The All-MLB team: Josh Donaldson’s Twitter challenge

Josh Donaldson put together his All-MLB team, and naturally, people have thoughts.

As many have noted, the new Minnesota Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson, who clearly has time on his hands like the rest of us, asked his followers on Twitter their opinions on the make-up of an All-MLB (All-Star) team on Mar. 20.

At least that’s how that designation should probably go. I think.

Donaldson listed his selections, interestingly picking mostly current American Leaguers as well as one player who just left the AL for an NL team, Mookie Betts – for left field.

That choice is a little odd, but it’s hardly surprising, since Donaldson has played in the AL for his whole career except last season, that his team is AL-heavy.

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There were 318 replies to Donaldson when I first accessed his tweet, and immediately someone objected to his picking Albert Pujols over Freddie Freeman.

This objection brought its own objection: “Yeah, I’m sure Freddie is better than Pujols in his prime lmao.

At which my former teacher’s instincts kicked in, and I thought, well, Josh (“Now Bringer of Snow”) did ask for a “lineup of current players.” So, obviously, this could go in a lot of directions for a lot of reasons, including not paying attention or debating what “current players” means.

Does it mean the best currently, or the best careers belonging to guys still in uniform? Or just the guys “needed” in a current clubhouse?

Twitter, right?

For the record, Donaldson’s own picks were, in addition to Betts in LF, Justin Verlander, J.T. Realmuto, Pujols, Dustin Pedroia, Nolan Arenado, Francisco Lindor, Mike Trout, and Christian Yelich. Their Donaldson-designated positions are their positions in “real life,” except for Betts’.

I’ll choose to read that list as including the guys Donaldson wants in his clubhouse. And it’s not a bad list at all except in that it won’t particularly make him any new friends in Minnesota. Minnesotans are famously tolerant, however, so it’s probably all good. It’s just a tweet.

However, what if you were to attempt to assemble a lineup of the best current players? How much should Donaldson’s list change? Yes, there would also be disagreements after defining things differently, as we’re assuming that’s what we’re now doing. Surely there are fans and other All-MLB “experts” who might prefer Yadier Molina at catcher on a best-current-lineup team.

Several players stay right there if we’re looking for the best players at their positions, however, starting with J.T. Realmuto. We’re not naming the best, still-active, career builder. Also staying put would be Arenado, Lindor, Trout, and Yelich. If you must have a DH, Donaldson’s pick, J.D. Martinez, is fine.

After those decisions, the best overall pitcher must then be selected. This is a spot where wide disagreement could occur because of a solid half-dozen excellent pitchers currently active. If I had to choose, however, I would go with Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom. This guy’s stuff is just more consistently swing-and-miss than anyone else’s.

And consider this: What would deGrom’s won-lost record be had he pitched the last three years for the Washington Nationals or the Houston Trash Cans?

Next, the opinion of our Freeman Twitter fan should be embraced for first base. It’s unlikely that the big Braves slugger will quite match the great Pujols for his career, but at the moment, Freeman gets the nod.

D.J. LeMahieu belongs at second, in part, but only in part, because the Houston second baseman’s numbers are now suspect.

And finally, wading into controversial water: Betts needs to be replaced in left field by an actual left fielder, and…stop – right there. Listen.

Undoubtedly, the new Dodger could learn to play left field if he had to, but the fact that Yelich is (correctly) chosen by Donaldson as his right fielder doesn’t by itself guarantee that Betts gets to play somewhere else.

If Mike Trout were the second-best center fielder in baseball – by just a tiny bit – would he automatically get to play shortstop on somebody else’s All-MLB squad? What if it were a catcher who was needed?

Consider this: Years after Rawlings stopped differentiating between the three outfield positions for outfield Gold Gloves, they once again started to differentiate in 2011 because of decades of criticism. (From 1957-60, the first four years of the awards, the prizes were given to the specific left, right, and center fielders.)

This is because left field is not right field. Ball hit to those fields come off bats differently in part because of the predominance of right-handed over left-handed pitchers and right-handed over left-handed batters.

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Moreover, Betts hasn’t played any games in left field in the last three years.

So, no doubt some will consider this madness, but the left fielder on the All-MLB team is a guy who can actually play left field: Starling Marte. No, he might not be the equal of Barry Bonds in his youth (few will ever be), but this is a left fielder.

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