As most online movements go these days, an Instagram comment — from Ian Kinsler, of all people, complete with a crying face emoji — served as the catalyst.
The recently retired Kinsler tagged former teammate and San Diego Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer in a post of Adam Jones’ miraculous, home-run robbing catch of Manny Machado — the Padres’ third baseman — in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
The reason why doesn’t matter. What does is that Marcus Stroman, always active on social media, chimed in and pointed out that Team USA took gold in that tournament, to which Hosmer gave the New York Mets right-hander a shoutout and nodded to his MVP performance.
By that point, Stroman was planning for the future. And right now, with no baseball in sight and no sports to console us until then, that’s all we can look to. While MLB grapples with the realities of a delayed season, the 2021 World Baseball Classic may end up being the first competitive baseball played since 2019 if the league decides to bang the 2020 season.
But back to the lighter stuff.
“We gon’ run this back and win it again or what?” Stroman replied to Hosmer. “Got to!” Hosmer replied.
Two comments later, 2018 National League MVP Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers was on board. And that’s when Stroman took it from getting the band back together to full “dream team.” Then Stroman went on a mass tagging spree, hitting up the following players on Twitter:
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielders Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout. New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge. Right-handed pitchers Trevor Bauer (Cincinnati Reds) and Walker Buehler (Dodgers). Shortstops Bo Bichette (Toronto Blue Jays) and Trevor Story (Colorado Rockies).
Shortly thereafter, Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield, Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Blake Snell and Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo wanted in.
“My dawgs (Mike Clevinger) and (Nolan) Arenado just hit me and said they’re in too. Dream Team coming soon! @USABaseball,” Stroman tweeted.
That’s a lot of firepower. The 2017 team possessed plenty of talent — they won the whole tournament — but the 2021 collection of talent could surpass it.
Betts, Trout, Judge and a few other players didn’t get in on the Twitter hype — their accounts aren’t as active as some other players’ — but the ones who did seemed genuine.
“I’m 10000000% in,” Bauer tweeted. “Let’s gett (sic) it!!” Bellinger wrote.
Mets first baseman Pete Alonso offered a glimpse into the passion the crop of players would bring to the 2021 WBC, which will be played in Tawan, Japan and the U.S.
“If @USABaseball named me to the national team, I might cry,” Alonso wrote on Twitter. “I tried out for the 18u team a while back and didn’t make it. It would be an honor to put the red, white, and blue on and rep the Stars and Stripes.”
MLB should back this movement 100%. The 21st Century has proved that grouping stars on a national team can help grow a broader fanbase and drum up general league interest. Case in point, Team USA and the NBA: LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh linked up on the 2008 Olympic team before teaming together on the Miami Heat.
Super teams likely aren’t the answer to MLB’s aging audience and declining viewership (although Betts and Bellinger will be on the same team next season). Growing the game, and having players reach full marketability, are the two factors MLB should be taking seriously in this situation.
Stars with big paydays on deck or clauses in their contracts (especially pitchers — don’t expect the Yankees to let Gerrit Cole add high-leverage innings before the season) have every right to decline an invitation. But if they want to play? Let them.
For last year’s playoffs, MLB tried to quell the game’s old guard by adopting a “Let The Kids Play” mantra.
Here’s another one:
Let The Dream Team Play.