Hey guys, the Olympics started Friday!
Some people get really into the Olympics, though I am not really one of those people. Now, I get into some of the sports, but it’s generally the sports I like to follow anyway: I took great joy, for instance, in the men’s basketball team’s utter decimation of China, and in the women’s soccer team’s 1-0 victory over France. While I hope those who enjoy smaller sports continue to do so, it’s just not my thing. Sorry.
Now, baseball was once an Olympic sport, as recently as 2008, and it will be one again in 2020, but for now, there is no baseball. And as was the case in 2008, the most likely structure of the 2020 Team USA roster is a team filled with minor leaguers, college players, and unsigned players, a roster which included a few players who became famous (Jake Arrieta, R.A. Dickey, Dexter Fowler, Stephen Strasburg, and since this is a Cardinals blog, I’ll throw in John Gall) but certainly not the best team that could have theoretically been fielded. Since MLB games continued, this was an impossibility.
But what if, like the NHL, which takes a break, or like the NBA, whose offseason allows its top talent to play in the Olympics, MLB took a break, thus enabling the best American baseball players to represent the United States? It won’t happen, to be clear, but it’s a fun hypothetical.
If the 2016 Summer Olympics had baseball, and assuming perfect health and that players would not decline to participate, here is how I would construct Team USA. Please feel free to yell at me.
Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy, Buster Posey
Posey is the best catcher in baseball (sorry), so he’s a no-brainer. Rather than make a cutesy roster construction pick for his backup, I simply elected to pick the next-best American catcher, and the most consistent answer seems to be Lucroy.
First base: Paul Goldschmidt
I can’t argue against anybody who would pick Anthony Rizzo here, and I considered including both he and Goldy so that one could DH or be an incredible pinch-hitter, but ultimately I’m opting for Paul Goldschmidt’s slightly more consistent track record.
Second base: Ian Kinsler
Second base is probably the weakest spot on the roster, though Ian Kinsler is still a very good player. Jason Kipnis is roughly as good, and Ben Zobrist provides versatility (though an ability to play the outfield won’t look quite as incredible when you see who else is on the roster), but Kinsler gets my vote.
Shortstop: Manny Machado, Corey Seager
Even though he has primarily played third base (and been the best fielder in the game at the position), Machado has been a plus defender at his natural position of shortstop and also hit 35 home runs last year. Seager is a rookie but he has managed to live up to his incredible hype.
Third base: Kris Bryant, Matt Carpenter, Josh Donaldson
Carpenter might be seen as a homer pick by some non-Cardinals fans, but his ability to play second base (and first base) gives him value as a utility infielder. He will probably play very little at third base, however, because it is a position absolutely loaded with American talent.
Outfield: Mookie Betts, Billy Hamilton, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout
The starting outfielder would be Harper-Trout-Stanton, which is just delightful to contemplate. Betts has emerged as a top-tier hitter and has been a plus defender both in center field and right field (and presumably could hang in left field, as well). Hamilton is more of a role player, as he is by far the worst hitter among the team’s position players, but he is an elite defensive center fielder and an elite baserunner, which would be especially handy if the Olympics continues to implement the worst rule in baseball history.
Starting rotation: Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, David Price
This is a rough approximation of my order, but this could fluctuate depending on opponents. I also have absolutely no loyalty to Price in the rotation.
Bullpen: Jake Arrieta, Dellin Betances, Madison Bumgarner, Andrew Miller, Stephen Strasburg, Noah Syndergaard
There are only two true relievers, Betances and Miller, on this roster. I could argue going with more or fewer, but idea of being able to implement starters as relievers excited me too much to resist, particularly in the case of fireballers Strasburg and Syndergaard.
No team is a guarantee in such a short slate of games, though this team would absolutely be Gold Medal favorites. Oh, just for fun, here’s a lineup.
- LF Harper
- CF Trout
- 1B Goldschmidt
- 3B Donaldson
- RF Stanton
- DH Bryant
- SS Machado
- C Posey
- 2B Kinsler
I don’t want to live in this current reality. I want to live watching and rooting for this lineup. But, alas, the Cardinals are in a playoff push, and that’s pretty okay, too. Here’s what happened over the weekend at VEB.
Mostly coincidentally, VEB wrote a lot about Matt Holliday this last week, and Ben Markham joined the party on Saturday by writing about how Holliday has aged. Or, as has generally been the case with him, not aged.
The red baron wrote about some prospects in the Cardinals system. The names range from some guys who have played in the big leagues to guys with whom you may not be very familiar, but all of the bases are covered here.
IHeartBoog recapped Saturday’s game against the Atlanta Braves, a game which was once a competitive game. I recapped Sunday’s game, which was never competitive and which I’d rather pretend didn’t happen.
The Reds are up next for the Cardinals, a series which seemed like a sure bet a week ago. Well, hopefully things go better this time around than they did last week.