09/08/2008 1:31 PM ET
Melvins frontman rocks stat geek cred
Every day is 'Gameday' for King Buzzo
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Buzz Osborne can only laugh when recounting the rare privilege of being spotted by Minnesota Twins broadcasters in the Metrodome stands because of his outrageous signature hair.
Naturally, the commentators had never heard of Osborne or his legendary underground metal band, the Melvins, so they only noticed former Twins slugger Kent Hrbek, who was sitting a few seats away, and the "weird guy."
"I thought it was good," says Osborne, the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for the Melvins, who have been playing since they formed in Aberdeen, Wash., in the early 1980s. "I'm all about the media. Any chance for me to get on TV, I'll take it. Of course, the guys calling the game didn't have much interest in me. But that's OK."
The more Osborne tours, the more likely it'll be that he'll pop up on baseball broadcasts.
The singer, also known as "King Buzzo" to his legion of fans, says he's become obsessed with baseball in the last few years.
"A friend of mine, Dan Raymond, who knows an astonishing amount about baseball, got me heavily into it," he says. "It helps that I totally understood the game from playing as a kid, but one day about five years ago I just started realizing that I was massively into this and took it from there."
He is constantly on his laptop watching Major League games via MLB.com's Gameday feature, and he's not ashamed to admit that he's a bit of a stat geek, too.
"Sabermetrics have changed the whole way I look at baseball," he says. "Some people think it's taking away the human element a little too much, but I think they're onto something.
"The things I'm really interested in are things like how much walks count. That's incredibly important, and that's why the book 'Moneyball' is so good. But in my humble opinion, (Oakland A's general manager Billy) Beane isn't doing so great right now. I mean, building a team is great and loading up on young talent is important, but aren't they supposed to win?"
Yes, King Buzzo has his opinions, but when it comes to rooting for a team, he's relatively impartial. He lives in Los Angeles and probably goes to Dodger Stadium more than any other ballpark because of its convenient location, but he doesn't really have his own team to root for.
"One of his quirks that bothers people is that he loves all baseball," says Greg Werckman of Ipecac Recordings, which released the Melvins' latest album, Nude With Boots.
"If you push him, he might cop to being a Dodger fan, but he does not understand those of us that hate certain teams. He likes them all! He gets as excited for the opposing teams as he does for the home team. I am an A's season ticket holder and I brought him to a game a couple years ago against the Twins, and he said, 'Don't you love Torii Hunter?' And I said, 'No! He kills us.' He just does not feel that way. Very interesting."
Equally interesting are some of King Buzzo's unique takes on some controversial issues in the game.
Osborne, for example, loves the fact that his hardball heroes make millions upon millions.
"I'm into the high salaries," he says. "If people are going to games, players should get the money. I think teams should have to spend more money on payroll than a lot of them do. I also think the Tampa Bay Rays should move to Santa Monica. Then I could get to three games a week."
And if the Melvins ever get asked to play the National Anthem at a ballpark, they're ready.
While Osborne says he won't "hold (his) breath" waiting for such an invitation from the Dodgers or even a Minor League team, he says the band has been playing the "Star-Spangled Banner" during their current tour, although their rendition isn't exactly traditional.
"Confusing is the best way to describe it," he says. "It's not a diss. It's respectful. It's just a more neutral version of it, I guess."
Osborne also is hardly neutral when it comes to assessing the merits of live baseball vs. the televised game.
"It's like the difference between sugarless chocolate cake and real chocolate cake," he says. "On TV, you can't see the player shifts, what the coaches are doing, really most of the stuff that's really important. I mean, I'll still watch games on TV, but there's nothing like live baseball.
"It's a chess match. And I'm completely into the idea that managers and coaches wear the same uniforms as the players. That shows you how much of a team sport it is. It's awesome."
Osborne likens the travails of a baseball team over a 162-game season to what he and the Melvins have been doing for a good portion of the last three decades.
"We've been playing a long time," he says. "We figured out we've played close to 2,000 shows, and not all of them are going to be good. And that's the way it works. You get out there and you do what you have to.
"That's what's good about baseball. It's such a long season, and even the best teams are going to lose more than 60 games. It's very human that way."
Osborne picks the nearby Angels to win the World Series this year and says their outfielder, Vladimir Guerrero, is his favorite player to watch.
"I've never seen that guy when he wasn't smiling," Osborne says. "And can you blame him? How could he possibly be happier? He's playing baseball for a living."
But even though King Buzzo loves the game and likes the Angels and wishes he could hit like Vlad, one thing you won't see him in is a baseball cap. Not on that head.
"I'm not real hat-friendly," he says with a laugh. "Believe it or not."
Doug Miller is a Senior Writer for MLB.com/Entertainment. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.