It’s Opening Day. Baseball is back, and because this is a basketball site, some of you probably don’t care. But some of you might! I love baseball, it’s the first sport I fell in love with. The sport my father taught me to play. Then they started throwing me curve balls and my average never surpassed the Mendoza line again.
Appropriately enough, my youth organization was Liberty Bell Youth Organization. We had some good years. We played in Veterans Stadium for the City Championship the last year the Vet was open and got our asses handed to us by Crispin. But we also drew Crispin in the Department of Recreation Championship; a best of three series where the ass was handed to Crispin. As we transitioned to 90 feet, Liberty Bell never returned to glory as we lost a lot of our promising talent to Calvary A.A.; those bastards. And still, baseball has a special place in my heart.
Opening Day always brings me back to those summers, more than any one sporting event brings me back. So as an ode to Opening Day, and without pissing off those who are here for basketball, I bring you the Philadelphia 76ers starting lineup - as a baseball team. The order of the listing is in accordance to the batting order. So the first player on the list is the leadoff batter, the fourth is cleanup.
- #12 TJ McConnell - 2nd Baseman: Of course TJ is your leadoff hitter. Who else would be the spark plug? McConnell’s grit gives him the leadoff spot. TJ’s going to lay down quite a few bunts, and beat the throw down to first more often than not. Once he’s on, he’s getting in the pitcher’s head. Big leads, lot of clapping and chirping, just daring the pitcher to throw over. The one issue is this: he’s going to be your Jimmy Rollins type of leadoff hitter. He’s not going to take many balls, and he’s swinging early in the count. The kid just wants to get on base, he doesn’t have time to wait for a walk. Defensively, his ability to find the ball make him a golden glove 2nd baseman. Nothing is getting through that hole on the right side. “World F*cking Champions!” proclaimed Chase McConnell, during the Sixers’ World Series parade.
- #17 JJ Redick - Catcher: You’re looking for consistency from your two hole. Someone you can count on to move TJ up into scoring position. Redick’s career as a steady shooter make him the perfect fit. Now, I know it’s not often you find a catcher batting 2nd. But Redick’s veteran leadership, his knack for always finding the guy he was just involved in a play with to talk about what happened? It suits him well to be a catcher that can calm down a riled up pitching staff and get their heads back on track.
- #9 Dario Saric - Left Field: Listen, man. If I’m an opposing pitcher, there’s no one who throws me off my game more than Dario Saric. He’s balanced: he hits for contact (54.8 eFG%), he hits for power (40.1 3PT%) and he can work the count for a walk (86.8 FT%). He’s the most feared hitter in the lineup. Defensively, he’ll have his lapses. He doesn’t have the most range out in Left Field. But he does have a rocket for an arm, and going from 2nd to Home on a ball hit to left is very risky. That is, of course, if he ever decides to leave the less talented Mexican League to join his American club, which will never happen.
- #21 Joel Embiid - 1st Baseman: Joel’s 7’ wingspan make his swing long, and so he’s not a great contact hitter. But when he gets a piece, it’s going yard. Remember Adam Dunn? That’s Joel’s MLB comp. Power hitter that will strike out a ton. And don’t give me Ryan Howard: from ‘06 to ‘11, the guy hit for average. Stop the disrespect. Every single pitch that’s up and in causes a collective Philadelphian gasp, and the pitcher that threw it is added to the list. Manning first base, Embiid is impossible to overthrow. The height and the wingspan save more overthrow errors than any other first baseman in the league. Joel does trip over the bag often though, yet it is charming.
- #22 Richaun Holmes - Designated Hitter: Oh yeah, the Sixers are in the American League. This back-to-back combo of Embiid and Holmes is sure to produce an infuriating amount of strikeouts, but fans will override that due to the frequent back-to-back homers. Holmes will be taken out of the lineup often, for the steadier but not as sexy Amir Johnson. It will cause outrage for many, and be the talking point about whether or not Brett Brown is the right manager for this clubhouse, even though the team is in first in the AL East one year after mustering just 67 wins.
- #23 Ersan Ilyasova - 3rd Baseman: Ilyasova’s ability to draw charges demonstrates proficient anticipation. I can’t think of a guy better suited to man the hot corner. His pop often make his offense a pleasant surprise. From his form at the plate, you wouldn’t expect it. Ilyasova is listed as hailing from Turkey, but some propose a conspiracy theory that he’s actually a Cuban National.
- #33 Robert Covington - Shortstop: RoCo’s reflexes in the passing lanes and defensive awareness project him as the perfect shortstop. Some fans will be infuriated by his inconsistency at the plate and overlook his value - oh wait, it’s almost as if in baseball, fans can understand the value of a defensively gifted player and the scarcity of that skill set at shortstop. The Sixers’ baseball fans are pleased with RoCo, especially considering he’ll continue to be used in an offensive capacity that often negates his flaws as a 7-hitter.
- #1 Justin Anderson - Center Field: Justin Anderson is built like a baseball player. Somewhat stocky, lots of muscle. Anderson never became the hitter people expected, but he’s solid out there in Center Field, utilizing his athleticism to track down long fly balls. Many fans still hold out hope that the power he showed in the minor leagues comes around. Anderson is the John Mayberry Jr., from an expectations standpoint, of the Sixers baseball team.
- #20 Markelle Fultz - Right Field: I know we’re talking about Opening Day, but Fultz is the late season, September call up from the Delaware Minor League affiliate that fans have been clamoring for. He projects as a defensively versatile five-tool player. His swing has been re-worked, and it has got its flaws but he’s progressing. Fultz provides a much needed offensive spark that will be useful as a pinch hitter in the playoffs.
#25 Ben Simmons - Starting Pitcher: The lefty ace, one of the most coveted assets in baseball. Except this ace isn’t just a lefty, he’s amphibious. That’s right, his ability to morph into a salamander only makes him tougher to scout. Simmons has a deadly repertoire, mixing pitches and speeds to baffle opposing hitters. Many believe him to be the next Clayton Kershaw, but only time will tell.