This is an easy one. Shortstops tend to be bantamweight hustlers with slender wrists and narrow ankles, mere wisps of men who appear more at home making cookies in an oak tree than playing the ferocious game of base and ball. Fun shortstop fact: Rabbit Maranville, Hall of Fame shortstop, got his name because he patrolled the infield on the back of a Belgian hare. Casting a president for this position is a no-brainer.
James Madison, Shortstop
Madison is, famously, our shortest president, coming in at approximately 5’4″ tall. That’s a full foot shorter than Lincoln or LBJ. That’s really the only requirement for the job, so Little Jemmie wins it by default, the two sweetest words in the English language.
Comparable players: David Eckstein, Pee Wee Reese
Say what you will about the current Commander in Chief: that he’s a radical Marxist (ha!), the greatest progressive president since LBJ, or a drone-drunk neoliberal sellout (I’m listening…), one thing is indisputable: Barack Obama is the COOLEST president in American history. Part of that is due to the racially-charged nature of the concept of “cool” (African Americans will always be “cooler” than Caucasians), part of it is due to Obama’s very real nonchalant sangfroid. Remember the Jay-Z shout-out “dirt off the shoulder” moment? The Al Green moment in Harlem? Can you even conceive of another president pulling that off without making everyone within a ten mile radius projectile vomit? It’s not possible. So if Obama is the “coolest” U.S. president in American history, what is the appropriate position for him?
Barack Obama, Third Base
For my money, third base is the coolest spot on the diamond. Third basemen are required to exhibit the perfect balance of defensive ability and offensive prowess. They are expected to flash leather, but also belt dingers, while first basemen never get to exhibit much in the way of defensive ability, and second basemen are patted on the head if they can manage ten homers a year. Think of the greatest third basemen of recent history: Mike motherfucking Schmidt, George mothertrucking Brett, Wade “chickenplucking” Boggs. These are cool dudes. And the fact that third base has the fewest Hall of Fame players of any position only increases the cool factor. Exclusivity!
Comparable Players: Ron Santo, Eddie Matthews
“A lot of winning baseball teams have one guy on their team who’s kind of a dick. (On the field only, I’m talking — I don’t know these people.) They run hard, and play hard, and curse a lot, and get a lot of standing ovations for their “old school” manner of play. They get into fights, sometimes with their own teammates, but that’s because they’re “passionate.” When something bad happens, they make a huge show out of destroying water coolers, because they are super-intense and everyone needs to realize that. There has never been a correctly called third strike on these men, and when the home-plate ump deigns to call that fucking pitch a strike, are you kidding me?, the gentlemen in question don’t just get hot and pop off. They act as though their very honor as human beings has been called into question. They act like Harrison Ford in a movie in which someone announces the intention to harm his family.”–Michael Schur on Kevin Youkilis
The Washington Presidents are going to be a great baseball team, and one of the reasons is that we’re going to have TWO psychotic red-asses on our squad! This is not surprising when you consider the sort of emotionally stunted, ego-driven monsters who tend to run for president. In his Grantland piece, Schur name checks such notable dickheads as A.J. Pierzynski, Albert Belle, Jeff Kent, Randy Johnson, and the mother of all baseballing jagoffs, Ty Cobb. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but the Washington Presidents’ center fielder is essentially Ty Cobb with a better haircut. The second baseman isn’t quite that much of an unhinged, violent lunatic, but he was a man with a superhuman ability to hold a grudge. A man fueled by resentment and hatred and the will to conquer his enemies.
Richard Nixon, Second Base
Nixon wasn’t much of an athlete. He gutted his way onto the football team at tiny Whittier College, but rode the bench his entire career. As a baseball player, his combination of fanatical drive and soul-consuming rage would make him into a spite-powered David Eckstein. He would run out ground balls, hatred for the pitcher powering every step. He would turn double plays with a frothing intensity. He would absorb spikes and brush-back pitches, each slight another log on the roiling flames of his contempt. And any chump who tried to slide into second base head first would be tagged out right across the mouth.
Comparable players: Joe Morgan, Robbie Alomar
There isn’t really a ‘classic’ first baseman body type, but because it’s a relatively unchallenging defensive position, they really need to rake in order to justify their spot on the roster. I honestly don’t know how many homers this particular president would hit (Joe Ellis called him “The American Sphinx,” after all), but he’s got the sort of tall, lean body that tends to do well at first base. If nothing else, he’ll know how to stretch out and dig those low throws out of the dirt.
Thomas Jefferson, First Base
I’ll be honest: there really isn’t any justification for putting Thomas Jefferson at first base other than the fact that he’s one of the tallest presidents and as such, reminds me of Richie Sexson. Basically, I don’t really like Thomas Jefferson very much (Professor Paul Finkelman recently called him a “creepy, brutal hypocrite” and he wasn’t wrong), and most first basemen are terminally lame. Albert Pujols? Great, but offputtingly robotic. Mark Teixeira? Not as good as Pujols, but somehow, EVEN MORE BORING! The only interesting first basemen are Joey Votto and Prince Fielder (that’s science). But I had to put Jefferson somewhere (he’s on Mt. Rushmore, after all) and nobody else really seemed to fit the position. It’ll be fine for now, but if it doesn’t work out, I’ll see about trading him for William Gladstone and a Prime Minister to be named later.
Comparable players: Richie Sexson, Will Clark
Catchers are often referred to as “backstops,” and when it comes to our dwindling reserve of presidential ability, two guys stand above the pack, ready and willing to provide pitchers with a nice, wide target and block the plate when the runner is churning down the third base path.
William Howard Taft, Starting Catcher
Old Uncle Jumbo might not have much speed, but he would be an implacable force behind the dish, and with all that weight to throw around, he’d always be a threat to hit one out of the park. He was also the first president to throw out the first pitch at a major league game. And he did it from the stands! That’s an arm.
Grover Cleveland, Back-up Catcher
Second only to Taft in Body Mass Index, Cleveland provides two thirds of the power, two thirds of the slide-stopping force, and two thirds the mustache. Give him two starts a week instead of one, though. Taft will probably have a hard time playing more than that without getting gassed.
Taft’s Comparable players: Yadier Molina, Bengie Molina, Jose Molina
Cleveland’s Comparable players: John Kruk, Hamilton “Ham” Porter
The Washington Presidents starting rotation is set, and for my money, it’s a formidable collection of executive talent. But many teams have discovered to their anguish (BREWERS!), that a pitching staff is made or broken by the clean-up men. Since we’re looking at a talent pool of 43 men, and we need to save most of our best remaining talent for the position players, the bullpen options are going to be less than ideal. As it should be. How many ball clubs get to be picky when it comes to relievers?
FUNGIBLE BULLPEN ARMS
Benjamin Harrison, Relief Pitcher
A president notable mainly for his ability to grow an awesome beard and to complete an entire presidential term without dying of pneumonia, which is more than his grandfather could say. Just the sort of mediocrity destined to throw garbage innings in blow outs.
There is one overriding trait that a given baseballing squadron looks for when filling the middle of its rotation: an ability to pitch a bunch of innings. These pitchers aren’t going to have the world’s best stuff (if they did, they wouldn’t be a #3 or #4 starter!), but they know how to get enough hitters out to stay in the game. They’re not hung up on their stats, focus on getting outs however they can. Strikeouts are nice, but pitching to contact works, too. Their K rates aren’t outstanding, but neither are their walk rates. They aren’t flashy, but they get the job done, and keep the bullpen fresh.
In the annals of the American presidency, two men stand out as ideal innings-eaters. They have a lot in common: both came to politics reluctantly, after careers in the military, neither were particularly brilliant thinkers, but both possessed a methodical determination that proved too much for their opponents to withstand.
First we have our #3 starter:
Ulysses S. Grant, Starting Pitcher
Unconditional Surrender Grant is the ultimate innings-eater of American history. He beat the Confederacy not with strategic genius, but through the determined leveraging of superior resources. It’s the same way he carried out Reconstruction. Nothing fancy, just sending lots of bluecoats to the South with the power to lock up any white-hooded asshole who looked at them funny. This is the kind of man you need to give you 250 or so innings with an ERA around 4.25.
Holding down that #4 spot, we have…
Dwight Eisenhower, Starting Pitcher
Talk about an innings-eater! Dwight Eisenhower approached liberating Europe and governing post-war America with the same plodding earnestness of a Midwestern insurance adjuster. He might not have had a flashy approach, but you can’t argue with the results: V-E Day and the Interstate Highway System (also, the overthrow of Arbenz in Guatemala and Mosadegh in Iran, but HEY! that’s why he’s the 4th starter!).
Grant’s Comparable players: Bartolo Colon, Livan Hernandez
Eisenhower’s Comparable players: Bronson Arroyo, Roy Oswalt