“Just wait ’til next year.” — Timmy Lupus
One of the saddest days of the year comes when your team’s dreams of a pennant finally evaporate. Timmy Lupus knows this bitter reality all too well. One team gets the big trophy, and that second-place hunk of cheap plastic only has value as a projectile. But there exists one other absolute truth in the game of baseball: There’s always next year. It’s that hope of another shot at glory that allows us to survive the torturous, interminable off-seasons of our lives.
If the sequel The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training is to be believed, Buttermaker, the boys, and Amanda did make good on Lupus’ promise the following season and became the California champs. It’s a chapter of the franchise that we never get to see, and it leaves us wondering if the Bears really did have the horses to make next season their year. In that spirit, we prepared Baseball America-style scouting reports for all the players going into that alleged championship season. Could this ragtag club really have meant bad news for Roy Turner’s Yankees?
Crack open a beer, light up a cigar, and be the judge.
Ahmad Abdul-Rahim #44
Character-Defining Quote: “It means a helluva lotta badass news for the Athletics.”
The Good News: Once he learned to swing with his eyes open, Ahmad Abdul-Rahim became one of the more promising young right fielders in the North Valley League. He’s learning to switch hit and can beat opponents with both his bat and his speed, the latter of which benefits from his strides not being restricted by wearing a cup. With all his older brothers having been multi-sport star athletes, there’s every reason to believe Abdul-Rahim has only scratched the surface of his athletic potential, sucka.
The Bad News: Abdul-Rahim brings a certain swagger with him to the ballpark (“Don’t give me none of your honky bullshit”), but he also puts a great deal of pressure on himself to live up to his family’s high standard of athletic prowess. After an embarrassing opening-day loss to the Yankees, Abdul-Rahim stripped down to his underwear, climbed a tree, and refused to come down. Unless he stops comparing himself to others and learns that being Ahmad Abdul-Rahim is good enough, that won’t be the last time he ends up being “the naked kid in the tree.”
Jose Aguilar #06
Character-Defining Quote: “No me voy poner esto. Esto duele.” Translation: “I will not put this on. This hurts.” [in reference to his athletic supporter]
The Good News: Jose Aguilar (the older of the two Aguilar brothers) could be the start of a pipeline of talented Mexican ballplayers funneling into the North Valley League. If dominating little league baseball in the future requires heavily recruiting Latin America, Aguilar being one of the trailblazers could put the Bears at a significant advantage when it comes to attracting talent from the region. Luckily, Donald Trump won’t be president for another four decades, so Jose and his brother, Miguel, should be able to stay in the country for the duration of their careers.
The Bad News: Being one of two Mexican players in a nearly all-white league — not to mention having Tanner Boyle as a teammate — could still prove a culture shock for Aguilar going into next season. Luckily, teammate Alfred Ogilvie has been brushing up on his Spanish to help ease the Aguilar brothers’ assimilation.
Projection: The league will crack down on its mandatory “cup” policy, and Aguilar will sue them for violating his religious beliefs and score a multi-million-dollar settlement.
Character-Defining Quote: “Es un bandido.” Translation: “He’s a bandit.” [in reference to Kelly Leak]
The Good News: Miguel Aguilar (the younger of the two Aguilar brothers) saw limited action last season, but you’d never know it from his enthusiasm. His jubilant celebrations after splash plays help bridge the language gap and make him a positive clubhouse presence. Also, given his short stature and crouching batting stance, pitchers find it extremely difficult to locate his practically non-existent strike zone. Plugged into the top of the order, he could be an OBP machine who effectively sets the table for Engelberg and other bigger bats.
The Bad News: Aguilar has a bad habit of throwing his glove while celebrating, which cost him at least one lost glove last season. Apart from Engelberg ruining baseballs with chocolate, Aguilar may eat into the Bears’ equipment budget more than any other player. He’s also expressed distrust of teammate Kelly Leak (calling him a “bandit”), a development that should be watched going into next season.
Projection: If he continues to be successful, Aguilar’s duck-and-cover style of batting may lead to an influx of shorter players and record highs for free passes league-wide.
Tanner Boyle #12
Character-Defining Quote: “Jews, sp-cs, n—–s, and now a girl.”
The Good News: While slight in stature and short on talent, Tanner Boyle brings a feistiness that any championship club requires. Anyone who picks a fight with the entire seventh grade won’t back down come crunch time in the playoffs. That scrappiness translates off the field as well, where Boyle is quick to defend his teammates against rivals. Underpinning all his actions is a pure love of the game. When asked if he wanted to quit, Boyle replied: “Crud no, I want to play ball.” He can also use the word “crud” as a noun, adjective, or verb, which, while irrelevant to baseball, is linguistically impressive.
The Bad News: The pint-size shortstop doesn’t get along with Jews, Hispanics, blacks, gays, or women (for starters) — attitudes complicated by the fact that he plays for the only team in the North Valley League that boasts any real diversity on its roster. While his never-say-die attitude on the field makes him a potential leader, his personal prejudices (and unspoken desire to segregate the league) make him a likely clubhouse cancer. It’d also be safer to pass John Rocker a microphone than to let Boyle tackle any post-game press conferences.
Projection: He’ll either mellow into a reliable, if colorful, shortstop who unknowingly says racist things on occasion (kinda like your grandma), or he’ll become chapter president of a local white supremacist organization and bring his co-members to ballgames. Cruddy California Nazis. I hate California Nazis.
Mike Engelberg #05
Character-Defining Quote: “Quit bugging me about my food. People are always bugging me. That’s why my shrink says I’m so fat.”
The Good News: While Toby Whitewood jokes that Mike Engelberg is “invaluable” because “he can play third base and shortstop at the same time,” the portly backstop has quietly become one of the biggest power threats in the North Valley League. Ironically, the catcher with a Babe Ruth-esque physique also happens to be a Yankee killer. In addition to his big bat, Engelberg has acted as a one-kid stimulus package for the local economy. Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, KFC, and the ballfield concession stand all posted record profits since the ravenous receiver joined the league. Also, thanks to his billboard-scale advertising all season long, Chico’s Bail Bonds (“Let Freedom Ring!”) has begun franchising.
The Bad News: Conditioning remains the key variable for Engelberg, and there are indications that he’s already experiencing heart issues. After running laps at one practice, he ate a candy bar with the wrapper still on and was overheard telling Alfred Ogilvie: “Any second now, heart attack time.” While Engelberg may never win any bathing suit competitions, he’ll need to shed some weight in order to ascend to the top tier of league catchers. Unfortunately, all indications point to him not changing his eating habits and umpires having to throw out a lot of chocolate-smudged baseballs.
Projection: If he can manage his weight, next season Engelberg might begin pounding sliders the way he used to, well, pound sliders.
Jimmy Feldman #8
3rd Base/Left Field
Character-Defining Quote: “Do we have to do that one [pregame cheer]? It’s so corny.”
The Good News: Little footage exists of Feldman at the plate, but he’s proven to be one of the Bears’ surest gloves in the outfield, having had plenty of additional practice from playing directly behind shortstop Tanner Boyle. He’s also one of the most coachable players on the team, always prepared to tweak his batting stance or fielding technique to improve results.
The Bad News: Feldman’s distaste for pregame cheers at times leaves onlookers wondering about his commitment to the team. Also, Feldman clearly doesn’t believe in dressing for success. His Harpo hairstyle and sloppily bent brim sure don’t make him look like a championship-caliber player. To borrow from Crash Davis: “If you win 20 in the show, you can wear your hair and hat like that, and the press’ll think you’re colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you’re a slob.”
Projection: Feldman should continue to develop into a reliable outfielder, but he appears to have more Marx Brothers than Bash Brothers in him.
Kelly Leak #03
Character-Defining Quote: “We go a dollar a game here.”
The Good News: Kelly Leak is a five-tool phenom and the finest baseball player the North Valley League has ever seen. In little more than half a season, he took the bumbling Bears on his shoulders and brought them within a bang-bang call at the plate of a championship. Every time Leak steps on the field, the Bears have a psychological edge, and other teams know not to mess with them.
The Bad News: Half the league owes Leak money (he collects during his home run trots — all those “handshakes”), and he has a rap sheet as long as his tape-measure home runs. His penchants for chain smoking, chasing skirt (including starting pitcher Amanda Whurlizer), gambling on air hockey, and riding a motorcycle without a helmet also raise alarm bells. Leak could be the league MVP, but he could also end up a 12-year-old has-been, owing bookies, sporting a smoker’s cough, and paying child support to several different middle-age women.
Projection: Given a full year with the club, he’ll either lead the Bears to the pennant or join Rick Vaughn in the California Penal League for fixing little league games.
Timmy Lupus #04
Character-Defining Quote: “Just wait ’til next year.”
The Good News: “Clutch” players are always at a premium, and nobody can deny that Timmy Lupus’ lone contribution of the season came at its most critical juncture. By robbing the rival Yankees of a home run in the championship game, Lupus kept the Bears’ pennant hopes alive. His vow of “Just wait ’til next year” accompanied by hurling his team’s second-place trophy into the Yankees’ huddle speaks to a player who won’t simply shrug off the loss and will come into next season highly motivated to ensure a better ending. Oh, and he also fixes a mean martini.
The Bad News: For all his newfound fire and gumption, Lupus, as Tanner Boyle so eloquently puts it, kinda is a “booger-eating spaz.” He never wipes his nose, which not only grosses out his teammates but also portends a possible flu epidemic like the one that sabotaged the White Sox last season. Unfortunately, his potential doesn’t merit the cost of installing and stocking hand sanitizer dispensers in all the dugouts.
Projection: Lupus could spend the off-season putting on 40 pounds of muscle and honing his skills, but we have a hunch that he’ll probably just break his leg in a freak skateboarding accident and start answering to “The Big Looper.” Wouldn’t that make for a compelling sequel?
Alfred Ogilvie #09
Quote: “Without going into much detail, I’m 0 for 14 this season, and aside from Timmy Lupus, I’m probably the worst player in this league.”
The Good News: Despite drawing a key walk that began the rally that nearly led to a comeback victory in the championship game against the Yankees, Alfred Ogilvie’s major contributions to the Bears come outside the lines. His true value comes as a gifted statistician, scorekeeper, bench coach, advance scout, translator, and pool-cleaning technician. He’s also largely credited with developing the “Cool Carl Paranski Shift,” a defensive alignment that shut down one of the league’s hottest sluggers.
The Bad News: Ogilvie’s dedication to his dugout responsibilities makes it difficult to actually get him to enter a ballgame. During the championship game last season, Buttermaker practically had to threaten him just to get him to take his turn at the plate. The dugout barcalounger Ogilvie had installed this off-season won’t make matters any easier.
Projection: By the end of his sophomore season with the Bears, Ogilvie will have retired from baseball and joined the team’s front office, where he’ll invent and introduce sabermetrics to the North Valley League.
Rudi Stein #10
Character-Defining Quote: “Pitcher … Can I play pitcher? I got a pretty good arm.”
The Good News: The luxury of having a Rudi Stein on the team is that it doesn’t really matter if he gets hurt. He has proven he’s willing to take a fastball in the spine for the club, and you can pitch him until his arm falls off in the event of a blowout. (His parents don’t seem to mind at all.) A baseball season is a long, grueling, messy affair, and Stein is the Bears’ best mop for keeping things relatively tidy. He may also become the first player in North Valley League history to sport Rec-Specs.
The Bad News: The best ballplayers are rated five-tool players. Stein, on the other hand, works with a completely empty toolbox. He’s slower than Engelberg, hits like Ogilvie, and throws like Amanda Whurlizer did at age three. On top of that, his sophisticated specs belie his low baseball IQ (e.g. trying to stretch a single into a double in the 6th inning of the championship game against the Yankees with the Bears trailing by four runs). Slow and stupid is no way to win a pennant, son.
Projection: Stein should end up relegated to mop-up duty and leaning into inside pitches late in close ballgames. In fact, he might as well stand directly on home plate wearing a football helmet and pads during his at bats. Who’s kidding who?
Regi Tower #01
3rd Base/1st Base
Character-Defining Quote: “My father said for me to play on the infield.”
The Good News: Once the left-handed Regi Tower shifted across the diamond from third base, he actually became a fairly slick-fielding first sacker. While there’s no evidence that he actually got an at bat all season long, he should be able to anchor the infield from a defensive standpoint. His matching father-son track suits may have also inspired Chas Tenenbaum and sons — for what that’s worth.
The Bad News: Unfortunately, Tower brings bulky baggage with him — namely Mr. Tower, a hyper-critical, presumably unemployed (he’s at all the games and practices) father who isn’t above shouting insults at his son for any miscue (“You gotta tag him, dummy!”). He even dresses down Engelberg for looking sloppy in his uniform. Mr. Tower’s berating can’t be good for team morale and frequently turns Regi almost as red as his track suit and mop-top.
Projection: If Tower can legally emancipate himself from his father and file a restraining order, he could turn into a gold-glove first baseman. Otherwise, he’ll be called a “dummy” so often next season that it’ll feel like an episode of Sanford and Son.
Toby Whitewood #02
Character-Defining Quote: “We took a vote and decided that we’d quit.”
The Good News: Legitimate kudos go to Toby Whitewood for breaking the non-color barrier as the league’s first albino ballplayer. And while forgettable (practically never seen) at the plate or in the field, he’s the quintessential glue man, acting as a liaison between Buttermaker and the boys and a go-between among the Bears’ many racial, religious, and gender groups.
The Bad News: His father filed the class-action suit that got the Bears into the league. Every bit the politician’s son, Whitewood seems as interested in working the system as working a count. After an embarrassing opening-day loss to the rival Yankees, he organized a players’ vote that nearly disbanded the Bears. His ability to rally his teammates could lead to late-inning comebacks, or it could result in organizational strife between players and management.
Projection: Whitewood could develop into the heart and soul of the Bears, but it’s just as likely that he’ll unionize the entire league and stage a walkout whenever the coaches fail to reach a collective bargaining agreement with the players.
Amanda Whurlizer #11
Character-Defining Quote: “I can’t be playing no dumb baseball.”
The Good News: Amanda Whurlizer has a curveball that breaks two and a half feet and the wettest spitball in the North Valley League. In a must-win scenario, there is no arm a manager would rather have on the mound. Whurlizer also has a knack for recruiting top-caliber talent to the Bears. If not for her, star outfielder Kelly Leak would never have joined the team last season.
The Bad News: Despite her rookie success and rumors that she plans to work with Buttermaker on her hitting for next season, there are serious doubts as to whether Whurlizer will actually return once she reaches womanhood. Concerns also exist over how successful she will be once her competition hit puberty and growth spurts. Will her Parmesan pellets turn into giant grapefruits floating through the strike zone? It’s quite possible that Whurlizer’s best season is already behind her.
Projection: Before Whurlizer makes a decision to return or not, a full-scale investigation will be launched over the rumor that she was paid for her services last season in ballet lessons and imported French jeans, a direct violation of league rules. If the allegations are found to be true, she’ll have forfeited her amateur status and be forced to return to selling maps to stars’ homes along the roadside.
All baseball cards come from the Dick Allen Hall of Fame blog.