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Tony Gwynn batting eighth? Great lineups can lead to great debates

Tony Gwynn was dropped to the No. 8 spot in the batting order by SoCal manager Dave Roberts
Tony Gwynn was dropped to the No. 8 spot in the batting order by SoCal manager Dave Roberts.
(Frank Polich / Associated Press)

The lineups Dave Roberts and Gabe Kapler constructed for the upcoming battle of all-time greats between Southern California and Northern California — the Golden Greats: I-5 Series — and unveiled in a Zoom call Tuesday are stacked.

Coming up with them was not easy. Both managers did their homework. They studied the numbers — traditional and advanced. They asked people for their opinions. There was even some gamesmanship behind the scenes.

Roberts went as far as creating two lineups depending on who Kapler chose as his Game 1 starter— one for Randy Johnson, a left-hander, and another for right-hander Tom Seaver. Kapler chose Johnson to start Game 1 and Roberts chose to drop Tony Gwynn — yes, that Tony Gwynn — to the eighth spot in his batting order.

And, as always when managers make any decisions, there were questions.

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With the seven-game computer-simulated American Professional Baseball Assn. (APBA) series scheduled to start Tuesday, let’s take a look at some of the questions the managers faced — about their thought processes, the finished products, and the people in them — during last Tuesday’s video chat.

The MLB draft will be just five rounds and held virtually. Undrafted players can’t sign for more than $20,000, meaning many likely won’t turn pro for now.

First, a refresher on the lineups.

SOCAL GAME 1 LINEUP

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1. Jackie Robinson 2B, 1949 Dodgers

2. Ted Williams LF, 1941 Red Sox

3. Eddie Murray 1B, 1982 Orioles

4. Mark McGwire DH, 1998 Cardinals

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5. Nomar Garciaparra SS, 2000 Red Sox

6. Duke Snider CF, 1954 Dodgers

7. Nolan Arenado 3B, 2017 Rockies

8. Tony Gwynn RF, 1994 Padres

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9. Gary Carter C, 1984 Expos

RHP Don Drysdale

NORCAL GAME 1 LINEUP

1. Rickey Henderson LF, 1990 Athletics

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2. Barry Bonds DH, 2002 Giants

3. Frank Robinson RF, 1966 Orioles

4. Willie Stargell 1B, 1973 Pirates

5. Joe DiMaggio CF, 1939 Yankees

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6. Joe Morgan 2B, 1976 Reds

7. Ken Caminiti 3B, 1996 Padres

8. Troy Tulowitzki SS, 2010 Rockies

9. Ernie Lombardi C, 1938 Reds

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LHP Randy Johnson

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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler chose the starters for Game 1 of the “I-5 Series” of online games matching baseball legends from Southern California vs. Northern California. Here’s how they came up with, among other things, Ted Williams and Barry Bonds batting second.

Late in the game, with a lead, do you bring in Ozzie Smith for defense to replace Nomar Garciaparra at shortstop?

Roberts: I do think Nomar has never been defensed for as a shortstop, obviously, but you don’t get any better than the Wizard. So with the lead, hopefully Nomar took his fourth at-bat then here comes the Wizard, certainly.

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Rollie Fingers or Trevor Hoffman: Who do you favor as the closer?

Roberts: For me, Trevor, I played with him. This is a guy that prepares like no other. He’s a strike thrower. The changeup is lethal. And understand that these guys haven’t seen Trevor. I just can’t go outside of Trevor Hoffman so that’s my choice.

Who’s your closer? Dennis Eckersley, Dave Righetti or John Wetteland?

Kapler: I’m going to go with Eck. So I feel like Eck learned from 1988. The home run that Gibby [Kirk Gibson] hit off him made him a better pitcher. I’m excited to have him close out games in the ninth.

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Why did you choose Nolan Arenado over George Brett, who hit .390 in 1980, at third base?

Roberts: Yeah, certainly the whole body of work, he hit .390. I know a lot of people that played with the Royals, namely Buddy Black, who’s still one of his good friends. No one consistently hit the ball harder than George Brett. And there’s crazy stories about George. I got a quick story about George Brett. One day in Kansas City, George told his teammates — and it was probably 130 [degrees] on the turf — “I’m not going to have a drink of water the entire game. I’m going to be the first one on to the field, the first one into the dugout every single inning so that after we get this win, that beer is going to taste so good.” So sure enough, he probably threw out three hits that game. The Royals win that game. First one on, first one in the dugout. He was pretty much dehydrated, but got through the game, led the team to a win, and had that cold beer.

But, again, Randy just neutralizes the lefty. Tough to get hits, let alone slug, get on base. And George, even in that season he hit .390, I think he OPS’d .760 that year against left-handed pitchers and that’s not facing the Big Unit. So I think the defense and also you look at Nolan that year, I think he had a 1.300 OPS against lefties. So that’s a big delta right there so I just liked Nolan. And George will be in there against Seaver.

Memorable moments in sports history from May 23, including the Dodgers’ Shawn Green hitting four home runs and setting a record with 19 total bases.
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What was it like to write down a lineup with the names DiMaggio, Henderson, Bonds, and Robinson?

Kapler: I think the most fun I had was going back and digging into Rickey’s best year. He just had a knack for getting on base, obviously. I had so much fun writing his name at the top of the lineup because of all the things he can do independent of him getting on base. And the freedom and the flexibility that he might give [the manager]. But I had a lot of fun thinking about that outfield. I guess the biggest question was who to have in the outfield. Was it going to be Bonds or Bonds at the DH position? I did a lot of work and asked a lot of questions about the defensive capabilities of each guy and came away feeling pretty good about our outfield as a defensive unit and obviously the top five hitters in the lineup are pretty impressive.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts in the dugout during a game against the Angels on July 23, 2019.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had some tough choices picking a lineup for the SoCal team in the I-5 series.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Who is your favorite player in your starting lineup and why?

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Kapler: I’ll probably just go with Caminiti here. This is a guy that I played with. We played together in Texas in the early 2000s. Watched him play as I was coming of age as a young professional baseball player. And he was so fierce. That’s the word I would use to describe him. If you look in Ken Caminiti’s eyes, it’s intimidating. And this is a guy that flashed the leather, had a cannon, played hurt, had pop, knew the game very well, and supported his teammates. So just from a strict favorites perspective, I’ll go with Cammy.

Roberts: I think, for me, it’s a pretty easy one. This man not only played the game with a passion, a chip on his shoulder, responsibility. He was bigger than the game as far as understanding his legacy. So, Jackie Robinson.

Why did you pick Jackie Robinson to lead off over Tony Gwynn?

Roberts: Well, I think that in this situation, in this first game, I felt that he had a better chance to get on base versus the Unit. And hopefully we can get the Unit out of there and hopefully Tony will have to face the Unit twice. And I’ll take my chances with Jackie facing that big lefty three times. Tony will move up the lineup against Seaver.

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Which player in your lineup would you want to take from the past and put them in today’s game?

Kapler: DiMaggio, for me. I would love to see him run around center field. And, obviously, with the hitting streak, you can’t say that it would happen in this modern-day, alternate universe, but I’d love to see if it would. It’s always interesting because players are now — and this is not up for debate — bigger, faster, stronger, more athletic, twitchier, have more technology, more tools at their fingertips. It would be really fascinating to watch a guy like Joe DiMaggio, who played in the ‘50s, come throw his hat in the ring in today’s environment and see how he’d fare.

Roberts: I think, for me, it’s Ted Williams. I do want to see that seat in right-center field at Fenway Park, see how close he can get or if he really hit that dang seat. But he’s one of the best of all time, obviously, so I’d love to see him.

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SOCAL BENCH

C Lance Parrish, 1982 Tigers

C Bob Boone, 1988 Angels

1B Wes Parker, 1970 Dodgers

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2B Jeff Kent, 2000 Giants

2B Chase Utley, 2006 Phillies

3B George Brett, 1980 Royals

3B Eddie Mathews, 1953 Braves

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SS Ozzie Smith, 1987 Cardinals

SS Robin Yount, 1982 Brewers

OF Christian Yelich, 2019 Brewers

OF Fred Lynn, 1979 Red Sox

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OF Ralph Kiner, 1949 Pirates

OF Dusty Baker, 1980 Dodgers

OF George Foster, 1977 Reds

OF Bobby Bonds, 1973 Giants

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SOCAL BULLPEN

RHP Walter Johnson, 1913 Senators

RHP Jim Palmer, 1972 Orioles

RHP Rollie Fingers, 1981 Brewers

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RHP Trevor Hoffman, 1998 Padres

RHP Bret Saberhagen, 1989 Royals

RHP Stephen Strasburg, 2017 Nationals

RHP Bert Blyleven, 1973 Twins

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RHP Gerrit Cole, 2019 Astros

RHP Bob Lemon, 1952 Indians

NORCAL BENCH

OF Lefty O’Doul, 1929 Phillies

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OF Willie McGee, 1985 Cardinals

OF Aaron Judge, 2017 Yankees

OF Curt Flood, 1967 Cardinals

OF Harry Heilmann, 1923 Tigers

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1B Keith Hernandez, 1979 Cardinals

1B Bill Buckner, 1980 Cubs

2B Tony Lazzeri, 1929 Yankees

2B Dustin Pedroia, 2008 Red Sox

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SS Jimmy Rollins, 2007 Phillies

SS Joe Cronin, 1930 Senators

3B Carney Lansford, 1981 Red Sox

3B Stan Hack, 1938 Cubs

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C Stephen Vogt, 2015 Athletics

C Joe Ferguson, 1979 Dodgers

BULLPEN

RHP Tom Seaver, 1971 Mets

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RHP Dennis Eckersley, 1992 Athletics

RHP Dave Stewart, 1990 Athletics

LHP Lefty Gomez, 1934 Yankees

LHP Dave Righetti, 1986 Yankees

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LHP CC Sabathia, 2007 Indians

LHP Tug McGraw, 1972 Mets

RHP Mike Norris, 1980 Athletics

RHP John Wetteland, 1993 Expos


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