What a good-looking group of All-Stars, right guys? How good looking is the question that we will tackle this week. One item.
I once saw a study that found NFL quarterbacks are far, far handsomer than the general population, and also far handsomer (as measured by facial symmetry) than the rest of the NFL. The theory was that, as the players come up through youth leagues and high schools and colleges, coaches subconsciously select the handsomest players to be in the leadership roles. Or, perhaps, handsome quarterbacks are best suited for leadership roles, because they can command the respect of the rest of the team.
So that’s why I’m handsome-ranking each position in baseball, as represented by last night’s All-Stars. Because for science.
Most prominent feature: Nostrils
Catching is the most demanding position, physically as well as mentally. Some players respond by turning inward and misanthropic, like Montero and Molina. Some, like Martin, go crazy. They walk around like crook-mouthed mental patients, muttering repetitive nothings like “best shape of my life.” For the most part, though, catchers must show leadership and are limited to one or two body types, so none of them look freaky, gawky, gangly or headless. They are middle-of-the-road, handsome-like men. Primary flaw: Lack of experience wearing caps, tendency to prop bill slightly too high.
Relevant anagram: Wet, trim seat.
Catchers’ overall grooviness: Quite groovy.
Prominent feature: Eyebrows.
First base is a position that does not select, but is selected. We can be quite certain most first basemen did not land there by chance but because they are what one might sensitively refer to as fatties. Here we see thick necks and stuffed cheeks. Fat men are notably jolly, though, which is a skill set that plays well at first base, where one is expected to exchange recipes and weather observations with newly arriving baserunners. Other than Konerko and Votto — who were not informed that the picture was being taken quite yet — we see four gleaming smiles. First basemen know that attitude is a choice.
Relevant anagram: Vote to joy!
Overall grooviness: Extra gravy. Groovy. Extra groovy.
Prominent feature: Teeth
Second basemen are the most vulnerable men on the field, with runners bearing down and stabbing them with their feet. The best defense is a big smile. Second basemen are always like, “:)” to try to defuse the situation. Not all second base smiles are the same, though. Each of these second basemen is communicating something different with his smile:
- Cano: Why Hello, Derek Jeter castoffs. I find you pretty. I also am on the Yankees!
- Kendrick: Hello, friends. May I have a batting title now? I was promised.
- Phillips: Why Hello, Robinson Cano castoffs. I find you pretty. I also am on the professional baseball team.
- Weeks: How do you do it? Like this? Is this right?
Relevant anagram: Son a born icon.
Overall grooviness: Very groovy. They don’t call second base the Smile Corner for nothing.
Prominent feature: Close eyes. (Not closed eyes. Close eyes.)
Shortstops are the best of the best. They were the best growing up, which is why they were put at shortstop; and among the best they were still the best, so they didn’t have to move to new positions like stupid Mickey Mantle. When a person is told he is the best and put in an extremely important position, there are two ways of processing it: Internalizing the praise and developing extreme confidence; or internalizing the burden of success and fighting paralysis. Asdrubal Cabrera and Derek Jeter don’t look like they would play the same position, but at each player’s core is the same virus, transmitted by a compliment received at age 6 and repeated ever since.
Relevant anagram: Scrotal strain.
Overall grooviness: Mostly groovy.
Prominent feature: Goatees, and chins that look pale and pasty because they just shaved their goatees.
A lot of third basemen aren’t actually drafted to play third base. A couple of these guys were shortstops, one was a second basemen, one was a catcher, etc. So describing them as a cohort is like trying to describe what an American looks like. We have a smiler and a glarer. A pudgy guy and a chiseled face. One guy is wearing earrings. Another is clearly pondering who was behind the JFK assassination. If I had to sum up third basemen, I’d say they’re just like us. They all wear their hats in a normal fashion. They don’t wear neckcessories or Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy beards. Their features are all different, and yet within one standard deviation of the typical person. Third basemen don’t get cast in Coen Brothers movies. They get cast in sitcoms.
Relevant anagram: Tier are bland.
Overall grooviness: No.
Prominent feature: Gaze.
These players stand very far away from action, so over time their corneas stiffen and they are capable of looking only very far away. The photographer had to stand 300 feet away and use a super zoom to get them looking even this natural. It was only moderately successful. As you can see, every player (except one) has a thousand-yard “I’m gonna git you” stare going on. “I’m gonna git you, and me and your organs are going to be best friends forever,” says Hunter Pence. “I’m gonna git you, small child, yum yum” says Josh Hamilton. “I’m gonna git you, and what I do to you is going to be a surprise even to me,” says Jose Bautista. “I didn’t mean nothing. I just wanted to pet her soft hair,” says Carlos Quentin. The only exception is Jay Bruce, who worries he’s the one they’re gonna git.
Relevant anagram: Corneal Squint.
Overall grooviness: NOT groovy. Not groovy at all.
Prominent features: Dimples
By far the two handsomest men on this page are Jacob Ellsbury and Matt Kemp. Grady Sizemore would be the third if the All-Star rosters were somehow even deeper. Torii Hunter is very handsome. Tsuyoshi Shinjo was a heartthrob and model in Japan. Kelly Leak played center field. Peter Bourjos? More like Peter Gorgeouokay let’s just move on. Point is, center fielders are possibly the handsomest players on the field. This makes sense, when you consider center fielders must be exceptional defensively yet still hit more than we have traditionally expected from catchers and middle infielders. That means center fielders, almost by definition, cannot be:
- Extremely old
- Dead and decomposing
- That toilet in Slumdog Millionaire
Relevant anagram: Thin. No varicose.
Overall grooviness: Peter Gorgeous.
Prominent feature: Eye Deadness.
These players are both smiling. Do you believe these players are happy? No, you don’t, and no, they are not. They want UZRs. They think if they don’t get to field, they should get to bat twice as often. In fact, they think they should get all the at bats. “I got a single! Ghost runner on first. I’m up again!” Until that day, David Ortiz spends his free time shaving elaborate designs into his facial scruff. Michael Young spends his free time just shaving and shaving, sometimes 40 times per day. “Call me Smooth,” he says.
Relevant anagram: Rad zit void.
Overall grooviness: Not groovy. Just woke from a nap.
Prominent feature: Long necks, pointy chins, tiny tufts of beard that look like fuzzy caterpillars clinging to their chins in a windstorm.
A group this large is hard to sum up. For instance, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee look different than the rest. They are both veterans who have peered in for so many signs that now they are now only capable of peering in for signs.
Braden Halladay: “Look at this drawing I did in school, daddy.”
Roy Halladay: [Peers in for a sign.]
And Cole Hamels was so short when he grew up that he is still constantly straining his neck higher to see if he’s missing something over there. But, for the most part, these pitchers have lanky necks and faces, which makes sense: long and lanky is essentially what scouts mean when they say “projectable,” and baseball men love projecting. These pitchers also have extremely lazy facial hair, because their entire lives are four-day weekends interrupted by one day of work.
(You’ll note that Alexi Ogando doesn’t fit in with the rest of these pitchers. This is evidence that the Rangers should have left him in the bullpen, or perhaps converted him into a veterinarian.)
Relevant anagram: Lanky Ace Throws.
Overall grooviness: Some groove, some not-groove, overall moderately groovy.
Prominent feature: A certain, how would you say it, Canadianness.
The first revolution in relief pitching was the invention of the save by Jerome Holtzman. The second revolution in relief pitching was Bruce Sutter establishing the dominant, one-inning role. The third revolution in relief pitching was Eric Gagne subverting the typical, intimidating look and replacing it with the silly-Canadian* look. Closers realized that they couldn’t scare batters, many of whom are essentially sociopaths incapable of recognizing threats at all. So now relievers mostly start out with incredibly plain baby faces, and as time goes by they start adding a wide variety of costume props: Funny beards, goofy goggles, silly dances. Have you ever actually seen Aaron Crow? This is what he looks like on the mound:
Relevant anagram: Low in brains.
Overall grooviness: Groovy without beards. Not groovy with beards.
Prominent feature: Droopiness.
Very little in common here. Bochy has a famously large head, like an oversized boxing glove; Washington’s looks like one gnarled knuckle. Bochy’s age channels itself into his neck skin; Washington’s into his accelerating eye droop. Bochy’s face looks pale and washed out, like somebody sneezed a great pile of cocaine all over him; Washington’s face has absolutely nothing to do with that joke.
Relevant anagram: Ah, snorting now.
Overall grooviness: Groovy, in the “we’re very old and use the word groovy unironically” sense.
So we’re ready to rank each position on general excellence in appearing presentable. With the best on the top:
2. Second basemen
4. First basemen
5. Starting pitchers
6. Third basemen
8. Relief pitchers
9. Designated hitters
11. Corner outfielders
Special note to academics: If you are going to use my conclusions in your research, please properly cite.
*This is not to imply that Canadians look silly, my mostly Canadian audience. Obviously they don’t! Rather, relievers look Canadian, and then supplement it with silliness. (That’s why it’s hyphenated.) You personally don’t look silly. You look like a center fielder, or a third-baseman at worst.
Balloon hat taken from yourballoonman. Photoshop by my wife.