This author recently made The Pliny Pilgrimmage, which is to say he woke up early, drove two hours north, and waited in line for an hour for a beer (Pliny the Younger) on a Tuesday morning. Given this *same* author’s desire to come up with a WAR-like structure for beer ratings — which recently took a lurch forward with a URL (BeerGraphs.com), a CTO (seriously), and access to the API from untappd, and all their beer ratings — it was only natural to think of baseball while on that drive to Santa Rosa.
Would the author have made the same trek for one baseball player? Which player?
It’s a question complicated by the same issues that find their way into sabermetric analysis. Normally, you’re going to see a team play baseball, or maybe even two teams. Maybe you like one player more, but would you go see that player take batting practice and nothing else? Could you separate out your motivation to see one player so that you could say, yes, I did once spend three-plus hours getting to see mostly one player play?
The author once flew to Arizona for the Arizona Fall League. Known for all the Future Stars your 1982 Topps set could handle, the AFL that year boasted one name in particular that stood out: Bryce Harper. The eye-blacked wonder was going to be there, and he did not disappoint, showing his hustle with a takeout slide at second base in the AFL All-Star game. This guy was going to be good, he was going to be nails, and he was going to play hard. Is Bryce Harper my Pliny the Younger?
Pliny the Younger is a triple IPA, and there aren’t many of them. There aren’t many 19-year-olds that did what Harper did last season. Pliny the Younger is fairly alcoholic — 10.5% ABV — and you could describe Bryce Harper‘s game as highly concentrated as well. The Younger is only available on tap in Northern California, and at the time of the 2010 Arizona Fall League, Harper was only available live in select locations. And even with all his hoppy prickliness, there’s something smooth about Harper.
But the trip wasn’t *just* to see Bryce Harper, and the trip to Russian River was ostensibly just for Pliny the Younger…
Then again, Russian River has many great beers. And the author was blown away by some he didn’t expect to see. Sanctification, a 100% Brettanomyces sour saison, and Consecration, a barrel-aged wild ale, might have played the role of Brandon Belt and Ben Revere, at least when it comes to the Russian River / AFL comparison. Those beers are better than those players, but those player tore up the AFL that season.
In the end, though, the trip was mostly to see Pliny the Younger, as that trip to the 2010 Arizona Fall League game was mostly just to see Bryce Harper. And even if the Younger experience was a ten-win experience, and Harper has yet to taste those heights, he was pretty great in that fall league. His .343/.410/.629 line that year, even in a league full of future stars, drank just about as easily as a small-sample cup of Younger, even in a Russian River tap room loaded with great beers.