I watched the MLB All-Star game on Tuesday. Other than Prince Fielder blistering the ball in the 3rd inning off of CJ Wilson, and Heath Bell sprinting in from the bullpen and sliding onto the pitcher's mound, that game was a yawn-fest. There used to be a day when I would get genuinely excited to see certain players play, hear them talk, and be captivated to watch them on the baseball diamond. Maybe that's my childhood coming out of me, and maybe I'm just a grumpy old man now.
However, can you say that there are real "personalities" in baseball today? Say what you want about Barry Bonds, but he was at least charismatic (in a brutish sort of way) and baseball's biggest selling point in the earlier days was just that...the personalities of baseball. Its something that's missing in today's game, and I can think of five players that could help move the needle if only they were 15 years younger and could play in 2011.
Ozzie Smith, Shortstop - I'll get to him doing the back flip here in a minute. Have you ever seen Ozzie Smith play the infield? There are some people that truly believe he is the greatest defensive infielder to ever play the game, and as a fan, you could only watch Ozzie play shortstop and feel like your time was well spent. He brought "cool" to that position, in a way that would be a trail blazer for players like Omar Vizquel, Rey Ordonez, and Jimmy Rollins.
Oh, and that back flip? Got damn, that flip was dope. You see how high he'd get? Good grief.
Deion Sanders, Outfielder - I was tempted to put Bo Jackson on this list, but in fairness, I only got to see Bo Knows at the tail end of his baseball and football career. I grew up with Deion, and I got to know Deion on a personal level on some degree. Why? Because Deion put it ALL out there for everyone to see. Yes, he was the best cover corner to ever play the game, but he was LIVE on the baseball diamond. The man hit .304 one season, finished second in stolen bases (56 in 1999), and led the league in triples (14 in 1992 in only 97 games played), and was an innovator to the game. People forget that Deion Sanders was the one who brought the Tomahawk Chop to the Atlanta Braves as it was imported from the great folks at Florida State. If he had been fully committed to baseball, who knows what he would've accomplished.
More than anything though, Deion had attitude and a flair for playing the game that was real. Being an elite football player brought additional cache and made his games must-see TV. You're not getting that from any professional athlete in 2011.
Randy Johnson, Pitcher - For as much as the good folks of ETSF love Doc Halladay, Cliff "Adrian Peterson" Lee, Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, or any other great pitcher of this era...no one captivated our attention like The Big Unit, Randy Johnson. You knew when the man stepped on the mound that he was hurling 100 every time, and that he was AT MINIMUM going to strike out 10, that 15 was the norm, and on a good night he was striking out 20 people. TWENTY! This coming from a dude who was a rail-thin 6'10" man who wore a mullet and a scowl with a fervent disdain for human life. I remember watching the Washington Nationals rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg and the hype he got for those first couple of starts before he got hurt. Let's hope that we can get Strasburg in a mullet, and maybe he'll start giving us the 20-piece on the regular like the Big Unit did.
Albert Belle, Outfielder - If there was ever a goon in baseball, then leave no doubt that it was Albert Belle. He was probably one of the few baseball players that was openly feared by pitchers and other players. Why? Because not only would the man hit 50 homers and bat in 120+ RBI's, but if you talked crazy he'd ask you what did the five fingers say to the face. SLAP! The man went after hecklers in the stands (for taunting him with racist comments and for calling him "Joey"), the man sent his own teammate thru the ceiling panel to break into an umpire's locker room to retrieve his corked bat. What? The man chased down trick-or-treaters...with his car! Who does that? Albert Belle does.
Oh yeah, he'd also not grant interviews after games and would run infielders over (instead of running around or ducking) if they were in the basepath...go ask Fernando Vina about Albert. Go look at that top picture again and realize that you didn't want it with Albert. Albert Belle, the last goon of Major League Baseball. We need you back, sir; just don't hurt me.
Jose Lima, Pitcher - There are going to be a great many of you who have no idea who in the hell Jose Lima is, and that's okay. However, "Lima Time" was one of the most exciting players to ever watch play the game. You want to talk about flamboyant? Ric Flair would've appreciated "Lima Time" and his flamboyance. The man loved music just as much as he loved baseball, which prompted The New York Times sportswriter Ben Shpigel to say that Lima was "the national anthem-crooning, towel-waving merengue singer who moonlights as a right-handed pitcher." The dude would literally celebrate with a dance after every strikeout, would talk crazy in English and Spanish, and more than anything else...he was out there having fun. There isn't a teammate that would ever speak ill will on Jose Lima. There isn't a fan who would speak ill will on Jose Lima, and if there was ever someone who could bring the fun back to baseball, it would be Jose Lima. The man died too soon by a heart attack at age 37, but we'll never forget LIMA TIME!
THERE ARE COUNTLESS OTHER BASEBALL PLAYERS THAT WE REMEMBER, IF YOU COULD BRING ANY BASEBALL PLAYER BACK FROM THE PAST WHO WOULD IT BE? LET US KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS!