Every team has easy-to-like players. They’ve hit giant home runs or pitched six shutout innings. These are the baseball players who are talked about as game makers and considered for the all-star game. They usually have years of experience and lost their Major League Jitters years before. They are the Bryce Harpers, the Jose Altuves, the Aaron Nolas, the Justin Verlanders.
But why encourage someone established to be awesome when you could adopt a Terrible Little Son who betrays you all the time?
The key to finding a Terrible Little Son is to look for a player who looks like he could be very good in the future, but who fucks so regularly and so annoyingly that you feel like you have to put him away and ask him to take a deep breath, make him promise he’ll do his best, tell him you love him, and send him back out to hit .240. Maybe your terrible grandson will become good one day. The second year of my Nationals fandom in 2015, I adopted Trea Turner as my Terrible Little Son. He was just out of college, so talented and so quick. But he also hit ground balls, got scared and panicked, and knocked down first base. In 2015 he hit .225, and I loved him so much.
Yeah, cheering on a player who isn’t great Again allows you to believe that you have some power over the outcome of the sport (a lie). But your trust in them might be enough to turn them from fear to trust. By giving them your attention, maybe they’ll graduate (like Trea Turner) to become your Fast son who left home, and then you don’t have to lecture them about putting their body in front of the ball instead of trying to be fancy and backhand it. Sometimes they never grow up and you’re stuck with Hank Blalock living on your couch. It’s a risk you have to be prepared to take.
There are a few keys to choosing a Terrible Little Son:
- They must be new to the league (not necessarily young)
- They don’t have to be a hot and sexy prospect. (Bryce Harper never qualified)
- They must have the face of a Terrible Little Son and look like they can answer you at any time.
- You must love them with all your heart
When I started cheering on the Philadelphia Phillies at the start of this season, I opened my heart and my eyes for a new Terrible Little Son to embrace. Not only would that make me more invested in the team, but it would force me to be careful with a team that (in April at least) didn’t seem that competitive. I was looking for the first signs of a real Terrible Little Son, like saying stupid things to the press or making weird faces that turn into gifs. It’s important to pay attention to these things in case they ever want to tell you about their weird little habits. Usually the Terrible Little Sons don’t, but that’s part of being a fake parent: supporting them even when they don’t need it.
I set my sights on third baseman Alec Bohm pretty early on. First of all, he was very lanky. Bohm is 6’5″ and 218 pounds. It’s a good size for a son to be. It was only his second full season, and last season he hit a respectable .247. Perfect! I decided to consider him for adoption. It wasn’t a week before I decided he was perfect.
On Monday, April 11, Alec had a horrible game. In the first two sets, he made three errors. They were sloppy, ugly mistakes: plays a major leaguer shouldn’t have made. Philadelphia fans aren’t nice, so they booed. To be fair, I think any major league baseball player who commits three errors in two innings should absolutely be booed. But because Philadelphia fans like to go on a bit, when Alec managed to make an easy ground ball game in the second inning, the fans gave him a sarcastic standing ovation.
Here is that game:
If you can even read lips, you can see he’s saying, “I fucking hate this place.”
This, clearly, did not go well. After Game NBC Sports Philadelphia asked Alec if he actually said that. He said, “I said it. Do I mean it? No. It’s a frustrating night for me, obviously. I made a few mistakes on the pitch. Look, these people, these fans, they just want to win. You heard it, we’re coming back, they’re great. I just feel sorry for them. I don’t mean that. This is Terrible Little Son’s perfect behavior! I officially adopted little Alec as my new Terrible Little Son on April 12th.
Since then, he’s done exactly what a Terrible Little Son should do in his first season since adoption: hit .280 with a .315 OBP. He made most of the plays he should and a few of the plays he shouldn’t.
But the best part about choosing a Terrible Little Son is that because they’re always about to disappoint you, their success feels rare and sweet. Every hit he receives is my hit. Every mistake he makes is my mistake for not supporting him enough. Every stupid thing he does that makes me take a deep breath and let out a long, existential sigh is further proof that I made a good choice in adopting him.
I’ve never been more proud of this horrible precious boy than a few weeks ago when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, score a run. One-shot RBI isn’t exactly how most players want to get RBI, but it does matter! He did a great job! Then, when he was hit by an elbow throw with a 94mph fastball in the final NLCS game, teammate Kyle Schwarber kissed her elbow! Alec Bohm is everyone’s son and we love him!
Whose is this Terrible Little Son, you might ask after watching a video like this:
He’s mine, and I hope he wins the World Series with a weird blooping single in right field to score a run in the bottom of the ninth. Good luck buddy.
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