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January 25, 2012

The Lineup Card

12 Baseball Players We'd Like to See As President

by Baseball Prospectus

1) Branch Rickey
Branch Rickey was not a secular saint. He was a baseball man, and there was an element of self-interest in everything he did. “The farm system, which I have been given credit for developing,” Rickey said, “originated from a perfectly selfish motive: saving money.” Even breaking the color line wasn’t totally selfless. “The greatest untapped reservoir of raw material in the history of the game is the black race,” he said. “The Negroes will make us winners for years to come. And for that, I will happily bear being called a bleeding heart and a do-gooder and all that humanitarian rot.” Yet, you can also accuse Abraham Lincoln of being half-assed about emancipation. Even though their motives were not spotlessly clean, even if the results were imperfect, at least they moved in the direction of justice, which, as the Constitution says, is the whole point—to arrive at “a more perfect union.”

Ideology is not very useful; real world problems require nuanced solutions rather than predetermined responses. At the nadir of the Great Depression, presidential candidate Franklin Roosevelt said, “The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it; if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” We don’t have much of that attitude these days, just gridlock based on putting faction above statesmanship and the thin slogans that pass for political philosophy. Give me the cigar-chomping, bowtie-wearing pragmatist who, seeing an opportunity to simultaneously right a wrong and exploit an opportunity, would swear “Judas Priest!” and go about the necessary business of thinking outside of the boundaries set by his supposed peers. And if he wanted to make Leo Durocher his running mate, well, even Ike had Nixon. —Steven Goldman

2) Sam Fuld
Fuld is easy to like, making him easy to dislike. His white-hot start on baseball’s hipster squad led to an unusual amount of press coverage. An exhaustive Wikipedia page and New Yorker feature in tow, Fuld became the subject of considerable backlash once he began to play to his talent level. Stanford-educated and STATS Inc.-experienced, Fuld knew his 15 minutes of fame were ticking and took the opportunity to raise awareness about diabetes. Thus, Fuld showed a social awareness that athletes are often accused of lacking or downright neglecting. Fuld seems sharp, open-minded, and willing to use his blessings to help others. It may not be enough to fix the economy or kill partisanship, but it is a start. —R.J. Anderson 

3) Carl Everett
The United States of America needs a leader with bold ideas, someone who thinks outside the box, speaks his mind, and takes action. Now, more than ever, it needs Carl Everett.

Education is suffering in this country; children are taught that giant birdlike creatures once roamed the Earth. Carl Everett can fix that. Children lack discipline; there is no helping hand to drive them. Carl Everett can fix that. The space program? We continue to lag behind the Soviet Union. Carl Everett can fix that.

In these uncertain times, we need to make a statement. Sending people to the moon would be a great accomplishment, and who among us is better motivated to devise and execute such an audacious plan than Carl Everett?

Carl Everett will succeed where Otis Nixon once failed. Nixon's Hollywood-produced movie of Jack Armstrong "walking on the moon" (you can see the flag moving!) was an embarrassment to this proud nation of ours. Carl Everett can set right what once went wrong. When he does, it will be one small step for man, and one giant leap for crazy.

Carl Everett. For the children. For the moon. —Geoff Young

4) Curt Flood
These are tough times. What the country needs is someone that is willing to put principle above his career, a man willing to risk it all for the sake of those yet to come. That man is Curt Flood.

Marvin Miller tried to dissuade him. In attempting to fight a trade from the Cardinals to the Phillies, he was likely to lose not only the case, but his career. He did so anyway in Flood v. Kuhn, which went all the way to the Supreme Court. Flood’s attempt at removing the reserve clause was also a key part of the Civil Rights movement. “I'm a human being. I'm not a piece of property. I am not a consignment of goods,” Flood said at the time. In his letter to Bowie Kuhn formally refusing the trade, he wrote, “After twelve years in the Major Leagues, I do not feel I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes. I believe that any system which produces that result violates my basic rights as a citizen and is inconsistent with the laws of the United States and of the sovereign States.”

And when Messersmith and McNally finally did foster in free agency, Flood was quoted as saying, “All the grand work was laid for people who came after me. The Supreme Court decided not to give it to me, so they gave it to two white guys. I think that's what they were waiting for.”

Yes, Flood was willing to risk it all and was unafraid to take on the establishment. Vote for Flood for President. —Maury Brown

5) Bill Goodenough
Enjoy arguing about politics, you fools. I'm taking the guy with the name. —Sam Miller

6) Brian Wilson
Maybe it's just the college student in me, but wouldn't you want to live in a country of too much awesome, where all everyone wants to do is rage? No candidate offers more of that than Brian Wilson. He's already got a presidential pet (Dubz) and running mate (The Machine) lined up and the suit for his first State of the Union address picked out. President Wilson's first order of business? An individual mandate… to "Fear the Beard." —Daniel Rathman

7) Christy Mathewson
Here was an admirable character. Mathewson was one of the early college-educated stars in baseball. He was intelligent, creative (the fadeaway pitch), and honorable in ways that few people are these days. He was widely respected—aka electable—and as a devout Christian, he would have been a golden boy for the conservative right. Normally, that'd be a strike against him, but the national government of the time needed someone with the scruples of Matty. Plus, if he had gone into politics, perhaps he wouldn't have enlisted in the army at the age of 38, wouldn't have inhaled the lethal gas that slowly took his life, and perhaps we would have had him around longer than 45 years. —Bradford Doolittle

8) Carlos Delgado
Even before 9/11, Carlos Delgado had shown himself to be a player unafraid to speak his mind, standing up against the U.S. Navy's history of testing weapons on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques by donating time, money, and his good name to calling attention to the issue. At a time when the US was in the throes of Iraq war jingoism, he openly criticized the war and, as a protest, refused to stand up for the forced patriotism of seventh-inning stretch renditions of "God Bless America"—a particular pet peeve of mine in post-9/11 Yankee Stadium—at a time when such displays were in vogue all around the major leagues.

I happened to be in the Bronx for a Yankees-Blue Jays tilt the night Delgado was booed. When he stepped to the plate in the seventh inning, some knucklehead near me in the stands started yelling, "Go back to the Dominican Republic!" and "Get out of my country!"—an embarrassment since Delgado is Puerto Rican and, as such, a U.S. citizen. Luckily, the xenophobe was soon escorted from the stadium by his friends.

Time after time while taking his principled sit-down stand, Delgado revealed himself to be a man of intelligence, with a grasp of the big picture beyond the diamond. It would hardly surprise me at all if he moves onto a career in politics now that his playing days are done. —Jay Jaffe

9) Jim Bunning
City Council, State Representative, seven-term U.S. Congressman, two-term U.S. Senator from Kentucky, killed 27 Mets with his bare right hand, 20-game winner, four-time 19-game winner, second only to Walter Johnson in strikeouts at retirement, protector of baseball, MLB Hall of Famer, able to keep a straight face in adverse circumstances, unstoppable by facts… why not President? —Adam Tower

10) Roberto Clemente
"Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth." —Roberto Clemente

What if that plane, the fourth of flights chartered to deliver aid to victims of a Nicaraguan earthquake in 1972, hadn't crashed? Clemente's greatness as a baseball player is largely unchallenged: 15 All-Star games, four batting titles, two World Series rings. Some have argued that what Jackie Robinson did for blacks in baseball, Clemente did for Puerto Ricans, and they are not wrong. His legacy as a humanitarian is also known, but one wonders how much further he could have gone had his life just been that little bit longer.  Clemente had accompanied the fourth flight because he believed the first three had been diverted by a corrupt government; if he was willing to do that much to take on the Somoza dynasty, one wonders how much more he could have done if only he'd had a little more time. Most politicians today, American or otherwise, are too busy serving self or party interests to ever affect real good; Clemente's life is a reminder of how much good can be done when one uses fame for all the right reasons. —Rebecca Glass

11) Jamie Moyer
I have no idea what Jamie Moyer's politics are, and it really doesn't matter to me. I have always regarded him as one the most intelligent and classy players I have dealt with in covering 25 years of the major leagues. A player certainly has to be able to get along with others to be able to play in the major leagues for a quarter-century without ever generating a negative headline. Perseverance is also one of Moyer's top qualities. Starting next month, Moyer will try to come back from Tommy John surgery to make the Colorado Rockies' rotation as a 49-year-old non-knuckleballer. If a guy one year older than me is willing to go to spring training as a non-roster invitee, he certainly has my backing for the nation's highest office. —John Perrotto

12) Ozzie Guillen
First of all, I understand that Ozzie does not meet all of the requirements for being president, namely the fact that he was not born in this country. I also have no idea how he would be as the commander-in-chief. History has frequently shown that the most qualified to lead this country often fail, while those who might be considered under-qualified have thrived in difficult situations as president. All of that being said, I think Ozzie has the tools to run a successful presidential campaign and would certainly be an interesting leader, if not a great one. The most difficult part of getting a campaign off the ground is to make sure people across the nation know your name. Ozzie certainly meets that qualification, as even non-baseball fans have become aware of his antics

Like Barack Obama mobilized social media to rally fundraising and support in his 2008 campaign, Ozzie’s Twitter account would have great untapped potential were he to seek office. With tweets like “Good job USA,” “Why the pizza take so friking long,” and “We will miss you slim jim,” Ozzie has tapped into the American spirit and can be someone with whom the Joe the Plumbers of the world can relate. As for actually winning a campaign, Ozzie’s new job in a key swing state can only help his cause. Despite the very mixed opinion of him from some South Siders as his reign as White Sox skipper, the fact that he convinced Marlins management to take Carlos Zambrano off of the Cubs hands can only help opinion of him in Illinois.

Plus, for sheer entertainment value, Ozzie would be a great choice for president. His grasp on the English language might not be perfect, and I have no idea what his knowledge of the American political system is, but it would still be entertaining to watch. If Reagan was “The Great Communicator,” then Ozzie could be an even greater miscommunicator. Most importantly, given the current state of the candidates for 2012, if Ozzie could run, he might actually have a shot. —Sam Tydings

24 comments have been left for this article.

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