With baseball upon us and nothing but lockouts in our near future, chances are pretty good you justcompleted your last fantasy draft for awhile. If you can’t come to grips with that terrible truth, you can always widen your player pool a little bit. Here is a list of the top choices if you and your friends were to hold a fantasy baseball draft full of actual fantasy (i.e. fictional) baseball players.
No. 10 Kenny Powers
Eastbound And Down. Normally you would never draft a closer this early, but depth is a real problem at the position. If you don’t grab Powers here, you are stuck with Rookie Of The Year’s Henry Rowengartner (who is one injury away from being a below average little leaguer) or Major League’s Rick Vaughn (who is absolute murder on your WHIP, plus something tells me that guy is going to turn into a historic head case). Everyone else seems to always magically give up a homer in the bottom of the ninth. Sure, Powers might turn the wrong way and drive the bullpen cart onto the highway instead of the mound, but he did save 49 games one year with a K/9 of 14.2. That’s sick. Plus you get to yell his catchphrase at the end of every game. At least until your wife gets sick of the exuberant profanity and leaves you -- probably for Kenny Powers.
No. 9 Roy Hobbs
The Natural. Sentimentality and our highlight-seeking culture may cause The Natural to get drafted even higher, but let’s be real -- the dude came into the league unusually late in life and immediately blew up. That screams steroids, doesn’t it? His numbers could fall of the cliff if he goes off PEDs to avoid getting caught. Who needs that kind of risk? Plus he’s only gotten it done for a meager half-season. Sure, his production was Bondsian, but you can just draft The Fan’s Bobby Rayburn, who is based on Bonds, instead. If he can finally avoid knife-wielding umpires and playing in hurricanes, Rayburn is in for a big year.
No. 8 Ed
Ed. Ed, the baseball playing chimpanzee from the cinematic opus of the same name, can throw a ball so hard, it causes gloves to literally catch fire. How long do you think it is before he’s switched to pitcher and turns into Sidd Finch? You might be buying low here. Additionally, let’s be honest. You are going to watch your fictional fantasy team play a lot this year. Is there anything you’d rather stare at than a monkey throwing a baseball? If so, stop wasting your time with this article and go back to reading Hemingway, Your Majesty.
No. 7 Leon Carter
The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings. Leon Carter is based on Josh Gibson, who batted .359 and hit a HR every 16.1 at-bats during his career in the Negro Leagues. Throw in the fact that he qualifies at catcher and you have a roto stud on your hands. Additionally, you’ll have James Earl Jones on your team and can pretend he freaks batters out by trash talking them as Darth Vader whenever they approach the plate. “Mauer, I find your lack of power … disturbing.”
No. 6 Jimmy Dugan
A League Of Their Own. Dugan hit 487 home runs before retiring at least five years prematurely after falling out of a hotel window to escape a fire he started. That means he was hitting between 40 and 50 homers every year he played, which explains why Mr. Harvey wanted to use him as a draw for his all-female baseball league. That level of consistency makes him golden and we can even move him up a spot or two if he qualifies in the outfield. You might be able to find equal power in the second round, but no one else is as likely to keep the crybabies in line.
No. 5 Mighty Casey
Casey At The Bat. We are starting to reach rarified air here, but drafting Mighty Casey still requires a bit of a leap of faith. Here is what we know about him: He’s very big and strong (hence “Mighty”); he causes fans to lose their minds (the sellout crowd is begging to see him hit); and he’s one of the biggest jerks to ever set foot on a diamond (tips his hat before he even bats, takes the first two pitches in a desperate situation just to showboat, clenches his teeth in hate). He’s like the 1800s version of Albert Belle. But you got to figure he did something to earn the fans’ trust, so he must be capable of putting up huge numbers.
No. 4 Clu Haywood
Major League. Clu, the feared Yankees first baseman in “Major League,” ranks ahead of Casey simply because we know what we are going to get. He became the first player in two decades to win the Triple Crown, going for 48 homers and 121 RBIs while carrying a .341 average. Considering that is basically Albert Pujols’ best-case scenario, he is a special player. Bonus points for having a mustache that looks like it used to be a goatee made completely out of glued-on chewing tobacco, but morphed into a 'stache after he couldn’t resist picking at the chin.
No. 3 Willie Mays Hayes
Major League. Despite Heywood’s dominance, he still doesn’t go ahead of his rival from the Indians. The team was 60-61 when it decided to win the whole thing and quickly ran off a five-game winning streak. At this point, Hayes is shown nailing his 15th glove to his wall, a ritual he engages in whenever he steals a base. At the end of the season, his wall is shown again. This time I count 75 gloves and there could be more out of frame. That means, conservatively, he stole 60 bases in the last 36 games. Holy smoke. He also added the long ball in his second season (as well as completely different facial features) meaning he could become baseball’s first 30/200 player. If he does that, the sequel to “Black Hammer White Lightning” will certainly be in theaters longer than the original’s run of two-and-a-half hours.
No. 2 Bugs Bunny
Baseball Bugs. We’ve only seen him play in one game, but it’s enough to put Bugs near the top of the list. In that game, he scored 96 runs on his own (most likely on 96 long balls). He pitched five shutout innings, while catching for himself, indicating a level of speed that would make him a terror on the bases. And since he plays every position, he would probably qualify all over the field, providing an unprecedented level of value. Even though he played in the most crooked game of all time and would likely face a lifetime ban for participating, he frankly should No. 1. But if I put a cartoon at the top spot, no one would ever take this article seriously.
No. 1 Steve Nebraska
The Scout. See, now this is far more realistic. Nebraska is a pitcher for the Yankees who hurls a perfect game in the World Series by striking out all 27 batters on 81 pitches. He also hits two bombs (the team must have wisely waived the DH rule) for the team’s only runs. To end the game, he rings up the guy who the announcers swear is the most feared hitter in baseball: Ozzie Smith. Yes, the same Ozzie Smith who hit 28 career homers in 19 seasons. Yes, the same Ozzie Smith who hit .199 in the year after the movie came out. And yes, the same Ozzie Smith who is BATTING LAST FOR HIS OWN TEAM. That’s how we know we are in good hands with the creators of “The Scout.” Anyways, with this pick, as long as you can slot him at both pitcher and as a utility batter (got to assume he’s the designated hitter on days he doesn’t pitch), you can lock in close to a thousand K’s, 35 wins, perfect ratios over 300 innings, approximately 1,100 RBI and more than 500 home runs and runs scored. Even if you fill your team in typical Hollywood fashion with nothing but anonymous, generic extras, you are still coming home with the hardware. Congratulations.
Honorable mentions: Chet "Rocket" Steadman (Rookie of the Year), Nuke LaLoosh (Bull Durham), Pedro Cerrano (Major League), Jack Elliot (Mr. Baseball), Lou Collins (Little Big League), Butch Heddo (Rookie of the Year), Stan Ross (Mr. 3000), Jack Parkman (Major League II), Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez (The Sandlot).
-- Toby Mergler is the founder of League of Leagues Fantasy Sports, the first cross-sport fantasy game. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.