Nick Johnson retires; Brian Bass signs with Phillies

Jared Wickerham

-P- Nick Johnson is retiring. There's a nice tribute to him on Deadspin. It's a shame he couldn't stay healthy. I saw him play a few times in Columbus in 2011 and felt a little bit bad for him. When he was young -- particularly in 2003, when he was coming into his own -- he was a ton of fun to watch, because you sensed that he was in complete control of his at-bats in a way few players were. He was a little like Frank Thomas in that way. Obviously, Johnson was left-handed and didn't have anything resembling Thomas' power or his talent in general, but very few hitters controlled the strike zone as well as those guys did. The Deadspin piece notes that Johnson was a sabermetric favorite. (He was big in sabermetric circles for his plate approach and for his ridonkulous minor-league statistics -- a .525 OBP in Class AA as a 20-year-old? Yes, please!) For a while there, he made sabermetrics a lot of fun to watch.

-P- Brian Bass has signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies (along with Joe Mather). Pop quiz!

1. In what season did Bass pitch for the Pirates?
2. Why didn't he ever get established in the majors?
3. Why would a team sign him at this point?
4. Are he and Brian Burres actually different people?

ANSWERS:
1. 2010. Duh.
2. Allowed way too many balls in play to walk as many batters as he did. Also, he allowed an ungodly number of home runs for a groundball pitcher.
3. Groundballs! Who doesn't like groundballs!
4. Technically, yes. "Brian Burres" and "Brian Bass" are the pseudonyms of Burrell Bryant and Basel Bryant, fraternal twin sons of the notorious performance artist and playboy Barrett Bryant, who reared them to be fungible starting pitchers as an elaborate comment on the depersonalized nature of entertainment in a mass-mediated age. During the offseason, Burrell and Basel retire to their father's estate in Austria to read Benjamin and Zizek, and to practice their fastballs by throwing against pieces of cow carcass left over from their father's forthcoming work, Schwimmen, in which a nude Barrett Bryant submerges himself in a tank of bovine blood before releasing thousands of rolls of wet toilet paper from the ceiling, covering the audience in a sticky toilet-paper fort while police-siren sounds blare from 76 speakers strategically positioned throughout the auditorium. The audience, by then covered, mummy-like, in hundreds of dollars of toilet tissue, will be encouraged to walk about the space in order to appreciate the sound as it assaults them in subtly different ways from slightly different physical locations. Basel Bryant, meanwhile, will then board a plane bound for Lehigh Valley, where he will be expected, according to his father's program notes for the piece, to "schwimmen im Sinn des Daseins."

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