So, ShysterBall started this bit of nonsense over here, debating whose jerseys he’d be willing to wear from each team. Since then, Jeff Snider has picked up on the game, and Mr Thursday is nothing if not a cheap ripoff artiste. So, here, below, our favorite player from each team in the Junior Circuit (we’ll send up the NL choices soon), and whether or not that player rates highly enough on a nebulous system of judgement to warrant a jersey purchase. Ya know, if we weren’t broke over here.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM
Favorite: Bert Blyleven.
Why: Everyone remembers him as a Twin, and I imagine a few fondly remember his years Cleveland and Pittsburgh, but when I was a young, wide-eyed child, Bert was busy sporting sub 3.00 ERA for the California Angels, as well as grooming an outstanding beard, and I distinctly remember being given one of the first analogies of my young life: Blyleven : Curveball :: Nolan Ryan : Fastballs. I loved him.
Wear the Jersey? You bet.
Favorite: Dave Parker
Why: I have never liked the A’s. I think, perhaps, the first off-color joke I’ve ever known involved postulating what the “A” on the cap stood for. Furthermore, most of their good players, during my lifetime, are or were in some sort of disgrace: Rickey Henderson’s a nut, Jose Canseco…well, Pat Jordan’s pretty much got him nailed, Mark McGwire hides in disgrace, Tony LaRussa is a pompous ass (the A’s! Get it?), and Eckersley, to me, is just the guy who gave up the Kirk Gibson homer. That said, Dave Parker has always been cool. I mean, his nickname was Smoke. Smoke!
Wear the Jersey? Not a chance. I like Parker relative to his Oakland peers, but I still don’t like him that much.
Favorite. Nolan Ryan
Why: He’s an easy answer, especially for someone under 30 who grew up watching the National League almost exclusively. But, I love pitchers like him. He has easily the most strikeouts, ever, but he also has easily the most walks, as well. His “stuff” was so filthy that on any given start, he was approximately equally likely to implode as he is to toss a line of zeroes. There are a lot of pitchers like that nowadays, though none of them have been able to harness their powers as consistently as Ryan: guys like Carlos Zambrano, Oliver Perez, and Daniel Cabera, and, to a lesser degree, Edwin Jackson.
Wear the Jersey? Certainly. I think of Ryan more as an Astro (a product of rewatching Game 7 of the 1980 NLCS so many times), but he’s the best I’ve got for Texas.
Favorite. Ken Griffey Jr.
Why: I had roughly 10,000 baseball cards, collected from eras. The collection began in 1988, but picked up steam in 1989, when I got a first edition Topps Ken Griffey Jr rookie card. It was one of my favorite cards. In 1994, when the players went on strike, I quit little league and started giving away the cards. I distinctly remember selling Junior’s (mint condition, in case) card to a lady with a 4 year old son for 50 cents at garage sale. I also sold her a 1983 Carl Yastrzemski and an autographed Curt Schilling. She paid $1.50 for the three. I took the strike pretty hard.
Wear the Jersey? I’m not sure. I’m not much for nostalgia, and as much as I adored the Kid, my love for him is something remembered, and not something that has endured.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Favorite. Carlton Fisk
Why: Played catcher in little league and admired the guy. Also, I would happily piss off Boston fans.
Wear the Jersey: Yes, but I doubt I’d pay the necessary money to own it in the first place.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Favorite. Bret Saberhagen
Why: I cannot explain why I loved him so much when I was younger. I have no particular attachment to George Brett (likely because I grew up knowing that Mike Schmidt is God), and, to me, Danny Tartabull represents disappointment. But Saberhagen, as a younger man, could throw it with the best of them. Sure, he was almost certainly a victim of tossing too many pitches at too precious an age. But, at least, I remember him only fondly.
Wear the Jersey: Certainly. Especially since Bill James/Rob Neyer/Rany Jazeryerli/Joe Posnanski have turned all of us into secondary fans of the Royals, I have no problem remembering where my fondness for the team began.
Favorite. Jim Thome.
Why: Class act. Legs like tree trunks. Reported wonderful teammate. Hits thunderous homers. Thunderous. Hit his 400th homer while I was sitting in the (second) best seats of my life: 12 rows behind home plate.
Wear the Jersey? Not a chance. It has nothing to do with Thome, but, like others, I cannot abide the Wahoo.
Favorite. Chuck Knoblauch.
Why: Not all of us remember him for Steve Blass disease (some of us just ignore it when our favorite players become Yankees). Some of us just like to remember 143 OPS+, 45 SB, and apparently good defense from second base. Loved that guy.
Wear the Jersey? Nah. I never liked those uniforms.
Favorite. Can’t I just get some Ernie Harwell swag? What about a Sparky Anderson jersey? Is that weird? Okay, fine, Lou Whitaker.
Why: No great reason. Wonderful player, second baseman, and I’ve always had an affection for players who just aren’t quite good enough to be Hall of Famers. Well, actually, Lou might have been good enough. Excellent hitter, outstanding defender, and part of the legendary Trammell-Whitaker double play combo.
Wear the Jersey? Probably. I like Whitaker, and I have no problem with the Tigers.
BOSTON RED SOX
Favorite. Pedro Martinez
Why: Largely for the same reasons as everyone else. Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Greg Maddux have been, at times, nearly as good as Pedro was. But Pedro’s combination of stuff–the crazy fastball, the changeup, the hard breaking stuff–and control, and “pitching smarts”, not to mention a mean streak. I mean, he brought out the absolute best in baseball writers, trying to describe what they were witnessing every time he went out to the mound.
Wear the Jersey? No, thanks.
Favorite. Billy Ripken.
Why: Partly because he played second base, and largely because I owned The Card, too.
Wear the Jersey? Nah. Despite a long professed love of irony, I don’t want to (literally) wear it on my shoulder.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Favorite. David Wells.
Why: Big, blustery, and funny. Any interview with David Wells is a good interview. Also, as a fat, soft-tossing lefty, he gives me hope that I, too, could still be a professional baseball player.
Wear the Jersey? No. Cannot abide those uniforms.
NEW YORK YANKEES
Favorite. Alex Rodriguez.
Why? Partly just for the history. It’s interesting to watch one of the all-time great players do his thing. It’s equally interesting (though less fun) too see his home crowd despise him while he does it. So, partly because I like A-Rod, and partly because I hate Yankee fans.
Wear the Jersey? Unlikely. I’ve never been one for pinstripes, and I’d hate for anyone to think I’m a Yankee fan, instead of just an A-Rod fan.
TAMPA BAY MEPHISTOPHERAYS
Favorite. Edwin Jackson. Seriously.
Why: Unlike a lot of baseball fans, I’ve never felt like the Rays should be contracted (or, at least, I’ve never appreciated the jokes to that effect), and I’ve been on the the “2009 World Champion Devil Rays” bandwagon since, like, 2005. I mean, I’m not driving the bandwagon, but I do get to ride shotgun to Jim Callis. That said, for reasons I cannot explain fully, (though the Nolan Ryan tidbit explains part of it), I love Edwin Jackson. I want him to succeed, badly. He doesn’t have to become Nolan Ryan or even Mike Mussina, but if he could end up like Mark Langston or Mark Boddicker (decently long career, and generally average or slightly above), I’d be thrilled. Also, for some reason, I really love his fastball. It’s an aesthetically pleasing pitch to watch him release.
Wear the Jersey? Absolutely.