Friday, May 26, 2006

My Team

The MLB schedule makers are either terrible at their job or just hate the Yankees. After a string of sixteen games with no off-day, we had a free day yesterday followed by three against the freakin’ Royals over Memorial Day Weekend, which will be followed by another day off Monday. Yes, the schedule makers thought it appropriate to give the Yanks a stretch of sixteen games with no rest, followed by a stretch of five days in which two are off-days. Ridiculous. And once again, there is no Memorial Day Yankees game.

But we’re going to stop dwelling on this, because it’s like complaining about the weather. So, in an effort to post something today, I’m going to go with something that popped in my head while listening to Mike and Chris call the Mets game yesterday.

This is My Team.

Quite simply, if given the ability to pick one player from each position, these would be the guys on top of my list. The main considerations are ability, age, and perceived character (so this isn’t me just finding the statistical leader at each position).

[MORE]Catcher: Joe Mauer, L, Minnesota Twins, 23
.336/.401/.452, 3 HR, 22 RBI
Very very tough decision here. My immediate thought was Victor Martinez, mainly because it’s tough to find a switch hitting catcher with some power (which is why we’re blessed with having Jorge). But Mauer is having a better 2006, has plenty of upside, and is only 23 years old to Martinez’s 28. The only downside to Mauer is his knee injury history, though he’s shown little signs of that wear and tear over his first two full big league seasons. Plus, he seems like good enough a guy. I mean, for all the complaining he does, I don’t think Aaron Gleeman has said a bad word about him.

First Base: Albert Pujols, R, St. Louis Cardinals, 26
.323/.449/.804, 23 HR, 57 RBI

Second Base: Chase Utley, L, Philadelphia Phillies, 27
.328/.406/.554, 9 HR, 30 RBI
This is the guy who initially sparked my interest in compiling such a list. He could possibly be my favorite non-Yankee in the league, mainly because he’s just a tremendous hitter. I mean, look at those numbers; they’d suffice for a left fielder, yet the guy is agile enough to play a mean second base. Best of all, he doesn’t seem like your typical Big-League head case. The Phillies have a right side of the infield they can really build around – that is, if Ryan Howard quits booting grounders to first.

Third Base: David Wright, R, New York Mets, 23
.315/.389/.539, 8 HR, 31 RBI
The other guy who sparked my interest in compiling the list. Actually, it all began over at Pinstripe Alley, when one poster rhetorically asked of A-Rod, “Plus, who would you rather have playing third base?” And even though this was a question that supposedly required no response, I felt the urge to blurt out “David Wright!”

Whenever my cousins come over for dinner, there’s always baseball discussion galore. They’re Mets fans, my brothers and I Yankees fans. The question came up last season: would you trade A-Rod straight up for David Wright? That was last July, and I said yes (my father as well), and my two brothers said no, they’d keep A-Rod. And guess what? My two cousins, from the Mets perspective, wouldn’t take the deal. Fast forward to this year, and it’s a unanimous, “if someone offers you David Wright for A-Rod, you take it every single time.” He’s 23. He’d arguably fetch Alex Rodriguez in a trade. He’s on my team.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter, R, New York Yankees, 32
.348/.433/.519, 5 HR, 35 RBI
Jeter’s my resident geezer. But seriously, when you put it all together, I don’t see anyone I’d rather have at short than Jete. You cold argue that Tejada hits for more power, or that Hanley Ramirez is younger and with a tremendous upside. You could talk about Michael Young and his hitting skills until you’re blue in the face. There are plenty of young, up and coming shortstops to choose from. But you know what? Jeter’s consistency can’t be denied. He’s the quintessential team player. He’s on my team every single time.

Left Field: Nick Swisher, S, Oakland Athletics, 25
.299/.396/.622, 14 HR, 37 RBI
So many LFers to choose from, but Swish is just the man. I guess I hold a certain affinity for him because of his centric role in Moneyball, but it goes beyond that. He’s a hard worker who can hit and hit for power. He’s a switch hitter, which is an immediate plus in any book.

The snubbed include Carl Crawford (came dam close to typing his name in the bold type above), Miguel Cabrera (eh, don’t so much for his attitude), Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, Jason Bay, and of course ManRam. But when you combine everything, the hitting, the fielding, the age, the character, it points right to Swish.

Center Field: Grady Sizemore, L, Cleveland Indians, 24
.298/.368/.510, 8 HR, 26 RBI
Once I looked at the list of center fielders, I was wholly unimpressed. Where’s the Junior Griffey of this generation? Sizemore takes the award mainly based on age, though his numbers are nothing to scoff at. Vernon Wells was nearly the winner, but for the slight dropoff in power numbers, I’ll gladly take the speed, defense, and age upgrade. And who knows, maybe Grady puts on some bulk one of these off-seasons and starts whaling on the ball. Maybe HE becomes this generation’s Junior Griffey Lite.

Right Field: Alex Rios, R, Toronto Blue Jays, 25
.357/.384/.662, 9 HR, 35 RBI
I wanted to go with Vlad here, I really did. He’s the most consistent, and you know you’re going to get a certain level of production out of him. But he just hit 30, and while that means he could still have a good 7-8 years left in the tank, I just can’t pass up the opportunity on Rios.

This is a guy who was shopped this off-season. Due to his disappointing performance prior to this season, there was no team willing to meet J.P. Ricciardi’s asking price. And now they may be kicking themselves, as Rios has exploded into the player he was once projected to be. That, really, is my entire reason for picking him. He’s a gamble, since he hasn’t proven these numbers over a period of time. But this is what was projected of him, and this is what he’s producing. Given that and his age, I’d be remiss to pass up on him. I’m not saying he’s better than Vlad, or ever will be. But I know that, barring serious injury, I’m getting 10-12 productive years out of this guy.

Rotation Ace: Scott Kazmir, L, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 22
64 IP, 7-2, 2.39 ERA, 67 K, 21 BB, 1.28 WHIP
There are plenty of young guns out there in the Majors: Dontrelle Willis, Jake Peavey, Matt Cain, Justin Verlander, Brandon Webb, et al. But seriously, Kazmir is 7 and 2 with the DEVIL RAYS. The kid is crazy good, posting a K/BB ratio of over 3.00. And he’s 22!

Not only is he one of the best young pitchers in the majors (hell, best in general), but he single handedly ended a GMs career. Yes, Jim Duquette will have a difficult time finding work in baseball after he pulled the “Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps” trade for the Mets by acquiring Victor Zambrano. Only Duquette’s gaffe was about 1,000 times worse, because there is just no replacement for a dominant lefty starter – WHO IS 22 YEARS OLD!

My buddy Scott (a huge Mets fan, though he’s in the closet about it now): “When I first heard Duquette was thinking about trading Kazmir for Zambrano, I thought, ‘well, I guess that’s okay, but I still wouldn’t do it.’ And then I found out he wasn’t talking about Carlos Zambrano.”

So while Kazmir is helping the Devil Rays actually win games (yes, it is possible), Zambrano is helping the Mets by not pitching. If you can take any positives from the trade, that’s it.