In honor of the World Baseball Classic, we are coming up with “All-Time Teams” for as many of the participating nations as we can. So far, we’ve done the Canadians, the Italians, the Japanese, the Puerto Ricans, the Cubans, the Venezuelans, and the Panamanians. Now, we aim the spotlight on the Dominicans! Alas, this year’s Dominican team has already been eliminated from the WBC, causing a national outpouring of shame and lamentation in that island country. But how would an All-Time DR team fare? Let’s take a look.
For some teams, such as the Italian team (a total of six native-born players), fielding a roster of native-born major-leaguers is challenging, if not impossible.That’s not the case with creating an all-time team from the Dominican Republic. The DR has sent 472 sons of the soil to the majors, more than any other foreign country. More than 42 US states, too, as a matter of fact. Since they have such a large pool to draw from, I am not going to go the route of some of my fellow Umpbumpers and use American-born players of Dominican descent or argue that a guy with 12 starts at centerfield deserves to start there on the All-Time team. Ahem.
Designated Hitter – David Ortiz – David Ortiz finished the five seasons from 2003 – 2007 in the top five of MVP voting, an impressive feat – but downright incredible when you consider that many voters refuse to support a full-time DH for the honor. Since coming to the Red Sox (in 2003), he did not hit fewer than 30 home runs until last year, when he only played in 109 games. Even in 2007, a supposed “off-year” in the eyes of the media, he recorded his highest-ever OPS+ at a ridiculous 171.
Left Field – Manny Ramirez – Somehow, in between all the hijinks and shenanigans, Manuel Aristides Onelcida Ramirez has amassed, in 16 years in the majors, 527 homers and 2,393 hits. Given how he plays when he’s motivated – he hit 17 homers in 53 games with the Dodgers last year after hitting 20 dingers in 100 games with the Red Sox – can you imagine what he could have accomplished by now if he hadn’t been faking those knee injuries and striking out on purpose? But in the bottom of the 9th when your team is down a run and there’s a man on base, there’s still no one you’d rather have at the plate than this future Hall of Famer. And he just gets tougher with two strikes against him.
Right Field – Vladimir Guerrero – While Manny had scouts drooling over him when he was in high school, Vladi had to prove he could play ball. His older brothers, Elisier and Wilton, had already been scouted by the Dodgers, but they weren’t sure about Vladimir’s strange-looking body and ungainly movements. Well, little bro gets the last laugh. A career .323 hitter who hits what he wants to – whether or not it’s in the strike zone – he’s also just 8 shy of 400 homers. Despite looking like an old man when he runs (there’s that ungainly physique again) he’s still only 32 and, for the last 13 years, has been one of the game’s more durable stars. (And for those of you who might wish I had gone with Sammy Sosa, well – yes, Slammin’ Sammy certainly epitomized his, um, era. A seven-time All-Star, the 1998 NL MVP, 609 career home runs. But Guerrero still has a better career OPS+, so I don’t feel too bad about going with Vlad. That rhymed.)
Center Field – Cesar Cedeno – from his debut in June of 1970 at the age of 19 until his retirement from baseball 16 years later, Cedeno had six years where he had 50+ steals and three years where he had 20+ homers. He also had a couple of neat years where he hit .320. Welcome to the team, Cesar.
Third Base – Aramis Ramirez – Expecting to see Alex Rodriguez here? Well, too bad. A-Rod was born in New York, NY so he doesn’t count towards the REAL Dominican team. But A-Ram, on the other hand, hails from Santo Domingo, DR. And in 8 seasons as a regular, he’s averaged 29.6 home runs per season. Not too shabby.
Shortstop – Hanley Ramirez - There are a lot of great Dominican shortstops out there. Tejada. Reyes. Fernandez. But after just three full seasons in the majors, Hanley beats ‘em all. The 25-year old phenom is just approaching his prime and already averages 27 home runs a season with a career OBP of .379. These averages are depressed slightly by what would turn out – in hindsight – to be a lackluster debut season (only 17 dingers; just a .353 OBP). But that rough first year was still impressive enough for him to scoop up a Rookie of the Year trophy. Last year saw him add an All-Star nomination and a Silver Slugger award. An MVP nod surely won’t be far behind. And yes, his defense ain’t great. But you know what? It’s better than Derek Jeter’s. So there.
Second Base – Luis Castillo -A three-time Gold Glover and three-time All Star, Castillo also has a World Series ring from his days with the Florida Marlins. After 13 seasons in the bigs, he has amassed a career .292 average and a .363 OBP. So his career 27 homers aren’t going to blow anyone away. But 342 stolen bases aren’t anything to shake a stick at! Even so, I nearly went with Placido Polanco, who hits for more power. Close call.
First Base – Albert Pujols - It seems almost silly to have to make a case for Albert Pujols, but I’ll play along. Born in Santo Domingo in 1980, Pujols is 28 years old, has never missed significant time, has won two MVP awards (and come in second three times) and was the 2001 Rookie of the Year. His career OBP is .425. He has never hit fewer than 30 home runs in a season. Never. Not even one time. Yes, your girlfriend would rather be with him. But face it: so would you.
Catcher – Tony Pena – Yes, his career .309 OBP is downright hideous, as is his career 84 OPS+. But he did hit .300 a couple of times. And twice he slugged 15 (count ‘em!) home runs. He debuted at age 23 and managed to hang around until he was 40. And he was the 2003 Manager of the Year for the Kansas City Royals!
Bench - Jose Reyes, Miguel Tejada, Placido Polanco, Carlos Pena, Sammy Sosa, Alfonso Soriano, Rico Carty, Tony Fernandez, Jose Offerman (you know, for those bench-clearing brawls)
SP1 – Pedro Martinez - They called him El Duro in the Dominican – the Hard One. He has famously long, crazily-jointed fingers that create more spin on the ball than the ball knows what to do with. He once told Tom Verducci, “There are days when I first get out to the mound and it feels just like this, like the plate is closer than it’s supposed to be. Then I know right away. It’s over. You are f——-. F——-.” Even though he has not been able to find an employer yet this year, he still owns the best winning percentage of any active pitcher. I am almost certain that Pedro lied about his age when he was first signed – the age of his grown son strongly suggests at least a little fibbing – but there is no doubt that the three-time Cy Young winner is the ace of the Dominican staff. He has amassed not only an impressively long, consistent career – a 2.91 ERA over 17 seasons, with a career 151 ERA+ – but achieved a peak that has not been matched by any other man. In 1999, the annus mirabilis that saw him robbed of his dual MVP and Cy Young awards by a couple of douchebag writers, he logged a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts over 213.3 innings. His record: 23-4. His ERA+: 243. While the following year, his win totals and strikeouts were down, he finished the year having pitched 217 innings with an ERA of 1.74 and an ERA+ of 291. Why do I feel the need to recite all of these well-known stats? I guess, somehow, even though I was there and watching – glued to the old TV during that 17-strikeout game against the Yankees – I still can’t believe it really happened. That’s how good he was. Now I have to move on before my head explodes.
SP2 – Juan Marichal - It may seem a little crass to put the Hall of Famer second, but it’s only a matter of time until Pedro is inducted anyway. After 16 years in the majors, Marichal retired with an ERA under 3. He never won a Cy Young, but he was a perennial all-star and a six-time 20 game winner. (And, through modern eyes, it seems pretty bad-ass that he broke the 300-innings barrier three times.)
SP3 – Ramon Martinez – He won 20 games once and 17 games twice, and also threw a no-hitter and once struck out 18 batters (in a game Nick was at!).
SP4 – Jose Rijo - Six consecutive seasons of sub-3.00 ERAs helped fuel a 1990 World Series sweep in which the Reds hurler earned two of the victories – and the Series MVP award. Though he often struggled with injuries and was out of baseball between age 30 and age 36 with elbow problems, he did return – albeit briefly – in 2001 and 2002, lifting the hearts of Cincinnatans everywhere. Or, you know, in Cincinnati. Unfortuantely, this uplifting tale – which saw Rijo win a Tony Conigliaro Award – has taken a recent sad twist, with Rijo being fired from the Nationals after one of his Dominican scouting finds was discovered to be a totally different person – and, like, a totally older person.
SP5 – Bartolo Colon – Would you believe that Colon has a .607 career winning percentage? Colon is a former Cy Young-winner and a two-time 20 game winner, even though his career ERA is a hardly ace-like 4.09. Well, I guess he’ll round out the rotation anyway.
Relievers: Rafael Perez, Damaso Marte, Jose Valverde, Rafael Soriano, Octavio Dotel, Armando Benitez, Mel Rojas, Jose Mesa, Alejandro Pena
CL – Francisco Cordero
Manager – Felipe Alou
Final Verdict – Just for fun, I plugged the career OBPs and SLGs of this lineup into the lineup analysis tool at Baseball Musings. This had the unfortunate impact of wiping out some players’ impressive career peaks, but the overall result was still heartening: an average of 6.17 runs per game, with the ideal lineup producing 6.426 runs per game. But we don’t need a fancy interwebby gizmo to tell us that a lineup featuring Hanley, Prince Albert, Papi, Manny, and Vladi is going to score a lot of runs. As for the pitching, the DR’s team features one Hall of Famer, one future Hall of Famer, and a back-end of guys who were all, at one time, team aces. Sure, Felipe Alou would have his hands full – but as far as I can tell, this fearsome Dominican squad would lose to only one foe:
Don’t tell me you didn’t see that coming.