Look, every team could use an upgrade at some position, right? The Dodgers could always use more sluggers, the Yankees could get a more sustainable solution at catcher, the Angels could use a new center fielder and third baseman, and so on. Some teams need something that will make their season watchable for the fanbase (looking at you, 0.0% chance at a playoff spot Orioles). Even the MLB in general could use some spicing up to attract new fans of all ages.
So, why not make a change to make things more exciting? Why not replace every team’s worst player (via Fangraphs projected WAR) with their mascot? By mascot, we mean a literal Mariner or a literal Tiger. Not Mariner Moose or Paws. There is not much to lose for any of these teams, especially because each team’s worst player is projected for performance below replacement level.
This article was inspired by a previous examination of whether the Detroit Tigers should replace JaCoby Jones with an actual Tiger. Just like in the previous article, we will assume that every mascot will have the “air bud factor” and be able to use their physical tools to be a serviceable baseball player.
Diamondback Rattlesnakes, much like baseball players, are inactive between late October and early March and hibernate in the winter. The Diamondback can grow up to 7 or 8 feet long, which would make for quite the large strike zone. Also, given that snakes have no arms, trying to catch an outside pitch and launching that one to the opposite field (with the bat inside the snake’s mouth) could be quite difficult. It is not irrational to think that the snake would be a fairly poor hitter at the plate.
But we have also assumed that the snake would have its head raised or it would be in the “standing up” position, getting ready to strike. If the snake were to simply lay on the ground in its normal state, it would be virtually impossible to throw strikes. Think of the OBP it could accumulate! And, we have not even discussed the “fear factor.” Would pitchers and catchers dare throw an inside pitch to a snake (regardless of its stance at the plate), especially one with legitimate venom in its fangs? I think the more likely scenario is that a Diamondback would be an OBP and BB monster, but would struggle to contribute any sort of SLG or BA in your standard category leagues.
Apparently, Diamondbacks spend most of their time coiled up and basking in the shade on hot summer days, which makes them very poor athletes during day-games. How can anyone play first base when they are coiled up and immobile? They can’t. I am guessing that a Diamondback snake would set the league record for number of errors committed, both in a game and over the course of a season, assuming they would play during day games. If the snake was resigned to playing at night, it would be a phenomenal defender at first base, reaching up to 7 or 8 feet in the air to catch errant throws from Diamondback infielders.
Speed is another issue with the Diamondback snake. Diamondbacks slither across the ground at about 2-3 miles per hour, which would easily take the cake as the slowest sprint speed in baseball. Even the average human could easily outrun a rattlesnake. So, while the snake could be pretty good at the plate by drawing walks, it could be fairly easy to get out on the base paths, assuming infielders were brave enough to try. It would also make fielding very difficult because the snake would be restricted to a small area around first base. They wouldn’t be able to stop any groundball hit more than a few feet away from them.
Verdict: Unfortunately, while a snake would be incredibly cool to play with or against, I think the Diamondbacks would be worse off by replacing a player with a snake.
The Orioles, Cardinals, and Blue Jays all fall under this category and will all experience similar outcomes on the diamond. All three birds have fairly similar heights, as adult versions of these birds average between 9-15 inches when fully grown. So, unless a pitcher is really on their game and has great control, these birds are going to get on base very often.
Much like their Diamondback counterpart, the birds are going to be useless in trying to drive in runs. In today’s power-focused game, getting on base via the walk can only count for so much. It can keep the inning alive, for sure, but if you need a run batted in, the only way these guys are going to do that is when the bases are loaded.
Where the bird mascots have the advantage is in their speed. We know Diamondbacks are slow, but these birds crush every baseball player in terms of sprint speed. Even the slowest of the three, the blue jay, flies at an average of 25 mph. That’s a little slower than Usain Bolt’s 28 mph, but easily beats the speediest of baseball players (Tim Locastro, according to BaseballSavant). In today’s three true outcomes-focused game, stolen bases are starting to fall by the wayside, but I think if managers were blessed with birds that were legitimate base-stealing threats, they would be more inclined to give them the green light.
The speed can also be beneficial in the field. Imagine the ground these birds could cover with a glove, assuming they were able to make it work with a baseball glove. Although, if African and European swallows can carry coconuts, these birds can carry gloves, right?
Unfortunately, blue jays are natural predators of both the Baltimore oriole and the Northern Cardinal! That would make games between these three teams very interesting. Once the blue jay attacked its Oriole or Cardinal opponent, would the benches clear in support of the birds? Would any game between these teams cause ejections and suspensions? As unfortunate as it may be, we may need to call upon Charlie Montoyo to sit his bird for any series between his team and the two others.
Verdict: The birds would be a good substitute for a current player, although the blue jay’s inability to play against a division rival and an interleague opponent makes it a little less valuable than the others.
The Sox and Stockings Mascots
Worst mascot replacements ever.
The Human Mascots
The Yankees, Brewers, Pirates, Mariners, Rangers, Twins, Mets, Phillies, Nationals, Athletics, Royals, Dodgers, and Padres all fall under this category. There are a couple of problems with these mascots. For one thing, we know that regular humans are simply not good enough to play baseball. That’s why we have analytics; so that the kids who weren’t good enough to play meaningful baseball past Little League can still be involved in the game.
Another problem is that some of these human replacements are legitimate security issues. Have we considered the issues that will arise when the Pirates play the Rangers? The Pirates are criminals with guns and swords! The Rangers are basically policemen, too. We don’t want firefights on our fields!
Furthermore, how will we protect the safety of our Mariners, when they are attacked by Pirates? The Mariners are just trying to catch some fish, sail the seas, and win a playoff game, but the Pirates are going to be an occupational hazard. Thank goodness these teams are in opposite leagues, or MLB would have had a serious problem on their hands.
And, we haven’t even gotten to the Brewers. Drinking beer isn’t a problem in and of itself, but what happens when everyone wants to go grab a pint? We’re here to play baseball, not drink! That’s for the fans to do. The worst part is, the Brewers are going to be a problem for every other human team. Who can resist a beer during a baseball game? However, this would be an incredible advantage to any team playing the Brewers (minus those sock teams) with players that can refuse some beer, such as the Diamondbacks and the birds. While the Brewer is busy brewing his concoctions — basically negative value on defense — teams that hit baseballs his way will have an immense advantage. We might just shatter the inside-the-park home run record in a matter of weeks when the Brewers take the field.
Speaking of drinking beer… we can look to our friends over at “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” for an idea of how a Phillie would perform on the field. Charlie “Wild Card” Kelly drank 64+ beers on a cross-country flight and then played just as well as Wade Boggs did, so I think the Phillie would be just fine as a replacement for the Phillies’ worst starter. It’s never a bad thing to have an extra Hall of Fame-level player, even if they’re 65 beers deep and need subtitles to be understood. Just make sure you have enough chicken for them, too. A Boggs-type Philadelphia native (that’s what the “Phillie” is) would be a great substitute.
I think two human mascots could provide above-replacement-level value if substituted: the Oakland Athletic and the Twins. Oakland’s mascot is not an elephant, as you might think (and is a shoulder patch on their uniforms). The team’s name was based on the term “Athletic Club,” which was another name for men’s sports teams in the 1800s. So, the “Philadelphia Athletics” was just another way to say “Philadelphia Baseball Team.” At any rate, the Athletic would probably be a fine substitute for any team’s worst starter. It would be the most boring substitute of any mascot on the list, but it would be a good substitute.
The same goes for the Twins. Technically, the “Twins” are a shortened version of “Twin Cities,” but that’s pretty lame for this exercise, so we are going to pretend that the “Twins” is a literal translation for two people who look alike. In fact, the original Minnesota Twins logo — once they had moved from Washington to Minneapolis-St. Paul — has two baseball players shaking hands across the state of Minnesota. I’m not sure if MLB would allow the Twins to have two of a player in the same position on the field (which would bring the number of players in the lineup to 10), but assuming they did, the extra Twin would be an enormous advantage! Having a fourth outfielder patrol the grass, alongside Byron Buxton, would be unstoppable. Nothing would get past them. And, having an extra quality bat in the lineup would be a great advantage to the team, because not only does it add an extra challenge for the pitcher to get another member of the “BOMBA SQUAD” out each time through, but that extra batter limits the number of times a pitcher can go through the batting order. A 10-player batting order could seriously impact game strategy against the Twins, probably to the disadvantage of opposing teams. The Twins would be a good substitute.
The Dodgers could probably use a trolley dodger to help out in the field. Trolley dodgers are probably great athletes, accustomed to diving out of the way of high-speed cable cars. They would be great defenders and speed demons, but would probably be a negative at the plate. However, if you needed a base stolen — which Dave Roberts knows a thing or two about — the dodger would be a great choice.
Verdict: A Byron Buxton-type could still be useful for this stacked Dodgers team.
Now, the Mets, Padres, Nationals, Royals, and Yankees would probably all be at a great disadvantage if someone were to be replaced. I don’t know how many readers have met native Philadelphians, but chances are they are not athletically talented enough to play baseball and would almost certainly be distracted during the game by someone bad-mouthing them from the crowd. Philadelphians — and New Yorkers — can insult their own city, but when you do it, they take it personally. The other mascots would also be distracted by other stimulants: the Padres by trying to establish more missions across the state of California, the Nationals and Royals by politics, and the Yankees by… patriotism?
Verdict: Each of these human mascots would be a bad substitute.
Sea Animal Mascots
The Marlins and Rays would unquestionably struggle in the field because they need water to survive! If you took the Marlin out onto the field and told it to get anything hit its way, it would say “Okay, Coach” and then flop around. And, you would need a new Marlin shortly thereafter. So, the logistics of this situation are absolutely horrible. Could we put a tank out for the Marlin or the Ray? How would defense even work? We can’t just flood the field for them!
Verdict: Terrible substitutes.
Someone had better protect the Marlin when the Cubs come to town. It would be terrible to see a mascot/player eating another on the field. It would be suspensions and fines galore!
What is interesting is that brown bears usually try to avoid people. Encounters between brown bears and people are relatively few and far between, so convincing a brown bear to even play baseball for the Cubs would be hard enough. However, brown bears have been known to attack if they feel threatened or if the mother feels like their cubs are being threatened. So, not only would you have to worry about not threatening the brown bear cub in front of you, but you would also have to worry about the mother of the brown bear cub. It would be incredibly dangerous for opposing teams to throw near the bear and I assume the bear would frequently be intentionally walked.
Additionally, the brown bear has been known to reach relatively high speeds out in the wild, getting up to roughly 35 mph. While a cub would probably not be able to reach that kind of speed, it would still definitely be able to reach speeds unmatched by other MLB players. If the cub eventually grew into its full size, it could even outrun the bird mascots!
For more on the Tiger in Detroit, check out the article linked in the introductory paragraph.
Verdict: Good substitutes.
I can’t think of a way in which a literal angel would be a bad substitution for the Angels’ right fielder. The abilities of angels depend on the definition, but in nearly all depictions of an angel, they have wings they can use to fly with, which would make them absolute monsters on defense. How many home runs could be saved with a flying baseball player? It seems unfair that Angels fans could have Mike Trout in center field and an angel in right field and would still miss the playoffs.
Now, many descriptions of angels define them as having “divine power,” which I assume means an 80-grade hit tool and 80-grade power? When you have the power of a god on your side, there’s probably not much you can’t do. Opposing pitchers, beware!
Additionally, the addition of a Giant to the San Francisco roster would probably be a huge advantage. San Francisco fans (and the franchise itself) are used to seeing Giants play baseball since they watched Barry Bonds for a decade. So, I assume Farhan Zaidi and the front office would have a brilliant plan for utilizing their giant in-game. Hopefully, the giant would have strong plate discipline, because their strike zone would be absolutely enormous. Thankfully, it would also have GIANT power (I’m so sorry) to go along with its massive strike zone and virtually any ball struck by the Giant would probably sail out of Oracle Park, regardless of wind speed and temperature.
I could also see some other issues arising from having a giant in the clubhouse, including the clubhouse needing to be refitted to fit a giant person inside. Additionally, trying to bond with your teammate who lives at the top of a beanstalk in the sky would be pretty difficult too. But, if the giant helps the team win, so be it!
Verdict: Both the angel and the giant would be great substitutes.
The Rocky Mountains playing baseball would be… complicated. The same goes for a Houston Astro. Good luck fitting a mountain into Coors Field!
Great substitutions: Angels, Tigers, Giants, Phillies
Good substitutions: Blue Jays, Cardinals, Orioles, Athletics, Twins, Cubs, Dodgers
Bad substitutions: Diamondbacks, Reds, Yankees, Brewers, Pirates, Mariners, Rangers, Mets, Nationals, Royals, Padres
Terrible substitutions: Red Sox, White Sox
Bad substitution, because we want them to survive: Marlins, Rays
Unsure: Rockies, Astros
N/A, for obvious reasons: Cleveland, Atlanta
Design by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter and @caines_design on Instagram)
LMAO, this was a lot of fun!
Two points to consider:
1) An actual Diamondback may seem sedate while warming, but that’s the time they’re actually most active. They strike more often after basking in the sun.
2) The Yankees have rarely actually had a mascot during their entire history (28th WS this year, just you wait,) plus they have depth that wouldn’t allow for the substitution, so the point is moot, (LOL, “moot.”)
Thanks for this, needed the laughs.
Angels should’ve signed Pillar to upgrade that CF…what a mess