General : : Professional
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Whimsical MLB Football Team

David Rawnsley        
The annual NFL draft will be held this Thursday through Saturday, with much more national fanfare than the amateur baseball draft in June. There are four players ranked in the ESPN Top 100 football draft prospects with extensive baseball backgrounds, all of whom decided to pass on baseball this spring to prepare for their football careers.
Those four are Notre Dame WR/OF Golden Tate (45th), Minnesota WR/OF Eric Decker (57th), Stanford RB/OF Toby Gerhart (88th) and LSU S/OF Chad Jones (100th).
Jones is the best baseball prospect of the quartet despite having played the least of the four during his college career. Depending on where he’s picked later this week (his stock has been slipping during the spring workout period), it wouldn’t be surprising to see Jones picked reasonably high in June by some organization interested in taking a chance on his athleticism.

Tate, who hit .329-1-21 with 13 steals for the Fighting Irish in 2009 and is an excellent defensive center fielder, is probably the most advanced baseball player of the group, although both Gerhart and Decker have played regularly during past springs as well.

Thinking about the mix of football and baseball got the mind thinking about what a football team made up of Major League baseball players would look like. Some MLB players have extensive football backgrounds, of course, although there’s no Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders or Brian Jordan bouncing back and forth between sports right now. For others, it’s just interesting imagining what the player would look and perform like with pads on.

The roster was actually not that difficult to put together, as baseball players come in all different shapes and sizes, as you’ll see below.

(Starters in Bold)

Quarterback: Joe Mauer, Matt Holliday, Derek Jeter
Mauer was a highly acclaimed high school quarterback with a scholarship to Florida State, so he would fit well in this position even without his poster boy status (similar to a star quarterback) in baseball right now. Holliday was also a top-ranked high school quarterback and had to be bought out of a football ride to Oklahoma State. As for Jeter, he just has the natural quarterback look to him, not to mention the body and arm.

Running Back: Carl Crawford, Justin Upton, Shane Victorino, Vernon Wells (Fullback)
Crawford was a multi-purpose quarterback recruit to Nebraska along the lines of Tommy Frazier, Turner Gil and Eric Crouch before deciding to play baseball instead. The playbook would definitely include some wildcat plays. Upton quit football after fracturing his collarbone as a high school sophomore, but he looks like a Heisman tailback. Victorino would be the spread formation/third down back on swing routes.

Wide Receiver: Tori Hunter, Austin Jackson, Jeff Samardzija , Dexter Fowler, Scott Podsednik, B.J. Upton, Drew Stubbs
Does any position in baseball translate so easily into football than center field does into wide receiver? And this team is going to be passing the ball frequently, so we need to load up on speed receivers. Hunter’s ability to go above walls to grab potential home runs will translate well into out-jumping defensive backs. Jackson will fill the DeSean Jackson (no relation) role as the home-run threat, while the Samardzija would resume the football career he gave up to pitch for the Cubs.

Tight End: Jason Werth, Ryan Sweeney
Tight ends have to be big and fast, and both Werth and Sweeney fit the bill. Adam Dunn played tight end (after shifting from quarterback) at Texas, but it would be hard to imagine him having the speed to play the position now.

Offensive Line: Kyle Blanks, C.C. Sabathia, Bobby Jenks, Jonathan Broxton, Josh Johnson, Travis Hafner, Adam Dunn
Fill out the 6-7 Johnson’s frame a bit and this OLine isn’t backing down to anyone in the size department. Johnson and Blanks would man the tackles, while the big pitchers would fill up the middle of the line. Sabathia was an accomplished high school football player who had a scholarship offer from Hawaii to play offensive line, so he would be the leader.

Place Kicker: Phil Nevin

We’ll bring back Nevin from baseball retirement, as he both kicked and punted for Cal State Fullerton before that school disbanded its football team in 1992.


Defensive Line: Jason Heyward, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Micah Owings, John Lackey, Pablo Sandoval
Heyward would have a chance to star on defense as the pass-rushing right end … .imagine him trying to get past Blanks or Sabathia. Fielder would be the anchor in the middle of the defense against the run, although Kung Fu Panda might have his moments, too. Howard would have to regain some of that weight he’s lost in order not to get pushed around in the interior line.

Linebackers: Hanley Ramirez, Marlon Byrd, Adam Jones, Matt Tuiasosopo, Garrett Jones, Matt Kemp
Tuiasosopo could be on the team as a quarterback as well, but his size and athleticism work better at linebacker. Jones, Kemp and Ramirez would be the speed linebackers, while Jones and Byrd would be more the run stoppers. The safeties on this team are going to be so strong that the linebackers will have plenty of help.

Cornerbacks: Michael Bourn, Rajai Davis, Ichiro, Chris Young, Rafael Furcal
Can you see Ichiro being a shutdown corner in the Neon Deion mode? He probably wouldn’t hit much, but neither did Deion, and you wouldn’t have run away from a younger Ichiro. He might be the team’s punt returner as well.

Safeties: Jeff Francoeur, Grady Sizemore, Aaron Rowand, Brandon Phillips
Along with Mauer, Crawford, Samardzija and Tuiasosopo, Francoeur and Sizemore are the most legit real football players on this imaginary team, as they could have spent their college years playing safety as Clemson and Washington, respectively. Rowand plays center field with an aggressiveness that would translate to safety well.

Punter: Darin Erstad
As with kicker Phil Nevin, we’ll bring Erstad, a punter at Nebraska, out of baseball retirement to play for us.

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