Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
The Dominican Republic, with players such as Miguel Tejada, would be better represented in MLB’s ‘Dream Bracket’ simulation if teams were constructed by country.
The Dominican Republic, with players such as Miguel Tejada, would be better represented in MLB’s ‘Dream Bracket’ simulation if teams were constructed by country.
Photo: Getty

How About A World Baseball Classic-Style Sim?

Major League Baseball is running a “Dream Bracket” simulation tournament over the next few weeks, with rosters composed of the best players in each franchise’s history, plus a Negro Leagues All-Star team and a team of current stars age 25 and under.

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It’s an interesting exercise, but one that also comes with some pitfalls, starting with the obvious issue that the players of today are galactically better athletes than the players of a century or more ago. Like, it’s neat that the Red Sox have Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, and Cy Young in their rotation, but if we’re being honest, the man whose name is on the award for the best pitcher in each league would rate as batting practice for today’s hitters.

Going across eras is part of what makes it fun, though, so we can let that slide. What’s irksome about MLB’s exercise is that some players’ legacies extend beyond just one team — and MLB’s tournament features Nolan Ryan on the Angels, Astros, and Rangers rosters, among other multi-team players.

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MLB also is using the three best seasons, sequential or not, that any player ever had for their teams. So, if this were an NHL tournament, Brett Hull might be the second-best player in the whole thing.

It’s neat to simulate a world where Clayton Kershaw and Sandy Koufax are together atop the Dodgers’ rotation, but this simulation tournament also gives an edge to teams with deeper histories. How are the Rockies and Rays, for instance, going to stand a chance in this thing?

Instead, let’s imagine a different group of rosters, where players can only play for one team. Everyone is only born in one place, so split it up that way. And to make it so that the United States doesn’t have an overwhelming advantage, let’s break out the three states that have produced the most major leaguers — California, Pennsylvania, and New York. And to avoid the issue of the unknown, let’s keep it to players’ major league resumes.

Welcome to a different dream. Which roster do you think is the best?

Dominican Republic

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Comments: Just a ridiculous assemblage of talent almost entirely from this century, and that general theme made it an easy call to include Tatis and Soto, who are just getting started. If there’s been one weak spot in the Dominican portfolio, it’s been behind the plate, but Sanchez’s bat works wonderfully in tandem with Pena’s defensive work.

Puerto Rico

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Comments: Baez isn’t technically a third baseman, but it is where he played the most in 2016, and it’s easier to shift him to a “different” position than it would be with Alomar or Lindor. The defense here isn’t what’s important anyway, because with a pitching staff that doesn’t really measure up to the rest of the field, it’s all about putting as many runs on the board as possible with a lineup built to steamroll opponents. There have been fewer players from Puerto Rico (268) to play in the major leagues than there have been from Maryland (314), yet this is still a ridiculously strong lineup.

Venezuela

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Comments: Acuna already is good enough to bump Tovar from the starting lineup. There were only 26 Venezuelans in the majors before 1980. Now there have been 408. Aparicio is the only Hall of Famer from the country now, but that surely won’t be the case for long.

California

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Comments: This might be the best top-to-bottom roster in the field, with not a weak spot to be seen and several of the best players in history at their positions, mostly of recent vintage. Imagine a rotation where Drysdale is the soft-tossing guy in the mix. Who even bats ninth in this lineup?

Pennsylvania

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Comments: It’s fun that even the living pitchers on this team would’ve been pretty much at home in the dead ball era. The dearth of active players here also speaks to Pennsylvania’s standing as a historic producer of baseball talent. The most accomplished Keystone Stater in MLB last year was Neil Walker, who does not make this team. This is still a team that goes across eras quite nicely, even if it soon would make more sense to include Texas or Florida in an eight-team field like this.

New York

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Comments: Ottavino is here to see if he really could strike out Babe Ruth every time, and his slider — the reason he made those comments about Ruth, who never saw anything like it — highlight the point that the players of today would dominate the old guard. Like Pennsylvania, the best days for New York were long in the past — here, the outfield is a weakness while there’s an overload at second base.

Rest of the World

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Comments: Perez played much more first base than third base in his career, including during the title years of the Big Red Machine, but his career peak was really 1967-70 as a four-time All-Star at the hot corner. Another fun exercise, perhaps for another time would be to assemble a 25-player team representing 25 different countries. In that case, there would be a few easy calls like Blyleven, Martinez, Valenzuela, and Gomes, as well as some who didn’t make the cut here, like Shin-soo Choo from South Korea, but that’s an experiment for another day.

Rest of USA

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Comments: Slotting Ruth as a two-way player takes care of a real problem from trying to fit Aaron, Mays, and Trout into the lineup at the same time. And this team still has Mantle and Cobb on the bench. The pitching staff is good enough that Cy Young’s spot is almost a charitable contribution. It’s simply a ridiculous team.

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