As promised in yesterday's National League post, here's yet another post full of who I think the cutest baseball players of the 2006 season were. If you're here for my Japan Series coverage and translations, take a look at October.
Yet again, in close cases, players' headshots got them voted off the island (a particularly painful one was Mark Teixeira, who I'm a big fan of, but let's face it, I've barely seen him smile at all this year). In almost every case, I'm actually basing it off having seen the players at Safeco Field at some point anyway. What, you thought I was shooting all those pictures of batting practice and bullpen warmups just to get more experience as a sports photographer? No, those were important scouting sessions!
...I'm kidding. Mostly. I mean, if it was all cute-list scouting I wouldn't have bothered with this guy, y'know?
(Just to be clear: I do take sports photography pretty seriously. But part of my shooting style is more to capture the players as people, rather than to capture sports action exactly, and thus I end up focusing more on guys I think will be good face pictures. The Oakland A's are a particularly photogenic bunch.)
Whoa, that was a somber introduction to a post that's going to be entirely frivolous from this point in.
Disclaimer as usual: This is my annual "I'm a girl, goddamnit" posting spree. It's all entirely subjective, and if you have an issue with me finding Nick "The Hick" Swisher cute, that's your problem, not mine.
#30 Scott Baker, RHP, Minnesota Twins
#45 Erik Bedard, LHP, Baltimore Orioles
#58 Justin Duchscherer, RHP, Oakland Athletics
#40 Rich Harden, RHP, Oakland Athletics
#26 Scott Kazmir, LHP, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
#44 Casey Janssen, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
#58 Dustin Moseley, RHP, Anaheim Angels
#36 Joe Nathan, RHP, Minnesota Twins
#52 George Sherrill, LHP, Seattle Mariners
#20 Huston Street, RHP, Oakland Athletics
#56 Jarrod Washburn, LHP, Seattle Mariners
You're not going to believe this, but Barry Zito got himself voted off the island for not smiling in his headshot. I had too many A's and had to ditch one or two of them. Honestly, Barry's very cute, and has always been extremely friendly around fans at Safeco, so he at least deserves a mention here.
J-Rod the Washburninator returns from last year, and he's still got the bluest eyes and the cutest smirk in baseball. Also, this year he added a great sense of humor to the qualities that make him adorable; anything from being a goofball at FanFest to deadpanning things like how Jamie Moyer should go out and pitch in the heat since he was older and closer to death. Whether he's an albatross is irrelevant, as the All-Cute roster knows no salaries.
I fell in love with Rich Harden during the last week of the season. I hadn't really understood why all the women on AN thought he was that great until I went down to the field before a game, got him to sign my ticket and talked to him a bit, and my god, when he smiles, it just knocks you out like a 98-mph fastball to the forehead. Well, not literally, but seriously, if the A's were smart they'd find some way to bottle up the charisma that flows from a Harden smile and use it instead of solar power.
As for Huston Street and Justin Duchscherer, I highly recommend standing behind the A's bullpen during a game sometime in general -- they're all a bunch of goofballs. But if I have to explain to you why Huston Street is drop-dead gorgeous, and probably the best-looking player in the American League, then maybe you shouldn't be reading this post. Duchscherer is not quite drop-dead, but he's really freaking cute and very friendly with another great sense of humor.
There's a funny story behind Dustin Moseley, actually. Back in April I went to a Tacoma Rainiers vs. Salt Lake Bees doubleheader with the guys who write Mariners Morsels, and in the second game I ended up sitting 3 rows behind home plate with Marc. Well, Rainiers pitchers Clint Nageotte and Francisco Cruceta were across the aisle from us, Cruceta holding a radar gun and Nageotte charting pitches... and a few rows behind us was another pair of guys charting pitches, one of whom was extremely cute with strawberry-blonde hair and a great smile. (I wonder how often the sentence, "Hey, who's that adorable guy with the radar gun?" has been uttered.) It was only later that I figured out they were Dustin Moseley and Joe Saunders, and have been hoping I'd get to see Moseley pitch sometime ever since.
George Sherrill is on this list because I basically said in January that he was a good candidate for it, and he's never proven me wrong. George has the most personality of anyone in the M's bullpen now that Teddy Beardado is gone, and as such has been a lot of fun for my photography projects; he's very expressive.
A prospect picked up during those bullpen scouting sessions, Casey Janssen wears high socks and has a precious smile. I'm not sure that many people around here recognize his name, let alone know how cute he is.
Joe Nathan may be twitchy, but I'd want him on just about any team -- the all-cute team, the all-Joe team, the all-twitchy team, whatever. As for Scott Baker, when I went to the Metrodome last year for a friend's wedding, I got a bunch of guys to sign stuff -- all the players seemed really laid-back and extremely friendly, and Scott Baker in particular was an absolute sweetheart. Really, the Twins sort of have a surplus of cute players around there, it seems.
Okay, yeah, Scott Kazmir looks like he's 14 years old, but that only adds to his aura of cute. Seriously. Have I whined recently about how timing has always worked out to prevent me from actually being at one of his starts here in Seattle?
Erik Bedard was on the midst of being voted out for not smiling in his headshot, but much like McCann, Bedard has this sort of inherent boyish cuteness that doesn't really come across very well in photographs. Plus, I'm really partial to him since I picked him up for my fantasy team right after Mazzone taught him that circle change-up and he started churning out 8-9 strikeouts per game, which made me bother following him much more closely. (Eugene, if you're reading, I still owe you for that heads-up, seriously.)
#2 Kenji Johjima, Seattle Mariners
#7 Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
First, let me say that the All-Cute Team actually has some bullpen catchers on it as well: Oakland's Brandon Buckley (even if he hates me), and Seattle's Dominic Woody. And if it was on pure personality nobody beats Chicago's bullpen catcher, Man-Soo Lee, he's an absolute darling.
Mauer was on the All-Cute Team last year and that was BEFORE he became America's Next Top Model. At one point this year I had a conversation with my favorite fantasy baseball buddy that went something like:
Him: What? How did you end up with McCann AND Mauer?
Me: I dunno, I took them because they're really cute. I drafted Mauer and picked up McCann later.
Him: You really ought to trade one of them.
Me: But I CAN'T trade my dreamy catchers!
Him: You don't need the two batting title leaders if they're both catchers. It doesn't matter if they're dreamy.
Me: No, you don't understand, I can't trade my dreamy catchers because they hit me 9 home runs last week combined!
Anyway, Joe Mauer was an absolute joy to watch this year, in every way possible; he was the kind of player that pretty much any baseball fan of any gender or age could admire. Mauer Power!
And for the counterpart on the all-Joe team... no, just kidding. So, what's really sort of odd is that I was completely won over this year by both Kenji Johjima and Kazumi Saitoh... weird thing is, they did so on opposite sides of the Pacific, despite being former battery mates. I guess with the Hawks finally not dominating as much, I could step back and appreciate some of their players without getting so jealous.
But seriously, Johjima came in from day one with a sharp mind and an engaging smile and put both of them to good use on the Mariners staff and on the Seattle fans. Anyone who could still be smiling at the end of a Mariners season like this one deserves some recognition, and thus Kenji Johjima is my backup catcher on... wait a minute, I think he caught more games than Mauer. Nevermind.
#1 Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles
#21 Sean Casey, 1B, Detroit Tigers
#24 Joe Crede, 3B, Chicago White Sox
#25 Troy Glaus, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
#19 Marco Scutaro, SS, Oakland Athletics
#33 Nick Swisher, 1B, Oakland Athletics
You know, I should just put Sean Casey on the list every year regardless of what team he's on. It would be sort of funny. But, he's a returner from last year's roster, and he's still just as cute.
Marco Scutaro is also a returning member of the roster, and if anything, he's actually gotten cuter in the last year. His birthday was on Monday, and there's a fitting tribute to him and his adorableness over on AN, and I wrote a song about him last year, and so on. I especially love the sign where people were calling him "Little Hurt", heh. Scooter just always looks so delighted to be playing baseball that I can't help but grin whenever I see him. I'm such a Scutard. Besides, his name is the answer to "which A's infielder is the best-looking?" "Marco's cuter, oh!"
Joe Crede, the Speedy Sweetie, is also a returner from last year's postseason roster. I think he was a lot cuter before he cut his hair, sadly, but hey, it's really the high socks that matter.
Nick Swisher's the cutest thing ever, like a big ol' puppydog or something. I could write an entire post about why he's so adorkable. I probably have. Seriously, go find any of the "Swisher Unscripted" episodes, or ESPN's Sophomore Year thingy, or anything where they put a camera on him and let him talk. He cracks me up.
Brian Roberts almost made last year's roster, but was edged out by Adam Kennedy at 2B for some reason, probably because it was before I started hating the Angels, which I fully blame SBNation for. I've always been partial to Troy Glaus, too, and I'm not even sure I can exactly explain why; he's got more of the "dark" good looks than the "happy smiley" sort, I think.
#5 Mike Cuddyer, Minnesota TWins
#7 Mark DeRosa, Texas Rangers
#12 Eric Hinske, Boston Red Sox
#24 Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians
#32 Chris Snelling, Seattle Mariners
Sizemore and Cuddyer return from last year's roster, though at the time, Cuddyer was primarily a third baseman. Anyway, I'm not sure there's that much that have to be explained on why either of them remained. Grady's just as cute as ever, and the Indians are probably still selling out every time they reprint the "Mrs. Sizemore" shirts. And there's a damn good reason Bat-Girl and company call Cuddyer "DJ Cuddles". It's because the guy literally oozes cuddliness, like a big ol' teddy bear. When he smiles, his entire face smiles. His eyes smile, his nose smiles. It's almost cute enough to make you puke, sort of like this entire post.
This is going to sound extremely stupid, but Hinske and DeRosa are both cute in the same way Troy Glaus is cute, to me. Of course, oddly enough, I had originally thrown them in here as infielders, before realizing they were listed as right fielders by their respective teams this year. Texas has a reasonably cute infield in general, and which one of them got picked pretty much happened due to their headshots.
If only USSM hadn't gone up in flames like Julio Mateo, I could of course link to the Cult of Doyle to explain exactly why Chris Snelling is the darling of the Mariners blogosphere. But do I really have to? He's just a funny guy with an awesome Australian accent and an obsession with Star Wars (and thrift shopping, apparently). On a team that's been desperately starved for personality and for left-handed sock, Doyle has been a beacon of light in a mostly dark season. Okay, that might be pushing it. Anyway, he's wonderfully adorable and I hope he'll be around for a long time here.
#15 Tim Salmon, Anaheim Angels
I've always liked Tim Salmon. With him retiring this year, it seems like it's the last chance I have to honor him on this roster, as I didn't have a DH position last year and he spent the entire season on the DL anyway. In some ways his retirement makes me think of Mike Lieberthal; why does it seem so rare these days to have these "nice guys" who spend their whole career on one team? And how the hell was Tim Salmon never elected as an All-Star? The mind boggles. Anyway, I was glad to see him end his career on his own terms. Cheers to you, Mr. Fish.
And thus concludes the American League installment of the 2006 All-Cute roster. The only teams not represented here are the Yankees and Royals; the Royals simply didn't have anyone particularly cuteworthy; the Yankees were because I couldn't quite justify any of them. Mussina came the closest, of course, being darkly handsome and apparently being good at crosswords, too. Craig Wilson would have qualified if they hadn't made him get rid of all his hair. I kind of like Jorge Posada, but he was completely blocked at catcher.
Hmm, only a few number overlaps here; #7 for DeRosa and Mauer, #24 for Crede and Sizemore, and oddly... #58 for Moseley and Duchscherererer.
The next installment of "Deanna has weird taste in guys" will probably be up on Friday morning instead of tomorrow, and will feature cute Japanese players. No, my trip to Japan in September wasn't THAT kind of a "scouting trip".