Quick quiz: is the quote “You know nothing…” from:
a) Listeners calling in to the Mike Francesa radio show referring to Brian Cashman
b) Every Boston fan speaking to any other fan
c) Wildling Ygritte playing a mind game on Ranger Jon Snow
d) Every baseball analyst looking at the Mets’ recent personnel decisions
I love baseball. I love Game of Thrones, though, it should be properly referred to as A Song of Ice and Fire. I also love making character comparisons across things I love. With the help of my compatriot @rebeccapbp, one of the most knowledgeable Yankees and ASOIAF fans around, we have created a master list of Westeros/MLB comparisons, based on histories and personalities. Choices were not necessarily made by name or logo, so the Miami Marlins are not the Tullys despite the Tullys sigil being a leaping fish. Because we had more teams than major families, we split up one family in to three separate branches. We also included some non-Westeros entities, as well as organizations that aren’t families but exist as a unit in Westeros.
ATTENTION: MAJOR MAJOR SPOILERS. INFORMATION IS GIVEN ABOUT ALL FIVE BOOKS CURRENTLY PUBLISHED, NOT JUST THE SHOW. IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS, STOP READING NOW. THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING.
Without further ado, I present… A Song of Balls and Strikes.
Lannisters – New York Yankees
A history of success built on a vast gold empire, the Lannisters ruled Westeros even when the Targaryens technically sat the Iron Throne. Tywin Lannister has rebuilt the family from the ruins that his father left it, much as Brian Cashman has rebuilt the Yankees after a decade of Steinbrenner overindulgence. Jamie Lannister is Derek Jeter – powerful, a legend in his own time, and handsome as hell. You fear and respect the Lannisters, or you’re wiped from the face of the earth. Also, I’ve heard the Rains of Castamere sounds an awful lot like New York, New York.
Targaryens – Los Angeles Dodgers
Coming over from Doomed Valyria astride dragons, the Targaryens have a history to match any family in Westeros. Similary, the Dodgers left the mythical land of Brooklyn and Ebbets field and headed West, and changed the way the game was played with the introduction of African-American players. Just like Mad King Aerys sent the Targaryens in to a spiral of defeat until their exile, Frank McCourt almost ran the proud franchise in to the ground. The new ownership group led by Magic Johnson has given up to Dodgers’ fans just as rumors of a mother of dragons in the East spread through loyal Targaryen outposts in the West.
Baratheon (Robert) – Boston Red Sox
From 2004-2007, the Red Sox were the reigning kings of baseball. Two world championships and a bright future led by a brilliant mind. Much like Robert Baratheon, the Red Sox fans loved to brag and boast (and drink. And they’re usually fat white guys). However, just like Robert Baratheon’s reign as king, it came to a short and bitter end. The Red Sox have had some missteps in recent years, and are often talked of in mocking tones by the other great powers in the land. Also, Robert Baratheon is a vision of what would happen if you combined David Ortiz’s gut with Kevin Millar’s general awfulness.
Baratheon (Stannis) – Chicago White Sox
Personality-wise, the Chicago White Sox are pretty bland. So is Stannis Baratheon, eldest of the Baratheon brothers. The ChiSox colors of black and white mirror how Stannis sees the world: no shades of grey. Long-time White Sox Paul Konerko is like Davos Seaworth: a steadying, solid warrior with undying loyalty to a sometimes unworthy cause. And I think everyone can agree that no person in baseball is as strange and shocking as former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen – sounds an awful lot like Melisandre to me.
Baratheon (Renly) – Milwaukee Brewers
Of the three Baratheon brothers, perhaps Renly would have been best suited to rule. A charismatic and well-liked ruler, he was adored by masculine female knights and metrosexual male knights alike. The Brewers are one of the most popular up-and-coming teams in baseball – a powerful offense led by Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun backed up a solid starting rotation with Zach Grienke and Yovani Gallardo. However, Fielder’s departure has left the Brewers somewhat adrift, just as Renly assassination has left the Renly support camp headless.
Starks – Minnesota Twins
The Twins motto could be Winter is Coming, since Minnesota is freezing and up in the north. No team is praised for ‘playing the right way’ like the Minnesota Twins. Smallball, bunting and sacrifice flies are the name of the game for the Twins. The Starks, meanwhile, are known for their honesty, loyalty and fair play. This sounds nice, but in the Game of Thrones, it leaves you headless in King’s Landings, with your children dead or lost to the world. Old men in Westeros look back nostalgically at when men like Ned Stark ruled with fair play just like when old beat writers opine for the good old days of double switches and chewing tobacco.
Karstarks – Cleveland Indians
The Karstarks are pretty insignificant and so are the Cleveland Indians. The Karstarks are an offshoot of the noble Stark house, and at times Cleveland feels like a crappier version of the Twins. Injury prone offensive stars? Sizemore and Mauer/Morneau. A spot in the terrible AL Central? Check. And just as the Twins love to ‘pitch to contact’ the Indians stocked their pitching staff with a set of groundball pitchers. Alas, Cleveland is almost as cursed sports-wise as the North seems to be during the books.
Tullys – San Francisco Giants
Despite a great location and a long history, the Tullys just aren’t major players in the War of the Five Kings. Similarly, no one really mentions the Giants when they talk about the great franchises. But the Tullys have strength that demands a measure of respect, as do the Giants in their formidable starting rotation. Brynden ‘Blackfish’ Tully is known to do his own thing, against the wishes of the establishment, just like Barry Zito is pretty out there. The Tully’s fish emblem fits well with McCovey Cove in right field.
Martells – Texas Rangers
Dorne is a formidable place to invade because the desert and heat is hard to adjust to. Similarly, Texas is hot and dry and the Rangers defend their territory well. For a long time, the Rangers lay dormant, letting the other powers battle it out in the north but they have recently burst on to the scene, making it to two straight World Series’. Martell’s Prince Doran is a mirror of Nolan Ryan – a stern, patient leader with a long term plan and often mocked by his enemies. The feared commander is Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper, deadly in combat – just as Josh Hamilton is deadly with his bat. The Sand Snakes are the Rangers’ deep lineup, with mashers such as Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli all a threat.
Tyrells – Atlanta Braves
An old and respected family, the Tyrells have made a move for power behind the lead of Ser Loras, the Knight of Flowers, and his sister Margarey. Similarly, the historic Braves franchise has experienced a rebirth recently, behind the force of young guns Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and a host of young arms. These potential-laden kids overshadow the true leader, Chipper Jones. Despite his advanced age, Jones can still defeat a younger opponent, just as Joffrey fell to poison from the scheming Queen of Thorns.
Frey – Philadelphia Phillies
Dishonest. Untrustworthy. Lethargic. Only powerful because of their control over the Twins. The Freys are hated by most everyone including other Freys. Similarly, the Phillies, and their fans, are almost universally disliked by fans of every other team. They must be given a token of respect because Halladay/Lee/Hamels is as good as any top 3, but their future looks bleak. And readers of the books hope the same is true for the Freys. Also, the Freys broke the all-important rule: once a guest breaks bread and drinks wine, he is safe in your hall. And if you go to a Phillies game, there is a solid chance a fan will throw up on you and/or boo your beloved childhood heroes.
Arryns – Colorado Rockies
Isolated and nestled deep within their mountain stronghold, the Arryns possess a fantastic defensive position, just as Coors Field wrecks havoc on the pitching staffs of opposing teams. Lysa’s insanity and poor judgment is mirrored in the managing job done by Jim Tracy, which draws ridicule and ire from Rockies fans. Despite some powerful players (Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez), the Rockies remain like the Arryns: puttering away in their mountain stronghold and only a periphery character in the larger game.
Greyjoys – Seattle Mariners
The men of the Iron Islands are a hard and dreary lot, used to a difficult life. The Greyjoys lead this once-rebellious region. Their house motto is “We Reap, Not Sow.” Similarly the Mariners take the fruit of other team’s labors – they took Justin Smoak from the Rangers, and Jesus Montero from the Yankees. The Iron Islands are led by Euron “Crows Eye” Greyjoy, a man who gained mysterious powers from a foreign land, just Ichiro arrived in America and succeeded with a strange swing and style. Despite a powerful general (Victarion Greyjoy), the people of Pike have not yet truly challenged the status quo, just as the dominance and power of Felix Hernandez often goes unrewarded by his teammates.
Boltons – Miami Marlins
The Boltons are a ruthless family with a predilection for flaying their enemies until they lose all semblance of humanity. The Marlins flayed the people of Miami in to building them a new ballpark, and owner Jeffrey Loria did the same to the old Montreal Expos, forcing them to move. The Boltons joined the Lannisters and tried to dominate the North as the Lannisters dominate the south, just as the Marlins tried to emulate the Yankees and spent a ton of money this past winter. Time will tell if it works out as well.
Baelishs of Harrenhal – Washington Nationals
Borne out of the rubble of the Montreal Expos, the Washington Nationals have experienced nothing but failure since their creation. However, an influx of talent from years of high picks paint a bright future for the Nats. Similarly, Baelish is a brand new noble house, led by Petr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish just like Stephen Strasburg leads the new generation of Nationals. A word of caution: just as Harrenhal is cursed to doom whoever claims it, baseball in our nation’s capital has seen teams come and go and none have survived.
Tarlys – Detroit Tigers
A noble house with a long history, the Tarlys quietly play a large role in the events unfolding in Westeros. Randyll Tarly is a loyal follower of the Tyrells, though you sense some rumblings that the Tarlys may be moving up in the world. Kevan Lannister, Hand of the King, privately worries that Randyll Tarly might be more of a threat than the Tyrells. The same is true for the Tigers, who have quietly put together pieces to compete with the top teams, but haven’t quite executed it yet. Ty Cobb is Randyll Tarly, a shrewd and respected battle commander, but not very liked by those around him. Jim Leyland is Samwell Tarly – intelligent and underrated, and both are often mocked by their own family/fans for their physical appearance.
Reeds – Kansas City Royals
The Reeds are a tiny family, inconsequential in the greater scheme of things. However, their children are are rumored to possess special powers. Similarly, the Royals have a stocked farm system, which is beginning to bear fruit. But it would still take quite a change for both the Reeds and the Royals to gain significant power.
Mormonts – New York Mets
A family in disgrace, the Mormont’s two most important family members only achieved fame and greatness when they left Bear Island – Jorah Mormont to the East, and Jeor Mormont to the Night’s Watch. Similarly, the Mets have this habit of watching players leave the organization only to achieve greatness somewhere else. Nolan Ryan, David Cone, Dwight Gooden, and Philip Humber are all former Mets that threw no-hitters, while the Mets still do not have one in their history. The Mormonts are in disarray, with no leader even fighting to restore the family name.
Wildlings/Free People beyond the Wall – Cincinnati Reds
The oldest group still alive in Westeros, the wildlings north of the Wall have no great power in Westeros, but keep great pride in their history. They have become more of a threat recently with the rise in strength of Mance Rayder, just like the Reds, the oldest team in major league baseball, have been on the rise led by slugging first baseman Joey Votto. The wildlings knew winter approached even before the Starks, just as the Reds traditionally are the first team to play every year.
Rangers of the Night Watch – St. Louis Cardinals
Once, St. Louis was the edge of civilization, the last frontier of America before the wild, untamed West, just as the Wall has separated civilized Westeros from the heathens to the North. For decades, the Night’s Watch have clashed with their enemies to the north, just as the Reds/Cardinals rivalry is perhaps one of the oldest in baseball. The Rangers have recently lost great leaders such as Benjen Stark, Old Bear Mormont and Qhorin Halfhand, while the Cardinals have lost Albert Pujols to free agency and Chris Carpenter to injury.
Citadel (Maesters) – San Diego Padres
Quite possibly the perfect analogy. The priests of Westeros resemble medieval monks in their long modest robes and knowledge of both scripture as well as science. Oldtown is a picturesque village on the sea, just as San Diego is gorgeous. Also, the maesters are non-violent and weak, just like the Padres’ offense. The maesters lost one of their eldest members with the passing of Maester Aemon, formerly of the Targaryens. Similarly, the Padres had a feared hitter, Adrian Gonzalez, but he is gone now.
Brotherhood Without Banners – Tampa Bay Rays
Amidst the War of the Five Kings, a new power rose up – a shifting organization with questionable powers and support amongst the downtrodden. The Brotherhood became a power, threatening the Lannisters, Starks, Targaryens and all the traditional strongholds. Similarly, the Rays have only existed a short time, but use innovative tactics to gain a foothold despite not having the traditional base of power of glorious history. Hell, they don’t even have a semi-adequate stadium. The Brotherhood is led by a mysterious and powerful duo, Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr. Similarly, the Rays are controlled by GM Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon.
Daynes – Houston Astros
A noble house with a long history of fighters, the Daynes are currently in disarray. One of the most famous knights in history was Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning who served on Aerys II’s kingsguard and mentor to Jamie Lannister. The Astros have a similar recent history of mashers in the form of Jeff Bagwell. Both the Daynes and Astros are almost completely gone, without power or mention amongst the stronger houses.
Tarth – Pittsburgh Pirates
Tiny, weak and completely ignored, Tarth is a small island off the coast of Westeros. Tarth has one contribution to the series – Brienne. A powerful and loyal fighter, she is underrated and ignored because she is a woman. Similarly, the punchless and weak Pirates team has one shining star – centerfielder Andrew McCutchen who is underrated and unknown because of his lackluster teammates.
Craster beyond the Wall – Baltimore Orioles
Peter Angelos probably did more to wreck a franchise than any other person in history. Similarly, the despot Craster rules his keep with an iron fist, abusing his daughter-wives and killing his sons. The Orioles are a disaster of an organization, with little long-term plan just as everyone knew that Craster wasn’t going to last long. The only ones who go to Orioles’ games are the family members of the team – just like everyone who lives in Craster’s Keep is part of the family. Sidenote: long-time Oriole Melvin Mora had quintuplets.
The Others/White Walkers – Toronto Blue Jays
A mysterious power from the great white north, the Others could potentially threaten the whole of Westeros. Similarly, the Blue Jays seem well-equipped to collapse the balance of power in the AL East. They have a bunch of young arms and potent bats, and Joey Bautista is among the most feared hitters in the game. But the Blue Jays haven’t made their play yet, just as the Others still remain a silent mysterious force. But should we call them the Othours?
Old Valyria – Chicago Cubs
Once legendary, this land is now just legend. It has fallen in to ruin ever since the great and mysterious Doom. Even now, centuries after its fall, Valyria is said to be haunted by ghosts and curses that affect anyone who enters their lands. Ladies and gentlemen, your Chicago Cubs.
Qarth – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
A fancy city to the east, Qarth calls itself the greatest city in the world. Similarly, residents of Los Angeles (and Anaheim) believe southern California to be the best. But despite moves to gain power in recent times, the Angels struggle. And I think all Angels fans would agree that Vernon Wells is the Undying, even if those fans wish he just would already. That contract, sheesh.
Dothraki – Oakland Athletics
The Dothraki are never still for long, and travel the grasslands in search of plunder and horses. Similarly, the As never feel comfortable in their home, moving from Philadelphia, to Kansas City, to Oakland and rumors abound of a move south to San Jose. The As just don’t have the resources to compete with larger clubs, much like the Dothraki’s horses just cannot compete with the knights and swords of Westeros. To enter Vaes Dothrak, even the mightiest Khal must give up his sword, just as the As seem perfectly content to give up all semblance of an offense.
Pentos – Arizona Diamondbacks
Pentos, one of the Free Cities on Essos, is described as warm and tropical, just like Arizona. Illyrio Mopatis is a powerful merchant there who helps facilitate the wedding of Dany and Khal Drogo, just as the Diamondbacks have made a history of trading with the Athletics, sending a host of prospects to Oakland in exchange for Dan Haren and Joe Saunders.
Baseball is often like a political world, with different factions moving to gain power while others recede in to the background. Dynasties fall and new ones take their place, only to be toppled in their own time. Bran the Builder created Winterfell and the Wall, just as Yankee Stadium will always be the House that Ruth Built. And just as you can’t predict baseball, you can’t predict where George R. R. Martin will take us next.