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A few years ago, I had a high school SS and leadoff hitter who quietly did a lot of things right. On the same team was a younger kid who hit for a higher average, with more power, and was gifted with a laser-beam arm, but was prone to emotional outbursts and selfish play. I asked the latter which "team" would win if we cloned nine of him and nine of the other guy, and he responded, with the confident swagger I expected, that it would be no contest.

"Wrong," I told the budding superstar, "nine of you would collide on every fly ball, have fistfights with each other in the dugout, and infuriate umpires; nine of him would cooperate, make each other better, and kick your butt." I'm happy to say the young man got the message; he's added the previously-missing intangibles to his impressive skills, and become the best player I've ever coached.

Applying this fantasy yardstick to big-leaguers has been an enjoyable pastime for me for decades. Nine Babe Ruths would be awesome because of the pitching thing, if they all showed up at the park and were willing to share the spotlight. Nine Randy Johnsons would lose a lot of low-scoring games; nine of Pete Rose would be very tough to beat if they bet their money, and so on.

Because many of you, including my co-blogger, are "statheads," I'm sure you can run formulas that will "prove" the superiority of having a Barry Bonds or a Ted Williams at each position, but the more you imagine their baserunning, pitching and defence against a team of A-Rods, the more you wonder...

This game is an unconscious part of player evaluation for me. It magnifies weaknesses, exposes one-dimensional athletes, and "rewards" versatility. Nine John Oleruds would clog the basepaths, but they'd be terrific in the clubhouse and a lot better overall than the Jason Giambi or Manny Ramirez teams. As porous as all Oleruds might be up the middle, at least they could pitch -- 15-1 in the Pac 10 is far beyond most sluggers' abilities.

On the Blue Jays, the almost $200 million payroll of the Delgado franchise wouldn't get great results, because they would allow far more runs than they score. I also shudder at the idea of nine Shannon Stewarts lobbing the ball around. The all-Vernon Wells team would be excellent, and the Jose Cruz lineup could surprise some people. Nine of Eric Hinske would never quit. But I have this funny feeling about nine Orlando Hudsons being the most difficult Toronto team to beat.

Extending it to all current MLB players, Team A-Rod is in a class by himself/themselves. You don't think he could pitch? Put the radar gun on those rockets from the hole off his back foot sometime. A bunch of Ichiros or Guerreros would give him a decent battle. I have more trouble comparing Alex to past greats, especially pitchers who could hit a little and play other positions -- the Bob Gibson team would be scary. Nine of Willie Mays is my dream team, but could they outpitch the Bambinos?

Just a little Hot Stove appetizer for you to nibble on until an actual meal is served.
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_Jordan - Sunday, November 24 2002 @ 11:26 PM EST (#102061) #
Cool idea, Kent....the wild card is on the pitcher's mound, of course: it's what would make Team Ruth unbeatable by any measure. I also think you're right about Team A-Rod being the best of the current crop: the more I see of Rodriguez, the more impressed I am with his approach to the game. He really could pitch if he wanted to. It's a shame that contract is going to overshadow his career.

Anyway, I like Team A-Rod, but I think Team Bonds would give him a serious run for his money. Granted, the pitching would be pretty bad, but the offence would be virtually unstoppable. Think about it: a team where every player walks 150 times and jacks 50 out of the ballpark per year. Now, one might well object: "But the clubhouse...!" True enough, but I have a feeling nine Barrys would be so self-involved and preening that they would accept everyone else's self-involvement as a matter of course. "Barry's entitled to his chair," the other eight Barrys would say as they lean back in their own recliners. "The man just wants to play baseball; let him do his job." Mind you, the Barrys on the bench would be murder to deal with. I'd say Team Barry vs. Team A-Rod would be the best Clone Series showdown.

It's funny to think about the teams that would be upset in the first round. Team Mondesi taken out by Team Eckstein, Team Kent ripped by Team Durazo, and so forth. Any suggestions for other giant-killers?
Craig B - Monday, November 25 2002 @ 08:57 AM EST (#102062) #
The problem with the nine Barry Bondses is that you'd have about six guys actually healthy at any one time now. The injuries would murder you. Huge advantage to Team A-Rod, who would show up every day ready to play. I think A-Rod's team would beat Barry's team anyway, on pitching and defense.

Like Kent, I think Team Olerud would be unstoppable because you would have guys who really know how to pitch. And Olerud was a pretty decent outfielder in his time, too, even though he's slowed a lot.

For the Jays, I think a Chris Woodward team might be real tough. Defensively good and versatile with a good arm and enough hitting not to embarrass themselves.

This test focuses on two things; all-around baseball skills and all-around athleticism. It's the ultimate "five-tool" showdown.

Team Glavine (and Team Maddux too) would be really good. I think Maddux would have made an excellent shortstop if he weren't such a great pitcher. Glavine's hitting has really fallen off since 1998, though.

Just as Team Bob Gibson would have been tough to face off against, think of a team of nine Don Drysdales. *shudder* Park-adjusted, Dandy Don was probably an equal or better hitter than Gibson.

I would also think Team Dave Stieb would do well, but man, think of the clubhouse problems there. Talk about hypercritical.

Team Ruth, though, would likely smash everyone to smithereens, defensive weaknesses notwithstanding.

I love Jordan's analysis of Team Bonds : "Barry's entitled to his chair," the other eight Barrys would say as they lean back in their own recliners. "The man just wants to play baseball; let him do his job." It brings up an excellent point : the self-absorbed guy doesn't bother the similarly self-absorbed guys. He bothers the rah-rah guy who wants to play leader, or the malleable guy who wants to be led.
_Kent - Monday, November 25 2002 @ 03:21 PM EST (#102063) #
--the self-absorbed guy doesn't bother the similarly self-absorbed guys--

If the manager is a big, tough dude who can get between them in time :)
(Poor old Felipe, if they bring Kent back.)

If we're spanning eras, why not compare everyone in their prime? You can't have the Bonds bat from today if you want his glove and wheels from before his magical, no-supplement physical transformation. But you can clone the young Glavine or Maddux, who would be pretty good. Or a relatively healthy, somewhat sober Mantle. Drysdale's an excellent choice, as is Don Newcombe, who was a similar hitter. Yup, Team Stieb would have to overcome a tense clubhouse. And while the post-game interviews would be surreal, nine of vintage Rickey would make a formidable team.

"Low-scoring" games between a pitcher's team and a hitter's team might be 25-20, and a Manny Ramirez/Sammy Sosa matchup could take days, with basketball scores. Any thoughts on that fine pitcher and all-around team guy Jose Canseco? Could he beat Buck Martinez?

Imagining all the Barrys in their recliners = priceless.
Craig B - Thursday, November 28 2002 @ 09:01 AM EST (#102064) #
"Low-scoring" games between a pitcher's team and a hitter's team might be 25-20

Don't forget the errors. It would be much more like high school baseball than major league baseball... and that makes sense. Bill James has an excellent discussion in either the new Abstract or the Win Shares book about the indicators of baseball quality.

Pitcher/pitcher games would be more likely to end 3-2 with errors and bunts all over the place.

As for Barry and Jeff, JK seems a little too "intense" to be truly self-absorbed. Point taken though; when those guys emerge from their shells even a little bit, it can get nasty.
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