unmemorable “Crab”?
Six – Eight: Let’s face it, these spots are mostly filler, and some I would even call defensive: which could either refer to a soft hitting shortstop, or a handful of fast songs you can’t even understand the lyrics to but somehow round out the disc.
Last: The National League gets disqualified here since this is the pitcher’s spot, so let’s focus in on the Jr. Circuit. The ninth spot in the lineup/album features that lovable catalyst that for one reason or another, makes a real connection with the fans. For the Yankees fans out there, Robinson Cano bottoms out the lineup, the sole evidence that perhaps New York still has some remnant of a farm system, not to mention that the guy was named after Jackie Robinson making it even harder to dislike him even though the pinstripes alone should be enough. Switchfoot ends The Beautiful Letdown with a heart-stirring acoustic number. Adam Kennedy and his ninth spot in the order will always be associated with his improbable 2002 ALCS MVP performance; a fond memory for any Orange County kid. Jimmy Eat World’s albums Clarity and Futures both end with emotional classics: you won’t here these songs on the radio, but if you learn to play them on the guitar, you might make your girlfriend cry.
So there it is. I’m sure this is just the beginning of a very important argument that will last a lifetime. For you old timers out there wondering why I didn’t include any classic rock, I have a response. That was a different time, albums were on records not to mention that players and balls weren’t juiced; but more importantly, I couldn’t find any examples that supported my theory.