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Given how clueless he comes across as on just about everything else, President Bush gives surprisingly cogent and knowledgeable answers whenever he is asked a baseball question.

Witness his answer in an interview with Politico.com/Yahoo (his first ever “interview with the internet”), when asked which position player and which starting pitcher he would pick first if he were starting a team, everyone was a free agent, and he had an unlimited budget.

I’ll give you three guesses for each player, and I bet you’d be wrong on all six tries.

bushbaseball.jpg

The President’s answers? Chase Utley and Roy Halladay.

What mades these answers so surprising/unsettling/super creepy for me is that those are exactly the two answers I would have given, and that those are almost certainly not the kind of super big name answers the vast majority of baseball fans or mainstream analysts would give.

Especially Roy Halladay. I mean, he pitches in Canada. Do you think Joe Morgan even knows who Roy Halladay is?

But Utley too. Sure, Utley is a rising star, and he’s coming on strong in a big way this year, but I don’t think we can really say he is a household name yet, at least outside of Philly. Fantasy geeks might pick Utley, but I can guarantee you 99 percent of the mainstream media would pick someone else, and 98 percent of those picks would be Pujols, A-Rod, or Jeter.

But perhaps even more unsettling than Bush giving such intelligent answers is the fact that he actually backs up his answers with not-nonsensical reasons. Seeing Bush support claims with actual logic and reasoning was quite a shock to my system, and I’m not sure if I’ve recovered yet.

Let’s look at the transcript (a video is also available on Yahoo Sports):

Q: Mr. President, I know you’re going to hate this, but I’m hoping that we may twist your arm and talk about baseball for just a moment. (Laughter.) Mr. President, you’re a Major League Baseball team owner again. Everyone is a free agent. You have a Yankees-like wallet. Who is your first position player? Who’s your pitcher?

THE PRESIDENT: That’s a great question. I like Utley from the Philadelphia Phillies. He’s a middle infielder, which is always — you know, they say you have to have strength up the middle — there’s nothing better than having a good person up the middle that can hit. And Roy Halladay from the Toronto Blue Jays is a great pitcher. He’s a steady guy, he burns up innings. And I’m sure I’m leaving some other good ones out, but those –

Q: We thought you were going to go A-Rod, Josh Beckett.

THE PRESIDENT: Josh Beckett is good, yes, he’s real good, too. I mean, look, that’s a tough question to answer on the fly like this, Michael.

Here we can clearly see that the president follows the game quite closely. He has some idea that Utley’s marginal value compared to other middle infielders makes him perhaps the most valuable player in the game right now, and that Roy Halladay has been a tremendously reliable starter whose true greatness has been obscured by pitching in Toronto.

We also see that the interviewer has know idea who either player is, the way he is taken aback, and doesn’t really know what to say other than to suggest the two most obvious names known to any person living in the East Coast Bias Zone (in fact, the actual transcript from Politico.com misspells Utley’s name as “Ottley”).

At first I was tempted to assume that Bush must have had the questions in advance and was pre-coached on the answers, as he so often is for actual political issues. But then I realized that no populistic, politically-minded answers-coach would ever tell the President to pick Utley and Halladay.

Whatever else you want to say about our President, you have to give him his due: the man really does know baseball. Now if only he knew anything about anything else.

7 Responses to “President Bush remains a surprisingly knowledgeable baseball fan”

  1. Paul Moro says:

    I’m gonna be “that guy” right now.

    Halladay is, apparently, 31 as of today. Happy Birthday Doc! Utley is 29. This is a microcosm of what’s wrong with politicians and their mindsets. Short term gains are all that matter.

    Yes, I’m being a total jerk.

  2. Sarah Green says:

    Nick, I am going to pick your nit too. I don’t think 98% of people would have included Jeter on their list of top 3 position players! Yikes. You are portraying your own unwitting membership in the East Coast Bias Zone by intimating that Jeter is still relevant in such a hypothetical. I think after A-Rod and Pujols, the third guess is a crap shoot. It would probably split between a bunch of guys like Ryan Braun, Hanley Ramirez, David Wright, Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes, Prince Fielder, Grady Sizemore, and yes, Utley. But I agree with your overall point that the President’s choices are surprising and refreshing.

    That said, I also find President Bush’s knowledge of baseball slightly creepy, if only because I wish he were following international affairs in the time that he apparently spends reading box scores. Just think how different the world would be right now if he had followed his original dream job and become commissioner of baseball! He would actually probably have been a better commish than Selig has been and we would probably have McCain or Gore finishing up their second term right now. Wins all around!

  3. Sarah Green says:

    Oh, but as for who I would pick for my imaginary team, I would want to go a bit younger than President Bush. Jake Peavy would be my pick for a pitcher, but I’m not sure who I would pick for a position player. I mean, if you could have ANYone, and money was no object, you would want to get the best, most productive player you could—someone who can get on base, someone who can hit for power, someone with speed and defense. For those reasons, I might go with Hanley Ramirez. However, given the total paucity of young catching talent on the market and given the catcher’s traditional importance as a team leader and handler of the pitching staff, I might also try to just get the best, youngest catcher I could. Maybe Russell Martin. Don’t make fun! It’s much harder to get your hands on topflight young catching than it is on any other skill in the game.

  4. Scott Ball says:

    Hmm, interesting… I think this raises my approval of George W. from about a 65 to a 70… oh, btw, that’s on a scale from 1 to 1,000,000.

    For offense, the question for me is easy: Hanley Ramirez. Dude is 24! Pitching is a lot tougher choice… I don’t think Beckett is a bad choice, considering his ability on the biggest stage, but I would probably want someone just a little younger. I might go with Cole Hamels, also 24 and already in his third full, productive season in the bigs. He narrowly beats out Peavy, Johan, and Webb.

  5. Coley Ward says:

    Hanley Ramirez is a good choice. But he couldn’t catch a cold and is destined to be moved to the outfield. So he shouldn’t get any extra credit for being an infielder.

    I’d go with Justin Upton. He’s like, what, 16? And at pitcher…wait for it..Yu Darvish! I’m such a wild card, it’s scary.

  6. Lyndsay says:

    I was going to say the exact same thing – if only he put as much time into researching the countries he intends to invade as he does in his fantasy baseball team…well that just about says it right there.

  7. BravesFan says:

    Coley,

    Try to find the Bush interview with Joe Morgan and Jon Miller from Opening Night \’08, Braves vs Nats (Nats\’ new park opening). If you think that this was creepy for its refined awareness, THAT interview will REALLY creep you out. It\’s awesome.

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