After the Mets signed Francisco Rodriguez, rapper Lil Wayne weighed in on closer music in his blog on ESPN.com. Weezy says he'd pick Semisonic's "Closing Time", but not the entire song -- just a looped version of the chorus.
I didn't like that song when it was selected as my high school prom song and I don't like it now, but I think Lil Wayne is on to something. I read an interview with Tiki Barber once in which he said the only trash talk that ever affected him was when, in college, Derrick Brooks tackled him, looked him in the eye and said, "Jesus loves you."
If I recall correctly, Barber said he spent the next several plays wondering why Brooks would say that immediately following a brutal hit. One future Hall of Famer found the way into another's head, but not with any of the traditional "your mama" trash-talk fare.
Extending that idea, I wonder if the hard rock and heavy metal that have dominated closer music for the past 20 years (and did we really care that much about the music before Major League and "Wild Thing"?) are really the best angles for intimidating opponents. Maybe entrance music should entrance.
With that in mind, and with several new relief pitchers bound for Citi Field in 2009, I'd like to present my top 10 suggestions for warm-up music, most of them unconventional:
10. Spirit in the Sky - Norman Greenbaum: Not only does Greenbaum's classic start with a recognizable, fuzzy guitar riff that would indistinguishably herald the coming of whichever reliever was shrewd enough to pick it, but its overtly religious lyrics would harness the Derrick Brooks factor.
Think about it: Bullpen doors open, guitar riff starts, fans get riled up. But by the time the pitcher is midway through his warm-up tosses, Greenbaum's singing, "Gotta have a friend in Jesus!" And if that weren't enough to mesmerize opposing batters, maybe the Jumbotron could note that Greenbaum is, to this day, a practicing Jew.
9. Let Me Clear My Throat - DJ Kool: Hip-hop is woefully underrepresented in the realm of closer music. You'd think Lil Wayne would've covered that, but in considering good hip-hop warm-up songs for pitchers, I realized that many of the best options -- including most of Lil Wayne's catalog -- would need heavy editing before becoming fit for a family setting. I don't love "Let Me Clear My Throat," nor is it squeaky clean, but it could be adapted for a stadium without taking too much away. In the linked version, the reference to Philadelphia would certainly have to go. Still, I wonder DJ Kool has anything better to do than record a new take of the song to cater to the pitcher that chose it.
Audience participation, as seen in Major League, is a huge plus for warm-up songs and, coupled with the triumphant opening horn sample, would make "Let Me Clear My Throat" a nice option for any hurler looking to get the crowd involved. Of course, the song packs a lot more style than substance, and the pitcher in question would probably want to warm up pretty quickly, before DJ Kool gets to the part about women with real fingernails.
8. Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey - Lou Monte: This fine number cracks the Top 10 for what we on the World Wide Web call the "WTF factor." Picture it: Ninth inning, home team up by a run, middle of the order due up, tension mounting, and "chingety-ching heehaw, heehaw, it's Dominick the Donkey!"
Sure, it doesn't offer much in terms of straight-up intimidation. But what opposing batter would step up to the plate without Monte's classic bouncing about in his head, confounding and debilitating him? It gets another plus for the audience-participation aspect, which in this case would mean thousands of Mets fans yelling, "Heehaw, heehaw!" -- apropos for any bullpen member who thinks the fans are asses.
7. Everybody Hurts - R.E.M.: Say what you will about the merits of R.E.M.'s catalog, but this is unquestionably the wimpiest song of all time. I'll resist the urge to make a joke about how the song would fit the Mets' 2008 bullpen.
The "everybody" hurting in this case wouldn't be the pitcher or the fans, but the batters due up. The song is inextricably linked to getting kicked out of the house on Real World, not to mention just about every sad moment portrayed on MTV since it was recorded in 1992. Now you hurt, Jimmy Rollins, because you're about to leave Citi Field with your tail between your legs. You shouldn't have spiked that guy's Kool-Aid or whatever. (Honorable mention for this spot goes to Miles Davis' "Flamenco Sketches," which might top "Everybody Hurts" in terms of pure sadness but loses by a wide margin due to its utter lack of hilarity.)
6. Quartet No. 59 in G Minor, Op. 74, No. 3 - Joseph Haydn: You could substitute a number of string quartet pieces for this one, but Haydn's "Rider" quartet, dedicated publicly to Count Anton Georg Apponyi for 100 ducats, bears the appropriate amount of pomp and circumstance. This is the Hannibal Lector approach to entrance music: I'm going to do all sorts of vile things to you, but I'm going to seem cultured and dignified while I do it. My 99 miles-per-hour fastball? Quite refined.
Bonus points go to the closer that contractually demands a live string quartet to accompany each of his entrances. At Shea, they could have set up on the bullpen perch. At Citi, maybe they could elevate up from the depths of the new apple-holster (will it still be a top hat?) in a cloud of smoke for ultimate pompous intimidation.
Stay tuned Tuesday for tunes 1-5, an impressive collection bound to terrify and hypnotize.