Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Replacements

For twenty-two years, baseball has operated in a fairly harmonious peace.  Well, we learned yesterday that relations between the Player's Union and Major League Baseball aren't too hot right now, as they try to hammer down a new labor agreement.  In fact, Ken Rosenthal reported that there's a chance we might see the owners' engage in a lockout should a compromise not be reached in time.

While there's little chance that such an occurrence would last long enough to have any affect on the actual season, once can't help but be reminded of the mid-90's strike and the ill-fated attempt to bring in replacement players that followed.  In fact, that really got my wheels spinning... who could we bring in to fill out the lineup card, should we reach that point.

One of my favorite sports movies of all-time is The Replacements.  On that note, for funsies, I decided to write out a starting lineup made up of non-baseball players.  The rules for this starting nine is that the person depicted must be known primarily for something other than baseball and be featured on an actual baseball card.  I know you're itching to see who I came up with, so without any further ado, I present to you the Replacements!

I should also note, I was forced to raid COMC for images, since I have almost none of these cards.

Starting on the mound for the Replacements is Jim Harbaugh, the former Bears quarterback and current Michigan head coach.  While the Tigers may have only brought him in to toss out the ceremonial first pitch, he showed dedication in showing up in full uniform.  Not to mention, as a for NFL QB, he must have a decent arm.  Let's see if the skills translate.

Callings the pitches for Harbaugh will be Kevin "Crash Davis" Costner.

Okay, so Costner may have only played a catcher on TV, the options for this position were exceptionally limited.  Also, let's not discount the fact that the well-known baseball fanatic played backstop quite convincingly in Bull Durham and he brings team leadership skills to the table.  Of course, who knows if his knees can handle this position today.

Our first baseman shall be the one and only Will Ferrell, he of spring training publicity stunt fame.

I could have plugged the king of comedy into any position, seeing as he literally played every position on the diamond over the course of his well-documented ST stint prior to the 2015 season and Topps produced a corresponding card for each.  However, this is a Cubs-themed blog after all, so I decided to opt for the position he played for the Chicago National League Ballclub.  Plus, he didn't look very good elsewhere in the field at the time.

Okay, so here we have a legitimate athlete - second base will be held down by Russell Wilson.

This theoretical work stoppage would occur at the beginning of the season, long after the Superbowl and well before the start of the next NFL calendar.  Thus, Seattle's signal caller might just be available to help this squad out.  Remember, he was drafted by the Rockies and was considered a legitimate prospect by the organization - getting him to join the team would be a major coup.

Here's another pro athlete; however Johnny Manziel should be much more available that Wilson.

The former Cleveland quarterback's self-destruction and subsequent "exile" from the NFL has been anything but a secret.  Perhaps he could work on getting his pro sports career back on track by playing a little baseball?  The San Diego Padres drafted him as shortstop back in 2014; but, he hasn't played baseball since high school.  Well, if Tim Tebow can try it....

At the hot corner, we have Philadelphia Flyers' hockey Hall of Famer Eric Lindros.

Honestly, the jumping off point for this whole experiment was an article about unique Lindros cards I read on Beckett in the wake the centre's HOF induction last week.  Naturally, the piece included a brief snippet about his 1990 Score baseball card, which was produced after Lindros took batting practice with the Blue Jays.  Think maybe he wants to give baseball another go?

Into the outfield we go, starting with musical left fielder Garth Brooks.

Okay - so, I cheated a little bit here.  The country music superstar never had a baseball card produced with his likeness, so I created one with the Rookies App - it's my blog, I can break the rules if I want to!  It's criminal that he doesn't have a card though, since long before Ferrell's antics, Brooks went to spring camp with the Padres, Mets and Royals and manned the corner outfield spots.  How has this never been immortalized on cardboard?

Fresh off of winning a Presidential Medal of Freedom, "His Airness" himself will man center field - put him in coach, he's ready to play.

Jordan's short-lived baseball career has been discussed ad naseum, so this should require no explanation.  He may be considerably older, but maybe the second time is the charm for "Air Jordan."  I mean, he can still dunk and he still thinks he can cut it in the NBA... who's to say he wouldn't still believe that he could make it on a baseball field too?  Here's his chance.

Rounding up the starting lineup, we have our fourth former NFL quarterback - John Elway - plopped in right field.

Like Russell Wilson, John Elway was seen as a legit baseball prospect and spent some time in the Yankees farm system while his NFL contract rights were being sorted out.  In some alternate universe, Elway might have be a part of the Torre-Era Yankees dynasty instead of guiding the Broncos to a Superbowl win.  Who knows?

Speaking of the Yankees, as a special bonus, I've included a designated hitter for an AL ballclub or a pinch-hitting specialist for a NL team:

This is the only card shown here today that I actually have - Billy Crystal swinging the bat for his absolute favorite team.

The lauded actor, of course, is a Yankees super fan and even directed the severely underrated baseball film 61* about the Maris/Mantle home run chase.  As a special favor to Crystal, the Yanks allowed him to lead off a 2008 ST game (as a DH) against the Pirates and future Cub Paul Maholm.  He even managed to foul a fastball up the first base line, but was eventually struck out on six pitches.  I'd say that's a more than respectable cameo; so, let's give Billy a shot at a full-time gig!

Well, at least he's got the majestic follow through down.

And there you have it, my very own version of the Replacements.  While it's highly improbable that any potential work stoppage would last into spring training, let alone the regular season schedule, these non-baseball players featured on actual baseball cards will be standing by, waiting in the wings.  Of course, they'd be absolutely terrible since most of them aren't athletes and a good portion of them are over the age of 50... that said, the team sure would be interesting to watch!

Here's hoping that MLB and the Player's Union can come together on an agreement in time for the December 1st deadline.  The main sticking points appear to revolve around an international draft, compensation for teams that lose free agents, the competitive-balance tax and the Joint Drug Agreement.

The last thing baseball needs is another work stoppage.


  1. Vegas is currently giving The Replacements 1,000,000:1 odds of winning a game.

  2. Great post. I'm not sure about your team though. You should have had an all-star caliber trainer card. I think he might be the most important guy on the team. Also, how about a replacement owner,

    1. I wanted to work Bill Murray in - he even took a couple of pro at-bats with a low A team in '78 or so. If I did this again, he makes it as the owner, for sure.

  3. Excellent! I loved that movie back in the day! Gene Hackman for manager, right? And the cast of Pitch might actually have a shot at playing a real game at Petco!

  4. Too bad there's no cards of Derrike Cope from his baseball days...he was even drafted into the MLB I believe, before he blew out his knee. Hey, that was 30 years ago, I bet it's healed by now!

    Lockouts are the worst for sports...hope it doesn't happen for you. The NBA is getting it's new CBA in order and we are expecting an announcement next week...

    1. In fact, Cope was even being scouted by the Cubs before he blew out his knee. That was always one of my favorite bits of trivia.

  5. If you want to fudge the "has a card" rule, there's Country Music Hall-Of-Famer and Negro League pitcher Charley Pride. If nothing else, he appears on a deck of Country Music playing cards.

    ...and I've got another "Replacements" video for you, courtesy of They Might Be Giants: