Last week, with the sabermetric rigor for which I am known, I provided a fortunate readership with a fascinating peek into the classrooms of major leaguers-cum-substitute teachers, each a man making sure that the children (and not, say, elderly giraffes) are our future. This week I turn my attention (and thus your attention, you lucky sons of guns) to a related topic: What sorts of employments might certain big-leaguers have pursued had they not hit, thrown, run and in some cases PED’ed their way into MLB ballparks?
Adam Dunn is a giant. Have you seen this guy? He makes Paul Konerko look like D.J. Qualls. His head is the size of an overweight toddler, and if rumors are true, his body is about to get a second area code. Dunn has used that size—all 6-foot-6, 285 pounds of it—to slug 440 homers in his MLB career… and, yeah, also to give pitchers a strike zone the size of Fernando Viña, which they have used to strike him out 2220 times in 13 seasons.
But hey, strikeouts schmikeouts. Chicks dig the long ball!
But here’s the question: What if Dunn hadn’t taken up baseball?
Well, most fans know that Dunn also played football, having signed with the University of Texas to stand on the sidelines and watch Ricky Williams run to the Heisman, or something like that. But clearly his future did not include football, or else Williams would have provided dreadlocked pass protection while Dunn provided quality role modeling for a young Vince Young. And so we conclude that while Dunn would have put his size to use in some sort of money-making fashion, he would not have done so on the gridiron, nor by serving as a late-night bouncer at Club Onyx, nor by working as Fred Thompson’s stunt double on Law & Order.
Instead, dressed in a red Dickie’s shirt and blue Dickie’s jeans, he would have served as a real-life, school-visiting, float-riding mascot on behalf of that towering icon of the State Fair of Texas, the legendary Big Tex.
The one drawback: the painful burns he would have endured by proxy on October 19, 2012, the day Big Tex went down in flames. Seriously, when you stand 55 feet tall, you demand a certain verisimilitude from the mascot.
Let’s get one thing straight: I love the ladies. I’ve loved them ever since I first saw an ad for the JCPenney Women’s Underwear Sale. But I don’t mind saying that Stanton is a good-looking guy: tall, dark and handsome, the whole nine yards. He’s really a lot like me, only with less me and more him.
There’s little doubt, then, that had he not played baseball, he would have put those looks to capitalist use. After all, his mostly nude appearance in the Body Issue of ESPN The Magazine is still providing thought-bubble material for wives (and heck, maybe husbands) who’ve grown accustomed, let’s say, to the habits and dimensions of their longtime partners-in-the-biblical-sense.
And so on an alternate timeline, Stanton would surely have been a cover model, probably shirtless, possibly glistening, potentially scandalous in only the most playful sense of the word, for the best-selling bodice-rippers of Johanna Lindsey, Catherine Coulter, et al. He would have been a pirate, an Apache, a swarthy brigand who carried in his taut chest and carved torso the very essence of forbidden love. He would have been a savage, an exile, a dangerous rival who bore in his broad shoulders and brawny arms the ability to make vestal virgins swoon, and possibly to hit gargantuan “home runs” in the strange new pastime that Abner Doubleday had recently concocted. He would have made Fabio look like a slap-hitter, like Juan freakin’ Pierre.
What, this is a mystery?
Brian McCann: prison guard.
Joe Mauer has a great head of hair, doesn’t he? It’s so thick and sculpted that it seems a product of Donatello’s hand, but so soft and supple that you really just want to curl up and take a nap on it. Dandruff or no dandruff, Mauer is a man among bad-haired boys and balding men, so follicularly gifted that he makes even a stylish ’do seem the sad equivalent of male pattern baldness.
To that end, Mauer would surely have become a hair model, dashing, debonair, daring the wind to do something about it. Granted, without the fame from Major League Baseball, he would never have scored the Head & Shoulders commercials that have made his Minnesota accent an effective weapon against unsightly white flakes, but he definitely would have scored those oversized photos in Supercuts. You know the kind: Some handsome young guy is wearing Ray-Bans and looking pensively into the distance while sporting a hairdo that you wouldn’t get in a gazillion years but that the guy next to you is getting, much to your amusement.
I mean, yeah, it looks pretty good… but only on the guy in the picture.
Do you really have to think about this?
Ryan Braun: attorney at law.
If patience is a virtue, then virtue is a Votto.
Note to self: Make pitch to Reds’ marketing department.
Other note to self: Demand in return five (5) Skyline Chili Hot Dogs.
Last season, the Cincinnati first baseman led all of Major League Baseball with 135 walks. That’s 12,150 feet worth of getting on base, all by virtue of that aforementioned virtue. Needless to say, that sort of self-restraint is typically exclusive to a man who owns a .435 on-base percentage or who just moved to Colorado, and for one very specific and non-skiing reason.
To paraphrase Homer Simpson, forbearance is Votto’s watchword. That triumvirate of outside fastballs could not overwhelm his resolve, and that one inside breaking ball could not entice him to swing. And so he walked.
He walked all the way to the All-Star Game.
He walked all the way to playoffs.
He walked all the way to sixth place in the MVP vote.
Sure, maybe he’d have become a dog-walker—what better way to put walking to professional use, right?— but his skill is an effect, not a cause.
His cause is patience, plain and true.
So say hello, in an alternate reality, to Mr. Votto, the new daycare teacher.
C’mon, isn’t it obvious?
Mike Trout: free safety, Dallas Cowboys.
Eight-time Pro-Bowler. Six-time All-Pro.
But hey, who am I kidding? They’d still go 8-8.
The Pirates centerfielder is a charismatic guy, smart, funny, engaging and blessed with dreadlocks that Cirque du Soleil should use in its next act, Corde Gelée. Given his dreads, not to mention his power and speed, it’s easy to surmise that McCutchen would have accompanied Trout to the NFL, lining up at cornerback and shadowing the likes of Megatron and Dez. After all, next to quick feet and loose hips, great dreads are a cornerback’s prerequisite. Why? Because when you get burned by the aforementioned receivers, no one can see the name on the back of your jersey.
But NFL careers are notoriously short, probably because strip clubs stay open so late and guys get pretty tired. McCutchen is smarter than that, smarter than to surrender his earning potential to a 3.2-year window, smarter than to trust his career to the stability of head and neck, and smarter than to not find on Wikipedia that life expectancy for U.S. males is 76 years, making the post-NFL gap something like five decades. That’s five decades of limping around while hoping to get invited to celebrity golf tournaments.
Faced with that reality, Cutch would have foregone pro football and instead used his charisma to turn a buck. How? He could have sold used cars, but you just can’t see Cutch talking up the four-speed transmission on a 1998 Taurus, can you? And he definitely could have led a cult, but the thought of Cutch ordering formerly productive young men to grow their own okra and, eventually, to marry their own cousins just seems unrealistic.
The answer: morning talk-show host. On Good Morning, Florida!, he could discuss delicious conch recipes with co-host Stefani, then pass it over to Bob on sports. Still, given his career high-school batting average of .474, there’s little doubt that McCutchen would be a valuable commodity on the company softball team, and that he would eventually displace Bob as team captain.
Chris Davis: lumberjack, with a reality show called Lumberin’ Made Easy and a popular spin-off called Crush: Fun at the Auto Scrapyard.
Have you ever watched Adrian Beltre play baseball? I don’t mean on highlights, though to see him in such truncation is still to delight in his ability to draw in the hands on an inside heater, to snare a one-hopper as if ball and glove are madly in love, and to throw from bizarre angles, as if to offer proof that Zen in the Art of Archery has been retitled and reissued, with Beltre modeling the message that “… the third baseman ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull’s-eye.”
I mean, have you ever watched him play a game? To do so is to see the best of both Jekyll and Hyde, a player so playful that he pretends to catch a pop-up that Elvis Andrus catches, so clownish that he tosses his glove at liners and even at Andrus himself, and so cheerful that he even talks to opponents who represent the game-winning run at third… and yet a player so committed that he won’t let his manager remove him from the game, so manly that he stares down pitchers and dugouts alike, so tough that he hits a game-winning homer despite severe abdominal pain, and so serious that he won’t joke with Fat Elvis about that other gut punch, the one in October 2011.
That’s Beltre. Boasting the sort of duality that now-dead Frenchmen once lived to ponder, he is as complete as they come, at once manly and childlike, studly and fun. So, what would Beltre have been without baseballl? Well, he’d have been an excellent camp counselor, that’s for sure—a friend first but a father figure second, at least when the moment called for paternal sternness.
But better, he’d have become the most effective foreman ever, a guy who gets greasy in the sprockets and gears but who also knows his place atop the hierarchy, a guy who jokes with his underlings but who also stares a hole through their foreheads whenever they’re late, and a guy who, like McCutchen, leads the company softball team to the Eastern Regional.
The Freak has always looked young, both for his age and his profession. He is slightly built and boyish, and his long hair, at least when he had it, made him look like the sort of skateboarder whom security guards chase away.
But without his freakish ability, what would he have done?
Well, assuming he’d still have cut his hair, he couldn’t have served as the Northwestern rep for Bro Style Skateboards, that’s for sure. So here’s the likely scene: After circling a few dead-end jobs in the classifieds, he’d have grown his hair and become the Northwestern rep for Bro Style Skateboards.
Again, this one’s a breeze.
Derek Holland: impressionist at the Bourbon Lounge at the Ramada Inn out by the airport. “Tell him Al sent ya and get your first drink at one-third off!”
Mr. Kemp is talented, of that we have no doubt.
His 2011 season: 39 dingers, 40 steals, 126 RBI, 115 runs and a 172 OPS+.
The “plus” did not include singer Rihanna, of course, because he subtracted her back in 2011. But still: talent… just gobs and gobs of big-league skills.
Problem is, Kemp gets injured whenever an angel gets its wings, which apparently is all the freakin’ time. So if you’re Kemp, and you’re not in baseball, what would you do with your injury proneness? How would you turn bumps and bruises into dollars and cents, plus medical and dental?
Our first reaction is to say “crash-test dummy!” Two problems here: One, that position typically goes to a full-scale anthropomorphic device, or “mannequin,” or “Super Dave Osborne.” Two, the Crash Test Dummies already have a center fielder on their team in the Folk-Rock Softball League.
What’s left? Bull riding.
Bull riders are to injuries what singers are to girls. They just get ’em.
This one is simple.
Michael Young: professional hitter, meaning he’d have been an assassin, a pugilist, or a position player on the U.S. Men’s Olympic volleyball team.
No matter what, you’d have been advised to stay out of his way.
Most pro athletes look like pro athletes.
Billy Butler does not.
He’s big and lumpy, a man befitting the nickname Country Breakfast.
So, without his preternatural ability to hit a baseball, what would Butler have been? Well, unless you consider competitive eating a professional sport, in which case you might also consider competitive farting a professional sport, he would not have been a professional athlete, someone who, like Trout, could channel his athleticism into some other sport. (This assumes that the “other sport” would not be eating, or fishing, or eating while fishing.)
The answer? Butler would have been the guy behind the counter at AutoZone, because he looks like the guy behind the counter at AutoZone.
Again, this is easy.
Brian Wilson: professional subject in cutting-edge medical research.
According to recent polls and longtime perception, A.J. Pierzynski is the least popular guy in baseball. It is generally agreed that Michael Barrett’s fist did a public service a few years back by connecting with A.J.’s face. And you didn’t hear this from me, but lots of people hope that MLB rescinds the new rule that forbids plate blocking just so that A.J. might get Butkused.
Forget that he’s actually an engaging guy. Baseball needs its heroes and baseball needs it villains, and A.J. has long been a villain, an odious combo of Dr. Evil, Dr. Horrible, Dr. Lecter, Nurse Ratched, Norman Bates, Darth Vader, Travis Bickle, Cruella De Vil and Kelly Ripa, all rolled into one 2-WAR catcher. And it’s not as if the absence of baseball would make the public’s heart grow fonder, at least when it comes to Mr. Pierzynski. Even if he’d never taken up the game, he’d still have been Public Enemy No. 1—or perhaps Public Enemy No. 2, provided A-Rod had gone into predatory lending.
And so we conclude that A.J. would have become a ring villain in the WWE, a man so bad he’d have made Jake “The Snake” Roberts look like Mr. Rogers. Oh, you can just hear it now, can’t you?
No, they’re not shouting “Cruuuuuuuuz.”
The question isn’t “what would he have been?”
The question is “what wouldn’t he have been?”