2007 Balls-to-the-Wall Squad

As I watched Ryan Freel get absolutely owned by Norris Hopper in the outfield last night (by the way, how about showing some props to the Hopper family? Not only does the guy qualify for the “two last names” club, but two last names of well known awesome actors–Dennis Hopper who at any time could be drunk/high/coked out of his gord, and Chuck Norris, the undisputed hilarious martial arts star and TV pitchman–bravo Mr. and Mrs. Hopper) it got me thinking, if I were to make a team of guys who just played balls to the wall hard every game, every at bat and every pitch who would it consist of? The unfortunate thing is I actually have to think about this–in no other sport is there really the mail-it-in mentality so prevalent. Regardless, I give to you by position the Balls-to-the-Wall squad for 2007.

Starting Pitcher: Roger Clemens

Is he an ego maniac? Yes. Assclown? Yup. Do I love the theory he took steroids? Absolutely. Are there any other active pitchers who are as intense as him on the mound? Not many. This is a man who early in his career would put icy hot on his nuts to piss him off on the mound–for those of you scoring at home, on a scale of 1-10 that scores fucking awesome. Not only has this guy has the stuff to bring it everytime he’s evolved with each season–early on in his career he was full blown “The Rocket”–98mph gas, beastly splitter, and a breaking ball that he could pull out if he wanted to. As he grew older he became the smarter (and richer) Rocket–still had the fastball to trip into the mid-90’s but relied on his breaking stuff more, and honed all his pitches until they were fantastic. Now he’s back for another half a season, sharpening his stuff in the minors and you’d better believe his first start he’d be prepared to throw a fastball through anyone’s numbers.

First Base: Albert Pujols

I’ll put my stamp of approval on it now–Pujols is going to go down as one of the three best hitters of all time. The guy is sick on a level we didn’t know about, and he’s only like 24 years old. He’s going to get BETTER. Sure watching him run the bases makes me giggle on the inside but there are few hitters in the league like him. Dialed in on every pitch, every pitcher, Gold Glove first basemen, and an intimidation factor maybe 3 or 4 guys in the league carry (him, Howard, Ortiz, Bonds). What he single handedly did to Brad Lidge serves as a testament to his badass-ity.

Second Base: Chase Utley

Of course I’m a huge Phillies fan, but I dare anyone to question this pick. First of all, this guy is a baseball robot. His life revolves around it. He got married in late-January, and showed up a week early to training camp in Florida with the quote “I’m just really glad to be here”….ON VALENTINE’S DAY! If that doesn’t let your wife know she takes a back seat to baseball I don’t know what does. Stories of Chase hitting in the batting cages till his hands bled as a youth are well known. This is a guy who blames nobody but himself if he comes up short. Workout fanatic, baseball fanatic, and deserving man of a spot on the Balls-to-the-Wall Squad.

Shortstop: A usually big hustle position, we have a slew of possible candidates here. David Eckstein, Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez are all very good and solid picks here. But I’m gonna have to go with Derek Jeter. Another guy I’m not too fond of but have mountains of respect for because he’s just so damn good. And getting better. Unbelievably athletic, all-the-time hustle that you’d want in a captain, and baseball sense you just can’t teach. A “real” Yankee? No…a “really” unbelievable player.

Third Base: I had to think long and hard about this one too. David Wright is a very logical choice, but seeing as he violates two of my rules to be on the Squad (must be literate and can’t have any prior arrests of statutory rape) he missed the cut. Therefore my choice is Akinori Iwamura of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, or as he was known in Japan “Japanese Lightning”. Iwamura is quickly becoming known as a player who’d rather commit on-field hari kari before dishonoring baseball. He’s hitting over .300 this year and is tearing up the basepaths–he’s been on the DL lately but not to worry, he’ll be back soon.

Left Field: Shane Victorino

When the Phillies wisely moved Bobby Abreu to the Yankees last year Shane Victorino was the man who stepped in at the outfield and took his place. Once utility outfielder but now a regular, he is becoming known league wide for his speed (tied for 2nd in the NL for steals), his defense (can track down balls at an alarming rate and has an absolute cannon of an arm), and intensity (runs over the catcher at any chance he possibly has) Victorino has quickly become a fan favorite in the blue collar Philadelphia. “Coked out Victorino” has become a new phrase in my vocabulary and with good reason…watch his face from the first inning to the last–always having fun, always going balls out and usually making noise in the game.

Centerfield: This is a tough one. A very tough one. Aaron Rowand, Jim Edmonds, Torii Hunter…all very worthy candidates. However I’m gonna have to go with Ryan Freel. He posesses a trait from all the above but puts it together in a young package and is only going to get better. Insanity of Rowand, glove of Edmonds, speed of Hunter. I think outfield walls actually fear this guy, because he sure doesn’t fear them. He’s been in the league only a handful of years but has quickly cemented himself as a team-first, who-cares-about-my-body type of outfielder with talent to match. Come to the Phillies.

Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki.

God I love Ichiro. This guy is treated as a demi-god in Japan, and with good reason. Blazing speed, bullet-proof fundamentals, howitzer of an arm (does anybody try to take 3rd base on him anymore?), ridiculous hand-eye coordination, unbelievable hitter (think the contact hitting ability of Tony Gwynn but with the wheels of Ricky Henderson), and unparalelled baseball smarts. A ridiculous fitness freak, this man WILL play into his 40’s, there’s no doubt in my mind. Every one of his teammates also says the same thing about him–he could hit for power if he wanted to but he’d rather hit for average. Last year when he realized the Mariners were out of the race for the playoffs he started hitting home runs for the fans–I’m not making this up. This could be the most complete player who has EVER played baseball.

Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez

I’m a huge fan of this guy. His hustle level is about the same with A.J. Pierzynski, but seing how Pierzynski is a total shitbrick, the edge goes to Pudge. Ridiculously talented (fantastic hitter-lifetime .303), a natural leader (wherever he goes the team immediately gets better), awesome defensively (not many guys will run on him), and one of those guys who’s just a flat out winner. Five foot nine inches of intensity and baseball sense, Pudge brings the hustle and pain in every game day in and day out. I’d kill to have this guy on my team.

Manager: Ozzie Guillen

This guy is the best. If you don’t get excited everytime you hear a sentence that starts with “Today Ozzie Guillen said” you’re probably not a fan of humor, or baseball. He apologizes to nobody, expects everything that his players have and accepts nothing less. An old-school hardass who you know in the clubhouse calls out anybody who dogs it on the field. Not an ounce of political correctness or restraint, and I love it. Ozzie come manage my team.

And there you have it, the Balls-to-the-Wall Squad for 2007. Check back in next week when we go over the Ass-Dragging squad of 2007. Till then, hooooray baseball.

The bat

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5 Responses

  1. Shane Victorino is an absolute gem in right field. I love the fact, like you said, that at every chance that presents itself, Victorino chooses to run that motha-effer over at home plate. It makes me so happy I almost pee myself sometimes. I mean look at that damn Hawaiin. He’s literally 180 pounds. And he’s trying to run over guys who more than likely are outweighing him a good 20-30 pounts.

    Given, Victorino is fast as lighting and hits the dude at full force, but still. Law of averages. (What is that? I don’t know.)

    Also have to give Elijah Dukes and Delmon Young shout outs, too. They’re balls-to-the-walls in every connotation imaginable. If you get what I’m saying.

  2. I’ll give Elijah Dukes a shoutout when he’s ready to kill me and my kids…no bullshit.

  3. G’day!
    As an Australia-based STL Cardinals fan, I found your blog on google and read a few of your other Cardinals posts.
    I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  4. I am a Mariners fan from Tokyo, Japan.
    I really liked your blog with the Mariners mentioned item. I am a big fan of Ichiro Suzuki.
    I try to follow as much MLB news as I can with the internet.

  5. Lugo and Smoltz were basically treated as discards by the Red Sox but they have been a terrific boost to the Cardinals.

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