The Dominican Republic All-Century Baseball Team 1956-1999
OK, before we get started, a couple of things:
1) I wrote this back in 2000 so, hold those angry e-mails,Vlad Guerrero fans.
2) I don’t like the designated hitter, so there isn’t one, and I tried to pick the 25 players who would make up the best TEAM…not just rack up the best statistics.
Well, without any further delays. Here is my Dominican All-Century All-Star team.
Catcher: TONY PENA has to be the man. A multiple Gold Glove award winner, and recognized around baseball as a future manager (Pena was named American League manager of the year in 2003). Pena had some good offensive seasons, but he’s here for  leadership,  defense &  durability. Career Astro TONY EUSEBIO out-hits Luis Pujols for the backup spot. Left-hand hitting Sandy Martinez and Puerto Rican-born Ozzie Virgil, Jr. (son of the first Dominican major leaguer, Ozzie, Sr.) don’t quite make the cut.
First Base: In the interest of choosing a true team, and representing the actual history of Dominicans in baseball, the choice here is MATEO ALOU. A slap hitter at a power position, it’s true, but Matty has the highest career batting average of any retired Dominican player (.307) & is one of only three to ever win a major league batting title (1966 NL). He certainly deserves a spot, and the outfield will prove much more crowded. Not many Dominicans have played 162 major league games at first base. Other than Matty, his brother Felipe (line-drive hitting right-hander) and IQ-challenged Pedro Guerrero (who plays several other positions) got serious consideration.
Second Base: JULIO C. FRANCO is the selection. One of the most solid Dominican hitters ever (.301), Franco is both an above average on-base & RBI man. He can steal some bases and do a passable job in the field. That would not be true if he was trying to play shortstop! Quilvio Veras is currently building career stats that will challenge for this spot. Right now, Franco does many of the same things well as Veras -with the added bonus of line drive power.
Third Base: This is where PEDRO GUERRERO ends up. His bat requires that he be in the lineup somewhere. Believe it or not, he’ll actually hit enough to make up for his crappy defense on the corner. Frankly, the best Dominican 3B are just starting their careers: Fernando Tatis, Adrian Beltre and Tony Batista (at least in 2000). Guerrero isn’t going to help you with the glove anywhere on the field. Let him club home some runners, and send a glove man in late. You’ll be glad you did.
Shortstop: TONY FERNANDEZ has to get the nod. I saw the man at his peak of four straight Gold Glove seasons. A Carew-esque switch-hitter with magical glove skills. He’d have been even better if it wasn’t for a few major injuries in his career. He was still damn great. The all-time Dominican hit leader (now Franco in 2007), and also a standout at second and third base during his career. This is the signature position in the DR, and nobody ever played it as well. Alfredo Griffin played it the most, but he’s not in the same league as Tony all-around.
Left Field: Very tough call. I choose GEORGE BELL, who won the 1987 AL MVP, at this position. Bell was a great RBI man and all-around hitter despite his disdain for walks. His career numbers are a shell of what they should be thanks to pounding the turf at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium and Skydome for nearly a decade. As a fielder, there can be no mistaking Bell’s enthusiasm. He hustles himself into errors, but makes up for some with a strong arm. When he retired, he was the all-time leading Dominican home run king…until 1998. Rico Carty was edged out, a choice I still hedge. Henry Rodriguez got a brief thought for being the all-time left-handed home run king, but that’s all he’s got.
Centerfield: A pair of Cesars each won four straight Gold Gloves patrolling National League ballparks during the 1970’s. CESAR CEDENO is the choice to start, while Cesar Geronimo will have to battle for a reserve roll. Cedeno suffers from the perception that he failed after “next Willie Mays” projections. He was was a great CF with prolific base-stealing talents, who hit for a decent average with some power. Good ballplayer. Geronimo hits left-handed, but not much. No other real standout, true centerfielders came from the DR. Stan Javier is a solid, solid fourth outfielder. He’s about the next best choice here.
Right Field: SAMMY SOSA. Who else could it be? Easily the most recognizeable name ever in Dominican baseball. He came up as a flyer, he remains a hacker, but he’s also developed his overall hitting skills to the point where he’s no whack-or-whiff sideshow anymore. Good arm and potential to smack 50-plus bombs in a season. No debate here.
Ace Pitcher: JUAN MARICHAL is the only Dominican in the Hall of Fame. He was selected because his accomplishments still dwarf those of Pedro Martinez…for now. Marichal did awesome things at a time when a pitcher’s workload was much greater than it is now. If Martinez demonstrates similar durability, this will be a race. But Marichal’s career -while underappreciated- was one of the best ever for a modern starting pitcher.
Bench: Five spots left after Eusebio. HENRY RODRIGUEZ (corner OF-some 1B) gets one. Reason: best left-handed home run threat from the DR by far. I also like the previously mentioned STAN JAVIER for his outfield versatility, and patience and speed on offense. I’d like a right-handed boomer, but instead chose MANNY MOTA for the last outfield spot. The man has (now had) the most pinch-hits in the history of baseball. I want that coming off my bench. Two infield spots remain. I’ll give one to JOSE VIZCAINO because he switch-hits and catches the ball at 2B, SS & 3B. TONY BATISTA gets the last spot for more versatility, and right-handed pop to boot.
Rotation: With Marichal in, let’s add PEDRO (J.) MARTINEZ, for sure. You’ve got bright stars who burned out early like Mario Soto & Jose Rijo. Pascual Perez kept getting harassed by the man. JOAQUIN ANDUJAR makes it for being the DR’s second all-time leading winner when he retired, including back-to-back 20-win seasons and a 7th game win in the 1982 World Series. RAMON MARTINEZ gets in because his career numbers justify it, and he’s still adding to them. The last starting spot goes to Pascual’s brother CARLOS PEREZ, mainly because he stands out as the best available left-hander. Controversial? Sure, but who can argue with a rotation headed by Marichal & Pedro?
Bullpen: Who will be the closer? No one has really stood out in this role over an extended period from the DR. JOSE MESA gets the job -for now- because he leads the all-time DR save list, had the best single season (1995), and did it for a playoff team year after year. We won’t mention that he’s the guy that blew a 9th inning save in the seventh game of the 1997 World Series. Ooops! The right-handed/left-handed set-up combo will be ARMANDO BENITEZ & YORKIS PEREZ. Benitez will hopefully earn the closer’s job one day (2000 quite encouraging). He’s a flame-thrower that’s already one of the DR’s all-time standouts. Yorkis is here mainly because he’s had the longest career and most success of any of the lefties from the DR. The sixth-seventh inning bullpen jobs go to RH ALEJANDRO PENA and LH PEDRO BORBON, Jr. Two injury-riddled hurlers who’ve generally had success when healthy. Borbon is really only for lefties, so Pena would need to provide some innings when starters falter. He’s a former starter himself (1984 NL ERA champ), so it shouldn’t be asking too much. Finally, the mop up/long man job goes to JOSE BAUTISTA, a personal favorite who at least won’t be walking the stadium.
Since we didn’t find room for FELIPE ALOU, we’ll ask him to be the manager. Well, there you have it. My picks from seven years ago. Send me a batting order. Ask me “Where’s Manny”? Just let me know what you think.
By MALCOLM ALLEN