The calendar reads July 17, 2009, and lumps are beginning to form in the throats of baseball fans nationwide.
We are now just two weeks away from the much-anticipated July 31 trading deadline.
Countless Yankee fans are begging and pleading for either the services of Roy Halladay or to cling to the newly cultivated prospects littered throughout the farm system.
In the wake of inevitable water-cooler discussions in offices across the country, it is time to once again discuss player salaries and payrolls.
This time, however, we are going to shake things up by playing a hypothetical game of general manager budgeting.
What if you had to construct an entire team using only the league’s largest salary as a budget? What if your only asset was Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez?
The goal is to create the best roster of players whose 2009 salaries are as close to A-Rod’s as possible ($33 million), but without going over.
This challenge is a perfect blend of fantasy baseball and The Price is Right.
Due to the fact that there are so many talented young stars making salaries near the rookie minimum, no roster is allowed to include more than five players with a salary less than $1 million.
The roster must include a C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, LF, RF, CF, DH, five SPs, a RP, and a CL.
Feel free to offer your own rosters, any changes you would make to this list, and any feedback or opinionated responses.
Here we go!
Sandoval's 2009 stats:
.333 AVG, 15 HR, 55 RBI, a .385 OBP, and a .578 slugging percentage at just 22 years old.
It doesn't hurt that his 2009 salary is less than A-Rod is paid per series played.
Fielder's 2009 stats:
.315 AVG, 23 HR, 81 RBI, .444 OBP, .621 slugging, 60 runs scored at 25 years old.
He also recently added a Home Run Derby trophy to his collection.
Hill's 2009 stats:
.292 AVG, 20 HR, 60 RBI, .333 OBP, .487 slugging, 52 runs at 27 years old.
He was given the honor of starting the 2009 All-Star game at 2B due to Dustin Pedroia's absence from the festivities.
Ramirez's 2009 stats:
.346 AVG, 14 HR, 61 RBI, .408 OBP, .562 slugging, 26 2B, 13 SB, and 56 runs scored at 25 years old.
Often considered the best all-around player in Major League Baseball NOT named Albert Pujols, Ramirez continues to drop jaws with his performance.
Longoria's 2009 stats:
.285 AVG, 17 HR, 66 RBI, .362 OBP, .535 slugging, and 27 2B at just 23 years old.
Even while battling a collection of injuries throughout the 2009 season, Longoria has destroyed any chance of a "sophomore slump."
Braun's 2009 stats:
.310 AVG., 16 HR, 58 RBI, .391 OBP, .527 slugging, 62 runs scored at 25 years old.
One of the true young power hitters in the game today, Braun still manages to hit over .300 and is actually on pace for 15 SBs in 2009.
Jones' 2009 stats:
.303 AVG., 12 HR, 47 RBI, .357 OBP, .481 slugging, 55 runs scored at just 23 years old.
The Orioles' ability to pull off a Jones/George Sherrill for Erik Bedard trade is looking more brilliant every time Jones drives in another run in his first full big league season.
Upton's 2009 stats:
.301 AVG., 16 HR, 51 RBI, .374 OBP, .544 slugging, 12 SB, 55 runs scored at just 21 years old...the youngest player on this roster.
Justin has far outperformed his brother BJ thus far in 2009 and is establishing himself as the best young player in the National League, considering his age and production.
Morales' 2009 stats:
.284 AVG., 16 HR, 51 RBI, 24 2B, .535 slugging, 40 runs scored at 26 years old.
Bursting onto the scene in the absence of some of the Angels' best power hitters, Morales has helped to stabilize a team ravaged by injuries in 2009.
Lincecum's 2009 stats:
10-2 record, 2.33 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 149 K, 3 CG, 2 SHO, 100 hits allowed in 127.2 IP at 25 years old.
Lincecum is once again one of the NL's Cy Young favorites, and he continues to prove that size in fact doesn't matter.
His quirky mechanics and blazing fastball continue to dominate the league.
Greinke's 2009 stats:
10-5 record, 2.12 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 129 K, 5 CG, 2 SHO, 116 hits allowed in 127.1 IP at 25 years old.
Batting a social anxiety disorder and extreme pressure as a young phenom, Greinke has exploded onto the major league and Cy Young scene in 2009.
Cain's 2009 stats:
10-2 record, 2.38 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 95 K, 3 CG, and just 99 hits allowed in 117 IP at 24 years old.
Cain has been overshadowed by media darling and teammate Tim Lincecum, but he has performed about as well.
Always expected to have a breakout season, it appears as though Cain has officially arrived.
Johnson's 2009 stats:
8-2 record, 2.74 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 109 K, 2 CG, and just 109 hits allowed in 128 IP.
Known for spending more time on the disabled list than the pitching rubber in recent years, Johnson has rebounded beautifully in 2009.
He is soon likely to become the latest unsignable Marlins pitching star.
Lester's 2009 stats:
8-6 record, 3.87 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 131 K, 2 CG, and 112 hits allowed in 114 IP at 25 years old.
Lester has battled and defeated cancer, so the talented lineups of the AL East provide little mental challenge to him.
His numbers are very deceiving in 2009, as a slow start has bloated his normally stellar ERA.
Over the last two months, however, Lester has been virtually unhittable, regaining his form of 2008.
Bell's 2009 stats:
3-1 record, 1.69 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 23 SV, and just one BLSV in 35 appearances out of the bullpen.
Bell has been as smooth a transition from the Trevor Hoffman era as the Padres could have possibly dreamed and has provided one of the sole bright spots for a struggling team.
Franklin's 2009 stats:
2-0 record, 0.79 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 21 SV, 1 BLSV, and one epic goatee in 34 bullpen appearances.
Franklin has more than paid his dues in the major leagues at 36 years old, but he has finally been given his opportunity to shine.
He made his first All-Star team in 2009 and has been as untouchable a reliever as there is in MLB.
Only receiving the job after the failures of Chris Perez and Jason Motte, Franklin has made the most of his opportunity.
Team's 2009 Payroll: $32,476,250
A-Rod's 2009 Salary: $33,000,000