If you’re wondering what the idea behind the Bobblehead All-American Team is, full details are here.
With an entire other post as preamble, we can move directly into the selections for the first annual Bobblehead All-American Team.
Catcher – Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs
Every season it seems there are one or two positions that are thinner than the others in terms of talent. Catcher wasn’t the shallowest position in 2011, but with Joe Mauer not himself, Buster Posey out most of the season and Jorge Posada finally forced to give up even the pretense of being able to handle the defensive side of catching, catcher was left wanting in terms of star-power.
That goes double for catcher in the bobblehead ranks. Soto easily captures the All-American at catcher by virtue of a passable likeness, a solid action pose and a clean paint job. What really puts Soto over the top, though, is the Cubs’ decision to present all their 2011 bobblehead giveaways not in the big league uniforms, but in those of four of the team’s minor league affiliates. Soto here represents the Triple-A Iowa Cubs.
I really like this concept. If I were a Cubs fan, and I had a modest collection of bobbleheads of my favorite Cubs, all decked out in that unmistakable Cubs’ uniform, I would welcome the chance to mix things up a little with a few bobbleheads that pay tribute to the minor league system. That’s not to say there is anything wrong with the Cubs uniform. Even when you factor in home, road, alternate and throwback uniforms, though, there are only so many options. Using the minor league uniforms not only gives things a different look, but the players immortalized in bobblehead form in 2011 for the Cubs are all recent products of their minor league system. It’s a smart twist on the bobblehead convention and it’s a major reason why Geovany Soto is a Bobblehead All-American.
First Base – Kendrys Morales
Kendrys Morales gets the nod at first base for four reasons:
1) The box will remind us forever that Kendrys Morales spent over five seasons in the Angels organization before finally clarifying that his first name is not, in fact, Kendry, but Kendrys. Was this bobblehead the tipping point?
2) Every switch hitter should have a bobblehead from each side of the plate and credit goes to the Angels for going the extra mile here.
3) If you’re going to make the effort to create right- and left-handed swinging bobbleheads, why dress them the same? Furthermore, why constrain yourself to a predictable home/road dichotomy? It is unlikely that the Angels used this bobblehead giveaway to send a subtle and subliminal message contrasting the classic look of the home whites with the unfortunate solid color alternate jersey, but I am willing to give them a half point for the result, whether intended or not.
4) These two mirror-image Kendrys Morales bobbleheads played exactly as many games at first base for the Angels in 2011 as the real Kendrys Morales. In other words, zero. Don’t get me wrong, I like Kendrys Morales, but the fact that a bobblehead giveaway this elaborate honored a player who didn’t play a single game in the season of the giveaway…the least we can do is make this dynamic duo our Bobblehead All-American first baseman.
Second Base – Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays
If I need to explain this one, the concept of the Bobblehead All-American Team is lost on you. Zorilla! Moving on.
Third Base – Ryan Roberts, Arizona Diamondbacks
A key consideration in any Bobblehead All-American selection is attention to detail. Ryan Roberts, who gained a modicum of notoriety down the stretch and in the playoffs for a pair of dramatic grand slams, answers to the nickname “Tat-man.” What more critical detail to capture, then, than the man’s tattoos? I have not seen this bobblehead in person and the picture makes it difficult to judge the authenticity of the recreation. One thing I can tell from this shot, though, is they certainly seem to have accurately depicted the volume of Roberts’ tattoos. And while they may not have entrusted the head to the finest craftsman at the bobblehead workshop, other photos have confirmed that they made sure to include Roberts’ prominent neck tattoo. That, and the fact that there were literally no other options at third base, earned Ryan Roberts the Bobblehead All-American in spite of the regrettable solid black alternate jersey.
Shortstop – Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
Another Cub, another minor league uniform. Starlin Castro appears in the outfit of the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. As with Soto, the likeness is vague, but the action pose is nice, the paint job is clean and he earns bonus points for being on location in the Wrigley Field bleachers.
Outfield – Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Joey Bats! He may not have won the American League MVP either of the past two seasons, but he makes the starting outfield on the Bobblehead All-Americans. I love the smile, I love the date (Toronto rewarding its fans right out of the gates with a bobblehead) and you will notice the subtle incorporation of Batista’s MLB-leading home run total from the previous season (54) in the figurine’s base. Of course, this bobblehead will quickly be replaced at the front of most Toronto fans’ shelves by the presumptive 2012 Jose Bautista bobblehead that will hopefully be outfitted in the new Toronto uniform (as opposed to this solid black monstrosity).
Outfield – Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners
As we add our second (of three) right fielder to the team, you will realize that I am settling for the All-Star voting rules that accept the top three outfielders regardless of their position. I would prefer to populate this team with an actual left fielder, center fielder and right fielder, but the truth is there were no good options among either left or center fielders. On the other hand, there were three solid-to-outstanding choices out of right. Batista was the least spectacular, Ichiro is closer to the outstanding end of the spectrum.
The Seattle Mariners have, by my count, given away no fewer than ten Ichiro bobbleheads since he joined the team in 2001. Rookie of the Year bobblehead, MVP bobblehead, Gold Glove bobblehead, Silver Slugger bobblehead, Ichiro hitting, Ichiro running, Ichiro catching, Ichiro with Ken Griffey, Jr, they’ve covered them all. This one, however, is the magnum opus. If you boil Ichiro down to his indivisible core as a baseball player, it is hits. He is the single-season hit king, he has already passed 3,000 hits professionally (Japan + MLB) and although he appears to be slowing down, even with four extremely modest seasons (averaging 143 hits per) he will 3,000 MLB hits as well. So what more fitting feature to include on an Ichiro bobblehead than a hit counter. You can count professional hits, you can count major league hits, it’s up to you.
Outfield – Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers
While Ichiro was impressive, Ethier is sublime. Our leading vote-getter among outfielders and among all players, Andre Ethier is the 2011 Bobblehead MVP. The Dodgers played in their fetching 1944 Brooklyn “night satin” throwbacks in 2011 and that’s commendable. The uniforms looked great. But throwback uniforms have been done before. Often not with as satisfactory results, but nevertheless they are charted territory. The Dodgers took things to another level entirely this past season when they combined the chocolate of throwback uniforms and the peanut butter of bobbleheads into an irrefutable Reese’s cup of a classic: the throwback bobblehead.
I have nothing against Andre Ethier. He’s a fine player and, I’m sure, a decent human being. But I also have no affinity for the man. He doesn’t play for my favorite team, he isn’t a left handed pitcher (my only known weakness), so you know the concept was a winner when I went out of my way to make sure I added this particular Andre Ethier bobblehead to my collection. And it was everything I’d hoped for and more. The detail on the uniform itself is excellent, but the extra details – the guard on the right cleat, Ethier’s number 16 on the back of each shoe in red – are what made this the best bobblehead in baseball in 2011. The Dodgers have consistently offered a robust promotional calendar over at least the past few seasons, but efforts like this one reinforce that they are not simply about quantity. There may not have been a lot of reasons for Dodgers fans to cheer in 2011, but a close look at this bobblehead and anyone can see why Andre Ethier is pumping his fist here. Here’s another look:
Designated Hitter – Johnny Damon, Tampa Bay Rays
From a delicate quiche to macaroni and cheese with hot dogs; I have no idea what is going on with this bobblehead. I also may not really understand a Jackson Pollock, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful. Welcome on board, Johnny Damon, you’re a Bobblehead All-American!
Starting Pitcher – Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels
You’re starting to see a pattern here. In much the way that baseball has its haves and have-nots, baseball promotional schedules are feast or famine. Some teams take their giveaways seriously year-in and year-out (the Dodgers, Brewers, A’s, Indians, Giants, Phillies, Rays, Cardinals and Angels all come to mind), while others are content to do without, either due to unwillingness to spend (the Marlins, who else?) or the belief they don’t have to (the Red Sox; since when is New Hampsire day a legitimate baseball promotion?).
The Angels offered a strong promotional calendar in 2011 and with their off season makeover, I can’t imagine they will scale back in 2012. I have been a Dan Haren fan since he was with the Cardinals and I think this bobblehead captures him the best. The one the A’s gave out while he was in Oakland may have resembled him more, but this one better captures his shaggy hair and his very bobblehead windup. Isn’t that funny? This has been the prototype for pitcher bobbleheads ever since bobbleheads stopped simply standing around and holding a bat or glove at their side. Most of the time, the pitcher’s delivery diverges from this standby, but not Haren’s-. He literally pitches like a bobblehead. He may be the Jerry West of pitcher bobbleheads:
Relief Pitcher – John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers
Relief pitchers always get a bad rap. Just because of the absurdity of the save rule and the fact that bullpen guys (not named Mariano Rivera) seem to cycle in and out of effectiveness year-to-year, relievers are regularly regarded with skepticism. Not on the Bobblehead All-Americans. Relief pitchers get a spot equal to that of the other guys on the team and one look at John Axford should tell you why. The mustache, the high socks, the intent gaze, the impeccable paint job…the only thing that could be better than that is this:
Now if the Brewers would just convert back to the old “MB” glove logo and pinstripes full time. The Brew Crew need only look northeast to Toronto and follow the lead of a team returning to a beloved look that fans truly connect with. That 1982 team is the heart and soul of the Brewers franchise, so why fight it? When a look holds up the way those 1980s/1990s Milwaukee uniforms do, there is no need for a reinvention. Take a cue from Toronto, Brewers, and bring back the glove!
Manager – Dusty Baker, Cincinnati Reds
There have been some clear-cut choices (due to lack of suitable alternatives), but there was not an easier selection to the Bobblehead All-American squad than Dusty Baker. Andre Ethier may have taken home the prize for comeliest and most creative bobblehead, but no other All-American was more spot-on than this likeness of Dusty Baker. They got the glasses, the facial expression, the posture, the turtleneck. But they didn’t stop there. Every baseball fan knows Dusty’s affinity for toothpicks, so of course they gave the man a toothpick. But why let Dusty have all the fun? What about the toothpick-loving Cincinnati Reds fan? A toothpick for Dusty, a toothpick for the fan, extras for Dusty if his toothpick gets broken, a toothpick for anyone in the vicinity of this bobblehead who might need one. That is called function, and it’s something you don’t see in a lot of bobbleheads. A hit counter for Ichiro is great, but if you have food in your teeth, you need Dusty. That’s why there was only one skipper who could be entrusted with the first Bobblehead All-American Team. Someone just make sure and hide Dan Haren and John Axeford from him. He may be a friend indeed when it comes to cleaning your teeth, but he’s not so helpful when it comes to preventing your arm from blowing out.
Groundskeeper – Roger “The Sodfather” Bossard, Chicago White Sox
And finally, but certainly not last or least among this group, is 2011′s lone auxiliary award recipient. Going forward, I intend to make room among the Bobblehead All-Americans for bobbleheads honoring former players (a Hall of Fame, if you will), standout minor league and college giveaways and even the occasional dud so fantastic that it’s failure merits recognition. Given the tardiness of this post, however, I will content myself with the first full Bobblehead All-American Team plus one.
The White Sox make the list with Roger Bossard. Known as “The Sodfather,” Bossard has developed a “revolutionary drainage and irrigation system” that has been integrated into a number of major league stadiums and spring training facilities. That sounds like the kind of person who warrants his own bobblehead. The White Sox obliged and the result is commendable. I love that they chose for the picture on the box an image of Bossard with the hose over his shoulder, as if to demonstrate that the pose chosen for the bobblehead was no mere coincidence. “See, Roger Bossard has been documented in just such a hose-over-the-shoulder stance as is immortalized in this bobblehead.” Beautiful.
And there you have them, folks, your 2011 Bobblehead All-Americans. Keep an eye out for the 2012 preseason team coming in late March.