2010 Oakland Athletics Starting Pitchers: The JaMarcus Russell Edition
After the Oakland Raiders traded for the Washington Redskins' Jason Campbell, the speculation in the swirling rumors of JaMarcus Russell's imminent demise was replaced with inevitability.
The big man with the even bigger contract was due $9.45 million in the upcoming season and, by all accounts, nothing about the kid warranted rolling the dice when that kind of money was at stake.
And so the axe fell on May 6th, putting Russell firmly in the running for the title of Biggest Bust in the History of the National Football League.
That's gotta sting.
The news has been fodder for numerous punchlines and snicker-inducing jabs around the country, but it's not creating as many laughs in the Bay Area. The city across the Bay from the City is, shall we say, displeased.
So, to hopefully lighten the mood of some very disgruntled Oaktown residents and fans (or at least to give them an outlet for anger), I thought it'd be fun to bring the 510's success story into the fray—the Oakland Athletics.
More than a few Major League Baseball players have been former college quarterbacks so what if the A's starting pitchers traded rawhide for pigskin?
What current NFL signal-caller does each mound maestro most closely resemble?
Obviously, we're not talking looks here—I'm a heterosexual man and everyone knows we don't make aesthetic distinctions when it comes to our fellow fellas. This is strictly about a mix of on-air personality, body of work, age, and a healthy dose of gray area for the sake of convenience.
Or idiocy—you decide...
Brett Anderson as Matthew Stafford
The similarities between these two studs begin almost at birth—Brett Anderson arrived in the world on February 1st, 1988 while Matthew Stafford was born less than a week later on February 7th.
Both lettered in baseball during their high school days—Anderson in Oklahoma and Stafford in Georgia, where he played alongside future Los Angeles Dodger Clayton Kershaw before giving the diamond up for the gridiron.
Likewise, the youngsters made names for themselves in what passes for their sports' minor leagues.
Anderson became a highly touted prospect in MLB's literal version while Stafford emerged from the University of Georgia as the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Most recently, the duo burst onto the scene in their respective professional leagues and impressed in their first years despite some growing pains.
The Oakland pitcher would struggle at times, but show flashes of future dominance in a shutout of the Boston Red Sox and 7 2/3 of perfect baseball against the Anaheim Angels (again, Anaheim isn't LA).
Very similarly, the Detroit Lion quarterback logged some stinkers, but ultimately performed well enough to justify the lofty draft slot and preseason hype.
There's one final parallel and it isn't a pleasant one—Anderson's currently on the shelf battling elbow issues and Stafford was limited to 10 games in his first season due to a knee bugaboo.
Dallas Braden as Philip Rivers
Dallas Braden doesn't have the glossy service record that Philip Rivers does, but there are enough commonalities between the pair to make the juxtaposition stick.
For on thing, the Oakland southpaw is much closer to the Charger QB in age than the years as a pro would indicate. He's 26, which makes him only three years Rivers' junior despite the man behind center boasting a much fuller professional resume.
For another, Braden's got the ability to thrive in the Show just as Rivers is in the League.
The perfecto against the Tampa Bay Rays is getting all the hype and rightfully so, but this is no one trick pony. He blew away 10 Seattle Mariners in his first turn on the bump in 2010 and people seem to forget he WON the game against the New York Yankees that featured the infamous confrontation with Alex Rodriguez.
The strongest similarity, however, is the fiery competitiveness and rock-hard mentality.
A-Rod might've been surprised at the audacity Braden showed in defending his turf, but those of us familiar with Stockton would expect nothing less. The city that gave us Caterpillar also produces some of the more pugnacious toughs you will ever have the fortune of meeting (misfortune if either party happens to be drunk).
Given Rivers' penchant for a little extracurricular jawing, one has to think he was smiling if he saw Braden's junkyard dog going after A-Rod's manicured French poodle.
Justin Duchscherer as Carson Palmer
OK, some of these are better than others. I'll admit Justin Duchscherer and Carson Palmer have less in common than the others.
Duke was born in South Dakota and spent his developmental years in places like Lubbock, Texas; Trenton, New Jersey; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Meanwhile, Palmer was born in the golden sunshine of California and perfected his craft in Los Angeles at USC—a stone's throw away from the glitz and glam of Hollywood (well, not really, but then nothing in LA is within a stone's throw of anything else).
Nevertheless, there are parallels.
Duchscherer is 32 and Palmer is 30 so neither is really a spring chicken in his chosen field. Additionally, they're big dudes—the Athletic checks in at 6'3" while the Bengal is 6'5", though quite a bit thicker.
And Fresno can't be that much different than South Dakota.
The strongest congruency, however, has been the playing career.
Both pros have had nice careers and flirted shamelessly with greatness, but have been sabotaged by injury.
Justin has posted sparkling numbers whenever healthy and 2008 saw a nice long clean bill translate into his best campaign to date. He made 22 starts while recording a 2.54 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP, and limiting opposing hitters to a .589 OPS.
However, the DL figures all too prominently in his career arc, costing him parts of 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.
Carson, on the other hand, made his strongest run at joining the elites in 2005 when set career highs for completion percentage (67.8), TD (32), TD:INT (32:12), and QB rating (101.1). More importantly, he led Cincinnati to the playoffs and only a grotesque blow to his knee from Pittsburgh Steeler Kimo von Oelhoffen seemed to keep him from taking his charges deeper.
Like Duchscherer, Palmer's biggest problem has been an inability to stay on the field. Bumps, bruises, breaks, and tears have cost him games in 2004, 2005, and 2008.
Gio Gonzalez as Chad Henne
I've been lucky enough—thanks to Bleacher Report and the Oakland Athletics' Director of Public Relations, Bob Rose—to spend some time on the field observing the A's over the course of their last several home series. During these observations, several players have stood apart from the crowd.
Gonzalez is one of them. He's got a natural charisma and gravitational pull about him that seems to make him the center of whatever attention can be spared.
For that reason, I was tempted to make his doppelganger Brett Favre or Tony Romo.
Except Gio seems much too likable to doom to such a fate.
So I settled on the Miami Dolphins and Chad Henne.
Neither player has an extensive professional track record, but both have shown serious promise. Furthermore, Gonzalez will have to step up just like Henne did in the wake of misfortune in order to keep his team afloat.
The QB was forced to pick up the slack when Chad Pennington went down and did so admirably. Now, that Anderson and Duchscherer have hit snags, it's the pitcher's turn.
Each member of the duo has a bright future and, the sooner it's realized, the better for his team.
Ben Sheets as Drew Brees
You might not realize it, but Ben Sheets has been one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball over the past decade—when healthy.
That last two-word modifier is obviously critical because the big right-hander has had so much trouble staying on the mound, but there is no denying Sheets' top of the heap capabilities.
This is one reason to compare him to the New Orleans Saints Drew Brees. As is age—both men are 31.
Another shared bit of datum would be the fact that both led teams to championships and played pivotal roles in the clinching game.
Brees heroics in Super Bowl XLIV are too fresh to be forgotten whereas many fail to remember Sheets complete game shutout of the Cuban juggernaut in the 2000 Gold Medal Game of the Sydney Olympics.
Winning a Super Bowl ring is nice, winning gold for your country is better.
Most importantly, Ben Sheets is a HUGE Saints fan and that makes him a big Drew Brees fan.
When Sheets and I chatted about the black and old gold for about 10 minutes, I believe the phrase "I love that dude" was uttered at least once.
Furthermore, there was a twinkle of genuine childhood enthusiasm when the four-time All Star regaled me with the tale of scoring 50-yard-line tickets only nights before the big game in Miami (turns out being a pro baseball player opens up some connections inside the NFL, who knew?).
In other words, I get the impression that—if Ben Sheets could be an NFL quarterback—he'd choose to be Drew Brees.
That's good enough for me.
Oh, and there's the small matter of Sheets being a wild man, which I didn't expect. Much like Brees when you compare his on-field and off-field demeanors.
The Kiddies as the Kiddies
Consider this one too early to call.
Unless Anderson and Duchscherer can bounce back quickly and at full strength, Oakland will need either Trevor Cahill or Vin Mazzaro to emerge as a pseudo-savior if the club is to contend all year.
It's a familiar yarn over on the gridiron.
If the future of NFL teams who drafted the likes of Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, and Jimmy Clausen are to be bright, they better hope their guy emerges with no pseudo- attached.
Just ask the Raiders.