If you’ve never seen Community, you’re missing out. While the first season wasn’t terribly special, during Season 2 (last year) the show established itself as the funniest non-animated show on TV. It’s no Arrested Development, but it’s probably the closest we’re likely to see for a while (except, of course, for Archer).
This week, as Community returns for the start of its third season, I decided to mark the occasion by matching each main character from the sitcom to someone on the Cleveland Indians’ roster. Believe it or not, it worked out quite well.
Here are my picks for an alternative cast from the Tribe clubhouse:
Jeff Winger: Shin-Soo Choo. In his lawyer days, Jeff was living large, and he fell a long way when he got busted for holding a fraudulent degree. Similarly, Choo entered the season as the most popular player in town and the most underrated player in baseball, but is in the midst of arguably the worst season of his career, which he attributes partly to his own legal troubles (his slump started before his DUI, but it’s still been distracting to him).
Choo still has an aura of coolness about him and he’s one of the team’s most recognizable faces, but as of now he’s no longer a star. He’s human, and, like Jeff, it’s now on him to reclaim his place at the top.
Britta Perry: Asdrubal Cabrera. For most of Community‘s first season, Britta’s sole function was being Jeff’s love interest. Last season, though, the nature of their relationship changed and was pushed to the background, and Britta developed an identity beyond being the girl Jeff flirts with. She’s still not my favorite character, but her character becomes more fun to watch the more she becomes multidimensional.
Similarly, Cabrera has become a much better player in 2011 because he has added a new aspect to his game: power. Until this year, he was a decent contact hitter with good speed and a flashy, yet subpar glove. His 22 homers, 83 RBI, and .660 Power Factor are career highs, and they’re the reason for his 3.5 fWAR. In his case as well as Britta’s, further developments have had great results.
Abed Nadir: Carlos Santana. He’s awkward, he’s nerdy, and he constantly gives off the vibe that he’s completely out of place. But one of Abed’s most defining characteristics—displayed most notably (but not exclusively) during an experiment designed to test the “Duncan principle”—is his unwavering patience.
That’s something he shares with Santana. As a rookie last year, he walked 37 times in 192 trips to the plate for an insane walk rate of 19 percent; for his career, the 25-year-old has a 16 percent BB rate. If Abed were a baseball player, you can bet he’d be the same way.
Troy Barnes: Grady Sizemore. This was by far the easiest connection to make. In high school, Troy was a jock and a ladies’ man, and he seemed destined for greatness on the gridiron. He wound up at Greendale because an injury derailed his football career, and by Season 2 he had completely ditched his jock persona to join Abed in his nerdy adventures (usually the best part of the show).
The parallels with Sizemore are obvious. After being highly hyped as a prospect, he showed tremendous talent in his first few years in the big leagues. He suffered through injuries in 2009 and hasn’t been the same since. Despite these huge similarities, he and Troy have a couple minor differences: Grady hasn’t lost his appeal to his female fans, and unlike Troy the change in his approach (i.e., his greatly diminished plate discipline) isn’t a good thing.
Annie Edison: Lonnie Chisenhall. As far as I can tell, Chisenhall doesn’t share any of Annie’s trademark quirks (neuroticism, showiness, major insecurity), but in a very basic way, they match up: both are young and tremendously talented; both got off to shaky starts; and both have very promising careers ahead of them. I’m looking forward to watching both as they grow up.
Shirley Bennett: Justin Masterson. We’ve all heard the story of when Jack Hannahan wanted to get home for the birth of his son—Hannahan couldn’t afford the private jet he needed to make it in time, and Masterson passed the hat around the Indians clubhouse to raise the money he needed.
Masterson might not share Shirley’s condescension or what Abed called her “thinly veiled rage issues,” but he’s definitely got her good heart and kind and caring nature.
Fun fact: Yvonne Nicole Brown is from Cleveland!
Pierce Hawthorne: Travis Hafner. The oldest of the bunch and a man who made millions in his prime—the shoe fits for both Pierce and Pronk. And while neither gets around quite as well as he used to (they both seem to be injury-prone), they both still come through when it counts, be it Hafner with a clutch home run or Pierce seducing the Spanish teacher to convince her to make her final easier.
Hafner doesn’t share Pierce’s racism or ego or occasional downright villainry, but aside from Pronk simply being a much better person there are a lot of similarities here.
Ben Chang: Ubaldo Jimenez. Just as the Jimenez trade seemed to come completely out of the blue for the Indians, Chang was a teacher who suddenly became one of the study group’s peers. Just as Tribe fans were upset by losing Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, Chang’s addition to the clique wasn’t popular, and at times Jimenez’ poor outings and Chang’s antics have angered fans and other characters. But for better or worse—from the fans’ perspective, I’d say “better” in both cases—Jimenez is now a key part of Cleveland’s rotation and Chang is a member of the study group.
Alex “Star-Burns” Osbourne: Chris Perez. There aren’t any personality similarities here. They just both have dramatic facial hair.