Weighty issues, All-Star style
At espnW, we don't purport to be Olympic-caliber physical specimens with chiseled bodies. In fact, most of us feel we could stand to lose a few pounds, or get back in touch with our inner athletes. We aim to inspire our readers to do their best, whether on the playing field or on the sidelines. But sometimes, we have to take time to laugh and poke fun at some absurdities in the sports world.
The heftiness of many of the men who play Major League Baseball is one such absurdity. How is it that many of these elite highly paid athletes -- including most valuable players, Cy Young Award winners and perennial All-Stars -- sport bigger beer guts than some of the fans who watch them?
Ah, baseball -- where stout sluggers who aren't mobile enough to play defense can make a fortune in the American League as a designated hitter. And did you know carrying excess baggage may actually help a pitcher? We won't get into the physics of it, and frankly we're not even sure why it's true, but there is some statistical evidence that overweight pitchers tend to perform better and have longer careers than skinny pitchers.
Of course, the game is filled with men who have exquisite bodies and minimal body fat (well played, Grady Sizemore). But baseball and its fans have always embraced the chubsters as warmly as the Adonises. Even Babe Ruth, widely regarded as the greatest player of all time, was notoriously heavyset.
As we arrive at the 2011 All-Star Game, we wanted to take time to highlight a special group of players beyond the ones on the field on Tuesday night in Phoenix. We hope you've noticed them already -- frankly, they're hard to miss -- but in case you haven't, here they are: the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Fat All-Star Team.
The rules to qualify for the All-Fat All-Star Team are simple. First, a player must be visibly heavyset (or corpulent, rotund, hefty). Second, a player must have been on a major league roster in the 2011 season. Sorry, Cecil Fielder and Mike LaValliere, you're not eligible, though you're otherwise eminently qualified. They also don't have to be actual All-Stars, though in several cases they are.
Note: All heights and weights below are those listed on the ESPN.com player card.
CC Sabathia, New York Yankees (6-foot-7, 290 pounds): His MLB-best 13 wins finally garnered the Yankees' ace a well-deserved spot on the actual All-Star team, but his spot as the anchor of the All-Fat Team starting rotation was never in doubt. Sabathia, the 2007 AL Cy Young winner, played the 2010 season at a whopping 315 pounds but reported to camp this year down 25 pounds, weighing in at a slim-for-him but still impressive 290 pounds. His secret? He cut Cap'n Crunch cereal out of his diet.
Bartolo Colon, New York Yankees (6-0, 265): Shoulder problems forced Colon out of baseball in 2010, so his resurgence with the Yankees this year (6-3, 2.68 ERA) represents one of the great first-half stories of this season. But Colon is still best known for being one of the heftiest hurlers we've seen. For years, ESPN's Matthew Berry has referred to the rotund right-hander as "Big Fat Bartolo Colon." If big and fat means consistently pitches well, Yankee fans will take it.
Tommy Hunter, Texas Rangers (6-3, 280): The first time I saw Tommy Hunter pitch, I pegged him for the All-Fat team starting rotation. He is absolutely enormous. Just back from injury, Hunter has been coming out of the bullpen for Texas, but he's starting for the A-F team.
Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs (6-5, 270): Hey, they don't call him "Big Z" for nothing. The Cubs hurler is known for his big personality as well as his big stature. He's also been known to throw his weight around after a disappointing performance, as several unsuspecting Gatorade coolers can attest.
Joe Blanton, Philadelphia Phillies (6-3, 245): Blanton may be overshadowed as the fifth pitcher on the Phillies' four-ace staff, but he's an All-Fat team star in our eyes. Blanton isn't even that fat, but he is a big guy, and the "Joe Blanton, Fat Pitcher" meme is too well-established to ignore.
Bobby Jenks, Boston Red Sox (6-4, 275): If you're wondering about Jenks' credentials, look no further than this story: Once, when Jenks was the closer for the White Sox (he signed with Boston in the 2010 offseason), manager Ozzie Guillen called for him out of the bullpen by gesturing for the big guy instead of the righty. Yeah, Jenks is fat.
Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers (6-4, 300): The fleshy flamethrower out of the Dodgers bullpen is the only member of the All-Fat team whose official weight is listed at 300-plus pounds. Though he's missed much of this season with injury, the two-time All-Star doesn't have to worry about losing his spot in the All-Fat team bullpen. Honorable mention goes to Padres closer and 2011 All-Star Heath Bell, who carries 260 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame.
1B: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers (5-11, 275): His name is Prince, but the three-time All-Star is the king of the large first basemen. Fielder beat out a highly competitive field for the All-Fat team honor, including the Tigers' Miguel Cabera and the Nationals' Matt Stairs. Fielder (like his daddy Cecil before him), fills out his uniform the way he fills out his stat lines. Amazingly, he's managed to maintain his girthy figure even after switching to a vegetarian diet in 2008.
2B: Juan Uribe, Los Angeles Dodgers (5-11, 230): With perennial All-Fat Team starting second baseman Ronnie Belliard retired as of last month (who knew?) we had to be creative here. Uribe has played the majority of his games at third base this season, but the hefty utility man has also started 17 games at second, so he's our guy with Belliard out of the game.
SS: Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers (6-2, 215): Though Peralta has slimmed down a bit this year, he's among the heftiest of all starting shortstops in the league. Considering the position also boasts some of the skinner players in baseball (Dee Gordon, we're looking at you), 215 pounds for a starting shortstop tips the scales in the newly minted All-Star's favor.
3B: Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants (5-11, 240): There's less of Kung Fu Panda to go around this year (he's down a whopping 38 pounds from his playing weight in 2010, when he was pushing 280), but the first-time All-Star is still a lock for the All-Fat Team.
C: Jose Molina, Toronto Blue Jays (6-2, 250): Jose inherits the mantle of starting All-Fat team catcher from his brother Bengie, who was known as the slowest player in baseball before he retired. At least we're keeping it in the family. Yadier, put on a few more pounds and you could be next.
Carlos Lee, Houston Astros (6-2, 265): The large left fielder is pretty much a designated hitter waiting to happen, as his defensive range consistently rates in the bottom of the league. The three-time All-Star is signed with Houston for another year.
Andruw Jones, New York Yankees (6-1, 230): Andruw Jones was a premier center fielder in his prime, a 10-time Gold Glove winner and a five-time All-Star. How times have changed. In 2008, the rotund right fielder reported to Dodgers camp overweight, and started a downward career spiral. Jones now comes off the bench for the Yankees as a pinch-hitter and makes an occasional spot start in right. Congrats, Andruw. Your spot on the All-Fat Team is secure.
Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals (6-1, 220): They don't call Berkman "Fat Elvis" for nothing. Another one of the All-Fat Team's 2011 All-Stars, the "Big Puma" is enjoying a career renaissance in St. Louis, where he's found the stroke that made him one of the league's best hitters in Houston before an off year in 2010.
DH: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox (6-4, 230 lbs): This one was easy. With Matt Stairs over in the National League without a designated hitter, "Big Papi" is your All-Fat team DH. The 2010 Home Run Derby winner and seven-time All-Star is having another fine season, packing on the offensive stats for Boston.
Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia Phillies: Of course the All-Fat Team needs a manager who can go pound for pound with the team. Our pick is Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel. We couldn't confirm his weight, and he did drop at least 50 pounds before the 2010 season, but the uniform still shows off his paunch to great effect. While we're on the subject, how ridiculous is it that 65- and 75-year-old men have to wear the same body-hugging uniforms as the players? Longtime Braves manager Bobby Cox would have been another solid selection. Unfortunately, he and his famous pot-belly retired after the 2010 season.
What do you think of the 2011 All-Fat Team? Did we miss anybody? Let us know in the comments section below.