Rarity Chasers: How the Immaculate Grid has become a favorite amongst Cubs players
On Sunday morning, Patrick Wisdom looked at his phone and pondered for a minute.
Wisdom was on the Immaculate Grid website, the online game that’s become wildly popular in the baseball community. The game — for those unfamiliar — is a daily trivia where a player has 9 guesses to fill out a 3 by 3 grid with a baseball player who matches the criteria for the specific rows and columns.
The game within the game is the rarity score and having the lowest score possible. Each player filled in is assigned a percentage pertaining to how popular the pick was among the playing community. For example, in a Braves-Cubs cell, Greg Maddux or Dansby Swanson would likely have a higher percentage than David Ross or Emilio Bonifacio.
“I think it just started as like trying to get as many guys as you could and now I think it’s obviously try to get the lowest [rarity] score possible,” Trey Mancini said. “It’s like golf — the lower score is better. I mean that’s our favorite aspect of it is throwing guys that are like 0.2% or somebody that maybe a lot of us played with.”
Sunday, the columns were Angels, Tigers and 40+ HR season and the rows were Red Sox, Cubs and White Sox. Wisdom saw the Tigers and Cubs cell and knew he had the perfect name — his teammate Tucker Barnhart.
But the rest of the grid was a little bit of a challenge.
“I had some help from Yan Gomes,” Wisdom admitted.
The assistance paid off. Wisdom was “immaculate,” filling out the grid perfectly, and his rarity score was 53.
“Today was a good day,” Wisdom said.
Wisdom’s score was impressive — but it might not be the best the Cubs’ clubhouse has seen. Barnhart, Wisdom’s choice on Sunday, could hold the title there.
“I had like a 30 rarity score,” Barnhart said. “That was a one-off. It was good enough that I felt the need to take a screenshot of it.”
Cubs players, like the casual baseball fan, have become enamored with the game but unlike the casual fan, there’s the unique opportunity to see themselves as an answer.
But it gives players quite a dilemma — if you’re a possible answer, do you risk your rarity score to get yourself in? On July 5, the top left corner cell had Orioles-Cubs, so it was a no-brainer for Mancini.
“I’m not the biggest rarity score guy,” Mancini said. “I’m not as good as a lot of these other guys with that. There was an Orioles-Cubs one — you have to [put yourself].”
For others, admittedly, that’s not an issue.
“Mine goes hand in hand, because I’m like a 1%, so it works,” Mike Tauchman, a recent option for Rockies-Giants, said.
“Well for me, personally, I will probably be on the lower end of the scale,” Barnhart said. “So, if I’m in there, it’s usually gonna be both — I get myself in there and I get a low rarity score.”
The game has spread through the Cubs clubhouse — in the meal room, in the clubhouse or in gathering areas, you might overhear players trying to solve the day’s puzzle.
“It’s no different than like a sudoku or crossword or whatever,” Tauchman said. “It’s fun and I think it’s fun to throw out some names [or] if you can think of one that’s under 1%, that’s pretty good.”
Wisdom is a “super novice” at it, hence why he struggled a bit on Sunday.
“The only reason I get on it is when I hear the other guys talking about it and I’m like, ‘Oh OK, I’ll give it a try,’” Wisdom said. “I get pretty stumped sometimes. But I have some secret weapons.”
So, what’s the solution when one cell gets a bit tricky? For some, it’s as simple as looking around the room. Veterans who have had numerous teammates can recall someone they might’ve played with playing for two different franchises — like what Wisdom did with Barnhart.
“I’m pretty bad at [it]. Some of the older guys that have a bunch of teammates, they’re good at it,” Nick Madrigal said. “But I’ve been struggling on it. I need practice.”
If that doesn’t work? Well, then they’re just like any other baseball fan playing the game.
“I definitely run through the clubhouse first to see if any of those fit,” Wisdom said. “And then just kinda wrap my brain from playing the video games back in the day like Ken Griffey Baseball. That kind of thing.”
And if none of that works?
“You just kinda hear whispers in the clubhouse, like, ‘Oh, who did he put?’ That’s kinda cheating, though,” Wisdom said with a laugh. “If I’m really stumped, then I’ll just put that one.”