It's the thick of fantasy draft season and I've put a team together that could win any league. In fact, I think it could win the World Baseball Classic, which begins Thursday in Tokyo.
If only I could get my team to show up. Not likely: It's the WBC All-Withdrawal team. Check out this retiring first string:
1B Albert Pujols
2B Placido Polanco
SS Rafael Furcal
3B Evan Longoria
OF Vernon Wells
OF Grady Sizemore
OF Ryan Ludwick
DH Aramis Ramirez
C Joe Mauer
SP Johan Santana, Carlos Zambrano, Francisco Liriano, Rich Harden, Scott Kazmir
RP Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, B.J. Ryan
I had to cheat a little. Furcal was never on the Dominican Republic roster and as far as I can tell wasn't invited. Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Miguel Tejada -- who withdrew! But then changed his mind and will play, darn it -- are the Dominican shortstops. And Mauer didn't withdraw from Team USA. He declined an invitation because he was recovering from surgery over the offseason.
You want me to leave 'em off? I'll leave 'em off. I can catch and play short and this team would win. And I'm not in the best shape of my life and haven't added 15 pounds of muscle, adopted a new diet or gotten Lasik surgery. It's almost as if spring training hasn't started for me.
The All-Withrawals are a little thin in the middle infield, I'll admit. The only backup is Luis Cruz, who's fighting for a roster spot with the Pittsburgh Pirates. But have you seen the pitching? When Scott Kazmir's your fifth starter, you've got some twirlers.
I've also got Grant Balfour, Eddie Guardado and Eric Gagne in the bullpen, unless I want to use some pretty good starters who can't make the rotation on this club: Yovani Gallardo, Jair Jurrjens and Fausto Carmona.
Aside from Cruz -- he has to carry the drinks and sunflower seeds to the bullpen -- my bench has Juan Rivera, Melky Cabrera and Adrian Beltre, who I think can maybe play a little shortstop in a pinch. Can Rivera catch, you think?
My guys are overwhelmingly from the Dominican Republic and the United States, though there are also representatives from Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. They aren't a bunch of unpatriotic louses or anything. That's the owner. They've withdrawn for reasons that can be broken down into the following broad categories:
I wanted to play, or I said I did, but either my team forbade it, which they're allowed to do if I spent enough time on the disabled list last year or had offseason surgery, or they requested rather forcefully that I sit out, or they demanded payment of an outrageous insurance premium if I played: Pujols, Beltre, Wells, Santana, Kazmir, Carmona, Balfour.
I'm injured, or I'm Carlos Zambrano and I was considering Lasik surgery when it was time to make a decision: Zambrano, Longoria, Sizemore, Nathan. Wells and Santana are also injured now, but they withdrew before they got hurt.
I made the decision not to play in the WBC because I'm trying to win a job or work on my game or I'm worried about playing serious games this early in the spring or I wasn't going to play very much so I thought it'd be better to play in spring games than sit in tournament games or I don't like my national team's uniform or something: Lee, Polanco, Cruz, Ramirez, Rivera, Cabrera, Ludwick, Liriano, Gallardo, Jurrjens, Papelbon, Ryan, Guardado, Gagne.
No way I'm good enough to make Kaufman's amazing WBC All-Withdrawal team, but my reason for not playing is so ludicrous there has to be a category to include me: Byung-Hyun Kim, Joel Pineiro.
Kim couldn't find his passport. Pineiro, who rocked a 5.15 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals last year, withdrew because he was insulted that Puerto Rico manager Jose Oquendo -- a Cardinals coach -- didn't name him to the starting rotation.
That's my kinda guy, but have you seen my pitching?