So I’m playing in this celebrity baseball simulation league, a third simulation team for me, though it doesn’t take up as much time as my two Scoresheet teams, which don’t take up as much time as the wife thinks they do.
And clearly the definition of celebrity is being stretched here.
I was invited by Jonah Keri to play in the Seamheads Near Miss League, which uses Out of the Park Baseball to simulate a season for a circuit made up of good teams that did not win the World Series. I chose the 1954 New York Yankees, ignoring my distaste for all things Yankee partly because I misunderstood the initial description, thinking the league would be made up only of second-place teams, and second-place teams don’t come any better than the ’54 Yanks, who went 103-51.
The 1993 San Francisco Giants went 103-59, but I witnessed that. I figured the ’54 Yankees would be a little more interesting and educational for me. I also just finished reading Allen Barra’s Yogi Berra bio, which of course covered 1954.
The league is run by Mike Lynch of Seamheads.com, whose first celebrity league was the Seamheads Historical League, in which owners built a team using all of the players who ever played for a franchise. Joe Posnanski’s Cleveland Indians won it, winning the World Series over the Boston Red Sox when Tris Speaker threw out Reggie Smith trying to go from first to third on a single by Jimmie Foxx.
I’m pretty sure that precise play never happened in real life.
Here’s the owner’s directory so you can see the other big celebs involved.
I don’t really understand Out of the Park Baseball, though it looks pretty cool and if I had a spare few hours every night I could see really getting involved with it. What I did was set my lineups and pitching rotation and send them to Lynch, with a few very broad strategy instructions — no one runs but Mantle, no one bunts but Rizzuto — and sat back to wait for the results.
Filling out a lineup card for the 1954 Yankees isn’t too difficult. There aren’t that many choices. Berra’s going to catch, you know? This league isn’t using playing-time constraints, so I get a break there and I get to use Bill Skowron as my regular first baseman. In real life Skowron, a rookie that year, platooned with Joe Collins, starting 56 games at first while Collins started 75. But Collins hit .271/.365/.446 in 398 plate appearances while Skowron hit .340/.392/.577 in 237 PAs. The Moose it is.
Also, we’re using the designated hitter rule in the American League, so while in real life Casey Stengel used Hank Bauer, Gene Woodling and Irv Noren as a three-way platoon in left and right field, I get to use all three. Though in another playing-time trick, I’ve got the left-handed Noren sitting against lefties, replaced by … the left-handed Enos Slaughter!
We’ll see how that goes, but in real life Slaughter, who played in 69 games that year at the age of 38, had a crazy reverse platoon split, putting up a .700 OPS against righties and an .814 against lefties.
How it’s going so far is the Yankees are 6-3, on a five-game winning streak and tied for first in the A.L. East with Bill Simmons’ 2008 Boston Red Sox. Doesn’t seem like a fair fight to me. Bill’s guys are young and fit, plus David Ortiz, and mine are in their 80s, or dead.
Also in the division: Milo Kaminsky’s 1969 Baltimore Orioles, Jack Perconte’s 2007 Cleveland Indians, Gary Gillette’s 1961 Detroit Tigers, Jason Bova’s 1985 Toronto Blue Jays and Joe Dimino’s 1925 Washington Senators.
The Yanks got off to a rough start, losing two in a row before salvaging the third game against Joe Hamrahi and Craig Brown’s 1977 Kansas City Royals. Then they got pounded by the Senators 11-1 to fall to 1-3 before Eddie Lopat threw a shutout to launch New York on its winning streak, two wins over the Senators and a three-game road sweep over Perconte’s ’07 Indians.
Take that, former big-leaguer, who by the way has been blogging entertainingly at Seamheads about his career.
Next up, we go to Washington, Whitey Ford, still looking for his first win, against Tom Zachary in the opener.
Using Skowron over Collins is really paying off so far. Skowron’s 7-for-31 with no extra-base hits and a .520 OPS. Collins is 6-for-14 with a triple and a 1.071 OPS. Small sample size, but there might be some good reason why playing Skowron over Collins won’t work. Slaughter, by the way, is 4-for-15.