Send in the Clones

Saturday, November 23 2002 @ 05:26 AM EST

Contributed by: Coach

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.