SI:AM | Team USA Is a Fantasy Baseball Team Come to Life
This lineup is loaded.
Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I woke up feeling great after Fordham advanced to tomorrow’s A-10 semifinal against Dayton.
In today’s SI:AM:
💸 The best lineup ever?
🗽 The Knicks are for real
🏀 Rick Pitino’s potential next move
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The World Baseball Classic doesn’t have the cachet of other international sports tournaments like the Olympics or World Cup, but in terms of pure talent, there haven’t been many teams assembled in any sport as formidable as the one Team USA will field in this year’s WBC.
As Tom Verducci writes in today’s Daily Cover, you can debate whether this group is the best baseball team ever assembled, but one thing is for certain: It’s definitely the most expensive.
The payroll for Team USA, based on average annual value, is $379.4 million, or more than the A’s, Orioles, Pirates, Rays and Reds combined. The total value of active contracts for Team USA: $2.05 billion.
The U.S. rosters for previous WBCs haven’t always been as loaded, but Team USA general manager Tony Reagins (the former Angels general manager and current MLB chief baseball development officer) set out to assemble a star-studded team this time around. It started with getting Mike Trout, who had never played in the WBC, to agree to participate. Once he did, the pieces started to fall into place as some of the biggest stars in the sport had their eyes light up at the prospect of sharing the field. Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado signed up.
It’s an impressive group, but is it the best team ever assembled? Verducci took a thorough look back through baseball history at some other superteams and compiled a list of lineups that give this group a run for its money.
How the WBC works
If you haven’t been paying attention (which is reasonable, because the games so far have either been late at night or early in the morning), the WBC has already gotten underway, and there are plenty of reasons to watch.
The tournament is structured similar to the World Cup, with teams first competing in round-robin group play (the WBC calls them pools) to determine who advances to the next round. Pools A and B began play this week in Taiwan and Japan, respectively, while Pools C and D (in Phoenix and Miami) begin play tomorrow. Each pool has five teams, with the top two advancing to the quarterfinals. Beginning with the quarterfinals, the tournament is single elimination.
The U.S.’s pool-play games will take place in Phoenix against Mexico, Colombia, Canada and Great Britain, with the first coming tomorrow at 9 p.m. ET in what will be Great Britain’s first WBC appearance. The main event, though, is Sunday’s game against Mexico (10 p.m. ET on FS1), which is sold out.
If you’re looking for another team to get behind, the Czech Republic won its opener today against China, 8–5. The Czech team is full of guys who play or have played for teams such as the Arrows Ostrava. Former MLB infielder Eric Sogard is the only player on the team with big league experience. Pitcher Boris Večerka is in the Diamondbacks’ minor league system, pitcher Daniel Padyšák is a senior at Charleston Southern University and infielder Willie Escala played for the independent Sussex County Miners last season, but everyone else plays amateur ball in Europe and has a day job. Players and coaches work as firefighters, teachers, woodworkers and real estate agents. The manager, Pavel Chadim, is a neurologist. And they’ll face Shohei Ohtani and Japan tomorrow.
The best of Sports Illustrated
Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press
Conor Orr argues that NFL free agents should take the revelations of last week’s union survey into consideration when picking their new teams. Rohan Nadkarni is really teasing me with this column about how the Knicks might be legitimate title contenders. Matt Verderame spoke with people around the NFL to hear what they would trade for Aaron Rodgers. Emma Baccellieri writes that the Pride became the first NWSL to ditch white shorts in hopes of helping their players feel more comfortable playing on their periods. Shawn Kemp will not face charges after being arrested in connection with a shooting. His lawyer said Kemp was acting in self-defense after he was shot at first. CBS wanted Dick Vitale to call some NCAA tournament games this year, but he declined. The Suns are reportedly concerned that Kevin Durant’s injured ankle might keep him out for the rest of the regular season. Lonzo Ball might need to undergo a third surgery on his injured knee. Iona coach Rick Pitino and St. John’s reportedly have “mutual interest.”Georgetown fired Patrick Ewing after six unremarkable seasons.
The top five…
… things I saw last night:
5. Fordham forward Khalid Moore’s buzzer-beating dunk at the end of the first half.
4. Rockets rookie Jabari Smith Jr.’s late-game-tying three to force overtime against the Pacers. (Indiana ended up winning, 134–125, but Smith had a career-high 30 points.)
3. William Karlsson’s reaction to scoring a goal while being tripped.
2. Kevin Harlan’s line after Dillon Brooks got in Draymond Green’s face: “They’re discussing the podcast!” (Green called Brooks an “idiot,” among other things, on his podcast this week.)
1. Martin Muzik’s go-ahead home run in the ninth inning for the Czech Republic.
On this day in 1962, which MLB team left its spring training hotel after being told its players of color would be forced to stay elsewhere?
Yesterday’s SIQ: Former Warriors center Adonal Foyle is the only NBA player ever born in which country?
ArubaSt. Vincent and the GrenadinesTrinidad and TobagoDominica
Answer: St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Foyle grew up on the island of Canouan, which did not have electricity or a high school, where he was raised by his grandmother. Twice he failed the standardized test for admission to the high school on Union Island but passed on his third attempt. Upon entering high school, Foyle was reunited with his mother, who had moved to Union Island to open a shop.
“In some ways Canouan is a paradise,” Foyle told Sports Illustrated’s Steve Wulf in an excellent 1995 profile. “Crystal-clear waters, white sandy beaches, temperatures in the 80’s, a sea breeze that’s always present, a million stars at night. I have wonderful memories of working in the garden with my grandparents, planting and picking peanuts, potatoes, corn and peas. But I also knew there was another world out there, and I dreamed of seeing it.”
Foyle started playing basketball in high school and was so unfamiliar with the game at first, he told Wulf, “The first time I touched the ball, I ran the length of the court without dribbling.” When he was 15, he was playing in a game when he caught the eye of two Colgate University professors, Jay and Joan Mandle, who often traveled to the Caribbean studying the sociology and economy of the region, with a particular emphasis on basketball. The Mandles arranged for Foyle to attend school in the U.S., first in Philadelphia and then in Hamilton, N.Y., where Colgate is located.
Foyle’s college choices came down to Duke, Syracuse and Colgate. He picked Colgate due to its academic reputation and went pro after three seasons, going eighth in the 1997 draft to the Warriors. After his 12-year NBA career, he received two master’s degrees—one in sports psychology from John F. Kennedy University and another in business administration from Purdue University Global. He’s now the director of life skills for the NBA’s international academies.