An Alternate History: The 2000 Baseball Dream Team

Previously, I took a look at hypothetical dream teams for USA Baseball in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. Today, it’s time to talk about how a dream team might have looked in 2000, at the Sydney Olympics.

(Go below the jump for more)

Now, it should be noted that it’s unlikely even in this alternate timeline that MLB would have shut down for the Olympics in 2000, for the major reason that the 2000 Olympics were held in September due to it being in the Southern Hemisphere. MLB hasn’t shut down in the real world with Olympics that fall in July or August, the idea that they might shut down during the heat of the pennant race is even less likely.

However, it’d be lazy to just say “well, without MLB players they’d just send the team they sent in the real world that had Ben Sheets, Pat Borders, Doug Mientkiewicz and Brad Wilkerson on it.” That was, of course, an excellent team that ended up winning the only gold medal for Team USA in baseball outside of demonstration contests (until, potentially, this coming Saturday), but then there’s no article to be had. So let’s say that for whatever reason MLB did shut down for a time in mid-September 2000, if only so that I can write this.

Now, I’ve been writing these as something of a parallel to the basketball teams, under the impression (not that out-of-the-realm-of-possibility) that they’d have similar arcs as far as player participation. By 2000, the rot had started to set in for Team USA men’s basketball. The third Olympic team of professionals saw a large number of pull-outs and injuries and ultimately when they took the court only one player (Gary Payton) had been a member of a previous Olympic team, and only two other players had even played for a professional national Team USA before the qualifying began. It showed on the court: the USA was nearly upset by Lithuania in the semifinals, just edging them out 85-83. As a way to indicate a similar rot in the baseball dream team, I’m limiting myself to just two player from a previous hypothetical baseball dream team and only up to seven from previous professional tournaments (note, however, that in essence this doesn’t matter at all since the only real-world professional tournament for Team USA before the 2000 Olympics that took place in our timeline were the 1999 Pan-Am Games, 1999 Intercontinental Cup, and 2000 Pan American Cup, none of which have players who would have been on this roster).

However, there is one major change from how the previous baseball dream teams were selected: instead of going off of the previous year’s stats, the late start of the 2000 Olympics means that the 2000 season is what it is being based on.

So here’s the rules:

  • 2000 season used as a guide.
  • The selections aren’t just made with statistics in mind, but also fame/marketability.
  • 25-player rosters.
  • As mentioned above, a maximum of two players from previous hypothetical dream teams can be used and only up to seven from previous professional tournaments in general (although in practice that last bit doesn’t mean anything).

Let’s begin:

Manager: Tommy Lasorda. He was the skipper for the real-world team, so it feels like he’d do it here as well.

Catchers: Jason Kendall and Mike Matheny

It’s likely that Mike Piazza would have been on the team, especially given his family’s relationship to Tommy Lasorda, but I imagine he would have pulled out after his concussion earlier in the year, especially given who else was on Team USA.

First Basemen: Todd Helton, Jason Giambi, Frank Thomas

Thomas is one of the two returnees from a previous dream team. Helton would probably do most of the actual fielding while Thomas and Giambi (who ended up fighting for AL MVP that season) would platoon at DH (with perhaps one of the shortstops also DH’ing at times).

Second Basemen: Jeff Kent

Kent ended up winning MVP in 2000 for the Giants. An obvious choice.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra

Probably the most controversial position to pick, as only two of the Jeter-Rodriguez-Garciaparra triad of AL shortstops could come. At first I thought A-Rod and Nomar, with the caveat of course that Alex Rodriguez might have played for the Dominican instead (they didn’t make the tournament in the real world, but that may have been different in this alternate history). But then I realized my criteria that the selection wouldn’t just be based on stats but also fame and marketability, and my memory tells me that Jeter and Nomar were bigger than A-Rod back at the turn of the century. It’s likely that whoever wasn’t playing on any given day would be in the DH rotation with Giambi and/or Thomas. I’d hope that Nomar would be the main guy in the field.

Third-basemen: Chipper Jones

Apologies to Troy Glaus, who statistically would probably be the better choice during the 2000 season.

Outfielders: Darin Erstad, Jim Edmonds, Luis Gonzalez, Jermaine Dye

All of them were among the top outfielders in 2000, and all of them except for Dye batted left-handed.

Utilityman: Mark McLemore

He’d almost certainly be on the bench most if not all the time, but in case of injury McLemore would have made for a good plug-in whether in the infield or outfield.

Starting Pitchers: Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Tim Hudson, Kevin Brown

Clemens, while he had a good year in 2000, is more in on reputation and is the second of the returning players from previous teams. Clemens’ inclusion, by the way, is why Mike Piazza isn’t on the team. Johnson would have been in in 1996 but was hurt during the ’96 season. Hudson and Brown round out the starting rotation.

Relievers: Trevor Hoffman, Todd Jones, Derek Lowe, Mike Myers, LaTroy Hawkins, Steve Reed, Arthur Rhodes

Hoffman, possibly the greatest reliever of all time not named Mariano Rivera, would the main closer. Todd Jones was the Rolaids Relief Man for the AL that season. Derek Lowe had the best year of the closer portion of his career in 2000. The rest are more set-up or middle-relief people to fill out the roster.

So, here’s the final roster for the alternate-world 2000 Olympic National Team for the United States of America:

Manager: Tommy Lasorda (Dodgers)

Catchers: Jason Kendall (Pirates), Mike Matheny (Cardinals)

First Basemen: Todd Helton (Rockies), Jason Giambi (Athletics), Frank Thomas (White Sox)

Second Baseman: Jeff Kent (Giants)

Shortstops: Derek Jeter (Yankees), Nomar Garciaparra (Red Sox)

Third Baseman: Chipper Jones (Braves)

Outfielders: Darin Erstad (Angels), Jim Edmonds (Cardinals), Luis Gonzalez (Diamondbacks), Jermaine Dye (Royals)

Utilityman: Mark McLemore (Mariners)

Starting Pitchers: Randy Johnson (Diamondbacks), Roger Clemens (Yankees), Tim Hudson (Athletics), Kevin Brown (Dodgers)

Relievers: Trevor Hoffman (Padres), Todd Jones (Tigers), Derek Lowe (Red Sox), Mike Myers (Rockies), LaTroy Hawkins (Twins), Steve Reed (Indians), Arthur Rhodes (Mariners)

Much like their real-world equivalent and their basketball counterparts, it is likely that this team would have won gold. However, it wouldn’t have been as easy. And it wouldn’t get any easier going forward, either.

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