Over nearly two decades in advertising, I've been able to meet/work with dozens of professional athletes.
Luckily, the number of truly decent guys – Drew Bledsoe, Willie McGinest, Ray Bourque, Cam Neely, Troy Brown, Wes Welker, Warrick Dunn, Mike Alstott, the late Korey Stringer, Shaun Alexander, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ryan Grant, Greg Jennings, Earnest Graham, Chase Utley
, Jorge Posada
, Hanley Ramirez
, to name-drop more than a few – has far outpaced the number of complete totolbags . . . and, trust me, there have been some A-1 toolbags.
(I won't name names, but one hotshot then-rookie RB showed up on-set wildly hung over and surly after attending what was an all-night, Kristal-fueled bash out in the Hamptons with Paris Hilton, Usher and the Kardashians – known in most sports/media circles as a Massive Cliché Party -- and refused to meet/sign a lone ball for the kid of a crew member who'd waited patiently all day; and one cantankerous NBA western conference guard held up an entire shoot while he disappeared for an unexpected haircut, prompting a certain portly, bald, beer-drinking, everyman, perfect game-hurling, Harley-riding, former MLB pitcher to only-half-jokingly taunt him for the rest of the day, whispering "pretty boy" and "beautiful" in between camera set-ups.)
But perhaps the single best guy of 'em all was hands-down Torii Hunter
He not only came to the set prepared and actually having read the script – this is a rarity among athletes who often don't even know what city their agent has pimped them off to, let alone what commercial they're shooting -- he also said he had some alternate reads and ideas he'd brainstormed on the plane and wanted to try out "if that'd be okay with you guys and you think it will make the spot better." I just about fell over. When was the last time a pro athlete asked anyone
other than more PEDs or clarification on whether the underage hooker found dead in his Xbox room had indeed scratched his Italian leather couch with her spiked heel while crashing through the glass coffee table?
Thanks in part to Hunter's personable demeanor, the result was this parody soap opera commercial
called "Interrogation," with Hunter deftly playing a bad cop -- check out the other webisodes, too, starring the just-as-amiable Chase Utley
and Jorge Posada
– an ironic role considering the tireless good work he and his wife, Katrina, do in the in the community
. And his on-field work this season has been just as stellar: .313/12 HR/42 RBI/37 R/10 SB. Add to that his Gold Glove-caliber defense and the way his veteran presence stabilized that team in the wake of Nick Adenhart
's tragic death and, well, the Angels have themselves a real saint.
I'm admittedly jaded at times. We all are. Especially now, when times are tougher for many, and people seem to be doing more talking than listening. (Truth be told, I'm beginning to regret adding to the mindless, babbling, short-attention-span theater that is the Twittersphere. I mean, Alyssa Milano seems like a genuinely nice girl, and, in my book, someone that hot who also plays roto baseball earns instant enshrinement in the "Standard By Which Other Women Should Be Measured Until Further Notice" Hall of Fame. But do I really
need to know that she's ordering a yummy The Pie Who Loved Me® at Cold Stone right now?) And we're especially cynical when it comes to our pro athletes (see this
classic piece from the Onion).
But I'm also more than happy to acknowledge when someone has worked hard and overcome a lot – crack-addicted father; sometimes had nothing but white bread and ketchup to eat; often slept on nothing but a towel -- to get where he is and is now making the most of his status, reach and resources (financial and otherwise) to help others.
That's Torii Hunter
, folks. A player who'd be Riser each and every week even if he wasn't
putting up terrific roto numbers. A man who's most definitely one of life's good cops.RISERSMike Cameron
: Has always been an attractive 20-20 candidate. And this year, he's already popped 11 HRs . . .with a disappointing 2 SBs. But the good news is he's hit .284, this for a guy whose career high (in seasons with 500-plus ABs) has been .268. That, and as Gleeman pointed out here
, he's a surprising third in NL RAR (Runs Above Replacement) behind the scorching Raul Ibanez
and perennial stud Albert Pujols
. While the average should drop to the .250-.260 range – and keep an eye on the knee injury last night, but doesn't sound serious -- expect his steals to rise.Russell Branyan
: The 11 bombs aren't a surprise, primarily because his name rhymes with muscle. The .323 average is a surprise. A nice one. Not a Bruno's-nutsack-in-your-face one (though that was obviously staged). And while the average has to come down for this career .237 hitter, and his 23 RBI makes even Adrian Gonzalez
ruefully shake his head and say, "Man, doesn't anyone get on-base for you?" the power will certainly remain and 30-35 HRs looks like a lock.Brad Lidge
: Owners can now back away from the Lidge. See what I did there? I replaced "ledge" with "Lidge" because that's his last name, and the old saying means that it's now OK for his owners to not consider jumping to their deaths from an tall structure of some sort, be it a building or bridge. He converted his 13th save last night, his fourth straight after looking real bad in the Bronx last weekend and starting the season converting only 8 of his first 12 save opps. His ERA (7.40), WHIP (1.77), BBs (13 in 24.1 IP), and BA against (.303) are still higher than an Amish teen on rumspringa
, but he's at least back on track.Denard Span
: I watched him play a series against my Sox recently and he just looked . . .dangerous. Like he was spoilin' for a tussle, as my redneck friends like to say. And I liked that about him. Seemed like an agitator, a rally-starter, a spark plug. Every time I looked he was on base. And while his .299/3 HR/22 RBI/30 R, 11-14 SB isn't quite All-Star caliber, it's certainly more than his owners expected.Francisco Cordero
: He's quietly put up 13 saves with a 1.71 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. Won't blow anyone away Broxton-style (1K/inning) but he's just plain getting it done.