In 2006, The United States finished a very disappointing eighth place in the World Baseball Classic, far worse than any of the Dream Teams who failed to win worldwide basketball tournaments.
The 2009 iteration of the team will no doubt be out to prove that the nation that invented the game is still the best at it. (Whether or not this is ACTUALLY true remains suspect, but it makes a great rallying cry).
The most important thing the US can do is field the best team they can, not necessarily the team of stars. Nothing against Derek Jeter, but I left him off this roster because I think the US will have plenty of offense, but may need speed and defense, which can easily come from other top-teir short stops.
I'm certainly willing to hear arguments for guys I left off, and as players turn up injured or unwilling, I'll revise this.
There must be three catchers and 13 pitchers minimum on the 30-man playing roster, so without further ado, here's the preliminary 2009 United States roster. Left or right handed is noted next to each name.
C: Joe Mauer (L) / Russel Martin (R) / Brian McCann (L)
1B: Ryan Howard (L) /Kevin Youklis (R)/ Lance Berkman (S)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (R) / Ian Kinsler (R)
SS: Ryan Theriot (R) / Michael Young (R)
3B: A-rod (R) / Evan Longoria (R)
LF: Matt Holiday (R) / Carlos Quentin (R)
CF: Grady Sizemore (L) / Josh Hamilton (L)
RF: Nick Markakis (L)/ Ryan Ludwick (R)
SP: Cole Hamels ( L)
SP: Tim Lincecum (R)
SP: Cliff Lee (L)
SP: Roy Halladay (R)
SP: Jon Lester (L)
SP: CC Sabathia (L)
RP: Scott Downs ( L )
RP: Cory Wade (R )
RP: Dan Wheeler (R )
RP: J.P. Howell (L)
RP: Brad Ziegler ( R )
Closer: Joe Nathan ( R )
Closer: George Sherill (L)
CF. Sizemore (L)
2B. Pedroia (R)
C. Mauer (L)
1B. Howard (L)
DH. Hamilton (L)
3B. Rodriguez (R)
LF. Holiday (R)
RF. Markakis (L)
SS. Theriot (R)
Two things I've noticed, but haven't found a satisfactory way to fix.
First, the bench is heavily right-handed. Only the switch hitting Lance Berkman and catcher Brian McCann are lefties available off the bench. Nick Markakis could be pulled from starting to help pad the bench, but Ryan Ludwick was one of the last guys to make the squad as I was putting this together, so I'm not sure that's the best bet.
Second, long relief could be an issue. I put an extra starter in there to close the gap, but with rigid pitch limits, it may be worth finding someone who can go two to three innings every few nights. Matt Guerrier is the type of pitcher I'm thinking of, but he was shaky at best towards the end of last season, so someone else would be better.
The 2006 team took 14 pitchers and still ended up with a very pedestrian staff. As in many international competitions, defense is critically important, and pitching is a component of that. The U.S. was the second-best hitting team behind Japan, the eventual champions, but finished near the middle of nearly every pitching category and subsequently finished in the middle of the table.
If you've got suggestions on how to fix either of these problems, feel free to let me know and I'll try to work them into the next version of this roster!