There are baseball players that you like because they're good, and then there are baseball players that you like because they're sort of good, or sometimes they're good, or one time they did something awesome.
Very rarely, though, you get a small collective of players that captures your heart. I guess the '04 Red Sox "Idiots" pack is the most recent example.
Though this season is very young, I have found a legion of doom on this team that have become my three favorite players on the club. They're not the best. But they're definitely the most awesome. The Country Boys are my boys -- they should be yours, too.
CHADWICK LEE BRADFORD III
THE OL' MISSISSIP' COUNTRY BOY
Chad Bradford grew up in Byram, Mississippi, outside of Jackson. His ridiculous sub-submarine throwing motion has made him a successful major league pitcher, whereas his actual pitches and velocity and stuff would never have gotten him into A-ball had he thrown like a regular human being. But Chad Bradford isn't a regular human being -- he's something of a machine, and definitely a rarity.
Bradford isn't quite the pitcher he used to be, but so what? He was initially a part of the Chicago White Sox system, but they didn't know what to do with him. It took Paul DePodesta getting him to Oakland for Bradford to blossom into (at the time) one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. He's a freak of nature, honestly.
Of the group, Bradford is definitely the quiet guy. He has always preferred little-to-no attention be paid to him and to just do his job as low-key as he possibly can. He's about as easy to like as any major leaguer can be, because if you ever read anything about Chad Bradford, he really doesn't seem like he has any idea how good he's been. Earlier in his career, self-doubt plagued him, until A's pitching coach Rick Peterson had a conversation with him. An excerpt from Moneyball:
"You believe in Jesus?"
"Have you ever seen him?"
"No, I haven't seen him."
"Ever seen yourself get hitters out?"
"So why the f--k do you have faith in Jesus when you never seen him, but you don't have faith in your ability to get hitters out when you get hitters out all the time?"
He has still struggled with confidence, claiming it as his biggest weakness. But Bradford is the man, as much as he'd probably never believe so.
KEVIN "KEVBO" MILLAR
THE URBAN COWBOY UP COUNTRY BOY
Kevin Millar was born in Los Angeles, so he's not quite as country as the other two. But he did attend college at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas -- birthplace of "The Possum," George Jones -- and one has to assume that something in Beaumont gave birth to a hillbilly monster inside of Millar.
He was a scab that still doesn't have MLBPA membership, so if you play MLB 2K7, they keep calling him "Kyle Morgan." Kevin Millar is about as much of a "Kyle Morgan" as Miguel Tejada is, only in totally different ways. Millar goes out of his way to keep as much facial hair as he possibly can while still being gainfully employed by the Orioles. He does the Ray Ray dance. He does... something to his hair, I don't even know what you'd really call what he does to his hair.
And let's face it. Millar has gotten fat. It's awesome. I can bust on Sidney Ponson all day for being fat because he sweats like a coal miner by the time he reaches the third inning, but Millar's fatness doesn't really get in the way. Hell, he was never very fast to begin with.
And for the time being, Kevbo is our best hitter. Sure, he's streaky, and eventually he'll probably go into a 1-for-24 slump or something, but you know what? I'll still like him. He's an igniter of spirit, a true character. Millar is kind of like the Rally Monkey, only he's a player on the team.
I wasn't sure about Kevin Millar when we signed him during the 2005 offseason, but I was cautiously optimistic. He's rewarded that with solid play and the famous Millar charm. He's done that dance, of course, and one of his first moves was coaxing Leo Mazzone into getting a tattoo. If Roger McDowell can be a major league pitching coach, it's only a matter of years before Kevin Millar is a manager. Watch the hell out for that team. Half of them will be on the DL with hotfoot burns.
THE TED NUGENT COUNTRY BOY
Jamie Walker is -- well, how do I put this? Jamie Walker is so awesome that it's almost impossible. Jamie Walker says things that would be great dialogue in Smokey and the Bandit IV. In fact, if Burt Reynolds ever gets a wild hair up his ass and decides that Smokey IV needs to be made, then Jamie Walker should definitely be in it somewhere. Or even another Cannonball Run.
Jamie Walker is everything that is great about small town people. Being from a very small town full of plenty of rednecks and hillbillies myself -- and having plenty of that blood in me -- Jamie Walker is almost certainly my favorite player in the world. Everything he says is something I can relate to and understand. Jamie Walker is like the Dukes of Hazzard (Wopat and Schneider, no other sad sack imitations). He's a good ol' boy, but probably don't mess with the man's stuff, lest you get your truck shot up with a dynamite arrow. He'll never pick a fight, but he won't leave one behind.
He drinks Budweiser, man. He's so country that even Millar is intrigued. I like to imagine Jamie Walker has never owned a sedan in his life, and never will, and that the only non-truck or non-van he'd ever consider owning is a Firebird, El Camino or a classic Dodge Charger. I like to think he'd consider the Camaro a little too predictable.
Jamie Walker is a hero, and similar to Bradford, there's almost no real reason he gets hitters out. He just does. Because he's Jamie Walker, boy, and everyone fits in a skillet.
These guys are my favorite guys. You just can't beat 'em.