The Philadelphia Eagles have been weirdly tied to baseball this year.
Their biggest celebrity fan and hunting buddy of their franchise-altering quarterback is South Jersey native Mike Trout, aka the Best Baseball Player on the Planet.
And because the Birds appreciated Trout’s support so much, and because they have become known for their end zone/sideline celebrations, they pulled off what may have been the best post-touchdown celebration of the year, a group effort of Torrey Smith’s lighting up Nelson Agholor’s fake pitch for what apparently was a towering home run.
Fox showed that celebration probably more than the network would have normally, because it just happened to take place in the heart of the Fox-broadcasted MLB Playoffs.
A couple weeks later, during the World Series, it was baseball TD celebration No. 2, with tight end Zach Ertz beaning wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey with the football, and Jeffrey charging after Ertz in a dead sprint that ended with smiles and hugs.
During the NFC Championship, Trout, from his end zone seat, seemed to get more camera time than injured quarterback Carson Wentz.
So let’s just say these guys seem to know and like their baseball. Which got us to thinking … if there was a Space Jam situation and aliens came down and challenged the Eagles to a baseball game, what would the Eagles’ team look like?
Perhaps something like this:
First base: Ertz. It’s tempting to put Wentz in this spot, or maybe one of the athletic defensive lineman or linebackers that might be able to hit a ton and possibly slim down enough to physically resemble Ryan Howard. But Ertz is nimble enough to handle first, tall enough to make long stretches and showed off some power hitting skills in winning the Eagles’ annual batting practice day with the Phillies in 2016. He has to be on the team somewhere, and probably doesn’t have the range to play third or either of the corner outfield spots. He’s locked in.
Second base: Sidney Jones. One of the best athletes coming out of the 2017 NFL Draft, you just have to find a place for him to play. Once you do, something tells me he’s going to adjust and learn the position and turn into a 15 HR, 40 SB kind of guy, even if he can only manage a .270 OBP.
Third base: Trey Burton. He looked pretty good in the Eagles batting practice in 2016, and he’s proven he has some pretty good footwork. Despite the ugly drop against Atlanta in the NFC Divisional Round, you would think as a tight end he has pretty good hands. Not sure about the arm strength, but it looks like his offense would carry him at third.
Shortstop: Rasul Douglas. Douglas is known to be one of the best athletic talents on the Eagles’ defense, and he was a baseball star in high school. Look, we’re not looking for all-stars here, we’re looking for capable bodies. Great athlete + baseball experience = shortstop. And with all the defensive questions this squad would have in its infield, you’re going to need someone with even a mild track record of success out there to make up for everyone else.
Catcher: You wouldn’t put Wentz here because you’d ruin his knees to early in his career, even though he’d probably throw out 60 or 70 percent of runners. You would think there would be plenty of candidates from the offensive or defensive lines, but when Jeffrey crouched down to take that fake pitch from Agholor, he looked pretty natural, didn’t he? Plus, when he charged Ertz in the second baseball-themed post-TD party against the 49ers, he showed he has that grit you look for in a catcher. For some reason I feel as if he’d have a pretty big arm behind the plate, too.
Left field: Nick Foles. It’s trendy to discount Foles’ athleticism – one, because he isn’t as athletic as Wentz and, two, because he looks like Napoleon Dynamite. But Foles was a great athlete in elementary and high school in football, basketball and baseball before concentrating on football. And even if he wasn’t, the Phillies have proven you can get away with a below-average defender in left field and still make the World Series (**cough** *peteincavigliapatburell* **cough cough**). But you want that arm in the outfield. He’s been taught how to play high-level quarterbacking for the Eagles in the span of about two months; I’m sure someone can give him a crash course in hitting.
Center field: The speed of Torrey Smith makes him an easy pick, but haven’t we seen him drop enough balls this year? And you want someone with range, someone who can do more than just catch the balls that are hit right at you like a wide receiver does. Same for the cornerbacks. So what about someone like free safety Rodney McLeod, who has turned himself into an integral part of one of the best defenses in the league after signing as an undrafted free agent? He plays in space well, seems to have a nose for the ball and certainly doesn’t seem like he’ll have any trouble crashing into the wall, Aaron Rowand-style.
Right field: If you’re playing Foles in left, you’re going to want to shade McLeod a little bit that way to cover for Foles, just like Odubel Herrera did this year for Rhys Hoskins. That means you’re going to want some speed in right to get to whatever McLeod can’t get to in right center, and that’s where Agholor comes in since he’s the fastest player on the team. And do you want him on the mound after he gave up what appeared to be an upper deck shot in the only pitch we’ve seen him throw?
Starting pitcher: Wentz. Not taking debate on this.
Manager: I’d say at this point, the entire city would shrug and say, “OK, let’s see how it goes,” if the Phillies fired Gabe Kapler and hired Doug Pederson in real life. Right?