The All-State Tournament
Yes, it’s time for a new bonus series: The All-State Tournament!
Here’s how it works: I have picked an All-State baseball team from the top 16 states in America. I suppose there might be some controversy about the last couple of teams — bubble teams always create controversy in such tournaments. What I will do every day is give you the full matchup, with just a few words about each team, and you will get to vote on which team moves on. And just like March Madness, the format here is one game, winner-take-all.
If I’m doing my math right — this whole thing should take two weeks (well, 15 days). This is a bonus series, so it will be for paid subscribers.
As mentioned, this is a bonus series, meaning you will still get the normal output of regular posts. That means, most days for the next couple of weeks you will actually be getting two emails from JoeBlogs.
Before going to the first matchup, I should probably explain a couple of things.
One: The teams are based on where a player was BORN. So, for our purposes, George Brett would be considered a West Virginian, even though I don’t think he remembers West Virginia and actually grew up in California. So, as you will see, California’s third baseman is not George Brett but, instead, his arch-nemesis, Graig Nettles.
Two: These are sparse teams — a starting nine (including DH) and one starting pitcher. That’s it. The pitcher has to go nine. That was a big consideration as I chose and seeded the teams.
Three: I don’t mean for this to sound overbearing at all, but these are my teams with my lineups. That is to say, you very well might have chosen different players or put them in different lineup spots. I get it. But in order to do this tournament quickly and efficiently, I picked the best lineups I could — something I will explain with each matchup.
Your vote should be based on the teams I chose rather than some personal team that you would build. (“I would have had Mark McGwire at first instead of Keith Hernandez …” or “I would have seeded Texas higher …” etc.) Of course, you can blast away in the comments, that’s part of the fun, but I think it’s a cleaner experience if you vote simply on which team you think would win the game.
OK, I think that’s it. With that, let’s go to our first matchup.
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No. 1 California vs. No. 16 Nebraska
Seed: No. 1
Population: 39-plus million
Hall of Famers: 37
You would very much expect California to be the No. 1 seed — it’s the largest state and it generally has great baseball weather. In all, there are 37 California-born players in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In many ways, though, this tournament does not play to California’s strength, which is incredible depth.
There were numerous incredibly difficult lineup choices. Tony Gwynn or Harry Heilman in right? Eddie Murray, Mark McGwire or Keith Hernandez at first? Is there really no room for Duke Snider? Chase Utley at second or Hall of Famers Joe Gordon or Tony Lazzeri? Alan Trammell or Joe Cronin at short? Tom Seaver or Randy Johnson to start? No other state demands such choices. For many of them, it’s hard to find even one second baseman.
I went with my gut on these — I want Gwynn leading off, I want Utley’s sweet swing and competitiveness at second and I’m starting Tom Terrific in this game. I reserve the right to change the lineup and rotation around for the next round, should California advance.
An asterisk, by the way, indicates Hall of Famer.
Tony Gwynn, RF*
Joe DiMaggio, CF*
Barry Bonds, LF
Ted Williams, DH*
Eddie Murray, 1B*
Gary Carter, C*
Chase Utley, 2B
Alan Trammell, SS*
Graig Nettles, 3B
Starting pitcher: Tom Seaver* (over Randy Johnson*)
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Seed: No. 16
Population: Just a bit less than 2 million
Hall of Famers: 5
Several other teams were up for the No. 16 seed and found themselves on the outside looking in. Nebraska’s lineup from No. 6 on down is not just shaky but INCREDIBLY shaky.
Two things put Nebraska in this tournament:
(1) They have a pretty great top-of-the-lineup, with three Hall of Famers, including Wade Boggs.
(2) They have two pitchers who could absolutely shut down any team in the history of baseball — Bob Gibson and Pete Alexander. Both of them were at their best in the big moments. Either one of them could just go out and throw nine shutout innings and allow Nebraska to shock California in the first round.
I went back and forth on which pitcher to start — I’m going with Gibson. He obviously will be unafraid. He obviously will be happy to take on the California challenge. You can decide how it turns out.
No. 16 seed: Nebraska
Richie Ashburn, CF*
Wade Boggs, 3B*
Wahoo Sam Crawford, RF*
Bob Cerv, DH
Alex Gordon, LF
Johnny Hopp, 1B
Ted Easterly, C
Ron Hansen, SS
Bob Johnson 2B
Starting pitcher: Bob Gibson* or Pete Alexander*