While waiting on a tarmac this past weekend, I spent some time thumbing through a SkyMall catalog and pondering its existence.
A SkyMall catalog is like the Gideons Bible of the skies. When you see it in its designated storage compartment, sure, you feel like you're in a real airplane, but how often are they used for their intended purpose?
And the bigger question -- how many times have they led to direct sales of big-ticket items? Maybe somebody circles a pet pillow that happens to be perfect, but I can't imagine many people have been inspired to buy an $8,000 electric bicycle off a piece of paper from a middle seat.
Baseball, too, has preferred trusting the tangible in recent years, extending players they already have and know, rather than paying retail in the market. Unlike SkyMall -- which apparently is struggling under the weight of these realities -- teams have to use free agency to some degree. They just hope they can stick to smaller items they didn't know they needed.
In both cases, it's a lot more fun if you can easily afford to buy blind, but there's some entertainment in merely browsing. The fact that our offseason plan project has more than 30 entries confirms that notion.
So, to go the distance and stretch this metaphor like standard temperature-regulating sheets over a pillowtop mattress, let's take a look at this year's still-developing and partially theoretical free-agent class through the eyes of a bored passenger waiting for transfer baggage to arrive.
Max Scherzer, the Seabreacher Customized Boat
At $85,000, the most expensive item in the catalog is technically a watercraft, but it operates more like "an aircraft with full three-axis of control." Most people think $85,000 could be spent more wisely, instead of using it on a boat that looks like a shark, a killer whale or a shark with an octopus on it. But man, imagine if you had a flying sharkboat. You'll have to imagine it, because you'll never have a flying sharkboat, nor the regrets of buying an $85,000 sharkboat, because Scott Boras owns the dealership.
Jon Lester, the Alpha Fuzion Personal Sauna System
The second-most expensive item in SkyMall looks like it takes a load off your mind. If you're afraid it's going to stop working, it's a claustrophobic nightmare.
James Shields, the Releaf Neck Rest
It provides support where none can be found otherwise, even though it sometimes looks like a choking hazard.
Brandon McCarthy, the Library of Classics MP3 Player
Loaded with hours of entertainment and enlightenment, but will it be wasted on people who have neither the time nor the desire to process it?
Neal Cotts, the VHS to DVD converter
A way for White Sox fans to revisit their memories from 2005.
Jake Peavy, the Voice Art Sound Wave Artwork
"You can transform your favorite saying into a masterpiece, ready to hang on the wall for you and others to admire. Its the worlds [sic] most sentimental art, 100% you and your message."
That's "GODBLESSIT!" Frame that sucker.
Kenta Maeda, the FireHotTub Fire Burning Portable Hot Tub
It's unknown whether the Hiroshima Carp will post Maeda. Likewise, the FireHotTub is subject to availability. We are told it is a "very unique and rare item and therefore is a special order item that may require custom import to the U.S."
At $3,999.99, it's not nearly the most expensive item on the market. The compact item promises multiple uses -- a hot tub AND a grill? -- but without seeing it work in person, it's easy to wonder whether it's too small or brings enough heat.
Jesse Crain, the Thanks for Everything Pet Frame
From the description: "You gave your beloved pet a great life. If your pet could speak, this is what he or she would say. These words (and the favorite image you provide) will comfort you while grieving and remind you of the good times."
This is the saddest item in all of SkyMall.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Wordsmith's Manual Typewriter
Any mistake can ruin everything, so make sure you work as slowly as you possibly can.
Scott Downs, the Pajama Jeans for Men
Prove he isn't.
Nelson Cruz, the Panther Spy Drone UFO with video camera
It looks like fun, but if you get too much enjoyment out of it, people are going to question whether you're crossing legal or ethical boundaries.
Victor Martinez, the Serenity Pod Bed
You'll "float away on a cloud-like bed into a blissful state of calming color changing light, relaxing music and soothing vibration," and the knowledge that you'll never have to face him again. But if it doesn't work as advertised, then you just paid $10,000 for a piece of furniture that doesn't fit the rest of your room.
Torii Hunter, the Designer Litter Box Enclosure
Many people are impressed by his combination of function and style, while others will first and foremost think of the times he's been full of crap.
Pablo Sandoval, the Adult Plush Ball
Billed as "soft, cute and durable," but it seems like an injury waiting to happen, especially if the listed weight is an underestimate.
A.J. Pierzynski, the Yon Smart Travel Blanket
Then look at this:
If this person was sitting across from the aisle -- especially with the "privacy hood" -- you would shake your head at the complete lack of shame. Simultaneously, you'd be slightly jealous that you can't care fewer forks about how people perceive you.
Jonny Gomes, the Bigfoot Garden Yeti Statue
A hirsute figure that would "command a unique presence in your garden," whether because of his personality or his outfield play.
Jason Giambi, the Get Off The Internet T-shirt
This had far more punch 12 to 15 years ago.
Alex Rios, the Cooling Pillow
No matter what's happening around it, you can't stop it from chillin' the most.
Happy #NationalCoffeeDay ☕️ Drip, espresso, french press, what's your favorite?— Alex Rios (@arios51) September 29, 2014
Ryan Doumit, the Tikker Happiness Life Countdown Watch
Billed as "a wristwatch that counts down your life" based on a personal health algorithm, this is supposed to inspire you to live your life to the fullest, but the longer you stare into those black pixels, the more you contemplate your own demise.
Ichiro Suzuki, the 'A Christmas Story' Leg Lamp
It's a timeless and idiosyncratic icon who has generated a ton of fond memories, but maybe it's better in somebody else's window.
Jeff Mathis, the Attic Tent
You're not going to see it much, and the savings it provides are hidden, but it might not be enough to offset the initial investment.
John Buck, the Jumping Hot Dog
The possibility of groin trauma is the biggest selling point.
Adam Dunn, the World's Largest Toe Tap Piano
It's huge, it's one-dimensional, and you saw it in a movie once.