Americans love free crap. And Americans also, in theory, love baseball.
With that in mind, I decided to look at the promotional calendars of every major league team to see what some of the best and worst promotions are for the 2008 season.
The most popular? Fireworks. We Americans love free crap, baseball (in theory) and also bright, shiny things. You can catch more than 140 fireworks displays across Major League Baseball this season. For some reason, fireworks are especially popular in the AL Central: the division's teams are scheduled to combine for 55 fireworks displays this season. And that's with the Twins too scared to host a single one.
But before I share with you the best and worst promotions of 2008, let me first tell you about five disturbing trends I noted in my research. It is my hope that baseball can remedy them in time for the 2009 season.
DISTURBING TREND NO. 1: LOUSY BOBBLEHEADS
Pretty much every legitimate star has already had a bobblehead night. Or 12. There is almost no one left to honor via bobblehead. So this year you can collect all the bobbleheads you never wanted: Yuniesky Betancourt, Travis Buck, Matt Capps, Bob Melvin, Micah Owings, Rennie Stennett, Kurt Suzuki, C.J. Wilson. Did I throw any made-up names in there? If you know for sure, you watch far too much baseball.
The bobblehead industry needs to reinvent itself, but it is missing the opportunity. On April 6 the Brewers gave away a Prince Fielder bobblehead. On May 3, Indians fans will get their own C.C. Sabathia doll. Astros fans will get Lance Berkman on Aug. 1. And a Miguel Cabrera bobblehead will be given to Tigers fans on Sept. 3.
Fielder, Sabathia, Berkman and Cabrera? 2008 would have been the perfect time to say "Good-bye, bobblehead dolls!" and "Hello, jigglegut dolls!"
DISTURBING TREND NO. 2: AGEISM
Numerous teams have Run The Bases promotions, which let children -- and in some cases, adults -- come onto the field before or after the game and run around the bases. But this year the Mets, Phillies and White Sox are featuring Seniors Stroll The Bases promotions. Oh, so everyone else can run, but our nation's seniors can only "stroll"? Well, I know one thing, you ageists: the Greatest Generation was running full speed when it stormed the beaches of Normandy. But, by all means, congratulations on your generation's greatest accomplishment, which would be ... umm ... I don't know ... the iPod? Or the adoption of casual Fridays, maybe?
You can see the following musical acts for free at major league stadiums this season: Bret Michaels (of Poison fame), Collective Soul, Kool and the Gang, LL Cool J, MC Hammer, REO Speedwagon, The Commodores, Third Day and Trace Adkins. And those are all the "big" names, not just people I selected for badness. Clearly, there has never been a better year than 2008 to be both a baseball fan and deaf.
DISTURBING TREND NO. 4: GREED
Every major league team has presenting sponsors for its giveaways. That's not a surprise. For example, the Diamondbacks' baseball card giveaway on May 18 is presented by Discount Tires.
The Padres, however, laugh at such antiquated simplicity. Their promotions have two sponsors each. So you get melodic giveaway names such as Padres Magnetic Schedules presented by Oggi's Pizza and Brewing Co. and brought to you by XX Sports Radio (April 5). And Kevin Kouzmanoff Koozies presented by AT&T the Exclusive Wireless Partner of the San Diego Padres and brought to you by KSON (June 20).
So convoluted, yet so profitable. Now the Padres just need to find two sponsors willing to help them give away Trevor Hoffman.
DISTURBING TREND NO. 5: PROMOTIONS WITH MISLEADING NAMES
Some teams have game-day promotions with shorter names than what the Padres have, but these names are no less confusing. Take a look:
Pyro Night (A's, June 7, July 11, Aug. 30, Sept. 9) -- No description of this event is provided on Oakland's Web site. It could be a night with a postgame pyrotechnic display. Or it could be that really fidgety people with crazy eyes who are holding lighters get in for half price. Let's hope it's the former.
Indians Wives Association Shirts Off Backs Auction (Indians, Aug. 30) -- "I'll bid $75 to see the busty one in the blue halter top remove her shirt. And please, please, please let her not be wearing a bra!"
Free Kids Tuesday (Rangers, Sept. 2) -- "Umm, OK. I guess I'll take one. But is it well-behaved? Will it do work around the house? What about tricks? Does it do any cool tricks? Where does it go to the bathroom? And can I return it at a later game if I'm not happy?"
MasterCard Bleachers and Boog's (Orioles, eight times during the season) -- Are these nights in which all fans in attendance can pick their noses and wipe the findings under their seats without feeling guilty? Unfortunately, no. It's just a $15 deal for a bleacher seat and a barbecue sandwich.And now, without further ado, the best and worst promotions of the 2008 season, in chronological order:
THE WORST MLB PROMOTIONS OF 2008
• Retro Baseball T-Shirt (Phillies, April 2) -- Nothing says "retro" like a shirt with "2008" on it.
• 2007 League Champion Collectible Wearable Ring (Rockies, April 7) -- This replica of Colorado's National League title ring was given away free to the first 30,000 fans in attendance on Monday. Fans 30,001 and up who wanted a ring of equal quality were forced to shell out 25 cents at a supermarket gumball machine.
• 790AM Helmet Radio (Dodgers, April 11) -- This stylish helmet radio only receives 790AM, the exclusive radio partner of the Dodgers. That's great for Dodgers games. But when games are not on, 790AM is a talk radio station featuring Don Imus and Bill O'Reilly. Don't many of their listeners already wear protective helmets?
• Magglio Ordonez Mini-Bat (Tigers, April 14) -- If the Tigers are still winless on April 14, methinks the first 10,000 fans in attendance are going to bludgeon the first nine Tigers on the field.
• Wrestling Night (Rays, April 19) -- I have no information on this event. But it sounds potentially dangerous. This game is against the White Sox, though. Maybe the Rays are just afraid these guys will show up and want to be prepared.
• Aaron Harang Growth Chart (Reds, April 20) -- I'm doubtful that any parents, Reds fans or not, really want their kids to grow up to look like Aaron Harang.
• Baseball Equipment Drive (Royals, April 25) -- Are the Royals really so financially strapped that they need their fans to donate bats, balls and gloves?
• Vladimir Guerrero Batting Helmet (Angels, May 3) -- This is a fantastic giveaway if the replica helmets are clean. But if they are as dirty as Guerrero's real helmet, most fans will be going home with a batting helmet and the plague.
• Weather Curriculum Book (Indians, May 15 and 28) -- If there's anything that will get more kids through the turnstiles, it's meteorology!
• Kosuke Fukudome Bobblehead Doll (Cubs, May 27) -- Something that vibrates and has "Kosuke Fukudome" written on it? I hope this giveaway is only for those 18 and older.
• Father's Day Neckties (Diamondbacks, June 15) -- "Not only did I get you a tie for Father's Day, Dad. I got you a free tie covered in Diamondbacks logos. Enjoy!"
• Wristbands (Cubs, June 26) -- Kind of a cruel reminder of the Dusty Baker era, no? In light of the promotion, that night's starting pitcher will probably have to throw nine innings whether he likes it or not.
• Rays Army Hat (Rays, July 5) -- Nothing would give aid and comfort to the enemy more than our fighting men and women running around with Rays-logoed apparel. The United States military would suddenly look very beatable.
• Youth XL 1983 Jerseys (White Sox, July 20) -- So the team's marketing department has research that says only fat kids are White Sox fans?
• Back to School Pack (Rays, July 20) -- You are 12 years old, it's still mid-July and you're just trying to enjoy an evening out at the ballpark with friends and then ... thanks for ruining everything with an unnecessarily early reminder that school is on the way, jerks! I mean, really -- this giveaway couldn't wait another five weeks?
• Pink and White Rhinestone Cap (Royals, July 24) -- Is that pink cap not sexy enough, ladies? Then make yourself look a bit more tacky by adding some nice rhinestones.
• Brewers Car Flag (Brewers, July 31) -- Why not go one step further and just ask a cop to pull you over for suspected DUI?
• Car Freshener (Marlins, Aug. 2) -- It's the Marlins. Shouldn't this stink?
• Bronson Arroyo-designed T-shirt Night (Reds, Aug. 9) -- Who wouldn't want a T-shirt designed by someone this cool?
• Leather Portfolio (Astros, Aug. 14) -- "Hello. Nice to meet you. Thank you for granting me this interview. I really want to work here. I think I am right for this executive position. Just let me get you a copy of my resume out of my Houston Astros-logoed portfolio here and ... what? The interview is over already?"
THE BEST MLB PROMOTIONS OF 2008
• Coca-Cola and The Pasta House Co. Yadier Molina Pennant Day (Cardinals, April 6) -- Now here are appropriate sponsorships -- Coke and The Pasta House for Yadier Molina. Nothing says "Molina brother" like high-sugar, high-calorie drinks and lots and lots of carbohydrates.
• Giants Earth Day (Giants, April 16) -- Forget all the cheap paper and plastic crap -- most of which ends up in the trash -- that is given to fans all season, for today is Earth Day! So the first 20,000 fans will receive a reusable grocery bag. That's earth-friendly, and it provides Giants fans with a barf bag that will come in handy when watching the Giants play. Two gifts in one!
• Pre-Game On-Field Clinic (Tigers, April 26) -- It's about time Jim Leyland gives the Tigers some instruction on how to play baseball.
• Jamie Moyer Bobble Figurine (Phillies, April 30) -- This bobblehead is unique in that it has the shakes simply because Moyer's so old.
• Nightlight Night (Yankees, May 7) -- Take a wrong turn leaving Yankee Stadium after the game? This light will definitely come in handy in avoiding a rat attack.
• Grady Sizemore Fleece Blanket (Indians, May 10) -- No doubt many of Grady's Ladies will sleep in the nude under this blanket.
• Cubs Pink Cap (Cubs, May 11) -- Unfortunately, this giveaway is a necessity. The Red Sox proved four years ago that having a stadium full of pink-hatted women is the only way to break a long World Series drought.
• Craig Biggio Mini Helmet (Astros, May 23) -- Fun fact: This mini helmet is the actual size worn by the retired Astros great.
• Aramis Ramirez Mini-Souvenir Baseball Bat (Cubs, May 31) -- Ramirez is heavily involved in cockfighting in his native Dominican Republic (where cockfighting is legal, mind you), so perhaps his gamecocks can fight from now on with miniature bats.
• Tool Set (Marlins, June 8) -- What better giveaway could there be for a team that is constantly rebuilding?
• Beerfest (A's, June 21) -- If you're stuck with tickets to an interleague game between the A's and Marlins, you're going to want to be intoxicated.
• Beach Towel (Marlins, June 29) -- Just a friendly reminder from the Marlins that there are much better things to do in Miami than attend a Marlins game.
• Mullet Night and Fireworks (White Sox, July 19) -- So guys who look like this are not the minority among White Sox fans? Sweet mercy. And I guess we can assume that the mulleted folks will be handling the postgame festivities with their own stock of illegal fireworks.
• Sleepover at Chase Field (Diamondbacks, Aug. 1) -- Put to sleep again by Arizona's inept offense? No worries. On this night, stadium personnel will not wake you up when the game ends.
• T.C. Savings Bank (Twins, Aug. 3) -- This is for fans 14 and under, and will help teach them how to be as money-conscious as the team they love.
• NASCAR Night (Braves, Aug. 14) -- NASCAR drivers only turn left; baserunners only turn left. A NASCAR Night at a baseball game is a good fit. Best of all, maybe you'll be lucky enough to sit behind this guy.
• Luggage Tag Day (Yankees, Aug. 16) -- With this Yankees-logoed luggage tag, you will be able to subtly let people from around the world know that you are better and more important than they are. Or at least that you think you are.
• Calculator Day (Yankees, Aug. 30) -- Having trouble keeping track of the Yankees' escalating, late-season payroll as they desperately scramble for a playoff spot? Perhaps this calculator can help.
• Marlins Mermaids 2007-08 Wall Calendar (Marlins, Sept. 12) -- Get a calendar featuring all of these hot women before the Marlins trade them for cheaper, uglier ones.
DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He is also a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and has written for The Onion and Cracked. His first book -- "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck" -- is on sale now.