There’s a term I use when discussing baseball called The Fantasy Fandom Factor. The basic premise is that there is a multi-tiered hierarchy of Major League ballplayers: (1) The Guys You Know and Love Because They’re On Your Team, (2) The Guys You Know and Perhaps Love Because They’re Really Good, and (3) The Guys You Know Merely Because You Play Fantasy Baseball. As recently as fifteen years ago (before fantasy took over the national consciousness), even diehard MLB fans had no idea who anyone outside of the top players were outside of their home team’s division. But now, these diehards have a vested interest in knowing who everyone is; it helps them win their fantasy leagues and garner the nerd-cred that comes with it.
Unfortunately, this gives rise to a new problem. Fans know who these Category Three players are, but only insofar as their names, teams and stats. They don’t know who they really are, deep down, below their slugging percentage. Are they nice folks? Do they have kids? Where are they from? Have they nailed Madonna? As I was perusing the MLB All Star Game rosters, I realized there are a lot of Category Three folks that got the nod this year. And since I’m in the business of helping you, the readers, I’m going to give you all a crash course on the roster so you can adequately wow your friends at your rockin’ All Star Game party. We’ll start with the American League Roster, and maybe if you’re lucky I’ll do the NL next week.
AL Roster – Category 1 and 2: Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Kevin Youkilis (being called the Greek God of Walks in a major book will bump you from a 3 to a 1), Manny Ramirez, Ichiro Suzuki, David Ortiz, Mariano Rivera, Scott Kazmir, Grady Sizemore, J.D. Drew (no one forgets a battery storm).
Category 3 Player Fun Facts:
-Angels Pitcher Ervin Santana was originally named Johan Santana, but changed his name when the other Johan Santana started demolishing baseball with the most unfair change-up in history. He changed his name to Ervin because it sounded cool to him.
-Diminutive Red Sox Second Baseman Dustin Pedroia can be an emergency catcher in the case of some gruesome Jason Varitek-Kevin Cash collision during warm-up laps.
-Rangers Second Baseman Ian Kinsler, like Pedroia, went to Arizona State for a little while. When not crisping in the sun, he enjoys a spirited round of golf. Which involves more crisping in the sun. In related news, someone should buy him sunscreen.
-Royals Pitcher Joakim Soria has the greatest active baseball nickname: The Mexicutioner. Unfortunately, only the 20 people that live in Kansas City know it.
-Rangers Centerfielder Josh Hamilton battled drugs and alcohol for years before willing himself to go clean. Even now, he is racked by dreadful dreams or his dark time. When not clobbering baseballs, he goes on the road as a public speaker.
-Rays Catcher Dioner Navarro, who I’m making a pitch to be called The Venezuelmageddonator, is one of the best young catchers in the game. That’s some feat, considering that fate has been absurdly cruel to his family this decade.
Go, baseball fans. Armed with this knowledge, please look at these players are more than simply on-base machines for your fantasy team. They are your All Stars, so enjoy them for who they are and what they do!