What do you Get for the Man Who Has Everything?

So Paul turns 23 at the end of the month, and it got me thinking about the best gift for a baseball fan: the Shirzee. It’s got the utility of a t-shirt, but you can support both your team and favorite player. I ran in pretentious indie rock circles in college, and while there are many avid and knowledgeable football fans in that crowd, it’s safe to say that I like sports more than most of my guitar-toting, obscure-music-listening friends and colleagues.

Almost as a gesture of protest, I tended to wear athletic apparel whenever my band played a show. A few times, we played when South Carolina was playing or preparing for a big football game, I wore a USC baseball cap. We played a house show when Villanova played North Carolina in the Final Four this April, so I wore my Nova hat and asked for updates throughout our set. I’d say more often than not, I wore my Zenit St. Petersburg jersey at shows because, hell, indie kids respect obscure things, and what’s more obscure than Russian Premier Leauge soccer? Shirzees fit that bill as well–in the one Android Opera poster ever produced,  I’m wearing my Steve Carlton shirzee.

So that brings up the question, more a propos to Paul’s birthday, what shirzees are most appropriate for a Phillies fan? I know it’s sort of a stupid question to waste space on, but we’ve got to keep ourselves busy until pitchers and catchers report.

Buying player name apparel is a tricky business. I put a lot of thought into it, which is why I’ve only sported 5 named jerseys in recent years. You need to ask yourself a lot of questions. First of all, is the player going to be around and performing at a respectable level for the foreseeable future. For Christmas in 2006, Kate, the Long-Suffering Girlfriend, spent a ton of moneny on a Thierry Henry Arsenal jersey that I wore about once a week until he transferred to Barcelona six months later. I’ve been burned like that too many times (thanks a lot, Mike Mamula, Jevon Kearse, and Lenny Dykstra) for this not to be a major consideration. When I bought a shirzee for The Most Irreverent Ben (a close friend of Paul’s and mine who’s going to seminary soon), it was a big decision. He had just started following baseball seriously, and his three favorite Phillies were the three on his fantasy team: Cliff Lee (even last summer, he was clearly a rent-a-player), Raul Ibanez (too old), and Jayson Werth. So I got him a Werth shirzee and haven’t regretted it. Of players on the Phillies’ 25-man roster, this eliminates older players like Jamie Moyer, Placido Polanco, and Ibanez, most of the bullpen arms (who tend to be disposable or unpredictable anyway) and the bench players.

The second consideration is: what would wearing this shirzee say about you? During the playoffs, I bought a new J-Roll shirzee from Amazon.com, and during the World Series, they sent me an offer for a discount on Phillies apparel, so I went around looking for another player to support. The problem with this is that arguably the two most popular Phillies, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino, have had their apparel co-opted by women, which is  a real shame. I’d wear an Utley shirzee if it wasn’t every bit as chicky a piece of clothing as a set of high heels. Go ahead, argue with me on this one–the simple fact of the matter is that about 80 percent (if not more) of the people you see wearing Utley and Victorino shirzees are women, and about 90 percent of the shirzees you see on women are for Utley and Victornio. Every team has a player who exists to sell chick shirzees (oddly enough, it’s David Akers on the Eagles), so whatever.

It’s not just whether you’re getting a chick shirt, though. I didn’t get a Brett Myers shirzee because, well, even though I make a lot of jokes about domestic violence, I didn’t want to wear a sign that says “I beat my wife” around town.

This concern also takes into account an issue that isn’t exactly huge for the Phillies right now, but is something that Philly-area fans have dealt with for years. How much imagination did it take for a Sixer fan to buy an Allen Iverson jersey between 1997 and 2003? Or a Flyers fan to buy a Lindros jersey between 1993 and 2000? I always liked the people who wore Mark Recchi or Simon Gagne jerseys a lot more. The Phillies don’t have one overwhelming star, except maybe Utley, and his is a chick shirt anyway.

The originality concept makes all throwback shirzees fair game. Any of the Phillies’ retired numbers  (Steve Carlton, Jim Bunning, Mike Schmidt, Richie Ashburn, and Robin Roberts) are fair game, as are particularly colorful and historically important people (Greg Luzinski, Tug McGraw, Granny Hamner if you can find his shirzee).

So we’ve boiled the pool of shirzees to wear down to the following players: Halladay, Hamels, Happ, Blanton, Howard, Ruiz, Rollins, Werth, Madson, and Lidge.

The final consideration is whether that person’s performance on the field and personality off it warrants purchasing his apparel. This is a matter of personal taste. Whether you think that Lidge can bounce back. Whether J-Roll’s quotability and sense of humor outweigh his low OBP. Whether Cole Hamels’ tremendous potential outweighs his recent whiny streak. Whether Ryan Howard’s game-changing power is a bigger plus than those terrible Subway commercials and his inability to do anything remotely interesting outside the batter’s box are minuses. These are decisions that one has to make on one’s own.

For myself, I’ve worn through two Jimmy Rollins shirts in the past 18 months and am currently on my third. I’ll also buy a Roy Halladay shirzee at my earliest convenience. I also think that the Phillies are missing a massive marketing opportunity by not marketing Carlos Ruiz shirzees. Ruiz is really the test case for this last consideration. He’s an average player, at best, and seriously flawed, but he’s such a comical character to watch. Plus, CHOOCHTOBER! The guy turns into Babe Ruth as soon as the NLDS rolls around, and no one can account for it. I think he’s enough of a funny/original/ironic pick that he’d make the Phillies a ton of money in shirzee sales. I’d buy one.

Another option for particularly opinionated Phillies fans…a Cliff Lee Mariners shirzee? Definite potential there.


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