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An early guess at Team USA’s WBC lineup

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If Derek Jeter’s broken ankle didn’t take him out of the mix for the World Baseball Classic the moment it happened, today’s news that he needs surgery definitely makes the issue moot.

But as unfortunate as Jeter’s injury is for the Yankees, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for Team USA in next spring’s World Baseball Classic. With Joe Torre running the show, one imagines Jeter would have been the team’s starting shortstop, even though he hardly seems like the best option.

Team USA has also lost another likely starter to surgery in the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp. Again, that’s hardly a disaster, though Kemp was the National League’s best player in 2011 and for the first month of 2012. There’s still plenty of talent to go around.

I’m just going to look at the position candidates for now, with perhaps a separate blog dedicated to pitching possibilities later.

Catcher: Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, Matt Wieters

It’ll obviously be a Posey-Mauer duo unless one of those two opts to step aside. Posey would probably do the bulk of the catching in the scenario, which is surely how the Twins would prefer it anyway.

First base: Prince Fielder, Paul Konerko, Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard, Adam LaRoche

Although Adrian Gonzalez was born in San Diego, he played for Mexico in the 2009 WBC. Team USA could use him here, but Fielder isn’t a bad alternative.

Second base: Dustin Pedroia, Brandon Phillips, Ben Zobrist, Aaron Hill, Ian Kinsler, Chase Utley

I’m listing Utley, though with his knee problems, I doubt he’ll opt in. Pedroia was set to be Team USA’s second baseman in 2009, but he was injured and replaced by Brian Roberts. I think he’s the best option here, but Phillips may well get the nod over him as a starter. The versatile Zobrist would be a perfect reserve.

Third base: Evan Longoria, David Wright, Chase Headley, Ryan Zimmerman, David Freese

Both Longoria and Wright were on the 2009 team, and it’d make sense to go with that duo again. Headley might have been the best of this bunch in 2012, but he still doesn’t have the track record of the top two.

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Jimmy Rollins, Ian Desmond, J.J. Hardy

Given how much of the 2012 season Tulowitzki missed, one wonders if the Rockies might try to block him from playing in the WBC. Let’s hope not, because he’s pretty clearly Team USA’s best option at shortstop. If he’s unavailable, then Rollins is the logical starter.

Outfielders: Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Josh Hamilton, Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Holliday, Austin Jackson, Jay Bruce, Alex Gordon, Torii Hunter, Jason Heyward

Kemp would have looked pretty good as a starting right fielder, had he been willing to switch positions, but his loss isn’t a particularly big one. Hamilton seems like a long shot to play, particularly if he signs with a new team this winter.

So, how about this for a lineup:

RF Mike Trout – R
2B Dustin Pedroia – R
CF Andrew McCutchen – R
LF Ryan Braun – R
1B Prince Fielder – L
C Buster Posey – R
DH Giancarlo Stanton – R
3B Evan Longoria – R
SS Troy Tulowitzki – R

With a bench of Mauer, Zobrist, Rollins, Wright and one of the left-handed-hitting outfielders.

Yes, the entire group is righty heavy, but that’s pretty much the way it has to be. Torre can always start Mauer at catcher or DH or play Rollins at short if he wants some lefties in there.  It should have the edge on the outstanding Dominican lineup, that could include such talents as Jose Bautista, Albert Pujols, Robinson Cano, David Ortiz, Jose Reyes and Adrian Beltre.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.