The arrival of the Phillies and Jimmy Rollins this week led to an interesting discussion last night between my wife and I about local athletes. She's a good baseball fan but occasionally she'll one of those cute, semi-ignorant questions (sorry honey), which at first make me smile, give her a pat on the head let her know that’s just how it works in pro sports these days. Upon further thought, however, it does merit some discussion:
She asked me this: If Rollins grew up in Alameda, and was an A's fan throughout childhood, then why doesn't he just play for the A's?
It seems like a silly question on the surface, but when you think about the history of the game and how were first created, is it really that absurd to think that players should play for "their" team? Professional baseball has it's roots in leagues that aren't all that different from the softball or little leagues we play in recreationally: a bunch of athletes from one geographic area getting together to form a team with the intent to play other teams from another geographic area. Once a player graduated from high school, if he was good enough, more often than not he would tryout for the local team.
So my question is this: If the A's could take their pick of active players from the Bay Area, would we have an arsenal that could dominate any other major population hub in the country? I knew San Diego and L.A would give us a run for our money due to population density and good year round weather, but how would we match up when all is said and done? I decided to set out to find an answer. (For purposes of simplicity, we'll say a player is from an area if he played high-school baseball there. He qualifies if he is currently on a MLB 40 man roster)
Here's the All-Bay Area team one might put together
Bay Area (estimated 2006 population: 7.2 million):
1st Base: Greg Norton (Braves, Oakland)
2nd Base: Kevin Frandsen (Giants, San Jose)
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins (Phillies, Alameda)
3rd Base: Aaron Miles (Cardinals, Antioch) (Hey he's played 3 games there this year...Sorry we were light at 3rd base so I had to reach)
Left: Pat Burrell (Phillies, San Jose)
Center: Randy Winn (Giants, Danville)
Right: Jermaine Dye (White Sox, Vacaville)
Catcher: Johnny Estrada (Nationals, Hayward) (Yea I know..He went to H.S in Fresno, born in Hayward. We needed a catcher so I cheated. Sue me)
DH: Jonny Gomes (Devil Rays, Petaluma)
Starting Rotation: C.C Sabbathia (Indians, Vallejo), Dontrelle Willis (Tigers, Alameda), Randy Johnson (Diamondbacks, Livermore), Doug Davis (Diamondbacks, Walnut Creek), Scott Feldman (Rangers, Burlingame)
Bullpen: Tyler Walker (Giants, San Francisco), Jeffrey Marquez (Yankees, Vacaville); Dan Barone (Marlins, Hollister); Richie Gardner (Brewers, Santa Rosa)
Closer: Brandon Marrow (Mariners, Rohnert Park)
Honorable Mention: ; Eric Byrnes (Diamondbacks, Mt. View); Nate Schierholtz (Gaints, Danville); Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies, Sunnyvale); Greg Reynolds (Rockies, Pacifica); Xavier Nady (Pirates, Salinas, technically not the Bay Area but what the hell, close enough)
Not bad, not bad. Now let’s see how San Diego might fare.
San Diego (San Diego County - estimated 2007 population: 3.1 million):
1st Base: Adrian Gonzalez (Padres, Chula Vista)
2nd Base: Ty Wigginton (Astros, Chula Vista)
Shortstop: Eric Chavez (A's, San Diego). There actually were no shortstops from SD, but I know Chavy played there in H.S. Hey, It could work couldn't it?
3rd Base: Hank Blalock (Rangers, Rancho Bernardo)
Left: Jacque Jones (Marlins, San Diego)
Center: Adam Jones (Orioles, Morse)
Right: Carlos Quentin (White Sox, San Diego)
Catcher: Donny Lucy (White Sox, Fallbrook)
DH: Troy Glaus (Cardinals, Carlsbad)
Starting Rotation: Cole Hamels (Phillies, San Diego); Aaron Harang (Reds, San Diego) , Mark Prior (Padres, San Diego); Mark Redman (Rockies, Escondido), Barry Zito (Gaints, San Diego)
Bullpen: John Van Benschoten (Pirates, San Diego); Hayden Penn (Orioles, Santee); Royce Ring (Braves, Spring Valley); Wes Littleton (Rangers,Vista); Sergio Mitre (Marlins, San Diego); Geoff Geary (Astros, El Cajon)
Closer: Joel Zumaya (Tigers, Chula Vista) (there are no true closers from San Diego, but this guy will be eventually, so I threw him in there)
Honorable Mention: Brian Giles (Padres, Granite Hills); Edgar Gonzalez (Padres, San Diego); Dave Roberts (Giants, Vista); Jeff Karstens (Yankees, San Diego); Kevin Correia (Giants, San Diego); Tony Gwynn Jr. (Brewers, Poway); Matt Chico (Nationals, Fallbrook); Tony Clark (Padres, El Cajon)
Not bad at all for 3.1 million. There are also quite a few players from the Central Valley. For this team I qualified players from Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus counties. I realize that the valley consists of several more counties, but these 3 counties are the most populous, they're all right next door to each other, and well..it's my article so that’s how I decided to do it. Here's what that team would look like:
All Central Valley Team (Estimated 2006 Population - 2.4 million)
1st Base: Derrek Lee (Cubs, Sacramento)
2nd Base: Dustin Pedrioa (Red Sox, Woodland)
Shortstop: Jason Bartlett (Rays, Stockton)
3rd Base: Joe Inglett (Blue Jays, Sacramento)
Left Field: Geoff Jenkins (Phillies, Rancho Cordova)
Center Field: John Bowker (Giants, Sacramento)
Right Field: Shane Costa (Royals, Visalia)
Catcher: Steve Holm (Giants, Sacramento)
DH: Nick Johnson (Nationals, Sacramento)
Starting Rotation: Darren Oliver (Angels, Rio Linda); Dallas Braden (A's, Stockton)....ok so it's not much of a "rotation", but they could at least field a team twice a week.
Bullpen: Manny Parra (Brewers, Orangevale); Mike Lincoln (Reds, Orangevale, bullpen)
Closer: J. P. Howell (Rays, Modesto)
Honorable Mention: Aaron Hill (Blue Jays, Visalia)
Probably the weakest team in terms of talent, but I thought I'd throw it in anyway just because its fun to see who else is from Northern California.
Now Lets take a look at the L.A Team:
Los Angeles ( L.A County - estimated 2006 population: 9.9 million)
First Base: Connor Jackson (Diamondbacks, Woodland Hills)
2nd Base: Chase Utley (Phillies, Long Beach)
Shortstop: Michael Young (Rangers, La Puente)
3rd Base: Mike Lamb (Twins, La Puente)
Left: Ryan Braun (Brewers, Granada Hills)
Center: Aaron Rowand (Giants, Glendora)
Right: Milton Bradley (Rangers, Long Beach)
Catcher: Jason Kendall (Brewers, Torrance)
DH: Jason Giambi (Yankees, West Covina)
Starting Rotation: Dan Haren (Diamondbacks, La Puente); James Shields (Rays, Santa Clarita); Dana Eveland (A's, Palmdale); Jon Garland (Angels, Granada Hills); Jeff Suppan (Brewers, Encino)
Bullpen: Randy Flores (Cardinals, Pico Rivera); Justin Miller (Marlins, Torrance); Chad Qualls (Diamondbacks, Harbor City); Billy Traber (Yankees, El Segundo); Doug Slaten (Diamondbacks, Los Angeles); Kurt Birkins (Rays, Woodland Hills); Kameron Loe (Rangers, Granada Hills)
Closer: John Grabow (Pirates, San Gabriel)
Honorable Mention: Jeff Kent (Dodgers, Huntington Beach); Alex Hinshaw (Giants, Claremont); Gabe Kapler (Brewers, Woodland Hills); Delwyn Young (Dodgers; Los Angeles); James McDonald (Dodgers, Long Beach); Scott Moore (Orioles, Cypress); Ian Stewart (Rockies, Westminster); Augie Ojeda (Diamondbacks, Downey); Leo Rosales (Diamondbacks, Los Angeles); Brendan Ryan (Cardinals, Sherman Oaks); Chris Gomez (Pirates, Lakewood); Mark Kotsay (Braves, Sante Fe Springs); Carlos Muniz (Mets, Torrance); Anthony Reyes (Cardinals, Whittier); Gregg Zaun (Blue Jays, La Canada); Kurt Birkins (Rays, Woodland Hills); Brian Horwitz (Giants, Encino); Cody Haerther (Cardinals, Chatsworth); Jerry Owens (White Sox, Newhall); Richie Robnett (A's, Santa Monica); Jeremy Reed (Mariners, La Verne); Mark Loretta (Astros, La Canada); Garret Anderson (Angels, Granada Hills); Coco Crisp (Red Sox, Los Angeles); Damion Easley (Mets, Lakewood); Evan Longoria (Rays, Bellflower); Angel Sanchez (Royals, West Covina); Jason Kubel (Twins, Palmdale); Jack Wilson (Pirates, Thousand Oaks); Scott Nestor (Marlins, La Canada); Gary Matthews, Jr. (Angels, Granada Hills); Matt Wise (Mets, La Verne); Jim Edmonds (Cubs, Diamond Bar); Daryle Ward (Cubs, Huntington Beach); Chris Dickerson (Reds, Sherman Oaks); Jack Cassel (Astros, Chatsworth); Randy Wolf (Padres, Woodland Hills); Freddy Sanchez (Pirates, Burbank); Mike Parsi (Cardinals, Arcadia); Brian Barton (Cardinals, Los Angeles); Kevin Millar (Orioles, Los Angeles); Jason Hirsch (Rockies, La Canada); Nomar Garciaparra (Dodgers, Bellflower)
Staggering isn't it? Just look at how many guys have come out of L.A County. And that’s just L.A County. There are enough players out of Riverside, Orange, Ventura, and San Bernadino counties to create at least one more team, if not two. As much as I hate to admit it, there's no other region of the country that produces pro ballplayers like L.A does. This team would dominate.
So looking inside the numbers a little we see that San Diego produces ballplayers at the best clip per capita, one for every 106,897 people. Next comes the L.A at one every 152,308 people, then the Central Valley at one every 160,000 people. And pulling up the rear is the Bay Area at one every 300,000 people.
In conclusion we should reflect on what these numbers mean. Could it be that the Bay Area is just not much of a baseball area? Kids growing up here have the same year round good weather that southern California enjoys yet we produce ballplayers at less than half the rate that southern California produces. Why is that? Are kids just not being encouraged to go out for baseball? Does this relate to our overall attendance woes? Should the A's be taking a more concentrated approach to encouraging kids to not only watch baseball, but play baseball as well? Lets hear your thoughts AN.