Living in Chile, I find myself for the first time in a country that actually cares about the the World Cup*, even if it is now over. Clearly I’ve never cared before, not outside of the casual fandom that comes with generally liking sports, but it’s made me realize that I’ve never cared for the WBC either. I’ve watched both tournaments, even attending the Cuba/Japan game last year, but I found myself unengaged on a personal level, not really caring who won. I think that might make me a bad American. Personally, I blame Adam Dunn.
As it’s the player’s fault, I figure that the best way to fix my milquetoast is to build my own (if only hypothetical) team. But then, creating a fantasy Team USA is boring. The only real challenge is whether or not I can find a way to keep Kevin Youkilis off the team, so instead I present to you my picks for Team California. If we’re big enough to be in the G20, I’d say we’re big enough to field our own baseball team.
Rules: For eligibility on the team, a player had to be born in and attend high school in California. That means that Prince Fielder, who was born in Ontario but went to high school in Florida is not eligible.
Catcher – Gerald Laird (Westminster)
Exciting start, right? Laird might not be much with the bat, but it’ll be buried in this lineup. He’s a solid backstop who’ll be there to catch the pitches our All-Star pitchers throw.
Alternate: Rod Barajas (Santa Fe Springs)
First Base – Adrian Gonzalez (Chula Vista)
Now that’s more like it. You know Adrian, so I don’t think I need to tell you why he belongs on this team. Whether or not he’ll pick California over Mexico is another story, but I’ll leave that to someone else to figure out.
Alternate: Derrek Lee (Sacramento)
Second Base – Chase Utley (Long Beach)
Possibly the toughest call of the team, Utley just got the nod over Dustin Pedroia, but really it wasn’t that tough. Utley is one of the most well-rounded players in the game, who can hit for power, draw a walk, steal a base, and play the best defensive second in the game.
Alternate: Dustin Pedroia (Woodland)
Third Base – Evan Longoria (Downey)
We haven’t even gotten to shortstop yet and we already have the best infield that you’ll find anywhere. Along with Utley, Longoria is an easy pick for the Team USA roster (and not just because he attended Long Beach State): another well-rounded player who will hit for power and catch the ball.
Alternate: Michael Young (Covina)
Shortstop – Troy Tulowitzki (Santa Clara)
Like seemingly everyone else on this team (including fellow former Dirtbag Longoria), Tulo is a player who can do it all. If I were the coach, and I’m not (you’ll have to wait to see who is), I’d likely put Tulowitzki in the leadoff spot, which tells you a little bit about how deep this team is in the middle of the order.
Alternate: Jimmy Rollins (Oakland)
Left field – Ryan Braun (Granada Hills)
Oh look, another All-Star. Braun is one more Californian worthy of being on Team USA, and we know this because he played in the 09 WBC. While not quite the complete player his new teammates are, Braun is a major power threat who will feast in the middle of this lineup and hopefully rely on this next guy to hide his horrible, horrible glove.
Alternate: Milton Bradley (Long Beach)
Center field – Tony Gwynn, Jr. (Poway)
If you were to say that this pick is pure homerism, you’d probably be right. But in my defense, I’d like to say the following two things: 1. There are not a lot of quality California-bred center fielders in the bigs right now, and 2. Tony’s not so bad. As Melvin recently argued, UZR is a statistic that requires a lot of evidence before an opinion can really be reached, but I’m willing to take a chance on Tony’s excellent two (or so) years.
Alternate: Adam Jones (San Diego)
Right field – Adam Jones (San Diego)
While Jones is no AJ when it comes to patrolling centerfield, he’s still a solid player who does everything good even if he doesn’t do a whole lot great. With his strong arm, Jones should be able to slide into right without a problem, and any offense he can contribute will be gravy given the kind of guys he’ll be hitting behind.
Alternate: Will Venable (Marin County)
And there’s that. I’m not sure if you noticed, but there are three San Diegans in the starting eight. If one were so inclined, they could build an All-San Diego team that would be able to hold their own in any competition. We’ll see more San Diegans on the pitching side, which I will get to in a couple of days.
As always, please tell me where I got it wrong in the comments section.
*Apologies to the 14 people in the US who like soccer.