For Purple Row’s tenth anniversary, I wanted to make a baseball team out of current and former staff members, wherein a big leaguer represents a Purple Rower. Rather than assigning each one a baseball role derived from a blogger role, or analogizing a playing style to a style of online expression, I wanted something a little bit more random.
I sent a questionnaire to current and former staff members with a single question: "When were you born?" Based on the answer, I determined who the first major leaguer was to debut at a younger age than each staff member. This was the basis of for selecting player representatives for each staffer.
Inspired by an article by Craig Calcaterra, I call it the Purple Row Mortality team because recognizing younger athletes is the acknowledgment of the gradual and inevitable accretion of days, months, and years. That doesn’t have to be morbid. In fact, I believe it’s a sign of perceiving a world beyond ourselves. I would guess that the emergence of big leaguers younger than the observer happens sooner than a lot of people think. Part of the reason is that most of us developed an attachment to baseball as children. Players occupy the space of "adult" vis-à-vis ourselves longer than they probably should. Celebrity and wealth also creates distance that prevents comparisons between ourselves and athletes. In any case, this is an interesting game to play. Baseball Reference lists major league debuts year-to-year, and you can sort the birth-date of each player to find the right player.
The team that resulted is surprisingly well rounded. We were able to fill every position and only had to miscast a couple of players. You’ll notice, too, that the team is very good. The primary reason for this is that good players tend to debut at a young age. There are, however, a couple eminently forgettable players representing eminently memorable Purple Row staff members.
C: Gil Reyes (Tim Boettcher) – June 11, 1983
1B: Delmon Young (Russ Oates) – August 29, 2006
2B: Melvin Upton Jr. (Andrew Martin) – August 2, 2004
3B: Aramis Ramirez (holly96) – May 26, 1998
SS: Manny Machado (Hendrik Kits van Heyningen) – August 9, 2012
LF: Justin Upton (Matt Gross [RhodeIslandRoxFan], Andrew T. Fischer, and Drew Creasman) – August 7, 2007
CF: Andruw Jones (Arimaris and Charlie Drysdale) – August 15, 1996
RF: Bryce Harper (Jen Mac Ramos) – April 28, 2012
PH: Karim Garcia (Kevin V. Minor) – September 2, 1995
The infield is odd. Behind the plate, we have Gil Reyes, who played only 122 games during a seven-year career. But he’s the only catcher, so fate has determined that he be there. From now until the end of the Internet, his Baseball Reference page will link back to this article. Commenters: make sure to say hello to the Reyes family. The left and right sides of the infield contrast. The left side has a slick fielding shortstop and a great bat playing third base. The right side, however, has toolsy outfielders. Melvin Upton Jr. was drafted as a shortstop, so he gets second base. Delmon Young gets first base by default.
The outfield is a real strength, especially at the plate. Upton is the weak link for fielding, but his bat makes up for it. Early career Andruw Jones was a great combination of excellent center field defense and hitting ability. And Bryce Harper rounds out the outfield with hitting, fielding, and a flowing coiffure. Outfielder Karim Garcia, who had a 171 wRC+ in 50 plate appearances in 2001, is our bench bat.
SP1: Felix Hernández (Ryan Schoppe) – August 4, 2005
SP2: Clayton Kershaw (Jeff Aberle) – May 25, 2008
SP3: CC Sabathia (TomCat009) – April 8, 2001
SP4: Julio Teheran (Ryan Freemyer and Jay Tymkovich) – May 7, 2011
SP5: Chris Tillman (Jordan Freemyer) – July 29, 2009
Edwin Jackson (Bryan Kilpatrick) – September 9, 2003
Edgar González (Eric Garcia McKinley) – June 1, 2003
Roberto Osuna (The Ghost of Marv Throneberry and Dan Madigan) – April 8, 2015
Miguel Castro (Jay Milnes and Nick Stephens) – April 6, 2015
Hoo-boy that’s a rotation! King Felix gets to sit at the top of the rotation only by virtue of seniority. The back-end isn’t too shabby either. In all, there are five Cy Youngs and an MVP in the starting five.
The bullpen might be the weak link. Edwin Jackson gets the role of long relief, which, given the rotation, wouldn’t be necessary very often. It’s funny that Bryan landed Edwin Jackson and that he’s relegated to a relief role, because I suspect that Bryan was the one who tweeted this earlier in the season:
It's weird that Edwin Jackson is a reliever now because his best skill literally is the ability to throw an unlimited amount of pitches.— Purple Row (@PurpleRow) April 10, 2015
After Edwin Jackson, the bullpen is a mix of ineffectiveness and inexperience. In 368 innings over ten years, Edgar González had a 78 ERA+. Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro, the most recent players to debut on this list, have a combined 15 and one-third innings pitched as of this writing.
On the farm:
Possiby Julio Urias – Not yet debuted (Carolyn Jelley)
Time will catch up.
And now for some odds and ends. The composite fWAR for the 18 players identified here is 341, which amounts to an average career WAR of about 19. Of course, the reason it’s so high is because the roster is top heavy. The highest position player WAR is Andruw Jones’s 67, and from the pitching side it’s CC Sabathia’s 60.
The players were born in seven different countries. If we include Urias, eight of the 18 players were born in the United States, four in Mexico, three in the Dominican Republic, and one each from Colombia, Venezuela, Curacao, and Germany.
In my estimation, the roster has at least two Hall of Famers in Kershaw and Hernández. Jones and Sabathia are possibilities. Among the younger players, I’d wager that Bryce Harper will also be a strong possibility.
What this roster doesn't have is a lot of playing time in a Colorado Rockies uniform. From what I can tell, the only player who took the field as a Rockie was Edgar González. In 2011, he pitched two innings against the Cardinals in St. Louis. He gave up two runs on five hits. While the Rockies experience on this squad is extremely limited, it is at least representative. But I suppose that because each player is a staffer’s spirit-player, that’s enough to color them purple, if only in this space.
Purple Row debuted on April 28, 2005. The next day, Royce Ring, a left-handed reliever who tossed 68 innings in his career, the last of which came in 2010, made his big league debut (say hi to Royce's family!). Hundreds of others have since done the same. All the while, we've been anchored right here. And that’s not going to change. Here’s to another 10 years and many more debuts.