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Comment of the Day: Baseball faces, baseball heels

Sep 2, 2010, 2:03 PM EDT

Warning: if you don't like 1980s professional wrestling you're probably not going to like this post. There will be others coming along soon enough, though.

On both the blog and on Twitter (@craigcalcaterra if you’re into that sort of thing), I’ve made a zillion professional wrestling references this week. I don’t know why. Something in the air I guess. The fact is that I was huge wrestling fan from, oh, age 9 to age 15, so mid-80s wrestling is just burned into my head like the iron claw of Kerry Von Erich.

My recent obsession — especially this morning’s reference to Nyjer Morgan’s “heel turn” — inspired some readers as well.  Notably reader Wings, who tried to cast modern baseball players in either face or heel roles a la pro wrestling. It’s long so I won’t use annoying block quote fontage, but all that follows until the mention of Ozzie Guillen’s name is Wings talking:

As one of the few “legitimate” sports fans willing to admit that I also enjoy the illegitimate spectacle that is pro wrestling, I have often found many heel (bad guy) and face (good guy) qualities among my favorite baseballers. I submit to you this line-up of possible MLB heels/faces:

Faces:

C-Joe Mauer
1B-Gabby Sanchez
2B-Orlando Hudson
3B-Pablo Sandoval (Maybe a stretch, but with a nickname like his, how could he not be a George “the Animal” Steele type kid-friendly fan favorite?)
SS-Derek Jeter
OF- Josh Hamilton/Torii Hunter/Ichiro
DH-David Ortiz
SP-Dallas Braden
Closer-Mariano Rivera
MGR-Bobby Cox

Heels:

C-A.J.Pierzynski
1B-Miguel Cabrerra
2B-Brandon Phillips
3B-Alex Rodriguez
SS-Hanley Ramirez
OF-Nyjer Morgan/Manny Ramirez/Milton Bradley
DH-Hideki Matsui (another nickname-stretch thing)
SP-JohnnyCueto
Closer-Francisco Rodriguez
MGR-Ozzie Guillen

Not a bad list. I’ll take issue with Cox as the face manager. I mean, he did hit his wife once. I think Jeter is way more likely to be a Ric Flair kind of a guy who goes back and forth from popularity to villainy, and is often popular because he’s a villain.*  Torii Hunter has to be a heel in the Roddy Piper mode, no? I mean he’s a lot of fun, I realize, but he says some pretty outrageous stuff (but nothing as outrageous as “just when they think they have all the answers, I CHANGE THE QUESTIONS!!”  Piper was the best, man).

The heels list is better, though I think Matsui would be a face jobber in the S.D. Jones/Sam Houston mode. Likable. Enough moves to make people think he has some chops, but really there to get beat up by a bad guy. Ozzie Guillen as Jimmy Hart is pretty damn perfect.

Um, OK, this post is getting a little out of control now.  I had better get back to baseball.

*I am forced to admit that I once subscribed to “Pro Wrestling Illustrated.” In the back were wrestler rankings, including “Most Popular” and “Most Hated.”  I recall one month — in the mid 80s, when Hulkamania was still running wild — that Ric Flair simultaneously topped both lists.  Woo!

  1. Ace2000 - Sep 2, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    And anyone who’s ever watched pro wrestling knows you need to have 2 announcers: 1 face, and 1 heel. I think Rob Dibble fits nicely into the Jesse Ventura/Bobby Heenan heel role, and perhaps Vin Scully as the Gorilla Monsoon-style face?

  2. BC - Sep 2, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    Why Ichiro? And you totally missed Kyle Farnsworth.
    PS. Jake “The Snake” Roberts was the best. Pride of Stone Mountain, Georgia.

  3. SouthofHeaven - Sep 2, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    I used to be OBSESSED with pro wrestling (it tapered as I got older & my interest died completely with Benoit & his family) so this was a fun blast from the past. And I preferred Inside Wrestling to PWI. Anything was better than the official WCW & WWF crap.

  4. Tim's Neighbor - Sep 2, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    I’d go with LaRussa as my heel manager. he has Bobby “The Brain” Heenan written all over him.
    And Alex Rodiguez gets my vote as the baseball Ms. Elizabeth.

  5. nps6724 - Sep 2, 2010 at 2:33 PM

    Dallas Braden? That’s the best people could come up with for SP? And is Gaby Sanchez only here because of his clothesline because I don’t see any other reason for it.

  6. Jonny5 - Sep 2, 2010 at 2:33 PM

    Craig, Was “Kerry Von Erich” the who used to squeeze peoples faces until they popped? I was addicted to Wrestling when I was about six. Then someone ruined it for me and told me it was rehearsed and made up. He had to be wrong right? First the Easter bunny, then Santa, now this?? What type of cruel people are these adults anyway toying with my emotions in such a way? And how dare they!!! This had to be wrong. So I watched for a few more weeks, saw it was obviously fake and gave up on it. I was disappointed to say the least. Well at least I still had the Tooth Fairy ….. Yeah, kinda sad ain’t it?

  7. RedsDouche - Sep 2, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    Yeah I’m thinking Cueto is only on there b/c of him kicking to defend himself being pinned against the net/wall behind home plate. If I were a major league pitcher making millions b/c of my arm, I sure as hell wouldn’t be throwing bombs with my fists either in a fight. Especially when I’m pinned against a net and wall b/c of Carpenter running his meat locker. I’m kicking my way out of that ish. Anyhow, just b/c BPhillips said about the Cards what everyone else in baseball wants to say but is afraid to, that makes him a bad guy? Get outta here with this garbage.

  8. Ditto65 - Sep 2, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    Braden is a heel.

  9. steelers rule - Sep 2, 2010 at 2:50 PM

    Ron Washing ton would be manager “Slick”

  10. BigOldBarn - Sep 2, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    Most of the list is soild. Torii Hunter in the Roddy Piper role works.
    But Braden’s got too much swagger to be a face. Maybe go with Lincecum as a sorta of “against all odds” type of face. Everyone roots for the little guy!
    And since Cabrera seems to have kicked the booze and is turning in a fine season — one that would drive many Tiger fans to drink no doubt — I have to object to him as a heel. Put Youkilis on there. Dude just LOOKS like he’s meant to piss people off.
    Lastly, replace Sandoval (MLB’s own Koko B. Ware!!!!) with Evan Longoria. Dude’s like Sting. How boss would he look played 3rd rocking the early-90s face paint and surfer-boy haircut?!?

  11. Pizzi - Sep 2, 2010 at 3:18 PM

    So does that mean Bud Selig is Vincent Kennedy McMahon and if so then he needs to do that power walk Vince does to the ring!!

  12. BC - Sep 2, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    That’s awesome!
    http://ymswwc.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/slick_wwf_manager_and_legend_2.jpg

  13. SadPandaRevolt - Sep 2, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    Somebody doesn’t know what a heel is.

  14. Wings - Sep 2, 2010 at 3:44 PM

    I would probably go with Hawk Harrleson as my heel announcer mainly because of his constant whining about officials and because, as a Twins fan, I feel he’s always cheering for the bad guys. I agree with the Scully assessment, seems like a good mix of Gordon Solie and Joey Styles to me.

  15. Wings - Sep 2, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    First off, let me just say that I threw this list together in about 10 minutes. So, yeah, there were a lot of guys on there that probably don’t belong.
    Ichiro was one of those throw in guys, but I would probably rationalize his selection by looking at his popularity in the overseas market. Guys like Antonio Inoki and Jushin Liger were never really huge in the US, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t popular in Japan.

  16. Wings - Sep 2, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    I see Braden and I think Steve Austin type.
    As far as Sanchez goes, you nailed it. I just thew him in there because his budding rivalry with Morgan is what inspired the original comment. Perhaps a better choice would be Pujols.

  17. Wings - Sep 2, 2010 at 4:01 PM

    I guess I could see Hunter and Braden both as “tweeners” (sometimes good, sometimes bad). Longoria was actually one of my original choices along with Ryan Zimmerman (think under-appreciated but talented guy stuck on the undercard yet still going out there and giving it his best every night).

  18. doctorfunke - Sep 2, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    It’s great to see all these closet wrestling fans emerge. I was really into it later on, say, in the late 90’s when Stone Cold and Goldberg and The Rock were emerging. I do remember watching it some when I was little when Hulk-a-mania was big, though. I used to love The Ultimate Warrior. I think Longoria would make a good Ultimate Warrior, almost has the hair already. This is an awesome post.

  19. Nick C - Sep 2, 2010 at 5:46 PM

    Still trying to defend Cueto’s cowardly actions huh? He’s a pussy. End of story. There were others pinned as well including Carpenter and you didn’t see them kicking like a coward.

  20. Reflex - Sep 2, 2010 at 5:50 PM

    When I was a kid the Ultimate Warrior was my fav, played him repeatedly on that arcade WWF game with a buddy(you could do tag team, woot!). But yeah, by the early 90’s it was over for me.

  21. Cantankerous - Sep 2, 2010 at 6:08 PM

    I think Braden would work really well as both a face and heel depending on where he is. Towards the end of his WWF career, Bret Hart was a heel in America but a face everywhere else and Jerry Lawler has always been a face in Memphis and a heel elsewhere. I think Braden could pull that off easily, a face everywhere because of his conflicts with the Yankees, but a definite heel in NYC.

  22. BigOldBarn - Sep 2, 2010 at 11:12 PM

    Longoria actually gives legit, comprehensible interviews. Wouldn’t work.

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