International A's: It's U.S. Against The World

Hideki Matsui #55 of the Oakland Athletics watches his hit against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on June 25, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images) - Len Redkoles

Imagine a World Baseball Classic with only A's. You'd have Rickey Henderson leading off for team U.S.A., Jose Canseco blasting home runs for Cuba and Rich Harden firing fastballs for Canada.

You've probably heard that the one Oakland participant in this year's World Baseball Classic will be lefty reliever Pedro Figueroa, for the Dominican Republic team.

There's been a lot of fun roster speculation over the past couple of weeks, including a creative piece on Baseball Prospectus regarding how teams comprising players from California, Ohio, New Jersey and Oklahoma would do.

There are a lot of good baseball players from California.

It kind of got me wondering about the A's. If you took the best Oakland/Philadelphia/Kansas City players of all time and broke them down by country, what would those rosters look like?

Filling out the U.S. roster was cake. Then I started filling out a roster for the Dominican Republic. I ultimately decided to create just three teams (because the Aussie team of Grant Balfour, Travis Blackley, Luke Hughes and Rich Thompson, while entertaining, would be mowed down by a full team): United States, Latin America, and the World.

Here are the results, after digging through baseball-reference for hours, and some other findings:

US Latin America World
C Mickey Cochrane Manny Sanguillen, Panama Ramon Hernandez, Venezuela
1B Jimmie Foxx Vic Power, PR Marcos Armas, Venezuela
2B Eddie Collins Hector Lopez, Panama Marco Scutaro, Venezuela
3B Sal Bando Miguel Tejada, DR Reno Bertoia, Italy
SS Eddie Joost Bert Campaneris, Cuba Orlando Cabrera, Colombia
OF Rickey Henderson Yoenis Cespedes, Cuba Matt Stairs, Canada
OF Al Simmons Stan Javier, DR Elmer Valo, Czechoslovakia
OF Reggie Jackson Jose Canseco, Cuba Tony Armas, Venezuela
DH Mark McGwire Olmedo Saenz, Panama Hideki Matsui, Japan
BENCH Terry Steinbach Joe Azcue, Cuba George Kottaras, Canada
BENCH Mark Ellis Geronimo Berroa, DR Jimmy Walsh, Ireland
BENCH Eric Chavez Alfredo Griffin, DR Glenn Hubbard, W. Germany
BENCH Bob Johnson Luis Polonia, DR Cesar Tovar, Venezuela
SP Eddie Plank Diego Segui, Cuba Rich Harden, Canada
SP Lefty Grove Orlando Peña, Cuba Jack Quinn, Slovakia*
SP Tim Hudson Ariel Prieto, Cuba Phil Marchildon, Canada
SP Vida Blue Bartolo Colon, DR Dick Fowler, Canada
SP Chief Bender Jesse Flores, Mexico Guillermo Moscoso, Venezuela
LR Catfish Hunter Joaquin Andujar, DR Rube Vickers, Canada
RP Paul Lindblad Horacio Pina, Mexico Moe Drabowski, Poland
RP Rick Honeycutt Santiago Casilla/Jairo Garcia, DR Bob Hooper, Canada
RP Billy Taylor Kiko Calero, PR Travis Blackley, Australia
RP Huston Street Ricardo Rincon, Mexico Bobby Chouinard, Philippines
RP Rollie Fingers Elias Sosa, DR Keiichi Yabu, Japan
CL Dennis Eckersley Octavio Dotel, DR Grant Balfour, Australia

Pitchers are ranked in no specific order. I tried to favor players who had some kind of significant or positive contribution to the A's. For instance, Esteban Loaiza (Mexico) has a career b-r WAR of 20.3, but only 1.1 of that happened in Oakland. Ariel Prieto had a career 2.9 WAR, but 2.8 of that was for the A's. I didn't want to put Loaiza in the 'pen, as he never made a relief appearance in Oakland (though in fairness to Andujar, he only relieved twice).

Jose Rijo (Dominican Republic) had a career WAR of 33.0, but a -1.2 WAR his three years in Oakland. Also, 1990.

I'm pretty sure every Alou known to man played for the A's, but none of them spent much time in the green-and-gold.

Though Tejada didn't play third base until the latter part of his career, I bumped him for Campaneris. I'm sure Miggy will understand. Hopefully you will too.

It's an inexact science, I know.

Yeah, I think the U.S. team would win in a landslide. First the World team would face Central America. I'm pretty sure the Central America team would win that game easily, then lose to the U.S. in the next round. Can you imagine having Eddie Plank or Lefty Grove to start the game, then hand it over to Rollie and Eckersley to finish it off?

I also came across some interesting stories while researching this.

You know how whenever a fan makes a great catch of a foul ball or home run, there's the joke that he team should sign him? That's pretty much how Jack Quinn (World team's starting pitcher) became a baseball player. Granted, this is from Wikipedia, but still:

Quinn spent his early years working as a swimmer and blacksmith, while playing recreational ball for mining teams. He got his start as a professional in an unusual way. While watching a semi-pro game in Connellsville, the 14-year-old Quinn threw a foul ball back from the stands to the catcher, hitting his mitt right in the middle. The visiting manager, from the nearby town of Dunbar, was impressed by the throw, and he offered Quinn a contract.

I also looked up players from Ireland, as I am of Irish heritage. There hasn't been one since 1945, and he had a rather dubious career for the Washington Senators.

On Aug. 4, 1945, Cleary relieved starting pitcher Sandy Ullrich, who had walked 7 and given up 7 runs to the Boston Red Sox. Cleary then proceeded to allow 7 more runs to score, while only recording one out. I believe he has the highest recorded ERA of any pitcher who was able to make an out: 189.00. He had a -0.4 WAR that game. To put that into context, Kurt Suzuki, in the 75 games he played for Oakland last year before being traded to Washington, accrued a WAR of -0.4. Cleary did it in less than an inning, and never pitched in a Major League game again.

Here's where the story gets weirder.

The man who relieved Cleary, Bert Shepard, also made his only career MLB appearance. His claim to fame? He's the only player in MLB history to have an artificial leg. He lost his in World War II.

Washington's manager at the time was a bit of a jerk. Instead of walking out to the mound to pull Cleary from the game, Ossie Bluege simply stood at the top step of the dugout and motioned for Cleary to leave his post.

Cleary's biography from SABR tells the story:

The way Cleary was replaced in the game really irked him, and his reaction to it contributed to his never again pitching in the major leagues. "Someone threw me the ball and I'm standing on the mound rubbing it up," Cleary recalled the incident to author Richard Tellis. "I look over at the dugout and I see [Washington manager Ossie] Bluege waving at me. He's got one leg on the step of the dugout and he's waving at me to come out. I thought, he's got to be kidding. What the hell can he be thinking? No manager takes his pitcher out that way. You go to the mound. You don't embarrass him. So I stood there rubbing the ball and waiting. [First baseman] Joe Kuhel came over and he said he never saw anything like that and he'd been around a long time. He called it bush league. I told Kuhel, 'I'm not leaving.' Finally, the umpire came over and said, 'Son, I think you better go,' so I left." Only after Shepard reached the mound, though, to take his place. "Anyone can have a bad day, but imagine being replaced by a guy with one leg," Cleary lamented to New York Times writer Richard Margolick in 1999. "I took 30-mile hikes in the Army that weren't as long [as that walk to the dugout]." Cleary said Bluege then yelled an expletive at him after he sat down in the dugout. When Cleary swore back at Bluege, the Washington players had to separate the two from a fist fight.

You've got to love baseball history.

So, even though I did tons of research, surely I left off some players. What do you think?

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