Play along, pick an AL dream team
Do you want to play a game?
Hey, I just sounded like that nauseating, swirl-cheeked clown puppet from the "Saw" movies.
You know what? They made seven of those puppies, so they must be doing something right.
The goal of the game is to field the best possible American League and National League teams using only players from their respective leagues for the duration of an entire season.
And this isn't fantasy baseball -- elite starting pitching actually matters. The catch is that you can only use one player from each team. This means that if you want Evan Longoria as your starting American League third baseman, you cannot have David Price in your starting rotation. Get it?
This ultimately leads to some stomach-churning decisions and will most definitely make you hate yourself.
Unfortunately for our Yankees and Red Sox fans, this also means that you cannot fill out your squad with all Yanks or all Red Sox and pretend the Royals, Indians and Orioles do not exist -- like you normally do.
The bad news is that you are (most likely) going to disagree with how my squad turned out.
The good news is that you won't have to cut off your own foot to survive -- like the final scene in the original "Saw."
I'll tackle the American League squad today and reveal the NL next week.
Let's take a snapshot of our team photo to give you the full context, and then I'll break everything down afterward.
Feldmania All-AL Team
C: Joe Mauer (MIN)
1B: Miguel Cabrera (DET)
2B: Howard Kendrick (LAA)
SS: Alexei Ramirez (CWS)
3B: Jose Bautista (TOR)
OF: Josh Hamilton (TEX)
OF: Shin-Soo Choo (CLE)
OF: Carl Crawford (BOS)
DH: Vladimir Guerrero (BAL)
SP: CC Sabathia (NYY)
SP: Felix Hernandez (SEA)
SP: David Price (TB)
SP: Trevor Cahill/Brett Anderson/Gio Gonzalez (OAK)
RP: Joakim Soria (KC)
Starter: Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Other contenders: Victor Martinez (Tigers), Matt Wieters (Orioles)
Twins eliminated: Justin Morneau, Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan
Breakdown: As you will soon see, this was probably the easiest decision for the entire squad. Not only is Mauer the clear-cut top player at his position and a year removed from American League MVP Award honors, but his main Minnesota competition (Morneau, Liriano, Nathan) each play talent-rich positions. Furthermore, his main position competition (Martinez, Wieters) have better alternatives on their own real clubs. Let's move on to the next position before I start losing you.
Starter: Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
Other contenders: Adrian Gonzalez (Red Sox), Mark Teixeira (Yankees), Paul Konerko (White Sox), Kendrys Morales (Angels)
Tigers eliminated: Justin Verlander, Martinez, Jim Leyland
Breakdown: This is where things really start to get interesting. Plucking Cabrera is a complete triple whammy -- you lose out on Verlander for your rotation (the AL's No. 3 starter behind Hernandez and Sabathia), you don't get to use A-Gon, Teix, Konerko or Morales, and you get to deal with all of Miggy's extra-curricular activities. But, hey, talent is talent, and Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball whose name doesn't rhyme with Dalbert Mujols. And, frankly, Cabrera's off-the-field episodes could not be less of a factor for me. We've all read "Ball Four," we've heard about Mickey Mantle's postgame benders. The Mick still turned out all right.
Starter: Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Other contenders: Robinson Cano (Yankees), Brian Roberts (O's), Aaron Hill (Blue Jays), Ian Kinsler (Rangers), Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox)
Angels eliminated: Jered Weaver, Morales, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells
Breakdown: And here it is -- our first "I hate myself for doing this" pick. Obviously I'd love to have Cano on this squad, but we already passed on Verlander in favor of Miggy, and I'd prefer not to have Jered Weaver and Vin Mazzaro anchoring this rotation. We need CC on this team. And also, remember, we must have an Angels player on this squad. It's in the imaginary rules of this imaginary game. After Morales (who was eliminated by Cabrera), Kendrick (.279-10-95) is our next-best option. This isn't 2008 -- Hunter's glove doesn't live here anymore.
Starter: Ramirez, White Sox
Other contenders: Derek Jeter (Yankees). That just about does it.
White Sox eliminated: Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, John Danks
Breakdown: That noise you just heard is the collective sound of a million Yankees fans drop-kicking their computer monitors. I actually like this pick. Ramirez is the most underrated shortstop in baseball, posting a .282-18-70 line last year while swiping 13 bags for the South Siders. He's a perfect leadoff hitter for this squad.
Starter: Bautista, Blue Jays
Other contenders: Longoria (Rays), Alex Rodriguez (Yankees), Kevin Youkilis (Red Sox), Adrian Beltre (Rangers)
Blue Jays eliminated: Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero, Aaron Hill, Adam Lind
Breakdown: "So Dave, you're really going to bypass Longoria, A-Rod and Youk in favor of a guy who you didn't know existed before last season?" Why yes, Mr. Fake Question guy, I am. Truth be told, Bautista is the Blue Jays' best player and Longo (Price), A-Rod (CC), Youk (Crawford) and Beltre (Hamilton) each have equal or better options on their teams at other positions. These are the types of choices you have to make when assembling a make-believe team. Trust me. Jose, grab your 54 homers and get on this train!
Starters: Hamilton (Rangers), Choo (Indians), Crawford (Red Sox)
Other contenders: Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, B.J. Upton, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Grady Sizemore, Austin Jackson, Delmon Young, Ichiro Suzuki, Hunter, Wells
Breakdown: This one actually wasn't so hard. Choo's bat clearly makes him the top member of the Tribe, Hamilton is the reigning AL MVP Ward winner, and Crawford is just really, really good. I don't see any better options on the list above, do you? Didn't think so. For what it's worth, I was considering just an all-speed-demon outfield of Ellsbury, Gardner and Jackson, but then I thought again. Let's just move on.
Rotation: Sabathia (Yankees), Hernandez (Mariners), Price (Rays), Cahill/Anderson/Gio Gonzalez (A's)
Other contenders: Verlander, Liriano, Weaver, Brian Matusz, Jon Lester, Jeremy Hellickson, Ricky Romero, Brendan Morrow, Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Max Scherzer, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson
Breakdown: This game is all about sacrifice. You want Cabrera mashing in the middle of your lineup? You have to lose Verlander. You want Sabathia bulldogging as your staff ace? Say goodbye to Cano. As the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, King Felix was a slam dunk -- especially with Ichiro getting a little long in the tooth. As for the A's, well, you have your pick between any of their three young up-and-coming whippersnappers. I think Anderson has the most ace upside, I think Gio Gonzalez is the best strikeout option, and I think Cahill is the most proven. I go back and forth between my favorite, so I just put them all in there. I can do that. I invented this gig.
Choice: Soria, Royals
Other contenders: Mariano Rivera (Yankees), Andrew Bailey (A's), Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox), Chris Perez (Indians), Nathan (Twins)
Breakdown: Is it blasphemy to leave Rivera, the greatest closer of all time, off a team like this? Not when the alternative is to put a member of the Royals' rotation in Sabathia's stead. I'll gladly hand the ball off to Soria as my ninth-inning guy after he's posted a sub-2.50 ERA for each of his first four Major League seasons, saving 132 games out of 145 tries in that span.
No Jeter. No Cano. No Rivera.
Welcome to the Feldmania All-AL Team.
Dave Feldman is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.