Grand Theft Baseball

First Things First

AP Photo, Getty Images David Wright and Chris Pronger

A Mets-Oilers Misery-Off, Muscle Shirt Etiquette, and the Evil Lie Behind KitchenAid Mixers

All that and more in this week's Bake Shop mailbag!

I‘m a big NFL man and needed a new sport to pick up during the long off-season. Last year I decided to follow the Edmonton Oilers and I feel like I’ve made a crazy decision. I picked them because of their history, current status as a bad team (always means more when you win a championship if you’ve been with the team through tough times), young talent, and colors (Mets fan). This team is driving me up the wall — awful losses, can play with the great teams though. Did I make a mistake getting involved in this hockey world? It’s making me nuts!

— Nick S.

It’s great that you went with the Oilers, a strong value choice with high upside potential. (Sorry, I’m just talking in draftspeak because I can’t think about the Oilers without words like “combine” and “lottery” and “young stud” floating through my head.) At any rate, one thing you ought to know about Edmonton is that it has the highest concentration of statistically minded and rabid bloggers and power tweeters in the NHL. At MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference I spoke briefly with Oilers president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe and asked him whether he knew that. OK, fine, I didn’t say “rabid,” but I didn’t have to: When I said “bloggers” his face kind of fit Elizabeth Spiers’s all-timer description in Fast Company of Andrew Mason, the embattled ex-CEO of Groupon:

He seemed simultaneously alert and exhausted, in the sense that you would be if you’d been pursued by a bear and turned to find it was gone; you’d remain physically drained but twitchy with the knowledge that the predator could reappear at any moment.

“We’re aware,” Lowe said to me warily. You know you have a successful “Oilogosphere” when the front-office guys look like they’ve been chased by a wild animal when it gets brought up, and I say that sincerely. Anyway, I sent Nick’s e-mail to a few of these folks. Here’s what they had to say about their team:

Oilers blogger Tyler Dellow went with a macro-historical approach to help smooth any recent volatility:

You’ve made the right choice. Look, there are nine NHL teams that are anything more than the hockey equivalent of a Tim Horton’s outlet: Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, the Islanders, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Edmonton. The importance of the five Original Six clubs is obvious. The Islanders, despite basically being awful since Trudeau left office, still won four in a row between 1980 and 1983 before collecting their biggest honour in 1984 and losing to the Oilers. Pittsburgh makes the cut on the grounds that it has been home to two of the 10 best players ever in Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby, with Jaromir Jagr, eighth all time in scoring, kind of an afterthought. Philadelphia’s won two Stanley Cups and generally been a circus for 40 years. Edmonton has the Gretzky days, the plucky Oilers of 1996-2006, and whatever the barren period of 2006 to present turns into. These nine clubs have won the Stanley Cup 73 times out of the 94 that it’s been awarded, and 74 if you recognize the 1994 Rangers win for what it really was: Edmonton’s sixth Cup.

Of the Relevant Nine, the Oilers are the only team that comes without a bunch of faux nostalgia, has a glorious past and fans who care about hockey even if there isn’t a Lemieux or a Crosby around, a history of good goaltending, and stands on the cusp of either a decade drenched with glory or a front-office implosion the likes of which has never been seen. Whether it’s Stanley Cup–induced joy or rage at such moves as turning Tom Gilbert into Nick Schultz, you’ll feel something because the Edmonton Oilers always matter and 21 other teams don’t. Even if it doesn’t work and they’re too poorly run to find the complementary talent that they need, chaos is interesting and there will be lots of it. Or, more briefly: 29 other teams don’t have Nail Yakupov. Edmonton does. Stick with Yak City.

Dennis King tries to translate it all into Mets-speak:

Dear Nick,
It seems like you have chosen the correct franchise as there are several similarities in your old and new favourite clubs. Both teams have had involvement with fast-talking hustlers (Peter Pocklington, meet Bernie Madoff); both clubs were led astray by management types that no one wanted (i.e., Omar Minaya and Steve Tambellini); both clubs like paying money to non-contributors (Bobby Bonilla and Jason Bay, meet Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk) and both clubs have never had a pitcher throw a real no-hitter! 

Note: I tried to equate Vince Coleman attempting to poison reporters by throwing bleach with Chris Pronger throwing figurative acid in the faces of all Oilers fans with his trade request, but it just wouldn’t work. Anyway, as long as [MLB commissioner Bud] Selig keeps increasing the number of teams permitted in the MLB playoffs, you’ll have a chance to see the Mets there; the same goes with [NHL commissioner Gary] Bettman and the Oilers and the NHL’s second season.

Grantland contributor Jonathan Willis, managing editor of the Nation Network and contributor to the Edmonton Journal’s Cult of Hockey, makes the logical leap from “similar to the Mets” to, well, I’ll let him say it:

Following the Edmonton Oilers is roughly akin to falling in love with a beautiful, sunny military dictatorship.

The banana republic has its charms — natural resources, open and friendly inhabitants, a tropical climate — but those things are squandered by a government either incapable or uninterested in advancing the best interests of the country and its people. The Oilers are blessed with a storied past, great young players, and adoring fans, but cursed with a management group seemingly incapable of leveraging those assets. In both cases, the best chance for improvement is if the man in charge unexpectedly alters his course or is replaced by someone able to make necessary reforms.

In short: Come, enjoy the young talent. And hope like blazes for regime change.

In short, the Edmonton Oilers are like the old New York Knicks, but with better draft picks.

I’m a born and raised Minnesotan, have rooted for Golden Gopher Athletics my entire life and have been loving the wild ride the Gopher Women’s hockey team has been on this season. On the other hand, I left Minnesota to attend Boston University and love Terrier hockey. If the two end up facing each other in the finals of the Frozen Four this Sunday who do I cheer for? The childhood team with players from my high school, or my college team with more players I went to school with? I live in the Twin Cities. If I get tickets to the game do I go with a Gopher-crazed crowd or do I try and give BU some much-needed representation?

— Simon W.

I respect your desire to rep your university and the lifelong friends and formative allegiances you made there, and I think in many cases this scenario would be a tough call. But in this case it’s a no-brainer: You need to root for the team that has had one of the all-time great (and unheralded) runs in college sports; the team that features several surefire 2014 Olympians; the team that scored in triple-overtime to defeat North Dakota on Saturday to advance to the Frozen Four; the team from your childhood home.

With the 3-2 victory, the Minnesota women’s hockey team won its 47th straight game, a run that dates back to last year and includes the 2012 national title. Back in November, when I was in town and caught a game, they had just set a new NCAA record with 22 wins straight. The team hadn’t even known they were within striking distance until a day before, when someone told them on Twitter.

They’re just so good. For the first time in the 16-year history of the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, given to the top player in collegiate women’s hockey, all three finalists are from the same team. Want to guess which? Goaltender Noora Raty earned 17 shutouts and posted a save percentage of .959. Defenseman and captain Megan Bozek scored 55 points in 39 games, while forward Amanda Kessel recorded a cool 97 in 35. (Hannah Brandt was second on the team with 80 points, not bad for a freshman.)

Anyway, I just wrote a whole loving paragraph explaining exactly why you have to go to the game and who you have to root for when you do — and then I quickly deleted it, because my god, what a dumb jinx that would have been. Hey, here’s the easy answer: Let’s take this one game at a time. Minnesota’s semifinals game is against Boston College. And sharing a mutual enemy makes the best of friends.

My roommate and I are about to get a gym membership to [Redacted Membership-Based Fitness Location] in San Francisco. We found out we’d each get an $18/month discount if we apply for a “family plan” and say we are a homosexual couple. We wouldn’t mind saving $200+ a year. Are there any moral/ethical issues at play? We figured if anyone could help, if was Bakeshop.

— Jeremy G.

I’m genuinely flattered. Originally, considering the small and large indignities being faced every day by gay and lesbian couples, and the many fights that remain to be fought in order to give everyone equal rights and treatment under the law, and the bigotry that remains in this world, I thought a reason like this might be inappropriate cause to call yourselves Chuck and Larry.

But you know what? Fuck it. San Francisco is insanely expensive. We all need to pinch our pennies where we can. And I see no evidence from your e-mail that your desire to save some bucks has anything to do with the gender or sexual orientation of your roommate. I’m certain you’d be scamming the system just the same if you were sharing a bathroom with a lady! (Essay question: Would you feel the need to get her some sort of fake ring? Discuss.) The cheapskate in you is free from bias! I bet when you’re a dad one day you’ll totally say your 6-year-old is 5 or under so he can get the reduced-price movie tickets, and I’m totally fine with that, too. Basically, as the late great Unethicist used to say, I have no problem with this.

And you know what? I checked out the membership terms on the website of the fitness center in question and I take offense to the fact that “non-married couples living at the same address” are eligible for a Family Plan whereas “roommates do not qualify.” Like, who are they to say that, man? Who are they to draw such a cruel line? Can we culture jam this outdated notion of “family” or something? Roommates are non-married couples by definition. With apologies to Hannah Horvath, a friendship between roommates is grander and more dramatic than any relationship. If you really want to try to block this kind of true togetherness, you’ve gotta do a better job than just asking that they provide proof of the same address. Love, especially when it comes with a discount, finds a way.

Postscript: I e-mailed Jeremy G. to see what he had ended up doing, and he reported back that “we’ve been going there for almost 2 months now … I’m no longer worried about it, and I’m happy about the money I’m saving.” Yes, that’s the American spirit! Rock on. Fight the system. Get on a false-pretenses Family Plan at the gym.

From a TV executive’s perspective, what would be the best Stanley Cup Finals match-up?  Personally, I’d like to see a Boston vs Los Angeles final (take that Lakers/Celtics!).  But in terms of pure entertainment, I can’t imagine anything more exciting than a Pittsburgh vs Chicago match-up.  

— Stephen S.

You’re right on both counts: Boston-L.A. would be one for the ages — two deep teams not afraid to play crushing hockey, and just imagine the way the L.A. Kings Twitter account would successfully troll Bruins fans — but if I’m the head of NBC Sports, I’m probably hoping for a matchup between the Blackhawks and Penguins in the Stanley Cup finals. (If I’m broadcasting in Canada, simple: I want Vancouver over Edmonton and Toronto over Montreal in the semis.)

There are other teams that are ratings gold that the league would probably covet — Detroit-Buffalo, as an example — but the Sabres probably aren’t making the playoffs anytime soon. Successful New York teams are always welcomed by network execs, while a run in an enthusiastic market like St. Louis could help grow the game.

But a Chicago-Pittsburgh matchup would be perhaps the most fascinating, and what’s more, the league and NBC would be able to market the shit out of some of the game’s biggest stars — Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews — right there in prime time. Perhaps the best part about this potential matchup? Everyone involved would be in a pretty good mood: The easy travel is a far cry from the Boston-Vancouver and New Jersey–L.A. treks of the past two years. You have no idea how grumpy sportswriters and TV rights holders can get when they’re all jet-lagged.

I’ve seen you tweet about Girls and the Vanilla Ice Project. What are your other TV shows?

— Ann E.

To be fair, I’ve seen The Vanilla Ice Project for only about a half-episode, which was enough time for me to be a part of this conversation:

Me: So like, is this Vanilla Ice himself who is doing this voice-over?
Friend: [Kind of annoyed that I’m interrupting him during the show.] Actually, here he goes by “Rob.”

I try not to opine on TV too much, since the amount I understand and know about the medium could fit in the remote control–pressing thumb of most of my Grantland colleagues. Here’s how unqualified I am: [Lowers voice to a whisper] I enjoyed the show Up All Night, and I am a huge and earnest fan of anything involving the Kardashians. Now that you’ve been warned, here are 10 random thoughts in no particular order that have to do with TV:

10. There was no greater height of power in the modern world than Kristin Cavallari rising from a pool lounge chair in a white tank top and ponytail during the opening credits of Laguna Beach. (Also, if you want your heart to break, check out plucky, happy Heidi in Season 1 of The Hills sometime. It’s honestly hard to watch how vibrant she was pre-Spencer.)

9. I miss Big Love (which lived a good life) and The Comeback (which died far too young) with every fiber of my being. What I wouldn’t give for one more day with either Barb Henrickson’s or Valerie Cherish’s hair! Come back into my world, Chloë Sevigny!

8. Thing I think every Sunday from immediately upon waking until 5:59 p.m. PT: Walking Dead is on tonight! Walking Dead is on tonight! Thing I think every Sunday from 6 p.m. PT to 7 p.m. PT: This show is stupider than I remember. WHAT ARE YOU DOING, ANDREA?????!!

7. There were several things about the Girls finale that were annoying, but Hannah’s voice mail to Jessa could not have been more perfect. “That anorexic Marnie.” Who hasn’t hissed something similar? Anyway, I guess the episode did what it was supposed to do: It gave me several nights’ worth of anxiety dreams about the horrors of writing, which was a nice change from the recurring ones involving plane crashes or tidal waves! (Call me, Ray!)

6. It’s important to me that you know that I watched Jon & Kate Plus 8 WELL before it became a tabloid sensation. Those were simpler times.

5. Episodes of House Hunters are the Lay’s potato chips of the TV world. It’s impossible to eat just one. What is it with that show? It’s incredibly staged and the majority of the people are awful and it drags out so slowly, and yet here I am watching my sixth episode of the day and possibly even tearing up. You know what, it’s basically the same show as Say Yes to the Dress except your boyfriend will watch it with you.

4. I absolutely loved this essay on The Simpsons versus Seinfeld, which sought to answer an impossible question. (Seinfeld > Friends with no hesitation, however.)

3. Shows I’ve never seen: 90210 (please don’t fire me), The O.C., Buffy, Breaking Bad, Lost, Melrose Place, Sports Night, Friday Night Lights, How I Met Your Mother, House of Cards (I’m kind of on the lam from Netflix because of a misunderstanding circa 2007), Honey Boo Boo, and Frasier. Sorry about that, there’s no excuse. I also never saw Enlightened or Terriers, but on behalf of others I feel righteously devastated that they were canceled too soon. Bring back Enlightened and/or Terriers!

2. Still bitter that Anya won her season of Project Runway. All she did was keep making the same Tibi dress over and over!!!!!!!!!!!!! How could Nina Garcia let this happen?

1. The first Joe Millionaire was the greatest reality show of all time. Full slurp. I mean full stop.

Can you please address the horrid addition to the WFAN jingle. It used to be so rhythmic and catchy. Now with the addition of the FM station it’s as awkward as a Radiohead outtake. If this is what FM technology brings us, take me back to 2011.

— Scot S.

Honestly, I can’t. It’s all too raw. I’m still trying to work through the change from “Mike’d Up” to “Mike’s On,” and that happened, what, like, a year ago. (I’ll never forget that day. After every commercial break, Mikey was all, “Does that sound a little high-pitched to you? It sounds a little high-pitched. Doesn’t it sound a little high-pitched? I don’t know what that is, that high pitch. Someone tell Victor … There’s something, to me, that’s high-pitched. Here’s Mink.”)

Can you explain the current fascination with the KitchenAid Stand Mixer? You know the one I’m talking about — comes in every color imaginable, has attachments like “ravioli maker,” “grain mill,” and “sausage stuffer,” and weighs about 300 pounds. If you’re not asking for one on your wedding registry — regardless of its $300+ price tag — you’re doin’ it wrong.

I don’t understand it, really. How often do people actually stand mix? Does this thing just sit around, taking up approximately 3.36 cubic meters of kitchen space, except for when it’s time to make Christmas cookies? Are there no alternatives? (Answer: No. You MUST have a KitchenAid, or you’re the Scotty Smalls of your supper club.)


— Miles C.

The best part of this is the all-lowercase “help” to end this e-mail. It was like Miles C. got abducted by a Williams-Sonoma operative disguised as a neighborhood mom and was smearing that last word with his finger into the frosty back window of a getaway old Volvo wagon. (“Can I sit in the back-back?” the ’80s child in him automatically and eagerly asked.)

Anyway, he is right to blow the whistle here: The power of the KitchenAid mixer is strong. It’s a staple on wedding registries and part of the deal/one of the perks of getting married. (Others include joint tax returns, your few months’ worth of “my wiiife” jokes, and getting secretly and safely into Ellen.) It’s like how every high school graduate gets a copy of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! from a well-meaning aunt. But it’s also pretty sweet: a high-end, legitimately nice (and nice-looking) aspirational appliance. With this thing, you reason, you’ll bake more, and entertain more, and make your own homemade sausages, which you’ll barbecue in the backyard with your gleaming gas grill while your guests lounge on “outdoor furniture” and talk about how now is actually a great time to travel to Cyprus.

A 2011 article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune called it the “John Deere of the kitchen,” which may help explain both the appeal and the frequency of use. Something tells me that of all the manly ride-atop tractor mowers that sit in our nation’s garages, a good number aren’t exactly taken for a ride on a fastidious basis. Sure, they’ve got their enthusiasts, those with-it people who have cracked the code, but mostly they’re there to be fussed over and patted proprietarily and brought out ceremonially on special occasions. They’re not unlike weddings themselves.
David Wright and Chris Pronger
For some people, weddings are merely a hurdle to be jumped en route to obtaining one’s desired mixer. “Bride-to-be Nina Petersen-Perlman has been lusting after one since high school and can’t wait to get past the wedding so she can spend more time with the love of her life,” began the Star Trib piece. “A shiny, apple-green KitchenAid stand mixer.” A few years back, one frustrated blogger wrote about wanting to buy herself one of the mixers but having a major “hang-up” about doing so: “As soon as I buy that mixer [for myself],” she wrote, “I will have given up my last little bit of hope that one day I’ll meet a guy and fall in love and get engaged and register for a KitchenAid stand mixer that will arrive in an enormous box in the mail all gift wrapped in pretty paper.”

As you can see, we’re dealing with more than just an everyday appliance here.

In general, I say leave the KitchenAid mixer to be purchased by the happy couple’s parents’ rich friends. Look for the registry items like the really thick, bulky butcher’s block, or the pretty glass pitcher, or the knife set or the cast-iron breakfast griddle: the things that people use pretty much every day. (Or, if they’re the type of people who are understandably unable to live without carbonation, get them a SodaStream.) Who knows, maybe sometimes when they’re scrambling eggs or pouring lemonade they’ll think fond thoughts about their dear friend Miles C. and how thoughtful he is. Meanwhile, the KitchenAid stand mixer will sit coldly on the counter, giving them the gleaming side eye, reminding one of them of an undermining mother-in-law.


As a long-suffering Blue Jackets fan, I was actually enjoying this year’s early losing.  The short season made it easier to tolerate the mounting losses, knowing Jones or MacKinnon or Drouin was waiting. The team was even watchable with all those 1 goal losses. Is it wrong to be incredibly disappointed in their recent point streak? It’s nice to know Bob is a viable option in goal, but a narrowly-missed playoffs does nothing for this rebuild I’m dying to see take shape.

— Justin E.

Hmm, maybe I should have had those Oilers guys weigh in on this one. Also, I just wrote a cheerleading little snippet about the Blue Jackets, and now reading this I completely regret it. The team is so cursed. They won again last night! Ahh, make it stop! EVEN THE SUCCESS IS SELF-SABOTAGING.

I’m going to Vegas for a bachelor party soon. As the voice of rational girls everywhere (you’re welcome for that compliment), I’m hoping you could answer a few questions. Not including the “Vanderpump Rules” type girls from California, who I consider to be a different species altogether, what’s a girl’s general mindset when she’s in Vegas? Is she looking to hook up as much as guys are? I’m not a club type of guy so what’s a solid way to approach a group of girls outside the club scene without coming off as a creep, perv, and/or tool?  
Lastly, I lead an active lifestyle and consider myself to be in good shape. I’d like to be able to show that off through how I dress, but it’s a thin line between acceptable and into meat-head territory. Obviously skin-tight MMA shirts and bro-tanks are out of the question. What can a guy wear that would show that he’s in shape, but also not a narcissistic jerk?

— Mike M.

The biggest bummer about adulthood is that your opportunities for chaotic and ill-advised romps through the night become fewer and further between. It’s one reason people love New York: The 4 a.m. bar closing time and simple, relatively cheap cabs mean there’s an excellent chance that on any given night you’ll end up eating bodega breakfast sandwiches inside Gramercy Park (some dude named Mongo had a key) with a Peruvian diplomat’s grandson, your best friend from fifth grade whom you hadn’t seen since 1997, and two prize malamute puppies. It happens. It basically happens in Vegas, too, except with a lot more sunburn and glitter, and clutches stuffed with casino chips.

But I’m probably a bad person to ask about Vegas, for three reasons: (1) I’ve only been there once; (2) my biggest regret from the trip is that I didn’t listen to my gut and buy myself a solo ticket to see Celine Dion; and (3) hahaha you think I’m rational!

If you were to ask my my personal mind-set in a place like Vegas (or in a general social setting like a bachelorette party, which isn’t too dissimilar), it would be that I just want to feel like I’m having an adventure.

Anyway, I polled some lady friends and colleagues who are better versed in the language of Vegas than I am. Here are the takeaways I gleaned from their responses.

(PS: I want someone to make a Venn diagram of creep/perv/tool/jerk the way one exists for dweeb/nerd/dork/geek.)

1. Love is in the air!

Several thought that trying to strike up conversations with girls in town for bachelorettes can be a good bet; many are probably happy to break away from militant itineraries. “The singles are all dying to hook up but also feel safe within their group contexts,” one of my editors said. “Best way to find ‘respectable’ girls who are DTF.” Another said that “I know of a few people who have had romantic times (romantic times!) after striking up conversations at the blackjack table, so if you’re flush enough for social gambling, that’s also a good … bet. #punshame”

If you’re the romantic type, things could work out for you, too: “A girlfriend of mine from work actually met her HUSBAND at a club in Vegas a few years ago (they just got married),” one friend reported. And, said another: “I know a guy from high school who went to Vegas last year and met a girl who he hooked up with while he was there. They were engaged in less than a year, and he recently moved across the country to live with her. She had fake boobs.”

2. Always spring for the daytime poolside cabana.

This was the most frequently recurring piece of advice. (It may well be in the pantheon of “Always take the rickety boat ride proffered by a local” in the pantheon of surprisingly sound travel tips.) For one thing, “people are less inclined to be in the I-want-to-die-from-the-night-before slump” than they are in, say, brunch spots during the day. It’s always nice to get a table at clubs, but poolside cabanas feel 10 times more luxurious. I can’t say I ever envy people buying bottles, but I do feel great jealousy for the ones who have those comfy padded lounge chairs! And hanging out during the day makes any subsequent nighttime meetups something to look forward to. As one friend of mine so beautifully put it:

I think pool hang out is good approach bc then make plans to meet up later at night and its like already your second date=>better chance of getting naked

Beth Raymer, who wrote the memoir Lay the Favorite, about her time working for a Vegas bookie, said: “Girls LOVE cabanas. They’re not creepy. They’re a treat!  The girls will be able to have fun and relax because they’re getting to know you and see you in daylight. Plus, at the pool, you’ll get the chance to show off your physique.”

Which brings us to …

3. What to wear.

“Please do not wear a muscle-anything,” warned a girl from my book club. “The fact that he is even asking is the equivalent of wearing an MMA shirt,” wrote another pal — don’t worry, Mike M., she’s known for her tough love. “Not a Coed Naked Lacrosse T-shirt,” another helpfully suggested. “A good rule of thumb for ‘fits well’ is that it means ‘fitted’ rather than ‘skin-tight’ or ‘oversize.'” Grantland editor Emily Yoshida (“I love Vegas,” she stressed) had this to say: “I feel like you can’t trust foreign bodies there, especially if they appear to be actively on the prowl and showing off their ‘active lifestyle’ via deep Vs and exposed arms.”

Basically, just be yourself, because you have no idea who likes what. “There is no formfitting article of clothing I find attractive on a guy,” wrote one girlfriend. “But there is an entire school of girls out there who would definitely disagree with me.” Remember that you’re gonna be out for a while and probably drinking and/or dancing a lot, so what seems like a perfectly coiffed hairstyle and fitted shirt now might be a greasy, belly-exposing mess by the end of the night. I know these things, I’ve seen pictures of myself in college.

The best piece of advice I got, though, came from Grantland’s Tess Lynch. “People who care about what shape you’re in and who have two working eyes in their heads can size you up even if you’re in a snowsuit. Put $20 on black for me and don’t forget to tip your server.”

Filed Under: Bake Shop, Series, Teams, USC

Katie Baker is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ katiebakes