He could occasionally hear various phrases coming from their table, and they weren't making much sense, so finally his curiosity got the best of him and he walked over and sat down.
"You guys gonna let me know what the hell you're talking about?" he asked.
"Shh, man!" said Garret.
"Funny you should put it that way," said Erstad quietly.
"What way?" Shields replied in a low tone.
"The 'hell'." Erstad looked really serious. "Scotty, we think we figured out how the White Sox managed to beat us. It's some seriously scary shit."
"Uh, okay," started Shields, a skeptical look on his face.
Finley grimaced. "No, really, we have. See, we're the Angels, right? And what's the only thing that can even begin to come close to defeating an Angel?"
Shields stared. "The Blue Jays? We went 1-5 against them this year..."
Erstad blinked. "No, dude, think more evil."
"Um, how about the Devil Rays? We were 4-5 against them..."
Finley had a strange, distant half-smile on his face. "The 'Devil' Rays... He's getting closer, guys. Think biblical, Scot. Think, like, the heavens and hellfire and..."
Shields groaned. "Oh, don't tell me you think the White Sox beat us because they've become a bunch of demons or something."
Garret shrugged. "It's written all over the place, man. First, did you see the commercials they did this year? They even have one where Aaron Rowand dies slamming into the outfield wall and Satan immediately appears to claim his soul. It's actually *in* their contracts."
"Guys, that's a dude in a devil costume."
Finley interjected. "Okay, wait, but how else do you explain how A.J.Pierzynski getting all those calls from the umps? That was really obviously the work of a greater evil force out there. I mean, once, the 'third strike in the dirt', maybe that's a fluke. Twice, that catcher's interference on me... that's a little weirder. But *three times* he was in the midst of controversial calls and came out shining like a little--"
"Don't say it."
"All right. But, really... most of those players sold their souls to the devil a long time ago. It's the only explanation. I know you spend most of your time way out in the bullpen, but have you taken a good look at Mark Buehrle lately?"
Shields started to stand up. "You people are nuts."
Garret held out a piece of paper. "And look at this."
"You know how Satanists always have ways of writing secret messages in text, by rearranging the letters and all? Well, we noticed some mighty odd things about that team."
Shields looked at the paper, and saw several White Sox names rearranged.
OZZIE GUILLEN = I NOZZLE GUILE
JOSE ARIEL CONTRERAS = SATAN, LOSER REJOICER
FREDDY ANTONIO GARCIA = GORY AID FOR DANTE IN CA
SCOTT ERIC PODSEDNIK = I DOCK TINTED CORPSES
"Not bad," said Shields. "But you know, that game goes both ways."
Garret looked confused. "Huh?"
"Well, for example, if you rearrange 'Darin Erstad'..." started Shields, as he scribbled on the paper. "You can get some pretty descriptive things too, eh?" He handed the paper to Erstad. "I'll see the three of you next year. Don't fall into any fiery pits of Hell between now and Spring Training, 'kay?" He walked off.
Erstad read the paper and turned redder than a pair of Thunderstix.
Finley glanced at it and didn't seem to know whether to laugh or cry. "The three of us. '
A NERDS TRIAD', huh?"
"Shut up," said Erstad.