Baseball, America’s game, has always been synonymous with beer. Many ballparks are still named after beer companies, many teams were founded purely as a way for the townspeople to drink beer, and everyone likes to enjoy a nice brew at the ballpark (depending on the affordability of said brews at your hometown park). Given that we currently have an abundance of time and a dearth of baseball, I bring to you the MLB All-Time Beer Team.
My Process: Haphazard and not exhaustive. I tried to select the most beer-y player at each position based on an undisclosed litany of criteria (my incredibly flawed background knowledge). This was not a scientific process, and I welcome any additions to this roster! Player value was not considered, but player prominence was, so there is certainly a correlation (causation?! we'll get to that) between achievement and popular association with beer. Some positions had much more beer association than others, which resulted in more competition that required some snubs at particular roster spots--for example, pitchers and outfielders are overwhelmingly beer-y compared to middle infielders and catchers. I didn't provide honorable mentions--please do in the comments. For each player, I have provided my rationale for their appearance on this list, the strength of their association with beer on a scale of 1-5 cans, and the player’s metaphorical Spirit Beer (it is this final category that I welcome much additional conjecture and debate).
- 1B: Seth Beer
- 2B: Whit Merrifield
- 3B: Wade Boggs
- SS: Alex Rodriguez
- C: Pudge Rodriguez
- OF: Bud Weiser
- OF: Babe Ruth
- OF: Darryl Strawberry
- John Lackey
- Jon Lester
- Josh Beckett
- Aaron Nola
- David Wells
- Pat Light
Player by player, here are all of the advanced metrics that went into the formulation of this all-time beer roster.
First Base: Seth Beer
Rationale: His inclusion here is self-evident. Minor leaguer Beer became a meme when he was one of the players that the Astros sent over to the DBacks for Zach Greinke last season: “Astros trade Beer for Greinke.” Hardy har har. Beer is a top twenty prospect in the DBacks’ system, but he was a legendary college player at Clemson, winning the college player of the year award as a freshman in 2016. His name immediately includes him on this roster.
Beer Association: Three cans. The name is undeniable, but his beer association appears to be all in the name for the moment.
Spirit Beer: That New Offering From Your Local Microbrewery. They have what is undeniably beer, but, much like 23-year-old Beer, they need some time to figure things out, and their beers are very hit-or-miss, much like Beer and his 20%+ K rate in AA last season.
Second Base: Whit Merrifield
Rationale: Whit Merrifield is one of the most overlooked and underrated players in baseball, which makes his partnership with Boulevard Brewing Company completely unsurprising: BBC is the largest craft beer company in the Midwest, but I bet you didn’t know that (and neither did I). Merrifield has led the league in hits for the past two seasons, but the average fan wouldn’t know him if he threw an empty at them. Hell, in 2018 he led the league in hits and stolen bases, finished with 5+ fWAR, and didn’t get an all star nod. Whit, and BBC, represent the overlooked Midwest. His name is also almost literally a kind of beer (Wit).
Beer Association: Two cans. He is a dedicated partner with BBC, but, sadly, both Whit and BBC represent a local campaign.
Spirit Beer: Boulevard Brewing Company’s Unfiltered Whit, of course.
Third Base: Wade Boggs
Rationale: Oh, Wade Boggs (may he rest in peace). Everything that has been said about Wade Boggs and beer has already been said. We don’t know how many beers he actually drank on that legendary cross-country flight, but reports fluctuate between 64 and 107. Boggs has declined to confirm the actual number, but he does confirm that “it was a lot of Miller Lites.”
Beer Association: Emphatic five cans and team captaincy.
Spirit Beer: Miller Lite (of course).
Shortstop: Alex Rodriguez
Rationale: It pains me to include him on this list, but there were very few shortstops associated with beer, and A-Rod was an okay ballplayer. A-Rod recently became the co-owner and chairman of Presidente Beer. According to Forbes, A-Rod says, “The hundreds of Dominican major league players and Latin American players that have played in this country, the first thing they do after a game is have a Presidente.” Hyperbole? Maybe. In any case, A-Rod is a beer advocate.
Beer Association: One can. Buying a beer company does not make you a beer person, but middle infielders tend to not be associated with beer.
Spirit Beer: Natty Ice. Potent, ubiquitous, seems like a good idea, they make a lot of money, you get over it as you get older, and everyone hates it.
Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez
Rationale: Pudge is, of course, one of the most legendary catchers of all time. He also partnered with Nine Band Brewing in Texas to endorse his own beer, 13 Gold, named for the thirteen Gold Gloves that he earned over the course of his 21-year career.
Beer Association: One can. Catcher is thin on beer associations.
Spirit Beer: Pabst Blue Ribbon. Much like Pudge, PBR has been consistently at or near the top of the beer food chain forever, and they are decorated (hence the blue ribbon). Also like Pudge, PBR goes in and out of fashion (PEDs, ebbs and flows of his career, etc). Pudge played for seven different MLB teams, and everyone has PBR memories (for better or worse).
Outfield: Bud Weiser
Rationale: Harry Budson “Bud” Weiser played most of his early-1900s career in New York and Pennsylvania leagues, but he did play a few games for the Phillies in 1915 and 1916, going 12-74 in the majors on his way to earning -0.8 WAR. Sheesh. What a name, though. Considering the rest of this lineup, he’s worth a spot.
Beer Association: Two cans. Strong name, weak game.
Spirit Beer: Budweiser. The brand name is strong, but, like Sir Weiser, the beer is below average.
Outfield: Babe Ruth
Rationale: It is an accepted truth that George Herman Ruth was the greatest player of his time while subsisting completely on hot dogs and beer . . . during prohibition and the Great Depression. If you ask him, the Babe actually drank so much beer to support his community: “Sometimes when I reflect on all the beer I drink, I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn't drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. I think, 'It is better to drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver.’” He was truly a Depression-era social leader, that George.
Beer Association: Five cans. That beer gut is legendary.
Spirit Beer: Sam Adams Boston Lager. They both originated in Boston and both eventually left Boston to produce elsewhere. Ruth was ahead of his time and dominated, much like how Sam Adams was ahead of the craft beer boom. If Ruth were to play today, he would likely not be as dominant as he was in his time, but he did more to grow the game than almost any other player in history. Sam Adams has lost its cache as a “cool” craft beer, but they opened the door for other craft breweries to enter the market.
Outfield: Darryl Strawberry
Rationale: Darryl Strawberry is on the team as a representative from the debaucherous Mets of the eighties. Of course, they weren’t known just for their beer drinking, but Strawberry makes sure to set the record straight: “Beer was the foundation of our alcoholic lifestyle. We hauled around more Bud than the Clydesdales.” Additionally, according to Untappd, Strawberry has nineteen different craft beers named after him. Talk about a legacy.
Beer Association: Four cans. If he wasn’t known more for doing coke and having sex in between innings than he was for drinking beer, this would be a five.
Spirit Beer: Abita Purple Haze. Abita makes offbeat fruity beers that are risky and full of flair, like Darryl Strawberry, but they are undeniably successful.
SP: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey
Rationale: The 2011 Red Sox. Yuck. The chicken-and-beer scandal (which needs no repeating) came as the Sox lost a nine-game division lead by going 7-20 to end the year amidst turmoil. Terry Francona was unjustly shooed out of town, and Bobby Valentine led the Red Sox to a 69-win season in 2012. Beckett, Lester, and Lackey--three legendary pitchers who all made valuable contributions to the Red Sox at other points in their careers--spearheaded the ugliness. They were all on the 2012 roster before the purge in the offseason of 2013.
Beer Association: Four cans. One cannot talk about the 2011 Red Sox without talking about beer, but their careers are not defined by 2011.
Spirit Beer: Busch. Like this SP threesome, Busch looks great--the mountains on the can!--and makes a lot of money, but who wants a regular Busch? You’ll just get fat and end up with a bad taste in your mouth. If you want to drink trash, you should order a Busch Light, just as we wanted another version of these pitchers.
SP: Aaron Nola
Rationale: Nola partnered with Yuengling, ingratiating himself with the fans of Philadelphia. He donned a butt-ugly Yuengling uniform and declared: “I had my first Yuengling Lager after being drafted by Philadelphia and I haven't looked back. The fact that America's Oldest Brewery is family owned and operated is important to me as I value family over everything." He is a company man, that Nola.
Beer Association: Two cans. Regional favoritism.
Spirit Beer: Narragansett. Nola loves to fish and he sports a sick curveball (“hook”--get it?), so he takes another regional favorite that is forever associated with coastal fishing after being featured in Jaws.
SP: David Wells
Rationale: David Wells is that guy who anti-baseball advocates point to when they argue that baseball players aren’t athletes. Wells may actually have been the most impressive athlete in baseball: He claims to have been “half drunk” when he threw a perfect game in 1998. He claimed to regularly drink 25 beers at a time. He literally mentions beer in the title of his book (who knew that David Wells had a book?). He brags about how he drank beer regularly during his best season. Wells is truly the everyman player.
Beer Association: Three cans for his consistent effort toward being associated with beer.
Spirit Beer: Guinness. David Wells does not look like an athlete, but he was truly an excellent pitcher. People who have never had a Guinness assume that its deep, dark color means that it is bitter and heavy, but Guinness is actually light and refreshing. Plus, the glasses are extra thicc (like Wells), and it is a stout. David Wells is also stout (Get it? Get it??).
RP: Pat Light
Rationale: I love Pat Light. In his one year in the majors (2016), Light was an absolutely horrid major league pitcher, giving up 21 earned runs on 22 hits over only 16.2 innings in seventeen appearances. Since then, he has become a cult figure among a certain crew of Red Sox fans (whaddup whaddup) for his humility and ability to make fun of himself while still following the Red Sox. He’s on this list for two reasons: His name sounds like a beer’s name (Bud Light, Coors Light, you fucking get it), and I would love to get a beer with Pat Light.
Beer Association: ½ can. I recognize my biases.
Spirit “Beer”: Four Loko. Only do it a few times, all hell breaks loose, and you never forget it (or, you forget everything, as most Red Sox fans have sadly done with Pat Light).
This team turned out to be littered with all-time greats, which tells us one of two things: Either beer is rightfully synonymous with baseball, or we only hear the stories about the good players who drink a lot of beer.
Or maybe, just maybe, a lot of beer makes you better at baseball.
PS: (All stats are per Fangraphs. Please become a member if you are inclined! They are struggling, as many of us are, during this pandemic. Much love.)