THOMA COLUMN | No shortage of stupidity to admire

·3 min read

May 31—"Nothing at all I can do here?"

"No. Come and help me admire stupidity."

From "Some Buried Caesar," Rex Stout

Nero Wolfe's reply to Archie Goodwin — and its implication that sometimes you just have to sit back and let the dumb happen — is one of my favorite lines in fiction.

This was a good week in which to admire stupidity in baseball. It wasn't so much the quantity as the quality. We witnessed some truly high-level inanity.

Start with the misbegotten "Local Market" line of MLB caps from New Era, which vanished from their website about 12 hours after they appeared Tuesday — 12 hours of near universal mockery on social media.

I am a cap addict from the days when I actually had hair on my scalp, and I've had some rather ugly lids over the decades. But never anything as bad as the Local Market offerings, which were littered with area codes (inaccurate in some cases) and bad clip art.

The Twins model's area codes were OK. The other art ... well, the front featured a greenish blob apparently intended to be a truncated map of Minneapolis' Chain of Lakes.

On the back was a hamburger, presumably to honor the Juicy Lucy, only with the cheese outside the meat.

An outline of the state was emblazoned with 1901, the year the Washington Senators were part of the inaugural season of the American League, a fact without connection to Minnesota.

As my brother used to say, the whole episode was dumb with a capital M.

Then there was what has become known as the Javy Baez play, which gives Baez way too much credit — unless the Cubs shortstop, aka the Magician, actually did hypnotize Pittsburgh first baseman Will Craig.

In case you have somehow missed the replays from Thursday: With two outs and a runner on second, Baez hit a routine grounder to third. The Pirates third baseman's throw pulled Craig off the bag toward Baez, who started backpedaling.

Craig, instead of retreating to step on first and end the inning, decided to chase Baez back toward home plate. Then, with the runner coming around third and sliding home, he flipped the ball to the catcher too late to get the tag.

Baez, after making an exuberant safe sign, suddenly realized he still had to get to first base to make that run count. Fortunately for him, nobody was covering first. (And also, Craig interfered with him, which wound up not mattering.)

Two errant throws later, Baez was on second, the run was official, and the single most boneheaded play I have ever seen a major league player make was over.

Craig, by the way, is said to be an excellent defensive first baseman. But he forgot that there is no such thing as a rundown between home and first. It's a force play. It's always a force play.

That Craig — entering the weekend with an on-base percentage under .300 and a slugging percentage under .330 — is still a major leaguer after that fiasco may signify a lack of alternatives in the Pirates system.

Or maybe manager Derek Shelton (a former Twins coach) and his bosses are busy admiring stupidity.

Edward Thoma is at ethoma@mankatofreepress.com. Twitter: @bboutsider.